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A hurricane of misinformation on climate change

Washington Examiner logo Washington Examiner 9/2/2021 Washington Examiner
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Before Hurricane Ida even had the chance to dissipate into Tropical Storm Ida, Democratic politicians were already on Twitter using the natural disaster to score political points.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was typical: "The destruction from Hurricane Ida is devastating," he tweeted. "Our thoughts are with those in danger and with first responders saving lives. But let's be clear. If we do not act boldly to combat climate change, what we see today will become the norm as the planet becomes more uninhabitable."

It is always unsightly when politicians use other people’s pain to advance their narrow pre-existing agenda. But what makes Sanders's statement worth highlighting is that it is 100% false.

According to the best available projections from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, climate change is actually expected to decrease the overall number of hurricanes by 25%. Because fewer low-intensity hurricanes will form, the intensity will increase, on average, by 5%, NOAA projects. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says the same thing: The proportion of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes will increase by 2100, but the number of hurricanes overall will go down.

None of this means we shouldn’t take the challenges of climate change or stronger storms seriously. But look at New Orleans, devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Over 1,800 people died as a result of that Category 5 hurricane.

But it has been recognized that human error was to blame. The death toll was almost entirely caused by the gross negligence of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in maintaining the region’s system of levees. With the lessons of Katrina learned and the levees properly maintained, Ida produced no major flooding, and only one death has been attributed to the storm.

In addition to better storm mitigation, the United States also needs to lower carbon emissions. There is only one known way of doing this, and that is to embrace nuclear power.

Sanders's own Vermont provides a great example of why. In 2005, Sanders urged his home state to commit to reducing carbon emissions by 25% by 2012 compared to 1990 levels. To that end, the state’s largest utility started one of the nation's leading efforts to get customers to switch to solar power and the nation's fifth-best energy efficiency program five years in a row.

And guess what happened? As Michael Shellenberger points out in his book Apocalypse Never, Vermont's carbon emissions actually rose by 16% instead of decreasing by 25%. That's because, while Sanders and other politicians were grandstanding about solar power and energy efficiency, environmentalists successfully ended the state’s use of nuclear power, which provided necessary and completely carbon-free electricity. Vermonters had to buy fossil-fuel-generated power from out of state to make up for it.

This same dynamic is currently playing out in California, which closed one nuclear power plant in 2013 and is set to close its last one in 2025. Where does California plan to come up with the 10% of its carbon-free electricity produced by its last nuclear power plant? California will almost certainly be forced to buy coal- and gas-generated power from other nearby states, just like Vermont did, further driving up electricity costs for California consumers and making global warming worse. But at least California environmentalists will feel good about themselves for ridding their state of nuclear power.

There are other measures to reduce property damage suffered during severe storms. Environmentalists love to point out that the overall damage from hurricanes and other extreme weather events keeps rising, but that is only because our economy also keeps growing. Once you control for economic growth, the costs from extreme weather events has actually fallen since 1990. We could further limit this economic damage from extreme weather by ending federally subsidized flood insurance for properties worth more than $1 million.

Climate change is real, and it is a challenge. But to misstate the science and abandon carbon-free nuclear power is the exact opposite of rising to the challenge. Indeed, it only makes the challenge more difficult.

 

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Tags: Editorials, Environment, Climate Change, Hurricane, Weather

Original Author: Washington Examiner

Original Location: A hurricane of misinformation on climate change

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