Tag Archives: climate science

Climate Change Public Death Spiral

Climate Change Has Run Its Course

Stephen F. Hayward

By Steven F. Hayward

Steven F. Hayward, is currently the Thomas Smith Distinguished Fellow at the John M. Ashbrook Center at Ashland University, where he directs the Ashbrook Center’s new program in political economy. For the last decade he was the F.K. Weyerhaeuser Fellow in Law and Economics at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., and a Senior Fellow at the Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco.

Published: Wall Street Journal, Jun 5th, 2018

Climate change is over. No, I’m not saying the climate will not change in the fu­ture, or that human influ­ence on the climate is negli­gible. I mean simply that climate change is no longer a pre-eminent policy issue. All that remains is boilerplate rhetoric from the political class, frivolous nuisance lawsuits, and bureaucratic mandates on behalf of special-interest renewable-energy rent seekers.
The End is Nigh

Judged by deeds rather than words, most national governments are backing away from forced-marched decarbonization. You can date the arc of climate change as a policy priority from 1988, when highly publicized congressional hear­ings first elevated the issue, to 2018. President Trump’s ostentatious with­drawal from the Paris Agreement merely ratified a trend long becom­ing evident.

A good indicator of why climate change as an issue is over can be found early in the text of the Paris Agreement. The “nonbinding” pact declares that climate action must in­clude concern for “gender equality, empowerment of women, and inter-generational equity” as well as “the importance for some of the concept of ‘climate justice.’ ” Another is Sarah Myhre’s address at the most recent meeting of the American Geophysical Union, in which she proclaimed that climate change cannot fully be ad­dressed without also grappling with the misogyny and social injustice that have perpetuated the problem for decades.

The descent of climate change into the abyss of social justice identity politics represents the last gasp of a cause that has lost its vitality. Climate alarm is like a car alarm—a blaring noise people are tuning out.

This outcome was predictable.

Political scientist Anthony Downs de­scribed the downward trajectory of many political movements in an arti­cle for the Public Interest, “Up and Down With Ecology: The ‘Issue-Attention” published in 1972, long before the climate-change campaign began. Observing the movements that had arisen to address issues like crime, poverty and even the U.S.-So­viet space race, Mr. Downs discerned a five-stage cycle through which po­litical issues pass regularly.

The first stage involves groups of experts and activists calling attention to a public problem, which leads quickly to the second stage, wherein the alarmed media and political class discover the issue. The second stage typically includes a large amount of euphoric enthusiasm—you might call it the “dopamine” stage—as activists conceive the issue in terms of global peril and salvation. This tendency ex­plains the fanaticism with which di­vinity-school dropouts Al Gore and Jerry Brown have warned of climate change.
Then comes the third stage: the hinge. As Mr. Downs explains, there soon comes “a gradually spreading re­alization that the cost of ‘solving’ the problem is very high indeed.” That’s where we’ve been since the United Na­tions’ traveling climate circus commit­ted itself to the fanatical mission of massive near-term reductions in fossil fuel consumption, codified in unrealis­tic proposals like the Kyoto Protocol. This third stage, Mt Downs continues, “becomes almost imperceptibly trans­formed into the fourth stage: a grad­ual decline in the intensity of public interest in the problem.”

While opinion surveys find that roughly half of Americans regard climate change as a problem, the is­sue has never achieved high salience among the public, despite the drum­beat of alarm from the climate cam­paign. Americans have consistently ranked climate change the 19th or 20th of 20 leading issues on the an­nual Pew Research Center poll, while Gallup’s yearly survey of envi­ronmental issues typically ranks cli­mate change far behind air and wa­ter pollution.

“In the final stage,” Mr. Downs concludes, “an issue that has been re­placed at the center of public concern moves into a prolonged limbo—a twi­light realm of lesser attention or spasmodic recurrences of interest.” Mr. Downs predicted correctly that environmental issues would suffer this decline, because solving such is­sues involves painful trade-offs that committed climate activists would rather not make.

A case in point is climate cam­paigners’ push for clean energy, whereas they write off nuclear power because it doesn’t fit their green utopian vision. A new study of climate-related philanthropy by Mat­thew Nisbet found that of the $556.7 million green-leaning foundations spent from 2011-15, “not a single grant supported work on promoting or reducing the cost of nuclear en­ergy.” The major emphasis of green giving was “devoted to mobilizing public opinion and to opposing the fossil fuel industry.”

Scientists who are genuinely wor­ried about the potential for cata­strophic climate change ought to be the most outraged at how the left po­liticized the issue and how the inter­national policy community narrowed the range of acceptable responses. Treating climate change as a planet-scale problem that could be solved only by an international regulatory scheme transformed the issue into a political creed for committed believ­ers. Causes that live by politics, die by politics.

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