- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 9, 2005

As a great public service, someone should send a copy of Michael Crichton’s new book “State of Fear” to the chief executive officer of every Fortune 500 company in America. Mr. Crichton is not a scientist, but he understands science and how to separate out fact from fiction.

His book undresses the environmental alarmists for a lack of evidence to support their apocalyptic claims of global warming and does so with impressive documentation.

“State of Fear” has become a best-seller precisely at the time business leaders across the nation are capitulating to an environmentalist global warming agenda that could severely cripple the U.S. economy and cost hundreds of thousands of jobs — to say nothing of denting corporate profits.

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In recent months, dozens of major Fortune 500 companies have waved the white flag of surrender to radical environmental groups by signing on to the antigrowth agenda on global climate policy. Like prisoners who have come to admire their captors, many corporate leaders have agreed to lobby beside the very interest groups that would put them out of business.

In August, the Conference Board — an organization of hundreds of major corporations in the United States and around the world — issued a self-righteous and scientifically dubious statement insisting there is an “increasing scientific consensus that humans are contributing to the warming of the planet” and that government and corporate boards must take action.

Meanwhile, dozens of major Fortune 500 firms have signed on and started donating to the radical left-wing lobbying and research activities of the Pew Research Center on Climate Research. Pew has been about the most apocalyptic and irrational of any organization in the country about the coming catastrophe of melting ice caps, massive flooding and soaring temperatures.

Here is how the racket works: environmental groups relentlessly attack firms, such as Exxon, that have refused to be bullied into submission. This in turn empowers radical environmental organizations with even more money and more credibility, which they then use to bludgeon and isolate corporate holdouts, which forces more capitulations, which leads us ever closer to an anti-industry policy agenda that will puncture a hole in the American economy.

The corporate shills for the environmental groups, have essentially agreed to two highly questionable findings about the science of global warming:

(1) Global warming is a major environmental threat to the future of the planet.

(2) And global warming is a direct result of man’s imprint on the globe.

Both propositions — particularly the second — have been heartily disputed by leading scientists. Though it is true most climatologists believe in global warming, these are hardly disinterested parties: Billions of dollars in funding for these researchers would evaporate if they concluded there was no impending catastrophe.

Mr. Crichton has fun noting that 30 years ago the New York Times and Science magazine warned of a coming ice age because of falling global temperatures.

This is about fear, not facts. For a climatologist to say there is no global warming problem is as unlikely as a dermatologists’ convention announcing acne has been forever cured.

But supposed remedies to global warming are pretty frightening too. The business groups essentially have agreed drastic steps are needed to combat the coming eco-catastrophe.

Those steps, as outlined in the Kyoto Treaty and the McCain-Lieberman antiglobal-warming legislation, would involve strangulating governmental regulations on business activity and economic growth. Environmentalists are promoting dramatic reductions in fossil fuels and mandatory cutbacks in Carbon dioxide emissions (the so-called greenhouse gases).

No one knows for sure just how damaging to growth these emission reductions would be. But one recent report by Charles Rivers Associates calculates as many as 600,000 jobs could be put at risk by 2010. The Energy Information Administration estimates energy costs could rise by 21 percent by the end of the decade if the McCain-Feingold legislation were approved — which would be like an 18-cent per gallon global warming tax. And because the Kyoto Treaty requires the greatest emissions reductions from developed nations, the United States if it signed on would be placed in a significant competitive hole.

The cures to the greenhouse effect are all about stunting economic growth — not environmental progress. The global warming agenda brings with it the mother of all anti-growth regulatory regimes. It’s not a stretch to say the Kyoto Treaty would be the largest threat to our financial well-being and personal freedoms since Hillary Clinton unveiled her plan to socialize the American health care system a decade ago. Hillary might have succeeded if the business community had rallied to her plan the way it is embracing global warming fanaticism.

Global warming really does pose a clear and present danger to America. But the principal danger is not a warmer planet, which many in the North would view as a good thing, but rather draconian remedies that would stifle our productivity, prosperity and economic development.

CEOs who would bring us closer to that future are bad corporate citizens. They are robber barons of growth. They should be held accountable for the dangers their political cowardice imposes on workers and shareholders.

Stephen Moore is a senior fellow in economics at the Cato Institute.

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