Fact-Checking Clinton’s Climate Change Speech

The idea of a planetary emergency is little more than opportunistic political posturing.

By Michael Hart Published on October 16, 2016

In Florida earlier this week, appearing with climate evangelist Al Gore, Hillary Clinton demonstrated the extent to which she is prepared to embrace the post-Christian faith of climatism. The mainstream media revel in fact-checking the claims of her opponent, so let’s see how she does on this issue. The young people at whom she aims much of this claptrap are particularly vulnerable, having been nurtured on climatism since their first day at school.

Mrs. Clinton is right when she asserts that climate change is real. If nothing else can be said about climate, it is the reality that it changes on all spatial and temporal scales, going back billions of years.

Over that time, our planet has experienced a wide range of climatic conditions — from hothouse to snowball — and has survived. The idea of a planetary emergency is little more than opportunistic political posturing.

The science that she claims to support has clearly established that changes in the planet’s temperature are cyclical. And, taken over a long enough time frame, the direction of change is that of cooling. Against that background, the mild warming experienced over the last quarter of the 20th century does not show up except on a scale measured in tenths of a degree.

Mrs. Clinton claims that the mild warming from 1977–1997 (there was no net warming from 1998-2015) is responsible for the destructive power of Hurricane Matthew — a surprising claim since Matthew, making landfall at Category 2, didn’t break the 11-year spate of having no major (Category 3 or higher) hurricane strike the US despite all the alleged warming. The net impact of the current el Niño-la Niña cycle cannot be assessed until at least 2018. On a centennial scale, Matthew failed to reach the top ten by a wide margin. Neither its wind strength nor its rainfall fell outside well-established parameters.

More than with most politicians, deceit is integral to her political persona.

She claims that ocean flooding has become a daily nightmare in Miami. Really? Tide gauge and GPS data for the Miami area show that the ocean’s level varies from one location to another, consistent with different rates of land subsidence, not with rising oceans. In any event, scientists measure the extent of change in ocean levels in millimeters, with the total rise for the global oceans during the 20th century estimated to have been about 18 centimeters, or 7 inches, and at most an inch since then, hardly an existential threat. If Miami has a problem, it is local and should be addressed at that level.

California droughts, raging wildfires, and flooding rivers are all wholly consistent with normal climatic cycles. Their impacts, however, have become more problematic because of increased population and the growth of urbanization. The Central Valley in California, for example, is a natural desert. Modern farming in the valley is possible thanks to the massive irrigation projects built in the 1930s. Since then, California’s population has increased by a factor of six, and water projects have not kept up. Again, this is a local problem requiring a local solution. Blaming climate change is just a poor excuse for lack of appropriate local action.

Political Power is the Real Issue

Mrs. Clinton’s real goal, one she shares with Al Gore and all the other climate alarmists, is power. They see alarm over climate change as a convenient way to advance their control over people’s lives.

For politicians, from the UN to local, no issue has proven more useful in justifying increased government intervention at every level. For them, it is imperative that climate change be characterized as an alarming, all-pervasive problem, one that can only be tackled through massive increases in taxes, burdensome regulations, and an all-out attack on the many benefits of fossil fuels. Sadly, every jurisdiction that has embraced the green energy dream has learned that it is a mirage. The costs are high, the delivery anemic, the green jobs are nowhere to be found, and the poor suffer more from the policies than from climate.

One final note. Mrs. Clinton herself does not believe much of what she says on the campaign trail, including on climate change. As she indicated to her press secretary in a leaked 2015 e-mail, she needed to outflank Bernie Sanders but wanted to avoid being too clear about such remedies as a carbon tax, knowing how toxic that would be. Her Wall Street speeches are equally revealing. She is biding her time until next January, when the full panoply of interventionist ideas emanating from her in-house think tank will become her agenda, and she will shamelessly continue to invoke climate change to justify it. More than with most politicians, deceit is integral to her political persona.

The good news is that most Americans do not support Hillary’s approach. They do not think that climate change is a major problem, and they are not looking for a planetary savior ready to impose upon them the nightmare of “clean” energy.

A 2016 Chapman University survey indicates that climate change is not included among the top ten fears of the American people. They are not buying the hype.

Rather, their principal concern is the rise in corruption among government officials. Voters are fed up with the nonsense that career politicians feed them on a daily basis. A Pew University survey released last week indicates that Americans are losing their faith in both scientists and the media reporting on science issues. Among scientists, climate scientists are now considered the least credible, and barely one in ten Americans is closely following the issue.

We will see in November which direction the American people want to take, but it is unlikely that climate change will be the principal issue influencing their votes.


Michael Hart is emeritus professor of international affairs at Carleton University, the author of Hubris: The Troubling Science, Economics, and Politics of Climate Change, and a Contributing Writer for The Cornwall Alliance of the Stewardship of Creation.

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