WASHINGTON -- As we come to yet another Earth Day (Tuesday, April 22) one of the main debates is whether global warming is a global catastrophe racing towards us, or a scare that may cost us trillions of dollars in unnecessary costs fighting it.
Fact - or Science Fiction?
Several hundred people gathered on Capitol Hill this Monday at an event sponsored by Americans for Prosperity or AFP. It was for those who harbor any doubts that the global warming scare is fact.
"There clearly is not a scientific consensus," Event organizer AFP's Annie Patnaude told CBN News,
But Al Gore in his Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth asserted that serious scientists all believe in man-caused global warming.
He talked about a study of 928 articles written on the topic in a leading scientific journal.
He said "You know the number of those who disagreed with the scientific consensus that we're causing global warming and it's a serious problem? Out of the 928 - zero."
Still, there is a fight about whether the world's even getting warmer. Former European Parliament official Richard North and journalist Christopher Booker have written a book about scares like global warming titled "Scared to Death."
North stated, "We have a policy line trying to reduce global warming when the reality is for 10 years we've had no warming."
But Dan Cronin of the Environmental Defense Fund said, "Nine of the 10 hottest years on record have happened since 1995."
A Global 'Warning'
If global warming is happening at the rates asserted by Gore and like-minded people, his documentary and others paint a dire picture of mass melting at the poles someday flooding Earth's coasts.
This line is from the History Channel's "A Global Warning?" -- "The ice sheets will melt and many of the planet's coastal cities could be under four feet of water by the year 2100."
Gore said the wild weather we're seeing today will go even more haywire, causing "all kinds of catastrophes like a nature hike through the Book of Revelations."
Cronin of the Environmental Defense Fund sees global warming causing horrible costs in a number of ways.
"Increased spread of diseases, increased rates of asthma.when you do have storms, they're going to be much stronger, much more violent.it's going to dramatically affect precipitation levels, which is key to farmers," Cronin said.
The documentary "A Global Warning?" foresees the continued killing off of some 5,000 species a year, as has been happening for awhile now.
As the narrator put it, "Some scientists believe another mass extinction is already underway: an apocalypse caused by human activity."
He also spoke of millions of refugees fleeing drought and famine in some countries, huge flooding that's wiped other countries off the map.
"Many fear the mass exodus will trigger wars with nations battling for what little land and resources are left," he said.
The Real Cost of the Warming Debate
But the Capitol Hill event sponsored by Americans for Prosperity was an opportunity for the global warming doubters to ask, "Is this scare real? What will fighting it cost?"
It was called the Hot Air Tour kick-off, and AFP will use a real hot air balloon as a focal point in a number of American cities to rally around and protest the possible costs of what AFP calls "global warming hysteria."
Why a hot air balloon? As organizer Patnaude said, "Americans deserve to know the truth, the real cost of all the hot air in this debate."
Author Christopher Booker said the acknowledged expert on global warming costs is Yale professor William Nordhaus, who has added up the numbers. Booker stated, "If all Al Gore's recommendations in that notorious movie were implemented, Nordhaus came out with a figure of $34 trillion."
The Congressional Budget Office did the numbers on the main anti-global warming bill the Senate's considering, the Lieberman-Warner bill.
"They actually costed that out as an over trillion dollar tax hike," Patnaude stated.
And consumers will be paying more out in the market.
Patnaude said, "A recent study by the American Council on Capital Formation revealed that by 2030 we could be looking at a 144 percent increase in gasoline costs."
But the Environmental Defense Fund's Cronin has his own number that he said came from an independent study done at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology, which figured the cost to fight global warming will be just $20 a year for the average American family.
Cronin opined, "$20 to avoid the flooding, to avoid the drought, to avoid all the problems we could face with global warming is I think something most Americans are happily willing to pay."
But Patnaude said the cost will be more than just financial. For instance, she said, "The California Energy Commission recently actually proposed putting a radio control in home thermostats so that the state could insure that individuals were not using too much energy. The fact that this proposal was even suggested is absolutely outrageous."
The Benefit of Global Warming
North warned those trying to quell global warming could actually be fighting a good thing. He stated, "Warming periods have always coincided with maximum prosperity."
North and Booker both asserted food grows better in warmer times. With the world for the first time in memory now consuming in a year all the food it can grow in a year, North stated, "If we actually don't get global warming, the world is in very, very serious trouble."
Cronin said that theory is full of holes. "You're going to have long periods of drought where it doesn't rain at all and plants don't get the water they need to grow," he said.
As bigger, more violent storms strike the hard, dry ground, Cronin said, "Because the water won't be able to seep into the ground, the ground won't be able to absorb it, plants won't get the nutrients they need and a lot of them will be washed away by the flooding. So you're going to see crop levels diminish because of that."
Cronin asserted if he's right about global warming and opponents are wrong, "There's going to be a lot more, stronger hurricanes, there's going to be a lot of farmers hurt by drought, there's going to be a lot of public health problems. I don't think it's something we can gamble on."
North and Booker smile all this away, saying global warming is caused by scientific confusion and it will likely be a short-term scare. As Booker put it, "Now the joy of most of the scares we've written about is that they've gone right through the cycle to the point where people have seen that there was a confusion."
These British authors told CBN News that it reminds them of the Y2K scare of 1999.
Booker recalled, "Media, businessmen, politicians, all saying that it's going to cost $300 billion to fix, and otherwise airliners would plunge from the sky and cities would be turned into havoc. Dead on midnight between 1999 and 2000 the scare suddenly was pricked like a balloon."
But Cronin said even if everyone goes all out to fight global warming, and it turns out they hugely over-reacted, they'll still be happy.
He paraphrased former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who said people in such a case would look back and say, "We've created new industries with new jobs, we've created biofuels and we've helped break our addiction to foreign oil, and we've left our kids a cleaner planet. Those are all pretty good things."