Global Warming, Again

The Live Earth concert, just held, was meant to raise our awareness of global warming. It seems many people already are aware of it. Indeed, Sir Bob Geldof, famous for his own Live Aid concert, was a bit forthright, to say the least, when he recently said about the topic and the concert: “We are all f**king conscious of global warming, It’s just an enormous pop concert or the umpteenth time that, say, Madonna or Coldplay get on stage.”

While many in the West may well have had their consciousness raised about global warming, that does not mean they have all the facts on the issue. Indeed, often what the man on the street knows about global warming is quite one-sided at best.

That is because we have allowed the eco-warriors and a compliant media to feed us a pretty slanted picture of the issue, with a number of important bits of information conveniently left out of the discussion. Many experts are still questioning, for example, whether global warming is in fact our most pressing issue. Questions still remain about how much warming is in fact occurring, how much of it is due to human activity, and what might be the best solutions to it.

Danish academic Bjørn Lomborg is one such thinker who believes we are not getting the whole picture on global warming. His best-selling 2001 book, The Skeptical Environmentalist, won him both friends and enemies. Because he has dared to question the reigning orthodoxy about our supposed imminent eco-disaster, he is ignored and/or vilified by many. But those of more sober minds find his research to be a breath of fresh air.

His concerns about the hype over Live Earth and climate change are worth reproducing, in part. Says Lomborg,

“If you ask the 15 million people who are going to die from easily curable infectious diseases next year, the idea that climate change is our top priority seems to be massively overblown. What’s even more important is that you ask: ‘Where can we actually do some good?’ The answer is overwhelmingly: we can do very little good if we focus on climate change policies, whereas we can do immense amounts of good if we focus on some of the many other problems in the world. For example: deadly diseases such as HIV-AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis; malnutrition, especially lack of micronutrients but also lack of calories; and lack of market access. Those are some of the most obvious places where we can put in place very cheap and advantageous policy measures and help huge swathes of humanity. And we’ll be helping them in such a way that their societies become stronger, so that their descendents will get much better off and thereby become much less vulnerable to whatever the future holds – including climate change.”

However, Lomborg clearly does not deny that global warming is a problem, or that it needs to be addressed. “I think Al Gore has done a service to the world by putting climate change clearly at the forefront of people’s minds, as one of our major problems. Climate change is not just natural variation, it is a problem. However, I think Gore has done a great disservice by focusing exclusively on the negative side and on often grossly exaggerated policy consequences, thereby making us unable to make good policy choices. The best policy comes from carefully weighing the costs and benefits, the down-sides and up-sides, to all the different policy issues. If someone is just screaming at the top of their lungs that one problem is more important than all the others, it is unlikely that we will get a good democratic and public debate. Unfortunately I think that, in essence, that is what Gore has done. I understand that he is a single-issue campaigner, and I understand how that works – but it’s very unhelpful in making good judgements.”

Consider just one example of how this skewed perspective works: “Gore points out that with global warming we’re going to see more heat deaths. That is true; we will see 2,000 more heat deaths in Britain by 2080. But at the same time we will also see 20,000 fewer cold deaths from climate change in 2080. It seems to me that only drawing attention to the 2,000 heat deaths and neglecting to tell us about the 20,000 cold deaths is not a good way to inform the democratic debate.”

He concludes, “Ultimately, Live Earth will help to make people more concerned about and more focused on climate change, and thereby less concerned about all the other challenges that face us. And that is unfortunate because, at the end of the day, we’ll end up worrying about the thing which we can do little about, and forgetting all the other problems we can solve right now.”

For those wanting more on this issue from the perspective of Lomborg, his next book, Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming, will be released in September.

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15 Replies to “Global Warming, Again”

  1. Unlike Lomborg, I wouldn’t give Gore even faint praise. He has pushed his AGW bandwagon with scant regard for any opposing view. There is no better term than ‘propaganda blitzkrieg’ to describe how Gore and his disciples have brainwashed large masses of the gullible public.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria.

