The latest report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was released a couple weeks ago, appropriately overshadowed by far more disastrous events in Afghanistan. You probably didn’t miss it anyway, given that most of the media hungrily jumped all over themselves to attach to it the most dramatic headlines they could.
The enthusiastic warnings of apocalyptic carnage from the environmentalist lobby and the media aside, the report itself seems to contain nothing particularly novel or unexpected. Like its predecessors, it is a political document, written to evangelize to the faithful and try to shame the rest into feeling crippling guilt for using natural gas furnaces in January and eating something other than a subsistence level quantity of organic wheatgrass.
In fact, about all that’s new in the gargantuan report (the summary alone is 41, presumably recycled, pages) is that the worst-case scenario is actually somewhat less dire than earlier predicted, and the attempt to directly link disastrous weather events to climate change. But even this was rather muted – well, once you get past the hand-wringing – as the IPCC expressed “low confidence” in the threat that Antarctic Sea ice will melt, as well as in the connection between human climate impact and the frequency of tropical cyclones and river flooding. It did, however, manage to authoritatively proclaim as “unequivocal” that “human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean, and land.”
Okay. Not exactly a groundbreaking revelation, that. With around 8 billion souls on the planet, it would be nothing short of a miracle if we DIDN’T have some impact on it.
The debate, which the hyperbolic vocabulary of climate change is meant to stifle, is about the nature, consequences, and appropriate reactions. The term “climate denier”, bandied about by those on the political left, is usually nothing more than a meaningless rhetorical device to hijack legitimate debate before it can really start. Yes, there are a few nutty exceptions – which can be lumped in with those who think airplane contrails are chemical sprays, that police officers spend their days hunting down black men, that gas appliances and bovine digestive systems spell the end of the world, and that mathematics is racist – but most people who are generally labeled as “climate deniers” are simply those who possess the reason and analytical fortitude to realize that something as complex as the earth’s climate is not easily reducible to bumper-sticker slogans – or even computer models – and that dismantling the western economy in an effort to repeal the industrial revolution will do far, far more harm than good.
It is a mistake, albeit a deliberate one, to interpret well-reasoned pushback against climate politics as indifference to ecological concerns – just as it has been a mistake for some conservatives to abandon those concerns in the course of resisting a political movement masquerading as science. The argument over climate change is an economic one, not an existential one. Were it more than that, there would be little, if any, resistance among the erstwhile environmental movement to the advent of nuclear technology, which alone among available alternatives can replace carbon in electrical generation on a wide scale. Nor would no less a devotee to the climate gods than President Joe Biden, two days after the IPCC report was released, plead the nations of the OPEC cartel to pump more oil, even after curtailing his own country’s ability to do so.
Probably the best indication that the climate change brigades are not as serious as they loudly proclaim is that they rely on the U.N. for official sponsorship. Why on earth anyone, after watching the U.N. blunder around for 70 years, would ever rely on that organization for policy advice is inexplicable. Sure, granted, the IPCC is made up of many individually skilled and presumably smart people, but to trust the UN as a body to accomplish anything useful is an act of sheer lunacy. This is an organization that regularly dedicates inordinate time and resources to condemning Israel for defending herself, while granting a seat on the Human Rights Council to places like Cuba, where the will of the people is consulted as often as duck hunters consult ducks. Possibly the last good thing to happen at the UN was Daniel Patrick Moynihan telling them they could not get away with their surreal war on moral understanding on his watch, back in the 1970’s.
No, the IPCC report is a political document, not a policy one; one which serves mainly to provide an excuse for those who wish to tendentiously pursue economic programs and central planning schemes that elude empirical justification, rather than adaptive measures – like applying the principles of basic forest management – that would actually reduce harms but deny a potent advocacy weapon, which is far more important.