Monday, October 23, 2006

The real climate change catastrophe

Policymakers must recognize how misguided energy policies will affect the world's poor

Every snowstorm, hurricane, deluge or drought generates headlines, horror movies and television specials, demanding action to avoid imminent climate catastrophe. Skeptics are pilloried, labeled "climate criminals," and threatened with "Nuremberg-style war crimes trials." Britain's Royal Society has demanded that ExxonMobil stop funding researchers who say global warming is primarily the result of natural forces. Meanwhile, scientist James Hansen received $250,000 from Teresa Heinz-Kerry for insisting that warming is due to humans, and "socially responsible" investor services refuse to list or recommend corporations they deem insufficiently sensitive on the subject.

Not surprisingly, companies from Wal-Mart to BP, GE and JP Morgan have brought climate activists into their board rooms, lobbied Congress for climate and ethanol legislation, and retooled to produce new product lines intended to boost tax subsidies, favorable PR and profits. But are these actions socially responsible or in the best interests of society as a whole?

Asserting "the science is settled" ignores the debate that still rages. Proclaiming that "climate change is real" ignores Earth's constant, natural warming and cooling. Vikings raised crops and cattle in Greenland 1000 years ago, while Britons grew grapes in England. Four hundred years later, the Vikings were frozen out, Europe was gripped in a Little Ice Age, and priests performed exorcisms on advancing Swiss glaciers. The globe warmed in 1850-1940, cooled for the next 35 years, then warmed slightly again.

Detroit experienced six snowstorms in April 1868, frosts in August 1869, a 98-degree heat wave in June 1874, and ice-free lakes in January 1877. Wisconsin's record high of 114 degrees F in July 1936 was followed five years later by a record July low of 46. In 1980, five years after Newsweek's "new little ice age" cover story, Washington, DC endured 67 days above 90 degrees.

Studies by National Academy of Sciences, NOAA, Danish and other scientists continue to raise inconvenient truths that question and contradict catastrophic climate change theories, computer models and assertions. The "hockey stick" temperature graph (which claimed 1990-2000 was the hottest decade in 1000 years) was shown to be invalid; the Southern Hemisphere has not warmed in the past 25 years; the US is yet to be hit by a major hurricane in 2006; interior Greenland and Antarctica are gaining ice mass, not losing it; and Gulf Stream circulation has not slowed, as claimed in 2005.

Other recent studies conclude the sun's radiant heat and cosmic ray levels affect planetary warming and cloud formation more strongly than acknowledged by climate alarmists. That's logical. Why would natural forces that caused climate change and bizarre weather in past centuries suddenly stop working?

Why would we assume (as many climate models do) that energy, transportation and pollution control technologies will suddenly stagnate at 2000 levels, after the amazing advances of the previous century? And can we afford the Quixotic attempt to stall or prevent future climate change?

Just the current Kyoto Protocol could cost the world up to $1 trillion per year, in regulatory bills, higher energy costs and lost productivity. That's several times more than the price tag for providing the world with clean drinking water and sanitation - which would prevent millions of deaths annually from intestinal diseases.

Over 2 billion of the Earth's citizens still do not have electricity, to provide basic necessities like lights, refrigeration and modern hospitals. Instead they breathe polluted smoke from wood and dung fires, and die by the millions from lung diseases. But opposition to fossil fuel power plants, in the name of preventing climate change, ensures that these "indigenous" lifestyles, diseases and deaths will continue.

Opposition to hydroelectric projects (damming rivers) and nuclear power (radioactive wastes) likewise perpetuates endemic Third World poverty. So would a new European Union proposal to tax imports from China, India and other poor countries that are exempt from the Kyoto Protocol, because this gives them an "unfair trade advantage" over EU countries that are struggling to meet their Kyoto #1 commitments.

But UK Climate Change Minister Ian Pearson insists that climate change "is one of the most pressing issues facing countries in sub-Saharan Africa." And environmental zealots blame malaria rates on climate change, to deflect charges that their callous opposition to insecticides is killing African babies.

Elsewhere, government and private studies calculate that the Protocol would cost the United States up to $348 billion in 2012. The average American family of four would pay an extra $2,700 annually for energy and consumer goods, and in US minority communities, the climate treaty would destroy 1.3 million jobs and "substantially affect" standards of living.

