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Overpopulation is an Environmental Red Herring

It is not too much of a stretch to suggest that 2020 has been an interesting year (in the sense of “May you live in interesting times”). Fires, plagues, floods, Presidential impeachment, global economic meltdown, lockdowns: this year has seen them all. And we’re only in September. Thank goodness there isn’t a major election coming up where some are predicting social breakdown in nearly every conceivable scenario or anything

It’s not quite dogs and cats living together in peace and harmony, but another sign that the end is nigh is that I find myself nodding along to an article of George Monbiot (greenie extraordinaire) in the Guardian. In it, Monbiot argues that blaming overpopulation for environmental concerns is a cop out, particularly for rich people in first world nations who get to lecture the third world on the need to have fewer children while they enjoy a lifestyle with a carbon footprint bigger than that of small central African nations.

As he states, the current population growth is overwhelmingly concentrated among the world’s poorest people. This means that a rising human population is only producing a tiny fraction of the extra resource use and greenhouse gas emissions due to consumption growth. Instead, we in the West should be turning our attention on our own behaviours (that latest iPhone, the plane trip to Davos to discuss climate change) rather than fretting about more Indian or African babies.

The example Monbiot gives of Dame Jane Goodall is a good one. She told the World Economic Forum in Davos that if only we had the same population as we did 500 years ago (500 million) then the current environmental issues would not be with us. The audience of course consisted of those with ecological footprints many thousand times greater than the global average. But the greater irony is that Goodall has previously appeared in British Airways advertising. If the world’s population was 500 million, and it was entirely composed of the average UK plane passenger, then our environmental impact would probably be greater than the 7.8 billion people alive today. When it comes to the environment, population size does not matter nearly as much as lifestyle.

Indeed, wishing that the world’s population was one-sixteenth its current size is the same as wishing for the moon and just as useless. Tut-tutting about more people being born over there saves us from having to worry about anything we are doing over here. It is environmental virtue-signalling.

Except when it leads to policy outcomes that are far worse than virtue-signalling. Population panic has led to barbaric, coercive population control measures in many countries throughout the world. And this is not an historical problem: UK foreign aid was helping to fund crude, dangerous and coercive sterilisation in India as recently as 2011, it was justified on the grounds that it was helping to “fight climate change”. (At the same time the UK aid was also pouring money into developing coal, gas and oil plants around the world…)

Of course, Monbiot could have been reading Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si in which the Holy Father said that:

“To blame population growth instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues. It is an attempt to legitimize the present model of distribution, where a minority believes that it has the right to consume in a way which can never be universalized, since the planet could not even contain the waste products of such consumption.”

And both Monbiot and Pope Francis had perhaps been reading this very blog, since nearly a decade ago I wrote of the thinly-veiled condescending bigotry underlying much of the West’s panic about overpopulation. Perhaps now that the more people are coming around to the view that the world’s population will stop growing in a few decades, we will see less insistence on the kinds of arguments Monbiot is railing against.

This content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license.

COLUMN BY

Marcus Roberts

Marcus Roberts was two years out of law school when he decided that practising law was no longer for him. He therefore went back to university and did his LLM while tutoring. He now teaches contract and… .

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EDITORS NOTE: This Mercator Net column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

Environmental Doom-mongering and the Myth of Vanishing Resources by Chelsea German

Media outlets ranging from Newsweek and Time, to National Geographic and even the Weather Channel, all recently ran articles on the so-called “Overshoot Day,” which is defined by its official website as the day of the year

When humanity’s annual demand for the goods and services that our land and seas can provide — fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, wood, cotton for clothing, and carbon dioxide absorption — exceeds what Earth’s ecosystems can renew in a year.

This year, the world allegedly reached the Overshoot Day on August 13th. Overshoot Day’s proponents claim that, having used up our ecological “budget” for the year and entered into “deficit spending,” all consumption after August 13th is unsustainable.

Let’s look at the data concerning resources that, according to Overshoot Day’s definition, we are consuming unsustainably. (We’ll leave aside carbon dioxide absorption — as that issue is more complex — and focus on all the other resources).

Fruits and vegetables

Since millions of people rose from extreme poverty and starvation over the past few decades, the world is consuming more fruits and vegetables than before. We are also producing more fruits and vegetables per person than before. That is, partly, because of increasing yields, which allow us to extract more food from less land. Consider vegetable yields:

Meat and fish

As people in developing countries grow richer, they consume more protein (i.e., meat). The supply of meat and fish per person is rising to meet the increased demand, just as with fruits and vegetables. Overall dietary supply adequacy is, therefore, increasing.

Wood

It is true that the world is losing forest area, but there is cause for optimism. The United States has more forest area today than it did in 1990.

As Ronald Bailey says in his new book The End of Doom, “In fact, except in the cases of India and Brazil, globally the forests of the world have increased by about 2 percent since 1990.”

As the people of India and Brazil grow wealthier and as new forest-sparing technologies spread, those countries will likely follow suit. To quote Jesse H. Ausubel:

Fortunately, the twentieth century witnessed the start of a “Great Restoration” of the world’s forests. Efficient farmers and foresters are learning to spare forestland by growing more food and fiber in ever-smaller areas. Meanwhile, increased use of metals, plastics, and electricity has eased the need for timber. And recycling has cut the amount of virgin wood pulped into paper.

Although the size and wealth of the human population has shot up, the area of farm and forestland that must be dedicated to feed, heat, and house this population is shrinking. Slowly, trees can return to the liberated land.

Cotton

Cotton yields are also increasing — as is the case with so many other crops. Not only does this mean that we will not “run out” of cotton (as the Overshoot Day proponents might have you believe), but it also means consumers can buy cheaper clothing.

Please consider the graph below, showing U.S. cotton yields rising and cotton prices falling.

While it is true that humankind is consuming more, innovations such as GMOs and synthetic fertilizers are also allowing us to produce more. Predictions of natural resource depletion are not new.

Consider the famous bet between the environmentalist Paul Ehrlich and economist Julian Simon: Ehrlich bet that the prices of five essential metals would rise as the metals became scarcer, exhausted by the needs of a growing population. Simon bet that human ingenuity would rise to the challenge of growing demand, and that the metals would decrease in price over time. Simon and human ingenuity won in the end. (Later, the prices of many metals and minerals did increase, as rapidly developing countries drove up demand, but those prices are starting to come back down again).

To date, humankind has never exhausted a single natural resource. To learn more about why predictions of doom are often exaggerated, consider watching Cato’s recent book forum, The End of Doom.

A version of this post first appeared at Cato.org.

Chelsea German

Chelsea German

Chelsea German works at the Cato Institute as a Researcher and Managing Editor of HumanProgress.org.

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The War on Air Conditioning Heats Up: Is Climate Control Immoral? by Sarah Skwire

It started with the pope. In his recent encyclical, Laudato Si’, he singled out air conditioning as a particularly good example of wasteful habits and excessive consumption that overcome our better natures:

People may well have a growing ecological sensitivity but it has not succeeded in changing their harmful habits of consumption which, rather than decreasing, appear to be growing all the more. A simple example is the increasing use and power of air-conditioning.

Now, it seems to be open season on air conditioning. From a raging Facebook debate over an article that claims that air conditioning is an oppressive tool of the patriarchy to an article in the Washington Post that calls the American use of air conditioning an “addiction” and compares it unfavorably to the European willingness to sweat through the heat of summer, air conditioning is under attack. So I want to defend it.

Understand that when I defend air conditioning, I do so as something of a reluctant proponent. I grew up in the Midwest, and I have always loved sitting on the screened-in porch, rocking on the porch swing, drinking a glass of something cold. I worked in Key West during the summer after my sophomore year of college, lived in an apartment with no air conditioning, and discovered the enormous value of ceiling fans. A lazy, hot summer day can be a real pleasure.

However, let’s not kid ourselves. There were frequent nights in my childhood when it was just too hot to sleep, and the entire family would hunker down in the one air-conditioned room of the house — my father’s attic study — to cool off at night. When we moved from that house to a place that had central air, none of us complained.

And after my recent article on home canning, my friend Kathryn wrote to say,

When I was growing up in the Deep South, everybody I knew had a garden, shelled beans and peas, and canned. It could have been an Olympic event. What I remember most — besides how good the food was — is how hot it was, all those hours spent over huge pots of boiling something or other on the stove in a house with no air conditioning.

There’s a lot to be said for being able to cook in comfort and to enjoy the screened-in porch by choice rather than necessity. Making your family more comfortable is one of the great advantages of an increasingly wealthy society, after all.

So when I read that the US Department of Energy says that you can save about 11 percent on your electric bill by raising the thermostat from 72 to 77 degrees, mostly I want to invite the Department of Energy to come over to my 1929 bungalow and see if they can get any sleep in my refinished attic bedroom when the thermostat is set to 77 degrees, but the room temperature is a cozy 80-something.

And when I read Petula Dvorak arguing that air conditioning is a tool of sexism because “all these women [are freezing] who actually dress for the season — linens, sundresses, flowy silk shirts, short-sleeve tops — changing their wardrobes to fit the sweltering temperatures around them. … And then there are the men, stalwart in their business armor, manipulating their environment for their own comfort, heaven forbid they make any adjustments in what they wear,” mostly I want to ask her if she’s read the dress codes for most professional offices. In my office, women can wear sleeveless tops and open-toed shoes in the summer. Men have to wear a jacket and tie. Air conditioning isn’t sexist. Modern dress codes very well might be.

But arguments based on nostalgia or gender are mostly easily dismissed. Moral arguments, like those made by Pope Francis or by those who are concerned about the environmental and energy impact of air conditioning, are more serious and require real attention.

Is it immoral to use air conditioning?

Pope Francis certainly suggests it is. And the article in the Washington Post that compares US and European air conditioning use agrees, suggesting that the United States prefers the short-term benefits of air conditioning over the long-term dangers of potential global warming — and that our air conditioning use “will make it harder for the US to ask other countries to continue to abstain from using it to save energy.” We are meant to be deeply concerned about the global environmental impact as countries like India, Indonesia, and Brazil become wealthy enough to afford widespread air conditioning. We are meant to set a good example.

But two months before the Washington Post worried that the United States has made it difficult to persuade India not to use air conditioning, 2,500 Indians died in one of the worst heat waves in the country’s history. This June, 780 people died in a four-day heat wave in Karachi, Pakistan. And in 2003, a heat wave that spanned Europe killed 70,000. Meanwhile, in the United States, heat causes an average of only 618 deaths per year, and the more than 5,000 North American deaths in the un-air-conditioned days of 1936 remain a grim outlier.

Air conditioning is not immoral. Possessing a technology that can prevent mortality numbers like these and not using it? That’s immoral.

Air conditioning is, for most of us, a small summertime luxury. For others, it is a life-saving necessity. I am sure that it has environmental effects. Benefits always have costs, and there’s no such thing as a free climate-controlled lunch. But rather than addressing those costs by trying to limit the use of air conditioning and by insisting that developing nations not use the technologies that rocketed the developed world to success, perhaps we should be focusing on innovating new kinds of air conditioning that can keep us cool at a lesser cost.

I bet the kids who will invent that technology have already been born. I pray that they do not die in a heat wave before they can share it with us.


Sarah Skwire

Sarah Skwire is a senior fellow at Liberty Fund, Inc. She is a poet and author of the writing textbook Writing with a Thesis.

Hillary Clinton’s Ideological Vortex of Power and Planning by Jeffrey A. Tucker

Just trust her. Truly, just trust her: to know precisely how much energy we ought to use, where it should come from, how it should be generated, how we should get from here to there, and the effects that her plan will have on the global — the global! — climate, not just in the near term but decades or a century from now.

If you do this, you will have embraced “science,” “reality,” “truth,” and “innovation,” and, also, “our children.” If you don’t go along, you not only reject all those good things; you are probably also a “denier,” the catch-all epithet for anyone doubtful that the brilliance of Hillary Clinton and her czars know better than the rest of humanity how to manage their energy needs into the future.

Hillary’s campaign seems designed to prove that F.A. Hayek was a prophet.

That brilliant economist spent 50 years explaining, in book after book, that the greatest danger humanity faced, now and always, was a presumption on the part of intellectuals, politicians, and bureaucrats that they know better than the emergent and evolving wisdom of social forces.

This presumption might seem like science but it is really pretense. Civilization arises from, is protected by, and advances through the dispersed knowledge of billions of individual decision makers and the institutions that arise from them.

Hayek called the issue he was investigating the knowledge problem. Society needs to know how to use scarce resources, how to navigate a world of uncertainty, how to form rules that turn struggle into peace. It is a problem solved through freedom alone. No ruler, no scientist, no intellectual can substitute for the evolving process of decentralized decision making and trial and error.

The message is bad news for people like Hillary, who is supposed to embody the ideology called “liberalism” in America. Yet it is anything but liberal. It seems to know only one way forward: more top-down control. That’s a tough sell in times when everything good so obviously comes from anything but government, and, meanwhile, governments are responsible for every failing sector from health to education to foreign wars.

But here’s the problem. People like Hillary Clinton are stuck in an ideological vortex with no way out. Government planning is their thing, and they refuse to recognize its failures. So they press on and on, even to the point of preposterous implausibility, such as the claim that government can know everything that is necessary to know in order to plan the entire energy sector with the aim of managing the climate of the world.

Economist Donald Boudreaux puts matters this way: “why should someone who cannot ensure the proper use of a single private server be trusted with the colossal power necessary to design and to oversee the remaking of a trillion-plus dollar sector of the U.S. economy (a sector, by the way, in which this person has zero experience)?”

With this presumption comes the inevitable hypocrisy.

After unveiling her plan to ration energy use and plaster the country with solar panels, Ms. Clinton boarded a private jet that uses more fuel in one flight hour than I use in a year. “The aircraft, a Dassault model Falcon 900B, burns 347 gallons of fuel per hour,” wrote the muckraker who did a public service in exposing this. “The Trump-esque transportation costs $5,850 per hour to rent, according to the website of Executive Fliteways, the company that owns it.”

Notice how rarely it is mentioned that the US military, with hundreds of bases in over a hundred countries, is the worst single polluter on the planet. If we really believe in human-caused climate change, this might be a good place to start cutting back. But no, there’s not a word about this in any of Hillary’s plans. Government gets to do what it must do. The rest of us are supposed to pay the price, bicycling to work and powering our homes with sunshine and windmills.

When I first read about her energy plan, my response was: Why would any self-interested politician make the need for reduced living standards a centerpiece of her campaign? After all, her speech was made in a setting piled high with bicycles (oddly reminiscent of Mao’s China), while demanding a precise path forward for energy and everything that uses it (oddly reminiscent of Lenin’s first speech after he took control of Russian economic life).

As it turns out, people aren’t that interested. Sure, most people tell pollsters that they favor renewable energy to stop climate change. You have to say that or else risk being denounced as a denier. On the other hand, it seems like very few people really care enough to forgo the benefits of modern life, which is probably what will save civilization itself from plans like hers. Note that days after release, her pompous video only had only 54K views — pathetic given her celebrity and how much money her campaign is spending, but encouraging that nobody seems to put much stock in her plan for our future.

It’s extraordinary how quickly one branch of the political class has leapt from the delicate and ever-changing science of climate monitoring to the absolute certainty that extreme and extremely specific application of government force is the way to deal with it. Writes Max Borders: “The sacralization of climate is being used as a great loophole in the rule of law, an apology for bad science (and even worse economics), and an excuse to do anything and everything to have and keep power.”

The last point is critical. Everything done in the name of public policy in our lifetimes has become a handful of dust, yielding little more than unpayable debts and unworkable programs, and leaving in its wake an apparatus of compulsion and control that robs society of its inherent genius.

What to do? Give up? That’s not an option for these people. Instead, they find a new frontier for their schemes, a new rationale to sustain a failed model of social and economic organization.

I can think of no better words of rebuke but the closing of Hayek’s Nobel speech in 1974:

If man is not to do more harm than good in his efforts to improve the social order, he will have to learn that in this, as in all other fields where essential complexity of an organized kind prevails, he cannot acquire the full knowledge which would make mastery of the events possible.

He will therefore have to use what knowledge he can achieve, not to shape the results as the craftsman shapes his handiwork, but rather to cultivate a growth by providing the appropriate environment, in the manner in which the gardener does this for his plants.

There is danger in the exuberant feeling of ever growing power which the advance of the physical sciences has engendered and which tempts man to try, “dizzy with success”, to use a characteristic phrase of early communism, to subject not only our natural but also our human environment to the control of a human will.

The recognition of the insuperable limits to his knowledge ought indeed to teach the student of society a lesson of humility which should guard him against becoming an accomplice in men’s fatal striving to control society — a striving which makes him not only a tyrant over his fellows, but which may well make him the destroyer of a civilization which no brain has designed but which has grown from the free efforts of millions of individuals.

Yes, it surely ought to.


Jeffrey A. Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Digital Development at FEE, CLO of the startup Liberty.me, and editor at Laissez Faire Books. Author of five books, he speaks at FEE summer seminars and other events. His latest book is Bit by Bit: How P2P Is Freeing the World. Follow on Twitter and Like on Facebook.

Government Ruins the Dishwasher (Again) by Jeffrey A. Tucker

The regulatory assault on the dishwasher dates back at least a decade. For the most part, industry has gone along, perhaps grudgingly but also with a confidence that dishwashers would survive. Surely government rules wouldn’t finally make them useless.

But the latest regulatory push by the Department of Energy might have finally gone too far. The DoE says that loads of dishes can’t use more than 3.1 gallons. This amounts to a further intensification of “green” policies that are really just strategies to wreck the consumer experience.

The agency estimated that this would “save” 240 billion gallons of water over three decades. It would reduce energy consumption by 12 percent. It would save consumers $2 billion in utility bills.

But as with all such estimates, these projections have three critical problems.

First, saving money and resources is not always an absolute blessing if you have to give up the service for which the resources are used. Giving up indoor plumbing would certainly save water, just as banning the light bulb would save electricity. The purpose of resources is to use them to make our lives better.

Second, the price system is a far better guide to rational resource use than bureaucratic diktat. If the supply of water or electricity contracts, prices go up and consumers can make their own choices about how to respond. This is true with one proviso: There has to be a functioning market. This is not always true with public utilities.

Third, the bureaucrats rarely consider the possibility that people will respond to rationing by using resources in a different way. A low-flow toilet causes people to flush two and three times, a low-flow showerhead prompts people to take longer showers, and so on, with the end result of even more resource use.

What does breaking the dishwasher accomplish? It drives us back to filling sinks or just running water over dishes for 10 minutes until they are all clean, resulting in vastly more water use.

The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, which has quietly gone along with this nonsense all these years, has finally said no.

“At some point, they’re trying to squeeze blood from a stone that just doesn’t have any blood left in it,” said Rob McAver, the lead lobbyist.

The Association demonstrated to the regulators that the new standards do not clean the dishes. They further pointed out that this can only lead to more hand washing. The DoE now says it is revisiting the new standards to find a better solution.

All of this is rather preposterous, since dishwashers are already performing at a far lower level than they did decades ago. Even when I was growing up, they were getting better, not worse. You could put dirty dishes in, even with stuck-on egg and noodles, and they would come out perfectly clean.

I started noticing the change about five years ago. It was like one day to the next that the dishes started coming out with a gross-me-out film on the glasses. I thought it was my machine. So I bought a new one. The new one was even worse, and it broken within a year. Little by little, I started hand washing dishes first, just to make sure they are clean.

It turns out that this was happening all over the country. NPR actually discerned this trend and did a story about it. The actual source of the problem was not the machine or the user, but something that everyone had taken for granted for generations: the soap itself.

The issue here is phosphorous. The role of phosphorus in soap is critically important. It is not a cleaning agent itself but a natural chemical that unsticks the soap from fabrics and surfaces generally. You can easily see how this works by adding phosphorus to a sink full of suds. It attacks the soap and causes it to bundle up in tighter and heavier units, taking oil and dirt with it and pulling it down the drain. It is the thing that extracts the soap, making sure that it leaves surfaces.

Painters know that they absolutely must use phosphorous to prepare surfaces for painting. If they do not, they will be painting on a dirty, oily surface. This is why the only phosphorus you can now find at the hardware store is in the paint department (sold as Trisodium Phosphate). Otherwise, it is gone from all detergents that you use on clothes and dishes, which is a major reason why both fabrics and dishes are no longer as clean as they once were.

Why the war on phosphorous? It is also a fertilizer. When too much of it is dumped into rivers and lakes, algae growth takes over and kills off fish. The bulk of this comes from large-scale industrial farms in specific locations around the country. Regulators, however, took on the easy target of domestic soaps, and manufacturers faced pressure to remove it from their soaps.

Now it is impossible to get laundry or dish soap with phosphorous as part of the mix. If you want clean, you have to physically add your own by purchasing trisodium phosphate in the paint department and adding it to the mixture by hand.

Welcome to regulated America, where once fabulous consumer inventions like refrigerators, freezers, washing machines, and dishwashers have been reduced to a barely functioning state. The reasons are always the same: 1) phosphorous-free detergent, 2) a fetish with saving water, 3) weaker motors that use less electricity, 4) more tepid water due to low default settings on hot water heaters, and 5) reduced water pressure in general.

Put it all together and you have an array of products that no longer function in ways that make our lives better. There is an element of dystopia about this, especially given that these household appliances were first invented and widely deployed in postwar America. This was the country where women, in particular, first started to enjoy the “freedom from drudgery.” It was machines as much as ideology that began to enable women to cultivate professional lives outside the home.

No, we are not going to be forced back to washboards by the river anytime soon. But suddenly, the prospect of having to hand wash our dishes does indeed seem real. If the regulators really do get their way, functioning dishwashers could become like high-flow toilets: contraband to be snuck across borders and sold at a high black market prices.

It seems that the regulators can’t think of much to do these days besides ruining things we love.


Jeffrey A. Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Digital Development at FEE, CLO of the startup Liberty.me, and editor at Laissez Faire Books. Author of five books, he speaks at FEE summer seminars and other events. His latest book is Bit by Bit: How P2P Is Freeing the World. Follow on Twitter and Like on Facebook.

5 Unintended Consequences of Regulation and Government Meddling by Robert P. Murphy

Voters frequently support measures that sound noble and beneficial but end up causing serious mischief — and often hurt the very groups the measures were intended to help.

A well-known example is price controls, which include minimum wage laws and rent control. These can cause unemployment among low-skill workers and apartment shortages for those without connections.

But that’s not all. Not by a long shot.

Here are five more examples of unintended consequences.

1. “Shoot, Shovel, and Shut Up”

The Endangered Species Act and other laws restrict how landowners can use their property if it is discovered that their actions may adversely affect vulnerable wildlife. Besides the injustice of violating property rights, this regulation produces perverse results.

Imagine a landowner in the Midwest who had plans to sell to an outside developer who wanted to build a shopping mall. One morning, a few days before closing the deal, the man is sipping coffee and looking off his back porch into the woods. He suddenly sees a woodpecker that he recognizes as a protected species. What will the man do, if he follows pecuniary incentives? Is he going to call up federal bureaucrats and tell them the good news?

No. The man will probably go get his gun and shovel and never speak of this incident to anyone.

2. Seat Belt Legislation Kills

In the typical debate over seat belt mandates — in which drivers can be heavily fined if caught driving without buckling up — advocates of liberty tend to stress individuals’ “right to be stupid” while others claim that public safety trumps absolute freedom. Ideology aside, do such laws make us safer?

Economist Sam Peltzman looked at the evidence after some states enacted seat belt legislation, while others did not. He found that drivers did buckle up more frequently because of the government penalties but that traffic fatalities were roughly unchanged.

True, the probability of dying in a car crash went down, if you were in a crash, because wearing a seat belt definitely helps you survive a typical accident. However, the states that passed the seat belt legislation saw anincrease in rates of traffic accidents. Because people felt safer, they drove just a little more recklessly. No individual driver wakes up and says, “I’m going to get in a fender bender today,” but with millions of people driving hours per day, 365 days per year, we will definitely see more accidents in the aggregate if people are even slightly more aggressive on the margin.

Peltzman found that total fatalities were about the same. The death rate for motorists crept down, but this was offset by a higher death rate among pedestrians and cyclists hit by cars. Some groups obviously did not benefit from the higher prevalence of seat belt usage.

3. Stricter Vehicle Fuel Economy Mandates Do Little for the Environment

The federal government imposes minimum corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards on certain vehicles. Some states wanted to “do more” for the environment, so they passed tighter mandates. In other words, states like California imposed higher mile-per-gallon requirements on cars sold in California than the federal government insisted on.

But the way the states structured their rules led to a significant “leakage.” If a car manufacturer increased the average fuel economy for its vehicles sold in California, for example, then those cars counted as part of its “fleet” in calculating the average fuel economy for its cars sold in the nation as a whole. The manufacturer could then get away with selling cars that had lower fuel economy in the states that did not supplement the federal rule, and they were still satisfying both state and national standards. Thus, the California rule as originally designed led to fewer emissions per vehicle-mile in California — but not nearly as much in the nation as a whole. Some economists estimated this “leakage” to be as high as 74 percent. The hodgepodge of standards simply raised the total costs of vehicles while doing little to reduce total US emissions.

4. Jane Jacobs Combats City Planning

Fans of Austrian economics should not be surprised to learn that Jane Jacobs, the champion of the American city, found several flaws with typical bureaucratic city planners. For example, zoning regulations broke up the spontaneous growth of cities into “residential” and “commercial” sections, spawning crime and other social ills.

Originally, apartments were interspersed with shops, so that the owners could always keep an eye on their businesses and on their children. This “natural surveillance” was destroyed with zoning and other regulations, not to mention the interstate highways that would rip neighborhoods apart and the austere “housing projects” that placed most adults far away from the street and thus unable to monitor and shoo away unsavory characters. Zoned neighborhoods became unsafe neighborhoods.

5. Three Strikes Mean You’re Out

In an understandable reaction to “liberal” judges who would give slaps on the wrist to repeat offenders, the 1990s saw a wave of automatic sentencing legislation to take away judges’ discretion. This included California’s famous 1994 “Three Strikes and You’re Out” rule (Proposition 184), where someone convicted of a third felony would get 25 years to life. Currently, 24 states have some form of “three strikes” legislation.

One problem with these rules is that many acts are felonies that most people would consider petty, such as bringing a smoke bomb to high school. In California, one man with two prior felony convictions was sentenced to 25 years to life for being with a friend who got caught selling $20 of cocaine to an undercover cop.

An unintended consequence of the “three strikes” rules is that someone with two prior felony convictions now has a serious incentive to evade arrest for a third. And in fact, empirical studies of Los Angeles data suggest that more police officers have been killed because of this effect.

The Upshot

Incentives matter. It’s not enough for voters to endorse legislation that has a nice title and promises to do something good. People need to think through the full consequences of a policy, because often it will lead to a cure worse than the disease.

Robert P. Murphy

Robert P. Murphy is senior economist with the Institute for Energy Research. He is author of Choice: Cooperation, Enterprise, and Human Action (Independent Institute, 2015).

The Industrial Manifesto

In the wake of two recessions following two fleeting, largely service-sector bubbles—the dot-com bubble and the housing/financial bubble—America’s intellectual and political leaders are championing the need for industrial progress.

The ubiquitous Thomas L. Friedman takes on the subject of industrial progress in his latest book, That Used to Be Us, coauthored by political scientist Michael Mandelbaum. The book begins by describing a China full of fast trains, stupendous buildings, and an aura of dynamism—and contrasting it to an America in which repairing a subway is a multi-year project. Such images resonate with readers and voters, who wonder with frustration why so much industrial innovation, production, and job-creation is happening overseas rather than in America.

In President Obama’s recent address on jobs, he angrily complained about the state of American industry:

Our highways are clogged with traffic. Our skies are the most congested in the world. It’s an outrage.

Building a world-class transportation system is part of what made us an economic superpower. And now we’re going to sit back and watch China build newer airports and faster railroads?

Obama is right about this much; the state of American industry is an outrage. America has enormous, incalculable, untapped potential to make industrial progress—to radically increase our standard of living through far greater productivity in energy production, in manufacturing, in construction, in mining, in transportation. Unfortunately, the statist philosophy of Obama, Friedman, et al leads them to speciously attribute the problem to lack of government—despite the unprecedented expansion of government over the last 50 years. They propose still more increases in government spending and controls, as if some magic manipulation is going to spark the next industrial revolution.

At the same time, they ignore the most blatant impediment to industrial progress—an impediment caused by policies they support. This impediment is an open secret readily discoverable by asking American industrialists what is holding them back.

When I do this, I hear one theme repeated over and over: it is ruinously difficult to start new industrial projects because of our anti-industrial, “green” policies.

Consider the plight of the modern industrialist. Whether he wishes to construct a new apartment complex, open a coal mine, site a nuclear power plant, build a new factory, drill for oil, he cannot count on clear, objective laws to protect his right to develop. Instead, he must deal with open-ended environmental laws and near-omnipotent regulatory agencies that can forbid any project that is regarded as insufficiently “green.”

The industrialist is virtually guaranteed to face a labyrinth of opposition by environmental bureaucrats, controls, lawsuits, NIMBYs, and activist groups. Every step of the labyrinth costs time and money, and there is no guarantee a project will emerge alive; vital industrial projects can and have been shut down to preserve the likes of kangaroo rats and two-toed sloths.

