Al Gore, call your office. Elite environmentalists and globalists appear to be preparing to dump global warming as their cause celebre.
For at least the past 18 years (since Mr. Gore published “Earth in the Balance”), greens have touted saving the Earth from catastrophic, man-made global warming as the “central organizing principle of human civilization.” One would think that was because it was perceived as the greatest threat facing us - which indeed it has been called, over and over.
But last month, the United Nations celebratedits annual International Day for Biodiversity by releasing a report that says the case for saving species is “more powerful than climate change.”
Oops. Wait a minute. The report’s not out yet. The U.N. just announced that it will release it this summer. Just as with all the hoopla before releasing the U.N.’s 2007 global-warming assessment, this allows for lots of public buildup before the report actually appears and is subject to critical examination. The familiar green tactic is known as “science by press release.”
The announcement compares the forthcoming report with the 2006 Stern Review on the economics of climate change, which claimed that the benefits of drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to reduce global warming would be five to 20 times the costs. Global-warming alarmists celebrate the Stern Review because it seems to justify the deindustrialization and permanent impoverishment of the world that they promote.
Yet the Stern Review has been shown to be economic nonsense, reaching its wild conclusions only by means of vastly exaggerated potential global-warming damages and adoption of a near-zero-time discount rate that is the stuff of fantasy, not serious economic analysis.
Although true believers won’t have their faith shaken, the U.N.’s forthcoming report is likely to be debunked as quickly and compellingly as the Stern Review.
According to an article in the United Kingdom’s Guardian newspaper, the U.N. document will say that “if the goods and services provided by the natural world are not valued and factored into the global economic system, the environment will become more fragile and less resilient to shocks, risking human lives, livelihoods and the global economy.”
But, of course, natural resources already are valued and factored into the global economic system - by the pricing mechanism of the market, which spontaneously reflects supply and demand all around the world in a near-miraculous way that the self-appointed economy managers neither understand nor appreciate. They want authority to set the value of all things - i.e., to replace the market’s valuing mechanism with their own choices.
In other words, they want the price-setting power of the various committees that brought collapse to all the countries in the world in which they operated precisely because, by determining prices by fiat, they made economic calculation impossible.
Pavan Sukhdev, an Indian economist with Deutsche Bank India and the forthcoming report’s author, told the Guardian the changes called for in the report “will involve a wholesale revolution in the way humans do business, consume and think about their lives.” When you hear that language, hang onto your hat - and everything else you own. It’s all targeted.
The Guardian says the report will claim “the potential economic benefits” of the major overhaul of the world’s economy “are huge. Setting up and running a comprehensive network of protected areas would cost $45 billion a year globally … but the benefits of preserving the species richness within these zones would be worth $4-5 trillion a year.” If you can believe there’s an investment opportunity that will return $100 on every dollar invested, and that the only way to get anyone to invest in it is by government mandate, please come and talk to me about a bridge.
Apparently relying on statements from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the U.N. report assumes hyperrapid rates of species extinction - 1,000 to 10,000 times faster than the natural background rate. But the claim is devoid of empirical foundation. Like warmists’ predictions of future climate catastrophe, it depends not on empirical observation but on computer models. It’s not evidence. It’s not data. It’s hypothesis.
When in the 1980s, the IUCN, pressed to rebut a 1984 critique by the late Julian L. Simon and Aaron Wildavsky that pointed out there were no empirical data to back such claims, commissioned a field study in rain forests (thought to have the highest rates of species extinction) around the world, the rather embarrassing result was the IUCN’s book, “Tropical Deforestation and Species Extinction” (1992). Every chapter in the book reported extinction rates from empirical observation only a tiny fraction of the claimed rates. As V.H. Heywood and S.N. Stuart put it in their chapter, the “data indicate that the number of recorded extinctions for both plants and animals is very small” and, “Known extinction rates are very low.”
Nonetheless, as global warming fears collapse in the face of Climategate, the green socialist machine is scrambling to be ready to switch gears. Perhaps the new rationale for global wealth redistribution and deindustrialization will be preserving biodiversity. It’s a good candidate: It has all the flaws of global warming - bad science, bad economics and totalitarian politics.
E. Calvin Beisner is with the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.