Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day 2008

Sorry for not having the new Friday Challenge posted yet. Saturday turned out to be another working day. Sunday I decided to relax by doing a little yard work first, and as we all know "a little relaxing yard work" is synonymous with "a stupid accidental injury." I didn't wind up in the emergency room this time, but was somewhat distracted for the rest of the day and so wrote nothing. Monday was a severe deadline crunch day, from 6 a.m. right up until the minute the manager running the project decided the software bug I'd discovered on Friday really did warrant pushing back the release by a week, to allow for somewhat more thorough testing before we unleashed the product on unsuspecting customers...

Ergo, here we are: Tuesday already, and I'm still not quite ready to post a new Friday Challenge. Instead, I can't help but note that today is Earth Day, and all over the western world, sanity is being put on temporary hold as people give themselves over to paroxysms of nearly Dionysian Gaia-worship. In fact, my entire company is being shut down for two hours today, as all employees are being herded into the reeducation camp lunchroom to watch and discuss An Inconvenient Truth.

Oops, sorry, love to, but I've got an, uh, offsite meeting at that time. Can't miss it. Terrible shame.

And so, in honor of Earth Day, I'm going to practice some recycling here, and recycle a column I wrote three years ago for another web site. Enjoy!


The Doomsday Cult of Global Warming

By Bruce Bethke
First published 16 February 2005

The Kyoto Treaty goes into effect today, and wherever you are, whatever you're doing, and whatever else you may think of him, you should take a moment right now to thank George W. Bush for pulling the United States out of this misbegotten mess. At best, the Kyoto Treaty is only bad law based on questionable science, and if we're very lucky, it will only result in the accelerated offshoring of jobs and transfer of wealth from developed nations to the Third World.

At worst, it's the unholy writ of a new global Doomsday Cult, and if we're very unlucky the cultists will succeed in their apparent goals of reducing the world to pre-industrial technologies and pre-19th century human population levels.

As for why the Kyoto Treaty is bad law, that's simple. This whole mechanism of buying and selling emissions credits is based on 1990 pollution levels, and as you may have noticed, the world has undergone some profound changes since then. For example, the Soviet Union no longer exists, but its Kyoto credits do, and the former Soviet republics now stand to make a tidy bundle selling off the pollution rights for their rusting and vacant Soviet-era factories. (As will the brokers at the World Bank, who are the agents authorized to handle all such transactions). Likewise, under this treaty Japan is committed to a 6-percent reduction from their 1990 emission levels, and they've probably already achieved this goal by the simple means of unplanned economic recession. Factor in the way that Japanese companies have spent the last 15 years aggressively offshoring manufacturing jobs to Malaysia and China, and Japan is probably a net creditor under Kyoto now.

Of course, the absolutely worst aspect of Kyoto is that the two most rapidly growing industrial economies in the world today — India and China — are completely exempt from all terms of the treaty. But more about this in a moment.

As for why the Kyoto Treaty is based on questionable (to put it charitably) science, well, much finer minds than mine have spent a great deal of time writing much better critiques of the theory of global warming, only to be ignored or dismissed. So instead, I will quote a typical proponent of the theory:
"Global temperatures are indisputably rising — and, while there are persistent skeptics, the vast majority of scientists say human activity is to blame."

- Shankar Vedantam, Washington Post
Any time a reporter uses expressions like "indisputably" and "vast majority" you should be nervous, of course, but after you're done being nervous, you should ask to see the Greenpeace or Environmental Defense Fund press release they cribbed the assertion from. As for me, one of the virtues of age is that I can readily remember other times, not that long ago, when "the vast majority of scientists" assured us with equal conviction that we were "indisputably" on the brink of a new ice age, or that we would "indisputably" run out of oil by the year 1985, or that the Great Plains were about to become a vast desert with consequent global famines, or that by the year 2000 we would have a world population of over 20 billion souls all fighting tooth and claw for what little food and water remained, or my personal favorite, that we were "indisputably" about to run out of mineable copper, which would result in the complete collapse of all industrial economies based on electricity and electronics.

Indisputably? Hardly.

Finally, as for India and China: while I'm no fan of SUVs, I really hate the canard that American motorists are causing worldwide environment devastation, especially when the truth is so well-documented. To quote that well-known right-wing anti-environmentalist source, the New York Times:
"In China's rich northern coal belt, hundreds of underground fires are burning upwards of 200 million tons of coal each year, about 20 per cent of the nation's annual production. The fires produce nearly as much carbon dioxide, the main gas linked to global warming, as is emitted each year by all the cars and small trucks in the United States."

- Andrew Revkin, "Underground Fires Menace Land and Climate," The New York Times, 1/15/2002
That's right. Before you buy that Toyota Prius, understand that uncontrolled coal mine fires in China alone are producing almost as much greenhouse gas as all American motor vehicles combined, that India has a similar and equally enormous problem with their open-pit coalmines, and after you understand all that, remember this:

China and India are exempt from Kyoto.

If you want to read more, here are some links. Share them with your friends: