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Op-Ed: Sorry UN, Climate Change is Not Our #1 Problem - Poverty Is

By Steve Levy

If you listen to the Secretary General of the United Nations, you will think that the human species is doomed in the next few decades due to climate change. He even said "Humanity has Opened the Gates to Hell."

While the climate is getting warmer - and it is in large part due to human activity - it is simply false to claim that this is an existential threat that will "end the human species."

If, indeed, we were going to be wiped out because of these carbon emissions, every nation on earth would be putting its resources towards nuclear energy, which has zero carbon output. But they don’t. Even the green zealots aren’t promoting this, so how serious can their claims of human extinction really be?

The issue they should be focused on more is poverty. Ironically, almost a billion people have been lifted out of poverty over the last several decades, in large part due to the industrialization of Asia, which was accomplished through the use of carbon fuels.

Cheap energy fueled the generating plants in Asia that gave sustainable wages to the populace, enabling millions for the first time to get electricity, potable water, and decent indoor sanitation within their homes. This led to a dramatic drop in diseases such as cholera and diphtheria that had been responsible for the death of millions of children every year in the developing world.

Do you really think that a poor mother is going to be more concerned about a 1° temperature increase 100 years from now - when using fossil fuels today can save the life of her four-year-old ?

It is important for us to gradually ease our way off of dirty oil and coal and segway into much cleaner and plentiful natural gas. That can be the bridge toward more wind, solar, and other alternative fuels that might be developed over the next several decades.

But the biggest mistake we can make is to go cold turkey and shut down all of our fossil fuels today and totally rely on very expensive and unreliable wind and solar. That will dramatically increase energy prices, which will stymie the type of growth that has been eradicating poverty in developing nations.

It is equally insane to tell China and India that they can continue to pollute unabated while America makes itself poorer. Anyone who thinks we’ll have a better world with a stronger China and a weaker America is delusional.

Despite the additional pollutants in the air because of industrialization, ask yourself this question: Would you rather be an individual living in the world today or a century ago when there was less industrialization?

There has never been a time in human history when life expectancy on the planet was greater than it is today. That’s in large part due to the progress that came with fossil fuels. Air conditioning, heating systems, elevators, mass transit, air travel, scientific and medical breakthroughs, and an electric grid that provides Internet and inter-communication. All of these things have saved lives and expanded life expectancy (up by six years from 2000-2019), while dramatically improving quality of life.

And as for natural disasters, you are 99% less likely of dying in one a today than you were a century ago. That’s because we have more warning systems and better fortified homes and offices thanks to technology fueled by carbon-based products.

Virtue signalers such as the UN’s chairman know that obsessing about climate change sells. Professors and researchers know that if they want funding, they need to assure their benefactors that their study’s results will provide evidence that the world is going under.

Scaring the next generation that they’re going to die because of climate change creates power for the elites. When you think you’re going to perish, you will cede untold amounts of money and power to those in office.

The UN elites and other progressives can live up to their supposed empathy for the poor if they’d start recognizing that stifling industrial progress will condemn hundreds of millions of people to sure poverty and death.

We can address the warmer climate with new technology and innovation over time, but seeking to save the planet by dooming millions through a cratered economy is not the way to do it.


Steve Levy is Executive Director of the Center for Cost Effective Government. He served as Suffolk County Executive, as a NYS Assemblyman, and host of "The Steve Levy Radio Show.”


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