U.S., Pakistani and United Nations officials are not letting Pakistan’s flood crisis go to waste. They are exploiting it for an advantage in the high-stakes climate change debate.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pronounced on Pakistani television that she knew the cause of the flooding: global warming.
"There is a linkage" between warming and this summer’s natural disasters, including the floods, she said.
"You can't point to any particular disaster and say, 'it was caused by,' but we are changing the climate of the world," she said.
At least she got the first part right. As news organizations have been pointing out, responsible climate scientists, even those who believe that humans are warming the planet with carbon emissions, say it is impossible to link a specific event to climate change.
"While climate scientists say single flooding events can't be directly blamed on global warming, more intense droughts and floods could be in the forecast for the future," as Reuters put it earlier this month.
Moreover, the flooding seems to have been caused by other more direct factors. The New York Times reported on Friday, "Debate is heating up over what caused the catastrophe, with experts pointing to deforestation, intensive land-use practices or mismanagement of the Indus River as possible causes."
That’s The New York Times, citing those famous unnamed "experts," which the Times uses to imply a widespread scientific agreement. It then juxtaposes the explanations of scientists with those of politicians. "But top U.N. and Pakistani government officials are now clearly pointing to climate change as the principal culprit," it reported.
Why would the political class be disagreeing with the "experts" on what caused the flooding? The Times had the answer:
[Pakistan's foreign minister, Makhdoom Shah Mahmood] Qureshi and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hinted that they would use the Pakistan crisis to spur the now-stalled international climate talks. At the very least, the disaster shows that massive funding is needed to make the developing world more resilient to extreme weather events, Ban said.
If the floods can be blamed on climate change, the U.N. and Pakistan can use the disaster to demand "massive funding." As with so much of the global warming campaign, it’s all about money.
Then what is Hillary Clinton’s excuse for peddling the link to climate change? That’s easy enough to see. The Obama administration desperately wants to pass a cap-and-trade bill that doesn’t have enough votes in Congress. Successfully linking the floods to global warming would create the impression that Washington has to take drastic -- and immediate -- measures to reduce America’s carbon output to prevent a future catastrophe here at home, like, say, pass a cap-and-trade bill. If people believe we’re already seeing natural disasters caused by global warming, they will be more supportive of the administration’s effort to give Washington more control over the energy sector.
As usual, the administration is exploiting a crisis for political advantage.
Andrew Cline is editorial page editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader. His Twitter ID is Drewhampshire.