(CCU Faculty) Jeffrey Sachs is one of the world’s leading public intellectuals with his special chair at Columbia University’s Earth Institute and his years of leading the U.N. Millennium Project. So I was a bit surprised to see him accusing me of being on the payroll of Exxon and among those who deny the link between smoking and cancer.
He did not name me specifically but he broad-brushed everyone like me in a recent column. “We are witnessing a predictable process by ideologues and right-wing think tanks and publications to discredit the scientific process.” He acknowledges a few small problems—like Climate-gate and the thousands of leaked emails showing the fraudulence of climate-change scientists, and an IPCC report full of errors—but brushes them aside to congratulate the “great scientific minds” who have learned to “read” earth’s history. And we had better heed their warnings or we are all going to die.
Well, Professor Sachs, you need to graduate from middle-school kinds of ad hominem attacks. As one of your critics I can assure you I am not on the payroll of Exxon. (But would love to be. Message to Exxon—please send large amounts of money to my address in care of CCU.) And I tell my children there is a link between smoking and cancer. But you and your ilk have big scientific problems with your greenhouse-catastrophe rhetoric and I will sum them up in four questions that have always been at the heart of the global-warming debate and that you have trouble answering. The questions are in ascending order of importance.
Question #1: Is the earth really warming? Probably not. Even the apocalyptic warmers agree there hasn’t been any in the last dozen years and one of them even called this a “travesty.” But even if it is warming a bigger issue is….
Question #2: Are humans causing the warming? Even more probably not. In a recent column http://www.ocregister.com/opinion/-236562--.html Michael Landsbaum pointed out that “all greenhouse gases worldwide make up 2 percent of the atmosphere. Only 3.6 percent of that 2 percent is carbon dioxide. Only 3.4 percent of that 3.6 percent is man-made. If California shut down every man-made CO2-emitting source the result would be atmospherically unnoticeable.”
The earth is a big place. People are really small. As I point out to my classes the entire human population of the planet could stand inside Boulder County, Colorado, and the rest of the world would be empty. Our footprint is negligible. But, let’s say humans are a big factor. This brings us to….
Question #3: Is warming a bad thing? Emphatically it is not. As a historian I can tell you that warm is good and cold is bad. The crash of the High Middle Ages was brought on in part by the end of the Medieval Warm Period. Cold weather is hard on crops—ask Colorado’s peach growers. I grew up in Laramie, Wyoming. Global Warming is not a threat, it is an answer to prayer. But even if warming is bad we come to the most important question of all….
Question #4: What will be done about it? And the answer clearly is….nothing. We got a good look at all this in Copenhagen. This summit to end all summits ended in confusion and ended in a very cold winter. The Chinese—the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases plan to do jack and squat about global warming. And for good reason. In his brilliant essay, Bound to Burn, Peter Huber asks a simple question. If the world’s poor had 40 trillion dollars worth of gold buried on their property would the rich nations be able to talk them out of digging it up? When pigs fly. And that’s what they have. It’s all they have. The Chinese add a U.S.’s worth of coal generating capacity every three years. And they will continue to do it. So, Professor Sachs, it’s not cancer-deniers like me you need to be talking to. Head over to Beijing to do your missionary work.
In the meantime I’m going to sit here and wait for the end. And wait for those checks from Exxon to start rolling in.