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Michael Crichton's environmental novel State of Fear has many enjoyable moments, not least the deliciously apt fate he devises for a Martin Sheenesque Hollywood eco-poseur. But, along the way, his protagonist makes a quietly sensible point - that activist lobby groups ought to close down the office after 10 years. By that stage, regardless of the impact they've had on whatever cause they're hot for, they're chiefly invested in perpetuating their own indispensability.
That's what happened to the environmental movement. Denouncing this week's meeting of the Asia-Pacific Partnership in Sydney, the eco-tists sounded more than a little squaresville - fossils running out of fuel. "Clearly, the short-term profits of the fossil fuel companies count for more in Canberra than the long-term health and welfare of ordinary Australians," says Clive Hamilton of the Australia Institute, disregarding the fact that the "long-term health and welfare" that ordinary Australians enjoy is not unconnected to fossil fuels.
In environmental politics, the short-term interests of the eco-establishment count for more than the long-term health and welfare of ordinary Australians, or New Zealanders, or indeed Indians and Nigerians. They count for more than the long-term reputation of scientific institutions. Hence, the famous "hockey stick" graph purporting to show climate over the last thousand years, as a continuous flat millennium-long bungalow with a skyscraper tacked on for the 20th century. This graph was almost laughably fraudulent, not least in the sense that it used a formula which would result in a "hockey stick" shape no matter what data you input - even completely random trendless arbitrary computer-generated data. Yet such is the power of the eco-lobby that this fraud became the centerpiece of UN reports on global warming. If it's happening, why is it necessary to lie about it?
Well, the problem for the Kyoto cultists is that the end of the world's nighness is never quite as nigh as you'd like. So, when the new ice age predicted in the Seventies failed to emerge, the eco-crowd moved on in the Eighties to global warming, and then more recently to claiming as evidence of global warming every conceivable meteorological phenomenon: lack of global warmth is evidence of global warming - frost, ice, snow, glaciers, they're all signs of global warming, too. That's the new buzz phrase these days: "climate change." We've got to stop it, or change it back before it destroys the planet. And, if it doesn't destroy the planet, circa 2011 the Kyotocrats will be citing lack of climate change as evidence of climate change. They are, literally, a church, and under the Holy Book of Kyoto their bishops demand that the great industrial nations of the world tithe their incomes to them. So they're never going to take Michael Crichton's advice.
That being so, the next best thing is the Asia-Pacific Partnership - or the "coalition of the emitting": Australia, the US, India, China, Japan, and South Korea. These nations are responsible for about half of greenhouse gas emissions and, by 2050, will account for roughly 75% of global GDP. In other words, these are the players that matter. And, unlike the Kyotophiles, their strategy isn't a form of cultural self-flagellation. America and Australia will be making western technology available to developing nations to accelerate their development - so they don't have to spend a century and a half with belching smokestacks glowering over grimy cities the way the first industrialized nations did.
My only problem with this is that, in a government notable for its blunt healthy disdain for the transnational pieties, Australia's Environment Minister seems to have been spending way too much time snorting the ol' CO2 at the eco-lobby parties. As Matt Price reported The Australian last year:
"Emerging from a bushwalk through the Tarkine forest in northwest Tasmania, Environment Minister Ian Campbell told The Australian that argument about the causes and impact of global warming had effectively ended... 'I think the Australian Government owes it to the public to tell it like it is.' "
OH, DEAR. By "telling it like it is" he means telling it like we've been told for the last 30 years: "Australia and other industrialized nations need to take urgent action to avert environmental disaster."
Really? You know, I don't like to complain but maybe that Tarkine forest is part of the problem. Here's a headline from The National Post of Canada last Friday: "Forests May Contribute To Global Warming: Study."
This was at Stanford University. They developed a model that covered most of the Northern Hemisphere in forest and found that global temperature increased three degrees - which is several times more than the alleged CO2 emissions. Heat-wise, a forest is like a woman in a black burka in the middle of the Iraqi desert. In my state of New Hampshire, we've got far more forest than we did a century or two centuries ago. Could reforestation be causing more global warming than my two-mile-per-gallon Chevrolet Resource-Depleter? Clearly I need several million dollars to investigate further.
I SAID above that any day the Kyotophiles will be citing lack of climate change as evidence of climate change. But, in essence, that's what they've been doing for years. For example, just before Christmas, Rutgers University put out a press release headed "Global Warming Doubles Rate Of Ocean Rise."
Whoa, sell that beachfront property now! If things keep up like this, Sydney's excitable "youths" will be having to rampage in diving suits. But hang on, what exactly do they mean by the "rate" "doubling?" Professor Kenneth Miller claims to have proved that from 5,000 years ago to about 200 years ago the global ocean rise was about one millimeter a year. But since 1850 it's been rising at two millimeters a year. In other words, it doubled sometime in the early 19th century and has stayed the same ever since, apparently impervious to the industrialization of Europe, China, India and much of the rest of Asia, as well as to the invention of the automobile, the aerosol deodorant and the private jet Barbra Streisand used when she flew in to Washington to discuss global warming with President Clinton. Yet nobody thought to headline the story "Rate Of Ocean Rise Unchanged For Over A Century And A Half."
One day, the world will marvel at the environmental hysteria at our time, and the deeply damaging corruption of science in the cause of an alarmist cult. The best thing this week's conference could do is inculcate a certain modesty, not least in Senator Campbell, about an issue which is almost entirely speculative.
We don't know how or why climate changes. We do know it's changed dramatically throughout the planet's history - including the so-called "Little Ice Age" back in pre-industrial Europe, when I was still driving a Ford Oxcart - and that, by comparison, the industrial age has been a time of relative climate stability. But, of course, as with that "hockey stick," it depends how you draw the graph.
Question: Why do most "global warming" advocates begin their scare statistics with "since 1970"? As in, "since 1970" there's been global surface warming of half a degree or so.
Because from 1940 to 1970, temperatures fell. Now why would that be? Who knows? Maybe it was Hitler. Maybe world wars are good for the planet.
Or maybe we should all take a deep breath of CO2 and calm down.