Alexander's Column

The Earth Day Before Yesterday

Mark Alexander · Apr. 22, 2005

It is no small irony that former Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson founded “Earth Day” on V.I. Lenin’s birthday. Nelson modeled his anti-capitalist protests after anti-Vietnam War demonstrations of that era.

Today, the so-called “environmental movement” he helped spawn has devolved from a gaggle of unwashed adolescent peaceniks into a slick cadre of Lefty politicos like Albert Gore and John Kerry, and their lobbyist ilk. This devolved cadre has implemented enormous hidden taxes on American products and services – more than a trillion dollars last year – in the form of runaway environmental regulation.

The populist wing of the environmental movement now operates under the aegis of the Left’s cult of Latter Day Eco-theologists, or earth-worshippers. Their current titular head is Albert Arnold Gore, whose landmark “global warming” speech was delivered in January, 2004, on the coldest day in New York City in decades.

The objective of these earth-worshippers is far more sinister than environmental preservation. They want to create a central authority over industrial production in the West through mechanisms like the Orwellian Kyoto Treaty. Their method is to portray industrial atmospheric emissions as a primary determinant of global climate. Their goal, consistent with both Nelson and Lenin, is to crush or at least bridle free-enterprise capitalism. The Kyoto Protocol, for example, hamstrings Western industrialized nations but exempts socialist states like India and China. (It should be noted that the U.S. Senate resoundingly rejected Al Gore’s beloved Kyoto Protocol in 1997 by way of the Byrd-Hagel Resolution. The vote count? An eye-popping 95-0.)

Commenting on the misuse of science to support political agendas, Malcolm Ross, whose capacity for reason has not been unduly restrained by his Harvard PhD, concludes of such folly, “Freeze or fry, the problem is always industrial capitalism, and the solution is always international socialism.” After 41 years with the U.S. Geological Survey, Ross has gained a few insights into how government bureaucrats endeavor to regulate the economy by way of environmental mandates.

Colorado Environmental Studies Professor Roger Pielke adds, “It is clear that there is an ample supply of people willing to use concern over the politicization of science as a political bludgeon to score points on the Bush Administration [but] where are the analysts (including reporters) who care about the politicization of science?”

Of course, most reporters are not journalists, but Leftmedia lemmings leading the charge to politicize science, particularly environmental science.

As with other Leftist cadres, Eco-theologists have learned well the value of co-opting media outlets to influence public opinion. Their most recent big-screen entry, “The Day After Tomorrow,” was strategically released just prior to last year’s presidential election. The movie, a ridiculously overblown fantasy about global warming, suggests that the consequences of such warming might be the rapid development of an Ice Age, and that all the Chicken Littles should take note.

The movie was marketed as “fact-based fiction,” but it played so loose with the facts that it could have passed for a Michael Moore crockumentary. National Geographic asked Tom Prugh, senior editor at the Worldwatch Institute, for comment, and he noted, “Like some other Hollywood movies that claim to be based on true stories, there’s a kernel of truth that is then pumped full of steroids and given cosmetic surgery. … It has been ‘Hollywoodized’.”

Daniel Schrag, Professor of Geochemistry at Harvard University, agrees: “It’s really science fiction.” But Dr. Schrag adds, “Global warming is definitely a real thing.”

Indeed, most climate scientists agree that there has been roughly a one-degree rise in the earth’s surface temperature in the last century. (Detractors argue that the rise is because many sensing stations are in urban areas (which tend to be hotter) or from geothermal or solar changes.)

If one accepts that the earth is warming, the question them becomes, why? Many scientists believe that the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) may be a contributing factor, although that opinion is far from unanimous. Of the 930 major papers and studies on global warming in the last ten years, approximately 75 percent conclude that the so-called “greenhouse emissions” from those fuels act like a thermal blanket trapping heat in the atmosphere and warming the planet.

Significantly, of course, 25 percent of those papers did not draw any such conclusion. To that end, the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine obtained more than 17,100 signatures from basic and applied American scientists on a petition noting, “There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate.”

For real insights into ice ages and global warming, one should disregard “The Day After Tomorrow” and consider the earth, day before yesterday, a far better predictor of future meteorological trends.

There is evidence of dramatic climate changes in the last 13,000 years, with severe cooling occurring 8,200 and 12,700 years ago, followed by re-warming. Some scientists suggest that these changes are related to the changing distance and position between Earth and the sun. To wit, even a 2001 National Academy of Sciences report on global warming suggests that increased radiation from the sun may be responsible for much of the climate change in the last century. In other words, our planet’s sole source of heat – an enormous thermonuclear fireball around which our earth orbits – may actually have something to do with modest temperature variation. Imagine that!

Regarding human impact on global temperature, William Ruddiman, professor emeritus of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia, notes in the March edition of Scientific American that the earliest humans may have influenced the global climate: “New evidence suggests that concentrations of CO2 started rising about 8,000 years ago, [and] some 3,000 years later the same thing happened to methane, another heat-trapping gas. … Without them, current temperatures in northern parts of North America and Europe would be cooler by three to four degrees Celsius – enough to make agriculture difficult. In addition, an incipient ice age – marked by the appearance of small ice caps – would probably have begun several thousand years ago in parts of northeastern Canada. Instead the earth’s climate has remained relatively warm and stable in recent millennia.”