Yet, even perfect compliance with Kyoto would result in Earth's temperature being only 0.2 degrees F less by 2050 than under a business-as-usual scenario. Assuming humans really are the culprits, actually controlling theoretical global temperature increases would require 40 Kyoto treaties - each one more restrictive, each one expanding government control over housing, transportation, heating, cooling and manufacturing decisions.

The real danger is that we will handcuff economies and hammer poor families, to promote solutions which won't solve a problem that the evidence increasingly suggests is moderate, manageable and primarily natural in origin.

The real catastrophe is that we are already using overwrought claims about a climate cataclysm to justify depriving Earth's most impoverished citizens of electricity and other modern technologies that would make their lives infinitely better.

Real ethics and social responsibility would weigh these costs and benefits, foster robust debate about every aspect of climate change, ensure continued technological advancement, and give a seat at the decision table to the real stakeholders: not climate alarmists - but those who have to live with the consequences of decisions that affect their access to energy, health, hope, opportunity and prosperity.


Recycling fanaticism in Britain

A householder has told of his despair at being landed with a criminal record for putting a scrap of paper in a bin bag meant for bottles and cans. Michael Reeves, 28, has become Britain's first recycling martyr after a court fined him 200 pounds for disobeying rules about sorting his rubbish. He had volunteered to take part in a recycling scheme launched by Swansea Council. But somehow a single piece of junk mail found its way into a bag designated for other rubbish. And when council workers found his name and address on it, they prosecuted.

Last night the case provoked widespread anger. Even environmentalists said that it could put people off recycling as millions of householders already struggle to make sense of bewildering rules governing how to dispose of their rubbish.

Mr Reeves told The Mail on Sunday: "I now have a criminal record and it will weigh me down like a millstone. I will have to explain myself every time I apply for a new job. And if I want to go to the United States I will have to apply for a special entry visa." Mr Reeves, a sports writer, also spoke of his frustration at his time-consuming journey through five court hearings. "Not satisfied with a false accusation of mixing up my rubbish, they tried to throw in an additional charge of leaving the bags out on the wrong day,' he said. "Looked at in one way it is a hilarious tale of barmy bureaucracy - but I found it no laughing matter."

Last night, campaign group the Taxpayers' Alliance accused local authorities of cynically using the environment as an excuse to collect extra revenue. Director James Frayne said: "This is a joke. The Green movement in Britain is in danger of being hijacked by tax-hungry politicians. People will soon start to associate going green with going broke."

Mr Reeves denied even putting the letter in the bag. There were no witnesses nor camera footage of him doing so, but magistrates still found him guilty. "I am not a violent man or a drunkard. I have not held up a bank. I have not committed fraud. But when I allowed a single piece of junk mail to appear in the wrong sort of recycling bag I found myself committing a crime. It was not me who put the letter in the recycling bag. It was not even my bag. Yet the presence of my address amid the cans and bottles was enough for the court to find me guilty. I have always been happy to do my bit for the environment - but I couldn't care less now."

Mr Reeves said his first mistake was to put his rubbish out a day early, but only because he was going on holiday the next day. It was met with a warning that any further slip-ups would result in legal action. "Duly warned I carried on separating the rubbish,' he said. Then came the summons accusing him of breaching the order. "I was shocked and had no idea what to do,' he said. "I couldn't sleep. At one point I even thought I might end up in jail." He added: "The irony is that I would have been better off not recycling at all, just loading everything into a single rubbish bag. But like most people I supported the principle and was happy to play my part."

It is only in the past six months that local authorities have pursued those who flout the rules with any vigour. They have had the power to set down rules on how rubbish is sorted since 1990, but the law has not previously been tested because recycling schemes have only really developed on a wide scale since a 1999 EU ruling limiting how much waste each country can bury in landfill. Donna Challice of Exeter was the first person to be prosecuted for putting the wrong rubbish in her recycling bin, but she was acquitted after a 6,000 pound case because the council could not prove she was responsible.

