If you follow the mainstream media closely, you may find that in 2021, the Earth has been swept by all kinds of natural disasters. To name a few, the surprising winter storm in Texas, where it is usually warm, and record high temperatures in the Pacific Northwest region this June, where it is usually cool; unprecedented drought and wildfires in the western US, devastating floods in western Europe and central China, etc. And of course, all those outlets will tell you that climate change is to blame. Following Biden’s inauguration, his administration has made some progressive moves, including the halt of the Keystone pipeline construction and the return to the Paris Agreement. Though I myself am a fervent nature lover, I am neither a progressive climate activist nor a skeptic, and I can understand, and to some extent dissent, the arguments presented by both sides.
First of all, is climate change real? And, since many conservatives believed it to be of natural occurrence, is it caused by human activity?
The answer I can give you is that I do believe so. As we all know, carbon emissions from industrial activities, transportation, and agriculture all contribute to the Greenhouse effect, retaining heat from the sun’s radiation and thus increasing Earth’s surface temperature. Unfortunately, most scientific research suggests that global temperature and CO2 concentration are increasing at unprecedented rates, higher than any period in the Earth’s entire history. Even without being able to precisely measure how much of it is directly done by us humans, it makes sense that we have greatly and permanently changed the Earth’s surface, and we should make changes instead of keeping our old skepticism.
The second question is about whether there is a positive correlation between climate change and the alleged increase of intensity and frequency of natural disasters?
I cannot give you a certain answer on this. I consider it as common sense when we hear things like: thanks to global warming, ice sheets in the poles are melting, which contributes to rising sea levels; and higher latitude areas are becoming more livable, while the people living in the tropics will suffer from stronger heatwaves. On the other hand, activists also like to blame climate change for this alleged increase in natural disasters. However, when examining meteorological irregularities, many of their arguments fail to explain why exactly warming makes winter storms and hurricanes easier to form and become more devastating, or why some places are getting drier yet others receive more rainfall than average which doesn’t necessarily have a predictable pattern. Even the author of this article from the progressive media site Vox cannot conclude the correlation between climate change and the recent Texas winter storm either.
Therefore, I don’t agree with these activists when they connect everything to climate change since they are missing a critical step in logically evaluating the direct cause of the phenomenon. We shouldn’t make assumptions before gathering all the evidence. However, don’t get me wrong, climate change is still a serious issue that needs to be addressed.
Last but not least, should we support solutions like the Paris Agreement and Green New Deal that seek to completely solve the climate problem, or should we rather take pragmatic actions that focus on getting people better prepared for disasters?
The Paris Agreement focuses on emission cuts and pushes renewable energy worldwide; while the Green New Deal, besides those, also contains big government political goals that have absolutely nothing to do with the environment and might potentially hurt the economy. Keep in mind that even if humans stop all emissions immediately, the greenhouse gas would remain in the atmosphere for hundreds of years, suggesting that warming can still persist for a long time, and I could not imagine all of mankind going back to uncivilized lifestyles. Therefore, though I do not oppose environmental legislation as I believe it plays a vital role, I doubt the true effect of such eco programs when the proposed annual emission-cut percentage is merely a single digit, while emissions of most developing countries are still going up.
On the other hand, we can conceive some specific solutions that aim to prevent consequences from future disasters. Take California and Australia as an example, both of which are prone to wildfires. The natives of both countries have been practicing controlled burning for thousands of years, clearing out dead, dry bushes, a method that we could learn much from. To mitigate situations in cities that are prone to flooding, we could decrease impervious cover (developed land that water isn’t able to penetrate) by replacing land with parks and natural refuges. And we should limit urban sprawl to a minimum so that water can better penetrate soil instead of staying on developed surfaces. For cities that can potentially suffer from heat waves, we could repaint structures to lighter hues to reflect instead of absorbing heat. To prevent future blackouts due to winter storms, Texans could consider connecting their power grids to adjacent states and set up backup electricity generating options, which in this case ironically should be coal instead of renewables. And most importantly, we have to acknowledge that a free capitalist market is the key to almost all technological innovations, including eco-friendly products that will certainly dominate our future.