Over the past three decades, the environmental movement has increasingly hitched its wagon to exactly one star as the overwhelming focus of the cause, namely "climate change." Sure, issues of bona fide pollution like smog and untreated sewage are still out there a little, but they are largely under control and don't really stir the emotions much any more. If you want fundraising in the billions rather than the thousands, you need a good end-of-days, sin-and-redemption scare. Human-caused global warming is your answer!
Even as this scare has advanced, a few lonely voices have warned that the radical environmentalists were taking the movement out onto a precarious limb. Isn't there a problem that there's no real evidence of impending climate disaster? But to no avail. Government funding to promote the warming scare has been lavish, and in the age of Obama has exploded. Backers of the alarm have controlled all of the relevant government bureaucracies, almost all of the scientific societies, and the access to funding and to publication for anyone who wants to have a career in the field. What could go wrong?
Now, enter President-elect Trump. During the campaign, as with many issues, it was hard to know definitively where Trump stood. Although combatting climate change with forced suppression of fossil fuels could be a multi-trillion dollar issue for the world economy, this issue was rarely mentioned by either candidate, and was only lightly touched on in the debates. Sure, Hillary had accused Trump of calling climate change a "hoax" in a November 2012 tweet. (Actual text: "The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make American manufacturing non-competitive.") But in an early 2016 interview, Trump walked that back to say that the statement was a joke, albeit with a kernel of truth, because "climate change is a very, very expensive form of tax" and "China does not do anything to help." Trump had also stated that he intended to exit the recent Paris climate accord, and to end the War on Coal. So, was he proposing business-as-usual with a few tweaks, or would we see a thorough-going reversal of Obama's extreme efforts to control the climate by fossil fuel restrictions?
With the recently announced appointments, this is starting to come very much into focus. In reverse order of the announcements:
- Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, as Secretary of State. As of today, we still have as our chief diplomat the world leader of smugness who somehow thinks that "climate change" caused by use of fossil fuels is the greatest threat to global security. He is shortly to be replaced with the CEO of Exxon. Could there be a bigger poke in the eye to the world climate establishment? I'm trying to envision Tillerson at the next meeting of the UN climate "conference of parties" with thousands of world bureaucrats discussing how to put the fossil fuel companies out of business. Won't he be laughing his gut out?
- Rick Perry as Secretary of Energy. Not only was he the longest-serving governor of the biggest fossil fuel energy-producing state, but in his own 2012 presidential campaign he advocated for the elimination of the Department of Energy. This is the department that passes out tens of billions of dollars in crony-capitalist handouts for wind and solar energy (Solyndra!), let alone more tens of billions for funding some seventeen (seventeen!) research laboratories mostly dedicated to the hopeless task of figuring out how to make intermittent sources of energy competitive for any real purpose.
- And then there's Scott Pruitt for EPA. As Attorney General of Oklahoma, another of the big fossil fuel energy-producing states, he has been a leader in litigating against the Obama EPA to stop its overreaches, including the so-called Clean Power Plan that seeks to end the use of coal for electricity and to raise everyone's cost of energy.
You might say that all of these are very controversial appointments, and will face opposition in the Senate. But then, Harry Reid did away with the filibuster for cabinet appointments. Oops! Barring a minimum of three Republican defections, these could all sail through. And even if one of these appointments founders, doesn't the combination of them strongly signal where Trump would go with his next try?
So what can we predict about where the climate scare is going? Among members of the environmental movement, when their heads stop exploding, there are plenty of predictions that this will be terrible for the United States: international ostracism, loss (to China!) of "leadership" in international climate matters, and, domestically, endless litigation battles stalling attempts to rescind or roll back regulations. I see it differently. I predict a high likelihood of substantial collapse of the global warming movement, both domestically and internationally, over the course of the next couple of years.
