Monday, January 21st 2013, 5:55 PM EST
When George W Bush declared war on an abstract noun – "Terror" – he was widely and inevitably mocked by the left for his foolishness. Not to be outdone, Barack Obama has used his second inaugural address to declare war on an even more nebulous threat to the security of the world: reality, itself.
Here's how he put it in his inaugural address: (H/T Theo Spleenventer; Bishop Hill)
We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.
Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.
The first sentence is a blatant untruth. Concerted global action so far to deal with the threat of climate change has resulted in: higher energy prices; more deaths from fuel poverty; more intrusive regulation; the destruction of rainforests and the squandering of agricultural land on biofuels; higher food prices; famine and food riots – as a result partly of the drive for biofuels; the entrenchment of corporatism and rent-seeking to the detriment of free markets; the ravaging of the countryside with ugly solar farms and even uglier wind turbines; the deaths of millions of birds and bats; the great recession. How any of this has in any way benefited either our children (who are going to find it far harder to find a job) or future generations is a complete mystery.
The second sentence is a devious combination of the junk factoid and the non sequitur.
That "overwhelming judgement of science" is a reference to the comprehensively discredited Doran survey: the one where the "97 per cent of climate scientists" turned out to consist of just 75 out of 77 climate scientists who could be bothered to reply to two silly and dubious questions.
As for the idea that "science" ever has such a thing as an "overwhelming judgement": this would be news to Galileo, Newton, Einstein and indeed all the great scientists of history, all of whom made their names by advancing theories which completely overturned the "overwhelming judgement" of their contemporaries.
It's probably true, up to a point, that "none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms". But only if you accept that everyone lives in a region susceptible to fires, drought and powerful storms, which not everyone does.
What Obama is presumably trying to slip into that weasel sentence is the notion that "science" is overwhelmingly of the view that raging fires, crippling drought and more powerful storms are increasing as a result of "climate change" (note incidentally how he's careful not to say whether or not it is man-made, thus enabling him to cover all eventualities). But if this is the case, I'd dearly love to see the evidence that this is a) anthropogenic b) controllable or c)historically unprecedented. Certainly, according to this graph at Watts Up With That?, there is nothing particular weird or alarming about recent weather activity. On an index of "Extreme Weather" in the US since 1910, last year – 2012 – ranks a very modest 54th.
Still, for all that, I applaud the President's chutzpah and ingenuity. If you want to expand the size of government as much as he obviously does, there's really no better way than to declare war on reality. Reality is a slippery foe; it has many heads – and no sooner have you cut off one than a thousand more grow in its place; it's everywhere, at all times, and there's no escaping it, meaning you have to mobilise unimaginably large resources if you are to have a hope of defeating it. Which, of course, you never will. Obama's glorious war on reality will be a war without end. Bad luck, America. (But you can't say I didn't warn you.…)
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