A couple years ago I offered here some totally heretical thoughts on why, from a long-term historical perspective, even radical climate change was not the existential threat to humanity that the Goreacles of the world constantly scream about. It was a very long post, but here are a couple of highlights:
Let’s start with a question that no one ever discusses: where do human beings live on this planet? Inuits have lived near the arctic in primitive conditions for thousands of years. I hear it is very cold there—often below zero for months at a time. Frankly I can’t understand why they didn’t move to Florida, but perhaps the tax rates in the Arctic were even more favorable than in the Sunshine State, or perhaps some ancient Seminole chief Big Trump built a wall. Likewise, Arabs and other tribes have lived in the desert for thousands of years where it is very hot (sometimes 125 degrees in the summer), yet became the “cradle of civilization.” (They seem to have lost that cradle lately, but that’s a subject for another day.) Hmm: seems humans can flourish in a wide range of extreme temperatures. . . Yet a prospective four-degree global average temperature rise over a century or more is supposed to be the end of mankind? What kind of wimps do they take us for? This is silliness of the first order.
But let’s keep going. Let’s go back 50,000 years or so, to the beginning of the human race as we know it, when there were, by some accounts, perhaps as few as 50,000 early humans (maybe as few as 5,000 by some reckonings) mostly clustered around the Rift Valley in Africa, chiefly because the rest of the world was too cold. Like Chicago, then under about a mile of ice. Humans didn’t start to migrate around the globe in serious numbers until the last ice age ended and the place started warming up. . .
But but but!!! Climate change will be radically disruptive! Twenty-foot sea level rise! More extreme storms! Droughts! Boiling frogs! Dogs and cats living together! A perfect storm of tipping points! And 45 other clichés I forgot to mention!
Let’s see: More disruptive than the black plague of the 14th century (one-third of Europe killed)? More disruptive than the Hundred-Years War or the Thirty-Years War? More disruptive than World War I and World War II? More disruptive than Nazism and Communism? We survived all of these, and moreover human progress continued. And climate change pales before prospective or active disruptions right in front of us. More disruptive than what’s presently disrupting the Middle East? More disruptive than a President Trump? More disruptive than a prospective nuclear war between India and Pakistan (which has almost happened once)? I guarantee that if there’s a major nuclear war in our future, UN climate conferences won’t be very well attended, because no one will care about greenhouse gas emissions.
This is preface to bringing your attention to the splendid article in today’s Wall Street Journal from David R. Henderson and John H. Cochrane, “Climate Change Isn’t the End of the World.” (Access it through Google here if you’re not a Journal subscriber.) I am quite ready to declare this to be the best article on climate change for 2017, even though we have five more months to go.
Partly that’s because some of the arguments in it sound familiar:
Migration is costly. But much of the world’s population moved from farms to cities in the 20th century. Allowing people to move to better climates in the 21st will be equally possible. Such investments in climate adaptation are small compared with the investments we will regularly make in houses, businesses, infrastructure and education.
And economics is the central question—unlike with other environmental problems such as chemical pollution. Carbon dioxide hurts nobody’s health. It’s good for plants. Climate change need not endanger anyone. If it did—and you do hear such claims—then living in hot Arizona rather than cool Maine, or living with Louisiana’s frequent floods, would be considered a health catastrophe today.
Global warming is not the only risk our society faces. Even if science tells us that climate change is real and man-made, it does not tell us, as President Obama asserted, that climate change is the greatest threat to humanity. Really? Greater than nuclear explosions, a world war, global pandemics, crop failures and civil chaos?
No. Healthy societies do not fall apart over slow, widely predicted, relatively small economic adjustments of the sort painted by climate analysis. Societies do fall apart from war, disease or chaos. Climate policy must compete with other long-term threats for always-scarce resources.
Do read the whole thing, and share it widely. And then sit back and watch the fireworks as the climatistas lose their minds over this heresy. I can’t wait to see the outraged letters that pour in to the Journal over this.