Friends of the Earth said Mr Reeves' case 'may put people off recycling - and that's bad news'. A Swansea Council spokesman said: "It is very rare for us to take this line but it is unfortunate that Mr Reeves didn't contact us at any point. When he failed to respond to a second enforcement notice over his contaminated rubbish, we had no option but to issue a summons. "It was dealt with in the magistrates court which means Mr Reeves now has a criminal record"



Below is an excerpt from a scholarly review of one of Al Gore's books which points out how closely Gore follows the thinking of Nazi philosopher Martin Heidegger

The Real Source for The Fate of the Earth in the Balance
Despite the parade of quotes and references from Plato and Arendt, there is one thinker conspicuously absent from both Schell and Gore's numerous citations but whose spirit is present on almost every page of both books: Martin Heidegger. Perhaps the absence of a reference to Heidegger is due to reticence or discretion, given Heidegger's dubious and complicated association with Nazism. Nothing derails an argument faster than playing the reductio ad Hitlerum card. More likely it is the abstruse and difficult character of Heidegger's arguments; Gore and Schell may not realize how closely the core of their argument about the technological alienation of man from nature tracks Heidegger's more thorough account in his famous 1953 essay "The Question Concerning Technology."

Heidegger asks, "What is modern technology?" His understanding of technology is sometimes rendered in translation as "technicity" to convey a defective way of knowing about phenomena, and to distinguish the term from its more common usage to mean mere scientific instrumentality (think gadgets). Heidegger believed that our mode of objectifying nature alienates mankind from perceiving and contemplating pure "Being." Whatever this may mean--and even Heidegger's followers admit it is obscure (Heidegger himself wrote that "we are asking about something which we barely grasp"[22])--Heidegger suggests that philosophy has been asking the wrong questions since the very beginning, and the culmination of this wrong track is modern technology, which completes the alienation of man from nature. This is where Heidegger prepares the way for Gore. Modern technology, according to Heidegger,

puts to nature the unreasonable demand that it supply energy which can be extracted and stored as such. . . . The earth now reveals itself as a coal-mining district, the soil as a mineral deposit. The field that the peasant formerly cultivated and set in order appears different from how it did when to set in order still meant to take of and maintain. . . . But meanwhile even the cultivation of the field has come under the grip of another kind of setting-in-order, which sets upon [italics in original] nature. It sets upon it in the sense of challenging it. Agriculture is now the mechanized food industry. Air is now set upon to yield nitrogen, the earth to yield ore, ore to yield uranium, for example; uranium is set upon to yield atomic energy, which can be released either for destruction or for peaceful use.

Here are Gore's parallel passages:

[O]ur civilization is holding ever more tightly to its habit of consuming larger and larger quantities every year of coal, oil, fresh air and water, trees, topsoil, and the thousand other substances we rip from the crust of the earth. . . . We seem increasingly eager to lose ourselves in the forms of culture, society, technology, the media, and the rituals of production and consumption, but the price we pay is a loss of our spiritual lives.


Our seemingly compulsive need to control the natural world . . . has driven us to the edge of disaster, for we have become so successful at controlling nature than we have lost our connection to it.

It is possible to compile a long inventory of close parallels between Heidegger and Gore. For example, Heidegger told interviewers in 1966:

[T]echnicity increasingly dislodges man and uproots him from the earth. . . . The last 30 years have made it clearer that the planet-wide movement of modern technicity is a power whose magnitude in determining [our] history can hardly be overestimated.

Heidegger also found the earth-from-space photos as affecting as Gore and Schell:

I don't know if you were shocked, but [certainly] I was shocked when a short time ago I saw the pictures of the earth taken from the moon. We do not need atom bombs at all [to uproot us]--the uprooting of man is already here. All our relationships have become merely technical ones. It is no longer upon an earth than man lives today.

Gore likes to cite the supposed proverb that the Chinese symbol for "crisis" also means "opportunity." Heidegger was fond of quoting a line from the German poet H"lderlin: "Where danger lies, there too grows the chance for salvation." And is it necessary to mention that Heisenberg's uncertainty principle also shows up for duty in Heidegger's essay on technology? Heidegger is often said to have advocated a return to pre-Socratic philosophy, though in fact he was skeptical that there was any philosophical solution to the problem he perceived. Gore follows Heidegger closely when he criticizes Plato and the Western philosophic tradition for preparing the ground for modern man's estrangement from nature:

The strange absence of emotion, the banal face of evil so often manifested by mass technological assaults on the global environment, is surely a consequence of the belief in an underlying separation of intellect from the physical world. At the root of this belief lies a heretical understanding of humankind's place in the world as old as Plato, as seductive in its mythic appeal as Gnosticism, as compelling as the Cartesian promise of Promethean power--and it has led to tragic results.

