More On: climate change
The Democrats' priorities are all wrong.
Which of the following disasters do you believe is the most dangerous to your family: A new epidemic, far more deadly than COVID-19 19; A massive terrorist attack that wipes out entire cities using nuclear or biological weapons; A country-on-country conflict involving nuclear and/or biological weapons; A massive volcanic explosion that wipes out a large portion of the world's agricultural output; A global financial collapse caused by excessive debt, which kills most trade and results in a severe drop in living standards, as well as a massive increase in poverty and disease; A “Carrington event” (solar electromagnetic storms) that takes out all space-based electronics, including GPS and electricity transmission lines, and almost all communications; or climate change (previously known as global warming)?
Pandemics are not uncommon, and they have frequently resulted in mass death. A series of pandemics are said to have killed 30 to 60 percent of people in the Middle Ages. The current COVID-19 epidemic, which has created widespread alarm, is now estimated to have killed roughly five million people worldwide, or less than one-tenth of one percent of the global population (and about 1 in 450 Americans). Smallpox had a high fatality rate, with up to 35% of individuals afflicted dying. The good news is that the disease has finally been eradicated. The bad news is that scientists have learned to make perhaps even more lethal viruses in the lab, which might be weaponized. What would be the reaction to death rates in the tens of millions?
It is known that terrorist groups have been and are actively seeking to acquire nuclear and biological weapons. To date, they have been stopped, but at some point, they are likely to succeed. Imagine what would happen if they set off one of these weapons in New York or London!
Fortunately, the Cold War never turned into a hot war, even though a couple of times miscalculations by the Russians and Americans literally resulted in mistakes with only minutes to correct them. With many more countries now possessing nuclear weapons, the probability of some country miscalculating rises at an exponential rate. COVID-19 now appears to be an unintentional lab leak in Wuhan, but again, with many more countries experimenting with potential biological weapons, the probability of an unintended (or even deliberate leak) increases at an exponential rate.
Mega volcanic eruptions are more common than is believed, and they have often altered the course of history. For instance, massive volcanic eruptions in the 1790s in Iceland killed much of the Icelandic population. They so darkened the skies over Europe that it caused major crop failures – which many historians believe led directly to the French Revolution. The Yellowstone caldera (site of a number of supervolcanic eruptions) appears to be overdue for another massive event – which in all likelihood would destroy much of the farmland in the American mid-west and Canada for decades – leading to global famine. An article in the Wall Street Journal this past week argues that if the caldera under Yellowstone Park is used for geothermal power, it could both heat twenty million homes and prevent a cataclysmic eruption.
It is increasingly certain that, given the buildup of unsustainable government debt in most of the world’s major nations, a global financial meltdown will occur. The supply chain disruptions and decline in world trade will exceed the current crisis by an order of magnitude – which, in turn, will cause great economic hardship to hundreds of millions. The decline in living standards will result in more death and disease – all of which would be preventable if the world were again blessed with good political and economic leadership.
On September 1-2, 1859, a major geomagnetic event, caused by a coronal mass ejection from the sun, hit the earth. The event caused serious damage to telegraph systems throughout the world, as well as lighting the skies at night. It was named after Richard Carrington, one of the astronomers who recorded its details. The event was well before the age of global mass electronic communications and satellites. Some scientists have estimated that an event of similar magnitude today would cost 15 percent of global GDP. Lesser solar storms occurred in throughout the 20th century, knocked out power in some areas, and caused other disruptions.
Despite known dangers to our physical and economic well-being, the political class has been focused on climate change as though it was the most serious threat. At the moment, world leaders are meeting in Scotland to try to agree on what economic and liberty-reducing hardships they can impose on the world’s peoples – all in the name of what may be one of the lesser dangers. The news media, particularly NPR and CNN, hyped the fact – as proof of global warming – that the number of Atlantic hurricanes was well above average two years ago, while ignoring that there were almost no Pacific hurricanes (cyclones), resulting in fewer global hurricanes – oh, well. There was little discussion and virtually no action to prevent the next pandemic – and so the political class seemed surprised by an event (COVID-19) that was more predictable in terms of lives lost than the endless speculation about the effects of climate change.
Why is it that the spending bill before Congress contains a half-trillion dollars for climate change while largely ignoring greater dangers?
• Richard W. Rahn is chairman of the Institute for Global Economic Growth and MCon LLC.