Well, it seemed a good idea at the time
22 September 2014 10:00 (South Africa)
Opinionista Ivo Vegter

Too late to cool it?

  • Ivo Vegter
While governments are all geared up in Copenhagen to tax the bejesus out of everything that moves – literally – even the BBC is turning cool on global warming.

Old Ronald Reagan once said: "Government's view of the economy can be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidise it."

A decade or two of hysteria fuelled by wealthy green groups and self-important worrywarts is reaching a culmination of sorts. Face it, when an apparently serious book comes out entitled, Time to Eat the Dog: The Real Guide to Sustainable Living, which claims that a medium-sized meat-eating dog produces as much greenhouse gas as a Toyota Land Cruiser driven 6 000 miles a year, and that your cat is the equivalent of a VW Golf, one surely suspects a small measure of insanity. Where do you go from there, propaganda-wise? Advise people to eat their children?

The increasingly shrill alarmism has been cheered by would-be competitors to the companies that produce the most effective and efficient energy that drives the modern economy. Green technology companies cannot compete on a level playing field, because what they're selling isn't actually sustainable, but they stand to gain billions if their incumbent rivals are burdened with heavy taxes and regulations.

Al Gore knows this full well. He founded a firm, Generation Investment Management, which has hundreds of millions under management to speculate in sustainable technology ventures. Out the other side of his mouth, he complains about the "vested interests" of those who don't wish to be taxed out of existence.

Governments are, of course, happy to oblige. Politicians always need new ways to raise taxes and increase their power, and finding some popular moral crusade as an excuse is a godsend. This is why they're in Copenhagen, once famous for skeptical environmentalist Bjørn Lomborg's Copenhagen Consensus Project to evaluate solutions to global problems on a sober cost-benefit basis.

The politicians are pessimistic that a legally binding agreement will emerge, and one can only hope that their view is well-founded. Some of them are talking of reducing emissions by 80% by 2050, which would bring to a grinding halt just about everything that moves. Try farming without tractors or feeding cities without trucks. Alternatively, try delude yourself that clean alternatives can replace this much energy use. And if, by some chance, the richest countries manage that, spare a thought for the poor half of the world's population, who would be denied the opportunity to attain the levels of development that in the rich world has eradicated much disease, ended malnutrition, and doubled life expectancy.
The irony is that as the warming hysteria reaches a crescendo and precipitates massively costly state intervention in the lives of billions, the evidence for global warming is becoming weaker by the day.

Even the BBC, which has long pounded the drums of doom in both opinion and news coverage, recently published What happened to global warming?, an article pondering whatever happened to global warming. Most of us who bothered to keep an eye on the data – especially since a series of scandals about errors and manipulation surfaced – have long been aware that the 1998 peak, which was as high as the 1930s dustbowl-era peak, was the last peak. In fact, for over a decade now, global temperatures have been declining.

Not a single computer model predicted this. Not one.

Of course, if the computer models were so good, perhaps we wouldn't need 20 of them to be fed self-fulfilling prophesies and incomplete information to extract some validation for the preconceived notions of the modellers.

None of the scientists that formed the so-called consensus that "the science is settled" predicted that this would happen. Not one.

They were all going on about a tipping point, a speculative notion based on observations from Venus, but which are contradicted by observations on Earth. The Earth has, curiously, never reached such a tipping point before, despite having found itself with both higher and lower concentrations of greenhouse gases at various points in its history, and with both higher and lower temperatures.

As for the cause of higher temperatures, none of the alarmists have managed to explain the curious fact that the claimed effect of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, namely rising temperatures, happens to precede the cause. Al Gore calls this "complicated". Yes, sir, it's "complicated" in the same way that time travel is "complicated".

We now appear to be 11 years into a cooling cycle. No doubt that is a crisis too. It heralded the next ice age, back in the 1970s. In fact, farmers in the higher latitudes may very well agree, as may the populations they feed in the present mild climate.

No doubt, the alarmists will try to prevaricate and dissimulate, trying desperately to explain this inconvenient truth away. It must feel terrible to have your most dearly held and loudly shouted beliefs proven wrong by cold fact.

However, the number of people who are convinced that global warming is a serious problem, or that global warming is primarily caused by human activity, has been dropping fast in the last 18 months, despite ongoing propaganda, directed research and special-interest lobbying worth billions.

If we're now wondering what happened to global warming, perhaps it is not such a good idea to drop a dead weight on the already-fragile global economy. Perhaps it is time to let reason triumph over emotion, and spend our efforts on problems we know exist and know how to solve. Let us hope the UN's Copenhagen Climate Change conference is bewailed as a monumental failure by the vested interests of the green lobby, and a belated victory for the rational cost-benefit analysis of the Copenhagen Consensus.

  • Ivo Vegter
  • Sci-Tech
IvoVegterBW

Ivo Vegter is a columnist and the author of Extreme Environment, a book on environmental exaggeration and how it harms emerging economies. He approaches issues from the perspective of individual liberty and free markets. He grew up in the deep south of Johannesburg, and learnt his politics reading the Weekly Mail and Vrye Weekblad at Wits University during the early years of the country's transition to democracy. He recently left the city for the lower cost of living of Knysna, where he continues to write about everything under the sun. He is always right.

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