Start with the EPA. To the extent that the global warming movement has anything to do with "science," EPA is supposedly where that science is vetted and approved on behalf of the public before being turned into policy. In fact, under Obama, EPA's principal role on the "science" has been to prevent and stifle any debate or challenge to global warming orthodoxy. For example, when a major new Research Report came out back in September claiming to completely invalidate all of the bases on which EPA claims that CO2 is a danger to human health and welfare, and thus to undermine EPA's authority to regulate the gas under the Clean Air Act, EPA simply failed to respond. In the same vein, essentially all prominent global warming alarmists refuse to debate anyone who challenges any aspect of their orthodoxy. Well, that has worked as long as they and their allies have controlled all of the agencies and all of the money. Now, it will suddenly be put up or shut up. And in case you might think that the science on this issue is "settled," so no problem, you might enjoy this recent round-up at Climate Depot from some of the actual top scientists. A couple of excerpts:
Renowned Princeton Physicist Freeman Dyson: 'I’m 100% Democrat and I like Obama. But he took the wrong side on climate issue, and the Republicans took the right side. ' . . .
Nobel Prize Winning Physicist Dr. Ivar Giaever: ‘Global warming is a non-problem’ – ‘I say this to Obama: Excuse me, Mr. President, but you’re wrong. Dead wrong.’
Now the backers of the global warming alarm will not only be called upon to debate, but will face the likelihood of being called before a highly skeptical if not hostile EPA to answer all of the hard questions that they have avoided answering for the last eight years. Questions like: Why are recorded temperatures, particularly from satellites and weather balloons, so much lower than the alarmist models had predicted? How do you explain an almost-20-year "pause" in increasing temperatures even as CO2 emissions have accelerated? What are the details of the adjustments to the surface temperature record that have somehow reduced recorded temperatures from the 1930s and 40s, and thereby enabled continued claims of "warmest year ever" when raw temperature data show warmer years 70 and 80 years ago? Suddenly, the usual hand-waving ("the science is settled") is not going to be good enough any more. What now?
And how will the United States fare on the international stage when it stops promising to cripple its economy with meaningless fossil fuel restrictions? As noted above, people like Isabel Hilton predict a combination of ostracism and "loss of leadership" of the issue, most likely to China. Here's my prediction: As soon as the United States stops parroting the global warming line, the other countries will quickly start backing away from it as well. This is "The Emperor's New Clothes," with the U.S. in the role of the little kid who is the only one willing to say the obvious truth in the face of mass hysteria. Countries like Britain and Australia have already more or less quietly started the retreat from insanity. In Germany the obsession with wind and solar (solar -- in the cloudiest country in the world!) has already gotten average consumer electric rates up to close to triple the cost in U.S. states that embrace fossil fuels. How long will they be willing to continue that self-destruction after the U.S. says it is not going along? And I love the business about ceding "leadership" to China. China's so-called "commitment" in the recent Paris accord is not to reduce carbon emissions at all, but rather only to build as many coal plants as they want for the next fourteen years and then cease increasing emissions after 2030! At which point, of course, they reserve their right to change their mind. Who exactly is going to embrace that "leadership" and increase their consumers' cost of electricity by triple or so starting right now? I mean, the Europeans are stupid, but are they that stupid?
And finally, there is the question of funding. Under Obama, attaching the words "global warming" or "climate change" to any proposal has been the sure-fire way to get the proposal whatever federal funding it might want. The Department of Energy has been the big factor here. Of its annual budget of about $28 billion, roughly half goes to running the facilities that provide nuclear material for the Defense Department, and the other half, broadly speaking, goes to the global warming cause: crony capitalist handouts for wind and solar energy providers, and billions per year for research at some seventeen (seventeen!) different energy research laboratories. During the eight Obama years, the energy sector of the U.S. economy has been substantially transformed by a technological revolution that has dramatically lowered the cost of energy and hugely benefited the American consumer. I'm referring, of course, to the fracking revolution. How much of the tens of billions of U.S. energy subsidies and research funding in that time went toward this revolution that actually produced cheaper energy that works? Answer: Not one single dollar! All of the money was completely wasted on things that are uneconomic and will disappear as soon as the government cuts off the funding spigot. All of this funding can and should be zeroed out in the next budget. Believe me, nobody will notice other than the parasites who have been wasting the money.
If the multi-tens-of-billions per year funding gusher for global warming alarmism quickly dries up, the large majority of the people living on these handouts will have no choice but to go and find something productive to do. Sure, some extreme zealots will find some way to soldier on. But it is not crazy at all to predict a very substantial collapse of the global warming scare over the course of the next couple of years.
The environmental movement has climbed itself way out onto the global warming limb. Now the Trump administration is about to start sawing off the limb behind them.