Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Environmental debate heats up;
global warming fears are melting away

Proponents of man-made global warming say that burning fossil fuels to produce electricity, power manufacturing processes and fuel motor vehicles is seriously harming the environment. However recent evidence shows that to be a flawed theory.

Data show that the Earth cooled last year rather than warmed, following a trend that began in 2000, and in light of this evidence much of the doomsday talk has quieted down. However, while activists still cling to their flawed theory, they have replaced the term “global warming” with “climate change,” using the same theory to now account for any change that occurs, warming or cooling.

Scientists do not speak with one voice on this issue. Ivar Giaever is a Nobel Laureate in Physics, and is one of 650 dissenting scientists who argued against this theory at the United Nations global warming conference in Poland last December. “I am a skeptic,” he said. “Global warming has become a new religion.”

Other opponents have made similar comments, like former NASA official, atmospheric scientist Dr. Joanne Simpson, who declared, “Since I am no longer affiliated with any organization nor receiving any funding, I can speak quite frankly … As a scientist I remain skeptical.” Paleontologist Dr. Eduardo Tonni, of the Committee for Scientific Research in Buenos Aires commented that, “The [global warming] scaremongering has its justification in the fact that it is something that generates funds.” Colorado State University hurricane expert William Gray was more direct, calling global warming “a big scam.”

Whether or not man causes atmospheric changes is no mere peripheral argument; a lot hangs in the balance. We must know beyond any reasonable doubt that human activities are actually harming the environment before we take the drastic actions that environmental activists tell us we need to take. We do not know beyond a reasonable doubt that man-made “climate change” is real, and as time passes the evidence that it isn’t real continues to mount.

Studies show that cutting greenhouse gas emissions would be extremely costly and would produce an insignificant affect on global temperatures. The Congressional Budget Office reports that a 15 percent cut in emissions would increase average household energy costs by $1,300 annually. That’s a lot of money.

But is there any reason to increase household energy costs even $1 per year in the absence of overwhelming evidence that burning fossil fuels seriously damages the environment? No.

What we need is a sensible energy policy. We must continue the development of solar, wind, geothermal and other alternative and renewable energy sources, but we also must not rush their development and implementation, forcing these technologies into use before they are ready. When they are efficient, effective and economical, they will thrive of their own accord, without the use of scare tactics or government edicts.

In the meantime, let’s open known or highly likely areas of oil and natural gas supplies to responsible development by energy companies. Let’s refuse to increase, and in fact scale back punitive taxation and regulations on coal, oil and natural gas so the price of these energy sources does not further escalate.

And let’s get past the irrational fear we have of nuclear power, and take fuller advantage of this safe and inexpensive energy source. In more than 12,700 cumulative reactor-years of commercial operation in 32 countries there have been only two noteworthy accidents: Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, and Chernobyl, Ukraine.

Our fear of nuclear power is based largely upon a gross exaggeration of the problems caused by the radiation released at Three Mile Island 30 years ago. In an analysis for the Heritage Foundation, Jack Spencer and Nicolas Loris tell us that “the steam leakage released a radiation dose equivalent to that of a chest X-ray scan, about one-third of the radiation humans absorb in one year from naturally occurring background radiation. No damage to any person, animal, or plant was ever found.”

The far more serious accident at Chernobyl seven years later was the result of human error, a poorly designed system, and technology that was far less well developed than that of the United States at that time. While there was an increase in the incidence of thyroid cancer in the region after the accident, nothing remotely close to the number of deaths the World Health Organization said might result from the radiation release have occurred in the 23 years since the accident.

What has passed for “discussion” of these critical issues is something far removed from what is needed. Like fossil fuels, the use of which we have been told is going to kill the planet, nuclear power has been the victim of a concerted effort to create fear among the citizenry. As Spencer and Loris wrote, “the propagation of ignorance by anti-nuclear activists has caused more harm to the affected populations than has the radioactive fallout from the actual accident.”

The American people deserve a free, honest and balanced discussion of energy issues that will produce an energy policy based upon facts, and free of ideological bias. Fear-mongering and demagoguery have no place in this discussion, but that may be beyond the abilities of the politicians and the media.

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