Last week the deadline for nominating Nobel Laureates passed. As always, someone tries to make a media show with Peace Prize nominations, which is probably one of the chief reasons the Norwegian Nobel Institute does not appreciate nominations being made publicly known. The supposed Rush Limbaugh nomination is probably very much about publicity in connection with the supposed (we won’t know if someone is actually nominated before that someone is awarded the prize or the disclosure date — in some 50 years from now — is reached) nomination itself, and not so much about anyone seriously expecting Limbaugh to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee, which actually is the Nobel Committee of the Storting (Norwegian Parliament), which it also formally was called for several decades, has really done a lot to deserve harsh criticism. Awarding the prize to Woodrow Wilson is arguably the worst decision this committee ever made, but we’ll leave that for now. The Woodrow Wilson Nobel error is material for an entire essay on its own. Laurence Vance has perhaps given the best account of why Rush Limbaugh should not be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In spite of all the critique-worthy prizes awarded, there is really no need to worry that Rush Limbaugh should ever be accused of working for peace by a committee of 5 Norwegian politicians.
Al Gore is more to worry about. A "conservative" Norwegian MP, Børge Brende publicly announced his joint supposed nomination with another Norwegian MP, Heidi Sørensen, of Al Gore and Canadian environmentalist Sheila Watt-Cloutier. The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Peace Prize to an environmentalist as recently as in 2004.
What is the justification for awarding a Nobel Peace Prize to environmentalists? Well, perhaps one could argue that climate change produces "climate refugees," and that this in turn will create conflict, as the two said Norwegian MPs do. Maybe so? What in the late industrialist Alfred Nobel’s last will and testament would then justify a peace prize to an environmentalist or an environmentalist organization? Could it be that avoiding conflict is a way of achieving fraternity between nations? Perhaps so?
Not too long ago Al Gore was in Denmark to do environmentalist advocacy. He was to do an interview with Jyllands-Posten, known for printing upsetting cartoons. Gore and his staff, however, had a problem with the interview. The problem was that the interview involved Dr. Bjørn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist. Al Gore chickened out.
Dr. Lomborg has criticized Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth for not being so true, or at least not being the whole truth. It seems most environmentalists, if not all, can’t stand normal discourse, where real discussion takes place. If you open your mouth and give the slightest sign that you are not aligned with the climate orthodoxy, you are likely to be made subject to name-calling. Opposition to the climate orthodoxy is almost treated like the opposition is treated in times of war. This is one reason why environmentalists should not be awarded peace prizes. They are not for normal peaceful discourse, but quite the contrary. Using techniques of propaganda is not exactly something that promotes "fraternity between nations."
Environmentalists may argue that there is so much at stake that we have to leave civility behind. How far is it from this kind of stand to the stand that we have to leave liberties behind? When we are and have been at war, we hear and have heard that liberties are a luxury that cannot be afforded in wartime. The environmentalist movement is looking scaringly warlike. Deserving of a peace prize? I don’t think so.
Often you can get the impression that the issue is whether climate changes are man-made or not. Of course, one should expect from intelligent human beings that they are capable of more complicated thinking. Probably, climate changes are a mix of what is caused by human activity and what is caused by other factors. According to Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten, MP Heidi Sørensen says that "fighting climate change is immensely important for global peace."
Now, let’s consider the climate changes as solely due to factors other than human activity. Do we use our resources on fighting Mother Nature? Or do we adjust? Do we embark upon a hopeless mission to create a nature in man’s image? Or do we realize that there thus far have been too many missions, with more or less disastrous consequences, to create a world in man’s own image? Are we also to fight the next ice age? Or do we prepare for it?
We could also consider the climate changes as solely due to human activity. Are we capable of doing something with the harm that has already been done? What about the delays in the system? Should climate changes be fought at all costs? Or are we capable of realizing that there are other values? Who are to pay the costs of the "fight against climate change?" Are they to do so willingly or coercively? One way of insuring negligible human impact upon the global climate could be to go back to technology of the 17th century. That could be the consequence of fighting climate change at all costs. How are we supposed to do just that? You think the pervasive government of our time is bad? You think the totalitarianism of the 20th century was horrible? You ain’t seen nothing yet! With 17th century technology a global human population of several billion people cannot be supported, but, hey, we have to "fight climate change."
