July 23, 2009

"Except none of his predictions came true"

FROM- Baraboo News Republic
Ellen Bueno: Global warming latest hot button

While trying to make up my mind about this controversial "cap-and-trade" bill currently under inspection in the Senate, I realized I needed to understand global warming better. So I got out the aspirin, lined up a row of espressos every day for a week and went hunting for global warming truth.

I learned three things: Most scientists agree that the global average temperature has increased by about 1 degree over the past century. Most also agree that carbon dioxide emissions have increased notably during the Industrial Age. Most disagree on nearly everything else.

Do you want to know what the main cause of global warming is, or how bad it will get, or what we should do about it? Sorry. Those answers are numerous and contradictory, even coming from the scientific community. There is a majority opinion, however, presented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This prestigious group of scientists presented its "Summary for Policymakers" in 2007, which politicians regard as climate change canon.

So all you have to do is find that and start reading, right? (Don’t try this without caffeine.)

Eh … you’ll have to decide if you’re going to ignore the Summary’s growing number of detractors. I’d ignore them if they weren’t scientists, but they are – real ones with PhDs and research grants and papers published in peer-reviewed journals. A recent U.S. Senate Minority Report lists more than 700 prominent international scientists, including many current and former IPCC scientists, who now disagree with the organization.

This isn’t surprising. Scientists rarely achieve consensus on complex subjects, and ideally they should be curious, not angry about challenges to their work. Peer review roots out error and bias.

Unfortunately, the scientific debate can’t be heard over the screeching of partisan politics. The Al Gore-ites who want the debate to be over are trying to dismiss skeptical scientists as a bunch of quack, global warming deniers, whom they equate with Holocaust deniers. This stifling of debate isn’t good for us.

Let’s give the scientific community more time to hash things out before we legislate expensive climate change policies. This rush to get cap-and-trade passed gives me a bad feeling of déjà vu …

In 1968 the Sierra Club published The Population Bomb, a book written by Stanford biology professor, Paul R. Ehrlich. He famously announced, "The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now." Ehrlich also said poor people living in nations that didn’t control population growth should be allowed to starve.

The book is a study in bad math, alarmism and misanthropy, and yet people bought 1 million copies in less than two years, and quoted it all day.

Ehrlich wanted to "place the population issue at the center of environmental policy." So did liberal philanthropic groups like the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations. They donated millions of dollars toward population control programs and strongly influenced White House policies. On cue, President Nixon announced in 1969 that there was an "urgent need to address world population growth rates [and] their adverse impact on economic growth …"

When the United Nations and World Bank jumped aboard the population control freight train, it barreled down on poor women everywhere. Economic aid to poor nations was tied to population reduction programs, and overzealous governments in India, Bangladesh and other countries proceeded to sterilize millions of citizens against their will (killing thousands in the process) or use women as unknowing guinea pigs in the testing of new contraceptives, or only gave food subsidies to women who got sterilized. Ehrlich must have jumped for joy.

Except none of his predictions came true. The Green Revolution boosted food production in the 1960s. Population growth slowed in developed nations to the point where 20 countries now have negative or zero growth. 25 million people, sadly, have died of AIDS. We now know that children aren’t the enemy. Poverty is the enemy. And poverty in developing nations is caused mainly by corrupt governments, civil wars and lack of health care.

Everyone believed the world’s biggest problem was families with more than 2 children. And everyone was wrong.

Let’s learn from history instead of repeating it. A big chorus of impressive people is predicting catastrophe if governments don’t get a climate change freight train rolling. Are they right?

Ellen Bueno has lived in Baraboo for 21 years and is the reader member of the News Republic’s editorial board

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