• The Environmentalists Are Trying To Frighten the Natives

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    In
    a manner reminiscent of witch doctors urging primitive people to
    sacrifice their sheep and goats in order to mollify the wrath of
    the gods, today’s environmentalists and their shills in the
    media and academe repeatedly urge the people of the United States
    and the rest of the modern world to sacrifice their use of energy
    and their standard of living in order to avoid the wrath of the
    Earth and its atmosphere. That wrath will allegedly take one form
    or another: a new ice age (recall the predictions of Paul Ehrlich)
    or, if not a new ice age, then global warming and a resulting rise
    in sea levels. And if global warming and a rise in sea levels of
    1 to 3 feet over the next 100 to 150 years is not sufficiently frightening,
    then a rise in sea levels of 13 to 20 feet over centuries lying
    still further in the future is projected. Both of these sea-level
    results are supposed to proceed from a projected rise in average
    global temperature of 4 degrees, and of average temperature in the
    Arctic specifically of 5 to 8 degrees. (See “Melting
    Ice Threatens Sea-Level Rise
    ” and “Climate
    Data Hint at Irreversible Rise in Seas
    ” in today’s
    [March 25, 2006] New York Times.)

    None of these
    predictions is based on any kind of scientific experiment. Nor could
    they be. A scientific experiment would require a laboratory somewhere
    that contained two identical planets, Earth 1 and Earth 2. There
    would be just one difference between them. The human population
    of Earth 1 achieves an Industrial Revolution and rises to the level
    of energy use and standard of living of our own present-day Earth
    and its likely level of energy use within the next century. In contrast,
    the human population of Earth 2 fails to advance beyond the energy
    use of the Dark Ages or pre-industrial modern times. And then the
    scientists in the laboratory observe that the average temperature
    of Earth 1 comes to exceed the average temperature of Earth 2 by
    4 degrees, and that of its Arctic region by 5 to 8 degrees, and
    that its sea level proceeds to rise by the number of feet described,
    while the sea level of Earth 2 remains unchanged.

    Obviously,
    this is not how such temperature and sea-level projections are arrived
    at. They are reached on the basis of combining various bits and
    pieces of actual scientific knowledge with various arbitrary assumptions,
    which combinations are then fed into computers and come out as the
    results of “computer models.” Different assumptions produce
    different results. The choice of which bits and pieces of scientific
    knowledge to include also produces different results. The process
    is very similar to an individual with a spreadsheet combining various
    financial formulas with various assumptions about rates of return,
    periods of time, tax rates, and so forth, and then coming out with
    projections of his retirement income.

    Imaging being
    a member of a jury, charged with deciding the guilt or innocence
    of a defendant on the basis of such computer models. Would it then
    be even remotely possible to render a verdict that met the standard
    of “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt”?

    Yet this is
    the caliber of the evidence on the basis of which the environmentalist
    prosecutors/persecutors of Industrial Civilization want us to convict
    it and condemn it to death. Yes, the death of the Industrial
    Revolution and Industrial Civilization. That is what is meant by
    such statements as, “we will have to commit soon to a major
    effort to stop most emissions of carbon to the atmosphere,”
    i.e., to stop the consumption of most or all oil, coal, and natural
    gas, and thus throw the world back to the pre-Industrial ages. (This
    particular statement was made by one of the “scientists”
    referred to in The Times’ articles. Its meaning is supported
    by major segments of the environmental movement with little or no
    opposition from the rest of the movement.)

    Industrial
    Civilization is not a disembodied concept. It is the foundation
    of the material well-being and of the very lives of the great majority
    of the 6 billion or more people now living. Its destruction would
    mean the collapse of the production of food and medicine and literally
    result in worldwide famines and plagues. This is a result that would
    be of great satisfaction to those environmentalists who believe
    that the pre-Industrial World’s population limit of about a
    billion people was somehow more desirable than the subsequent growth
    in population to its present size. But it would not be of any comfort
    or joy to those who had to suffer and die in the process and who
    saw their loved ones suffer and die. Nor would it be of any comfort
    or joy to the survivors, who would have to live lives of abject
    poverty and misery.

    There are juries
    that bring in verdicts in defiance of all reason. The question is,
    is the jury of contemporary public opinion in the developed world
    in general and in the United States in particular so simple minded
    and irrational as to bring in a totally unjustified death-penalty
    verdict not only against modern Industrial Civilization, but against
    most of the human race at the very same time?

    March
    27, 2006

    George
    Reisman [send him mail]
    is Pepperdine University Professor Emeritus of Economics at Pepperdine
    University’s Graziadio School of Business & Management in Los Angeles,
    and is the author of Capitalism:
    A Treatise on Economics
    . Visit
    his website.

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