Monday, November 8, 2010

A Common Sense Global Warming Believer Brings us "Cool It"

First off I don't believe that man-made global warming exists because I haven't seen any empirical or indisputable evidence which proves it. But, let's say that the globe is warming not because of man but for some other reason, maybe we should look into why and fix it, if it really does need to be fixed.  Here is an article by a common sense man-made global warming believer (not an alarmist Al Gore type) which I found interesting even though I disagree with his premise that man-made global warming exists.

By Bjorn Lomborg: For nearly two decades now, people have been arguing about climate change and getting nowhere. Right-wingers argue that global warming is a hoax based on unsubstantiated science, while left-wingers insist that not only is it real but unless we spend everything we have and more trying to stop it, the world will end tomorrow.

To which I say, “Stop—you’re both wrong!”

This, in a nutshell, is the message of the new documentary about me and my work that opens nationwide on Nov. 12. It’s called “Cool It” and, yes, the title is meant to be clever. The idea is that we do need to cool down the planet, but in order to do it sensibly we first need to cool it ourselves. That is, we need to dispense with both the anti-scientific denialism and the Al Gore-ish fear-mongering. Instead, what we should be doing is facing facts—and responding to them not with rhetoric but with smarter, more rational policies.

The first fact we need to acknowledge is the reality of global warming. Like it or not, the data is abundantly clear that man-made greenhouse gases have been building up in the atmosphere for decades if not centuries, with the result that global temperatures are rising. Yes, the “Climate-gate” emails and the disclosure of funny business at the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change exposed some deeply disturbing academic chicanery and prejudice at some supposedly prestigious institutions. However, these revelations did nothing to undermine the fundamental scientific basis of global warming. What they did call into question were many of the more extreme predictions about global warming’s likely impact—such as the idea that all the Himalayan glaciers were about to disappear (they’re not) or that half the Amazon rain forest would soon be destroyed (not likely).

Of course, these extreme predictions are at the heart of the mainstream environmental movement’s position on climate policy. And this brings us to another set of facts we need to face: that while global warming is real, it is not quite the imminent catastrophe so many climate activists would have us believe. There may be some truth to the notion that in order to get people to focus on a problem, you need to scare the pants off them. But while worst-case scenarios may be a great way to get the public’s attention, they are a terrible basis for making public policy. If you believe that the southwest U.S. is about to become another dustbowl (as Paul Krugman has insisted) or that Greenland and Antarctica are on the verge of becoming huge piles of slush (as Al Gore would have us believe), of course you’re going to argue that we should do everything we can to eliminate carbon emissions as quickly as possible—even if that means amazingly costly and ineffective government policies.

And make no mistake about it—the kind of carbon cuts called for in the Kyoto Protocols and the European Union’s recently adopted 20/20 policy (under which carbon emissions are supposed to be cut to 20% below 1990 levels by 2020) are hardly a recipe for success. Not only would they rob us of trillions of dollars worth of economic output—the EU effort alone would cost an estimated $250 billion a year in lost GDP—but they would do astonishingly little to solve global warming. According to the DICE climate-economic model, if the EU plan were to be implemented every year for the next 90 years, the resulting reduction in temperatures would be too small to measure. (To be precise, the figure is a miniscule 0.1 degrees Fahrenheit.)

The good news is that there is another, better way to deal with global warming—a cure that is most assuredly not worse than the disease. As I have noted elsewhere, the big problem with the Al Gore approach to global warming is that it ignores the fact that despite all the hopeful talk about solar, wind, and other green energy technologies, we are still overwhelmingly dependent for our energy needs on carbon-emitting fuels like coal and oil. Why? Because coal and oil are far cheaper and more efficient energy sources than the alternatives. For two decades now, we have been putting the cart before the horse, pretending we could cut carbon emissions now (by taxing them) and solve the efficiency problem later. Unfortunately, this makes neither economic nor political sense. What we should be doing isn’t trying to make carbon-emitting fuels too expensive to use, but rather figuring out how to make green energy cheaper. If we could do that, we wouldn’t have to force (or subsidize) anyone to stop burning coal and oil. Everyone, including the Chinese and the Indians, would shift to the cheaper and cleaner alternatives.

This of course is a big if. But it’s not impossible. As the Breakthrough Institute has pointed out, we didn’t promote the digital revolution by taxing slide rules or restricting the supply of typewriters. We did it by investing massively in R&D. We could—and should—do the same with green energy technology. As we point out in “Cool It,” devoting roughly $100 billion a year to green energy R&D would likely produce the kind of game-changing breakthroughs needed to fuel a carbon-free future. Not only would this be a much less expensive fix than trying to cut carbon emissions directly, it would also reduce global warming far more quickly.

So why aren’t we doing this? I blame polarization. What’s keeping us from getting anywhere is the lack of any middle ground in the climate debate. As far as the alarmists are concerned, you either believe global warming poses an imminent threat to our continued existence or you are a denier. Deniers can be just as bad: in their view, if you don’t believe global warming is a nefarious hoax, you must be an empty-headed “warmist.” It’s time to retire the old shibboleths of both left and right—and stop branding anyone who dares question them a crackpot or worse.

Tackling global warming smartly is not (or at least it shouldn’t be) a political issue. Being smart is something we ought to be able to find bipartisan agreement on. For the politically conservative, the attraction of this approach is that it is a clear-headed, fiscally responsible response – and one that would actually fix the problem it is meant to solve.

H/T Breitbart

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