Political Implications

Assuming for the purposes of discussion that Gore's Heideggerian analysis is correct, can a reconnection of intellect and the physical world be accomplished through politics--or led by politicians? Heidegger did not think so, which is why he said it would be impossible for him to write an ethical or political treatise.[29] He doubted democracy offered any hope. In an interview late in life, Heidegger said, "For me today it is a decisive question as to how any political system--and which one--can be adapted to an epoch of technicity. I know of no answer to this question. I am not convinced that it is democracy."[30] Heidegger was contemptuous of postwar democratic reforms--calling them "halfway measures"--including individual constitutional rights, because:

I do not see in them any actual confrontation with the world of technicity, inasmuch as behind them all, according to my view, stands the conception that technicity in its essence is something that man holds within his own hands.

Heidegger thought American democracy was the most hopeless of all, in words that sound in substance exactly like Gore's complaint:

[Americans] are still caught up in a thought that, under the guise of pragmatism, facilitates the technical operation and manipulation [of things], but at the same time blocks the way to reflection upon the genuine nature of modern technicity.

(Separately, Heidegger wrote that America epitomized "the emerging monstrousness of modern times."[32])

From here it is possible to comprehend more dispassionately Heidegger's attraction to the Nazi movement in the 1930s. He had no brief for fascism in general or National Socialism in particular, nor was he an anti-Semite. What he expressed in his famous "Rector's Address" in 1934 was that the "inner truth and greatness" of the Nazi movement was its potential "encounter between technicity on the planetary level and modern man," and that it "casts its net in these troubled waters of `values' and `totalities,'" or, as he put it a 1948 letter to Herbert Marcuse, "a spiritual renewal of life in its entirety." In other words, the "wrenching transformation" of Germany that the Nazi revolution set in motion held the potential for reconnecting humankind with the essence of Being in a primal, pre-Socratic way. Heidegger's moral blindness to the phenomenon in front of him exposes the hazard of an excessively abstract approach to human existence. As Heidegger's example shows, the idea of transforming human consciousness through politics is likely an extremist--and potentially totalitarian--project.

Reviewing the fundamentally Heideggerian understanding of our environmental predicament in Gore's thought throws new light on the deeper meaning of Gore's call for a "wrenching transformation" of civilization on the level of thought. Gore would no doubt be sincerely horrified at the suggested parallel between his themes and Heidegger's moral blindness toward political extremism, and rightly reject it as the implication of his views. He is, thankfully, too imbued with the innate American democratic tradition to embrace any such extremism. But it is fair to ask whether he has fully thought through the implications of his ambitious critique. In the case of both Gore and Schell before him, the Heideggerian approach reveals a certain cast of mind: deeply pessimistic, but utopian at the same time. Our salvation demands submitting to the moral authority of their "vision" to change our "consciousness." After all, one aspect of Plato that Heidegger approves of is the view that mankind will suffer unremitting disaster until either rulers become philosophers or philosophers become rulers. (Indeed it was the failure of intellectuals to guide the Nazi movement that led to its ruin, Heidegger thought.) Gore seems to be making a round trip, looking to end up on either end of this potentiality, envisioning himself either as a ruler who has become a philosopher or as a philosopher who may yet (again) become a ruler.

Is it so farfetched to suggest that this has some problematic, if unintended, political implications? One of Gore's sound and important arguments in Earth in the Balance and An Inconvenient Truth is that it is a profound error to suppose that the earth's environment is so robust that there is little or nothing that mankind could do to damage it seriously. He is right, as was Heidegger, to point out the immense earthshaking power of modern technology. But there is a symmetrical observation to be made of Gore's metaphysical approach to the problem, which is that it is an equally profound error to suppose that the environment of human liberty is so robust that there is no political intervention on behalf of the environment that could not damage liberty in serious ways, especially if the environment is elevated to the central organizing principle of civilization. Implicit in this goal is downgrading human liberty as the central organizing principle of civilization. There are no index entries in Earth in the Balance for "liberty," "freedom," or "individualism." Heidegger believed the liberal conceptions of these great terms were meaningless or without foundation. There is no acknowledgement in Gore's book that this is even a serious consideration. Gore's one discussion of the matter is not reassuring:

In fact, what many feel is a deep philosophical crisis in the West has occurred in part because this balance [between rights and responsibilities] has been disrupted: we have tilted so far toward individual rights and so far away from any sense of obligation that it is now difficult to muster an adequate defense of any rights vested in the community at large or the nation--much less rights properly vested in all humankind or in posterity.

