For years, Sir David King, science adviser to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, has espoused a view he set forth in the magazine Science: “In my view, climate change is the most severe problem that we are facing today — more serious even than the threat of terrorism.” Sir David has been so effective with this hysteria Mr. Blair has repeatedly tied global warming and terrorism as the two most important issues facing mankind.
In doing so, he has championed the U.N. Kyoto Protocol on global warming, which does nothing measurable about planetary temperature, but would cost the U.S. 1 percent to 2 percent of its yearly gross domestic product (GDP).
The London Telegraph recently reported Mr. Blair’s environment ministers proposing individual energy allotments due to global warming. That would make Cuba, North Korea and the United Kingdom the only nations on Earth that ration fuel. One would hope recent events might have added some perspective.
Compare and contrast global warming and terrorism. Terrorism kills innocent people. It causes no one to live longer.
As the Earth warmed in the last 100 years, life expectancy in developed nations doubled.
Terrorism consumes enormous amounts of private capital. The September 11, 2001, attacks on America trimmed 20 percent off the Dow. The 401(K)s then cleansed have never recovered.
The planetary warming since 1900 has seen per capita real GDP increase from $4,310 to $35,790, or 830 percent in the U.S.
Terrorism imposes a substantial and continuing cost, via increased security, lost productivity and allocation of finite tax resources and public-service personnel.
It’s not known if global warming even extracts a net cost. Carbon dioxide, the emission many think the main cause for warming in recent decades, causes most agricultural plants to grow better. There are literally thousands of experiments documenting this in refereed scientific literature.
A reasonable estimate is that 5 percent to 10 percent of the global increase in agricultural yield in the last half of the 20th century was directly due to industrial carbon dioxide emissions.
Terrorism specifically targets rich nations because that gets worldwide attention.
Global warming does little if anything to the rich, while it may (emphasize “may”) be a net-negative in poor societies. Consider the slight rise in sea level, a few inches at best, concurrent with the warming of the last 100 years. There are now few (if any) deaths from oceanic surges in affluent and hurricane-prone North Carolina, while a modest storm can kill tens of thousands in Bangladesh.
Finally, one can mitigate (but not entirely stop) terrorism. It has not been lost on U.S. citizens that there has been no serious incident Stateside since September 11, 2001, and not even a single suicide bomber.
But one can’t do anything measurable about global warming. If every nation on Earth met the Kyoto protocol, the warming prevented would be too small to measure over 50 years.
These futile attempts to diminish warming cost society dearly. In general, European nations most vocal about Kyoto have the worst economies. In addition, the bureaucratic attention to warming could be directed against terrorism.
Finally, there’s the social cost of those energy rationing cards, issued because global warming is such a threat. Make no mistake: When people can’t afford energy, they will use less. Their urban homes will be warmer, and harder (and more expensive) to cool in the next summer heat wave. Power for air conditioning was unavailable because of a thunderstorm in Chicago’s 1995 heat wave, and hundreds died. Two years ago, a cultural distaste for air conditioning in Paris cost thousands. U.S. heat-related mortality in cities has declined dramatically because of abundant energy-powered air conditioning.
Terrorism costs innocent lives, and massive amounts of social and individual capital. Global warming can’t even be demonstrated as a net negative, and putting it on the same plane as terrorism only wastefully diverts resources. That analysis could have been made prior to July 7 but should seem painfully obvious now.
Patrick J. Michaels is senior fellow in environmental studies at the Cato Institute and author of “Meltdown: The Predictable Distortion of Global Warming by Scientists, Politicians, and the Media.”