Rich Lowry: The climate march to nowhere

  • By Rich Lowry
  • Wednesday, September 24, 2014 8:47pm
  • Opinion

Anti-climate-change marchers took to the streets of Manhattan, N.Y., in the hundreds of thousands over the weekend to demand international action to fight global warming.

The throng would have better advised to parade in downtown Beijing, assuming the Politburo wouldn’t have called out the infantry.

China is the locus of the alleged crime against the planet that is carbon emissions, yet the marchers staged their event in the United States, where prior to last year emissions had been declining (thanks, in part, to the natural-gas revolution, which oddly didn’t get much love from the climate marchers).

China is responsible for 27 percent of carbon emissions, more than any other country, and uses as much coal as the rest of the world. Since 1990, it has matched the U.S. in cumulative carbon emissions. China is representative of a developing world that is taking the global lead on emissions, at nearly 60 percent of the total.

There are many things we should be attempting to persuade China to stop doing: Arbitrarily ruling over its own people. Imprisoning and torturing dissidents. Occupying Tibet. Making aggressive territorial claims in its region.

Compared with all of these, availing itself of the wonders of the industrial economy is welcome. And if we can’t stop China from doing these other things — self-evidently violations of human rights or international norms — how are we going to keep it from continuing to ramp up its economic growth, as any rational society would?

The answer is that we almost certainly aren’t. Anti-global-warming activism consists of symbolic protests against a highly complex planetary phenomenon we understand poorly and don’t control.

The unpredicted pause in the rise in global temperature since the late 1990s is so embarrassing to climate activists, who are filled with a fiery certitude about the “science,” that it goes unmentioned (the climate marchers could have chanted, “Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Where’d climate change go?”). In their fevered urgency, they give off the sense that they are desperate to save the planet before it might become evident that it doesn’t need saving.

Our direct influence on global warming is highly limited, even if you assume the science is completely settled. As a country, we could end our emissions entirely, and it would barely cause a blip in the cumulative carbon buildup in the atmosphere.

There are causes to which the climate marchers could devote themselves that would have an immediate positive effect on human welfare: from promoting clean water in the Third World to agitating for cures to all manner of diseases. None of this, though, is as alluring as anti-industrial apocalypticism.

As writer Oren Cass has noted, today’s climate activists resemble the unilateral nuclear-disarmament movement of the 1980s, which also cloaked “plainly ineffectual policies in the language of moral necessity.” We could have eliminated all of our nuclear weapons — as we were urged to do by protesters who insisted it was necessary to saving the planet — and it wouldn’t have moved the Soviets to do the same; in fact, it would have delighted them.

The same dynamic is at work today. The U.N. is holding a warm-up confab for the push for a new international treaty in New York this week. It is blighted only by the fact that the world’s top emitters aren’t participating. They surely understand that the anti-global-warming movement threatens what the developing world is doing to enrich itself.

The climate march in Manhattan drew representatives from around the world. But it is doubtful that many or any of them live on $1 a day. These are the desperately poor people from developing countries whose welfare stands to gain immensely from industrial development.

They know what it means to fight for survival — in a real sense, not in an airy metaphor about the planet — and if the marchers were to have their way, they would never know anything else.

Rich Lowry can be reached via e-mail:

More in Opinion

Sens. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer, left, and Robert Myers, R-North Pole, read through one of 41 amendments submitted to the state’s omnibus budget bill being debate on the floor of the Alaska State Senate on Monday, May 9, 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Opinion: The Alaska Senate’s foolish gamble

“All these conservative people just spent all our money”

Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships. (logo provided)
Point of View: A few ideas for Mental Health Awareness Month

What are some things you can practice this month and subsequently apply to your life?

Alex Koplin is a founding member of Kenai Peninsula Votes. (courtesy photo)
Voices of the Peninsula: 1 candidate dined, 47 to go

By Alex Koplin Last month, I wrote a satirical piece for the… Continue reading

Smoke from the Swan Lake Fire impairs visibility on the Sterling Highway on Aug. 20, 2019. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Opinion: Alaskans should prepare for wildfire season

Several past large fire seasons followed snowy winters or unusually rainy springs

The logo of the Homer Trails Alliance.
Point of View: Connecting our community through trails

Homer is booming with housing development and the viability of long-standing trails is threatened

A copy of the State of Alaska Official Ballot for the June 11, 2022, Special Primary Election is photographed on May 2, 2022. (Peninsula Clarion staff)
How do I choose a candidate for this Special Primary Election?

You could start by making a list of your top choices with the issues they support that you care about

The Swan Lake Fire can be seen from above on Monday, Aug. 26, 2019, on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Alaska Wildland Fire Information)
Opinion: Supporting and protecting Alaskans during breakup and fire season

Our mantra is Team Alaska — we are here to help Alaskans and our communities.

Most Read