ImageA respected international ministry that I know well assists third world countries and people. I appreciate their work and support it financially. An article in the ministry's recent newsletter mentioned a severe drought in Malawi - a small nation in southeastern Africa, bordered by Zambia to the northwest, Tanzania to the north and Mozambique on the east, south and west.

The author wrote that the years-long drought "...was climate change in action", adding that "much research has indicated that most of the climate change problems are human induced, a result of our failure to exercise proper stewardship over the creation." A quote from Nazmal Chowdhury, project manager of Practical Action Bangaladesh, emphasized the point: "Forget about making poverty history - Climate Change will make poverty permanent."

The article urged Americans to reduce their "carbon footprints" by replacing incandescant light bulbs with Al Gore's  fluourescent bulbs. We are told that if 110 million American households replace one incandescant bulb with a new bulb, the energy saved could power a city of 1.5 million people. "In terms of oil not burned, or greenhouse gases not exhausted into the atmosphere, one bulb is the equivalent of taking 1.3 million cars off the roads."

I don't really know if those energy data are accurate, but let us say that they are. What draws my attention is the writer's three-pronged premise: i.e., (1) climate-change/warming is caused by carbon dioxide emissions; (2) climate-change/warming causes droughts; and (3) humans can do something to stop this chain via small, relatively painless actions.

This is certainly the buzz in Big Media and in the halls of Congress. But scientists - at least real ones - don't agree on any of these points. They are only unproven theories. Al Gore won an Academy Award for his global warming film, but scientists dispute his data and his conclusions.

Subsequently, I wrote to the ministry's director suggesting that it would be unwise to split their supporters, unnecessarily, into camps of those who "believe" in global warming and those who do not. Such divisions rarely help organizations that depend on contributions for their existence. Some of my comments from that letter are included in the following paragraphs.

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Anyone can believe whatever he likes about climate change. It's a free country. But what happens as a result of those beliefs might not be free or even cheap. Scientists don't "believe" in things. They pose theories and then prove or disprove them. Government is different: it goes with the flow of "societal thought" (is that an oxymoron?), so what it does about climate change might be unscientific. And it might have expensive consequences in America and in countries where charitable ministries operate. This is why the entire topic is being so vigorously disputed.

In fact, the climate-issue is now almost wholly political, since climate-science does not unambiguously support the theory that carbon dioxide is changing the climate. Nor does science validate warming as the cause of drought, extreme storms or other weather phenomena. As recently as 1980, politicians and some scientists were warning that the climate was cooling toward a new ice age and that the cooling had caused destructive tornadoes in the 1970s. Many of those same claims are now being made about global warming. (Same story - different title.)

Mega-church figures like Rick Warren have stepped out boldly on global warming and climate change, calling them matters of responsible Christian stewardship, but I believe they will come to regret this. They are out of their depth on the science. So are politicians like Al Gore, Newt Gingrich, John McCain, Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton. All of them will end up looking foolish as new data and theories emerge, while their own understanding stays frozen in time.

That is already true. Public figures claim warming is a "crisis" requiring immediate action. Yet the data show that warming hasn't been occurring since 1998. We're cooling off, but data don't seem to matter when the bandwagon is rolling. (Film clips of ice chunks falling into the ocean or polar bears swimming in the open sea are not "data" indicating warming, any more than photos of 1930s people with handfuls of cash indicate that the Great Depression wasn't really "poor".)

Temperature data show that the global climate began to warm slightly in 1980, after a 40-year cold period that spanned a world war and the post-war industrial boom. Warming lasted through 1998, when cooling began again. Last winter was the coldest in a century, in both the northern and southern hemispheres. Jerusalem had heavy snow; China and Canada had severe cold. Siberia had its most extensive snow cover in decades. The Antarctic ice cap grew in area and volume.

Climate expert Dr. William Gray has debunked Al Gore's claims that hurricanes have increased in frequency and severity in recent years. George Bush's failure to sign the Koyoto Treaty did not "cause" Katrina. Global warming does not cause typhoons, floods, droughts or shark attacks. 

