By David Warren - January 23, 2009

It is often cold in January, at this latitude, so it is perhaps unfair to mock the global warming alarmists at this time of year. That it is an exceptionally cold winter, right around the northern hemisphere, after an exceptionally cold one, right around the southern hemisphere, after an exceptionally cold one, right around the northern -- is perhaps worthy of note. But this is only by comparison to recent years that were warmer.

The average temperature on the surface of the planet is obviously dropping at the moment (as the Google-searcher may quickly determine through innumerable links to environmentalists trying to explain this away), but that is still anecdotal. The weather works on heat differentials, after all, not on arbitrary statistical averages; and both overall, and regionally, there are cycles within cycles within cycles. Choose 1970 as your base year and we have "long-term global warming." Choose 1940 instead and we have longer-term cooling. Choose six million years B.C. and you will see that we "ain't seen nothin' yet."

Both Barack Obama in the U.S., and Stephen Harper up here, are on the cusp of announcing ambitious new "climate" plans founded upon last decade's laughably "settled climate science." They may be chastened by the economic downturn, and even by the progressive disintegration of the global warming lobby, but the bureaucratic machinery to fight "global warming" is a very great ship, and it is too late to steer her off the shoals. The only new thing will be the excuses.

The current excuse is that governments are on the verge of legislating millions of new "green jobs." This imposture will work only as long as people refuse to devote the necessary four minutes to thinking the matter through.

The only way to reduce energy consumption is by penalizing it in some way; generally by driving up prices, but occasionally by ham-fisted legal action. Driving up prices does not save jobs, at least, not in that part of the economy responsive to market forces (which generates the taxes to support the rest). It can only cost jobs -- as energy itself, and energy-intensive products, are priced out of reach to those whose wealth is diminished. That wealth is diminished, like a candle burning at both ends, by inevitably higher taxes at one end, and inevitably higher prices at the other.

A great deal of theatrical flatulence has been directed against the drivers of SUVs, and other stage villains of the global warming propaganda. It is as reasonable to attribute excess CO2 generation to Al Gore's 191-megawatt mansion in Nashville, or to the footprint of Barack Obama's inauguration party (575 million pounds of carbon, according to the U.S. Institute for Liberty, equivalent to 60,000 years of fossil-fuel burning in a house like Al Gore's).

Arguments that hose the reader with a large number of de-contextualized facts are used by all sides in all contemporary debates, but especially by the side that benefits less from context.

Cars, regardless of size, and how they draw their power, are a big issue, and so is heating and air conditioning. Vladimir Putin's sick little power game with Ukraine and Europe, in which he has cut off Russia's supply of natural gas to them in the middle of a wickedly cold winter, should help bring home, at least to the Europeans, what energy is used for. It is used to cook food, and to avoid freezing to death; or to provide alternatives to walking ten miles to work. These are the job-rich activities that "government action" will restrict and curtail.

And while the penalties against energy consumption may eventually lead to technological innovations that increase efficiency, so would any kind of prospective shortage. The difference is that when the government wades in, it distorts investment in new technologies, by making the leading criterion for them, how to satisfy government regulators. It is pure coincidence when this also reduces energy use, overall. The usual effect is to transfer the burden -- from efficient gasoline engines on the spot to distant coal-fired electricity generating plants, for instance.

The myth that a government can somehow "create" jobs or wealth has been deeply inculcated, not only by governments but by the many vested interests that profit from the transfer of other people's wealth to themselves, through mixed-economy shell games. Governments take wealth that was created elsewhere and "spread it around," in the U.S. President-elect's quaint but accurate phrase. Don't be fooled: this is also what thieves do.

© Ottawa Citizen

David Warren

Author Archive

Follow Real Clear Politics

Latest On Twitter