Climate Non-Conformity

Wall Street Opinion Journal November 2, 2006

Saving lives versus saving planet Earth.

Two scientific events of note occurred this week, but only one got any media coverage. Therein lies a story about modern politics and scientific priorities.

The report that received the headlines was Monday’s 700-page jeremiad out of London on fighting climate change. Commissioned by the British government and overseen by former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern, the report made the intentionally shocking prediction that global warming could eliminate from 5% to 20% of world economic output “forever.” Meanwhile, doing the supposedly virtuous thing and trying to forestall this catastrophe would cost merely an estimated 1% of world GDP. Thus we must act urgently and with new taxes and policies that go well beyond anything in the failed Kyoto Protocol.

The other event was a meeting at the United Nations organized by economist Bjørn Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus Center. Ambassadors from 24 countries–including Australia, China, India and the U.S.–mulled which problems to address if the world suddenly found an extra $50 billion lying around. Mr. Lomborg’s point is that, in a world with scarce resources, you need priorities. The consensus was that communicable diseases, sanitation and water, malnutrition and hunger, and education were all higher priorities than climate change.

We invited Mr. Lomborg to address the Stern report, and he takes apart its analysis brick-by-brick here. To our reading, there isn’t much left of this politicized edifice. But we’d stress a couple of points ourselves.

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4 thoughts on “Climate Non-Conformity”

  1. The World Council of Churches is at it again, calling on government and policy makers to “listen to the scientists and the cry of the Earth.” They must act with the extreme urgency it demands as the global situation worsens. At a WCC conference in Nairobi, Kenya, the rhetoric of social justice, equity, solidarity and sustainability was pervasive.

    The scientific evidence regarding the causes of the earth’s warming are still much in debate. While the earth is warming, it is not entirely clear whether human activities are primarily responsible. Cycles of warming and cooling are of historical record. It was argued especially in Europe and among the Greens that Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and the Gulf coast, was spawned due to global warming. This despite the fact that climatologists state the frequency of hurricane activity is cyclical–some periods very active, others very little.

    The WCC’s call to action is disturbing because once again churches are influenced by elite activits and ideological beliefs. Moreover, “Global Warming” has become part of an earth cult, not dissimilar to cults Christianity confronted from earliest times. It would not surprise me one day, Christianity will be placed in the pantheon of the Earth goddess.

    Unless you think this is only the cause of left-wing church bodies, evangelical churches have now gotten into the act swayed by the same power elite found in the media, universities, and even seminaries. In fact, it is possible in some seminaries to avoid taking any serious courses in theology while indulging in various social justice, environmental, and diversity classes.

    Sadly, Orthodoxy (or segments of it) are in the grip of the same ideologues.

    Some sort of reasoned debate is to be expected, but those who question global warming, are dismissed as reactionaries. Debate is stifled.

    Far from the days of the universities in their formative years in Europe, where lively debate and disputes were encouraged.

    Although the Vatican holds similar views of the above, one remarkable thing is true. Benedict, who was a masterful university professor, is well-know to relish debating his opponents, or those who have different viewpoints. He is very attentive, focusing on the arguments, and when he responds, he quotes back what the opponent has said. Indeed, he is Ratzinger, the professor, who knows the value of disputation.

    Disputation is sadly lacking today in the academy and in the church’s academic halls.

    Has the use of reason been dismissed in favor of credulity?

  2. Dear All:
    To Christopher: Global warming as a bad thing, i.e. desertification on a world basis, from the Gobi-on going at present, to the Great Sonoran which covers much of Northern Mexico to San Antonio, Texas and much of what is called the Great Southwest. When I lived in San Antonio the powers that be were busy saving the Edwards Aquifer for future generations. It has worked so far. World desertification will increase as the temperature increases-2 to 4 degrees C-to include the latitudes on each side of the Equator. This means a vast decrease if food production, i.e. many parts of the North African continent at present. This is and will cause death on a great scale and flooding migrations of people.
    Loss of land, populations and manufacturing centers: England has all ready forecasted that about ~ ¼ of their land will be lost by 2025-2035. Holland is at present allowing plodders to go back into the sea-to costly to maintain pumping and dikeing. Some resettlement has begun. Some cities like New York-built on garnet- and Miami-built on coral-can build up but cities like Houston are 3 feet above sea level and sit upon clay, dirt and shifting layers of mud that will turn into liquefaction if the sea rises to that level. Houston-my home town-is the 3rd largest city in the US and contains the 3rd largest liquid port in the US and also is home to the world’s largest petrol-chemical complex. Jobs and energy are at stake.
    A Canadian ice breaker is now exploring the North West Passage. The passage is dense slush-it is always frozen solid by this date. The science crews are taking ice core samples and ocean bottom samples to study back into geologic time frames that go back several 100,000 years. Their climate control studies will have political as well as social effects for North America. Oil companies are all ready at odds with the Canadian government as to rights of passage for their tankers.
    Water: fresh, clean, drinkable will become in short supply as the mountain ice coverage is decreased. In the Swiss Alps the ski resorts are having at present to create more amore artificial snow to operate. By 2035 water may be more important than oil- coming soon to your street the water wars and vast migrations of people will be demanding ‘your’ resources as their right as human beings. In miniature: I lived during the Dust Bowl period and it was not very pretty even in the Houston area-shanty towns on our northern outskirts into the 1940s.
    Some are working, some are debating and arguing and some just wait. If you are a millenarianist or a rapturist, then who cares; all the signs are present. They-the signs-have always have been there for the last 2000 years.
    J R Dittbrenner

  3. Mr. Dittbrenner,

    Yes, your scenario where increase desertification is bad. However, most computer models predict in an increase in arable land, not a decrease (overall). The rest of your post is specifics about local events (e.g. flooding in Holland/England, polar ice sheets melting, etc.) that must be balanced with the overall effects of the present warming. So far, on balance, an warming trend appears to = good. Given the fact that all this is really falls into the category of “speculation”, and given the fact that your reaction would cause all sorts of positive harm (some sort of government(s) forced shift from oil based economy to who knows what – your and your fellow believers silence on this point is deafening) what you term the “just wait” position is the only rational one…

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