Everyone loves the party game/icebreaker “two truths and a lie.” 

During this global pandemic, some environmental advocates have suggested that climate change poses a threat similar to a pandemic and can be similarly mitigated by dramatic, sweeping changes to public policy and human activity. This alarmist mentality, however, fails to recognize the facts of climate change and clean energy technology. Can you find the lie below?

A. Banning or severely limiting fossil fuels will not harm the economy or workers. 

B. Even if the United States cuts emissions to zero, the world’s biggest emitters (China and India) have not cut back emissions.

C. Natural disasters and extreme weather have not become more prevalent due to climate change. 

A. LIE. Banning or drastically limiting fossil fuels would damage the economy. Both workers and consumers would be harmed due to job loss and slow economic growth. Poor families would be the hardest hit. In addition to suffering the most job losses, those living at or under the poverty line will spend more on food and basic utilities. In fact, in the last decade, the percentage of income that the poor spent on electricity has increased by one-third so that now the bottom 20 percent of earners spend almost 10 percent of their take home income on electricity. That’s more than seven times the amount that the top 20 percent pays for electricity.

The effort to slow the spread of coronavirus has already harmed the U.S. economy. Banning fossil fuels would only create more suffering.

B. TRUE. The United States is already a world leader in emission reduction, while China and India have steadily increased their carbon emissions, despite both nations adopting the Paris Climate Agreement and other international commitments to reduce emissions. 

In 2017 alone, China’s carbon emission increases completely wiped out U.S. reductions more than threefold. Numerous studies show that even if the United States achieves zero emissions, it would have a negligible effect on global emissions, future temperatures, or sea levels because of future emissions growth from China and India.

C. TRUE. Climate alarmists often refer to natural disasters as evidence that climate change is getting worse. Yet the facts don’t support their alarmism. While sea levels have risen, they have been doing so for thousands of years. A 2017 study found no correlation between changes in sea levels and rising carbon dioxide levels. Additionally, despite concerns (or claims) that climate change is increasing extreme weather, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports that there has been no increase in extreme weather in the past 30 years and that there is no strong basis for directly connecting natural disasters to human-caused climate change. In the United States there has been no increase in the average frequency or severity of hurricanes for more than a century and other disasters, such as forest fires, are connected to bad land management practices, not small increases in global temperatures.  

The economic costs associated with natural disasters have increased, yet this is related to the growth in development (homes, bridges, roads) in disaster-prone locations (like coastal areas). Critically, the death toll from natural disasters has fallen dramatically. From 1900 to 2003, there were 62 million deaths from national disasters worldwide with 85 percent of those happening before 1950. 

Instead of a regulatory approach, the U.S. should pursue an innovative approach that will both improve the health of the planet and ensure future generations enjoy all it has to offer.

To read more about a realistic approach to climate change, read this month’s policy focus here.