This does not mean that climate change isn’t an issue. It means that exaggerating the threat concentrates resources in the wrong areas. Consider hurricanes (though similar points hold for wildfire and drought). If the aim is to reduce storm damage, then first focus on resilience—better building codes and better enforcement of those codes. Ending subsidies for hurricane insurance to discourage building in vulnerable zones would also help, as would investing in better infrastructure (from stronger levees to higher-capacity sewers).

These solutions are quick and comparatively cheap. Most important, they would diminish future hurricane damage, whether climate-induced or not. Had New York and New Jersey focused resources on building sea walls and adding storm doors to the subway system and making simple fixes like porous pavements, Hurricane Sandy would have caused much less damage.

In the long run, the world needs to cut carbon dioxide because it causes global warming. But if the main effort to cut emissions is through subsidies for chic renewables like wind and solar power, virtually no good will be achieved—at very high cost. The cost of climate policies just for the European Union—intended to reduce emissions by 2020 to 20% below 1990 levels—are estimated at about $250 billion annually. And the benefits, when estimated using a standard climate model, will reduce temperature only by an immeasurable one-tenth of a degree Fahrenheit by the end of the century.