Category: Environmental Stewardship

consensus_alert1Breaking news: India, China walk out of climate summit

So much for the “God moment.” Seeing as how this was our last chance and all, I think I’m going to take the afternoon off to go get my affairs in order.

Mind Boggling: How could world leaders not come to a consensus when Chin-Strap the Polar Bear and the Guardian Angels of the Climate were all in agreement?  Unity in diversity!  It was so spiritual!  The mind reels.

CONSENSUS! No, seriously, the science is settled!

LAST MINUTE MIND-BLOWINGLY AMAZING UPDATE: This new “non-binding working agreement” negotiated at the very last minute by a bunch of panicked politicians trying to save face after a complete failure of a conference is almost exactly what we needed, I bet!

DESPAIR! It looks like we’re doomed after all:

U.N. climate talks fell into crisis on Saturday after some developing nations angrily rejected a plan worked out by U.S. President Barack Obama and leaders of other major economies for fighting global warming…

…Countries including Venezuela, Sudan and Tuvalu said they opposed a deal spearheaded on Friday in Copenhagen by the United States, China, India, South Africa and Brazil at the summit. The deal would need unanimous backing to be adopted.
Opponents said the document, which sets a target of limiting global warming to a maximum 2 degree Celsius rise over pre-industrial times and holds out the prospect of $100 billion (62 billion pounds) in annual aid from 2020 for developing nations, was too weak.

An acrimonious session long past midnight hit a low point when a Sudanese delegate said the plan in Africa would be like the Holocaust by causing more deadly floods, droughts, mudslides, sandstorms and rising seas.
The document “is a solution based on the same very values, in our opinion, that channelled six million people in Europe into furnaces,” said Sudan’s Lumumba Stanislaus Di-aping.

I suppose the silver lining here is that at least for once it’s not global warming skeptics being likened to genocidal killers. But that’s small comfort as we watch the agreement to save the world from imminent destruction fall to pieces. Such a shame.

Update: Naturally, right after I post this article, new information comes out that makes Climategate look even worse.  It’s been noted in the comments that Russian scientists are now saying outright that climate data from Russian weather stations has been tampered with in order to make it appear to substantiate claims of catastrophic man-made global warming:

On Tuesday, the Moscow-based Institute of Economic Analysis (IEA) issued a report claiming that the Hadley Center for Climate Change based at the headquarters of the British Meteorological Office in Exeter (Devon, England) had probably tampered with Russian-climate data.

The IEA believes that Russian meteorological-station data did not substantiate the anthropogenic global-warming theory. Analysts say Russian meteorological stations cover most of the country’s territory, and that the Hadley Center had used data submitted by only 25% of such stations in its reports. Over 40% of Russian territory was not included in global-temperature calculations for some other reasons, rather than the lack of meteorological stations and observations.

The data of stations located in areas not listed in the Hadley Climate Research Unit Temperature UK (HadCRUT) survey often does not show any substantial warming in the late 20th century and the early 21st century.

The plot thickens!  Original post follows…

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consensus_alert1It’s been some time since we’ve had an update on the State of the Global Warming Consensus, and I’m happy to report that the Global Warming Consensus remains strong and unchallenged.  Well, strong and unchallenged barring that little e-mail and data leak from a few weeks ago that is really not an issue at all.  I mean, it’s not an issue at all except in the sense that it may have exposed some unethical scientific shenanigans by some of the biggest names in the pro-Anthropogenic Global Warming community, but that’s nothing to lose sleep over.  You might lose your job, but you shouldn’t lose sleep.  COPENHAGEN OR BUST!

