Electric guitars, drums and amplifiers have been packed away. The stars have moved on in their private jets to the next gig and Al Gore, pontiff of The Holy Order of The Sky Is Falling, is licking his chops over last weekend's Live Earth Concerts, staged in nine places around the world, including the football Giants' stadium in New Jersey.
With typical understatement, the pontiff had predicted that 2.7 billion people would watch the events on television. In the United States it turned out to be a normal television audience for a summer weekend, about 2.7 million.
There was, however, no dearth of entertainment. There was aboriginal dancing. Jane Goodall gave an imitation of a chimpanzee's cry and 100 or so musical acts did their stuff. At the New Jersey event (billed by concert organizers as taking place in New York) Jon Bon Jovi urged the crowd to "Let them know what New Jersey is all about."
That was a little off message for Pontiff Al. He appeared in person in New Jersey and said, "Put all of this energy in your heart and help us solve the climate crisis." It is the "crisis" of course that he has been flogging non-stop for months now, aided by his agit-prop film An Inconvenient Truth.
While it is not true that the predictions of rising sea levels, melting glaciers, dying polar bears and worldwide calamity are the research product of noted meteorologist Henny Penny, Pontiff Al does rely on some scientists whose grants grow as their computers spew out ever scarier scenarios.
Steven Hayward, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and the Pacific Research Institute, narrates a film produced by the PRI, "An Inconvenient Truth or a Convenient Fiction?" It is a 50-minute dose of reality. He says, "Much of what...Gore says about climate change is correct. The plant is warming. Human beings are playing a substantial role in that warming." There is a big "however," however: "The problem with...Gore and other global warming extremists is that they distort science, grossly exaggerate the risks, argue that anyone who disagrees with them is corrupt, and suggest that solutions are easy and cheap." (NOTE: Live Earth concertgoers were asked to pledge that they would exchange incandescent light bulbs for fluorescent ones. Phew, an easy sacrifice. Besides, it will make Chinese light bulb manufacturers richer than ever.)
Dr. Hayward draws attention to facts Pontiff Gore leaves out of his film. For example, Gore dwells on melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. While ice is melting in some places there, in others it is growing. Gore also claims that ice on Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa is melting so fast it will be gone in a few decades. Hayward says the melting is the result not of global warming, but of poor land use and deforestation.
Hayward says we can deal with environmental problems without upending the economies of the world. He points to the Los Angeles Basin where the population has doubled over the last three to four decades, but air pollution is down by 75 percent.
The EPA reports that, next to 2004, U.S. ozone levels last year were the second lowest since the 1970s.
Gore and his allies have made much of the role of carbon dioxide and other "greenhouse" gases in making the climate warmer. Yet, in the U.S. the rate of growth of CO2 emissions is falling to a level that is half what it was in the '90s. Methane, a much more potent "greenhouse" gas than CO2, is declining in real terms.
Trees take in carbon dioxide and emit oxygen. The net loss of forests is declining, according to the U.N. Global Forest Resource Assessment for 2005 (the latest edition). In addition. reforestation is connected to economic growth. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that no nation where the annual per capita Gross Domestic Product was over $4,600 had a negative rate of forest growth. China helps prove the point. Between 2000 and 2005 it gained more than four million hectares of forest.
While the live and television audiences enjoyed the concerts as entertainment with a feel-good component and Pontiff Al came away believing that his alarums about future calamity had sunk in with millions, Steve Hayward pours a bucket of cold water on that. He says that the wildest claims about global warming are coming not from scientists but from "politicians, headline-seeking journalists, environmentalists and windy Anglican bishops who can't understand why people aren't coming to church...any more."
Alas for Ms. Henny Penny, her work is never done.
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