When Does Helping Hurt? Celebrating 'Earth Day' to Death

Douglas Gregory | Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation | Tuesday, April 24, 2012
When Does Helping Hurt? Celebrating 'Earth Day' to Death

When Does Helping Hurt? Celebrating 'Earth Day' to Death


Where do hippies get together to celebrate “Earth Day,” pretend Jesus and Muhammad were best buds and eco-freaks, and sing “Kumbaya”? Try the week-long series of events sponsored by Interfaith Moral Action on Climate (IMAC).

IMAC, which started its activities with a climate conference April 18, hopes to reverse catastrophic, anthropogenic global warming (CAGW) with candlelight vigils throughout this week to inspire politicians, and the populace, to take action.

IMAC’s Call to Action calls for drastic political and legislative policy change based on three founding moral principles, each entailing a proper response:

1. “[I]t is morally wrong to unjustifiably cause human suffering and death.” Therefore, we must reduce carbon emissions to minimize unjustified suffering and death.

2. We must “honor … equity and justice.” Therefore we must make the transition to a Green economy so that its costs and benefits are distributed equitably.

3. We must “protect the Earth, which is the source of all life.” Therefore we must guard against disrupting Earth’s climate, which “is the cornerstone of all life.”

The corresponding responses to the three principles are not warranted, and the principles themselves are hollow. In fact, the responses are very likely to hurt the poor, with whom IMAC is primarily concerned.

IMAC’s statement is one sided. Its Call to Action assumes that Earth is warming dangerously because of man’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. However, the verdict is still out on how much warming CO2 emissions cause and whether they are, as IMAC assumes, the main or even a major cause of recent warming.

Some troubling facts that put a wrench in IMAC’s assumption include:

  • There is no statistically significant correlation between CO2 increase and global average temperature.
  • Over geologic time, CO2 increase usually follows warming (by 800 to 1,000 years), not vice versa.
  • Despite a steady, continuous increase in CO2 concentration, there has been no statistically significant global warming since 1995.

IMAC also claims that human-induced climate change is correlated with an increase in ecological disasters, as well as the political and economic damage associated with them. However, there is no statistically significant correlation between global average temperature during the period of alleged human-induced warming (essentially, the mid-1970s to today) and severe weather events.

Far from the wealthy, industrialized nations’ emissions of CO2 causing ecological disasters, as IMAC falsely claims, they actually benefit the Earth and all mankind. On the one hand, the CO2 emissions come from our using energy to produce goods and services that benefit our neighbors directly. On the other hand, the CO2 emissions enhance plant growth, thus enhancing food supply for everything on Earth and driving down food prices for the poor.

IMAC forgets that the very industrialization it blames for global warming also protects people from climate-related catastrophes, whether from heat or cold. Wealthy people can moderate risks in any type of weather; poor people can’t. Industry, powered by abundant energy, enables wealth creation. Take away the energy, and you take away the wealth and the safety it brings.

IMAC urges phasing out fossil fuels and introducing “wind, solar, geothermal and other renewable energy sources.” Why doesn’t it include nuclear energy in that option? It produces no CO2 but vast quantities of inexpensive energy, reliable, on-demand, something the other non-carbon technologies cannot do.

Equivalent amounts of energy from wind, solar, and geothermal will cost at least three times, and usually closer to 10 times, as much as energy from fossil fuels, will require covering vast areas of land with windmills and solar panels, causing ecological disruption, and will be intermittent and unreliable, necessitating backup by constantly running coal or gas generating plants. The extra cost causes companies to fire employees they can no longer afford and raises prices throughout the economy.

All three results hurt the poor and prevent the “equity and justice” IMAC wants. The poor benefit more from rising incomes and falling prices driven by inexpensive energy than from any purported ecological advantages of “renewable” energy. The high cost of ”renewable” energy will delay the development of poor countries for decades, prolonging their high rates of suffering and premature death.

Keeping countries in the dark ages to prevent ecological disasters is itself a disaster. More die in Africa from malaria in a year than from any hurricane. Risks from climate disasters pale into insignificance compared with the risks of poverty.

Douglas Gregory holds a B.S. in Microbiology from Penn State and is Research and Communications Specialist for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.

Publication date: April 24, 2012

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