Some background:  the Global Warming Consensus Watch/Alert series dates back to April of 2007, and from the start has been all about reminding us that the much-vaunted Scientific Consensus on Anthropogenic Global Warming was not nearly as untouchable as folks like Al Gore would have us believe.  The reality of the situation is slightly more nuanced than the Goracle would have us believe:  indeed, the planet has been warming over the last century, and has been since the end of the Little Ice Age.  The questions being confronted over the last few decades – and most intensely over the last couple of years – are whether the warming that has happened in the 20th century is primarily caused by human activity or is part of a larger natural process; and whether or not the warming poses significant problems for human society in the future.  (Dr. Jay Richards had a presentation on this very topic as a part of the 2008 Acton Lecture Series; you can view it here.)
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Via Beliefnet, Rev. Richard Cizik, formerly of the National Association of Evangelicals, who once called global warming the “third rail” of evangelical politics, and who also said that evangelicals “need to confront population control,” is at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference.

In this video, Cizik speaks of the critical role that “people of faith” have in translating the challenge of climate change into concrete political action. He says in part, “I don’t believe this moment in time is not without significance. I believe there is a kind of ‘God moment’ here politically for the nations of the world, the leaders of the world to move us forward.”

There’s much more background information in the joint Acton-IRD paper, “Climate Control to Population Control: Troubling Background on the ‘Evangelical Climate Initiative’.”

Blog author: jwitt
posted by on Wednesday, December 9, 2009

If you’re looking to catch up on the Climategate scandal, one of our interviewees from The Effective Stewardship DVD church curriculum, Steven Hayward, has an excellent summary and analysis here at The Weekly Standard.

Also, our friend Jay Richards has a good piece at today’s Enterprise Blog, which explains why attempts to settle the global warming debate by appeals to scientific consensus merely increase public skepticism.

And looking ahead, Paul Mirengoff of Powerline explains why the global warming lobby won’t need Congress in order to heavily regulate our economy’s energy sector. Hint: Oligarchy of Five

Blog author: kschmiesing
posted by on Thursday, September 24, 2009

Not exactly unheralded—he did get obits in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal—but deserving more attention is the passing of Norman Borlaug, Nobel Peace Prize winner and catalyst for the Green Revolution that transformed developing world agriculture.

As the headline to Gregg Easterbrook’s outstanding piece in the WSJ put it, he was “the man who defused the ‘population bomb.’” Yet, Easterbrook writes, “though streets and buildings are named for Norman Borlaug throughout the developing world, most Americans don’t even know his name.”

His death comes amidst renewed claims that our environment cannot sustain the world’s increasing population.

But the predictions of the present-day Thomas Malthuses and Paul Ehrlichs will always be wrong, because they lack the imagination to account for the future Norman Borlaugs.

Saleem H. Ali, a ‘pro-consumption environmentalist’ at the University of Vermont “argues that sometimes a nation has to extract a nonrenewable resource like oil, or tricky-to-recycle metals and gems, in order to leapfrog from dire poverty to a more diversified economy.”

“Money from oil wealth can be used to invest in other sectors. And that in turn can yield sustainable development,” Ali says.

Awhile back I sketched very briefly a view of the theological purpose of fossil fuels. On this view, “fossil fuels would thus have the created purpose of providing relatively cheap and pervasive sources of energy. These limited and finite resources help raise the standard of living and economic situation of societies to the point where technological research is capable of finding even cheaper, more efficient, renewable, and cleaner sources of energy.”

This meshes nicely with the Cornwall Declaration’s statement that “A clean environment is a costly good; consequently, growing affluence, technological innovation, and the application of human and material capital are integral to environmental improvement. The tendency among some to oppose economic progress in the name of environmental stewardship is often sadly self-defeating.”

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Speaking of “green” jobs, here’s the ultimate green job:


Maybe we’d all be better off if our federal lawmakers took their own jobs this seriously.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Friday, June 12, 2009

A great deal of focus in the midst of the economic downturn has been on “green” jobs, that sector of industry that focuses on renewable sources of energy and that, according to some pundits and politicians, heralds the future of American economic resurgence. Here in Michigan, the long-suffering canary in the country’s economic mineshaft, the state government has particularly focused on these “green” jobs as an alternative both to fossil fuels and to fossil fuel industries, including most notably the Big Three automakers.

