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Monday, February 12, 2007

Global Warming Skeptics Take a New Tack -- 'We Are Screwed'

After the release of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's report on global warming, the global warming flatearthers seem to be splitting into two groups. The first group is represented by the American Enterprise Institute, an oil company 'think tank,' who still think they can buy their way out of responsibility. No sooner had the IPCC report hit the headlines than AEI sent out a fax to just about every PR flak in existence offering a $10,000 bounty to anyone disputing the report.

The other tack seems to be represented by another corporate think tank, the Competitive Enterprise Institute. At this point, both groups -- in fact, almost all global warming deniers -- have pretty much given up on denying global warming. Having lost that scientific battle, as well as public opinion, they've backed off the 'global warming isn't even happening' line and began to attack the science that shows humans as the cause. Here's were the two groups have split. AEI is sticking to the human cause denial, but the Competitive Enterprise Institute -- perhaps wiser in its way -- recognizes that the IPCC report is the final nail in the coffin of the argument against human cause.

But right about there, their wisdom stops. Having backpedaled on denying global warming completely, they were forced to admit it was happening, but denied human cause. Now, having been driven off that hill as well, they backpedal further. Now fighting global warming is a cure worse than the disease.

If you go to CEI's environmental policy page, you come across this bit of insanity; "Although global warming has been described as the greatest threat facing mankind, the policies designed to address global warming actually pose a greater threat." That's right, fighting global warming is a threat to mankind. See, the problem with mitigating climate change is that it's going to be expensive and, as every school kid knows, the dinosaurs went extinct because they spent too much money.

Or something like that.

Always open to a really bad argument, the National Review's Jonah Goldberg took up this banner.

The Earth got about 0.7 degrees Celsius warmer in the 20th century while it increased its gross domestic product (GDP) by 1,800 percent, by one estimate. How much of that 0.7 degrees can be laid at the feet of that 1,800 percent is unknowable. But let's stipulate that all of the warming was the result of our prosperity and that this warming is, in fact, indisputably bad (which is hardly obvious). That's still an amazing bargain.

Life spans in the United States nearly doubled (from 44 to 77 years). Literacy, medicine, leisure and even, in many respects, the environment have improved mightily over the course of the 20th century, at least in the prosperous West.

Not really getting the whole 'global' part of global warming, is he? Even if I were open to the idea that climate change was a 'bargain' for the west, I'm not so sure that islanders watching sea levels rise would agree it's a bargain for them. Then again, water wings are a 20th century development, so they can be glad for that.

But if we really want to see this argument in action, we can go to the source. Bastiat Scholar in Free Enterprise at the Competitive Enterprise Institute Doug Bandow wrote an op-ed trying to convince evangelicals to get back on the screw-the-environment bandwagon with the rest of the righties.

Potentially destructive climate change should concern Christians, of whatever theological stripe, as well as others. But whether it is a problem requiring government action, and if so, precisely what action, is not a theological matter.

As E. Calvin Beisner, a professor at Knox Theological Seminary in Florida and spokesman for the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance, points out: "Certainly no one on either side can point to a scripture text and say, 'See, my view follows by good and necessary consequence from the very Word of God.'"

Instead, believers have to wrestle with their imperfections in taking a position. God can help.

In other words, evangelical christians shouldn't worry their pretty little heads about it. The brainiacs have it covered. How? By doing absolutely nothing.

The burden of higher energy prices and fewer jobs would be felt most by the poor. Moreover, Kyoto would do nothing to curb greenhouse gases from China, which is just a couple years away from becoming the globe's biggest emitter of carbon dioxide.

Any policy, environmental or other, involves trade-offs. Adaptation, adjusting to warming, almost certainly is a better, more efficient strategy than mitigation, preventing warming.

There it is again -- it's too expensive to deal with, so maybe we should just all ignore it. But does global warming come without monetary costs? Of course not. Rising sea levels from melting ice alone will cost trillions over time. Systems of sea walls and levees will have to be built and maintained and the change in salinity will reduce fishing. There will be other costs. Cropland will move north, melting glaciers will remove fresh water sources from many areas, increased temperatures will mean more outbreaks of disease.

And we're supposed to believe that all of this is cheaper than developing alternative energy sources? To go back to CEI's ridiculous claim, are solar and wind power a threat to mankind?

If so, we're totally screwed. Everyone knows we don't have an unlimited supply of fossil fuels. So, doing now what we'd be forced to do eventually, climate change or not, means we're going to max out our credit cards and go extinct, just like the dinosaurs.

We are so doomed.


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