To sidestep the inconvenience of recent cooling - news of which has leaked out despite media attempts to ignore it - activists now use the term "climate change", which they think covers all possibilities. They believe we must arrest climate change. Says who? Climate is constantly changing. There have always been droughts, storms and floods - long before industry, the automobile and electric power generation. The Medieval Warm Period (ca. AD 900-1300) saw grapes growing in northern England, Vikings plying the north Atlantic in open boats, and farming in southern Greenland. The warmer climate could have had no human cause, as it far preceded the industrial age. Western societies prospered during that time.

Scientists far more learned than Al Gore or Rick Warren theorize that earth's climate correlates closely with sunspot activity: more sunspots matching warm periods, and fewer sunspots matching colder periods. The so-called Maunder Minimum, discovered by scientist Edward Maunder, featured exceptionally low sunspot activity during 1645-1715. This was one of the coldest periods in the second millennium of the Christian Era.

More than 31,000 scientists - including 9,000 Ph.D.s in atmospheric science, climatology, earth science, etc. - recently signed a petition disputing the linkage of carbon dioxide emissions to climate change (either warming or cooling). The petition's announcement before the National Press Club in Washington, on May 19, 2008, received very little attention. It was total non-news for American Big Media, who are fully invested in warming as "indisputable fact". The dismissive label, "deniers", cannot fit a company of scientists of that size and quality.

Art Robinson, the petition's organizer and founder, stated: "The campaign to severely ration hydrocarbon energy technology has now been markedly expanded. In the course of this campaign, many scientifically invalid claims about impending climate emergencies are being made. Simultaneously, proposed political actions to severely reduce hydrocarbon use now threaten the prosperity of Americans and the very existence of hundreds of millions of people in poorer countries. It is especially important for America to hear from its citizens who have the training necessary to evaluate the relevant data and offer sound advice."

Czech President Vaclav Klaus recently denounced the global warming scare as "red socialism in green clothing". (His statements also received very little American media coverage.) Having lived under the dead hand of communism for decades, Mr. Klaus knows whereof he speaks. He sees the tyrannical global warming movement as more dangerous than any risk from global warming - if warming were actually occurring, which he disputes vigorously. He also cites scientific and economic predictions that pollution will decrease as societal wealth increases - something that will not happen under the oppression and heavy taxation of green socialism. This has been repeatedly borne out by the history of the 20th century. Impoverished socialist countries like the USSR and China are notorious polluters, while free countries have cleaner air and water because they can afford to keep them clean. Pollution control is a matter of wealth, not good intentions.

This brings us back to the poverty of places like Malawi, where desperately poor people are trying to scratch a living from drought-plagued land with primitive tools. Droughts happen all the time, all over the world. Why don't they affect us (in the USA)? They can, sometimes - as in the 1930s dust bowl - but we are less susceptible to weather extremes because we are an industrial society. We earn our bread in ways other than scratching out bare subsistence on small plots of land. Our highly mechanized farming multiplies the efforts of individual farmers many-fold. Technology is the secret of defeating poverty. Poor countries need to be let in on the secret.

The undeveloped Third World longs to achieve the same development and wealth that the West has. Africa has nearly a billion people. Many of them live in a primitive manner that no American - even our "poor" - would tolerate for a minute. The continent sits on vast untapped resources of coal, oil, natural gas, and uranium, but powerful forces in the West oppose development of those resources in order to keep Africa "pristine".

Advocates of "primitivism" - i.e., a movement that wants to make people live primitively, in (so-called) harmony with nature - argue that Africa must remain undeveloped (and desperately poor) to stop climate change. Former British Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson calls this idea "rubbish". He denounces opposition to Third World development as one of the most outrageously oppressive (and racist) policies in history. "Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant," says Lord Lawson.

Roy Innis, former director of CORE, writes similarly about "Jim Crow Energy Policies".[1] His points are worth pondering. Here are some key passages from his insightful article:

"Energy is the master resource of modern society. It transforms constitutionally protected civil rights into rights we actually enjoy: jobs, homes, transportation, healthcare, and other earmarks of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. With abundant, reliable, affordable energy, much is possible. Without it, hope, opportunity, progress, job creation and civil rights are hobbled.

"Laws and policies that restrict access to America's abundant energy drive up the price of fuel and electricity. They cause widespread layoffs and leave workers and families struggling to survive, as the cost of everything they eat, drive, wear and do spirals higher. They roll back the progress for which civil rights revolutionaries like Dr. Martin Luther King struggled and died.

"These regressive, energy-killing laws and policies deny minority and other poor families a seat at the energy lunch counter, and send us to the back of the economic bus."

The climate change debate is not "over," no matter how often Al Gore says it is - far from it. Facts are stubborn things. The polar bear population is booming, not dying off. The Antarctic Ice Pack is growing, not shrinking. The oceans have cooled, not warmed, over the last five years of deep-ocean data-collection.

All the scare-scenarios of floods, droughts and severe storms come from climate models which cannot correctly predict weather two weeks out, let alone 50 years or a century hence. I spent a career in scientific modeling, so I know how dependent such models are on correct assumptions and accurate mathematical representations of physical phenomena. The watchword of our profession was "garbage in, garbage out". It still is, but politicians ignore this rough wisdom when it suits them. Models cannot produce "evidence" to validate theories.

Part of our problem with climate is size. The atmosphere is huge beyond the comprehension of most of us. Its volume is at least eight times the ocean's volume. We have some concept of the ocean's vast size, since many of us have sailed on it, flown over it or waded in it. We realize how little we can affect it. Huge rivers ceaselessly pour millions of tons of fresh water and silt into the sea, daily, with no noticeable effect on its composition. Yet we have let ourselves be convinced that man is actually changing the far vaster atmosphere. It's more human hubris originating from our miscomprehension of the greatness of God's creation. Christians should not let themselves be deceived in this way. We, of all people, should know better.

That being said, it's fine to husband resources and prevent pollution whenever possible. We can drive less, live in smaller houses and do other energy-efficient things. We might even give up cars and electronic devices entirely, like the Amish. We can walk more (although pulling a handcart full of groceries from the plaza every day might get old). These are individual choices. But the new light bulb being pushed by Wal-Mart and Al Gore is a dubious help. It uses less energy than the incandescent bulb, but it is much more expensive and it causes a mercury hazard if it breaks.

A woman in Maine got a bill for $2,000 to clean up the hazardous waste produced when she broke one of the new bulbs in her home. Mercury poisoning is a far greater risk than climate change is likely to be. I suspect that only political support is keeping the new bulbs on the market. As soon as lawsuits start being filed, the EPA will ban the bulbs for their mercury hazard. I suggest that we wait and see before we recommend that people rush out and buy them.

In my letter I praised the mission's work, but I suggested that theorizing about climate change should be left to others. It is important to discern between respectful treatment of the earth and drastic, theory-based policies that could ruin national economies and harm millions. We need increased emphasis on Third World industrial development to help people - like those in Malawi - to escape poverty. Their economic futures will remain bleak while they live in unhealthy grass huts, scratching food from parched lands with their bare hands. Energy-efficient light bulbs in the USA will not help them. They need energy and technology, and they need them now.

African government officials complain that factories can't operate on power from solar panels or windmills. We know this better than most people on Earth, and we should help those who lack the wonderful scientific and technical gifts our country enjoys. The dollars we might spend on energy-saving light bulbs will go much farther if we use them to help poor countries like Malawi develop their natural resources and improve their agricultural and industrial technology.

 

Trying to save the Earth from "warming" will make us look silly - like those 14th century Italian city fathers who thought the paint in church frescoes caused the Black Plague. They whitewashed all the church walls, destroying priceless artifacts. There was no effect on the sickness. We saw one of those churches in Assisi, Italy. It's a monument to the folly of "doing something" before you know what the problem is - or if there's a problem at all. I don't want my grandchildren to remember my generation as the one that ruined the greatest economy in history because an ambitious politician won an Academy Award for a film based on little more than hot air. 

 

[1] The link to Mr. Innis's article: http://www.townhall.com/columnists/RoyInnis/2008/05/15/jim_crow_energy_policies