  2. So much of what Al Gore put into his film has been shown to be untrue…. yet all the politically correct brigade keep promoting him….
    Meanwhile the vote on the ABC ‘Global Warming Swindle’ page (due to be shown on Thursday 12 July) shows 76% of 4287 people say NO to the question “Do you think global warming is primarily caused by human activity?”
    That is DESPITE the fact that most of the comments and articles on the page are promoting global warming as a fact.
    Perhaps there is hope yet that people are thinking critically.
    Check out the website and watch the documentary on Thursday.
    Jenny Stokes

  3. It would seem Bob Geldof has a point. FarmAid continues to put on yearly concerts in the U.S., but most of the money raised is used to cover production costs, not actually going to help farmers in desperate straits. Although I come from a farming tradition myself and have great sympathy for the small farmer, I won’t give FarmAid a dime under those circumstances.

    BTW, one of the recent suggestions for fighting global warming is to cut down the evergreen forests in Siberia. Supposedly the snowpack under the trees prevents heat from being re-radiated back into space and it’s suggested that we could lower the earth’s temperature by as much as 10 degrees if the forests were cut down. The Sierra Club has already come out against that idea, although they also support the global warming premises. It will be interesting to watch and see if these environmental groups start fighting each other over global warming solutions when their particular “ox is suddenly being gored”.

    BTW, I believe we should build wind-driven electricity generators in or near Washington, D.C. The hot air generated by the politicans alone would surely be enough to power half the East coast!

    M.E. Huffmaster

  4. Ewan is right: Gore doesn’t even deserve faint praise. His lives in an energy-guzzling mansion, flies all over the world in greenhouse-gas–spewing jets, and he spruiks forth on population controls although he increased the world’s population by four. In short, he is a rank hypocrite, and a movement headed by rank hypocrites all over deserves little credence.

    He is also a moron, claiming that global warming is a greater threat than terrorism. As Lomborg pointed out above, there are likely to be fewer heat-related deaths in Britain than were killed on 11-9.

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  5. I would like to know how Australia’s contribution will affect the overall “global warming” issue.
    I know we have start somewhere, but what contributions will America, Europe, India and China be making?
    Jim Sturla

  6. There is no doubt that there is exaggeration, lies and omissions coming from both sides of the environmental debate. However it is a fact that a large majority of scientists who study climate related sciences are convinced that humans are at least partly responsibly for the recent rise in average temperates.

    The weight of evidence suggests there is something to worry about, whether or not Al Gore’s movie was narrow and one-sided. It is not an absence of “thinking critically” to accept this evidence as demonstrating the existence of global warming.

    If a majority of climate scientists reach a consensus at some point in the future that the problem has been overstated, that will great news for everyone. Until this time, writing global warming/climate change off as some whimsical left-wing rant seems a little silly to me.

    James Beattie

  7. Thanks James

    Of course the hysteria over global warming is not only the domain of leftwing radicalism. But some of it is. Some radicals have various agendas – eg., anti-American, anti-West, anti-capitalism, anti-big business, etc. – which nicely dovetail into these climate concerns. But as I have said elsewhere, genuine, fact-based concern about the environment is something all of us should share in.

    And of course it is not an issue of global warming taking place. That appears to be a given. But what is up for grabs is how much warming is actually taking place; how accurately we can measure it; how much is due to normal cyclical patterns in nature; how much is due to human causes; what should be done about it; what are the best remedies, if any; what are the costs and benefits of a given course of action; and so on.

    And simply having a majority of scientists does not establish the truthfulness of anything. It may lead to more credibility about a given hypothesis, but the majority has been found to be wrong in the past. Recall that just a few short decades ago that the scientific community – perhaps even a majority – was convinced about the threat of global cooling.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  8. James Beattie must think that scientific truth is determined by a majority vote of scientists. If we use this standard then clearly naturalistic evolution must be a fact. The ‘science’ of evolution and the ‘science’ of climate-change share much in common. Both rely heavily on assumption and speculation – evolution makes assumptions about the past, whilst AGW makes assumptions about the future. Most of those scientists shouting the loudest about AGW are not even climate scientists. In fact there are probably more AGW skeptics amongst climate scientists than in any field of science – they know better than most how complicated efforts to predict the future climate can be.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria.

