Doha-ing It Again
The latest United Nations conference on climate change opened Monday in Doha, the capital of Qatar. Once again, delegates will be at it predicting warming temperatures, melting ice caps, rising oceans, and a general end-of-the-world scenario. And once again, the climate change vultures who stand to make a buck -- or billions of bucks -- off U.S. taxpayers will be in attendance, urging global carbon taxes, income redistribution, and the creation of an all-powerful climate bureaucracy.
The problem, for the climate change vultures at least, is that there is less and less evidence of man-made climate change. This year, as in years past, most of us living in the eastern U.S. are enjoying a rather idyllic autumn, with sunny days and pleasantly seasonal temperatures. The near-term forecast is for slightly above-average temperatures and moderate rainfall. It appears that this winter will be little different from most winters past.
Actually, all of 2012 was a pretty benign year. There was distinctly less tornado activity than in years past. One hurricane struck the U.S. mainland -- a category one causing little wind damage (though flooding low-lying coastal areas where one would expect flooding). A serious drought continued in the western U.S., similar to though less extreme than earlier droughts of the 1930s and 1950s. All in all, a year with no evidence of man-made climate change.
So why are the climate change types meeting in Doha at all, and why is the U.S. sending representatives? Surely not because they actually believe that human activity is significantly altering the earth's climate. And not because they think they could change things if it were. They are meeting because climate change continues to be one of the left's leading avenues for global governance. Instead of calling it the U.N. Conference on Climate Change, Doha should probably be called the Global Left's Conference on How to Take Over the World.
In reality, since the theory of climate change (or "global warming," as it was called before it became obvious that the earth's climate was not significantly warming) was first popularized in the early 1990s, none of the ill effects prophesied by the inconvenient truthers have come to pass. Over the past twenty years, there has been no increase in storm damage (when adjusted for increased coastal development), no rising of the seas, no global famine (except that exacerbated by environmentalist "solutions" such as ethanol), and no reduction in arable land masses. If anything, rising CO2 levels have spurred crop yields and promoted forest growth.
The real danger, now as always in human history, is that natural forces will usher in another Little Ice Age like that experienced between 1350 and 1850. One of the conditions associated with that difficult period was a lowering of the earth's CO2 levels. We should be glad that they have risen since.
The Doha conferees seem determined to do everything possible to bring about global cooling -- not that human efforts in this direction will amount to much. What they are failing to do -- and this might be the legitimate province of a global climate conference -- is anticipate the damage posed by a future shift toward global cooling. A rapid cooling in the earth's temperatures, with cold, wet, abbreviated growing seasons, would devastate agricultural production. It would precipitate global famine. It would force humans to burn more fuel to heat homes and offices, and it would be especially harmful to the poor. But instead of considering what defenses might be raised against a cooling climate, the climate change delegates are for the most part actually focused on efforts to bring about just such a catastrophe.
The real solution to climate change is to recognize that the earth's climate has always been subject to variations in natural forces including solar activity, volcanic activity, ocean currents, and natural CO2 variation. Instead of imposing anti-growth policies that restrict carbon usage, countries need to take full advantage of all forms of energy in order to promote global prosperity. Prosperity, in fact, is the earth's best defense against future climate variation. And one of the most important factors in global prosperity is the continued availability of cheap, efficient energy sources. The use of oil and gas, coal, nuclear, and hydro-power can help protect the earth's population against whatever nature throws at us.
In the end, economic growth is the only defense against the ill effects of the earth's constantly changing climate. Economic growth makes it possible to prepare for natural disasters, and to rebuild and resupply following them. The climate conference solution -- carbon taxes to fund a bloated climate change bureaucracy -- benefits no one except corrupt officials and carbon enforcers.
The real damage posed by climate change is the way in which concern over natural climate variation can be twisted to serve as a rationale for the creation of a global carbon police. This vast new bureaucracy would exist for one reason alone: to fund its own lavish and corrupt lifestyle at the expense of humble taxpayers.
How many bottles of fine wine will be consumed by the climate change conferees at Doha? How many kilos of caviar will be devoured? How many "escorts" will be employed to entertain delegates, all at taxpayer expense? And what plans are being proposed to make these bureaucratic perks permanent? These are the questions that really need to be posed at Doha. Better yet, forego meeting altogether, and eliminate the need to ask.
Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books on American culture, including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).