Given this industrial climate, it is a wonder that any industrial development occurs in this country. Ask any leader of an industrial project how much opposition he faces in refining the fuel we use to drive, in fracking for the gas that heats our homes, in building the coal or nuclear plants that keep the power on, and you will marvel at the inhuman endurance our industrialists possess—an endurance we can’t, and shouldn’t have to, count on.

The “green” labyrinth goes far beyond traditional environmentalist targets such as coal and oil. The DC Metro subway system that Friedman and Mandelbaum complain about has been enmeshed in controversy for years over adding a new “Purple Line” to its system, with rabid opposition. Any proposed new road in California, the home of some of the country’s worst traffic, faces an uphill, if not impossible, battle.

Even allegedly “green” solar and wind projects frequently face environmentalist opposition. Environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is the biggest opponent of Cape Wind, a windmill project off the coast of Nantucket. Environmentalists were the first to object to a giant solar project in the middle of the Mojave Desert in California.

What is so remarkable about the “green” opposition to industrial projects is that Americans, who supposedly want industrial progress, are so accepting of it. Based on the “green” movement’s actions, one might expect its goals and policies to be viewed with suspicion if not derision.

Instead, the idea of “going green” has never been more popular, with practically every businessman, schoolteacher, and politician trying to prove his “green” chops, in his personal life or at the ballot box. And thus, countless industrial projects continue to be deferred and destroyed.

If we are to make industrial progress, we need to seriously question the idea of “going green,” and its role in our government.

The “Green” Ideal

What does “green” really mean? It is most commonly associated with a lack of pollution and other environmental health hazards, but this is both far too narrow and highly misleading. Consider the range of actions that fall under the banner of “green.” As industrialists experience, it is considered “green” to object to crucial industrial projects, from power plants to dams to apartment complexes, on the grounds that some plant or animal will be impacted—plants and animals that take precedence over the human animals who need or want the projects.

It is considered “green” to oppose not only fossil fuel plants (which produce 86% of the world’s energy), but hydroelectric plants and nuclear plants—which all told means 98% of the world’s energy production. It is considered “green” to turn off the heat or air-conditioning, even at the price of personal discomfort.

It is considered “green” to do less of anything industrial—from driving to flying to using a washing machine to using disposable diapers to consuming pretty much any modern product (there is now an attack on iPhones for being insufficiently “green” given the various materials that must be mined to make them).

Often the same activity will be characterized as both “green” and non-“green”—just ask the proponents and opponents of any given solar farm. The proponents will say that the installation is “green” because it doesn’t use fossil fuels (except, they evade, to mine, fabricate, transport and assemble it), it isn’t mining the earth’s precious “natural resources” (except, they evade, for enormous amounts of steel, concrete, and various rare and toxic elements), etc. The opponents will point to the fact that solar farms, because they use a diffuse, intermittent energy source, take up an enormous “footprint” on nature, that they require prominent, long-distance transmission lines to take to their customers, that they require large-“footprint” backup systems to store energy or fossil fuel plants to serve as backups, etc.

Clearly, “going green” is not primarily about human health—indeed, in its opposition to just about anything industrial, it threatens the industrial foundations of modern health and sanitation. The essence of “going green,” the common denominator in all its various iterations, is the belief that humans should minimize their impact on nature.

“Green” leaders and followers may disagree on how to implement this ideal, and they certainly do not follow it consistently, but nevertheless it is uncontroversial that minimizing impact is the ideal.

But if we take ideas seriously, then the “green” ideal should be more than controversial. It should be jettisoned, as it is squarely opposed to the requirements of human life, including the requirements of a healthy human environment.

The Industrial Ideal

Human beings survive by transforming nature to meet our needs. The higher our level of survival, the more we must transform nature. In other words, we survive to the extent we depart from the “green” ideal.

Nature does not provide us with the wealth or the environment we need to live long, healthy, happy lives; hence the historical life expectancy of 30. To live and thrive, we must create wealth and create a livable environment.  And every new  act of creation, from building a fire to building an air-conditioned home to building the Internet, requires additional impacting—transforming—nature.

The fundamental reason for today’s incredibly high standard of living is that thanks to industrialization—the pervasive use of man-made power to fuel industrial machines—human beings can do hundreds of times more work to transform nature than we could even 200 years ago. But if our ancestors had followed “green” strictures, industrialization would have never got off the ground.

When the early oil industry turned night into day by making cheap illumination available to millions, they did it by drilling thousands of deep holes in rural Pennsylvania, extracting the black gold beneath, refining it into various useful substances, burning kerosene to create light, and dealing with whatever waste products emerged. J. J. Hill’s Great Northern Railway, a private transcontinental railroad that revolutionized American transportation and commerce, required men to mine iron ore from the ground, to combine it with carbon to make steel, to mine and use coal to power the steel furnace, to pour the mixture into molds, to use the molds to make railroad tracks, to lay the railroad tracks across patches of wilderness, to displace various plants and animals that stood in the way, and many more changes to the status quo.

Fast forwarding to today, the Chinese airports and buildings that many marvel at also transform nature on a massive scale—from the magnitude of the physical structures themselves to the coal plants, gas plants, factories, mining operations, oil rigs, oil refineries, and heavy machinery that went into building them, not to mention the industrial transportation system that keeps them maintained and stocked with supplies.

Industrial progress is not “green.” “Going industrial” requires a commitment to impacting nature as much as necessary to make it more hospitable to human life. And it is no accident that in generations past, Americans viewed industrial progress, not industrial abstention, as an ideal to strive for. Earlier generations took pride in transforming nature—in being a people that “tamed a continent,” that built new factories, that paved new roads, that drilled new wells, that mined the earth for resources. Whole towns would celebrate when a new bridge was built, when a factory was erected. They would proudly drive their automobiles, fly in planes, support new railroads, build new roads—without a shred of guilt over the fate of the two-toed sloth.

What about “green” support for “green energy” and a “green economy”? Is this not just a new, superior form of industry? Far from it. Any talk of green industry is ultimately contradictory, which is why such industries never materialize on a significant scale. All energy production requires an enormous amount of industrial development, both in its production and in its consumption.

Thus, environmentalists frequently oppose every power source, including solar and wind, for their various impacts. (They complain that solar and wind farms have the largest land “footprint” of any form of energy generation, which is true.) Similarly, for all the talk of “green construction,” “green building,” and “green jobs,” any activity with a major industrial presence will draw “green” opposition—as the valuable website www.projectnoproject.comaptly details.

The more consistent anti-industrialists are explicit about their goal, including its ultimate implication: de-development and depopulation. Stanford environmentalist celebrity Paul Ehrlich, who likens population growth to a “cancer,” “A massive campaign must be launched to de-develop the United States. De-development means bringing our economic system into line with the realities of ecology and the world resource situation.” Billionaire Ted Turner, a “mainstream” figure, says: “A total [world] population of 250-300 million people, a 95% decline from present levels, would be ideal.”

The true nature of “green” emerged particularly clearly in a debate over nuclear fusion in the late 1980s. Some uninformed news reports announced that fusion—which, if it worked, would be the cheapest, cleanest, most plentiful source of energy every created—was on its way to commercial reality. Many expected environmentalists to embrace this development. They condemned it.

“It’s the worst thing that could happen to our planet,” said leading environmentalist Jeremy Rifkin. Ehrlich memorably said that allowing human beings to use fusion was “like giving a machine gun to an idiot child.” Environmentalist icon Amory Lovins stresses he would oppose any fusion-like energy breakthrough: “Complex technology of any sort is an assault on human dignity. It would be little short of disastrous for us to discover a source of clean, cheap, abundant energy, because of what we might do with it.”

Do not make the mistake of writing off these anti-industrialists as “extremists” who don’t reflect on “moderate” greens. While the “extremists” are more consistent than the “moderates,” they share the same ideal—the anti-impact ideal that destroys industrial progress to whatever extent it is practiced.

But what about the “environmental impact” of industrial development? Isn’t the “green” movement providing a salutary influence us by helping us combat that problem? Again, no.

The idea of “environmental impact” is what philosopher Ayn Rand called an “intellectual package-deal.” Such a concept dishonestly packages together two very different things—the impact of development on the human environment and the impact of development on the non-human environment. Industrial development will certainly often harm various non-human environments—but it is a godsend to the human environment. By lumping together concern with the non-human environment (e.g., displacing some caribou to get billions of barrels of the lifeblood of civilization) and the human environment (e.g., air quality), anti-industrialists are able to dupe Americans into thinking that sacrificing to caribou somehow benefits them.

Historically, industrial progress brought with it a radical improvement of the human environment. Indeed, industrial progress essentially is the improvement of the human environment. The reason we develop is to make our surroundings better so that our lives are better, cleaner, healthier safer—in the face of a natural environment that is often hostile to human life.

Contrary to “green” mythology, man’s natural environment is neither clean nor safe. In a non- industrialized, “natural” state, men face all sorts of health dangers in the air and water, from the choking smoke of an open fire made using plant matter (a cause of over a million deaths a year to this day) to the feces-infested local brook that he must share with farm animals. Industrial development gives men the technology and tools to make their environment healthier—from sanitation systems to sturdier buildings to less onerous job conditions to comfortable furniture to having healthy, fresh food at one’s disposal year round, to the wealth and ability to preserve and travel to the most beautiful parts of nature. And so long as we embrace policies that protect property rights, including air and water rights, we protect industrial development and protect individuals from pollution.

As for the “sustainability” of industrial progress, an accusation that dates back to Marx, this fails to recognize the fact (elaborated on by Julian Simon and Ayn Rand) that man has an unlimited capacity to rearrange nature’s endless stockpile of raw materials into useful resources—which is why the more resources we use, the more resources we have.

Human life requires changing nature on a massive scale. Any cause that holds minimal impact as an ideal is anti-human and an enemy of the human environment.

Today’s anti-industrial movement is not new in this respect. Throughout history, there have been major, anti-industrial groups or movements. The basic premise they have in common is that it is arrogant and wrong for man to transform nature as he sees fit. Man, they believe, should not tame nature but exist in some sort of mystical “harmony” with it (how he is supposed to cope with nature’s dangers and a life expectancy of 30 is rarely specified). Perhaps the iconic anti-industrialist was the 18th Century’s Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who worshiped nature untouched by man and regarded the transformation of nature in his time (let alone the then-unimaginable transformation that is our modern world) as evil.

