Without Trump, “Climate Grief” Could Stampede Us into Dictatorship

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By Walter Donway

January 5, 2019



A new concept is being advanced by the American Psychological Association—“Climate Grief.” It is depression, panic, rage, and a sense of powerlessness.

I assume you are aware that the world is within a dozen years of irreversible catastrophe. At least you are if you read the New York Times—or actually pay much attention at all to the media. A Times editorial recently charged that President Donald Trump, responsible for United States failure to endorse the U.N. International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, “imperils the planet.”

A new concept is being advanced by the American Psychological Association—“Climate Grief.” It is depression, panic, rage, and a sense of powerlessness—especially, it seems, in children—experienced by those who take seriously claims of imminent irreversible “climate catastrophe.”

In short, it may seem as though the pitch of alarm over climate change, even as recently as the holidays, has soared. There is a specific cause. The recent international climate conference in Katowice, Poland, a holiday junket for some 60,000 delegates, reached a stalemate over UNIPCC “Special Report 15” (SR 15). Delegates from most nations wished to “welcome” (endorse) the report. The United States was among the very few willing only to “note” it.

To endorse SR 15 would have been a step toward implementing its recommendations—an outcome for which not only environmentalists, but also political leftists, advocates of souped-up economic planning, and sundry anti-growth/and anti-development groups, yearn.

The pull-out-the-stops panic in the media precisely reflected the overall conclusion of SR 15: That governments have only 12 years to avert climate catastrophe. Society must be fundamentally transformed within that period to end the use of fossil fuels. The sole alternative to drastic worldwide government-mandated change in every economy is doom.

SR 15 is not a scientific report. It is an ideological platform.

Scary for kids, I guess. But SR 15 is not a scientific report. It is an ideological platform. Indeed, it does not attempt to document its conclusions about climate. For that, it refers to earlier reports. And so, the pealing midnight alarms are odd. There is nothing new in the weather prediction for the year 2100. What is new is the demand for revolutionizing the world economy to focus on controlling the planet’s long-term climate.

A few phrases quoted from the report will suggest both the drastic changes and requirement for a centralized-command economy: It calls for “rapid and far-reaching transitions in energy, land, urban and infrastructure (including transport and buildings), and industrial systems …,” “unprecedented in terms of scale …,” “fundamental societal and systems transitions and transformations …”

You probably get the drift. It is the wish list of generations of government planners of the economy: overriding the free markets that they abhor, seizing the levers of power over major industries, and imposing their vision of “fundamental societal and systems transitions.”

In fact, the report does not even pretend that is true.

Is this report really in the service of salvation from climate catastrophe? Of responding to realistic predictions of climate change affecting societies? In fact, the report does not even pretend that is true.

“Fundamental transitions”? Yes, to promote “social justice” and other U.N. “Sustainable Development Goals.” The report’s summary says: “Social justice and equity are core aspects of climate-resilient development pathways for transformational social change.”

I am not here to argue with you about the validity or desirability of the concept and goal of “social justice.” The point is that the sweeping emergency government powers advocated here, and the “transformations,” are not about climate. The report contends that we must “eradicate poverty” and reduce inequality across nations. We must transfer wealth from developed countries to less developed countries. Closer to home, we must change our diets and “lifestyle choices.”

Got to be done, all done, in a decade or so. If not, our doom becomes irreversible. At a minimum, this would require global economic and social dictation by government on the scale of George Orwell’s 1984.

But if the goal of controlling global temperature within a few degrees for the remainder of the century did require eliminating global poverty, then it would be crucial to acknowledge that the two goals are utterly incompatible. Socialists never have admitted it, of course, but the entire historical record demonstrates that wealth is created and poverty reduced exactly in proportion to a nation’s economic freedom. The well-known annual Fraser Institute report has documented this tight correlation for decades. To eliminate poverty, people must be free to innovate, produce, save and invest, exploit their natural resources, and opt for the most efficient systems of producing, above all, energy.

The United Nations has no clue how to reduce poverty anywhere.

If, in fact, thoroughgoing government-directed central-economic planning were essential for avoiding climate catastrophe, then every nation and population would have to take vows of steadily increasing poverty in the service of global climate. The United Nations has no clue how to reduce poverty anywhere; it has been striving to do so for decades. At best, it can redistribute goods from more productive (economically freer) nations to less productive ones.

SR 15 offers no documented case for either of the grand objectives that it attempts to bully and frighten nations into adopting. For example, it offers no cost-benefit analysis of the revolutionary economic changes it demands. It does not even discuss how they might succeed.

Because they are not economic policies; they are political dictates for command economies.

And if there is no shred of evidence how these will work, then there is no solution to the climate problems the report purports to address.

On the basis of this report, but particularly the choice of the United States to ignore it, the media were kept working overtime during the holidays to paint a picture of a dark, disastrous future, take dozens of inventive headline swipes at President Trump, and, I suppose, increase the incidence of “climate grief” among those still listening to this stuff.


I am indebted to Prof. Charles N. Steele, chairman of the Department of Economics at Hillsdale College, for several ideas in his article “Climate Doom Ahead? Think Twice!” that appeared in Real Clear Energy, December 26, 2018.

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