Progressive politicians on the Austin City Council have spoiled the housing market, made a mess of homelessness and turned commuting into a nightmare. Now the group has fixed its gaze on something else: climate change.
Spurred on by environmental activists, council members recently adopted an angst-filled resolution declaring a “climate emergency” and calling for immediate action to “restore a safe climate.”
“We’re basically saying this is an emergency and we need to treat it like an emergency and take the steps that we need accordingly,” claimed the resolution’s lead sponsor. Missing is any mention that City Hall stands to gain handsomely from the steps proposed.
Included in the resolution are several aggressive ideas to expand city power, like: using tax dollars to subsidize renewable energy companies; pushing people out of their cars and into public transportation to “achieve a 50/50 mode share;” and educating “residents (to) understand the potential catastrophic effects of the climate crisis,” which just so happens to include budget shortfalls and “options to fill any such gaps.”
None of this is likely to sit well with the public, especially if it means paying more.
A poll conducted earlier this year found that “68% of Americans wouldn’t be willing to pay even $10 more a month in higher electric bills even if the money were used to combat climate change.” Another poll, conducted by WPA Intelligence, found that 47% of Texans would be unwilling to pay anything extra to reduce carbon emissions.
As unpopular as those things are, public sentiment may sour even more when people learn that the city’s rationale is rooted in feelings, not facts.
Austin’s climate crisis resolution uses some frightening language, warnings of “wildfires, flooding, and drought” resulting from “increased and intensifying extreme weather events.” But that’s far from certain and it definitely doesn’t jibe with past trends. Actual data show that global temperatures have increased about one degree over the last century with no escalation in the number or intensity of hurricanes or in extreme wet or dry conditions in the U.S.
Other data show America to be a leader in environmental progress. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. emissions of the six air pollutants defined in the Clean Air Act are down 73% since 1970.
Still, other data indicate that the absolute number of deaths due to natural disasters is down dramatically over the last 70 years. That’s something many people wouldn’t guess, in today’s age of clickbait and sensational headlines. But it’s true. And it’s an even more impressive fact when you consider that the world’s population has more than quadrupled since 1920.
The data tell quite a different story than the one imagined by Austin’s social engineers. It should give us hope about the future. It should insulate us against panicked rhetoric. And it should cause us to resist blindly accepting calls for bigger government, higher taxes and more red tape.
Austin likes to brag that it’s a hub of innovation. But across a spate of different issues, City Hall has shown that it doesn’t walk the talk, but instead favors a more top-down approach. That has not produced good results in the past. Nor is it likely to save the day in the future.