Weeks after the Paris terror attacks that killed 130 people and wounded hundreds more, world leaders have converged on the French capital to discuss what they call the most urgent challenge facing the planet, a crisis that threatens to spread death and destruction across the globe: an increase in global average temperatures of two degrees by the end of the 21st century.
Current events — last month’s terror attacks in particular — are the eerie specter in the background of the Paris climate conference. It’s hard not to be transfixed at this grotesque sight of our leaders rushing to the scene of mass murder to indulge in ideological fantasy, all while hiding from the reality we face.
Speaking just a few miles from where men slaughtered innocent people and then blew themselves up to kill more, President Obama reminded us that he too has seen horrors firsthand. He’s seen them in Alaska, “where,” he said, “the sea is already swallowing villages and eroding shorelines; where permafrost thaws and the tundra burns; where glaciers are melting at a pace unprecedented in modern times.”
“It was,” he said, “a preview of one possible future — a glimpse of our children’s fate if the climate keeps changing faster than our efforts to address it. Submerged countries. Abandoned cities. Fields that no longer grow. Political disruptions that trigger new conflict, and even more floods of desperate peoples seeking the sanctuary of nations not their own.”
There’s something obscene in a president painting apocalyptic visions where real devastation has so recently occurred. Is reality not horrifying enough, its dangers not great enough, its challenges not big enough, that we need to imagine exaggerated threats to one-up the real ones?
Has the president not seen the images from inside the Bataclan Theater? Hasn’t he watched the video of men pointing guns in the faces of restaurant diners? Has he missed the stories of carnage at the Charlie Hebdo offices earlier this year? Has he at least seen pictures from the Syrian civil war, a conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands? Has he seen mass beheadings on his television?
To see these images of real people suffering and slaughtered, at the hands of a worldwide movement that is growing in strength and numbers, and to insist nonetheless that the real threat is a computer model’s guess of aggregate temperatures 100 years from now is to indulge in dangerous delusion. Yet this is exactly what President Obama and his secretary of state, John Kerry, apparently believe to be true.
The president said in his most recent State of the Union address that “no challenge poses a greater threat to future generations” than global warming and he has argued that the media “overstates the level of alarm people should have about terrorism” compared to climate change. Mr. Kerry has variously called global warming “the greatest challenge of our generation,” and described it as “the world’s largest weapon of mass destruction, perhaps even the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.”
It does not seem to matter that the climate threat has not materialized as predicted. Environmental disaster is always just around the corner, the future of our planet always at stake.
And so our president and our secretary of state shirk the present crisis of the real, observable world in favor of the abstract challenges of the predicted, distant future. The reason is simple: the fantasy satisfies their ideological needs whereas reality does not.
Worse, because reality offends those ideological prejudices, it too must be forced into the fantasy. So instead of truthfully evaluating the threat, they tell us that ISIS is “contained.” Instead of admitting that we are at war with Islamic supremacism, they stage sanctimonious summits on “all forms of violent extremism.” And instead of being honest with the American people, they classify a man killing 13 U.S. military personnel at Fort Hood while screaming “Allahu Akbar” and carrying a card declaring himself a “soldier of Allah” as “workplace violence.”
One thing is certain about the Paris climate summit this week: Nothing that happens there will affect the climate. Wishes don’t power the global economy; fossil fuels do. And developing countries will not (and should not) condemn billions of their own citizens to poverty just to indulge the fantasies of international elites.
All of which makes President Obama’s trip there, a city struck by terrorists, a profane distraction from the threats we face, by a president trying harder and harder to hide from reality.