Climate Change Alarmism and Denialism Distract from the Issue


Wednesday, March 13, 2019

There has been extensive discussion surrounding the issue of climate change in recent months, largely due to the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released in October 2018. The report indicates what climatologists have been consistently projecting for years: continued increase in average global temperatures, rising sea levels, and heavily impacted ecosystems around the planet. The IPCC estimates that at the current rate, the global mean temperature will increase 2°C by the year 2100.

The ideal response to the IPCC report would’ve been rational and informed dialogue about how to mitigate the potentially severe risks imposed by climate change, while maintaining economic progress in the U.S. and abroad. Instead, the conversation has been dominated by climate extremists on both sides. The dogmatic environmentalists have suggested that the world will end in 12 years if we don’t fully embrace nonsensical proposals such as the “Green New Deal,” which comes with a lofty price tag of $93 trillion and demands that we replace planes with trains and provide income to those who are “unwilling” to work. It’s unclear how either of those things— or many of the other ideas included in the proposal— will save the planet from impending doom.

The Green New Deal, or the “Green Dream” as Nancy Pelosi calls it, is a quintessential example of the politician’s syllogism. The fallacy is straightforward: we must do something, this is something, therefore we must do this. The intellectual shortcomings of this logic are nearly as drastic as the climate predictions of the alarmists.

The absurdity of the environmentalist left has been matched by the denialist portion of the far-right, who suggest that ongoing climate change is something between a hoax “created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive” and just another attempt by Big Government™ to accumulate more power and control over our lives. It’s often repeated in conservative circles that “science doesn’t run on consensus” or that “Al Gore said the ice caps would melt by 2014.” While both of these things are at least partially true, this is largely an attempt to obscure and avoid the issue of climate change.

There is an overwhelming consensus among climatologists, backed by rigorous data, regarding the existence of climate change that is primarily being caused and accelerated by humans.

Imagine rejecting the scientifically-backed consensus in another field, like oncology. You walk into your doctor’s office one day after experiencing some breathing issues, leading the doctor to ask if you smoke cigarettes. When you confirm that you do, he informs you of the significant health risks associated with smoking, such as cancer. The field of oncology has provided thoroughly substantive and replicable evidence of this fact, so is your response to take the problem seriously or to retort that science doesn’t run on consensus?

Science denialism isn’t unique to the right, as many progressives seem to have immense difficulty accepting biological facts with regard to sexual dimorphism in humans and innate sex differences more broadly. It’s clear how ideological presuppositions can distort the way people interpret objective science, and this has been exacerbated in our highly partisan political landscape.

Scientific insight should unquestionably inform and influence our politics and policies. However, it’s philosophically and intellectually indefensible for one’s politics to alter their scientific understanding. In other words, science should impact our politics, but our politics shouldn’t affect science.

Finding palatable solutions to combat climate change is clearly difficult, especially given the fact that China and India continue to have rising carbon emissions as a result of their large populations and developing economies. Data from the World Resources Institute show that about 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions are from the U.S., compared to 25 percent from China. The 2017 increase in emissions from both China and India surpassed five percent. While U.S. emissions have also increased the last two years, from 2005-2017 U.S. carbon dioxide emissions decreased by 758 million metric tons, by far the largest reduction of any nation. This has occurred primarily because of fracking and natural gas replacing coal as energy sources, leading to cleaner and more efficient energy production. Over the same time period, China and India’s combined carbon emissions increased by four billion metric tons.

The U.S. should certainly continue to pursue innovative alternative energy solutions, namely nuclear energy which has been erroneously stigmatized by many environmentalists and fossil fuel loyalists alike. Renewable energy sources such as solar and wind can’t scale up to the necessary level to generate sufficient energy for the globe, and substantial expansion of these sources would inevitably destroy vast areas of forest and farmland.

“We’re already doing that with fossil fuels,” you may correctly respond. The limitations and consequences of renewable energies and fossil fuels present a problem that only nuclear energy can solve.

Nuclear energy offers a reliable carbon-free source of electricity that scales incredibly well, without dependence on weather conditions or the need for endless acreage. The stigma around nuclear energy is misplaced and refuted by extensive data. Nuclear plants emit no air pollution in the form of smoke, while smoke from fossil fuels and biomass cause eight million premature deaths each year, according to the World Health Organization. The two most notable nuclear accidents—Chernobyl and Fukushima—will end up causing fewer than 200 combined deaths as a result of radiation.

Ironically, more people are killed each year by wind turbines and solar panels than by nuclear energy. A NASA study also reveals that nuclear plants have saved about two million lives that would’ve otherwise been lost as a result of air pollution. Nuclear energy requires far less land and materials than renewable energy, while producing significantly more energy. A solar farm needs 450 times more land than a nuclear plant to produce an equivalent amount of energy, and creates 300 times as much waste. So much for ‘clean energy.’

This isn’t to suggest that nuclear energy is a cure-all or that renewable sources aren’t a crucial component of a broader energy transition, but that any serious attempt to combat the potentially disastrous ramifications of climate change must include increased reliance on nuclear power. There are various other policy ideas including carbon capture and storage, carbon taxes, cap and trade, reforming farming and agricultural subsidies, and restructuring incentives that should also be considered as complicated issues necessitate evidence-based multivariate solutions.

The incessant fear-mongering of misanthropic environmentalists is delusional at best and vindictive at worst. It doesn’t guide us toward a reasonable solution, instead it deters us into more of the frivolous tribalism that is already tearing our nation apart. We need honest and productive conversation to navigate serious and complex issues such as climate change, while continuing to develop new ideas and innovations that will further global prosperity.

Climate change alarmism and denialism hinder those ambitions and distract from the progress that can and must be made.

Michael Huling is a senior studying political science and philosophy at the University of California, San Diego. He is an editor for Lone Conservative and the communications director for the Republican Party of San Diego County.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.

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About Michael Huling

University of California, San Diego

Michael Huling is a senior studying political science and philosophy at the University of California, San Diego. He is an editor for Lone Conservative and the communications director for the Republican Party of San Diego County.

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