The lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, as the old song goes, have shoved their way into the fall. And with them, the political push for climate change activism chucked kids out of the classroom and into the streets this past Friday (not that they needed a reason to cut class, especially in nice weather).
Not to be outdone by the shouting students, this past Monday, adults from around the globe with their own dreams of climate utopia (and excuse to cut work and party in a fab city), descended on New York for the latest U.N. Climate Action Summit.
Yet, crowding into an expansive metropolis, no matter how enticing it may be, just adds to the problem of long-term climate change.
People have thrived in their own custom-built climate change for centuries. Today, there are numerous locations across the globe where manmade outdoor temperatures consistently exceed natural ambient conditions by at least 5-10 degrees Fahrenheit.
This measurable enhancement of city temperatures above the surrounding countryside has been labeled the “urban heat island.” And, not just temperature is skewed by the presence of the cityscape. Cloud cover, humidity, precipitation and winds are also affected.
These anthropogenically engineered conditions have been known and studied intently by atmospheric scientists for decades. They have been the topic of multiple scientific society meetings with relative amenability by the researchers and conference participants alike.
Nobody is overly concerned with the heat island effect. Except for rightly calling for the reduction of air and water pollution and congestion within the city and striving for better energy efficiency, there has been no major outcry to disband the metropolis in favor of dispersing its inhabitants to a hinterland of bucolic bliss.
Besides, the millions of dazzling urbanites probably like it just where they are. It’s somewhat convenient to get your food, clothing, shelter and air conditioning from a reliable provider rather than from a wily wild animal, thorny bush, sappy pine and broadleaf fan.
According to diehard leftist environmentalists, the real problem, at least since the days of economist Thomas Malthus in the late 1700s, has been “too many people.” Biologist Paul Ehrlich further popularized this idea in 1968 with his book, “The Population Bomb,” warning that the “battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s, the world will undergo famines — hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.” His solution, of course, was “conscious regulation of the numbers of human beings … .” Unfortunately, that solution has come back with a presidential-contender vengeance today.
Yet, since well before the 1970s through today, the advancement of the industrialized society itself, with all its inherent problems, has generally raised the standard of living of most of the world’s residents. So, even as the world’s population has grown, the world’s food supply has readily kept pace.
Relying on the technological ingenuity of humans, prolific science writer and physicist James Trefil, in his 2004 book, “Human Nature: A Blueprint for Managing the Earth – By People, For People,” recommends an environmental toolbox packed with modern solutions from genomics (genetically modified foods, new medicines, clones), experimental ecology (from lessons learned on the workings and benefits of ecosystems), complexity theory (related to the prediction of results of human intervention), and informatics (including tremendous advances in data storage, computing, and analysis). Mr. Trefil’s bottom line is that “the planet should be managed to maximize the welfare, broadly conceived, of human beings.”
True compassionate focus on people can unpretentiously lead to beneficial use of human and natural capital. Done right, this will bring liberty and basic human services to people around the globe who so desperately need it; not just affluent kids cutting classes for the climate or confab socialites having a hot time in the Big Apple.
• Anthony J. Sadar is a certified consulting meteorologist and author of “In Global Warming We Trust: Too Big to Fail “(Stairway Press, 2016).