Monday, April 5, 2010

A Review of : "An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming"

An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming by Nigel Lawson (NY: Duckworth, 2008, pb with new afterword, 2009) is an outstanding work that everyone who is tempted to believe in the hype surrounding global warming should read. It is concise and pithy 117 pages of text plus 26 pages of scholarly endnotes, a 10 page bibliography and a handy index. It is calm, well-written and utterly devoid of fanaticism of any kind. If this is an example of a "denier," then please God let us all be "deniers."

Only chapter 1 deals with the science. Lawson is an journalist with an honours degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from Oxford and served for a decade in Margaret Thatcher's cabinet finishing up as Chancellor of the Exchequer. He frankly admits that he was only free to write this book because his political career was behind him. As a non-scientist, he is inclined to take scientific consensus on any given point very seriously. But he has little difficulty in demonstrating that the science on which global warming predictions are made is very far from settled, via the testimony of the scientists themselves. Yet, in the rest of the book he proposes to take the IPCC predictions of global warming as true, for the sake of argument. His basic thrust is that even if these predictions are accurate, the proposed solution to them is wrong.

Chapter 2 fleshes out the predictions of the IPCC 2007 report itself to answer the question of how warm the next 100 years are predicted to be and how much of a difference would it make to humans on this planet if all the predictions come true. He shows how the Al Gore hype about killer storms, coastal cities flooded and polar ice caps melting are all exaggerations and not based in the science on which global warming alarmists themselves cite. He points out that warming actually will mean gains as well as losses, especially in food production and lower energy costs in temperate and northern climates. The gains and losses must be balanced against each other in order to arrive at a true estimate of the danger.

Chapter 3 focuses on the importance of adaptation, which the human race has been doing since the last ice age and which we will need to do in future. He shows that the strategy of trying to limit carbon emissions instead of spending money on adaptation is economically and politically doomed to failure and less efficient anyway.

Chapter 4 discusses the apocalyptic predictions that have been used to frighten the public into compliance with the global warming agenda. He focuses on three examples: hurricanes, the melting of the Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets and the shut down of the Gulf Stream.

Chapter 5 discusses the political realities which stand in the way of the obtaining of a global agreement on going back to a non-carbon economy. He also discusses the merits of the arguments of China and India that their first priority is the lifting of their people out of poverty and advocates that we weigh the claims of today's poor over against the benefits to people who will live centuries from now. The compassion argument is not all on one side of the debate.

Chapter 6 deals with an analysis of the costs of mitigation compared to the costs of prevention. Is it realistic or ethical to ask the present generation to make tremendous sacrifices in order that people a century from now can be 9.5 times as well off as we are instead of 8.5 times? The idea that we ought to reduce carbon emissions "just to be on the safe side" assumes that reducing carbon emissions by the amount we would need to do so in order to make a difference (up to 70% on a global scale), would actually be "safe."

Chapter 7 continues the discussion of cost, benefits and risk and quotes many leading economists who disagree with the premise that preventing global warming would be cheaper for better for the majority of the population than adapting to it and mitigating its effects.

Chapter 8 draws together the argument and comes to conclusions. He reminds us that climate scientists have admitted that global warming has stopped during the fist 8 years of the 21st century and that they computer models on which all the IPCC predictions have been made did not predict this fact. This shows the fallibility of the predictions. The costs of reducing carbon emissions spectacularly will be astronomical and once the money is spent there is no going back.

Does this mean we should do nothing then, he asks? No, but "doing nothing is better than doing something stupid." (95) Lawson suggests a number of actions beginning with continued monitoring of the global temperature and including research into ways to reduce emissions without ceasing to utilize cheap fossil fuels. He even suggests a carbon tax as long as it is accompanied by a reduction in income tax so that the net effect is neutral as far as the taxpayer is concerned.

Lawson asks the inevitable question of why global warming alarmism is so prevalent given the flimsy empirical base on which it rests and gives the only sensible answer:
"With the collapse of Marxism, and to all intents and purposes of other forms of socalism too, those who dislike capitalism, not least on the global scale, and its foremost exemplar, the United States, with equal passion, have been obliged to find a new creed.

For many of them, green is the new red.

And those who wish to take power to order us how to run our lives, faced with the uncomfortable evidence that economic prosperity is more likely achieved by less government intervention rather than more, naturally welcome the emergence of a new licence to intrude, to interfere and to regulate: the great cause of saving the planet fro the alleged horrors of global warming."
Lawson goes on to note that the major difference between Marxism and the new green religion is that Marxism was pessimistic in the short run but optimistic in the long run, whereas the green religion is strictly pessimistic all the way down. Rather than believing in the future, it is attracted to a mythical, pre-materialistic and pre-capitalist past.

Although Lawson does not go further in analyzing the religious roots of green eco-fascism, I believe that here we have the deepest roots of the culture of death that now grips Europe and is spreading to the rest of the Western world. Europe has not just lost her Christian faith, but her faith in humanity as well. Europe has lost faith.

This book is informative, engaging and substantial. Don't talk much about global warming or form firm opinions until you have read it. It is that important.

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