Posted 17 November 2016
Green Elites, Trumped
The planet will benefit if the climate movement is purged of its rottenness.
By Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.
Hysterical, in both senses of the word, is the reaction of greens like Paul Krugman and the Sierra Club to last week’s election. “The planet is in danger,” fretted Tom Steyer, the California hedge funder who spends his billions trying to be popular with green voters.
Uh huh. In fact, the climate will be the last indicator to notice any transition from Barack Obama to Donald Trump. That’s because—as climate warriors were only too happy to point out until a week ago—Mr. Obama’s own commitments weren’t going to make any noticeable dent in a putative CO2 problem.
At most, Mr. Trump’s election will mean solar and wind have to compete more on their merits. So what?
He wants to lift the Obama war on coal—but he won’t stop the epochal replacement of coal by cheap natural gas, with half the greenhouse emissions per BTU.
He probably won’t even try to repeal an egregious taxpayer-funded rebate for wind and solar projects, because red states like this gimme too.
But Republican state governments will continue to wind back subsidies that ordinary ratepayers pay through their electric bills so upscale homeowners can indulge themselves with solar.
Even so, the price of solar technology will continue to drop; the lithium-ion revolution will continue to drive efficiency gains in batteries.
Mr. Trump wants to spend on infrastructure, and the federal research establishment, a hotbed of battery enthusiasts, likely will benefit. In a deregulatory mood, he might well pick up an uncharacteristically useful initiative from the Obama administration.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission quietly is revisiting a scientifically dubious radiation risk standard that drives up the cost of nuclear power.
What a Trump election will do is mostly dismantle a green gravy train powered by moral vanity that contributes nothing to the public welfare.
A phenomenon like Trump, whatever its antecedents, is an opportunity—in this case to purge a rottenness that begins at the commanding heights.
The New York Times last year published a feature entitled “short answers to the hard questions about climate change” that was notable solely for ignoring the hardest question of all: How much are human activities actually affecting the climate?
This is the hardest question. It’s why we spend tens of billions collecting climate data and building computerized climate models. It’s why “climate sensitivity” remains the central problem of climate science, as lively and unresolved as it was 35 years ago.
Happily, it only takes a crude, blunderbussy kind of instrument to shatter such a fragile smugness—and if Mr. Trump and the phenomenon he represents are anything, it’s crude and blunderbussy. As with any such shattering, the dividends will not be appropriated only by one party or political tendency.
Democrats must know by now they are in a failing marriage. Wealthy investors like George Soros,Nat Simons and Mr. Steyer, who finance the party’s green agenda, have ridden the Dems into the ground, with nothing to show for their millions, and vice versa.
On the contrary, the WikiLeaks release of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails only dramatizes what a liability they’ve become, demanding attacks on scientists and even loyal Democrats who don’t endorse their climate-disaster scenarios. Their anti-coal, anti-pipeline, anti-fracking stance especially hurts Dems with union households, which turned out in record numbers for Mr. Trump.
It was always crazy to believe in an unprecedented act of global central planning to wean nations away from fossil fuels, but equally idiotic not to notice that our energy economy is ripe slowly to be transformed by technology anyway.
One greenie who is beyond the need for handouts is Bill Gates, who has made himself non grata by saying the current vogue for subsidizing power sources that will always need subsidies is a joke—an admission of defeat. Honest warriors like Mr. Gates and retired NASA alarmist James Hansen insist real progress can’t be made without nuclear.
Why haven’t others? Because the Tom Steyers and Bill McKibbens would sacrifice the planet 10 times over rather than no longer be fawned over at green confabs. That’s rottenness at work.
There’s a reason today’s climate movement increasingly devotes its time and energy to persecuting heretics—because it’s the most efficient way to suppress reasoned examination of policies that cost taxpayers billions without producing any public benefit whatsoever. The theory and practice of climate advocacy, on one hand, has been thoroughly, irretrievably corrupted by self righteousness—blame Al Gore, that was his modus.
Yet, on the other, it has allowed itself to become the agent of economic interests that can’t survive without pillaging middle-class taxpayers and energy users—exactly the kind of elitist cronyism that voters are sick of.
Without attributing any special virtue to Mr. Trump, he represents a chance for a new start. He might even turn out to be good for the planet.