But the modern-day followers of Rousseau know they cannot succeed by being directly anti-industrial. So they create a false association between themselves and environmental progress, and a false opposition between industrial progress and environmental progress.

Part of this false conceptualization has been achieved by using an old socialist trick to obscure the massive environmental improvement that industrial capitalism brought. The trick is to criticize something by comparison to a nonexistent and impossible utopia.

Socialists used this technique to criticize capitalism for causing poverty, even though capitalism inherited poverty–and cured it. Yet Marxists would attack capitalism’s incredible contribution to human life, including to the life of laborers, by comparing that contribution, not to its predecessors and not to any known alternatives, but to a fictional socialist utopia whose advertised results contradicted everything known (even then) about socialism’s destructive nature.

Environmentalists have done the equivalent to industrial progress. Instead of comparing the human environment pre-industrial and post-industrial, they compared the post-industrial environment to a non-existent pollution-free utopia achieved by man living in “harmony” with nature. They did this in spite of conclusive historical evidence that living in “harmony” with nature means living very briefly. Historically, to the extent humans didn’t mine, didn’t burn fuels, didn’t develop, and were unwilling or unable to control or displace other species where necessary, they died early and often. The modern standard of living is an unprecedented, singular achievement that continues only so long as men are free to command nature on a large scale.

Early environmentalists cursed the coal fumes of newly industrial cities, evading the wood fumes, dung fumes, and starvation coal had replaced–and the work-hours it saved and years of life it added to human life. They cursed smog, evading that it replaced rampant airborne disease from horse-drawn society. And when increased production of coal and oil and natural gas produced the energy and technology to develop ways to radically reduce their pollution, environmentalists took credit–as if laws against pollution weren’t essential to capitalism, the system where protection of all forms of property is sacrosanct.

Development, industrial progress, and capitalism promote a human environment. The anti-industrial “green” movement opposes it. This is a truth that Americans desperately need to understand. At present, the philosophical confusion caused by anti-industrialists causes Americans who are genuinely concerned about their health and well-being to embrace the ideas and policies of those who want to sacrifice that health and well-being to the non-human. We are taught to denigrate fossil fuels, which have doubled the human life expectancy, and to strive for a mythical “green energy” economy, powered by fuel sources that have failed for decades. We are not taught that industrialization has enabled man to be orders of magnitude less vulnerable to climate, but that a degree rise in temperature over 150 years portends catastrophe. With proposals on the table such as 80% cuts in CO2 emissions, “green” confusion could mean economic suicide.

Such is the power of moral idealism and philosophical corruption. The ideal—and the corruption—need to be replaced.

Industrial Progress: A New Cultural Ideal for America

The only solution to a false ideal put forward by philosophical corruption is a true ideal put forward with philosophical clarity.

We need to embrace, unambiguously, the never-ending project that is the industrial revolution: the transformation of nature on a massive scale, with the unlimited potential to produce more energy, create more wealth, create more productivity, increase leisure time, transport things more quickly, conduct more complex scientific experiments, build sturdier, more comfortable places to live. We can travel farther and faster. We can live longer and better.

For the same reasons, we need to embrace, unambiguously, the harmony of industrial progress and the human environment. Industrial progress should be celebrated in classrooms, on YouTube, on t-shirts. Americans should think of fracking with the same excitement they feel for iPhones.

It is a moral embarrassment that in today’s world, where billions die for lack of energy, where Americans still have so much untapped potential, that what passes for idealism is driving a battery-powered car or sorting through one’s trash to make sure everything is in its “proper” bin. What does it say about our cultural self-esteem when we believe it is wrong to do something as necessary as generate trash—which simply amounts to taking some matter from the earth, making profitable use of it, and putting its waste product in a safe place?

For too long, Americans have taken industrial progress for granted, and carelessly embraced “going green” as an ideal–expecting that the unprecedented standard of living we had would automatically continue, even though we permitted environmentalists to oppose new energy production and new development at every turn. Today, we are paying the price, with an economy whose productive fundamentals are less and less sound.

So long as the anti-industrialists have the moral high ground, they can inspire support for their suicidal “green economy,” and inspire guilt to gain power and thwart the opposition. Way too much of free-market criticism of environmentalism bends over backwards to declare itself “green” and mouth environmentalist terminology such as “protect the environment”—as if the kangaroo rat environment and the human environment are interchangeably valuable.

Thus, we must clearly identify and steadfastly reject any trace of the “green” ideal: to sacrifice the human environment to the non-human environment. And any trace of “green” must be removed from politics. The one and only industrial policy that is needed is the proper definition and protection of property rights for individuals and companies. Human ingenuity directed toward the improvement of human life, will do the rest.

In the past, Americans’ unprecedented industrial freedom and growth depended on a certain industrial philosophy. With industrial progress as our ideal, and with policies that fully respect property rights and fully allow free markets, the brilliantly talented individuals of this great country can lead us to the next industrial renaissance and an ever-improving environment.

Don’t “go green.” Go industrial.

The New Paganism? The Case against Pope Francis’s Green Encyclical by Max Borders

Paganism as a distinct and separate religion may perhaps be said to have died, although, driven out of the cities, it found refuge in the countryside, where it lingered long — and whence, indeed, its very name is derived. In a very real sense, however, it never died at all. It was only transformed and absorbed into Christianity. – James Westfall Thompson, An Introduction to Medieval Europe

In 2003, science-fiction writer Michael Crichton warned a San Francisco audience about the sacralization of the environment. Drawing an analogy between religion and environmentalism, Crichton said:

There’s an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there’s a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all.

We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment. Just as organic food is its communion, that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs, imbibe.

This analogy between religion and environmentalism is no longer a mere analogy.

Pope Francis, the highest authority in the Catholic Church — to whom many faithful look for spiritual guidance — has now fused church doctrine with environmental doctrine.

Let’s consider pieces of his recently released Encyclical Letter. One is reminded of a history in which the ideas of paganism (including the worship of nature) were incorporated into the growing medieval Church.

Excerpts from Pope Francis are shown in italics.


 

This sister protests the evil that we provoke, because of the irresponsible use and of the abuse of the goods that God has placed in her. We grew up thinking that we were its owners and rulers, allowed to plunder it.

Notice how Pope Francis turns the earth into a person. Sister. Mother. This kind of anthropomorphic trope is designed to make you think that, by virtue of driving your car, you’re also smacking your sibling. We’ve gone from “dominion over the animals and crawling things” to “plundering” our sister.

The violence that exists in the human heart wounded by sin is also manifested in the symptoms of the disease we feel in soil, water, air and in the living things. Therefore, among the most abandoned and ill treated poor we find our oppressed and devastated Earth, which “moans and suffers the pains of childbirth” [Romans 8:22].

First, if the state of the soil, water and air and living things is indeed symptomatic of our violent, sinful hearts, then the good news is that sin is on the decline. On every dimension the Pope names, the symptoms of environmental harm are getting better all the time — at least in our decadent capitalist country.

Do not take it on faith: here are data.

There are forms of pollution which affect people every day. The exposure to air pollutants produces a large spectrum of health effects, in particular on the most poor, and causes millions of premature deaths.

This will always be true to some degree, of course, but it’s less true than any time in human history. Pope Francis fails to acknowledge the tremendous gains humanity has made. For example, human life expectancy in the Paleolithic period (call this “Eden”) was 33 years. Life expectancy in the neolithic period was 20 years. Globally, life expectancy is now more than 68 years, and in the West, it is passing 79 years.

Yes, there is pollution, and, yes, the poor are affected by it. But the reason why the poor are affected most by air pollution is because they’re poor — and because they don’t have access to fossil fuel energy. Pope Francis never bothers to draw the connection between wealth and health because he thinks of both production and consumption as sinful. Brad Plumer writes at Vox,

About 3 billion people around the world — mostly in Africa and Asia, and mostly very poor — still cook and heat their homes by burning coal, charcoal, dung, wood, or plant residue in their homes. These homes often have poor ventilation, and the smoke can cause all sorts of respiratory diseases.

The wealthy people of the West, including Pope Francis, don’t suffer from this problem. That’s because liberal capitalist countries — i.e., those countries who “plunder” their sister earth — do not suffer from energy poverty. They do not suffer from inhaling fumes and particulate matter from burning dung becausethey are “sinful,” because they are capitalist.

See the problem? The Pope wants to have it both ways. He has confused the disease (unhealthy indoor air pollution) with the cure (cheap, clean, abundant and mass-produced energy from fossil fuels).

Add to that the pollution that affects all, caused by transportation, by industrial fumes, by the discharge of substances which contribute to the acidification of soil and water, by fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and toxic pesticides in general. The technology, which, connected to finance, claims to be the only solution to these problems, in fact is not capable of seeing the mystery of the multiple relationships which exist between things, and because of this, sometimes solves a problem by creating another.

It is strange to read admonitions from someone about the “multiple relationships that exist between things,” only to see him ignore those relationships in the same paragraph. Yes, humans often create problems by solving others, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t solve the problems. It just means we should solve the big problems and then work on the smaller ones.

Solving problems even as we discover different problems is an inherent part of the human condition. Our creativity and innovation and struggle to overcome the hand nature has dealt us is what makes us unique as a species.

Perhaps this is, for Pope Francis, some sort of Green Original Sin: “Thou shalt just deal with it.” But to the rest of us, it is the means by which we live happier, more comfortable lives here under the firmament.

The Earth, our home, seems to turn more and more into a huge garbage dump. In many places on the planet, the elderly remember with nostalgia the landscapes of the past, which now appear to be submerged in junk.

If you get your understanding of waste management and the environment from the movie Wall-E, then you might have the impression that we’re burying our sister in garbage. But as the guys over at EconPop have pointed out, land used for waste management is also governed by laws of supply and demand — which means entrepreneurs and innovators are finding better and less expensive ways to reuse, reduce, recycle, and manage our waste.

