The climate mavens at the United Nations have issued their latest ominous warning. They say we should expect "changes in the availability of food, fuel, medicine, and income." Actually, that quote comes from the first UN climate report, written 25 years ago, just around the time the World Wide Web was invented.
The latest UN missive, released last week, ups the ante, warning of melting ice, heat waves, storms, and food shortages, all due to man-made global warming. Meanwhile, Chicago just endured its coldest winter ever, beating the former record set during Roosevelt's first term. Teddy Roosevelt! 1903! Of course, any scientist will tell you that weather is not climate, but the fact is that the world's most sophisticated climate models have failed spectacularly, almost unanimously predicting much more warming than has actually occurred.
So what to do? Whether you think the climate scolds are latter-day Chicken Littles, or whether you believe the end is nigh, all of us should support initiatives that lead to cleaner air and less reliance on OPEC oil. That means more efficient gasoline engines as well as electric cars like Tesla, even though free market guys John Stossel and Eric Bolling say the government should not be helping a private company like Tesla with loan guarantees and tax credits.
Truth is, in the climate debate there is money under every glacier. Al Gore may have begun his proselytizing to do good, but he also did quite well, pocketing tens of millions of dollars. On the other hand, "green investing" didn't turn into green for T. Boone Pickens, who invested in wind farms and got blown right off the Forbes 400 list. "I lost my ass," is how the down-home Pickens put it.
The scandal involving British climate researchers burying facts that challenged the warming theory was disturbing, but to be expected when so much grant money is at stake. There is also an age-old human tendency to prophesize doom, which garners awards and book deals. Remember Paul Ehrlich, whose "The Population Bomb" predicted that "hundreds of millions of people will starve to death" because of overpopulation. He didn't account for scientific genius that increased crop yields and avoided catastrophe. Now 81, Ehrlich is still around, still prophesying doom, still cashing in on the lecture circuit.
Author Matt Ridley, who writes about scientific controversies, summed up the doom mentality in the Wall Street Journal: "Almost every global environmental scare of the past half century proved exaggerated ... In every case, institutional scientists gained a lot of funding from the scare and then quietly converged on the view that the problem was much more moderate than the extreme voices had argued. Global warming is no different."
The right is wrong to reject man-induced climate change outright, but correct in being skeptical of the proposed solutions. And the left is wrong in calling for the massive transformation of our energy consumption, which could wreck the teetering economy.
Climate change is one of those issues that will never be settled beyond a reasonable doubt, no matter what Al Gore says. So the sane thing to do is for the world to develop cleaner energy options but not ruin economies doing so. We will all be better off if clean and cheap energy becomes the norm.