The Climate Change Debate Goes On

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The Climate Change Debate Goes On

The recent battle for the White House involved two individuals whose simplistic messages failed to capture the important issues related to anthropogenic global warming (or AGW), which we euphemistically refer to as “climate change.”  That’s not surprising.  Trump is a real estate promoter from Queens whose success is based mostly on closing deals with investors or voters.  Biden is a career politician who served in an administration where its Secretary of Defense referred to him as being demonstrably “on the wrong side of every issue for forty years.” 

At the final debate, the moderator teed-up the AGW dilemma by asking, “How would you both combat climate change and support job growth at the same time?”

President Trump kicked off his response by saying, “We have the trillion trees program…”  The “trillion trees” idea was one of the central components of the House Republicans’ climate policy agenda proposed last February.  It is part of a hypothetical international effort based upon the absorption effect of trees on carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The U.S. component of any such effort would be 60 billion additional trees planted in America over the next two decades on about 330 million acres of land.  As regular subscribers know, the “trillion trees” program is one the Trends editors strongly endorse, but primarily because of secondary benefits to people living in the developing world.

The problem with this answer is that it would have been far better for him to emphasize (1) the trivial effects of any plausible climate policy; (2) the absence of any evidence of anything that could legitimately be called a climate “crisis”; and (3) the superiority of what we call “watchful waiting and adaptation over time,” which is the only policy approach that makes any sense at all.

Trump’s inattention to details served him badly in this case.  It would have been very easy to put Biden on the defensive by pointing out the essentially fraudulent nature of the Obama administration’s climate policies in terms of their prospective climate benefits.  Specifically, full implementation of the Obama administration climate action plan would reduce temperatures in 2100 by 15-one-thousandth’s of one degree C.  The same effect would be achieved by implementing the proposed U.S. carbon tax.  The entire Paris agreement, if implemented immediately and enforced strictly: would reduce the temperature in 2100 by less than one-fifth of one degree C.  And Biden’s favorite proposal involving net zero U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 would lead to a reduction of about one-tenth of one degree C by 2100...

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