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Earth Day Is Irrelevant on Its 50th Anniversary

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg takes part in the school strike demonstration Fridays for future in Vienna, Austria, Friday, May 31, 2019. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

Yesterday was the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day, the annual recognition of the importance of protecting our one and only home planet. But the response across the world was tepid at best. Despite the boast on Earth Day’s website that they have coordinated “1 billion individuals mobilized for the future of the planet,” there were only about 7,000 real-time viewers of their live broadcast at 1 p.m. on April 22, roughly one-millionth of the world population. By 8 p.m., when their “Concert for a Healthy Planet” started, the number of viewers had dropped to 3,303.

Coverage of Earth Day on April 22 was minor in the press as well—no mention at all when I checked the home page of the left-leaning Toronto Star or the right-leaning Fox News. Practically nothing appeared on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation home page on April 22. To find anything on the event on the CNN home page, I had to scroll three screens down; five screens down for both The Washington Post and The New York Times.

So much for Earth Day Network’s volunteer coordinator Halsey Payne’s April 12 forecast that “Earth Day will unite hundreds of millions of people around the world to inspire action against environmental degradation and climate change. Even if it’s online.”

An obvious reason Earth Day was a bust this year, despite its semi-centennial, is that when faced with a real-world immediate health emergency, few people are thinking much about the environment right now. Indeed, in an April 21 Gallup poll, a full 45% of Americans said that the COVID virus was the biggest problem facing the U.S. In contrast, only 2% said that the environment/climate change/pollution was the top concern for the country, a third of the fraction who said health care and the economy were the top issues.

This reflects a longer-term trend in which environmental issues rate low in comparison with other worries. Patrick J. Buchanan, an assistant and special consultant to U.S. Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan, writes in “What will be the new American Cause?” (Rasmussen Reports, April 21), “Preventing climate change, say our liberal elites. Yet, even before the pandemic, global warming ranked near the bottom of national concerns.”

Indeed, the liberal elites continue to push the climate change narrative no matter what else is happening in the world. In her video address to mark Earth Day, UN Climate Chief Patricia Espinosa “urged the international community to remain focused on Earth Day 2020’s overarching theme of climate change, despite the COVID-19 crisis…”

That is the problem, of course. For year another year, instead of concentrating on real-world issues, Earth Day has been focused on the nonsensical climate change crusade. The Earth Day website explained:

The theme for Earth Day 2020 is climate action. The enormous challenge — but also the vast opportunities — of action on climate change have distinguished the issue as the most pressing topic for the 50th anniversary. Climate change represents the biggest challenge to the future of humanity and the life-support systems that make our world habitable.

But most people in the world apparently do not agree, according to the UN’s 2015 My World poll. For the almost 10 million people who voted in the poll, “Action on climate change” ranked dead last (see below for April 22 screenshot of the poll results to date), despite the fact that the UN listed that priority first among issues to be selected from (see further below).

(Source: MY World, United Nations global survey for citizens)

(Source: MY World, United Nations global survey for citizens)

Of course, such results must have been very unwelcome among UN bureaucrats, so they are essentially running the poll again. This time, they ask for the public to tell them:

WHICH SIX OF THE FOLLOWING GLOBAL GOALS ARE OF IMMEDIATE CONCERN TO YOU AND YOUR FAMILY?

So far, over 500,000 people have voted (more than half of those from Mexico, Espinosa’s home base, and only 3,804 from the U.S. and 942 people from Canada). If you want your vote counted in this new poll, go to https://myworld2030.org/ and make your voice heard! “Climate Goal 13: Climate Action,” is currently ranked 9th out of the 17 goals one can select from.

When its surveys showed relatively low concern about environmental issues in their 2015 poll, Gallup proposed several causes for the decline—a more positive view of the state of the environment, increased economic concerns, and politicization of environmental issues. But one explanation Gallup gave should trouble Earth Day strategists: activists are, in effect, focused on the wrong issue. Gallup explained,

The primary focus of the environmental movement has shifted toward long-term threats like global warming — issues about which Americans tend to worry less than about more immediate threats like pollution. Importantly, even as global warming has received greater attention as an environmental problem from politicians and the media in recent years, Americans’ worry about it is no higher now than when Gallup first asked about it in 1989.

Most sensible people are environmentalists. We want clean air, land, and water and we hope that future generations will live in an even better world. Yet climate change now dominates, not just Earth Day, but the entire environmental movement, sucking funding and energies away from tackling real issues such as pollution reduction and species at risk. Besides the strategic blunder of focusing on an issue the general public does not really care much about, there is a serious ethical problem that will come back to haunt the movement as the public becomes better informed.

Documents such as the Climate Change Reconsidered series of reports from the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change illustrate that debate rages in the scientific community about the causes of climate change. Scientists cannot yet even agree on whether cooling or warming lies ahead, let alone how much we affect the climate. Yet global warming campaigners assert that “the science is settled.” We know for certain, they claim, that our carbon dioxide emissions will cause a planetary emergency unless we radically change our ways.

This makes no sense, of course. Uncertainty is inherent to all sciences, especially one as complicated as climate change.

The consequence of this overconfidence is tragic. According to the San Francisco-based Climate Policy Initiative, of the over one-half trillion dollars that is now spent annually across the world on climate finance, 93% goes exclusively to mitigation, trying to control future climate states. Only 5% of global climate finance is dedicated solely to helping vulnerable people cope with climate change in the present. Based on an unfounded and increasingly improbable hypothesis about the causes of climate change, we are letting people suffer today so as to possibly help those yet to be born. As the public comes to understand this, they will soon regard the climate crusade as fundamentally immoral and the focus of today’s environmental movement ridiculous.

That scenario, not hypothetical future climate, is what should most concern Earth Day activists.

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Tom Harris is Executive Director of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition (www.ClimateScienceInternational.org).