Yesterday, President Obama announced his climate action plan to drastically cut carbon dioxide emissions and mandate greater energy efficiency. This four-paragraph “case for action” on climate change does not legitimize the next 15 pages of federal overreach into the energy sector (and by extension the homes, businesses, and pocketbooks of anyone who uses energy).
“Climate change is no longer a distant threat—we are already feeling its impacts across the country,” according to the White House’s plan. The climate is always changing—that’s what it does. So how do we know this is a problem? President Obama gives us four reasons that don’t quite pass muster:
- “Last year was the warmest year ever in the contiguous United States and about one-third of all Americans experienced 10 days or more of 100-degree heat.” Since global warming is a global phenomenon, it makes more sense to look at global temperatures. Last year didn’t even make it into the top three hottest years since accurate data have been collected. In fact, for the past 16 years, global temperatures have plateaued. And though 2012 had many days with record-high temps in the U.S., the 1930s were a whole lot hotter.
- “Asthma rates have doubled in the past 30 years.” Asthma incidences have, it seems, increased, but the National Institute of Health (NIH) doesn’t know why, nor has it been able to explain why rates have leveled off in the U.S. over the past few decades. The NIH has identified this puzzle as an area where more research is needed, so the most that can be said is that is that we simply don’t know—hardly a recipe for regulatory action.
- “And increasing floods, heat waves, and droughts have put farmers out of business, which is already raising food prices dramatically.” Droughts and floods in fact have not increased. Whether in South Korea, the United States, or globally, droughts and floods continue as they always have. Further, there doesn’t seem to be any correlation between the U.S. Climate Extremes Index and carbon emissions—the third highest-ranking year on the index was 1934. A better explanation for high food prices than climate change: the ethanol mandate.
- “Last year alone, there were 11 different weather and climate disaster events with estimated losses exceeding $1 billion each across the United States.” The last time America suffered a hurricane greater than category 3 was Hurricane Wilma in 2005. We’ve been experiencing a hurricane “drought” of sorts. New York has been hit by large hurricanes before; the difference now is that millions of people and billions of dollars of infrastructure cover the same ground. The annual occurrence of strong tornadoes also hasn’t increased over the past half-century. But now the stories and images of human suffering in the wake of such a storm are pretexts for political blustering and maneuvering in Washington.
This isn’t heel-digging denial; the President is simply wrong. Though almost no one denies that the earth has warmed, there is no consensus on climate sensitivity, the role carbon dioxide plays or doesn’t, whether global warming is a problem, or how data fit into the broader climate context. Obama cannot solve a problem if we don’t know what it is or even if there is one. And it’ll certainly take more than four paragraphs to explain why.