At the two nights of the most recent Democratic Party presidential debates, 20 candidates warned in ever more alarming terms about the supposedly looming apocalypse.
“Literally the survival of humanity on this planet in civilization is in the hands of the next president,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said on the second night. “And we have to have a leader who will do what is necessary to save us.”
Though not every candidate endorsed the so-called Green New Deal, most called climate change an existential threat and echoed the sensational headlines that we have 12 years, 10 years, or even five years to stave off the End of Days. Unfortunately for the American people, none chose to lay aside the hyperbole of climate change alarmism and use his/her platform to drive our national discourse toward the truth.
And so far, no one clamoring about this supposed apocalypse has proposed a serious plan of action.
Our national conversation about climate change remains fraught and unproductive, with both sides talking past each other rather than to each other.
The missing link is a foundational understanding of how the United States actually produces our energy. If politicians really want to switch to renewable power, it can’t be accomplished without a concrete, coherent plan to replace the 80% of our energy that comes from fossil fuels — natural gas, oil, and coal.
Like it or not, fossil fuels represent the most reliable, affordable, and abundant energy sources we have. Access to these energy resources has led to the most dramatic improvements in the human condition in recorded history. After the Industrial Revolution made electricity widespread and accessible, average global life expectancy and GDP per capita increased dramatically. People are healthier, freer, more prosperous, better educated, and more comfortable than ever before.
Meanwhile, as our energy use has increased, so has our environmental quality. The United States is a world leader in clean air, with major pollutants falling nearly 75% since 1970.
These are benefits we take for granted — benefits not every country enjoys, even in the 21st century — and are too often overlooked in policy conversations about energy and the environment.
At current levels of technology, wind and solar energy require far too much land, battery storage, and backup power to become a primary energy source. It would take 27 times the acreage to replace the nation’s coal plants with solar power and more than 100 times the acreage for wind, not counting immense storage requirements — also destroying more wildlife and overwhelmingly increasing our physical footprint on the earth.
Even after tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies, renewable energy remains impractical.
Just ask Germany, where renewable power mandates have caused electricity prices to rise over 50% — and where coal plants are subsidized to provide power when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining. A recent study revealed that higher electricity prices leads to more wintertime deaths, as low-income and senior citizens are forced to choose between heating their homes and putting food on the table.
What’s more, even switching to 100% renewable energy by 2030, as plans like the Green New Deal call for, would only reduce global temperatures by 0.04 degrees in 2100. That’s according to data models used by the United Nations, traditionally one of the leading voices of climate change alarmism.
The Democratic presidential debates over the last two nights addressed none of these real, tangible concerns. Instead, candidates kowtowed to the political allure of climate change fear-mongering. South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg cried that we’re nearing the “horizon of catastrophe,” despite the fact that climate-related deaths have declined 97% in the past century.
Meanwhile, the voters were left hanging, faced with the false choice between an unlikely doomsday and unnecessarily higher taxes, electricity and fuel costs, and overall cost of living — all for limited, if any, environmental benefit.
Instead of parroting the popular but unfounded climate change doomsday narrative, our prospective leaders should empower Americans with the clear path forward that prioritizes human flourishing. As history has shown in the United States and around the world, affordable, reliable, abundant energy is critical to that flourishing.
Our economy, public health, and quality of life depend on it.
The Honorable Jason Isaac is Senior Manager and Distinguished Fellow of Life:Powered, a national initiative to raise America’s energy IQ. He previously served four terms in the Texas House of Representatives. Follow him on Twitter at @ISAACforTexas.