Trump Is Right on Climate Change. Dems and GOP Must Follow Him

Never before has a presidential election seen a greater contrast in the attitudes of the major candidates towards climate change.

Hillary Clinton told delegates at July’s Democratic National Convention that man-made climate change is “an urgent threat and a defining challenge of our time.” Yet Donald Trump calls Clinton’s approach an "extreme, reckless anti-energy agenda," and he told Fox News on July 26 that man-made climate change "could have a minor impact, but nothing, nothing [comparable] to what they're talking about."

To determine which position is most reasonable, and what -- if any -- climate change mitigation policy is needed, we need a way of properly assessing the overall risk of man-made climate change. It is not enough to simply say that the consequences of catastrophic climate change would be so dire that any and all actions to avert it are justified. We need to actually take into account the probability of such events occurring in the foreseeable future.

We conduct risk assessment in everyday life, of course. Yet for some reason, we don’t conduct it on this issue.

When we go for a walk, we risk being hit by a truck, a falling tree, or lightning, events that would obviously be personally catastrophic if they actually came about. But we judge that -- if normal safety precautions are taken -- the likelihood of these things happening is so low that we have no qualms about leaving home.

The same approach should obviously apply to public policy formulation. If risk assessment only involved responding to possible outcomes, then the nations of the world would be building an asteroid defense system. After all, a large asteroid impact could destroy all life on Earth, perhaps even shatter the planet itself, a far worse scenario than even the most extreme global warming forecasts.

But scientists judge that the likelihood of a significant impact in the foreseeable future is far too small to justify spending trillions of dollars on the issue.

So -- while we do watch the skies for possible cosmic threats -- we dedicate the majority our security dollars to dealing with known, more immediate problems such as crime, terrorism, and local pollution.

Dealing with the possibility of catastrophic human-caused climate change should result in a similar analysis as that of a possible asteroid strike. Here’s why: The portion of climate change that is due to human activity must have been very small to date.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated in their latest Assessment Report that surface temperature, averaged over all land and ocean surfaces, increased only 1.53 degrees Fahrenheit between 1880 to 2012.

Further, a significant portion of that rise must have been part of a natural climate cycle, as the Earth had been exiting the Little Ice Age.

So, man’s contribution to the change that has occurred over those 132 years is something less than 1.53 degrees Fahrenheit -- anything but catastrophic.

But hold on -- stating a 132-year long change in terms of hundredths of a degree makes no sense at all. Why? Over most of those 132 years, the instruments we used to measure temperature could only measure to an accuracy of one entire degree.

Did you hear governments and media claim recently that 2014 and 2015 were “the hottest years on record”?

Well, those reports claimed that 2014 broke the record by seven hundredths of a degree Fahrenheit, and that 2015 broke the record by 29 hundredths of a degree Fahrenheit.