November 1, 2006
The Real Climate Change Catastrophe
Our planet is again warming slightly, and the weather keeps taking unexpected turns. Many scientists say this is hardly unprecedented, cause for alarm, or proof that humans are now the dominant factor in climate change. Others disagree strongly, and point to every snowstorm, hurricane, deluge or drought as proof that urgent action is needed to avoid imminent climate catastrophe.
“Climate change is real,” say the latter. True, but it’s always been real.
Four times, mile-thick ice sheets smothered Europe and North America. A thousand years ago, Vikings raised crops and cattle in Greenland. Four centuries later, the Norsemen were frozen out by the Little Ice Age, and priests performed exorcisms on glaciers advancing toward Swiss villages. The globe warmed in 1850-1940, cooled for the next 35 years, then warmed slightly again.
Detroit experienced six snowstorms in April 1868, frosts in August 1869, a 98-degree heat wave in June 1874, and ice-free lakes in January 1877. Wisconsin’s record high of 114 degrees F in July 1936 was followed five years later by a record July low of 46. In 1980, five years after Newsweek’s “new little ice age” cover story, Washington, DC endured 67 days above 90 degrees.
Studies by National Academy of Sciences, NOAA, Danish and other scientists raise additional inconvenient truths that contradict catastrophic climate change hypotheses, computer models and predictions. The “hockey stick” temperature graph (which claimed 1990-2000 was the hottest decade in 1000 years) broke under scrutiny.
The Southern Hemisphere has not warmed in the past 25 years. Interior Greenland and Antarctica are gaining ice mass, not losing it. Gulf Stream circulation has not slowed. And the US is yet to be hit by a major hurricane in 2006.
Simply put, nothing suggests that predominantly human influences have suddenly supplanted the natural forces that clearly caused climate and weather cycles in past centuries. Yet, many still demand immediate action to prevent future climate change.
Few appreciate how costly such actions would be, especially for the world’s poorest citizens.
According to government and private studies, the Kyoto Protocol would cost the US up to $348 billion in 2012; force average American families to pay an extra $2,700 annually for energy and consumer goods; and destroy 1.3 million jobs in US minority communities.
Globally, Kyoto carries a $1 trillion annual price tag, in regulatory bills, higher energy costs and lost productivity, according to economist Bjorn Lomborg. That’s several times what it would cost to provide the world with clean drinking water and sanitation – which would prevent millions of deaths annually from intestinal diseases.
Over 2 billion of the Earth’s citizens – including 95% of Africans – still do not have electricity. That means no lights, refrigerators, stoves, radios, televisions or computers; no modern homes, hospitals, schools, offices or factories. Instead, people breathe polluted smoke from wood and dung fires, and die by the millions from lung diseases.
The world should be rushing to their aid. Instead, in the name of preventing hypothetical climate change, environmentalists and rich countries oppose fossil fuel power plants in poor countries. To “protect wild rivers,” they obstruct hydroelectric projects. They resist nuclear power, on the ground that it is “inherently dangerous.” In short, they are telling a third of the world’s people:
“You cannot have modern, healthy, industrialized societies. Your only option is piddling amounts of expensive, unreliable electricity from wind and solar. To safeguard the world from speculative risks that we are concerned about, you must endure life-threatening dangers that perpetuate poverty, disease and childhood death in your destitute nations.”
Now, just as thousands of delegates and activist are about to board CO2-emitting jetliners to attend the next global warming confab in Kenya, the European Union wants to tax imports from poor nations that are exempt from Kyoto. The EU claims the exemption gives poor countries an “unfair trade advantage” over EU countries that are struggling to meet their initial treaty commitments. (Some have increased CO2 emissions by 20-50% since 1990, despite signing the treaty.)
For most people – especially the world’s poor – it will be all pain, and no gain. Even perfect compliance with the Kyoto Protocol would result in Earth’s temperature being only 0.2 degrees F less by 2050 than if we did little or nothing. Assuming humans really are the culprits, actually controlling theoretical global temperature increases would require 40 Kyoto treaties – each one more costly and restrictive than its predecessors.
It’s bad enough to handcuff modern economies, to promote solutions that won’t solve a problem which extensive evidence suggests is moderate, manageable and primarily natural in origin.
It is infinitely worse to use unproven hypotheses about climate cataclysm to justify depriving Earth’s most impoverished citizens of electricity, water purification and other modern technologies that would improve and save countless lives.
That is unconscionable and immoral. It is the real climate catastrophe.
Truly ethical policies would ensure rapid technological and economic advancement (including modern pollution controls) in Third World countries, and leave critical development decisions to the real stakeholders: not climate alarmists – but those who must live with the consequences of decisions that affect their access to energy, health, hope, opportunity and prosperity.
Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor with the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow, Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise and the Congress of Racial Equality, one of America's oldest civil rights organizations, where he was a panelist for their 2004 Martin Luther King program. All three are non-profit public policy institutes that focus on energy, environmental, economic and human rights issues. His 25-year career includes tenures with the United States Senate and the U.S. Department of the Interior. Paul has spoken about energy, health, economic development, climate change and environmental issues on many college campuses, at a wide variety of policy forums, and in the media, and has testified as an expert witness before the United States Congress. He has also spoken, debated and keynoted discussions on eco-imperialism, malaria and corporate social responsibility at Delft Technical University (Netherlands), Kampala International University (Uganda), Yale University and the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. Driessen holds a BA in geology and field ecology from Lawrence University and a JD from the University of Denver College of Law. His book, Eco-Imperialism: Green Power, Black Death, is in its second American printing and has been published in Argentina, Italy, India and Germany.