Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Cornwall Alliance

I recently read a paper by the Cornwall Alliance entitled "A Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor: An Evangelical Response to Global Warming". It is written in response to the Evangelical Climate Initiative's "Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action" which I have never read and know almost nothing about. I found the Cornwall Alliance paper to be very interesting. I would like to share some quotes from it, but invite you to read the whole thing here.

Recently sixty topic-qualified scientists asserted that "global climate changes all the time due to natural causes and the human impact still remains impossible to distinguish from this natural noise."

It is very unlikely that warming in that range [5.4 degrees F] would cause catastrophic consequences. Why? Among other reasons, because CO2-induced warming will occur mostly in winter, mostly in polar regions, and mostly at night. But in polar regions, where winter night temperatures range far below freezing, an increase of 5.4 degrees F is hardly likely to cause significant melting of polar ice caps or other problems.

Even if the recount strong warming trend (at most 1 degree F in the last thirty years) is entirely manmade (and it almost certainly is not), and even if it continues for another thirty years (as it might), global average temperature will only be at most 1 degree F warmer then than now.

Through the twentieth century [1900's] it [sea level] rose about 0.18 meter (7.08 inches), and there is no reason to think the natural forces driving that rise will cease.

Further, "Of the costs to the Netherlands, Bangladesh and various Pacific islands [i.e., the places at greatest risk], the costs of adapting to changes in sea level are trivial compared with the costs of global limitation of CO2 emissions to prevent global warming."

Further, those who warn of more frequent heat waves should even more fervently herald less frequent severe cold snaps. The death rate from severe cold is nearly ten times as high as that from severe heat, implying that global warming (assuming that it reduces coldsnaps as much as it increases heat waves) would prevent more deaths from cold than it causes from heat.

Malaria was common throughout Europe and even into the Arctic Circle even during the Little Ice Age and continued common through the end of World War II in Finland, Poland, Russia, around the Black Sea, and in thirty-six of the United States, including all northern border states from Washington through New York. It is not temperatures that are most important for malaria control but elimination of suitable breeding grounds and the use of pesticides to lower the population of malarial mosquitoes and keep them out of homes.

The resurgence of malaria in some African and Asian countries correlates not with changing temperatures but with the banning of DDT and shifts to less effective disease control methods, and it costs over a million premature deaths annually.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) concluded in a study announced in November 2005 that "the tropical multi-decadal signal is causing the increased Atlantic hurricane activity since 1995, and is not related to greenhouse warming."

Rising CO2-presumably what drives global warming-enhances agricultural yield. For every doubling of atmospheric CO2 concentration, there is an average 35 percent increase in plant growth efficiency. . . . Consequently their ranges and yields increase.

In 2004 Science published the results of a study by Naomi Oreskes claiming that "without substantial disagreement, scientists find human activities are heating the earth's surface." But an attempt at replicating the study both found that she had made serious mistakes in handling data and, after re-examining the data, reached contrary conclusions.

Because energy is an essential component in almost all economic production, reducing its use and driving up its costs will slow economic development, reduce overall productivity, and increase costs of all goods, including the food, clothing, shelter, and other goods most essential to the poor.

Rather than focusing on theoretically possible changes in climate, which varies tremendously anyway with El Nino, La Nina, and other natural cycles, we should emphasize policies-such as affordable and abundant energy-that will help the poor prosper, thus making them less susceptible to the vagaries of weather and other threats in the first place.

The world's poor are much better served by enhancing their wealth through economic development than by whatever minute reductions might be achieved in future global warming by reducing CO2 emissions.

By condemning the world's poor to slower economic development by raising energy prices, the ECI asks the poor to give up or at least postpone their claims to modern technology that is essential for a better future for themselves and their children. It tells them they must not expect to have fossil fuels, electricity, or even eco-tourism (because jets emit greenhouse gases and cause climate change). Other environmental activists tell them they must not use hydroelectric or nuclear power to generate electricity, because of fears of damming rivers and risks from handling nuclear wastes. So the world's poor must remain indigenous, traditional, and poor- or as Leon Louw has put it, must continue living in "human game preserves," so that affluent Westerners can visit them in their quaint villages.

A program that can only be done by government mandate is by definition not a program that the market deems cost effective. We believe the market is a better judge of cost effectiveness than bureaucrats and politicians.

The very fact that such higher-cost technologies are not widely used in rich countries testifies that they cannot be widely used in poor ones. Fossil fuels, then, should be seen as a proper stage in energy development, far safer than burning wood and dung (smoke from which claims 1.6 million lives per year), and a means of enabling the economic growth that eventually can make even cleaner technologies affordable.


Raymond V Banner said...

Thank you for introducing the Cornwall Alliance web site and statement on issues relating to stewardship of the earth. They evince a common sense position in a day when the radical left (including the professing Evangelical left) are promoting and following the silly, crafty and frankly destructive fables of the "global warming" alarm. I remember well that it was only a generation ago that similar cultural and political liberal/leftist along with avant garde scientists were alarming people with warnings of a coming new ice age.

Applied Christianity said...


Your are very welcome. I think I posted a while back about an article that Thomas Sowell or Walter Williams wrote about all of the dire warnings we've been given over the years by environmentalists. Very few (if any) came to pass.