Recently, I was browsing through the web-site of some of my freedom-loving friends. I came across an article called "The Environmentalists are Wrong", by Bjorn Lomborg. It was originally written for the New York Times, and published on August 26th, 2002, first day of the Johannesburg “Earth Summit”.
There is much to admire in this article. Lomborg summarizes most of the enviro arguments in about 60 words. And he follows this with plenty of good reasons, both scientific and economic, why the enviros are wrong. Yet, as I read his article again, I keep feeling that he has not gone far enough. More needs to be said on this subject. So, I will do my best to say some of it.
Lomborg shows a healthy scepticism for most of the enviros' arguments. Yet there is one issue, on which he seems to accept the received wisdom. And that surprises me. That issue is “global warming”.
Now, I am an informed layman, not a professional scientist. And it is not my intention here to bemuse you with facts and figures, citations and references. I will simply state some of the scientific questions, which must be answered to assess the global warming issue. And I will put beside them the answers that, according to the sources I have read, represent the experts’ best understanding so far.
- Q: Is the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increasing? A: Yes, it has been increasing in the past, particularly over the last 50 years or so.
- Q: Is the carbon dioxide increase caused by human activities? A: Very probably, some or even much of it is. But even this is not proven beyond doubt.
- Q: Have global atmospheric temperatures been increasing? A: It depends on how long a time frame you look at. Since the last ice age, yes. Over the last 1,000 years, no; if anything, the opposite. Over the 20th century, yes, but only slightly.
- Q: Does more carbon dioxide cause higher atmospheric temperatures? A: There are plausible theories, in which this can happen. Computer models based on these theories predict that it would happen. But the link is not proven.
- Q: Do past records show that more carbon dioxide causes higher temperatures? A: No. In the 20th century, the biggest temperature rise was between 1900 and 1940, which was before the big increase in carbon dioxide. And those computer models, which predict big warming in the future, do not agree with the past records.
- Q: Are human emissions of carbon dioxide the cause of global warming? A: This is a loaded question. Even to phrase the question, you have to assume that temperatures actually are going up – which is not proven. And to be able to answer Yes to this question, you need to show, first, that all or most of the carbon dioxide increase is due to human activities – likely, but not proven. Second, that more carbon dioxide causes higher atmospheric temperatures – again, not proven. And third, that even if there is global warming, the cause of it is carbon dioxide and not other factors which have nothing to do with human activities, such as the sun becoming warmer.
And yet, virtually every politician in the Western world has jumped on the warming bandwagon. Human activities that cause global warming, they say, should be taxed, curtailed, and ultimately stopped. Even though there is no proof that there is any such thing as global warming. And, even if there really is global warming, there is no proof that human activities are its cause.
Notice, too, how cleverly enviros and their political friends have changed their linguistic terms. Notice how they have turned the phrase “global warming” into “climate change”. If a scientist came out with irrefutable proof that the global warming scare was a complete fraud, and the planet is actually cooling, they would merely do a pirouette. “There”, they would say, “we told you so. It is human activities that are the cause of this climate change, this cooling. So we must tax, curtail and ultimately stop these activities”.
In his article, Bjorn Lomborg bemoans the high cost of the Kyoto protocol agreements. He identifies ways in which far more good could be done for far less. But I believe that he has missed an important point. Kyoto is expensive because the politicians want it to be expensive. They want to implement the Kyoto protocols to punish us for what they see as our sins.
Among enviros and their political friends, there is a general hatred of Western industrial civilization. They do not often say so in plain words, but the hatred is there. They don’t like us being active and productive. They don’t like us being prosperous. They don’t like us re-arranging our planet to suit ourselves.
Consider, for example, how the enviros demonize our use of energy resources. Coal? It’s dirty and polluting, they say. Oil and natural gas? They cause global warming – and they’re running out. Nuclear power? It’s unsafe. Hydro-electric power? It harms fish. Some of them, it is true, make exceptions for solar and wind power. But wind power and ground-level solar power are too unreliable, and take up too much space, to be practical ways to power a world-wide civilization.
Enviros constantly harp on about how we should cut our use of resources such as oil. They say that we must make our economy sustainable for the long-term future. But they miss an important point. A finite resource cannot last for an infinite time. If a resource will run out in 50 years at current consumption rates, then even if we were to cut our use of it to only one-tenth, it would still run out in 500 years. In reality, what we must do with such finite resources is to use them wisely to get us to the point where we don’t need them any more. Researching and prototyping long-term, large-scale energy sources, such as nuclear fusion or solar power collected in space, are far more constructive activities for the human future than imposing taxes or trying to ration energy use.
Enviros also try to make us feel guilty for producing waste. As I write, I have in front of me a propaganda booklet from a local council, telling me to “Reduce, Re-use, Recycle”. It is, of course, printed on recycled paper, which has an unpleasant feel because of the chemicals used in its production. And I can’t help thinking that, somewhere in the world, trees should have been planted to make that paper, but weren’t. But the main thrust of the enviro message on waste and recycling seems to be that we should spend large amounts of time sorting our garbage and taking it to all kinds of different places. What a waste of the most valuable resource of all, the time and energy of productive human beings.
Some enviros believe that the world is overpopulated. With human beings, that is. This view, though, is rather easy to counter. If they genuinely believe that the world is overpopulated, they can do something about it. They can go kill themselves.
And then there are “endangered species”. Now, none of us goes about our daily business with any intention of extinguishing species. Although, perhaps, when dealing with species hostile to human beings – such as wasps and tsetse flies – it might be better if we did. Yet enviros try to make us feel guilty because, they say, we put species of owls or salmon in danger of extinction. (But I’ve never extinguished an owl! Not even one. Honest).
The enviros seem to forget, too, that new species are evolving all the time, and that a niche, which has been vacated by an outdated species, may be just what a new one needs. What they seem to want is to freeze the pattern of species on the planet for ever, according to how it happens to be at one particular time.
There is a common thread, which runs through all the enviro arguments. That common thread is fear of change. They want to freeze evolution. They don’t want the planet to become warmer – or colder. They don’t want abundant, cheap energy. They don’t want technology to power us rapidly forward towards a better world. And they, in cahoots with their political friends, are prepared to go to great lengths to stop us.
Environmentalism is a closed-system way of thinking. The enviro view is a static view. They see nature as a balance, and the ultimate purpose of life as stability. But that isn’t the way the Universe works. In reality, nature is not a balance, but a dynamic, evolving, forward-moving process. And we human beings are part of that forward-moving process. That, in a nutshell, is why the environmentalists are wrong.
“Save the planet” sounds a noble slogan. And saving the planet for a good cause is a noble end. But we don’t need to save the planet from human beings. We need to save it for human beings. We need to save our planet, our economy and human society world-wide from the enviros and the politicians, and from the consequences of their static-universe thinking. It’s time to get moving.