World leaders and activists will gather this week in New York City for the United Nations Climate Action Summit. President Trump will not be attending — for good reason.
The modern climate movement has proved itself not only dishonest, but also increasingly ineffective where it supposedly matters: Reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Exhibit A is the fact that the United States leads the world in emission reductions, while active signatories to the Paris Agreement — the historical agreement that we are told represents the pinnacle of global climate action — have not produced meaningful emission reductions, and in some instances continue to significantly increase their emissions.
Missing from the globalist fanfare and hashtag diplomacy at the U.N. Summit is an honest conversation. Getting away from fuzzy projections, which the climate conversation tends to stubbornly revolve around, observed science suggests that ongoing climate change is much more benign and manageable than alarmists would suggest. Improving our understanding of climate change is important, as are affiliated policy discussions, but most of the conversations to date have produced little more than driving an entire generation into an unhealthy state of perpetual anxiety.
The truth is that we know how to reduce emissions. In the United States, there are a range of emission control technologies, as well as efficiency improvements that are making every form of energy extraction, refinement, transport, and end use more environmentally friendly. The shining example is hydraulic fracturing, which is the main driver behind U.S. emission reductions.
Even more promising, we know how to expand the use of these technologies through an economic system that enables their large-scale adoption. This system, called capitalism, has a history of producing efficient solutions to serious issues while creating jobs and economic prosperity.
We also know how to deal with natural disasters. While there has been no recorded change in the number or intensity of these events (per the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment), there has been a measurable change in human survivability rates. According to recent work by a leading environmental professor, in half a century, the average number of annual natural disaster-related fatalities has declined by more than 80%. The damage affiliated with these events as a portion of GDP has also decreased.
After 50 years of doomsday predictions that have yet to actually pan out, some of the environmentalist movement’s own leaders are starting to question whether the extreme rhetoric is actually worth it. The leader of the one of the world’s foremost weather science organizations — the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) — issued a recent rebuke to climate extremism. During a September 6th speech, the WMO secretary general said: “It is not going to be the end of the world. The world is just becoming more challenging.”
The secretary general’s statements reflect a growing number of climate scientists working at U.S. agencies, international organizations, and universities who quietly hate the hyperbolic rhetoric. They rightfully fear that the work of activists is not only misrepresenting their scientific work, but is also undermining it.
Meanwhile, President Trump will continue to advance his environmental agenda by focusing on tangible issues with practical solutions. His efforts are why our air is 74% cleaner today, our drinking water is the cleanest in the world, and U.S. greenhouse gas emissions will continue to decline much faster than will any other country’s emissions. The reality is that all the goals the climate activists purportedly want to achieve are already happening without turning the United States into a socialist country or sending billions of dollars overseas.
There are a multitude of ways someone who truly cares about the environment can make a difference. For starters, we can urge Congress to work with the president to continue our record-breaking environmental successes. Additionally, there are a number of bipartisan bills aimed at making incremental changes that would actually be effective at reducing emissions without putting millions of people out of work or subjecting even more to poverty.
The U.N. summit won’t change the climate or improve the environment. But in the meantime, Americans are rolling up their sleeves and getting to work — and proving we can lead on environmental protection without having to sacrifice our freedoms, personal responsibility, or economic growth.
Mandy Gunasekara is the founder of the Energy 45 Fund and a senior fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Life: Powered project. She previously served as principal deputy assistant administrator in the Office of Radiation at the Environmental Protection Agency, and as counsel to the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.