The media have recently been blaring what they depict (inaccurately, by the way) as the latest grim warning from the practically unanimous ranks of the world's climatologists concerning global warming. It is time to take two aspirin, lie down and consider the matter calmly.
The global-warming controversy is powered by three mighty engines, which are almost never recognized. The first is the natural human impulse to fear allegedly forthcoming disasters, especially if they are clothed in the raiments of scientific certitude. The media can be depended on to ferret out and wildly overhype any potential negative development that any so-called scientist is willing to predict and deplore. Remember "acid rain"? The factories of the American Midwest are supposedly belching enormous quantities of sulphurous gases into the air, which then drift eastward, pollute our pristine lakes and lay waste the Appalachian forests. We had barely had time to digest this awful news when the same media introduced us to the ghastly phenomenon called the "ozone hole," a gap in the Earth's protective layer of ozone that had developed (thanks to human pollutants) over the Antarctic and threatened to increase hugely the amount of deadly interstellar radiation reaching the planet's surface, causing millions of fatal skin cancers. The subsequent news that the ozone hole was actually diminishing was lost in the gratifying burst of terror over the discovery of global warming.
The second engine (which was also influential in the flaps over acid rain and the ozone hole) is the traditional liberal hatred of "American corporations," which is mobilized whenever some new misfortune can be laid, however speciously, at their door. All sorts of manufacturing operations emit carbon dioxide, which are thus responsible for some uncertain part of the seven-tenths of one degree Celsius by which the earth's surface temperature rose in the 20th century. Actually, believe it or not, cows emit far more greenhouse gases (from their rear ends) than corporations do, but corporations are easier to hate than cows. So the ancient cry has gone up, "Stop the corporations!"
The third and final engine is, as you might expect, money. Do you have any idea how many billions of dollars the United States paid "scientists" (mostly in universities) last year to study this or that aspect of global warming? They are raiding this El Dorado with both hands, and you can imagine their attitude toward any colleague who dares to doubt their warnings.
The latest incitement to panic over global warming is the recently released summary of a 1,400-page report by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). We won't get to see the actual report till May, but the IPCC's chairman, Rajendra Pachauri, says "I hope this report will shock people."
Given the media's hype concerning the human causes of global warming, it undoubtedly will. But the actual figures, when compared to those in the IPCC's last report in 2001, are downright encouraging. Christopher Monckton, a British analyst, points out that the new summary "more than halved its high-end best estimate of the rise in sea level by 2100 from 3 feet to just 17 inches." (Al Gore predicts 20 to 30 feet.) Monckton adds that "The U.N. has cut its estimate of (the human) net effect on climate by more than a third."
Part of the problem is that the earth's temperature is always in motion, up or down. At the moment, it is trending slightly up -- three-hundredths of a degree Celsius since 2001. Before that, in the midyears of the 20th century, it was actually falling -- providing grist for the media's hysterical predictions of a "new Ice Age" back in the 1970s.
Meanwhile, you can count on the liberals to demand savage cutbacks in the output of America's "greedy" corporations (never mind what that does to the economy) and on the opportunistic hacks in the science faculties of our universities to carve still bigger grants for themselves out of the federal and state budgets to finance more justifications for the panic.
William Rusher is a Distinguished Fellow of the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy and author of How to Win Arguments .
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