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Our Latest Global Warming Scare

Citations

Hoover Institute cited Senior Fellow Marlo Lewis on "Climate Change, Fossil Fuels, and Human Well Being" article.

The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a special report last week predicting apocalyptic environmental consequences if the nations of the world are unable to reduce the amount of warming to 1.5° C above pre-industrial levels in the next 12 years. The IPCC report insists that meeting this target requires “rapid and far-reaching” changes—all unspecified—in a wide range of areas including land, energy, industry, buildings, transportation, and cities. These changes, the report insists, must reduce carbon dioxide emissions to about 45 percent of 2010 levels by 2030 and to a neutral level of no new carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.

Much press coverage has embraced the report’s conclusions. The New Yorker stresses the dire warnings of the IPCC report. The Guardian speaks of the “urgent changes” needed to contain climate change underneath its headline picture of a raging California wildfire. Yet it is here that the story starts to unravel from both a scientific and economic perspective. The unstated narrative behind the picture is that temperature increases due to global warming will cause environmental catastrophes. But in the case of forest fires, this claim is simply untrue: in the United States, the number of forest fires has been down by about 86 percent since 1930, and the current year ranks as the 40th highest on record. To be sure, the risks of fire today remain great but for reasons that are unrelated climate change. Higher levels of CO2 make plants more drought resistant, which increases the amount of burnable material. What matters most, however, is not temperature change, but finding the proper techniques for forest management. Yet one weakness of the IPCC report is that in its discussion of forest fires, it does not mention alternate causes.

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So why is there so much fear about the consequences of climate change? As reported by Marlo Lewis of the Competitive Enterprise Institute total fossil fuel consumption is up 55% since 1950. Total energy-related CO2 emissions is up 500 percent. Total CO2 concentration is up by about one-third. The total temperature increase during that time has been 0.65°C. But in the meantime, global life expectancy has increased from 48 years to 71.4 years. Global malaria infections are down about 37 percent, and global malaria deaths are down by 62 percent. Corn yields per acre are up 25 percent since 2000, 44 percent since 1990, and 88 percent since 1980. Global GDP is sharply up and global poverty is sharply down. And other numbers only reinforce the same trend: as Johan Norberg shows in his book Progress, all major indicators—life expectancy, income, health—are up.  As basic levels of technology continue to improve, we will have cheaper production of energy and its more efficient utilization.

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