According to Ruddiman’s theory, early human cultivation may be why we are not in the midst of an ice age.

Renowned meteorologist Dr. William Gray, in a recent interview with Discover Magazine (which has advocated the theory of human-induced global warming), begged to differ: “This human-induced global-warming thing…is grossly exaggerated. … I’m not disputing there has been global warming. There was a lot of global warming in the 1930s and ‘40s, and then there was global cooling in the middle '40s to the early '70s. Nearly all of my colleagues who have been around 40 or 50 years are skeptical…about this global-warming thing. But no one asks us.” Gray was described by Discover Magazine’s editors as one of “the world’s most famous hurricane experts.”

This weekend, eco-wackos will be saturating the media outlets with apocalyptic warnings about global warming, mostly rolling out Hollywonk elitists like Daryl Hannah, whose press release claims she “uses solar power, adopts animals, drives a clean burning vehicle that runs on biodiesel, and lives a sustainable lifestyle.” Isn’t that special!

Indeed, global temperature has been a hot topic since the first Earth Day, but earth-worshipers forgot what they said the day before yesterday. The warning then concerned global cooling.

Economist Thomas Sowell reminds us: “Back in the 1970s, the hysteria was about global cooling and the prospect of a new ice age. A National Academy of Sciences report back then led Science magazine to conclude in its March 1, 1975, issue that a long 'ice age is a real possibility’.” That article was preceded by a February, 1973, issue of Science Digest, proclaiming, “Once the freeze starts, it will be too late.”

The February 1974 issue of Fortune magazine warned that the temperature had already dropped about 2.7F since the 1940s, noting this “hardly seems dramatic, but the effects have been substantial.”

The June 24, 1974, issue of Time magazine declared: “However widely the weather varies from place to place and time to time, when meteorologists take an average of temperatures around the globe they find that the atmosphere has been growing gradually cooler for the past three decades.” That article insisted there is “no indication of reversing…for the weather aberrations [meteorologists] are studying may be the harbinger of another ice age.”

The April 28, 1975, issue of Newsweek promoted “The Cooling World” claiming, “There are ominous signs that the earth’s weather patterns have begun to change dramatically and that these changes may portend a drastic decline in food production – with serious political implications for just about every nation on earth. The drop in food output could begin quite soon, perhaps only ten years from now…. The evidence in support of these predictions has now begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologists are hard-pressed to keep up with it.”

In 1989, Dr. Stephen Schneider, who spent two decades at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, wrote a book entitled, “Global Warming,” lauded as one of the earliest forecasts of dramatic climate change. But in 1976, Schneider endorsed Lowell Ponte’s groundbreaking treatise on the coming ice age entitled, “The Cooling,” saying Ponte “points out in clear language that the climatic threat could be as awesome as any we might face….”

Even after global cooling had melted into global warming, the January 31, 1994, Time magazine insisted in an article, “The Ice Age Cometh?”, that “Scientists have issued apocalyptic warnings claiming that gases from cars, power plants, and factories are creating a greenhouse effect that will boost the temperature dangerously. But if last week is any indication of winters to come, it might be more to the point to start worrying about the next Ice Age instead.”

Concerns about “global cooling” then were as “authentic” as concerns about “global warming” today. Of course, we are so much smarter now…

Complex environmental concerns are serious – and, accordingly, should be taken seriously, but mindless Eco-theological rhetoric serves only to keep us from getting at the truth. As environmental analyst Rich Trzupek notes, “The golden rule among environmental groups is ‘never, ever admit that progress has been achieved – especially when Republicans are in power.’ It’s awfully tough for those organizations to raise money if donors aren’t kept in a constant state of panic.”

This Earth Day, we encourage Patriots to plant a seed of truth that it may bear fruit in the coming debate.

Quote of the week…

“Too often environmental-policy discussions assume that the only way to advance environmental values is to create a government program or adopt new regulations. The potential for private initiative to conserve environmental treasures is overlooked. Yet where private action is viable, it is often superior to government efforts.” –Case Western Law Professor Jonathan H. Adler

On cross-examination…

“Environmental groups have spent the last 40 years defining themselves against conservative values like cost-benefit accounting, smaller government, fewer regulations and free trade without ever articulating a coherent morality we can call our own. Most of the intellectuals who staff environmental groups are so repelled by the right’s values that we have assiduously avoided examining our own in a serious way…” –Environmentalists Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus

The BIG lie…

“We are all members of one human family that has inherited a planet rich in resources. We each have an equal claim to its land, minerals and raw materials. … To assure equitable benefits every individual and institution should seek to balance rights and responsibilities. The long-term goal must be to restructure social institutions so that there is equitable return for services, efficient balance of supply and demand, and fair benefits from our mutual claims to Earth’s natural bounty. One possible way to equitable benefits is for those who own land, oil, gold or other minerals to pay a 2 percent royalty each year on their income from these resources to a fund that will then provide the homeless their inheritance or stake in their planet. All will then join in responsible care of Earth.” –Earth Magna Charta by John McConnell, founder of the equinox version of Earth Day