The industrial waste as well as the chemicals used in cities and fields can produce an effect of bio-accumulation in the bodies of the inhabitants of neighboring areas, which occurs even when the amount of a toxic element in a given place is low. Many times one takes action only when these produced irreversible effects on people’s health.

People, on net, are living longer and healthier than they ever have in the history of our species. What evidence does the Holy Father have that irreversible effects on people’s health rises to the level of an emergency that demands drafting in a papal encyclical? And why focus on the costs of “chemicals” without a single mention of overwhelming their human benefit? Indeed, which chemicals? This kind of sloppy thinking is rather unbecoming of someone who is (we are constantly reminded) a trained chemist.

Certain substances can have health effects, but so can failing to produce the life-enhancing goods in the first place. The answer is not to beg forgiveness for using soaps and plastics (or whatever), but to develop the institutions that prevent people and companies from imposing harmful costs onto others without taking responsibility for it.

The key is to consider the trade-offs that we will face no matter what, not to condemn and banish “impure” and unnatural substances from our lives.

These issues are intimately linked to the culture of waste, affecting so much the human beings left behind when the things turn quickly into trash.

Now we’re getting somewhere. This is where Pope Francis would like to add consumerism to production on the list of environmentally deadly sins.

Let us realize, for example, that most of the paper that is produced is thrown away and not recycled.

Heaven forfend! So would Pope Francis have us burn fossil fuels to go around and collect processed pulp? Is he unaware that demand for paper is what drivesthe supply of new trees? We aren’t running out of trees because we throw away paper. The Pope’s plan sounds like it could have been hatched in Berkeley, California, instead of Vatican City. And yet worlds have collided.

Michael Munger puts matters a little differently:

Mandatory recycling, by definition, takes material that would not be recycled voluntarily, diverts it from the waste stream, and handles it several times before using it again in a way that wastes resources.

The only explanation for this behavior that I can think of is a religious ceremony, a sacrifice of resources as a form of worship. I have no problem if people want to do that. As religions go, it is fairly benign. Butrequiring that religious sacrifice of resources is a violation of the constitutional separation of church and state.

Well, Professor Munger, this is the Pope we’re talking about.

We find it hard to admit that the operation of natural ecosystems is exemplary: plants synthesize nutrients that feed the herbivores; these in turn feed the carnivores, which provide a lot of organic waste, which give rise to a new generation of plants. In contrast, the industrial system, at the end of its cycle of production and consumption, has not developed the ability to absorb and reuse waste and slag.

Where is the evidence for this? These are matters of faith, indeed. All this time I thought the industrial system did have the ability to absorb and reuse waste: It’s called the system of prices, property, and profit/loss. The problem is not that such a “recycling” system doesn’t exist, it’s that corruption and government distorts the system of property, prices and profit/loss so that our economic ecosystem doesn’t operate as it should.

Indeed, when you have the Pope suggesting we burn gas to save glass, you have to wonder why the industrial system is so messed up. A system that “requires us to limit the use of non-renewable resources, to moderate consumption, to maximize the efficiency of the exploitation, to reuse and to recycle,” is called the market. And where it doesn’t exist is where you’ll find the worst instances of corruption and environmental degradation.

Then, of course, there’s climate change. In the interests of brevity I won’t quote the whole thing. But here’s the punchline, which might have been plucked straight from the IPCC Summary for Policymakers:

Climate change is a global problem with serious environmental, social, economic, distribution and policy implications, and make up one of the main current challenges for humanity. The heaviest impacts will probably fall in the coming decades upon developing countries.

This might be true. What the Holy Father fails to appreciate is that the heaviest impacts of policies designed to mitigate climate change will definitely fall upon developing countries. (That is, if the developing countries swear off cheap energy and embrace any sort of global climate treaty. If history is a guide, they most certainly will not.)

Meanwhile, the biggest benefits of burning more carbon-based fossil fuels will accrue the poorest billions on earth. The Pope should mention that if he really has their interests at heart or in mind.

But many symptoms indicate that these effects could get worse if we continue the current patterns of production and consumption.

“Patterns of production and consumption”? This is a euphemism for wealth creation. What is wealth except production and consumption of resources to further human need and desire?

His suggested cure for our dangerous patterns of wealth creation, of course, is good ole demand-side management. Wiser, more enlightened minds (like his, he hopes) will let you know which light bulbs to buy, what sort of car to drive, and which insolvent solar company they’ll “invest” your money in. You can even buy papal indulgences in the form of carbon credits. As the late Alexander Cockburn wrote,

The modern trade is as fantastical as the medieval one. … Devoid of any sustaining scientific basis, carbon trafficking is powered by guilt, credulity, cynicism and greed, just like the old indulgences, though at least the latter produced beautiful monuments.

But the most important thing to realize here is that the “current” patterns of production and consumption are never current. The earthquakes of innovation and gales of creative destruction blow through any such observed patterns. The price system, with its lightning-quick information distribution mechanism is far, far superior to any elites or energy cronies. And technological innovation, though we can’t predict just how, will likely someday take us as far away from today’s energy status quo, just as we have moved away from tallow, whale oil, and horse-drawn carriages.

The Pope disagrees with our rose-tinted techno-optimism, saying “some maintain at all costs the myth of progress and say that the ecological problems will be solved simply by new technical applications.”

The Pope sits on his golden throne and looks over the vast expanse of time and space — from hunter-gatherers running mammoths off cliffs to Americans running Teslas off electric power, from the USA in 1776 and 2015, from England before and after the Industrial Revolution, from Hong Kong and Hiroshima in 1945 to their glorious present — and sneers: progress is a myth, environmental problems can’t be fixed through innovation, production is destroying the earth, consumption is original sin.

Innovation is the wellspring of all progress. Policies to stop or undo innovation in energy, chemistry, industry, farming, and genetics are a way to put humanity in a bell jar, at best. At worst they will put some of us in the dark and others in early graves. They are truly fatal conceits.

And yet, the Pope has faith in policymakers to know just which year we should have gotten off the train of innovation. William F. Buckley famously said conservatives “stand athwart history, yelling ‘Stop!’” Greens are similar, except they’re yelling “Go back!”

Therefore it has become urgent and compelling to develop policies so that in the coming years the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases is reduced drastically, for instance by replacing fossil fuels and by developing renewable energy sources.

I reflect again on the notion that this effort might be just another way of the Church embracing and extending a competitor religion. Then again, Pope Francis so often shows that he is a true and faithful green planner. In an unholy alliance with those who see the strategic benefit in absorbing environmentalism, the Holy Father has found the perfect way to restore the power of the Church over politics, economics, culture, and the state to its former glory.


Max Borders

Max Borders is the editor of the Freeman and director of content for FEE. He is also cofounder of the event experience Voice & Exit and author of Superwealth: Why we should stop worrying about the gap between rich and poor.


Daniel Bier

Daniel Bier is the editor of Anything Peaceful. He writes on issues relating to science, civil liberties, and economic freedom.

Against Eco-pessimism: Half a Century of False Bad News by Matt Ridley

Pope Francis’s new encyclical on the environment (Laudato Sii) warns of the coming environmental catastrophe (“unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequences for all of us”).  It’s the latest entry in a long literary tradition of environmental doomsday warnings.

In contrast, Matt Ridley, bestselling author of GenomeThe Agile Gene, and The Rational Optimist, who also received the 2012 Julian Simon Memorial Award from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, says this outlook has proven wrong time again. This is the full text of his acceptance speech. Video is embedded below.

It is now 32 years, nearly a third of a century, since Julian Simon nailed his theses to the door of the eco-pessimist church by publishing his famous article in Science magazine: “Resources, Population, Environment: An Oversupply of False Bad News.”

It is also 40 years since The Limits to Growth and 50 years since Silent Spring, plenty long enough to reflect on whether the world has conformed to Malthusian pessimism or Simonian optimism.

Before I go on, I want to remind you just how viciously Simon was attacked for saying that he thought the bad news was being exaggerated and the good news downplayed.

Verbally at least Simon’s treatment was every bit as rough as Martin Luther’s. Simon was called an imbecile, a moron, silly, ignorant, a flat-earther, a member of the far right, a Marxist.

“Could the editors have found someone to review Simon’s manuscript who had to take off his shoes to count to 20?” said Paul Ehrlich.

Erhlich together with John Holdren then launched a blistering critique, accusing Simon of lying about electricity prices having fallen. It turned out they were basing their criticism on a typo in a table, as Simon discovered by calling the table’s author. To which Ehrlich replied: “what scientist would phone the author of a standard source to make sure there were no typos in a series of numbers?”

Answer: one who likes to get his facts right.

Yet for all the invective, his critics have never laid a glove on Julian Simon then or later. I cannot think of a single significant fact, data point or even prediction where he was eventually proved badly wrong. There may be a few trivia that went wrong, but the big things are all right. Read that 1980 article again today and you will see what I mean.

I want to draw a few lessons from Julian Simon’s battle with the Malthusian minotaur, and from my own foolhardy decision to follow in his footsteps – and those of Bjorn Lomborg, Ron Bailey, Indur Goklany, Ian Murray, Myron Ebell and others – into the labyrinth a couple of decades later.

Consider the words of the publisher’s summary of The Limits to Growth: “Will this be the world that your grandchildren will thank you for? A world where industrial production has sunk to zero. Where population has suffered a catastrophic decline. Where the air, sea, and land are polluted beyond redemption. Where civilization is a distant memory. This is the world that the computer forecasts.”

Again and again Simon was right and his critics were wrong.

Would it not be nice if just one of those people who called him names piped up and admitted it? We optimists have won every intellectual argument and yet we have made no difference at all. My daughter’s textbooks trot out the same old Malthusian dirge as mine did.

What makes it so hard to get the message across?

I think it boils down to five adjectives: ahistorical, finite, static, vested and complacent. The eco-pessimist view ignores history, misunderstands finiteness, thinks statically, has a vested interest in doom and is complacent about innovation.

