The real climate change catastrophe

The real climate change catastrophe
CSR must recognize how misguided energy policies will affect the world’s poor
By Paul Driessen
Saturday, October 21, 2006
Every snowstorm, hurricane, deluge or drought generates headlines, horror movies and television specials, demanding action to avoid imminent climate catastrophe. Skeptics are pilloried, labeled “climate criminals,” and threatened with “Nuremberg-style war crimes trials.”

Britain’s Royal Society has demanded that ExxonMobil stop funding researchers who say global warming is primarily the result of natural forces. Meanwhile, scientist James Hansen received $250,000 from Teresa Heinz-Kerry for insisting that warming is due to humans, and “socially responsible” investor services refuse to list or recommend corporations they deem insufficiently sensitive on the subject.

Not surprisingly, companies from Wal-Mart to BP, GE and JP Morgan have brought climate activists into their board rooms, lobbied Congress for climate and ethanol legislation, and retooled to produce new product lines intended to boost tax subsidies, favorable PR and profits.

But are these actions socially responsible or in the best interests of society as a whole?

Asserting “the science is settled” ignores the debate that still rages. Proclaiming that “climate change is real” ignores Earth’s constant, natural warming and cooling.

Vikings raised crops and cattle in Greenland 1000 years ago, while Britons grew grapes in England. Four hundred years later, the Vikings were frozen out, Europe was gripped in a Little Ice Age, and priests performed exorcisms on advancing Swiss glaciers. 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 continue to raise inconvenient truths that question and contradict catastrophic climate change theories, computer models and assertions. The “hockey stick” temperature graph (which claimed 1990-2000 was the hottest decade in 1000 years) was shown to be invalid; the Southern Hemisphere has not warmed in the past 25 years; the US is yet to be hit by a major hurricane in 2006; interior Greenland and Antarctica are gaining ice mass, not losing it; and Gulf Stream circulation has not slowed, as claimed in 2005.

Other recent studies conclude the sun’s radiant heat and cosmic ray levels affect planetary warming and cloud formation more strongly than acknowledged by climate alarmists. That’s logical. Why would natural forces that caused climate change and bizarre weather in past centuries suddenly stop working?

Why would we assume (as many climate models do) that energy, transportation and pollution control technologies will suddenly stagnate at 2000 levels, after the amazing advances of the previous century? And can we afford the Quixotic attempt to stall or prevent future climate change?

Just the current Kyoto Protocol could cost the world up to $1 trillion per year, in regulatory bills, higher energy costs and lost productivity. That’s several times more than the price tag for providing 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 still do not have electricity, to provide basic necessities like lights, refrigeration and modern hospitals. Instead they breathe polluted smoke from wood and dung fires, and die by the millions from lung diseases. But opposition to fossil fuel power plants, in the name of preventing climate change, ensures that these “indigenous” lifestyles, diseases and deaths will continue.

Opposition to hydroelectric projects (damming rivers) and nuclear power (radioactive wastes) likewise perpetuates endemic Third World poverty. So would a new European Union proposal to tax imports from China, India and other poor countries that are exempt from the Kyoto Protocol, because this gives them an “unfair trade advantage” over EU countries that are struggling to meet their Kyoto #1 commitments.

But UK Climate Change Minister Ian Pearson insists that climate change “is one of the most pressing issues facing countries in sub-Saharan Africa.” And environmental zealots blame malaria rates on climate change, to deflect charges that their callous opposition to insecticides is killing African babies.

Elsewhere, government and private studies calculate that the Protocol would cost the United States up to $348 billion in 2012. The average American family of four would pay an extra $2,700 annually for energy and consumer goods, and in US minority communities, the climate treaty would destroy 1.3 million jobs and “substantially affect” standards of living.

Yet, even perfect compliance with Kyoto would result in Earth’s temperature being only 0.2 degrees F less by 2050 than under a business-as-usual scenario. Assuming humans really are the culprits, actually controlling theoretical global temperature increases would require 40 Kyoto treaties – each one more restrictive, each one expanding government control over housing, transportation, heating, cooling and manufacturing decisions.

The real danger is that we will handcuff economies and hammer poor families, to promote solutions which won’t solve a problem that the evidence increasingly suggests is moderate, manageable and primarily natural in origin.

The real catastrophe is that we are already using overwrought claims about a climate cataclysm to justify depriving Earth’s most impoverished citizens of electricity and other modern technologies that would make their lives infinitely better.

Real ethics and social responsibility would weigh these costs and benefits, foster robust debate about every aspect of climate change, ensure continued technological advancement, and give a seat at the decision table to the real stakeholders: not climate alarmists – but those who have to live with the consequences of decisions that affect their access to energy, health, hope, opportunity and prosperity.

Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for the Congress of Racial Equality and Atlas Economic Research Foundation, and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green Power – Black Death. CORE will host a November 29 program at the United Nations on how climate change programs and policies might affect industrialization, families and communities in developing nations.