The high risks of climate-change policy

(Oct. 23, 2009) Earlier this week, I addressed a meeting of the Conference Board of Canada’s Centre for National Security in Winnipeg. An abbreviated version of my presentation appears below.

You are hearing at this conference that there is little doubt that human activity is causing profound and negative changes to our climate. Distinguished speakers are warning of enormous fresh water decreases, of disappearing glaciers, of the potential extinction of 70% of all species, of an ecosystem stressed to the breaking point. You are hearing of droughts and starvation and sea level rises that will very likely flood millions of people living in coastal areas from their homes each year, and that Canada will need to be prepared for the chaos to follow, chaos that could include mass migrations of refugees, social unrest, pandemics, war and terrorism and riots born of social injustice.

I’m here to tell you that there are no such likelihoods. That there is no consensus on climate change. That the science that the doomsayers describe cannot credibly be seen as having the weight of scientific opinion behind it. Often, as in the UN’s warning that malaria will spread as the globe warms — a claim you will hear tomorrow — the science has no credibility whatsoever. Not one prominent scientist in the world endorsed the UN’s malaria claims. Likewise, the UN’s hockey stick graph, showing that temperatures rose suddenly in the 20th century after 900 years of stable temperatures, has been thoroughly discredited.

In every single area that the UN points to man-made catastrophe — the disappearing Arctic ice cap or the Antarctic melting or the glaciers melting or the oceans rising — in every single area you will find no shortage of reputable scientists who dispute the UN position.

All scenarios of catastrophe are based on nothing more than output from computer models that have been fed what-if scenarios. These models can’t even model the past, let alone the future. The climate is simply too complex, with too many variables, to project into the future with any degree of confidence.

Man has always faced emergencies and we need to be prepared for emergencies in the future. But we should base our preparations on real-world conditions, not the fantasies of climate modelers at computer keyboards.

In my view, the greatest threats to public safety and national security come not from man-made climate change but from man-made climate models. We don’t even need to project far into the future to see the nature of some of these threats — we already have a taste of them.

You want global warming-related riots? We’ve seen them in recent years in several Third World countries, where a doubling and tripling of grain prices led to food riots. Last year the poor in Egypt rioted after price increases in bread. Food riots also occurred in Yemen and Pakistan and Indonesia. The previous year tens of thousands marched through the streets of Mexico City to protest increases of 400% in the price of tortillas.

These protets stemmed from policies designed to stop global warming, from crash programs converting food crops to fuel crops. Other crash programs to get us off fossil fuels have financed uneconomic hydro dams in the Third World, in the process taking out fertile river valleys and creating rootless migrants of what were once stable and self-sufficient farmers.

We are starting to see protests in the West, too, over attempts to deal with CO2. These are being called NUMBY protests — Not Under My Back Yard.

Governments in Canada, the US and Europe plan to build carbon capture and storage facilities to take the carbon out of smokestacks and store it underground. These facilities, which will be pumping billions of tons of CO2 underground, are predicted to become one of the major sources of induced earthquakes. These facilities also create a risk of suffocation should a major industrial accident lead to a release of carbon dioxide, as happened to communities near Lake Nyos in the Cameroons in 1986, after a natural release of carbon dioxide. Approxmately 1,700 villagers were asphyxiated, along with 3,500 livestock.

Communities are organizing against these facilities wherever they’re proposed. In Ohio, after a long fight the government just called off a carbon capture and storage facility. In Germany, a $110-million carbon capture and storage facility that was actually built was never operated because of local opposition.

The opposition to these facilities isn’t all coming from the grassroots level. The American Water Works Association, a trade group representing 4,700 water utilities that produce 80% of America’s drinking water, opposes this technology because CO2 threatens to contaminate aquifers. As it starkly told Congress last year, “many communities don’t have alternative sources of affordable drinking water.”

To date, attempts to mitigate global warming have caused enormous human suffering and ecological harm. With the globe not having warmed in the last 11 years — once again, to the surprise of the computer modelers — the safest thing we can do on global warming until we know more may be to do nothing; the most dangerous thing would be to continue to act boldly and in ignorance.

Read the full speech.

LawrenceSolomon@nextcity.com

Lawrence Solomon is executive director of Energy Probe and Urban Renaissance Institute and author of The Deniers: The world-renowned scientists who stood up against global warming hysteria, political persecution, and fraud.

Lawrence Solomon, National Post, Oct. 23, 2009
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