Last week, we promised readers a little balance on the issue of global warming here on Catholic Online. After running a series of stories highlighting what I feel is a critical issue to the Church and to all people, readers asked for some balance. To find that balance, I set out in search of a well-versed climate change skeptic who could share his views with our readers.
I came across Dr. Mark Hendrickson, who is an adjunct faculty member, economist, and fellow for economic and social policy with The Center for Vision and Values at Grove City College in Pennsylvania.
With his permission, I am republishing an article he originally published on Forbes.com. I think it will provide fertile ground for discussion for our readers and forms part of the basis for an interview I am conducting with him, to be published within the next week or so.
As always, Catholic Online invites robust discussion and dialogue between readers. --Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online
Well, we had a warm summer here in the United States, and that brought some of the climate change alarmists out again. Looks like it's time for another rebuttal!
John Coleman, the founder of The Weather Channel, and various other critics have called the theory that human use of carbon-based fossil fuels will lead to catastrophic global warming or climate change a "hoax." It is, but it's more than that, it's criminal.
Here are some of the scientific questions at the core of this issue:
Is the climate changing? Of course. The climate always has changed and always will.
Is the earth getting warmer? We should hope so for at least two reasons: First, the world emerged from the Little Ice Age in the 19th century, so it would be worrisome if it weren't getting warmer. Second, all the history indicates that humans thrive more during warmer periods than colder ones. It is likely, though, that earth has warmed less than many official temperature records indicate for a variety of reasons, including: few long-term records from either the southern hemisphere or the 71 percent of the planet that is covered by water; distortions from the urban heat-island effect and other faulty siting (e.g., temperature sensors next to asphalt parking lots, etc.; the decline in weather station reports from Siberia after the fall of the Soviet government; the arbitrarily ceasing to include measurements from northern latitudes and high elevations, etc.) The most accurate measures of temperature come from satellites. Since the start of these measurements in 1979, they show minor fluctuations and an insignificant net change in global temperature.
Is the earth getting dangerously warm? Probably not, since the earth was warmer than it is now in 7000 of the last 10,000 years. By the way, does anybody know what the "right" amount of global heat is?
Are we humans causing the warming by our carbon emissions? Actually, most of the "greenhouse effect" is due to water vapor, which makes one wonder why the EPA hasn't designated H2O a harmful pollutant that they must regulate. Meteorologist Brian Sussman's calculations in his book "Climategate" show humanity's share of the greenhouse effect as .9 of 1 percent.
It's even possible that CO2 may not affect global warming at all. During many stretches of planetary history, there has been no correlation between the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere and global temperature. In other long stretches, the variations of the two factors followed a significant sequence: increases in CO2 followed increases in warmth by several centuries. You don't need to have a degree in climate science to know that, in a temporal universe, cause does not follow its effect.
Even global warming alarmists have tacitly conceded that CO2 is not the primary driver of climate change when they responded to the relative cooling in recent years by changing their story and telling us that the earth is likely to cool for a few decades in spite of still-increasing atmospheric CO2. Translation: other factors outweigh CO2 in their impact on global temperatures. Those other factors include variations in solar activity (accounting for 3/4 of the variability in earth's temperature according to the Marshall Institute); changes in earth's orbit and axis; albedo (reflectivity, meaning changes in cloud cover which are influenced by fluctuations in gamma ray activity); and volcanic and tectonic activity in the earth's crust. For humans to presume that they are more than a gnat on an elephant's rump in terms of impact on climate change is vain and delusive.
Shifting gears, let's assume that the alarmists are right and that man-made CO2 emissions are making the world warmer. If so, what changes would they hope to accomplish and at what cost?
During the cap-and-trade debates in 2009 and 2010, proponents cited scientific studies predicting that curtailing American CO2 emission reductions would shave a few hundredths of a degree off future temperatures. And the costs? The United Nations published an estimate that the total planetary cost could reach $552 trillion (approximately a decade's worth of global GDP) over the course of the 21st century.
One is tempted to say that proposing so colossal a cost for so minuscule an alleged benefit is insane; remember, for plants, animals, and people, warmer is better. When one begins to grasp the magnitude of the burden that people would bear as a result of spending so much to tilt at the carbon dioxide windmill, it's worse than insane; it's criminal.
Who would benefit from this catastrophically expensive agenda? Only the political and politically connected elite-the Goldman Sachs outfits that would reap billions from trading carbon permits; the Al Gores and corporate and political insiders that would amass fortunes from their ties to a government-rigged energy market and investments in politically correct technologies. And think of the power that governments would have if they controlled energy consumption. By controlling energy, you control people. No wonder governments have spent tens of billions of dollars promoting this scenario and supporting political panels like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to disseminate the desired "findings."
Who would lose if governments gain the power to order a significant reduction in CO2 emissions? Around the world, millions of people at the margins of survival would die. It would be a dispersed holocaust. Millions of others would suffer unnecessary impoverishment and deprivation. Even in wealthier countries, people who are affluent enough to afford the monetary costs could find their lives heavily regimented by government bureaucrats monitoring and limiting how many miles they may travel and what activities they may undertake.
This is the ugly truth about what potentially could be the crime of the century. In my next two columns, I will look at two alternative national energy policies. The first will be Obama's and the second is what I hope would be Romney's.
Dr. Mark W. Hendrickson is an adjunct faculty member, economist, and fellow for economic and social policy with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College.
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