My eight-month-old son has the cutest gummy grin. I know I’m biased — I’m sure your kids are cute, too — but it fills me with a joy I never imagined before becoming a mom. Like most moms, I’m fiercely protective. I take my maternal responsibilities seriously, balancing new experiences and challenges with guarding his health and safety. I want him to have the best chance at a healthy, fruitful, and joyful life.
Unfortunately, my son and his generation face an emotional threat few have dealt with before: joy-sapping environmental alarmism permeating the news media, pop culture, and even our schools. In the end, however, climate catastrophists won’t succeed at wiping that adorable grin off my son’s face. Here’s why.
In 2017, the American Psychological Association published a report on “eco-anxiety,” defined as a “chronic fear of environmental doom.” A recent article in the Lancet medical journal recognizes the gravity of the problem, especially for children, and says it will likely increase “stress-related problems such as substance use disorders, anxiety disorders, and depression.”
A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll shows less than one-third of American teenagers are optimistic about the planet’s future. Children skip school for climate change protests with cardboard signs bearing such bleak slogans as “Why should I study for a future I won’t have?” and “We won’t die from old age. We’ll die from climate change.”
How sad — and irresponsible — that their parents, teachers, and the corporate media we depend on for information have forced such misery on impressionable young minds. Saddling our next generation of leaders with the burden of fatalistic pessimism is wrong for so many reasons, especially when even a cursory review of the history of the human condition shows there’s cause not just for pressing onward, but for outright celebration.
My son and his generation are fortunate indeed to be born in the 21st century. Infant mortality is at its lowest rate in recorded history, and life expectancy it’s highest, even in the poorest of countries. The proportion of people living in extreme poverty has plummeted from nearly half the global population in 1980 to less than 10 percent today. Education and literacy, equality of the sexes, and economic freedom are better than ever.
In the Western world, we are far more likely to die from overconsumption and laziness than from war, natural disasters, or even the most vicious infectious diseases. Indeed, it’s hard to find a meaningful statistic that hasn’t dramatically improved in recent decades. Yes, there’s plenty of work still to be done, especially in developing countries, but by essentially every measurement, the condition of humanity is strong and our future is brighter than ever.
On the climate, the news is similarly good. Although sensationalized reports about global warming usually present a stark future — “12 years left to live!” — and scary images of burning forests, these attention-grabbing headlines aren’t based on sound science. Former Obama energy official Steven Koonin describes the media and activist groups’ understanding of climate as “drifting so far out of touch with the actual science as to be absurdly, demonstrably false.”
Fundamentally flawed data models promoted by climate activism groups, including the United nations, significantly overestimate future warming because they’re skewed by the unrealistic predictions used to design them — like a near-total global switch from natural gas to coal — that do not align with real-world energy trends. In simplistic terms, they are “garbage in, garbage out.”
Like every scientific field, climate science is rife with uncertainties and confounding variables. But a clear-headed review of the data we do understand shows that our climate is likely to remain mild and manageable while our resiliency to all manner of challenges will continue to improve.
Even if this doesn’t occur, even the most stringent anti-fossil fuel policies wouldn’t make a lick of difference. Eliminating all American fossil fuel consumption by 2030 would only reduce average temperatures at the end of the century by less than two-tenths of a degree.
The good news is that 96 percent fewer people die from climate-related disasters now than a century ago. Floods, droughts, storms, wildfires, and extreme temperatures killed nearly 500,000 people globally in 1920. Today, that number is less than 50,000 and falling.
We are becoming more resilient to these natural disasters at a much faster rate than to non-climate disasters like earthquakes and volcanoes. If climate change is really going to be catastrophic, why not become more adaptable as temperatures gradually rise?
While pundits and politicians wring their hands about average temperatures rising by fractions of a degree, they’re missing the real lives being transformed here and now by a level of prosperity never before seen in human history, thanks in large part to improved access to affordable, reliable energy from fossil fuels.
As my son grows and learns more about the world, I won’t let alarmist hysteria smother his dimply grin and goofy giggle. Armed with the real facts about the world, my family will go boldly with optimism and confidence into society and strive to leave it a better — not scarier — place.
This commentary originally appeared in The Federalist on May 3, 2021.