Saturday, January 27, 2007

Europeans have set themselves up for a head-on collision between ecological purity and economic reality. With Congress poised to enact heavy-handed climate legislation, the U.S. may be doing likewise.

Europe is finally realizing it cannot meet even current Kyoto Protocol commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions 5 percent below 1990 levels, by 2012. Economic ministers are worried Kyoto will impact living standards, and send facilities and jobs to China and India, which aren’t required to cut emissions.

Spain is some 20 percent above its target, Italy 15 percent — Austria 25 percent. Germany is “just” 7 percent above its target but faces a future with no nuclear power (by law it must shut down all reactors by 2020), no coal-fired generators (greenhouse gases), little hydroelectric (4 percent of its total electricity), unreliable natural gas (Russia controls the spigots), and forests of gigantic, undependable wind turbines.

But the European Commission wants still more draconian reductions by 2020, since even perfect compliance with Kyoto would keep global temperatures from rising only 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050. That’s why alarmists now say we must slash total global emissions by 60 percent to 80 percent by 2050, to keep CO2 at a “safe” level and “stabilize” a climate that has never been stable.

If poor developing nations remain exempt (as they should), developed countries will have to go virtually carbon-free to reach this goal. How will Americans slash their energy use and emissions 40, 60 or 95 percent?

Such policies would change life as we know it. They would give alarmist politicians, bureaucrats and activists a leading role in every housing, heating, cooling, transportation, manufacturing, agricultural, business and consumer decision.

They would terminate millions of jobs, cost hundreds of billions of dollars, and send living standards tumbling, while giving every U.S. citizen a “carbon allowance” akin to what other parts of the world now “enjoy” (2.3 tons of CO2 per year in Cuba or 1.2 in India, versus our current 19.8 or Canada’s 17.9).

The elderly and minority workers and families would be especially hard-hit. Deaths from winter cold and summer heat waves would soar, as energy prices rise and heating and air-conditioning become luxury items.

Other than fossil fuels, no technologies exist to provide the 100,000 megawatts of new electricity the U.S. will need during the next decade. Nuclear plants can’t come online that quickly, and even the best wind turbines would require some 2 million acres (Delaware plus Rhode Island) to provide 100,000 megawatts of intermittent electricity that requires gas-powered generators (and drilling off our coasts) as backup.

Europe already has green taxes on air travel, a $50-a-day climate charge on big cars in London — and a proposed “food miles” tax on the distance produce is shipped. Rainforest Action and CERES already pressure U.S. banks not to finance coal generators, dams and fossil fuel projects in the U.S. or Africa. Calling it “socially responsible,” compliant banks cave in.

Efforts to restrict energy and economic development in Africa are “literally a life-and-death matter” for tens of millions, says University of Pretoria Emeritus Professor W.J.R. Alexander. “We can do without this resurgence of European colonialism and paternalism.”

Yes, there is consensus that Earth’s temperatures have risen slightly, and humans played a role. There is no consensus that climate change will be catastrophic, human CO2 emissions are the primary cause, or slashing emissions will prevent the supposed cataclysm.

It’s a classic bait-and-switch tactic, repeated endlessly by activists, scientists, journalists, bureaucrats, celebrities and politicians. They used similar tactics 35 years ago to excise DDT and other insecticides from disease control programs.

Tens of millions died from malaria — and none of the perpetrators have ever apologized, admitted error or been held accountable for the unconscionable disease, brain damage and death they perpetuated.

Now they say we should trust them on climate change.

Computer models, headlines, weather anomalies and horror movies are not evidence. We would never rely on 50- or even two-year computer forecasts to make investment decisions. To trust our future to deficient climate models, and railroad through life-altering climate legislation, is to commit economic suicide.

Why do some support such legislation? Follow the money, says meteorologist James Spann. “Billions of dollars of grant money are flowing into the pockets of [scientists] on the man-made global warming bandwagon.” For activists and politicians, it’s money, power and control. For companies, it’s avoiding public floggings, and selling new lines of politically correct, often tax-subsidized or legally mandated technologies. With no crisis, the gravy train dies up.

We should develop new technologies, to further improve energy efficiency, reduce pollution and enter a new energy era. But we must not rush to judgment, trash our economy or slash living standards, just to “do something” about a speculative climate change “catastrophe.”

We need a rational debate, with all views fully represented — not a media and congressional circus, or a legislative juggernaut more appropriate in North Korea than the United States.

Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for the Congress of Racial Equality and Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, and author of “Eco-Imperialism: Green power, Black death” (

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