By Dr. Jay Lehr & Tom Harris
Climate alarmists are causing a moral tragedy across the world. Because of their unjustified confidence that we can forecast future climate states and even stop them from changing, almost all climate finance is dedicated to mitigation, trying to reverse what are in fact natural events outside of human control. Relatively little is spent on the very real-world needs of people affected by climate change and extreme weather events in the present.
Since the dawn of time, human beings have always suffered due to climate variability and extreme weather. Climate change and violent weather happen all the time on planets with dynamic atmospheres, such as the Earth, and there is nothing we can do to stop them. Natural variations in our planet’s ‘average temperature’ have ranged over a span of 60 degrees Fahrenheit over the ages. It is obviously a myth that our climate was essentially constant until we started burning fossil fuels.
Consequently, preparing their societies for these inevitable events is one of the most important functions of governments. Societies that did not take sensible preparatory measures are no longer with us—witness the Greenland Viking colonies which were established during the Medieval Warm Period (1100 – 1300 AD) but died out at the start of the Little Ice Age which followed when they failed to adapt to the extreme cold. Even today, indigenous populations in the Arctic and the Sahel region of Africa experience severe hardship due in part to natural climate change.
If we could control climate, what climate would we choose?
Would we choose conditions like the Medieval Warm Period which was warmer than today and grapes were a grown in the British Isles? Or maybe the Roman or the Minoan warm periods, both of which were warmer than now?
Or maybe we should return the climate to the conditions of the warmest period since the last glacial, the Holocene Optimum. After all, it was 8,000 years ago, during the Holocene Optimum, when the planet was 3.6 – 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than now that large quantities of ice were melting, sea-level was rising about ten times faster than today, and coastal settlements had to move quickly or be ruined.
This is silly, of course. Human control of climate change, sea level and extreme weather is a fairy tale based on computerized climate models that have never worked.
Documents such as the Climate Change Reconsidered series of reports from the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) illustrate that debate rages in the scientific community about the causes and consequences of climate change. Contrary to the assertions of the United Nations, the Democrats, and political opportunists in the Republican party, scientists cannot yet even agree on whether cooling or warming lies ahead, let alone how much we affect climate. Yet global warming campaigners assert that ‘the science is settled.’ We know for certain, they claim, that our carbon dioxide emissions will cause a planetary emergency unless we radically change our ways. Because activists have convinced governments that humankind is the controller of climate, we are spending twenty-times more trying to stop phenomena that might someday happen than we are on helping real people today.
This is well illustrated by the San Francisco-based Climate Policy Initiative (CPI) which demonstrated in their November 2019 report that, of the average annual climate finance expenditures of over one-half trillion dollars over the two-year period of 2017/2018, only a tiny fraction of it went to adaptation, or preparing for climate change and extreme weather. CPI report:
“Mitigation finance accounted for 93% of total flows in 2017/2018, or USD 537 billion annually on average. Adaptation finance made up another 5% of flows, showing no change from 2015/2016 as a percentage of tracked finance…”
This is immoral, effectively valuing the lives of people yet to be born who might someday be affected by climate change more than those in need today. It is also in direct contradiction to the approach agreed to in Copenhagen where participants at the 2009 UN climate conference committed to a 50-50 funding split between adaptation and mitigation.
Despite the intense disagreement between experts about the causes of climate change, they do agree on one thing, however—we need to prepare better for climate variability and extreme weather. Even in the developed world it is infinitely more productive to focus on adaptation than spending vast sums on mitigation no matter what you believe about the causes of climate change.
A good example is burying cables underground. The New York Times published a letter to the editor from a Manhattan-based lawyer who explained that, even in the middle of Hurricane Sandy, he had uninterrupted Internet, telephone and electric power because all of his cables were buried underground.
Or how about the disaster New Orleans encountered in the face of Hurricane Katrina? Did we cause that tragedy? Yes, but not in the way climate alarmists would have you believe.
New Orleans is a city that averages an elevation 6 feet below sea level. It is protected by 350 miles of levies that were in fact not overtopped by the category 3 storm that was Katrina, but rather failed in numerous places where insufficient materials were used compromising the structure.
By definition, a storm protection system must have redundancy either from excessive strength or by having multiple levees operating in tandem. Neither redundancy existed in New Orleans. This left the entire city vulnerable to the ravaging force of Hurricane Katrina. Yes, the disaster was man-made all right—incompetence and possibly corruption on the part of those trusted to protect the city from harm.
When it comes to hurricane preparedness, a good example for the US Gulf States to follow comes from India. Unlike in the U.S. where people engage in ‘horizonal evacuation,’ trying madly to drive away before being stuck in huge traffic jams, Indians all along the Bay of Bengal coast (where most of their tropical cyclones hit) need only walk a half-kilometer or less to engage in ‘vertical evacuation.’ Built at one-kilometer intervals all along the coast are multi-story storm shelters designed to house hundreds of people for days at a time above the waves.
These are just three examples of how we need to harden our societies to withstand extreme events of all kinds, independent of the causes. Other sensible adaptation measures would include reinforcing buildings and strengthening public infrastructure by building levees and upgrading our irrigation systems where needed, not to mention relocating populations living on flood plains or at risk from tornadoes and hurricanes.
Mitigation has received the lion’s share of climate finance for several reasons. First, it is highly profitable for large corporations engaged in carbon trading and renewable energy generation (e.g., wind and solar power), by far the largest climate finance cost tracked by CPI.
Growing biofuels also leads to windfall profits for large agri-business conglomerates.
Mitigation expands government control of the economy and gives politicians an excuse to raise taxes to cover society’s carbon dioxide emissions. It also furthers the objectives of one-world government advocates since international mitigation agreements increasingly bring oil, coal and natural gas combustion, over 80% of all energy generation in the world, under UN control.
Finally, since mitigation, not adaptation, is the focus of loud environmental lobby groups, most climate researchers and influential activists and politicians feel they have to show leadership by crafting ‘global solutions to a global problem’ to generate favourable media coverage.
By comparison, adaptation involves local actions to solve local problems. For example, building a dike is only necessary if local sea level rise is a problem. Trends in mean sea level across the world are immaterial. Similarly, providing air conditioners to senior citizens is only necessary if heat waves are common in regions where seniors actually live. It makes no difference whether the planet as a whole is warming or cooling.
So, the sort of boots-on-the-ground approach needed for many adaptation projects is not particularly glamorous for politicians and activists intent on ‘saving the planet.’ Adaptation projects are also generally less profitable for multinational corporations and does not prop up multi-million-dollar computerized climate research efforts. In addition, they do nothing to further government or UN control of the economy and offers little for media seeking exciting headlines.
Adaptation takes leadership and hard, grinding work to make happen. There is nothing sexy about it. But it is something successful societies have always had to do. Let’s stop wasting our time and resources trying to reduce emissions and get to the important task of preparing for whatever nature throws at us next.