But Is It Necessary?

Is Gore's high-level metaphysical analysis necessary in the first place? Do we really have to resolve or unwind the problem of Platonic idealism and Cartesian dualism to address the problem of climate change? The example of the previous case in point--the arms race--suggests an answer. The arms race did not require a revolution in human consciousness or a transformation of national and global political institutions to bring about rapid and favorable changes. The kind of grandiose, pretentious thinking exemplified in Fate of the Earth played little or no role in these shifts. The problem turned out to be much simpler. The acute problem of the superpower arms race was mostly a moral problem--not a metaphysical problem--arising from the character of the irreconcilable regimes. As was frequently pointed out, the United States never worried about British or French nuclear weapons. Once the United States and the Soviet Union were able to establish a level of trust and common interest, unwinding the arms race became a relatively easy matter. Nuclear weapons and the threat of nuclear proliferation in unsavory regimes (Iran, North Korea) is still around today, but the acute existential threat of the arms race has receded substantially.

In the early 1980s, The Fate of the Earth became the Bible for the nuclear freeze movement--the simplistic idea brought to you by the same people who thought Ronald Reagan was a simpleton. To his credit, then representative and later senator Gore opposed the nuclear freeze. Nowadays Gore has started to call for an immediate freeze on greenhouse-gas emissions, which he must know is unrealistic. His explanation in a recent speech shows that he missed entirely the lesson from that earlier episode:

An immediate freeze [on CO2 emissions] has the virtue of being clear, simple, and easy to understand. It can attract support across partisan lines as a logical starting point for the more difficult work that lies ahead. I remember a quarter century ago when I was the author of a complex nuclear arms control plan to deal with the then rampant arms race between our country and the former Soviet Union. At the time, I was strongly opposed to the nuclear freeze movement, which I saw as simplistic and naive. But, three-quarters of the American people supported it--and as I look back on those years I see more clearly now that the outpouring of public support for that very simple and clear mandate changed the political landscape and made it possible for more detailed and sophisticated proposals to eventually be adopted.

The irony of this statement is that since the moral and political differences between the United States and the Soviet Union could not be resolved diplomatically, the way to move relations forward was to convert relations into a technical problem (i.e., negotiations over the number and specifications of weapons systems). Gore remained firmly within the technocratic arms-control community throughout this period, even as Schell and others tried to moralize the arms-control problem with the nuclear freeze proposal. But the moral confusion (some critics said the premise of moral equivalence) of the freeze idea made it a sideshow at best and a hindrance at worst. On the contrary, President Reagan's resistance to the freeze, as well as the conventions of the arms-control process to which Gore held, were crucial to his strategy for changing the dynamic of the arms race. Having been an arms-control technocrat in the 1980s, Gore today wants to turn the primarily technical and economic problems of climate change into a moral problem.

Gore's argument that climate change is a moral problem and not a political problem is not serious, since the leading prescriptions for treating the problem all require massive applications of political power on a global scale. Skeptics and cynics might dismiss Gore's metaphysical speculations as mere intellectual preening, as many critics did with Fate of the Earth in the 1980s. But such an approach to environmental issues may be an obstacle to many practical, incremental steps that can be taken to solve real climate-policy problems. Once one grasps the Heideggerian character of the Gore approach to thinking about environmental problems, the hesitance about nuclear power comes into better focus. Gore and others in his mold dislike large-scale technologies because they are intrinsic to mankind's mastery of nature that is driving our supposed alienation from nature. This same premise also explains the frequently hostile reaction of many environmentalists to suggestions that adaptation to climate change should be a part of any serious climate policy, even though many leading climate scientists and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have embraced adaptation. The suggestion that technologies for climate modification might be developed, which would be the climate policy equivalent of Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, are greeted contemptuously for the same reason.

Will climate policy ultimately be guided by physicians or metaphysicians? Gore's high-profile position on these issues tilts the balance toward metaphysicians. This is certain to generate ferocious resistance to change well beyond merely self-interested industries. Gore would be better off following the advice of Heidegger critic Stanley Rosen, and "step downward, out of the thin atmosphere of the floating island of Laputa or of the balloons in which so many of our advanced thinkers are currently suspended, back into the rich air of everyday life." That's a fancy way of saying, "Take a deep breath, Al."



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

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