One of the most common tropes in our increasingly alarmist climate debate is that global warming has set the world on fire. But it hasn’t. For more than two decades, satellites have recorded fires across the planet’s surface. The data are unequivocal: Since the early 2000s, when 3% of the world’s land caught fire, the area burned annually has trended downward.
In 2022, the last year for which there are complete data, the world hit a new record-low of 2.2% burned area. Yet you’ll struggle to find that reported anywhere.
The Biden administration and the [New York] Times can paint a convincing picture of a fiery climate apocalypse because they selectively focus on the parts of the world that are on fire, not the much larger area where fires are less prevalent.
Take the Canadian wildfires this summer. While the complete data aren’t in for 2023, global tracking up to July 29 by the Global Wildfire Information System shows that more land has burned in the Americas than usual. But much of the rest of the world has seen lower burning—Africa and especially Europe. Globally, the GWIS shows that burned area is slightly below the average between 2012 and 2022, a period that already saw some of the lowest rates of burned area.
The thick smoke from the Canadian fires that blanketed New York City and elsewhere was serious but only part of the story. Across the world, fewer acres burning each year has led to overall lower levels of smoke, which today likely prevents almost 100,000 infant deaths annually, according to a recent study by researchers at Stanford and Stockholm University.
It’s embarrassingly wrong to claim, as climate scientist Michael Mann did recently, that climate policy is the “only way” to reduce fires. Prescribed burning, improved zoning and enhanced land management are much faster, more effective and cheaper solutions for fires than climate policy. Environmental Protection Agency modeling showed that even with a drastic reduction in emissions it would take 50 to 80 years before we’d see a small impact in the area burned in the U.S.
In the case of American fires, most of the problem is bad land management. A century of fire suppression has left more fuel for stronger fires. Even so, last year U.S. fires burned less than one-fifth of the average burn in the 1930s and likely only one-tenth of what caught fire in the early 20th century.
But few mourned when the bird was scrapped after two years. Instead of working its promised wonders, that “buzzard,” as Henry Ford called it, helped put the “Great” in the Great Depression.
While it’s impossible to say exactly how the U.S. economy would have fared without the NIRA’s enactment, we do know one thing: The Great Depression would’ve been a lot less depressing. As he signed the NIRA, FDR said it was “the most important and far-reaching legislation ever enacted.” It was important, far-reaching and disastrous.
Sometimes Mr. DeSantis sounds like an optimistic believer in economic freedom, arguing that the way to produce broad prosperity is to get government out of the way. With the next breath, he’s a Trumpian who wants industrial policy, speaks ominously of “large corporations,” and pits the middle class against “elites.” The Governor is trying to advance conservative policy while simultaneously appealing to Mr. Trump’s base. It’s the kind of fusionism that would have taxed Robert Oppenheimer.
There is no doubt that many Americans find themselves at times heavily burdened by debt—be it for mortgages, medical expenses, or education. Aside from crisis situations, such as natural disasters or pandemics, there have never been serious discussions about general debt relief for people having taken out too large mortgages or not having taken out medical insurance. Few would argue that such policies would be beneficial for society. On the contrary, most would recognize that generalized debt relief in these areas would increase recklessness. Is there any reason to believe debts incurred for higher education are any different?
In theory, perhaps. In practice, drawing on evidence—no.
Defenders of subsidized loans, and the forgiveness of educational debt that they generate, generally argue that these subsidies allow more and more people to attend college, which leads to a more productive, more educated, more equal, and more civil population. Unfortunately, they fail to accomplish any of these goals.