The one issue on which Obama is not leading the world from behind is climate change. He usually recommends that global problems be approached cautiously. The motto of his foreign policy is: “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff.” But on matters environmental, his policy is to do plenty of stupid stuff. He is bound and determined to lead from the front on climate change, which translates into damaging America’s economy while China, India, and Russia, among other powers, ignite theirs.
Top officials from these powers aren’t bothering to attend this week’s United Nations event on climate change, as they have no intention of following Obama’s lead. Strangling jobs and businesses for the sake of a trendy theory is seen by them as a Western luxury. As Obama prides himself on stunting economic growth in pursuit of a phantom solution to climate change, China sprints ahead of the American economy.
The leaders of most developing countries can see that the assertion of catastrophic climate change and the solution proposed for its elimination are both equally unconvincing. They know that they can’t control the weather but that they can control poverty within their countries.
Obama has announced this week that he wants all federal agencies interacting with the world to serve as climate change activists. His executive order authorizes them to promote what White House officials call “climate resilience,” a new euphemism for the supposed protection that comes from the non-solution that is carbon reduction. The executive order will mean encouraging other countries to join America in a fruitless and destructive regulation of economic activity. True American foreign aid to these countries would be to leave their economies alone. They might as well turn down American money if the condition required for accepting “international development” help is that they not develop their economies.
These countries are told that a man-generated climate crisis is an ironclad fact, but all they would have to do is read former Obama administration official Steven Koonin’s piece in the Wall Street Journal to know that that claim is a mere opinion:
My training as a computational physicist—together with a 40-year career of scientific research, advising and management in academia, government and the private sector—has afforded me an extended, up-close perspective on climate science. Detailed technical discussions during the past year with leading climate scientists have given me an even better sense of what we know, and don’t know, about climate. I have come to appreciate the daunting scientific challenge of answering the questions that policy makers and the public are asking.
The crucial scientific question for policy isn’t whether the climate is changing. That is a settled matter: The climate has always changed and always will. Geological and historical records show the occurrence of major climate shifts, sometimes over only a few decades. We know, for instance, that during the 20th century the Earth’s global average surface temperature rose 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
Nor is the crucial question whether humans are influencing the climate. That is no hoax: There is little doubt in the scientific community that continually growing amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, due largely to carbon-dioxide emissions from the conventional use of fossil fuels, are influencing the climate. There is also little doubt that the carbon dioxide will persist in the atmosphere for several centuries. The impact today of human activity appears to be comparable to the intrinsic, natural variability of the climate system itself.
Rather, the crucial, unsettled scientific question for policy is, “How will the climate change over the next century under both natural and human influences?” Answers to that question at the global and regional levels, as well as to equally complex questions of how ecosystems and human activities will be affected, should inform our choices about energy and infrastructure.
But—here’s the catch—those questions are the hardest ones to answer. They challenge, in a fundamental way, what science can tell us about future climates.
If climate science amounts to conjecture, why would these countries rearrange their economies on the basis of it? All they know with certainty is that doing so will cause their own people substantial harm. Environmental alarmism is a real threat to progress; climate change is merely an asserted and increasingly shaky one. What emboldens these developing countries more is the equally certain knowledge that Obama’s proposed solution, even if implemented rigorously, wouldn’t make the slightest dent in the globe’s temperature.
Obama is simply lying, with the sort of confidence he displayed during the health care debate, when he tells these countries that they can at once solve climate change and enjoy economic growth. If they like their growing economies, they will not be able to keep them should they join him in his exercise of feel-good futility.
He kept the pressure on them up at the UN Tuesday, saying that “Nobody gets a pass” on the “one issue that will define the contours of this century.” He warned them that the “alarm bells keep ringing.” They have no problem tuning them out, since he is the one ringing them. By now they know his power is as passing as the weather.