In these hazy, 90-degree Georgia days, with gas prices soaring and smog hovering, the guilt trip that global warming proponents are selling is easy to buy. And with industry and academia seeing the green in being “green,” it’s even tougher for ordinary Georgians to resist the strengthening tendrils of government mission creep on the subject.
BP — the nation’s largest producer of oil and gas — now markets itself as “Beyond Petroleum” instead of British Petroleum, and offers a carbon footprint calculator on its opening Web page. In May, Georgia’s newest liberal arts college, the Georgia Institute of Technology, held a global warming conference where humans’ negative impact on and ability to effect change in climate were the givens.
Helping “facilitate” at the conference was the Center for Climate Strategies, which generously offers low-cost assistance to states to “help in responding to the challenges posed by global warming and related opportunities for economic development, clean energy and a safer environment.” The center, which portrays itself as an independent, objective climate change consulting firm, was in fact founded by the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, an advocacy group that embraces alarmist positions on global warming and is funded by environmentalist foundations including the Rockefeller Brothers and Ted Turner.
That a global warming policy is tough to justify in Georgia, which has actually shown a cooling trend over the past century, is irrelevant. The Brookings Institution, with Georgia Tech researchers’ help, recently published a study that put metro Atlanta in the top third of cities in the country for its carbon emissions footprint. “Rising energy prices, growing dependence on imported fuels, and accelerating global climate change make the nation’s growth patterns unsustainable,” the study authors opine.
The assumption that climate change is the product of human impact is the basis for the zealous push to regulate emissions of greenhouse gases around the world. It’s based on dire predictions of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), whose report states: “Global atmospheric concentrations of CO2, methane(CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) have increased markedly as a result of human activities since 1750 and now far exceed pre-industrial values.”
This is no fait accompli. John Christy, a lead IPCC author and contributing author, correctly points out that the U.N. report’s government-appointed authors came equipped with an alarmist mindset. And he adds: “Mother Nature is incredibly complex, and to think we mortals are so clever and so perceptive that we can create computer code that accurately reproduces the millions of processes that determine climate is hubris (think of predicting the complexities of clouds). Of all scientists, climate scientists should be the most humble. Our cousins in the one-to-five-day weather prediction business learned this long ago, partly because they were held accountable for their predictions every day.”
The Heartland Institute’s survey of 530 climate scientists from 27 countries found that nearly all agree that global warming is already under way. But it also found “no consensus regarding the causes of the modern warming period, how reliable predictions of future temperatures can be, and whether future global warming would be harmful or beneficial.”
And last month, the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine released the names of 31,072 Americans with university degrees in science — including 612 Georgians — who signed a petition rejecting the scientific validity of the hypothesis of human-caused global warming.
Hand-in-hand with global warming policy is the call for energy “independence,” usually meaning conservation and costlier, less reliable, “cleaner” “renewables.” It emanates from the same people who block responsible use of domestic resources.
Economic growth brings a better quality of life. But a good economy is dependent on a reliable source of energy, and renewable resources and conservation will not meet that need. More vehicles mean more fuel is needed, however efficient they are. U.S. electricity consumption is expected to grow by as much as 30 percent by 2030; the average household uses 21 percent more energy than it did in 1978. Expansion of nuclear energy (including two new reactors at Georgia’s Plant Vogtle), which is reliable and clean, has met resistance; coal, the country’s most abundant fuel, is demonized despite enormous technological advances. Oil refineries and liquefied natural gas terminals are lagging demand. Using more energy yet producing less obviously results in more imports.
Time and again, American ingenuity and technological advances clearly have been proven solutions to a cleaner environment and better quality of life. But as the discussion escalates in Georgia, business and citizens will be lulled into accepting (a) that there is a consensus that global warming is humans’ fault; (b) that human sacrifice can change the climate; (c) that in such a “crisis” Georgians should be willing to pay the price to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and (d) that government regulation and higher taxes are the means to that end.
In the boiling frog theory, a frog will allow itself to be be boiled alive if it’s placed in cold water that is heated slowly enough. It’s happening with global warming policy. And the water’s getting warm in Georgia.
Benita M. Dodd is vice president of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, an independent think tank that proposes practical, market-oriented approaches to public policy to improve the lives of Georgians.