  9. Thanks for the info you’ve put before us, Bill. I believe there is a real danger for God’s people to be misled by the one-sided evangelists of environmentalism. We should all be concerned about our environment and act responsibly but, on the issue of global warming, we need to distinguish between evidence and hypothesis – and keep the needs of the world like overcoming material and spiritual poverty and AIDS in perspective. Keep spreading the message.
    And if you haven’t come across this – a useful, well-reasoned cautious article on Global Warming. (Got it via browsing in Creation Min Int)

    Keep up the good work,
    Frank Hoskin

  10. After reading the above article and comments, I’m confused. I agree that it is important to hear both sides of an issue, but regardless of whether or not Al gore is exaggerating the facts. Regardless of whether or not global warming is as big a threat as it is said to be or if it is a direct cause of humans or not. What we are basically talking about is passing legislation or finding other ways of reducing pollution, which I am sure we can all agree is a bad thing. We are talking about saving certain species from extinction and exploring alternative sources of energy that are proven to be better for the environment and to humans. We are talking about limiting deforestation and promoting a healthier, cleaner way of living by regulating factories and automobiles. It doesn’t matter who is right or wrong. It doesn’t matter what issues are most important. Al Gore may or may not be over inflating the issue of Global Warming, but if these are the things he is striving to achieve, how can that possibly be a bad thing?
    Adam Spinner

  11. Thanks Adam

    But sometimes good things can come with high price tags. In all public policy, legislators have to perform cost/benefit analyses. That is, they have to determine the costs we expend on something, and compare it with what will be the possible benefits. As an extreme example, if we banned all cars, planes and trains, then some reduction in greenhouse gases may occur. But most people would say that this is too high a price for the benefits received.

    Some argue, for example, that planet earth is overpopulated, and we must take radical steps to save planet earth. Now all people would probably agree that it is a good thing to save planet earth. But at what cost? Some of the more radical population controllers actually say people should be only allowed to have one child (as is happening in China right now), or argue that population numbers must be greatly culled. But what will this entail? Taking a lottery to see who should be culled? And how do we bump off so many people? Poison? Machinegun fire? So you can see how some potentially good outcomes may be far too costly to achieve. So there are always tradeoffs going on here. See this article for one such radical proposal:

    It is not as simple as just saying we want a greener planet, or we want more biodiversity. These may well be good ends, but we all pay costs to achieve them. And often the issues are ethically difficult and complex. Third world countries are often criticised by those in the West for the way rainforests are being reduced. But what about in those cases where poor people are simply chopping down trees to build shelters, cook food and/or keep warm?

    Not decimating our forests is a good thing. But not having people starve to death, or freeze to death, is equally a good thing. So on many of these issues there is a balance to be achieved, and there must be some tradeoffs.

    As to the GW debate, many argue that the costs of, say, seeking to meet the Kyoto requirements just do not match the possible benefits. Most steps to reduce greenhouse gases (those said to be manmade) will incur economic and other costs. So before we make big sacrifices (or rather, before governments force us ordinary citizens to make such big sacrifices) we need to be clear about the actual threat, the real nature of the problem, and the best means of addressing these problems.

    I hope this helps explain why the debate is raging, and why we need full and proper debate on these complex issues.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  12. Adam says that this AGW scare-mongering can’t be all bad because it will lead to us “finding other ways of reducing pollution”. But Adam has fallen for one of the lies of the AGW propagandists – that CO2 is a pollutant. CO2 is a natural and important component of our atmosphere. Calling CO2 a pollutant makes about as much sense as calling oxygen a pollutant! There are good reasons to believe that an increase in CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere may actually be beneficial.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria.

