Policy Peril: Looking for an antidote to An Inconvenient Truth? Your search is over. Updated 8/10/09

When Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth (AIT), came out in 2006, I expected to see some hard-hitting criticism by scientists of Gore’s unfounded alarmism and by economists of his blithe disregard of the human suffering that energy rationing (cap-and-trade) and mandatory reliance on costly and under-performing renewable energy would inflict on low-income households and poor countries. However, with a few notable exceptions, Gore’s film got mostly rave reviews, earned an Academy Award, and later helped bag him the Nobel Prize.

Because few specialists in the science and economics fields took Gore to task, I jumped into the breach. At first, I thought I could write an adequate expose of Gore’s errors and exaggerations in about 20 pages. But as I dug into the book version of AIT, I found that nearly all of Gore’s assertions about climate change and climate policy were either one-sided, misleading, exaggerated, speculative, or just plain wrong. My critique–published by CEI in March 2007 under the title Al Gore’s Science Fiction: A Skeptic’s Guide to An Inconvenient Truth–grew to 150 pages.

I gave several talks based on this research, including an hour-long presentation on C-SPAN and a minute and fifteen seconds of fame on the Oprah Winfrey Show,* along with several video shorts produced by CEI.

Conversations with friends and colleagues persuaded me, though, that the best strategy was to fight fire with fire–produce our own “documentary” about global warming.

We teamed up with Jared Lapidus, a talented young New York-based filmmaker. Jared and I interviewed over 20 experts during 2008 and early 2009. The result is a film titled Policy Peril: Why Global Warming Policies Are More Dangerous Than Global Warming Itself. To view the film, click here.

Policy Peril reviews the science to assess whether global warming is the “planetary emergency” Al Gore claims it is. We take a critical look at what Gore and other alarmist claim regarding heat waves, global temperature forecasts, air pollution, malaria, hurricanes, ice sheet disintegration, sea level rise, and the paradoxical scenario in which global warming causes a new ice age. We conclude that global warming is not a catastrophe in the making. There is no climate “crisis.”

We then review the human costs–the health and safety risks as well as adverse impacts on jobs and growth–of Al Gore’s proposed “solutions”: carbon taxes, cap-and-trade, fuel economy standards, bans on new coal-fired power plants, mandates to “repower America” with renewable energy, and carbon tariffs. The film concludes that these policies have potentially devastating impacts on human welfare, especially to the extent they are exported to developing countries–which they must be if the world is to reduce global emissions 50% by 2050, as Gore and others advocate.

Finally, the film examines alternative strategies to enhance human well-being in a warming world. It concludes that “focused adaptation”–solving with proven methods existing health and environmental problems that global warming might aggravate (such as malaria and hunger)–would save far more lives at less cost than Kyoto-style energy rationing schemes. Moreover, the best climate protection strategy for the world is free trade and economic growth.

Over the next three weeks, I’ll be posting one excerpt from the film every other day along with comments and links to newer information that has since come out. The global warming debate is very far from “over.” In fact, the scientific, economic, and moral case against Kyoto-style energy rationing keeps getting stronger.

I look forward to your comments on the film, the individual segments, and the supporting materials.

— Marlo Lewis, Senior Fellow, Competitive Enterprise Institute

* Gore got the first and last word on Oprah, but I replied minutes after the show aired on Youtube.

Update 8/10/09

One of the excerpts from Policy Peril is the wrap up, where I summarize the main points of the entire film. If you’re one of those people who like to skip to the end to see how the story turns out, click here to watch the wrap-up segment. Or just read the text (with links to supporting information), which appears below:

Global warming is not a planetary emergency. To create the illusion of a crisis, Al Gore repeatedly crosses the line between fact and fiction, science and speculation.

There is no know way to make deep cuts in U.S. CO2 emissions over the next few decades without also making deep cuts in our economy.

Banning new coal power plants means banning the most affordable source of new electric power. It could also create an energy crisis.

Mandating a carbon-free electric system in ten years would fail dismally and set a world record for government waste.

Energy rationing schemes would transfer trillions of dollars from consumers to special interests.

Fuel economy mandates can kill by making the average car lighter, smaller, and therefore less safe in collisions.

Biofuel mandates may actually increase CO2 emissions and by inflating food prices threaten the world’s poorest people.

Banning coal plants in China, India, and other emerging economies would trap millions of people in deadly poverty.

Using proven methods to solve underlying problems that global warming might aggravate could save many more lives than Kyoto type policies at far less expense.

The best climate protection strategy for poor countries is rapid economic growth.

On a personal note, I’ve been analyzing public policy in Washington, D.C. for more than 20 years. I have never seen an agenda so lacking in justification, with so great a power for mischief, captivate so many influential people, the way this global warming agenda has.

We are still at the baby steps of this agenda. Yet already climate policies have increased world hunger, fueled deforestation, inflated energy prices, and enriched special interests at consumers’ expense.

The time to demand more reasonable policies from our leaders is now. Don’t be another lemming walking off the cliff of policy peril. Save our prosperity, and we can really improve the state of the world.