When writing about the IMF [recently], I mentioned that bureaucracies tend to do everything possible to perpetuate themselves. So it is with the United Nations and the Environmental Protection Agency.
The U.N. long ago found common cause with redistributionist national governments on the subject of climate change/global warming, spouting an alarmist theory of impending disaster unless we Americans slow down on economic growth and the governments of richer countries give more of their taxpayers’ money to the governments of poorer countries. Thus, predictably the U.N.’s Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change has just issued its fifth assessment report in which it continues to sound the alarm about warming caused primarily by increased concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere. It also states that developing countries need between $70 and $100 billion per year to make needed changes—money that the developed countries are expected to supply, even as they shrink their own GDPs.
The EPA has been progressively expanding its reach, successfully positioning itself as a ubiquitous presence in our lives and establishing itself as one of the most powerful agencies of the American government. Its latest gambit involves attempting to regulate emissions of bovine flatulence—a major source of methane, a gas that traps much more heat than CO2. The EPA initiative has far-reaching implications, since the only way to reduce the amount of gas emitted by cattle may be to curtail our consumption of beef by reducing the number of cattle in existence.
There are multiple flaws in the alarmist position. Let’s cover just a few:
1) The climate change gurus can’t forecast the future. This goes beyond the problem that the alarmists have as a result of their dozens of computer models not conforming to real-world historical data and all contradicting each other like some sort of scientific Tower of Babel. The inescapable problem is that much of the climate is a “coupled, nonlinear, chaotic system,” meaning that it may not be possible to predict it with accuracy.
2) Not only can we not “prove” that earth will warm or cool over the coming decades, we don’t even know what the net gains and losses of either alternative would be. Maybe (I don’t claim to know) warmer would be better on a net basis, maybe cooler would be better (although based on the history of the last 2000 years, I lean toward warmer).
3) Not only can mere mortals not predict the future climate, we cannot control it with present or near-term technology. The U.N. report warns “that the problem will become increasingly difficult to manage.” This belief that humans can somehow “manage” the climate is what Friedrich Hayek called “the fatal conceit” on steroids.
Look, the alarmists themselves already have sabotaged their own theory. A number of them in recent years have started to hedge their bets by suggesting that the current 17-year stretch of non-warming may continue for several decades. They avoid mentioning that manmade CO2 emissions are likely to continue to increase over that period. That pretty much nullifies their thesis that CO2 is the primary driver of climate change. Essentially, they are conceding the skeptics’ point that other factors have greater impact on global temperatures than CO2.
Over 20 years ago, the George Marshall Institute published a study showing that all of the small increases in global temperature from 1900 to 1990 could be attributed to increases in the sun’s energy output. Over the course of earth’s history, changes in earth’s orbit around the sun, changes in the tilt of the Earth’s axis, and changes in albedo (reflection of light from the planet, due partly to cloud cover) have driven changes in terrestrial warmth. As for the atmosphere’s greenhouse effect, by far the major portion of that is attributable to the primary greenhouse gas—water vapor (which even the U.N. and the EPA aren’t foolish enough to propose regulating). As for the minor share of the greenhouse effect due to global warming, since humans account for only about four percent of total global CO2 emissions, it becomes apparent that we humans are, in terms of our impact on climate change, a monkey on an elephant’s back—we’re not the driver, we’re just going along for the ride.
We need to remember how hyper-politicized the IPCC and EPA are. They have their agendas. I was interviewed about climate change for a Voice of America broadcast a few weeks ago, and, since I’m a skeptic, was asked if I had received money from fossil fuel companies. My reply was that I haven’t, but how horribly biased it is to ask skeptics if they receive oil money, but not to ask alarmists if they receive government money. Why this presumption that private money is corrupt but government money is pure and noble? What a naive, unrealistic, perhaps deluded assumption that is. Billions of government dollars have been spent advancing the alarmist scenario/agenda. The alarmists bring to mind something H.L. Mencken once wrote: “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”
Don’t let the hobgoblins scare you.
The Moral Liberal Contributing Editor, Mark Hendrickson, is Adjunct Professor of Economics at Grove City College, where he has taught since 2004. He is also a Fellow for Economic and Social Policy with The Center for Vision & Values, for which he writes regular commentaries. He is a contributing editor of The St. Croix Review, sits on the Council of Scholars of the Commonwealth Foundation, and writes the weekly “No Panaceas” column in the Op/Ed section of Forbes.com.
Mark’s published books include: America’s March Toward Communism (1987); The Morality of Capitalism (editor, 1992); Famous But Nameless: Inspiration and Lessons from the Bible’s Anonymous Characters (2011); and God and Man on Wall Street: The Conscience of Capitalism (with Craig Columbus, 2012).
Mark Hendrickson’s Archives at The Moral Liberal.