Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Predictions of environmental catastrophe..................

Arguable - with Jeff Jacoby
Monday, December 10, 2018

My own longstanding view is that the worldwide use of fossil fuels — oil, coal, and natural gas — is not something to be deplored, but celebrated. The carbon-based energy on which the modern world runs has generated an almost inconceivable amount of good and made human life far more comfortable, safe, and healthy than at any time in history. I don’t doubt that climate is changing — climate patterns are always in flux — but I am skeptical that climate change will lead to the world-shattering scenarios routinely described by alarmists in the media and elsewhere on the left.

At the same time, if climate change does turn out to pose serious environmental threats, wealthy societies will be best equipped to meet those threats — and without fossil fuels, no society can create the necessary wealth. A billion human beings, mostly in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, still have no access to electricity ; millions of men, women, and children die prematurely each year because the air in their homes is polluted from burning dirty fuels such as wood and dung. What those populations desperately need is affordable fossil fuels and the higher standard of living they make possible. Only after they pull themselves out of dire poverty will they be able to concentrate on broader environmental goals. That has always been the pattern: Until there is economic progress, there can be no progress on climate.

Meanwhile, the doomsayers continue to whip up terrors of imminent environmental catastrophe.

At the opening of the UN climate change summit now underway in Poland, the celebrity naturalist Sir David Attenborough warned that mankind is on the brink of apocalypse now:

“Right now we are facing a manmade disaster of global scale, our greatest threat in thousands of years: climate change,” he intoned. “If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilizations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”

Does that sound familiar? Of course it does. It’s the way environmentalists have sounded for decades, always dialing the hysteria up to 11, always pushing the worst-case scenario, always reaching for the most hyperbolic rhetoric.

This shrillness serves a purpose. Back in 1989, the late Stephen Schneider, a professor of environmental biology at Stanford and the founder of the journal Climate Science,contended that such fearmongering was justified as a means of advancing the climate agenda:

“We are not just scientists but human beings as well,” he told an interviewer.
We'd like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change. To do that we need to get some broad-based support, to capture the public's imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So 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.

And so the scary scenarios and simplified, dramatic forecasts proceed without letup, even as actual facts on the ground consistently fail to bear them out. The Himalayan glaciers were vanishing, the experts declared — wrongly, as it turned out. Sea levels would rise by 20 feet “in the near future,” Al Gore famously warned in 2006 — wrongly, as it turned out. The oceans are warming much faster than previously thought, scientists claimed earlier this year — wrongly, as it turned out.

An international conference of scientists and policymakers predicted in 2005 that the planet was just a decade away from global warming’s point of no return as measured in “widespread agricultural failure,” “increased disease,” and “the death of forests.” All of that, too, turned out to be wrong: The wails of the self-anointed Cassandras notwithstanding, food today is more plentiful than everhuman beings are living longer, and forests are healthier.

Indeed, by almost any objective yardstick you choose — education, homicide rates, famine, clean air, freedom, child labor, infant mortality, leisure time, global poverty, literacy — humanity is thriving as it has never thrived before. And all this progress has coincided not with a dramatic retreat from fossil fuels, but with the steep rise in the world’s reliance on carbon-based energy . Given that juxtaposition, is it really so obvious that eliminating carbon-dioxide emissions from the atmosphere should be mankind’s most important policy goal?

Climate alarmists remind me of immigration alarmists who link undocumented aliens with surging violence and crime. During the decades that illegal immigration was reaching new heights, violence and crime were falling to unprecedented levels. Yet nativist fearmongers, against all the evidence, have kept right on warning that unless unlawful immigration is forcibly halted, more and more Americans will become victims of homicide and rape.

In similar fashion, climate doomsayers continue to insist that unless radical steps are taken to reduce CO2 emissions, life on earth will grow ever more ominous and bleak. In reality, CO2 emissions have been growing for decades — and life on earth has been become safer, richer, cleaner, and healthier.

Energy from fossil fuels has led to dramatic gains in human progress over the past few generations. Isn’t it reasonable to conclude that forcibly suppressing the use of such energy will slow or reverse those gains? Hundreds of thousands of angry French residents certainly seem to think so. Green elites may be gung-ho for the war against carbon. The people know better.