So he was, understandably, in a hurry. “We don’t have time for a meeting of the flat-earth society,” Obama warned in a speech on the supposed dangers of a human-changed climate. No, indeed. We need to get started fighting global cooling -- I mean warming -- I mean “climate change.” Straightaway. Immediately. The day before yesterday. Etc. Because, Obama says, “the question now is whether we will have the courage to act before it's too late.”
Somebody needs to stop this climatic high-speed train before it jumps the rails. So let’s review a few facts about the environment in the United States today.
It’s become a cliché, but whenever a twister touches down in Oklahoma, somebody’s going to warn us that such storms are driven by human action. And yet: “The past 12 months have set a record for the fewest tornadoes ever in a similar period, and there has been no trend since 1950 in the frequency of strong (F3 to F5) tornadoes in the United States,” writes Benjamin Zycher of the American Enterprise Institute.
Well, how about hurricanes? They’re fueled by warm water, so clearly warmer temperatures would lead directly to more powerful, more deadly storms. Case closed, alarmists insist. Except, well, that theory doesn’t hold water very well.
“It has been over seven and a half years since a Category 3 or higher hurricane landed on the U.S. coast; such a long period devoid of an intense hurricane landfall has not been observed since 1900,” Zycher adds. “There has been no trend in the frequency or intensity of tropical cyclones over the last 70 years.”
Still, we’re told after every storm that it was made worse by climate change. And media coverage would lead one to believe that such storms are getting worse. But the problem isn’t the storms, it’s that too many Americans live so close to the ocean.
“In the United States, counties directly on the shoreline constitute less than 10 percent of the total land area (not including Alaska), but account for 39 percent of the total population,” NOAA reports. “From 1970 to 2010, the population of these counties increased by almost 40 percent and are projected to increase by an additional 10 million people or 8 percent by 2020.”
It’s no coincidence that more people are moving into harm’s way. It’s federal policy to encourage us to live by the sea.
A few years ago, journalist John Stossel explained that federal flood insurance makes it easy to build in a flood plain. So he did so. “The insurance premiums were a bargain. The most I ever paid was a few hundred dollars. Federal actuaries say if the insurance were realistically priced, it would cost thousands of dollars,”
When a storm destroyed his beach, the Army Corps of Engineers paid to bring in new sand. When another storm washed away his house, the federal government paid for the house and its contents. That’s when Stossel gave up and moved further inland. But the federal government still guarantees hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of other people’s property.
So if we account for the storm damage and subtract the supposedly greater risk of twisters and hurricanes (Zycher notes that fires and droughts are in decline as well), there’s not much left to worry about.
Still, the president has made it clear he intends to take action. He says he’ll use executive orders to supposedly reduce the amount of CO2 emitted by power plants, to encourage the use of more renewable sources, and to make appliances more efficient.
There are real questions about whether he has the constitutional power to take such actions. But even if he was permitted to, he shouldn’t. We need to encourage human creativity, instead of slowing it down by punishing ourselves for supposedly using too much energy.
“If we are serious about climate change, we must seriously factor in the accelerating rate of technological change already in our society,” explains Holman Jenkins in the Wall Street Journal. “Let us also appreciate how little we can know about how people will live a century from now, what energy sources they will use, and the strong likelihood that any sacrifices we make on their behalf today will be of zero value to them.”
When you clear away the smoke, the facts are clear: Climate change isn't causing harm in the U.S. So, Mr. President, there’s no worry. Enjoy your safari. Our healthy environment will be waiting for you when your flight touches down.