- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 12, 2014


By James Delingpole

Regnery, $24.95, 256 pages


By William Nordhaus

Yale University Press, $30, 392 pages

During the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s, the Chesapeake Bay region, including Washington, D.C., was quite cold in the wintertime. Old-timers speak of learning to ice skate on the Bay’s tributaries, even building bonfires out on the ice. At the end of the decade of the 1970s, all the camellias but one in the National Arboretum died of the intense cold. During the winter of 1978-79, the bay froze from Baltimore to Norfolk and newspapers ran front-page pictures of cars driving out on the ice near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

All of that began to change in the early 1980s with warmer and perhaps shorter winters. Now an entire generation has grown up around the Bay with no experience ice skating except in public arenas.

If you extrapolate the Chesapeake Bay microclimate experience to North America or even the world, you can make a reasonable case for global warming, but, for example, you would have to ignore the experience in the winter of 2013 of Northern Europe from Germany to Russia, where low-temperature records that had stood for 150 years were broken repeatedly. On March 21, 2013, a friend in Moscow sent photos of giant snow piles around the city and complained that they would have to change the calendar to “February 51st.”

Further, you would have to ignore the North American winter of 2014 where Winter Storm Ion’s “polar vortex” set record-low temperatures from eastern Montana down to Texas and Georgia, then east to New England. On Jan. 6, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that the average temperature in the entire Lower 48 states was 14.8 degrees Fahrenheit. TV anchors used words like “life-threatening” and “brutal” as schools closed statewide in Minnesota for the first time in 17 years and the mayor of Indianapolis banned all but emergency driving on city roads and highways.

Turning to the issue of human intervention in climate issues, pictures from Beijing this winter show what happens when a government allows the very air we breathe to be treated as a “free good,” available for unlimited exploitation. The United States formerly allowed untreated auto exhausts with resulting “air inversions” making life dangerous for anyone with respiratory problems. The Clean Air Act mandated much lower emissions for automobiles and light trucks so there hasn’t been an air inversion in Washington in decades.

Into the climate debate step London Telegraph columnist James Delingpole with “The Little Green Book of Eco-Fascism” and Yale University professor William Nordhaus with “The Climate Casino.” It would be hard to find two authors addressing the same subject with more opposing viewpoints or styles of writing.

To cut to the chase, here is Mr. Delingpole:

“Anthropogenic global warming [is] a theory, increasingly discredited by real-world evidence, that the planet is warming due to man-made carbon-dioxide emissions and that unless we give half our income to renewable-energy companies owned by Al Gore, George Soros or T. Boone Pickens, then we’re all going to fry.” And Mr. Nordhaus:

“Global warming begins and ends with human activities” (Page 15), “global warming is a major threat to humans” (Page 3) and “The ultimate source of global warming is the burning of fossil (or carbon-based) fuel, such as coal, oil or natural gas.” (Page 4).

There you have it. No quarter asked or given.

Beginning with style before substance, the Delingpole offering is a reader’s book. It’s fun, obviously a bit snarky, and at the end of it, the reader immediately wonders who he can share it with. A birthday gift for a brother-in-law, perhaps?

Except for an occasional personal reminiscence, there are few if any live human beings in the Nordhaus book. Right off the bat, the professor in “A Note to the Reader” gently recommends an E-version of the book with “access to more Web references” signaling that its true value is as a reference aid.

Mr. Nordhaus is an economist, not a climatologist, so, on substance, the reader has to accept his premises above to follow his economics-based proposed solutions. He then begins from this point: “For any policy to be effective, it must raise the market price of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.” In later chapters, especially Chapter 21, he explores cap-and-trade and carbon-tax alternatives. Even if you accept all of his premises as the equivalent of mathematical “givens,” it is very difficult to treat his solutions with the seriousness that they would ordinarily deserve. Looking out into at least the medium-term future, there is simply no conceivable political circumstances under which the American people would willingly entrust the very basis of the economy to the same academic-mainstream media-government nomenklatura that brought us Obamacare. Not in a post-Oct. 1, 2013, world.

In the end, the Delingpole book is closer to reality on substance. Snide though Mr. Delingpole’s reference to Mr. Gore might be, global warming — aka climate change — is, in the end, an argument about money and power.

William C. Triplett II writes on energy and defense matters in Washington.

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