Tuesday, December 19, 2006

America’s vital traditions of free speech, association and debate are under assault.

Al Gore bristles at anyone who raises inconvenient truths about climate alarmism. Greenpeace calls us “climate criminals.” Grist magazine wants “Nuremberg-style war crimes trials” for climate disaster skeptics, probably followed by hangings, since burning at the stake would release greenhouse gases.

Climate catastrophist Ross Gelbspan told a Washington, D.C., audience: “Not only do journalists not have a responsibility to report what skeptical scientists have to say about global warming. They have a responsibility not to report what those scientists say.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, shamefully treated physician-scientist-author Michael Crichton like a child molester during a congressional hearing, for suggesting climate change theories be reviewed by double-blind studies and evidentiary standards akin to what the Food and Drug Administration uses for new medicine. And Sens. Olympia Snowe of Maine and Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia have issued a “gag order” against ExxonMobil. “Its message: Start toeing the senators’ line on climate change, or else,” said the Wall Street Journal.

Earth-centered-universe dogmas have been replaced by a far more intolerant Church of Gaia catechism of cataclysm. We have entered an era of climate McCarthyism and eco-Inquisitions, whose goal appears to be slashing energy use and economic growth, by making activists, politicians and bureaucrats the final arbiters of every energy and economic decision.

Yes, Earth’s climate is changing — again, though far less than it has repeatedly throughout our planet’s history. Yes, people influence our weather and climate — to some degree. But few scientists have joined astronomer James Hansen in saying humans have replaced the sun and other natural forces as the primary cause, Climate Armageddon is nigh and drastic action must be taken immediately.

Cataclysm theorists point to computer models. But models are not evidence. Neither are headlines, hype or Hollywood special effects — nor incessant claims that every storm, drought, heat wave or cold snap is due to fossil fuels. Moreover, even perfect compliance with the Kyoto Protocol would do virtually nothing to stop hypothetical human-induced climate change. And the true costs of Draconian emission controls would be astronomical.

Carbon taxes, carbon caps and greenhouse gas targets and timetables would send energy prices even higher, raise the cost of every consumer product and service, reduce profits, impair productivity, stifle innovation — and drive jobs overseas, to countries where energy is still available and priced lower. Simply put, no juice — no jobs.

In the coming decade, say energy analysts, Colorado alone will need 5,000 megawatts of new electrical generation; Texas, more than 25,000; the United States, hundreds of thousands. Most will have to come from fossil fuels. Will policymakers enable or prevent us from meeting these needs?

If 13,000 wind turbines (on 105,000 California acres) are needed to generate the annual electrical output of one 500-megawatt gas-fired power plant, how many turbines on how many once-scenic acres will it take to produce 50,000 megawatts? How many birds and bats will they kill?

If we emphasize intermittent, unreliable wind and solar, will brownouts and outages become routine for offices, factories, schools and operating rooms? If utilities have to sequester CO2 at $40-50 a ton, will they follow Britain’s lead, and tell parents who can no longer afford to heat their homes adequately they can just send their children to bed with hats, mittens, sox — and bags of rice warmed in microwaves? What will bureaucrats tell families of elderly folks who die in summer heat waves, because they can’t afford air conditioning — or AC has been banned as “polluting and unnecessary”?

To reduce electricity demand, will alarmists tell kids they can’t have computers or Sony PlayStations? Will they try to ban plasma televisions, which use 5 times more electricity than conventional TVs?

How much will California really preserve our environment by locating new power plants in Montana, Idaho, Utah and the Dakotas — and sending the electricity to Los Angeles via 2,000-mile-long transmission lines — so legislators can claim to have reduced carbon emissions within the Golden State?

How many Third World families will die from lung and intestinal diseases, because agitators, politicians and bureaucrats continue to pressure banks and companies not to build power plants in poor countries?

Will Senate Inquisitors — and fearmongering green organizations — now run their offices solely on wind and solar power?

These are just a few of the inconvenient questions and truths that alarmists want muzzled. Raising them — through open, robust, civil debate — is the essence of social responsibility, good citizenship and sound science. Even at the risk of being browbeaten by congressional neo-McCarthyites, we must speak out, to prevent enactment of economically and ethically ruinous state and federal laws.

We do not face a looming climate chaos. We have time to respond rationally and responsibly, evaluate competing claims, demand real science and evidence, devise sensible laws and policies, and develop new energy generation technologies that will meet growing U.S. and global demand for abundant, reliable, affordable electricity — while gradually improving efficiency, reducing pollution, and protecting the health and economic vitality of families, companies and communities.

Our energy generation and pollution control technologies changed dramatically between 1900 and 2000. We can do it again — if we have faith in our creative genius, technological innovation, and ability to engage in robust but civil debate over complex energy, climate, economic and environmental issues.

Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for the Congress of Racial Equality and Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow, and author of “Eco-Imperialism: Green power Black death” (www.Eco-Imperialism.com). He is one of 16 “climate criminals” named by Greenpeace at the 2005 climate conference in Montreal.

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