WASHINGTON — Happy days are not here again, but they are coming for conservatives. Barack Obama — with the lowest approval rating (according to Gallup, 50 percent, four points lower than that of the National Rifle Association) of any re-elected president when inaugurated since the Second World War — has a contradictory agenda certain to stimulate a conservative revival.
Consider his vow to expend political capital on climate change. The absurdity of the Kyoto approach — global climate treaties agreed to by 190 nations — is now obvious even to most former enthusiasts. Obama can propose cutting U.S. fossil fuel emissions (just 16 percent of the global total) with a carbon tax or cap-and-trade scheme, but Congress will pass neither. So he will be reduced to administrative gestures costly to job growth, and government spending — often crony capitalism — for green energy incommensurate with his rhetoric.
He says “the threat of climate change” is apparent in “raging fires,” “crippling drought” and “more powerful storms.” Are fires raging now more than ever? (There were a third fewer U.S. wildfires in 2012 than in 2006.) Are the number and severity of fires determined by climate change rather than forestry and land use practices? Is today's drought worse than, say, that of the Dust Bowl, and was it caused by 1930s global warming? As for “more powerful storms”:
Because Sandy struck New York City, where the nation's media now congregate and participate in the city's provincialism, this storm was declared more cosmically momentous than the 74 other hurricanes that have hit or come near the city since 1800. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina was called a consequence of global warming and hence a harbinger of increasing numbers of Category 3 or higher hurricanes. Since then, major hurricane activity has plummeted. No Category 3 has hit the U.S. since 2005. Sandy was just a Category 1.
Obama's vow to adjust Earth's thermostat followed the report that 2012 was the hottest year on record in the contiguous 48 states. But The Wall Street Journal's Holman Jenkins, who has concisely posed the actual climate policy choice (“How much should we spend on climate change in order to have no effect on climate change?”), has noted that although 2012 was 2.13 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than 2011, “2008, in the contiguous U.S., was two degrees cooler than 2006.” And “2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 were all cooler than 1998 by a larger margin than 2012 was hotter than 1998.” Such is the rigor of many who preen as devotees of science, they declared the 2012 temperatures in the contiguous states (1.58 percent of the Earth's surface) proof of catastrophic global warming.