News & Politics

Biden Wants to Beat the Heat: Old Man Yells at Sunny Skies

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Just back from a not-at-all-deserved Rehobeth Beach vacation, Presidentish Joe Biden promises to beat the heat by doubling down on everything stupid.

Are you as confused as I am? For some much-needed clarity that we won’t actually find, let’s go to the president* himself and his latest written statement taking on “extreme weather exacerbated by climate change.”

I have walked down streets in Louisiana, New Jersey, and New York, where deadly storms have blown apart the lives of working families, wiping homes and businesses off the map. I’ve sat with firefighters in Boise, Idaho, and surveyed the damage of the Caldor Fire in northern California – just one of dozens of large wildfires that together have burned more than 5 million acres of American land so far this year.

It all sounds very tragic and — if you’re a progressive for whom every problem is a nail in need of a big government hammer — a great excuse to shout “Hammertime!”

There’s just one problem.

When it comes to the weather, things are generally getting better — except where government is making them worse.

Nobody wants to get hit by a hurricane, but the problem isn’t that climate change is making them “bigger, stronger, and more dangerous,” as we’re always told. The problem is that people don’t mind so much that they won’t flock to coastal areas at risk from hurricanes.

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Hurricanes cause more damage today, not because of climate change but because we’ve built up the coasts, giving them more stuff to damage.

If a hurricane from early in the 20th century resulted in no reported damage, then according to G19 it did not exist. That’s one reason why we don’t use economic data to make conclusions about climate. A second reason for the mismatched counts is that G19 counts many non-hurricanes as hurricanes, and disproportionately so in the second half of the dataset.

Why don’t Americans mind living in hurricane areas? Because the National Flood Insurance Program partly subsidizes the risks of living in those places.

No matter what you might hear from panic-mongering Californians, wildfires are not “at historic highs” or anything like it. That is, at least where sanity reigns:

It’s not unreasonable to assume that both poor land management and California’s high temperatures and arid climate have played a role in the fires. But California is not the only place in America that experiences high temps and dry weather.

Texas actually has more forest and higher temperatures than California, but the Lone Star state rarely struggles with fires, perhaps because 95 percent of its land mass is privately owned and these owners act as responsible stewards of the land.

While temperatures are up over the last two centuries (although not as much as climate alarmists told us they would be) whether or not that’s due to carbon emissions isn’t exactly “settled” science.

How big is the human-caused CO2 fingerprint compared to other uncertainties in our climate model? For tracking energy flows in our model, we use watts per square meter (Wm–2). The sun’s energy that reaches the Earth’s atmosphere provides 342 Wm–2—an average of day and night, poles and equator—keeping it warm enough for us to thrive. The estimated extra energy from excess CO2—the annual anthropogenic greenhouse gas contribution—is far smaller, according to Frank, at 0.036 Wm–2, or 0.01 percent of the sun’s energy. If our estimate of the sun’s energy were off by more than 0.01 percent, that error would swamp the estimated extra energy from excess CO2.

The science is never settled. We’re always learning more.

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If you don’t want such destructive hurricanes, then stop subsidizing the risks and losses of living in hurricane areas.

If you want to prevent forest fires, then engage in proper forest management.

If you want to save people from the heat, keep energy prices low enough for everyone who needs air conditioning to be able to afford it.

If you want to increase energy production enough to keep the A/C running and power all those electric cars being subsidized and even eventually mandated, but you’re committed to reducing carbon emissions, then start building nuclear power plants again.

If you want to beat the heat, Mr. Presidentish, then start doing the things Democrats hate doing.