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The new global warming lawsuit industry:
Eco-activists add more junk litigation to their anti-civilization arsenal

Paul Driessen,

December 15, 2004

Much to the outrage of ideological environmentalists and certain segments of the "international community," the United States won’t sign the Kyoto Protocol--which some apparently believe will guarantee happy ever-aftering on a planet where temperatures remain fixed in a one or two degree spectrum, rain never falls ‘til after sundown and winters exit March the second on the dot.

Even worse, they whine, President "Darth" Bush has set a terrible example. Australia won’t sign the treaty either, and neither will China, India, Brazil, developing countries or even Argentina, the folks who just hosted the latest four-star hotel and dinner global warming gabathon. And now Italy is turning its back on the treaty. They all recognize that stringent emission limits would stymie their future economic development, for little environmental gain.

Climate alarmists engaged in their usual antics, but they didn’t come away with the prize they had so eagerly sought: entry into force of a binding treaty that would give them and international bureaucrats control over the economies, energy and lifestyles of everyone on Earth. So they fell back on Plan B, with the expectation that it might generate a Day After Tomorrow tidal wave of litigation that would make breast implant, asbestos and tobacco lawsuits look like an off-Broadway dress rehearsal.

EarthJustice, Friends of the Earth, the Center for International Environmental Law and other groups were busy in Buenos Aires, persuading Arctic Inuit Indians to sue an assortment of corporations for climate genocide, or something like that. The Inuits’ subsistence traditions are threatened, they claimed, by catastrophic warming caused by our wanton use of fossil fuels. Attempting to paint their claims with a thin veneer of science was Dr. Robert Corell, lead author of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA) study that had gotten the New York Times, Washington Post, London Guardian and other liberal media folks all agog.

"Very rapid and severe climate change in the Arctic," rising sea levels from the projected melting of Greenland’s ice shelf, changes in animal habitats and possible shifts in ocean currents "present serious challenges to human health and food security, and possibly even the survival of some cultures," Dr. Corell solemnly intoned. Even now, "abnormally warm" weather might be causing wildlife to disappear and the Inuits’ snowmobiles to fall through the ice. To back up these gloom-and-doom claims, he presented an array of glitzy charts and maps.

But the linchpin of his Armageddon theory lies in a temperature graph that depicts a 33-year warming trend, during which temperatures rose nearly 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 F). Project that out in a straight line, Dr. Corell said, and it’s easy to foresee a potentially devastating temperature spike of 4.5 C or 8.1 F over the next century. Rising seas would surely inundate New York City, Bangladesh and the Florida keys, as another graphic graphically showed.

Thankfully, it’s all just the stuff of Hollywood horror movies. Not only is the ACIA study flawed. It’s as plausible as the "science" in "The Day After Tomorrow."

Its horrific scenarios depend on Dr. C’s deliberate selection of the 1971-2003 time snapshot, and his faulty assumption that this trend will continue, forever. Relatively cold in 1971 … warmer in 2003 … Arctic meltdown by 2100, if we don’t slash fossil fuel use immediately.

But what if he and his team had selected a different window, just a few years earlier--such as the period 1938 to 1966? During those three decades, Arctic temperatures FELL 3.5 C (6.3 F), according to studies by American, Canadian, Russian and other researchers. At this rate, equally misleading computer models could easily show, temperatures would plummet a whopping 12.5 degrees C (22.5 F) in just one century--and reach the temperature of dry ice (minus 109 F) in just five centuries. Talk about impacting wildlife and Inuit culture!

This scenario is just as ludicrous--and just as reasonable--as the scenarios that Corell & Co. are peddling. Actually, it’s only a slight exaggeration of what their predecessors--the global cooling alarmists who have since morphed into today’s global warming alarmists--did back in the 1970s.

That’s when they, Newsweek (see its April 28, 1975 issue) and anxious colleagues were worrying about agricultural disaster brought on by global cooling--because of our wanton use of fossil fuels, naturally. Had they been quicker on their feet back then, they would no doubt have found some natives in Hawaii (or Tuvalu) to file lawsuits to stop that cultural genocide.

However, it’s a fact of life here on Planet Earth that our climate can be as unpredictable and cyclical as the solar and orbital variations that play prominent roles in determining that climate. Thus we get mild temperature shifts every 40 years or so, and much more significant changes every few hundred years--amid interglacial periods that are marked at either end by massive walls of ice flowing down from this same Arctic, obliterating everything in their path: forests the last time, maybe entire cities the next.

The global environmental movement, however, has long portrayed our planet as a stable, idyllic utopia--until evil people, corporations and technologies ruined everything. It has a nice, neat Garden of Eden ring to it. But it ignores the Ice Ages, Medieval Warm Period, Viking colonization of Greenland back in the days (950-1300) when people could actually grow crops there, and Little Ice Age (1350-1650) when northern seas were choked with ice and Europe was plunged into an era of cold, wet, stormy weather that destroyed crops, caused famines, and hammered populations, communities and cultures.

The ample historical record of these events underscores how turbulent and uncertain Earth’s climate has always been. (It’s doubtful that cavemen, Vikings, Medieval alchemists or a lost race of aliens from another galaxy caused those past climate mood swings.) To suggest that we have suddenly arrived at an immutable ideal state may serve the pressure groups’ political ends, but it is not reality.

The best thing we can do is continue to adjust to changing climates, just as our ancestors did. After all, the Inuit people survived the 1930s, when Arctic temperatures were even warmer than today. The worst thing we could do is follow the alarmists’ prescriptions, and agree to hobble our institutions, forego future health and prosperity, and impose permanent poverty on our Earth’s least fortunate citizens--in the name of preventing a purely conjectural problem.

If a corporation or accounting firm were to issue an annual report or stock offering as misleading as the ACIA "analysis" and other climate claims, its officers and directors would end up in jail--deservedly so. Unfortunately for us, but fortunately for the climate charlatans, no such laws govern environmental pressure groups or even semi-governmental groups like the ACIA.

In the long run, we need to reform our legal system, to enforce basic standards of honesty, integrity, transparency and accountability for everyone: for-profit and not-for-profit corporations alike. In the short run, we simply need to apply the same standards of credibility to Dr. Corell, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and their Inuit plaintiffs, as we do now to Enron, WorldCom, Arthur Anderson and other companies that bilked employees and investors out of billions.

The stakes are actually higher this time--because these activists threaten to disrupt our global economy, technology, health and prosperity, to "safeguard" us from a "risk" that is no more real than Tyrannosaurus rex bursting out of a lump of Cretaceous amber.

Paul Driessen is author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power ? Black death (www.Eco-Imperialism.com) and senior policy advisor for the Congress of Racial Equality and Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, whose new book (Freezing in the Dark) reveals how environmental pressure groups raise money and promote policies that restrict energy development and hurt poor families.
Paul can be reached at: letters@canadafreepress.com


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