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George Melloan: The Yellow Jackets Are Right About Green Policies

George Melloan, The Wall Street Journal

Seek out the most basic cause of the French riots and you’ll come to a bizarre answer: carbon dioxide. More specifically, the demonization by political activists of that vital element of the earth’s atmosphere.

French President Emmanuel Macron stirred popular rage by trying to raise the gasoline tax by about 25 cents a gallon. He argued that higher taxes would reduce fuel use and hence emissions of CO2, helping France meet the lower emissions goals to which it is pledged as a signatory to the United Nations’ Paris Agreement to fight climate change.

Mr. Macron has learned the hard way that voters don’t see climate change as a threat demanding personal sacrifices. The rebellion is global. Green measures that caused energy prices to soar damaged Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany’s 2017 election. Green energy plans were repudiated by voters in Australia and helped cause a political upheaval in the Canadian province of Ontario.

Voters in Washington state and Arizona rejected November ballot measures aimed at reducing CO2 emissions. The Journal’s William McGurn reported last week that 200 prominent civil-rights leaders have filed suit against the California Air Resources Board. Green policies, they argue, are saddling the poor with higher living costs.

The voter rebellion is on solid scientific ground. The global expenditure to curb CO2 emissions, estimated in 2009 by Danish scientist Bjorn Lomborg to cost $180 billion a year, stems from the U.N.-engineered 1997 Kyoto Protocol. That treaty was always about politics, not science. In recent years global weather stations have measured ups and downs, but data from U.S. and British monitoring agencies showed that global temperatures in 2017 were roughly what they were 20 years earlier.

Climatology is mostly guesswork. There’s no way to conduct a controlled experiment to ascertain scientific validity. Climatologists have learned a lot about climate and weather in the past century, but actually controlling the climate is something else entirely.

In a lecture this year, Massachusetts Institute of Technology meteorologist Richard Lindzen posited two immense, complex and turbulent fluids—the oceans and the air in the atmosphere—are in constant reaction with each other and the land, causing what we experience as storms and temperature changes. Variations in the sun’s radiation and the rotation of the planet play parts as well. And yet, he said, climate modelers claim that only one tiny component of this enormous churning mass, CO2, controls the planet’s climate. […]

Maurice Strong died in 2015. What’s happened to this “fragile” planet in the 46 years since he raised the climate alarm? According to a NASA satellite survey, the Earth has gotten greener, thanks in large part to a rising concentration of that vital plant food CO2. That means we are able not only to feed an expanded population but give the poorest among us a more nutritious diet. The French strikers have a better grip on reality than their ruling elites.

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