Terrorism, Global Warming and Fear

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If politicians do anything well, it is to fan the flames of Chicken Little hysteria. They have an innate talent for scaring neurotic people who are prone to believe whatever government tells them about potential threats. Neither side of the political spectrum is above using propaganda to gain the upper hand in the cutthroat battle for public consciousness and votes.

For instance, according to right-wing neoconservatives, the evil menace plaguing mankind is hordes of Islamic militants who target civilians and fly aircraft into buildings. We are told that these terrorist madmen will descend upon our homeland with weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical warheads, and ungodly violence to destroy Western civilization unless we act preemptively.

On the opposite side of the political aisle, the big threat to the world is global warming. The leftists' predictions are just as horrific as the rightists'. They contend that if mankind continues to pump out carbon dioxide (CO2), the world will suffer catastrophic flooding, severe droughts, rising sea levels, lasting hunger, and economic chaos. Some global warming alarmists actually predict the end of humanity within a couple of decades.

Both scenarios pander to the politics of fear. But how accurate are they?

In the struggle to rid the world of terrorism, the Bush Administration launched a preemptive strike against Iraq in 2003. Two years later, instead of being “neutralized,” Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as the most fertile training ground for the next generation of “professionalized” terrorist, according to a 2005 report released by the CIA's National Intelligence Council. NIC Chairman Robert L. Hutchings said Iraq “is a magnet for international terrorist activity.” In a blowback of epic proportions, the U.S. government seems to be making enemies faster than they can kill them.

But how big of a threat are these terrorists? Do they have a lot of resources other than fear?

When the Japanese Imperial fleet launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, it assembled the most powerful carrier force and the greatest air power in the history of naval warfare. During the Cold War, the world was staring down the barrel of 70,000 nuclear warheads and two sometimes trigger-happy nations. When the Islamic terrorists struck the World Trade Center, they had 19 hijackers armed with plastic knives and box-cutters. This is not to say that terrorists are impotent or pose no threat, but by historical standards, they possess far fewer military resources compared to enemies from past wars.

In the case of global warming, the apocalyptic claims grow louder and shriller, especially in California, where Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has imposed new laws to reduce greenhouse gasses. But the fundamental assertion that CO2 causes temperatures to rise has no scientific basis. A number of prominent scientists, including Prof. Ian Clark, a leading archaeological climatologist from Canada, have pointed to the analysis of ice core samples that go back more than 600,000 years. All ice core records, including those drilled at the Vostok site in Antarctica, show that CO2 increases lag after warming spells by an average of 800 years. This finding suggests that rising temperatures are responsible for the rise of CO2 levels in the atmosphere, not the reverse.

In the British documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle, Prof. Clark asserts, “You can't say that CO2 can drive climate, it certainly did not in the past…. CO2 clearly cannot be causing temperature changes, it is a product of temperature; it's following temperature changes.”

To some extent, mankind's industrialization of the world must have an effect on climate. But CO2 is a minor component of the earth's atmosphere — approximately 0.054 percent. And of that infinitesimal amount, human-induced CO2 makes up less than 1/20th, depending on the data source. Many climatologists believe that solar activity, combined with the activities of cosmic rays and cloud formation, is a more likely candidate for the cause of the earth's warming. After all, the sun accounts for 99.8 percent of the solar system's mass. In fact, NASA's Mars Global Surveyor and Odyssey missions recently reveal that the ice caps near Mars' South Pole have diminished for the last three summers, along with the heating up of other planets.

The ecological-political establishment is using normal climatic cycles as evidence that the world is coming to an end. Interestingly, experts made similar dire predictions of an impending ice age during the cooling trend from 1940 to 1975.

Whatever direction politician leaders take the issues of terrorism and global warming, it is almost assured that they will polarize the public, enrich the well-connected, increase the authority of government, and do little to mitigate any so-called crisis.

June 14, 2007