There are those who believe that the United States is obligated to help poor nations because we are “rich”. And there are those who believe that America’s influence in the world must be reduced so that their own can increase. The interests of these groups intersect in the debate over global warming which, to summarize, says:
- climate change is occurring now
- it is caused by Western countries’ production-based economies
- it is endangering the entire world’s population
- it must be stopped regardless of the economic and social consquences.
Of these, only the first can reasonably be said to be “certain”. Yet historical temperature data is sketchy at best; our ability to make long-term claims about the current pattern is hardly ideal given our limited perspective and understanding.
For now, however, let us accept the environmentalists’ trend charts as accurate and move on. Man-made carbon dioxide emissions – produced by industrialized nations – are the culprit of choice when it comes to explaining the observed rise in temperature. But is this correct science?
I have my doubts and while I have no scientific knowledge whatsoever about the subject, Richard S. Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology does. He says:
Most of the literate world today regards “global warming” as both real and dangerous. Indeed, the diplomatic activity concerning warming might lead one to believe that it is the major crisis confronting mankind. The June 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, focused on international agreements to deal with that threat, and the heads of state from dozens of countries attended. I must state at the outset, that, as a scientist, I can find no substantive basis for the warming scenarios being popularly described.
In fact there seems to be substantial evidence that global warming scientists have their minds made up about what their findings will be prior to research being conducted, that they will ignore findings that contradict their preconceived notions about the problem, and that they actively censor opposing points of view by branding dissenting scientists as apostates.
The Lindzen article reference is 15 years old. Has he changed his mind in the intervening years? Hardly. Indeed, Dr. Lindzen confirms the apostacy conspiracy and names the reason for it:
there is a more sinister side to this feeding frenzy. Scientists who dissent from the alarmism have seen their grant funds disappear, their work derided, and themselves libeled as industry stooges, scientific hacks or worse. Consequently, lies about climate change gain credence even when they fly in the face of the science that supposedly is their basis.
Alarm rather than genuine scientific curiosity, it appears, is essential to maintaining funding. And only the most senior scientists today can stand up against this alarmist gale, and defy the iron triangle of climate scientists, advocates and policymakers.
But let us be generous again and allow – for the sake of discussion only – the assertion that global warming is caused by Western, industrialized nations. So what?
So far as I am aware, no one has been demonstrably injured by climate change, natural or otherwise. Yes, skin cancers are increasing in certain parts of the world and ozone levels in certain large cities are uncomfortably dangerous. Yet human life expectancy and comfort levels are both at all-time highs in spite of the adversity that global warming is presenting us with.
Looking back over the last 300 years, one would not go too far wrong by stating that everything good that mankind has created in the world has been produced by Western capitalism and the feedback loop of competition that it engenders.
The increases in life expectancy and quality of life mentioned above are due entirely to mechanical automation, scientific research, and modern technology. Left to their own devices, non-Western nations would still be living as they did at the start of the previous millenium. Whether this attitude is necessarily wrong is not the point of this post. The fact that Western economic growth has improved life for all of mankind is.
So, are the advances that Western industry has created for us to be blithely cast aside? Clearly not. The latest G8 Summit ended with the proper result: President Bush and the U.S. refusing to agree to untenable reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
Ask survivors of the Great Depression if climate change is a significant enough issue to mandate a world-wide recession of even greater magnitude and you’ll find that very few buy into environmentalists’ economic nihlism. The greatest generation knows what real adversity is; the angst felt by proponents of global warming simply doesn’t measure up.
Does this mean that Americans should continue on as they have, guzzling gas and other resources at an ever-increasing rate?
Yes, actually. In essence there are two ways out of any situation one is in: backwards and forwards. Many environmentalists and Muslim fundamentalists would take us backward to the time of the horse-drawn plow, the former foolishly not considering the massive human death toll that it would take to re-stablize society at their idealized technology level and the latter rabidly desiring it. Neither are correct.
The way to a better life for all is forward through advances in science and technology, not intellectual and economic surrender. Electricity, in a word, is the basis for human society. Ideally we would have more efficient ways of producing it. In this more reasonable environmentalists are on the mark. For the continued health of the eco-system and many other socio-political reasons, cleaner, more sustainable energy sources must be found.
There is significant though not conclusive evidence indicating man’s part in the current global warming trend. It is entirely reasonable to strive to reduce greenhouse gas emission, but only within the framework of the existing economic system.
Capitalism, after all, encompasses the intangible value of the environment just as it does the tangible production of industry. To the extent that people recognize a problem with and value the environment they will automatically adjust their behavior in accordance with that value.
If one cares about CO2 emissions, for instance, actively seeking out personal transportation that produces the least amount of CO2 is a rational capitalistic response. However, if I deem that option too expensive or inconvenient and refuse it, the value I place on the environment is measured by my actions.
