Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Global warming is not about science

The mainstream media continue to echo alarmist calls and doomsday scenarios about our future due to global warming and/or climate change. These scenarios are often based on reports which are presented as being extremely pessimistic but scientifically sound.

Our fears would be justified if they are:
a/ based on cautious and responsible scientific analysis, and
b/ reported faithfully and accurately by the media.

However ... they are neither. Especially in the case of the Stern report last month, which generated front page headlines worldwide and prompted comments by world leaders such as Tony Blair and Al Gore.

Today's Mises article does a demolition job on the nonsense behind the hysteria from the Stern report.

"Using the results from formal economic models, the Review estimates that if we don't act, the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5% of global GDP each year, now and forever. If a wider range of risks and impacts is taken into account, the estimates of damage could rise to 20% of GDP or more."

Sir Nicholas's use of the words "don't act" is very misleading. What he is urging when he speaks of "action" is a mass of laws and decrees — i.e., government action. This government action will forcibly prevent hundreds of millions, indeed, billions of individual human beings from engaging in their, personal and business private action — that is, from acting in ways that they judge to serve their own self-interests. Thus, what he is actually urging is not action, but government action intended to stop private action.

Another great point that is raised by the article:

According to Sir Nicholas, what we must do to avoid the loss of up to 20% of annual GDP, is ultimately to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions "more than 80% below the absolute level of current annual emissions." (p. xi of the Executive Summary. My italics.) Lest one think that such drastic reduction lies only in the very remote future, Sir Nicholas also declares,

"By 2050, global emissions would need to be around 25% below current levels. These cuts will have to be made in the context of a world economy in 2050 that may be 3–4 times larger than today - so emissions per unit of GDP would need to be just one quarter of current levels by 2050. (Ibid.)"
The article goes on to elaborate how important it is to make the distinction between allowing free markets to develop efficient energy sources that ultimately replace carbon intensive sources, and between giving government total control over the energy industry.

What Sir Nicholas and the rest of the environmental movement offer is merely the destruction of much of our existing means of coping with nature and the aborting of the development of new and additional means. To the extent that their program is enacted, it will serve to prevent effectively dealing with global warming if that should ever actually be necessary.

A major word of caution is necessary here. The above discussion implies that the use of modern technology to control climate is infinitely more reasonable than the virtually insane policy of attempting to control climate by means of destroying modern technology. The word of caution is that in the hands of government, a policy of climate control based on the use modern technology could be almost as dangerous as the policy of government climate control by means of the destruction of modern technology.
In fact, a possible outcome of today's intellectual chaos on the subjects of environment and government is a combination of major destruction of our economic system resulting from policies based on hostility to carbon technology and climate damage caused by governmental efforts to control climate through the use of modern technology. It's not impossible that what we might end up with is an economic system largely destroyed by environmentalist policies plus the start of a new ice age resulting from government efforts to counteract global warming through the use of technologically inspired counter measures.

The only safe response to global warming, if that in fact is what is unfolding, or to global freezing, when that develops, as it inevitably will, is the maximum degree of individual freedom.