Shorting the Poor: The Fallout of Climate Change Policy

Dr. E. Calvin Beisner | Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation | Thursday, January 22, 2009

Shorting the Poor: The Fallout of Climate Change Policy

January 22, 2009

In his inaugural address, President Barack Obama had heart-warming words for the poor around the world. "To the people of poor nations," he said, "we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds."

These words have the ring of truth, coming from a President whose father, the late Barack Obama Sr., was born in a Kenyan village and whose half-brother George Obama lives in a slum in Huruma, Kenya.

Obama also spoke about climate change and energy. How we use our energy, he said, "threaten[s] the planet." Calling for a change, he said, "We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories." Before hundreds of thousands bundled up against below-average, sub-freezing temperatures in Washington, Obama called on America and other nations to "work tirelessly to . . . roll back the specter of a warming planet."

It will be difficult to balance his pledge to the poor with his words about energy and climate. Rising energy prices brought on by carbon taxes, carbon trading, and alternative fuels programs, and rising food prices brought on by both rising energy prices and dwindling food supplies as agricultural land and crops are used for energy instead of food, are devastating to the world's poor.

Obama also assailed those who "cling to power through . . . silencing dissent." That should lead him to ensure that his administration is well informed by both believers in and dissenters from manmade global warming. To achieve that, he will need to balance his choices for EPA administrator, science advisor, climate czar, and interior secretary--manmade warming alarmists all.

Dissent on global warming needs to be heard because trillions of dollars and millions of lives are at stake, while the scientific case for manmade warming is crumbling and the scientific and economic case against fighting it by CO2 emission reductions is solidifying.

This gives the President a perfect opportunity to make good on another promise in his inaugural address, to “restore science to its rightful place.” For years, official governmental discussion of climate change has been carried on mostly by those who think

  • mathematical computer climate models are scientific evidence, when in fact they are only the hopelessly oversimplified products of assumptions;
  • science is done by consensus, when it is (or at least should be) driven by observational evidence; and
  • there is overwhelming consensus among qualified scientists that human action is the primary cause of recent climate change, when attempts to document such consensus have failed, and large and rapidly growing numbers of qualified scientists are speaking out against the idea.

President Obama needs to hear responsible dissenters --the thousands of earth and climate scientists, and the many developmental and environmental economists--who warn that the effort to fight climate change will fail to control temperature while causing tremendous harm to the world's poor.

Last year’s global grain shortage, driven by short-sighted government policies shifting corn harvests to ethanol production, pushed millions over or near the brink of starvation and led to food riots in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

If Danish economist Bjørn Lomborg is correct, the effort to fight global warming by reducing fossil fuel use will cost hundreds of millions of otherwise preventable premature deaths through the course of this century by slowing economic development–thousands of times as many as would likely result from the moderate warming anticipated by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

If President Obama will restore science to its rightful place, encourage rather than silence dissent, and put a priority on helping the world’s poor, he will also take an important step toward fulfilling another hope mentioned in his address: prevention of “slaughtering innocents.” It is not only terrorists and abortionists who slaughter innocents. Well-meaning people promoting policies with unintended ill consequences do, too.

E. Calvin Beisner is national spokesman for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation and helped found the Campaign, an effort to gather one million signatures of Christians concerned that global warming policy will hurt the poor.