Al Gore, of course, is a famous environmentalist. He is also a famous electrical and gas power hog, consuming 20 times the power of an average American on his household alone. Gore’s method of valuing the environment is, we’re told, measured by his words and not his actions. Rather convenient for him.
The truth is that American’s do not particularly care about the environment. But we are hardly alone in this. China, Russia, Brazil, India, and many other countries have environmental records that are completely shameful. Yet they are not on trial in the court of environmental opinion; only the U.S. is.
(Indeed, one could easily argue that nations that are responsible for depleting their lands of forests are the true culprits behind excess carbon dioxide buildup in the atmosphere. Yet no mention is made of this when it comes time to assess blame or to consider future policies.)
Bush was wise to avoid committing the country to a course of economic reductionism. This is a road to ruin – particularly in a world seemingly paralyzed by a radicalized Islam – one that only fools and blind men would trod willingly.
After all, what are our obligations to other nations? The poorest African country could turn itself into a viable, functioning state if the people there valued prosperity. They do not. Instead they choose to fight endless guerilla wars and to spread disease among themselves as if they were incapable of bettering themselves. This is not true and the African situation doesn’t have to be the way it is. Sadly, the reasons for their poverty have little to do with America. If they did we would be able to remedy them.
Indeed we have given African nations billions and billions of dollars in aid money, medicine, and technology only to see it wasted, ruined, and forgotten.
At the recent G8, Bush was not clever enough to avoid the trap of giving yet more money to Africa. Or perhaps he lacked the energy to engage in yet another politically incorrect battle with no hope of dodging liberal’s poison arrows at home.
And so goes another $60 billion dollars – half of it American money – evidently to be poured into Africa as if it were nothing. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said:
“We said that on behalf of the countries of the G-8, that we are aware of our obligations and we would like to fulfill the promises that we entered into and we are going to do that.”
Obligations? There’s that word again. Yet America owes no debt to Africa. If anything the scales tip in the other direction.
And money is not nothing, regardless of what liberals would have us believe. Rather, it is the distilled essence of mankind’s efforts to produce things of value. It is a precious, finite resource that should not be squandered, least of all by governments using taxpayer dollars.
Elan Journo of the Ayn Rand Institute says this:
“Altruism holds that one’s highest moral duty is to selflessly serve others–and thus that the world’s ‘haves’ must sacrifice for the sake of its ‘have-nots.’ The productive, on this abhorrent view, have no moral right to pursue their own interests and keep their wealth; their only justification for existing is to serve the needy. Thus the world’s richest nations must atone for their prosperity by sacrificing for the sake of those who lack, or don’t care to earn, values.
“Africa is poor because it is rife with bloody tribalism and superstition–ideas that in the Dark Ages kept the Western world as poor, if not poorer, than today’s Africa. If aid advocates were genuinely concerned with helping Africans, they would campaign for political and economic freedom, for individualism, reason and capitalism, for the ideas necessary to achieve prosperity.
This is the extent of our obligations to poorer nations: to share the knowledge that would help them break the cycle of poverty that they have – to a very great extent – foisted on themselves.
To teach our fellow man to fish, in other words.
To the extent that individual Americans feel that they would like to give their personal resources to African individuals and/or aid agencies I encourage them to do so. Charity is its own reward and virtue. Give, if the spirit moves, out of love. But never from false obligation and not from the public coffers.
Our debts to the world in terms of climate change are similar in nature:
- to perform the best, most objective and truthful research into the existence and nature of the climate change problem and to determine the correct course of remediation, if any
- to make good-faith efforts to reasonably reduce greenhouse gas production in the interim without jeoparizing the world economy
- to continue and expand scientific research that will ultimately lead to clean, renewable energy sources
The truth about the issue of global warming is that it is a sword held over the necks of Western nations by those who envy and despise us. It has very little to do with science, truth, or consequences thereof.
Surrendering America’s right to determine our own destiny would have been a huge mistake on the part of the Bush administration, one I am glad that he avoided making.
8 thoughts on “Obligations”
Calvin, I believe that human activity is leading to climate change. But the issue is not defined yet as to cause, effect, or significance.
Your point about Katrina and Darfur doesn’t seem relevant. Much bigger hurricanes struck the Louisiana and Texas coastline prior to any significant industrialization and localized droughts have been recorded for millenia.
I still maintain that the way forward is through scientific advancement. One result may be a more complete understanding of the environment and how to manage it.
The principle aim – one I believe is achievable – should be the development of cleaner energy sources that will make the question irrelevant.
I prefer to place my bet on American ingenuity rather than a state-mandated economic retreat.
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