Climate Change “Cures” are Worse than the Illness

Commentary — By on December 16, 2009 at 8:15 pm

This editorial originally appeared in the December 13, 2009 Tennessean.

Climate change “cures” are worse than the illness

by Drew Johnson

Copenhagen is a name that usually congers images of a busting European financial capital or a mighty fine smokeless tobacco, depending on whether you have a can or a wallet bulging in your back pocket. But the Danish capital is also currently synonymous with the United Nations Climate Change Conference, which concludes on Friday.

For people who think trees have feelings, Copenhagen provides hope for a substantial policy agreement to combat climate change. For folks who think those people are kooks, Copenhagen represents a troubling threat to the world economy. And for those who are tired of round-the-clock Tiger Woods coverage, it’s been a refreshing twelve day diversion.

The Copenhagen meetings have illustrated that the environment is an issue that most people care about. After all, no one wants his children or grandchildren living in a perilously warming world – or even a world with dirty air or polluted water.

That concern for the environment, however, doesn’t mean that the public should be stripped of its right to be skeptical of claims made by scientists and policymakers. Just as it is proper to be skeptical about ghost stories, natural male enhancement pills and real estate transactions involving bridges, it’s proper to be skeptical about a fad based on imperfect science, whose proposed cures include economic devastation and global socialism.

Unfortunately, just questioning climate can earn labels like “heretic” and “denier” (a troubling reference to Holocaust deniers), as I know firsthand. Just last week Mother Jones named me and the organization I founded, the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, among the “Dirty Dozen of Climate Change Deniers” for exposing that Al Gore’s home consumes approximately 20 times more electricity than the average U.S. household. In the wake of that revelation, TCPR received international media attention (which was great), as well as more than 6,000 hostile emails and a dozen death threats (not so great), providing insight into the fanaticism of climate change alarmists.

A large chunk of the population gets their information about climate change from great scientific minds of our day including Leonardo DiCaprio, Sheryl Crow and Ed Begley Jr. Another portion of folks realize that a bunch of knuckleheaded entertainers have no business pretending to be climatologists and disregard any claims of global warming.

To make matters worse, the news media, whose job it is to remain vigilantly skeptical, has been largely a lapdog for global warming doomsayers. This isn’t a conspiracy, but simply a realization by the media that climate change makes for darn good stories. Interesting news centers around one thing: conflict. Israel vs. Palestine. Democrats vs. Republicans. Jon vs. Kate. With climate change, the news media has the greatest conflict imaginable: humans vs. the planet, so there’s an incentive to keep the story going as loudly as possible for as long as possible.

Distrust created by the “Climategate” scandal in which climate scientists fudged data to make global warming appear far worse than it actually is, only adds to the problems. It seems that the one thing missing from public dialogue about climate change are facts.

It is a fact that the Earth’s surface temperature is warmer today than it was a century ago. It is also a fact, according to NASA, that the Earth’s surface temperature is cooler today than it was a decade ago. It is almost without question that human activity plays a role in climate change. Man’s impact on the climate, however, appears so limited that it is almost inconsequential.

It is also a fact the “solution” to climate change preferred by President Obama and many in Congress would cost the average American family more than $1,800 per year, according to the Heritage Foundation. That oppressive expense to Americans would result in only an estimated two-hundredths of one degree reduction in global temperatures over the next 100 years.

The more tragic fact is that if many of the policy recommendation offered this week in Copenhagen are followed, millions of people will die – not because the Earth is warming – but from preventable diseases, the lack of clean drinking water and starvation because the political solution to climate change would prevent the world’s poorest nations from industrializing.

If the Earth’s temperature is changing in unnatural and unusual ways, and those climate oddities are, in part, a result of human activity, would taking radical steps that result in demolishing the economy of the developed world and the loss of millions of human lives in developing nations be worth reducing the Earth’s temperature a fraction of a degree? Most reasonable people would say no.

Given the exaggerations of the problems and the dangers of the policy remedies, it is clear that government solutions to climate change are a medicine far worse than the illness.

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Drew Johnson is President of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, an independent, nonprofit and nonpartisan research organization committed to achieving a freer, more prosperous Tennessee through the ideas of liberty. Visit TCPR online at: www.tennesseepolicy.org

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