Am I saying that we are not to care about the environment? No, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that there are other things to be considered. We have had an immense technological development. Of course, this development has not been without costs, but not without benefits either. Possibly, one of the costs is negative influence on the global climate.
Am I saying that it is alright for someone to pollute his neighbor’s backyard without his neighbor’s permission? No, I’m not saying that. It has a lot to do with the tragedy of the commons, which really is a tragedy. It also has to do with factories getting and having gotten government permission to pollute the private property of others. As for carbon dioxide, it is highly debatable whether this is pollution. Humans emit carbon dioxide when breathing. It is needed for life on this planet. If the global temperature rises as an effect of increased radiation from the sun, and all else is equal, the oceans will release carbon dioxide due to temperature-dependent capacity.
From time to time we hear about worries about what will happen when all adults in China and India have a car of their own. Regardless of whether the climate variations we are witnessing mostly are due to human activity or not, this will probably give a lot of problems. A hundred years ago or so there were some worries about the increase of horse excrement due to everyone in Manhattan having their own horses. As we have seen, it didn’t turn out to be a huge problem, because entirely new technology came about. Probably and eventually, a solution to the problem of every adult in China and India with a car will come about as well.
It is likely that we are not being as nice to the environment as we ought to. However, given the lessons of history, putting our trust in government and politicians to protect us from climate change is probably not the wisest thing to do. Environmental awareness is quite convenient for politicians. It makes them relevant. I’m not saying politicians necessarily consciously manipulate worries about climate change to increase their power, but it’s still quite convenient that such worries are there. I’m not even saying that environmentalists necessarily have evil intentions. Recall the words of C.S. Lewis:
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
It is better to put one’s trust in innovation that gives us good lives as well as being environmentally positive. Remember that it was technological innovation that made Malthus wrong when it comes to his predictions on the Earth’s population capacity. Remember also that it was technological innovation that did away with horse excrement as something to worry much about. Also, it is important to bear in mind that global warming does not only come with disadvantages.
According to Dr. Lomborg, the highlight of Gore’s movie is when the former vice president tells us that future generations will condemn us for not having implemented the Kyoto Protocol. Lomborg replies [translated from Norwegian]:
More likely, they will wonder why Gore — in a world full of unpleasant truths — chose to direct attention to the one where there was the least to accomplish for the highest cost.
Will future generations forgive those of us who were so worried about carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere that they forgot about all the other problems, which also were real problems?
One could take the question of grandchildren and future generations further. What will future generations say about our using resources on "fighting climate change" when it turned out that this was a hopeless fight, and that resources should have been used, at least partly, instead on adjusting to the changes?
If the "war on climate change" leads to further growth in government power, much the same way, e.g., the wars of the 20th century did, what are we to tell future generations when they ask why we did nothing for liberty? What are we to tell our grandchildren when they ask why we let government power grow further?
[I]f we are to follow Mr. Gore’s suggestions of radically changing our way of life, the costs are not trivial. If we slowly change our greenhouse gas emissions over the coming century, the U.N. actually estimates that we will live in a warmer but immensely richer world. However, the U.N. Climate Panel suggests that if we follow Al Gore’s path down toward an environmentally obsessed society, it will have big consequences for the world, not least its poor. In the year 2100, Mr. Gore will have left the average person 30% poorer, and thus less able to handle many of the problems we will face, climate change or no climate change.
That doesn’t sound like a roadmap to peace to me. If Lomborg and Rose are correct in their claims, the Norwegian Nobel Committee will have serious problems of consistency if it awards Al Gore while sticking to its theory that the fight against poverty is peace promoting.
When the deadline for nominations passed just over a year ago, the Norwegian Nobel Institute had its offices at Drammen Road, but last year’s Ibsen passing centennial had a significant part of Drammen Road here in Oslo renamed Henrik Ibsen Street. Actually, Henrik Ibsen Street was moved from a supposedly less prominent place. Thus, the institute now has its offices at Henrik Ibsen Street. Dr. Henrik Johan Ibsen was never awarded the Nobel Literature Prize, supposedly due to the role his son Dr. Sigurd Ibsen played in the process leading up to the dissolution of the Swedish-Norwegian union in 1905. Fellow writer Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson was, however, a Nobel Laureate. Ibsen wrote of Bjørnson that he believed the majority was always in the right. Ibsen was of the opposite opinion.
It’s the laureate or the street.
Only time will tell if the Norwegian Nobel Committee goes with the damned politically correct compact environmentalist majority or not.