home > archive > 2004 > this article
Prophets, false prophets and profiteers
By Paul Driessen
Some ten thousand delegates, scientists, activists, politicians and journalists convened last week in Argentina for the COP-10 confab on "solutions" to the theoretical problem of "dangerous" and "catastrophic" global climate change. Months of hype and consternation preceded the event, to pressure the United States and Australia into ratifying the Kyoto Protocol.
The Day After Tomorrow and interminable activist group press releases provided appropriate horror movie scenarios. A hearing chaired by Senator John McCain promoted his prophecy that a climate Armageddon is near -- and his legislative palliative.
A new report warned that North Pole temperatures are rising. Science magazine asserted that not one of 928 studies supported the position that climate change is naturally occurring.
UK science advisor Sir David King said global warming is a greater threat than terrorism, and greenhouse emissions will have to be cut by 80 per cent by 2050 to avoid massive coastal flooding due to melting Greenland ice sheets. European Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy hinted that the EU would give preferential access to its markets for poor countries that accept Kyoto.
The hysteria and caterwauling swamped essential facts.
Actual satellite and weather balloon data -- as well as historic and geologic records of numerous warming and cooling cycles -- contradict computer models, theories and assertions that humans are causing disastrous weather events and climate shifts. Arctic temperatures were even higher in the 1930s, before cooling again for several decades. Science's editors didn't mention countless studies that analyze natural warming and cooling cycles -- or the fact that 18,000 scientists have signed a petition saying they see "no convincing scientific evidence" that humans are disrupting the earth's climate.
All the countries in the world together are responsible for less than 3 per cent of the Earth's total greenhouse gas emissions (the rest are natural), and the U.S. emits only 1/5 of this. The Kyoto treaty would force the U.S. to slash emissions and fossil fuel use by some 25 per cent over the next decade -- an impossible task that would cost millions of jobs and over $300 billion annually, according to government and other studies.
Even perfect compliance with Kyoto would keep average global temperatures from rising only 0.3 degrees less than they would by 2050 in the absence of a climate treaty. Actually stabilizing greenhouse gases and temperatures would require 19 to 40 "successful climate treaties" -- causing ruinous social and economic impacts, and diverting resources from solvable problems like AIDS, malaria, poverty and poor sanitation.
What then energizes all these false prophets of doom and their demands for immediate drastic action? Simply put, profits and power.
Just the 12 largest environmental lobby groups in the U.S. had a combined budget of $2 billion in 2003. Collectively, the global environmental movement has a war chest of up to $8-billion a year. That buys a lot of influence, but apparently it's never enough. As National Audubon Society chief operating officer Dan Beard has admitted, "What you get in your mailbox is a never-ending stream of crisis-related shrill material designed to evoke emotions, so that you will sit down and write a check."
Global warming is big business. The U.S. government ladled out $15 billion on global warming research and "education" between 1992 and 2000. The United Nations spent billions more, as did the European Union, and big foundations provided hundreds of millions more.
Unfortunately, most government money goes to researchers who support the position that human-caused climate change is a serious problem. Foundation money does likewise, for operations like the Pew Charitable Trusts' Global Climate Change Center, and an International Institute for Sustainable Development $700,000 study of "how farmers in India may be vulnerable" to problems supposedly caused by "economic globalization and climate change."
"Scientists must be allowed to conclude that we don't have a problem," MIT professor Richard Lindzen insists, and funding should not be based on politics and preconceptions. What's needed are nonpartisan funding mechanisms to support climate research
Climate treaties are driven by near-religious convictions, Lindzen and author-producer- molecular biologist Michael Crichton observed. This further politicizes science, makes rational debate unlikely, and keeps people perpetually anxious -- and in desperate search of saviors.
"To capture the public imagination," global warming scientist-activist and former global cooling false prophet Stephen Schneider once said, "we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest."
Former Boston Globe editor Ross Gelbspan urged a Washington, DC audience in July 2000: "Not only do journalists not have a responsibility to report what skeptical scientists have to say about global warming. They have a responsibility not to report what these scientists say." In a similar vein, Time science editor Charles Alexander told a Smithsonian Institution conference: "I would freely admit that on [global warming] we have crossed the boundary from news reporting to advocacy."
Many climate alarmists see the Kyoto and other treaties as instruments of international power politics. Ultimately, they seek to give activists and centralized government bureaucrats control over fossil fuel use, economic growth, lifestyles, housing and transportation.
EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstroem says Kyoto "is not a simple environmental issue, where you can say scientists are not unanimous. This is about international relations, this is about the economy, about trying to create a level playing field for big businesses throughout the world. You have to understand what is at stake and that is why it is serious," she declaimed. And French President Jacques Chirac has termed the Kyoto Protocol "the first component of authentic global governance."
Even now, proposals are being floated in Argentina that would allocate the right to emit carbon on a per capita basis throughout the world. Eventually, the scheme would ensure that every person has an "equitable" right to the same (minuscule) amount of energy -- whatever global bureaucrats and activists determine is "appropriate" and "sustainable."
"Environmentalists are quick to accuse their opponents in business of having vested interests," The Economist has observed. "But their own incomes, their fame and their very existence can depend on supporting the most alarming versions of every environmental scare. Pressure groups, journalists, and fame seekers will no doubt continue to peddle ecological catastrophes at an undiminishing speed."
Actually, industry has much stronger motivations for honesty than do the activists, Daniel Koshland, Jr. noted when he was Science magazine editor. "Businesses today have product liability and can incur legal damages if they place a dangerous product on the market." Environmental pressure groups "have no such constraints."
All this should have been on everyone's mind -- in developed and developing countries alike -- as COP-10 attendees debated the merits and demerits of Quixotic proposals to "control" the world's climate.
Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for the Congress of Racial Equality, Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow and Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green Power · Black Death Copyright Paul Driessen 2004
Get weekly updates about new issues of ESR!
© 1996 - 2005, Enter Stage Right and/or its creators. All rights reserved.