People have very short memories. They are not just ignoring, but unaware of, the poor track record of eco-pessimists. For me, the fact that each of the scares I mentioned above was taken very seriously at the time, attracting the solemn endorsement of the great and the good, should prompt real skepticism about global warming claims today.

That’s what motivated me to start asking to see the actual evidence about climate change. When I did so I could not find one piece of data – as opposed to a model – that shows either unprecedented change or change is that is anywhere close to causing real harm.

Yet when I made this point to a climate scientist recently, he promptly and cheerily said that “the fact that people have been wrong before does not make them wrong this time,” as if this somehow settled the matter for good.

Second, it is enormously hard for people to grasp Simon’s argument that “Incredible as it may seem at first, the term ‘finite’ is not only inappropriate but downright misleading in the context of natural resources.”

He went on: “Because we find new lodes, invent better production methods and discover new substitutes, the ultimate constraint upon our capacity to enjoy unlimited raw materials at acceptable prices is knowledge.” This is a profoundly counterintuitive point.

Yet was there ever a better demonstration of this truth than the shale gas revolution? Shale gas was always there; but what made it a resource, as opposed to not a resource, was knowledge – the practical know-how developed by George Mitchell in Texas. This has transformed the energy picture of the world.

Besides, as I have noted elsewhere, it’s the renewable – infinite – resources that have a habit of running out: whales, white pine forests, buffalo. It’s a startling fact, but no non-renewable resource has yet come close to exhaustion, whereas lots of renewable ones have.

And by the way, have you noticed something about fossil fuels – we are the only creatures that use them. What this means is that when you use oil, coal or gas, you are not competing with other species. When you use timber, or crops or tide, or hydro or even wind, you are.

There is absolutely no doubt that the world’s policy of encouraging the use of bio-energy, whether in the form of timber or ethanol, is bad for wildlife – it competes with wildlife for land, or wood or food.

Imagine a world in which we relied on crops and wood for all our energy and then along comes somebody and says here’s this stuff underground that we can use instead, so we don’t have to steal the biosphere’s lunch.

Imagine no more. That’s precisely what did happen in the industrial revolution.

Third, the Malthusian view is fundamentally static. Julian Simon’s view is fundamentally dynamic. Again and again when I argue with greens I find that they simply do not grasp the reflexive nature of the world, the way in which prices cause the substitution of resources or the dynamic properties of ecosystems – the word equilibrium has no place in ecology.

Take malaria. The eco-pessimists insisted until recently that malaria must get worse in a warming 21st century world. But, as Paul Reiter kept telling them to no avail, this is nonsense. Malaria disappeared from North America, Russia and Europe and retreated dramatically in South America, Asia and Africa in the twentieth century even as the world warmed.

That’s not because the world got less congenial to mosquitoes. It’s because we moved indoors and drained the swamps and used DDT and malaria medications and so on. Human beings are a moving target. They adapt.

But, my fourth point, another reason Simon’s argument fell on stony ground is that so many people had and have a vested interest in doom. Though they hate to admit it, the environmental movement and the scientific community are vigorous, healthy, competitive, cut-throat, free markets in which corporate leviathans compete for donations, grants, subsidies and publicity. The best way of getting all three is to sound the alarm. If it bleeds it leads. Good news is no news.

Imagine how much money you would get if you put out an advert saying: “we now think climate change will be mild and slow, none the less please donate”. The sums concerned are truly staggering. Greenpeace and WWF, the General Motors and Exxon of the green movement, between them raise and spend a billion dollars a year globally. WWF spends $68m alone on educational propaganda. Frankly, Julian, Bjorn, Ron, Indur, Ian, Myron and I are spitting in the wind.

Yet, fifth, ironically, a further problem is complacency. The eco-pessimists are the Panglossians these days, for it is they who think the world will be fine without developing new technologies. Let’s not adopt GM food – let’s stick with pesticides.

Was there ever a more complacent doctrine than the precautionary principle: don’t try anything new until you are sure it is safe? As if the world were perfect. It is we eco-optimists, ironically, who are acutely aware of how miserable this world still is and how much better we could make it – indeed how precariously dependent we are on still inventing ever more new technologies.

I had a good example of this recently debating a climate alarmist. He insisted that the risk from increasing carbon dioxide was acute and that therefore we needed to drastically cut our emissions by 90 percent or so. In vain did I try to point out that drastically cutting emissions by 90% might do more harm to the poor and the rain forest than anything the emissions themselves might do. That we are taking chemotherapy for a cold, putting a tourniquet round our neck to stop a nosebleed.

My old employer, the Economist, is fond of a version of Pascal’s wager – namely that however small the risk of catastrophic climate change, the impact could be so huge that almost any cost is worth bearing to avert it. I have been trying to persuade them that the very same logic applies to emissions reduction.

However small is the risk that emissions reduction will lead to planetary devastation, almost any price is worth paying to prevent that, including the tiny risk that carbon emissions will destabilize the climate. Just look at Haiti to understand that getting rid of fossil fuels is a huge environmental risk.

That’s what I mean by complacency: complacently assuming that we can decarbonize the economy without severe ecological harm, complacently assuming that we can shut down world trade without starving the poor, that we can grow organic crops for seven billion people without destroying the rain forest.

Having paid homage to Julian Simon’s ideas, let me end by disagreeing with him on one thing. At least I think I am disagreeing with him, but I may be wrong.

He made the argument, which was extraordinary and repulsive to me when I first heard it as a young and orthodox eco-pessimist, that the more people in the world, the more invention. That people were brains as well as mouths, solutions as well as problems. Or as somebody once put it: why is the birth of a baby a cause for concern, while the birth of a calf is a cause for hope?

Now there is a version of this argument that – for some peculiar reason – is very popular among academics, namely that the more people there are, the greater the chance that one of them will be a genius, a scientific or technological Messiah.

Occasionally, Julian Simon sounds like he is in this camp. And if he were here today, — and by Zeus, I wish he were – I would try to persuade him that this is not the point, that what counts is not how many people there are but how well they are communicating. I would tell him about the new evidence from Paleolithic Tasmania, from Mesolithic Europe from the Neolithic Pacific, and from the internet today, that it’s trade and exchange that breeds innovation, through the meeting and mating of ideas.

That the lonely inspired genius is a myth, promulgated by Nobel prizes and the patent system. This means that stupid people are just as important as clever ones; that the collective intelligence that gives us incredible improvements in living standards depends on people’s ideas meeting and mating, more than on how many people there are. That’s why a little country like Athens or Genoa or Holland can suddenly lead the world. That’s why mobile telephony and the internet has no inventor, not even Al Gore.

Not surprisingly, academics don’t like this argument. They just can’t get their pointy heads around the idea that ordinary people drive innovation just by exchanging and specializing. I am sure Julian Simon got it, but I feel he was still flirting with the outlier theory instead.

The great human adventure has barely begun. The greenest thing we can do is innovate. The most sustainable thing we can do is change. The only limit is knowledge. Thank you Julian Simon for these insights.

2012 Julian L. Simon Memorial Award Dinner from CEI Video on Vimeo.

Anything Peaceful

Anything Peaceful is FEE’s new online ideas marketplace, hosting original and aggregate content from across the Web.

Bed Bugs Are the New Plague by Jeffrey A. Tucker

It must have been pretty rotten to sleep in, say, the 12th century Europe. Your floor was dirt. Your mattress was made from hay or bean husks. The biggest drag of all must have been the bed bug problem. It’s not so fabulous to lie there asleep while thousands of ghastly critters gnaw on your flesh. You wake with rashes all over your body.

They heal gradually in the course of the day, but, at night, it starts all over again.

No, they don’t kill you. But they surely make life desperate and miserable. They know where you are. They sense the carbon dioxide. They are after your blood, so they can stay alive. No wonder some people have been driven to suicide.

It stands to reason that among the earliest priorities of civilized life was the total eradication of bed bugs. And we did it! Thanks to modern pesticides, most especially DDT, generations knew not the bed bug.

That is, at least in capitalist countries. I have a friend from Russia whose mother explained the difference between capitalism and socialism as summed up in bed bugs. In the 1950s, capitalist countries had eliminated them. The socialist world, by contrast, faced an epidemic.

But you know what? They are back with an amazing ferocity, right here in 21st century America.

There is a new book getting rave reviews and high sales: Infested: How the Bed Bug Infiltrated Our Bedrooms and Took Over the World.

You can attend Bed Bug University, which is “an intensive four day course that covers bed bug biology and behavior, treatment protocols and explores the unique legal challenges and business opportunities of bed bugs.”

You can browse the Bed Bug Registry, with dozens of reports coming in from around the country. You can call a local company that specializes in keeping them at bay.

Welcome to the post-DDT world in which fear of pesticides displaced fear of the thing that pesticides took away. Oh, how glorious it is to embrace nature and all its ways — until nature begins to feed on you in your sleep.

The various restrictions and bans from the 1970s have gradually brought back the nightmares that wonderful, effective, killer chemicals took away. Some people claim that today not even DDT works because the new strain of bed bug is stronger than ever.

Forget innovating with new pesticides: the restrictions are just too tight. There is not a single product at your local big box hardware store that can deal with these blood suckers. And the products that more-or-less work that are available online, such as Malathion, are not approved for indoor use — and I know for sure that everyone obeys such rules!

In our current greeny ethos, people are suggesting “natural” methods such as: “take all of your laundry and bedding to the Laundromat and wash and dry it at high temperatures.”

Why not do it at home? Well, thanks to federal regulations, your hot water heater is shipped with a high temperature of 110 degrees, which is something like a luxurious bath for the bed bug. Add your detergent — which, by government decree, no longer has phosphates — and your wash turns into Mr. Bubble happy time for Mr. Bed Bug.

So you could stand over gigantic pots of boiling water in your kitchen, fishing beddings in and out, beating your mattresses outside with sticks, and otherwise sleeping in plastic bags, like they do in the new season of “Orange Is the New Black.” You know, like in prison. Or like in the 12th century.

