In the lead up to the 2016 election, we saw headlines like this from respected publications: “The 2016 Election Will Be the Biggest Referendum on Climate Change Ever” from Business Insider, “Sanders Says Climate Change Is Central Election Issue” from Scientific American, “The Climate Change Election” in Slate, and Climate Change Divide Bursts to Forefront in Presidential Election in the New York Times.
In the presidential debates, however, climate change accounted for only 325 seconds of the total time and even then it was not about climate change per se but about comments Trump had made. In short, climate change is not nor was it ever the biggest thought on the minds of voters despite attempts by the press and the Democratic Party to make it so.
According to most polls, Americans may be taking climate change more seriously and a belief that it is real and caused by mankind is at its highest level since 2007, according to Gallup. That poll was released in May, 2016. Another poll by Pew in October, 2016 showed that greater than 35% of Americans believed climate change was a serious threat. Of course, there were serious differences between political parties on the level of that threat in these polls.
Polls are one thing and reality quite another. When push comes to shove, climate change and, more importantly, what if anything to do about it, is a major topic of concern to a very small minority of the American electorate. One poll indicated that the trifecta of concerns- protecting the environment, developing clean energy, and addressing climate change- were the top three concerns of only 17% of the electorate. These were the alarmists.
But as we move down the relevancy of “concerned voters,” we find that climate change takes on less and less importance in forming how anyone votes. Among the 28% of the electorate who say they are “concerned,” climate change ranks 14th on their list of priorities. And of the remaining 55% of the electorate, climate change ranks dead last in a list of 23 items of concern.
The environmental Left which has their financial hooks in the Democratic Party is quick to point out the oft-cited figure that 97% of scientists believe that climate change is attributable to mankind. That may be true and all well and good, but at one time 100% of the medical community classified homosexuality as a psychological pathology. They tell us we should respect these findings from experts because, after all, we would heed the cautions of a doctor giving medical advice. Yet, not 100% of smokers develop lung cancer. The fact is that all sciences are not exact endeavors and climate change science, largely based on computer models sensitive to data entered into those models, is perhaps the least exact science.
But instead of attacking the science and these modeling methods, this writer believes that conservatives should adopt the belief that climate change is a geological reality. Further, we should concede the possibility that mankind may have an impact to some degree, but that it certainly merits further study. Most importantly, the United States should not join the rest of the brainwashed world and rush into any “solution” that economically hurts this country.
And there lies the real solution in winning the climate change debate: the economy and, more specifically, the effects of the proposed solutions on the wallets of the electorate. Previous congressional efforts have shown the following: the damage to the GDP would be $1.7 trillion at a minimum, single year GDP losses would be anywhere from $155 to $500 billion, annual job losses could be as high as 500,000. And the list goes on.
But all these macroeconomic effects have little impact given the alarmist white noise rhetoric from the Left. Instead, we need to bring the cost of their proposed solutions down to the personal level. When voters find out that they will pay an average of $467 more per year for natural gas heat (that is the average which will be higher in colder areas), they may think twice about Leftist solutions. When voters realize they will be paying an approximate $1.38 more for a gallon of gas (according to the Heritage Foundation) to get to work for a paycheck that will increasingly be eaten up by energy costs, perhaps they will think again about the solutions. When they realize that if all the Leftist solutions if enacted, despite their costs to American consumers/voters will affect world temperatures for a tiny 0.3-0.7 degrees Celsius, perhaps they will think twice.
When they see their tax dollars being diverted to developing countries to, in effect, bribe them into compliance with international treaties on climate change, perhaps the will think twice before pulling that lever for the Democratic Party. Instead, the strategy is fivefold. First, what real world effects will their solutions have on climate change? Are we to sacrifice our economy when places like China, Singapore and India show no propensity to share in that sacrifice? Second, is decreased industrial output a solution this country either wants or can afford?
Third, what are the economic offsets of these solutions? The EPA claims that carbon dioxide is a pollutant that has effects on human health. But, if people are paying more out of their wallets for energy, does not reduced actual income lead to bad health choices also? For example, does one pay an extra $80 to heat their home and forego that doctor’s visit?
Fourth, where do we stand in terms of technological advances reducing carbon dioxide emissions? A perfect example is nuclear energy which produces no carbon dioxide emissions. Yet the environmental Left is steadfast in their animus towards nuclear energy- perhaps the greatest solution to the “problem” currently available. The only thing holding us back is misinformation and scare-mongering (coupled with costly litigation and studies) from doing what France currently does (they get 78% of their energy from nuclear sources and rank 26th in terms of emissions among developed countries) or what Finland is currently attempting. As it stands now, even without their new ultra-modern 1,600 megawatt nuclear plant (still under construction), Finland gets 28% of their energy from nuclear energy. The United States gets 20%.
Fifth, there is nothing inherently wrong with solar and wind power where feasible. But, wind and solar sources will not be the cure-all as the Left seems to suggest. Instead, let’s emphasize the costs to the average energy consumer in the US of the proposals and solutions of the Democratic Party. We have real world experiments in cap-and-trade. The EU tried and abandoned it after they learned that it was (1) rife with fraud, (2) increased energy prices which had a ripple effect throughout the economy, and (3) led to an increase in carbon dioxide emissions.
We are told by the outgoing Obama administration that the American economy has made great strides over the past eight years and are poised to once again be the economic powerhouse internationally. Why, then, would we risk that scenario (if it is true) in the name of less than one degree Celsius? Why would we reform our tax code so people have more money in their wallets only to have that money drop out of their wallets in increased energy costs? Why would the United States- now the #1 producer of natural gas- abandon that natural resource or even offset the glut of oil and natural gas by increasing consumer prices?
The arguments of the environmental Left, and by proxy the Democratic Party, are esoteric and intangible. The correct argument of the Right should be to unleash the ingenuity of American capitalism in solving the “problem” and highlighting the tangible effects on the wallets of Americans and their families which the Left proposes. As practically every poll indicates, unless you are a climate change alarmist/tree-hugging environmentalist, the economy and, more specifically, the effects on your wallet will win out every time.