Apart from the dangers, moral and otherwise, endemic to government officials picking winners, there’s a need to rethink this entire framework. Even if such predictions about the future of alternative and renewable energy sources are realistic, it’s highly doubtful that the businesses that produce these kinds of technologies will ever employ enough people to begin to replace the losses to the labor force following the various bankruptcies, selloffs, buyouts, and layoffs.

The lesson state officials ought to learn is one about fostering an economic environment that promotes diversification and sustainability through creative liberty, rather than being tied to any one (however hopeful) sector of the economy.

This lesson also has something to teach us about how to truly promote sustainable business. The jobs that are most usually called “green,” like the places that manufacture wind turbines or solar cells, are a tiny part of the economic picture. Instead of “green” jobs, we ought to focus on “greening” jobs, changing the way we do jobs that already exist.

Anyone who works in business will tell you that at a certain point of production it is far more lucrative to eliminate $1 of waste than to gain $1 in sales. The eliminated waste goes straight to the bottom line, while the increased sales brings along all kinds of overhead that cuts into profits. As part of a recent feature titled “Work Reinvented,” Forbes reporter David Whelan described how many employees are taking the challenge of the economic downturn as an opportunity to “reinvent” their jobs. As Whelan writes,

Technology–computers and teleconferencing equipment, that is–makes fixed employment in a fixed place less necessary. Economics makes it less available. With chronic instability comes a shift in loyalty from the company to one’s own calling, skills and personal life.

Technological advancement, economic conditions, and environmental concerns might combine to create the perfect storm for the reformation of many kinds of jobs. For some, including a few profiled in Whelan’s report, this might mean an increase in telecommuting (although then again, perhaps not). For others it might mean job sharing, opening up their own business, or negotiating different compensation packages. An added benefit of this kind of innovative flexibility might be curbing of the transitory nature of today’s employment scene. There’s no way real way to enjoy human community when young and middle-aged professionals are moving every 2 to 3 years.

But in terms of political economy, our policies ought to be focused on the broader picture of “greening” a diverse landscape of jobs rather than subsidizing a narrow strip of “green” jobs.

For those among us who do not follow the particularities of United Nations programs and declarations, apart from birthdays and anniversaries June 5 might pass every year without much special notice. But every year since 1972, the United Nations Environment Programme has set aside June 5 to observe World Environment Day (WED), designed to be “one of the principal vehicles through which the United Nations stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and enhances political attention and action.”

On this WED, we pause to look at another vehicle for promotion of the environmental worldview, the recent remake of the film The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008). In last year’s iteration of the 1951 sci-fi classic, Keanu Reeves stars as Klaatu, an alien visitor who takes on the body of a human being in order to determine the best way to engage the situation on planet Earth. [Spoilers after the jump...]


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Here’s a brief report from The Environmental Report on mountain-top removal mining, and the increasing involvement of religious groups weighing in on the question. One of these groups is Christians for the Mountains. A quote by the group’s co-founder Allen Johnson was noteworthy, “We cannot destroy God’s creation in order to have a temporal economy.”

One other thing that struck me about the interview is that the AmeriCorp involvement smacks of “rebranding” secular environmentalism. Add the magic words “creation care” and all of a sudden you’ve gained the moral authority of all kinds of Christians and churches.

The report from Sandra Sleight-Brennan is quite short, and even though it doesn’t find anyone to speak up for the mining companies, the workers, or the mining methods, it does manage to get a quote from “creation care” advocate Richard Cizik (formerly of the NAE).

And what are the economic options beyond mountain-top removal mining for these communities? They include “wind energy, tourism, and not letting the mining companies decide the fate of the Appalachian mountains and the people who live there.”

As the report makes clear, though, the issue is a complicated one, and a simple juxtaposition of “economy” versus “environment” isn’t sufficient to tease out all the answers. There are legitimate concerns on the one side regarding negative externalities like pollution of habitat and waterways as well as what might be called a kind of aesthetic pollution. But on the other are legitimate concerns about property rights (which include responsibilities for negative externalities), energy needs, and economic freedom.