No matter how modernized we become, no matter how many smartphones and tablets we acquire, we still have to deal with the whole problem of nature trying to eat us — in particular, its most wicked part, the man-eating insect. There is no app for that.

Google around on how many people die from mosquitos, and you are immediately struck by the ghastly reality: These things are even more deadly than government. And that’s really saying something.

But somehow, starting in the late 1960s, we began to forget this. Capitalism achieved a wonderful thing, and we took it for granted. We banned the chemicals that saved us, and gradually came to prohibit the creation of more. We feared a “Silent Spring” but instead created a nation in which the noise we hear at night is of an army of bugs sinking their teeth into our flesh.

A little silence would be welcome.

So here we are: mystified, afraid to lie down and sleep, afraid to buy a sofa from Craigslist, boiling our sheets, living in fear of things we can’t see. It’s the Dark Ages again. It gets worse each year, especially during summer when the bed bugs leave their winter hibernation and gather en masse to become our true and living nightmare.

How bad does it have to get before we again unleash the creative forces of science and capitalism to restore a world that is livable for human beings?


Jeffrey A. Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Digital Development at FEE, CLO of the startup Liberty.me, and editor at Laissez Faire Books. Author of five books, he speaks at FEE summer seminars and other events. His latest book is Bit by Bit: How P2P Is Freeing the World.

Leaving the Church of Environmentalism

In March 2009 while the Environmental Protection Agency was rushing to fulfill a presidential campaign pledge to document that carbon dioxide (CO2) and five other greenhouse gases endangered public health and the environment, a longtime employee, Alan Carlin, put out a 93-page report challenging the science being cited and the drift of the agency from its initial role to one captured by fanatical activists and alarmists, treating environmentalism more as a religion than based in science.

At the time Carlin was a 72-year-old analyst and economist who, as The New York Times put it, “had labored in obscurity in a little-known office at the Environmental Protection Agency since the Nixon administration.” His EPA career would span 38 years.

Cover - Environmentalism Gone MadThe website for his new book, “Environmentalism Gone Mad” says, “Dr. Alan Carlin is an economist and physical scientist with degrees from Caltech and MIT and publications in both economics and climate/energy, who became actively involved in the Sierra Club in the 1960s as an activist and Chapter Chairman. This led to a career as a manager and senior analyst at the Environmental Protection Agency.”

As he says in the preface “The purpose of this book is to explain why I changed from my lifelong support of the environmental movement to extreme skepticism concern their current primary objective of reducing emissions of carbon dioxide.”

“Although I and the many other climate skeptics are now referred to as ‘deniers’ by the climate alarmists, that does not change the science—and there is no valid scientific basis for the alarmists’ catastrophic climate predictions—or justify their fantastically expensive and useless ‘solution.’”

Carlin went from being a dedicated environmentalist, based on its initial philosophy of conservation, to an observer of the movement that was taken over and distorted to advocate falsehoods about global warming and a transition from fossil-fuels to “clean energy” meaning wind, solar and bio-fuels. As an economist he understood how absurd it was to suggest rejecting fossil-fuels, the key element of modern industry and society.

“The climate alarmists,” says Carlin, “have now been making their apocalyptic predictions for almost thirty years and it is now possible to compare their predictions with actual physical observations.” Suffice to say all the predictions of a significantly higher temperature—the warming—have been wrong.

In fact, the Earth has been in a natural cooling cycle since 1998 and shows no indication of warming

Predictions about the North and South Poles melting, a major rise in ocean levels, increased hurricanes and other climate events have been wrong along with countless other climate-related apocalyptic predictions.

Having observed how the EPA has functioned for more than three decades, Carlin warns that its current “environmental policy has been hijacked by radicals intent on imposing their ideology by government fiat on the rest of us whether we like it or not…If environmental policy is based on government fiat or ‘green’ policy prescriptions the results have been and are very likely to continue to be disastrous.”

At 625 pages, Carlin’s book takes the reader from his early days as a Sierra Club activist and chapter leader to being an EPA outcast, denounced for telling the truth about the false claims of global warming, climate change, and what is now being called extreme weather.

As an economist, Carlin is particularly upset that “the Obama Administration’s climate/energy policy is wasting very large sums on non-solutions to minor or non-problems.” The book has come along as President Obama has been flogging “climate change” as the greatest threat to the nation and the world.

“It has been long recognized that weather is chaotic,” says Carlin. While we operate within the four seasons, the weather that occurs can only be predicted in the most general terms. Suggesting that humans actually have any effect on the weather is absurd.

That is why the predictions made by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and all the others based on computer models are, by definition, worthless. Computer models cannot predict anything about the vast chaotic global climate system. Even today, meteorologists are mystified by the actions of clouds which can form and disappear in minutes.

It’s useful to keep in mind that climate is measured in centuries, while the weather is reported as what is occurring today and forecast, at best, for no more than a week. Weather records are maintained for purposes of comparison and within the larger context of determining the Earth’s climate cycles. Like those in the past, the present cooling cycle is based on a comparable one of the Sun that is producing lower levels of radiation. You don’t need a Ph.D. in meteorology to understand this.

Carlin does not hesitate to excoriate the blather put forth by the alarmists; particularly their claims that the weather is affected in any significant fashion by human activity and development in particular. “There is simply no evidence thus far that the normal activities of man have or will result in catastrophic outcomes for either man or nature.”

The actions the alarmists call for do nothing to enhance and benefit our lives. They drive up the cost of energy and food. They ignore how dependent modern life is on the use of fossil fuels.

“Despite all the lavish funding by liberal foundations and the federal government on their global warming doctrine-inspired programs, the radical environmental movement has long since gone so far beyond rationality that it is counter-productive in achieving its own ends.”

So long as it remains heavily funded and backed by the federal government, we must, like Carlin, speak out against environmental extremism. We must elect new people to govern in a more realistic, science-based fashion. We must urge our current legislators to rein in the rogue Environmental Protection Agency.

© Alan Caruba, 2015

EDITORS NOTE: Earlier this month, the Media Research Center released a report exposing the media’s cover-up of Hollywood’s hypocrisy revolving around one of the Left’s favorite pet causes: climate change. If you haven’t seen this report yet, you can download your free copy here. The featured image is by Kate Bunker.

West Virginia: ClimateDepot’s Marc Morano loses effort to stop brainwashing of children on Climate Change

student supporters of climate debate

Supporters of allowing climate debate in West VA schools.

This column has audio from a January 14, 2015 Board of Education meeting in Charleston, West Virginia. The meeting was being held to discuss providing balance to the district’s K-12 climate science curriculum.

According to JunkScience.com, “Unfortunately, warmists won this skirmish as the Board of Education voted to remove balance from the K-12 climate science curriculum.”

What has happened to the free-flow of ideas in our public school classrooms? Are school boards more interested in political correctness than they are about science?

Click here for more background on this failed effort.


Submitted Written Testimony of Marc Morano, Publisher of Climate Depot & former staff of U.S. Senate Environment & Public Works Committee Presented to West Virginia Board of Education Meeting Charleston West VA on January 14, 2015 – West Virginia’s changes to the National Next Generation Science Standards

Charleston West VA, – January 14, 2014 – Morano: I want to thank the school board for hosting this public hearing on the changes to the climate curriculum in West Virginia schools. (Media coverage of Climate Depot herehereherehere here.)

These changes are accurate, factual and should not be controversial. I will proceed point by point on each revision. (National Journal Features Climate Depot’s Morano warning of ‘indoctrination’ in testimony to W.VA Board Of Education Meeting – Board Votes To Reconsider Standards That ‘Cast Doubt’ On ‘Climate Change’)

First, I am here to applaud the West Virginia (skeptical) changes to the curriculum. Even if you are not a global warming skeptic, these changes are basically fostering an open debate and they are against indoctrination. We must not tell kids there is no debate and no dissent is allowed. So even if you believe the UN and Al Gore, these changes made by the West Virginia board are accurate and scientifically valid. The proposed (climate skeptical) changes by this board were perfectly reasonable.

With regards to the alleged ‘97% consensus’ – a lead UN author Dr. Richard Tol testified to the U.S. Congress that the 97% figure was “pulled out of thin air.”That is a nonsense figure meant to intimidate when we have thousands of scientists out there openly dissenting – including Nobel Prize winners like Dr. Ivar Giaever, who actually endorsed President Obama, but he is a major global warming skeptic now. Every day more and more scientists are speaking out…scientists who used to believe that are changing their view.

The science on virtually A-Z at this point is failing and in many instances the claims are moving in the opposite direction. The global warming movement is suffering the scientific death of a thousand cuts.

We are going on 18 plus years with no global warming according to satellite data. You may hear about 2014 being the ‘hottest year’, but it is based surface data and hundredths of a degree difference between years.

There were three basic changes that West Virginia made to the curriculum,

1) Changing it to read ‘rise AND Fall of temperatures. That is perfectly valid revision made by West Virginia. We have actually had a rise in temperatures since the end of the Little Ice Age in 1850, but temperatures fell from 1940-through the 1970s then we increased from the late 1970s to late 1990s. Now we are in a standstill. Temperature go up and down. Studies show the Earth has probably dropped seen a temperature drop the Medieval Warm Period.

2) In terms of the West Virginia changes adding the language to the curriculum about the accuracy of climate models, A study in Nature. (See: Study in journal Nature Climate Change: 114 out of 117 climate model predictions from 1990′s wildly overestimated global warming)

So the West Virginia revisions on models questioning their accuracy are valid.

3) In terms of natural factors the revisions were accurate as well. All three of West Virginia’s revisions should be embraced even by those who agree with the UN and Al Gore. Even if you are not a global warming skeptic, the proposed changes by this board were perfectly reasonable and scientifically valid.

There is nothing controversial here except the idea that we should allow open debate and not tell kids that they have to think a certain way. The original standards teach no debate. I urge you to keep the revisions, let science win out here in the end and do not suppress dissent.