In a certain state that will remain nameless, mob-controlled construction companies built deficient roads with substandard concrete sold by mob-controlled firms. The overweight trucks of those companies broke up the poorly built roads, necessitating more construction. It was a businessman's "dream scenario". (As Yakob Smirnoff used to say, "What a country!")
I cite this by way of noting that a politician's similar dream scenario is at hand: i.e., a problem on which no exertion or expenditure, however great, can ever produce improvement. In the optimum situation (for politicians), "solutions" spawn new problems requiring ever-greater expenditures. The problem can never be fixed. Politicians love this because it assures endless money and ever-growing power over people's lives. In the end, it reduces a nation to ruin while achieving little except fattening generations of poltroons and brigands at the public trough.
Redoubling your efforts on a failed strategy is one definition of insanity. Surely we have smarter people than this working for us. Yet, even now, the richest, smartest, most productive nation that ever existed is poised to let itself be driven to ruin by the silliest quest in all of history: an attempt to change the climate. The Greeks called this "hubris". It is what happens when a nation thinks it can do anything - or becomes too stupid to differentiate the possible from the impossible.
Green politics began in the 1960s with the estimable goal of reducing air- and water-pollution. Decades of pollution had done many American waterways almost to death. Communities poured raw sewage directly into rivers from which downstream communities drew their drinking water. Factories, mills and processing plants used prime lakeside sites to dump tailings, rubbish and effluvia into those waters. Industries in Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland and Buffalo poured so much pollution into Lake Erie that it was feared irretrievably "dead" by the 1960s.
Air pollution also worsened through the twentieth century. In 1940s Pittsburgh, smog from steel-making was so bad that motorists used headlights at midday. Many areas experienced temperature inversions during the 1970s that produced dangerous air-quality of several days' duration. People with respiratory conditions were urged not to go outdoors or exert themselves.
Most of these dangerous situations are now either gone or much abated because of laws that stopped destructive practices, mandated clean technology, and heightened public awareness of the importance of protecting the environment. The greens have done much good in these matters. Their mission has been accomplished.
Unfortunately, political organizations do not cope well with success. They always need "one more river to cross". People who have striven for decades to solve a great problem are neither mentally nor emotionally prepared to dismantle machinery that has become their reason for being. They must find a new cause. Thus, the Greens have moved from fighting pollution to stopping global warming. In the process, these two "causes" have become so entangled that the public now has them confused. Politicians and sympathetic news media have encouraged the mistaken notion that questioning global warming actually equals approval of pollution.
There was a clarity about defeating pollution that the man on the street could grasp. A major source of air-pollution was automobiles - not because the internal combustion engine burned gasoline, but because it was burning nitrogen from the air. High-compression engines (needed for greater power and speed) were producing nitrous oxide (NO), a dangerous pollutant. First we tried lower compression ratios, but this produced underpowered cars. Finally, the catalytic converter came along to reduce oxidized nitrogen into its constituent elements. Cleaning streams and lakes also made sense to non-scientific people.
Global warming lacks that same clarity. But neither politicians nor reporters are helping people to understand that. Instead, politicians like Al Gore (and, lately, George W. Bush) claim that global warming science is "settled" and that burning hydrocarbons is definitely warming the planet. Scientists, however, disagree on the answers to several key questions:
(1) Is the atmosphere really getting warmer?
(2) If so, is human activity causing it?
(3) Can anything be done to stop it?
(4) Will warming hurt us, if it is happening?
(5) Will measures proposed to stop warming do anything except burn money?
Each of these represents a scientific debate that is far from "settled". The short answer to the first question, for instance, is "Yes and No": some locations are getting warmer; others are not. Also, the time-span at issue is too short for inference of a real trend. In 1980, cars were driving across the frozen Potomac River, near Washington, and we were hearing about an impending new "ice age" because of some extra-cold winters. Three decades later we think we're going to roast. The so-called "little ice age" spanned 1350 to 1850 (exact dates arguable), and the Medieval Warm Period spanned AD 850-1250. What can we tell from a mere 30 years? Scientists raise this inconvenient question, but politicians and reporters dislike having their paradigm upset.
On question #2, some scientists estimate human emissions to be responsible for no more than 5% of global warming. Thus, removing all human activity would reduce warming by just 5% - i.e., the statistical equivalent of chasing a mouse in the kitchen while ignoring the elephant standing in the parlor. Increasingly, scientists are realizing that climate flux is caused primarily by variation in the sun's heat. Volcanic events can also perturb the climate far more than human effects.
Politicians deal with these bothersome questions by declaring the issue "settled" and trying to stifle further debate. The global warming bandwagon is rolling, and they want to climb aboard. Al Gore (a.k.a Ozone Man) is attracting strange bedfellows, like mega-church pastor Rick Warren, to his quixotic quest to cool the climate. The combined scientific credentials of both men could fit on a postage stamp. Eighty-six evangelical Christian leaders have followed Dr. Rick's lead by endorsing a major initiative to fight global warming. Ministers and political hacks are trying to stampede the public on the most far-reaching scientific issue of our time.
Why has global warming become so important? Because it is the politicians' dream mentioned earlier - a boundless source of money and political control. Greens could use it to gain control of the world economy. If enough voters can be scared into believing that we are going to fry the planet, they will accede to higher taxes and ever-tightening controls on their lives. There will be money to burn - specifically, to be spent on dubious anti-warming technology.
Recognizing this, a gaggle of American corporations has joined the new U. S. Climate Action Partnership. USCAP advocates "strong national legislation to require significant reductions of greenhouse gas emissions" (per its recently released statement). Members already include Alcoa, BP America, Caterpillar Inc., Duke Energy, DuPont, Environmental Defense, FPL Group, General Electric, Lehman Brothers, Natural Resources Defense Council, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, PG&E Corp., PNM Resources, and World Resources Institute. More firms will surely follow as CEOs see the advantage of getting in on the green ground floor.
Writer Steven Milloy calls USCAP part of the new "eco-industrial complex". (1) Many early members hope to sell high-priced, politically favored "green technology" to the rest of us. But Mr. Milloy warns that some firms might support USCAP's climate-goals in return for valuable political concessions - e.g., government subsidization of high health-insurance costs.
In recent days, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report claiming that greenhouse gases already emitted will warm the climate for the next 1,000 years. Oh, no kidding? Meteorologists can't reliably predict the weather for the next week, but politicians want us to believe thousand-year predictions made by computer models that cannot even account for our current climate.
We are spinning out of control over a natural phenomenon that is not clearly a problem and is certainly not changeable by us. We might pour fortunes into it, but the result will be a whole lot of expensive nothing. If political ignorance prevails over science and common sense, it could wreck our economy, our government and our lives.
Climate scientist Dr. S. Fred Singer quotes H. L. Mencken: "The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule it." Americans are savvy enough to see this - at least, they used to be. Let's pray that they still are. The global warming bandwagon needs to be stopped before the politicians' dream becomes a nightmare.
(1) "Beware the Eco-industrial complex", by Steven Milloy. http://www.washingtontimes.com/commentary/20070130-085828-5530r.htm