  13. Thanks for the response Bill.
    First let me address Ewan’s response. Yes, CO2 is a natural and important component of our atmosphere, however, too much of anything can be bad. If we locked you in a room and filled it with nothing but CO2, you will die. It has been proven beyond any doubt that the amount of greenhouse gases, such as CO2, methane, ozone, and nitrous oxide, in the atmosphere has been steadily increasing since the 1970’s. It has also been proven beyond any doubt that these extra gases are causes the temperature of the planet to increase. What has not been proven is how bad of an effect they have had or will have in the future. We know they are causing bad effects, just not to what extent or what we should do about it.

    Bill, you say in your response that you agree that the things I mentioned are “good” things that need to be accomplished, but at what price? That truly is the most important question. Banning cars, trains, and planes is surely not the answer, but already we are finding alternatives such as hybrids and electric cars. Yes, I know that these vehicles still burn fossil fuels, but it is a step in the right direction. Dr. John Reid is obviously an extremist and his ideas are radical, to put it mildly. If, in fact, there is an overpopulation problem, I am sure there are better solutions then he suggests. I am certainly no expert, but if it becomes necessary to regulate how many children we are allowed to have, is that such a bad thing? It is definitely better than extermination. And, although it is not up to me to say how, I am sure we could find ways to better manage our natural resources.

    You also said that regulating deforestation would come at a cost.

    “But what about in those cases where poor people are simply chopping down trees to build shelters, cook food and/or keep warm?”

    I couldn’t begin to tell you the exact numbers, but I am sure that the number of trees being chopped down by poor people to build shelters, cook food, and keep warm pales in comparison to the amount of trees being chopped down by commercial logging and cultivation. I just read an article by the Organic Consumers Association that states In the United States alone, a hundred billion dollars worth of food is thrown away each year, half of which is still edible. I don’t know how accurate those numbers are, but I am sure whatever amount of food we do waste, it’s a lot. How about if we use some of that to help feed third world countries? Is that too unrealistic?

    As far as global warming, I don’t know what the answers are, but I know there is a problem. You say that meeting the Kyoto requirements do not match the benefits, but 169 other countries thought it did. If we do not agree with the requirements completely we could ratify the protocol such as China and India did. And, although the Bush administration denies it, state department papers showed that the administration’s close ties to the oil and gas industry, specifically Exxon Mobile, played an important part in their decisions not to ratify the protocol.

    You also stated this:
    “So before we make big sacrifices (or rather, before governments force us ordinary citizens to make such big sacrifices) we need to be clear about the actual threat…”

    At least we can agree that there is actually a threat of some kind and that something must be done to correct it. Also, isn’t it true that in a real democracy the people have the power to regulate the government, not the other way around? Or am I just naive?

    Adam Spinner

  14. But Adam, some of your assumptions just aren’t as certain as you suggest. Whilst it is true that man has contributed to the increase in those greenhouse gasses you cite, it is by no means certain that that small increase has lead or is going to lead to significant temperature increase. Climate is a complicated thing to measure let alone predict. There are other factors that could be causing the slight warming that has been measured over the past century. It is even disputed how much if any warming there has been in recent years, such is the difficulty in measuring these things.

    Also, your scenario as to the deleterious effects of an increase in CO2 is invalid. CO2 makes up an extremely small percentage of the atmosphere such that it could not possibly ever reach levels that were dangerous to life even if all the known fossil fuel reserves were burnt up by humans. In fact the IPCC forecast that levels of CO2 concentration in the atmosphere are set to double in the future due to the burning of fossil fuels, has been challenged by Professor Segalstad, head of the Geological Museum at the University of Oslo and formerly an expert reviewer with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

    In the real world, as measurable by science, CO2 in the atmosphere and in the ocean reach a stable balance when the oceans contain 50 times as much CO2 as the atmosphere. ‘The IPCC postulates an atmospheric doubling of CO2, meaning that the oceans would need to receive 50 times more CO2 to obtain chemical equilibrium,’ explains Prof. Segalstad. ‘This total of 51 times the present amount of carbon in atmospheric CO2 exceeds the known reserves of fossil carbon– it represents more carbon than exists in all the coal, gas, and oil that we can exploit anywhere in the world.’


    Ewan McDonald, Victoria.

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