The eruptions of frantic doomsaying and apocalyptic fantasies on Facebook following President Trump’s announcement that the U.S. would no longer consider itself a party to the Paris accord on climate change. Seldom have I been more tempted to write, “Have you taken leave of your senses?” on so many of my friends’ walls. The statements are hyperbolic in the extreme. “I am glad that I won’t be alive, but fear for my children and grandchildren, when the effects of this catastrophic decision arrive!” wrote one hysteric. “What can we do to save the earth?” wrote another, in all caps. Naturally there were links to similarly over-heated blog posts and op-eds, and the routine amount of Trump vilification and hate. “Is he trying to destroy us all?” wrote one usually rational acquaintance who appears to be headed for a padded room and a guardian ad litem.
These people are all circulating among similarly oriented citizens increasingly emotional outcries unhinged to facts or reality, and making each other stressed, anxious and miserable. This is the cyber-equivalent of running around in a crowd screaming that something horrible is about to happen. What happens when you do that? Reason vanishes, fight or flight instincts take over, and people get hurt. These Facebook posts, and similar messages on other social media platforms, are at best shameless virtue-signalling–-I care about the environment! I’m a believer in everything I’m told that scientists are saying even though I really don’t understand anything about it! I hate Donald Trump like every other decent human being! Love me!-–and at worst, they are societal napalm.
Both President Obama’s 2016 signing of the Paris Agreement on climate change and President Trump’s withdrawal from that agreement had minimal policy impact, if any. The advocates are arguing about symbolism as if it were substance. Is it possible that the people writing that Trump has destroyed the future while cackling maniacally in his White House lair know how non-substantive, unspecific, self-defining, voluntary and unenforceable the thing is? I have to assume they have not, in which case everyone is reading climate change doomsday predictions from friends who they trust and assume they know what they are talking about, when, in fact, they don’t.
Read the text of the agreement (If the Facebook doomsayers have, they are lying about what leaving it means, or they can’t read.). It is a crooked peashooter against Godzilla, Jaws, an elephant or a particularly mean and unpredictable gopher, depending on how seriously you want to take Al Gore and scientifically ignorant shills like Nancy Pelosi (no, Nancy, climate change measures are not about “the air we breathe”) and John Kerry (no, you hack, air conditioners are not a greater threat than ISIS). It is a set of weak agreements using ambiguous language and laughable flexibility allowing countries to reinterpret their commitments as they go along. As the Federalist fairly summed up, “If you listened to President Trump’s remarks today you would think staying in the Paris Agreement would destroy the U.S. economy. If you listen to many advocates who support the agreement, you would think you need to start building an ark, soon.” Neither is close to being true. The policy achievements, such as they were (that is, almost entirely symbolic) have been over-hyped by the politicians involved, including, and perhaps especially, Barack Obama, because the climate change obsessives are as gullible as they are biased and inadequately informed. For his part, President Trump has a political interest in selling his anti-climate change base on the fiction that withdrawing from the agreements makes a substantive difference, when he is only nullifying American participation in an agreement that was substantively insignificant to begin with.
Now, responsible Facebook users could do something constructive, encouraging productive discussions by explaining this to the people who like and trust them, after, of course, they sufficiently educate themselves. While they are at it, they might also explain that Obama’s trick of not presenting what should have been a treaty to Congress and instead calling it an “executive agreement” because he was uniquely unable to build the political consensus treaties require was a good reason to ditch the Paris agreement as a matter pf principle.It was an end-around the Constitution.
Instead, Facebook users are taking to the social media echo chamber and screaming, “AHHHHHHHHHHH!” so the friends who read them think it makes sense to scream “AHHHHHHHHHHH!”, so pretty soon everyone is screaming “AHHHHHHHHHHH!” and becoming panicked, frightened and hysterical. And they still don’t know beans about the Paris agreement.
Nice job, everybody!