Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) made a public fool of herself with the Green New Deal. Its content was so outlandish that the Republicans had a field day in ridiculing it, particularly the statement that the world would “end in 12 years” unless we act to counter climate change now. Recently, Cortez struck back by comparing the Republican Party to the socially inept Dwight Schrute from NBC’s The Office, explaining that its members share a lack of ability to understand “dry humor” or “sarcasm.” She tweeted, “you’d have to have the social intelligence of a sea sponge to think it’s literal.”
A charitable reading of her wild statements would be that she was using the same rhetorical technique as President Donald Trump: hyperbole. She doesn’t want to say outright that she exaggerated to get the point across and generate attention for her cause, so she calls it “dry humor” instead.
Hyperbole is No Joke
The problem with hyperbole when it comes to climate change is that it contributes to one of the most significant mental health challenges currently facing populations in developed countries. After decades of wildly exaggerated claims of imminent doom due to industrial activity, eco-anxiety is now a real phenomenon.
In a 2006 Gallup poll, 36% of Americans said they worry “a great deal” about global warming, and 35% believe that it “poses a serious threat” to their lives. By 2019, those numbers had risen to 44% and 45%, respectively. People are growing more eco-anxious, and a significant portion suffers from panic attacks.
New media darling and Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg, is one person who has suffered from anxiety and depression due to climate change hyperbole. In an interview, she said, “I kept thinking about it, and I just wondered if I am going to have a future. And I kept that to myself because I’m not very much of a talker, and that wasn’t healthy. I became very depressed and stopped going to school.”
She is not alone. Many, especially young people, are suffering from mental problems caused by exaggerated claims of climate disaster.
All that is needed to calm climate nerves is to look at the facts. One reason so many people still refuse to take any significant, costly action against climate change is that they have looked at the numbers and found them wanting. One such person is Dr. Bjørn Lomborg, who in 2001 published the book The Skeptical Environmentalist, in which he dismantled the hysterical claims of the green movement with concrete, scientific facts. Today, his Copenhagen Consensus Center has assembled teams of world experts in a range of relevant areas to promote a purely data-driven approach to challenges that face the world.
To summarize the finding of Lomborg’s teams: Poverty kills, not global warming. It’s cheaper to adapt to a changing climate than to prevent it. According to the institute, economic growth solves not only problems that arise from climate change, but most issues in the world such as malaria, lung disease from indoor fire cooking, worm infestation, pollution, and deforestation.
No Laughing Matter
Ocasio-Cortez’s scaremongering is dangerous to the mental health of vulnerable people who take her literally, and to make things worse, her socialist approach and proposed solutions to climate change would further prolong the suffering caused by poverty. Preventing economic growth and implementing a ban on fossil fuels is a recipe to save neither the Earth, nor the people who live on it.
Republicans surely don’t lack humor. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) produced many laughs when he sarcastically brought the Green New Deal to a Senate vote, dryly commenting that “We’ll give everybody an opportunity to go on record and see how they feel about the Green New Deal.” Apparently, only Republicans laughed at his priceless execution of real-life comedy. Ocasio-Cortez certainly didn’t get the joke. It would seem she lacks not only a sense of humor but also basic facts on the topics about which she makes grandiose claims. That’s no laughing matter.
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