Sunday, April 22, 2007

Two for the Show - It was the Sunday of Earth Day weekend. I was in a back row of a Protestant church in a nondescript Midwestern suburb when I heard the good news about God, man and nature, and the responsibilities thereto. I was reminded then of what I have always acknowledged, which is that God entrusted man with stewardship over the Earth. God's intention as I understand it is that we - all of us - accept our solemn responsibility to tend to all of God's creation, that we might reflect our love for Him whom we cannot see by caring for all that we see all around us. All of this is plain, simple and noncontroversial.

Predictably perhaps, given that I was in a church that is part of a liberal Protestant denomination, the sermon sped beyond a simple didactic about caring for the earth and conserving its resources.
The speaker waxed rhapsodic about how many tons of coal would not be burned if everyone began using compact florescent lights. The trajectory of the message arced towards confronting man's responsibility for saving the planet from mankind itself; he reached his crescendo as he impugned man for contributing to his own immolation, and that of the planet, by way of global warming. As I recall it now, he said something to the effect of, "Global warming is not a political issue, it is a moral issue."

I suspect that I was the only one in the congregation that sensed the dissonance inherent in the idea that man is responsible for saving that which man did not bring into existence. The assumption that man is capable of such a thing is evidence of an arrogance of Gibraltarian proportions. But this hubris is overshadowed by that which would propose that there is no more to be said of a political or scientific nature vis-a-vis global warming. As Dr. Thomas Sowell recently pointed out, "[t]he political Left's favorite argument is that there is no argument." The speaker of the hour in that suburban church was no more or less guilty than so many of today's progressives in moving beyond discussing global warming as a hypothesis yet to be proven to pressing their case that man-made climate change is a forgone scientific conclusion.

But beyond the commentary of Protestant clergy, the effort to position anthropogenic global warming as a fait accompli has lead to the publication of two reports that speak to climate change as a U.S. national security issue. Both reports are at least in part born of one of the Left's oldest shibboleths, namely that poverty (read income disparity) leads inexorably to crime, violence and instability. The first, Impacts of Climate Change from the Global Business Network reads like a whimsical exercise in "what if" hyperbole, the subject matter notwithstanding. The second, National Security and the Threat of Climate Change from the CNA Corporation, is chock-full of preternatural gloom from retired generals and admirals - augmented of course by the scientific guidance of such global warming stalwarts as NASA's James Hansen, Anthony Janetos of the Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment and Richard Moss, who chairs a task group for the IPCC.

While both reports aver that a diminished water supply due to increased frequency and severity of droughts would lead to regional instability, the former suggests that civil disorder will rise as governments are unable to meet citizen expectations, and that new political coalitions may be "reformed around different attitudes to social risk-sharing." The imaginative thinking comes into play when the reader is asked to consider what would happen "as local wells run dry," "the Yucatan peninsula is devastated" or "a new airborne virus spreads through Turkey."

For its part, the second report attempts to take a more "just the facts, Ma'am" approach as it frets about global warming's impact on population displacement, food production and unstable governments providing a haven for terrorism. As we might expect from a document that came from the mind - if not the pen - of James Hansen, the CNA document recommends that the U.S. "help stabilize climate changes at levels that will avoid significant disruption." According to the authors, we would also do well to "commit to global partnerships that help less developed nations build resiliency to better manage climate impacts."

Of course, the fatal flaw in the sort of thinking that would prioritize helping "stabilize climate changes" above, let's say, dealing with plagues and pestilences that already beset mankind is the acceptance of the as of yet unproved belief that global climate change is the single greatest threat that mankind will face anytime soon. But we are left with no explanation of how this could be the case. Indeed, to swallow this dollop of credulity straining gobbledygook, we would need to place more emphasis on dealing with relatively modest rises in CO2 that on the combined effects of malnutrition, HIV/AIDS, SARS, Avian flu, malaria, diptheria, hepatitis, tuberculosis, polio, shortages of potable water, genocide, war and terrorism.

To be sure, if we want to help achieve the necessary goal of reducing the risk of global instability, we must address real and present risks rather than hypothetical ones. Protestant clergy and others would be well served to consider that the moral issue of our day is not that of managing CO2 levels, but addressing the ethical hazard of ignoring current threats to deal with undefined or ethereal threats to man's future, as discussed elsewhere.

P.S.: As a global warming activist, Sheryl Crow is a really good singer.

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