Special Report

Blair’s Hot Air

Cashing in on Global Warming will not make the hurricanes go away.

By 9.24.04

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WASHINGTON -- Since hurricanes hardly happen in Hartford, Hereford and Hampshire, British Prime Minister Tony Blair seems well out of his element in linking the recent storms in the Caribbean to global warming.

But English politicians, like their North American counterparts, have never been shy about playing to the mobs -- especially when polls show them in a popularity freefall.

Blair's tirade ignores the fact that numerous new studies by respected scientists at institutions like Harvard, MIT, and the University of Virginia have thoroughly discredited the concept of man-made global warming in the last few years. So thoroughly, indeed, that proponents of this dubious "sky is falling" theory are now aiming their sound bites at aficionados of disaster movies and the scanners of gaudy supermarket tabloids with Nostradumus' latest predictions of The End on the cover.

Their desperation shows in their attempt to claim that every adverse bit of weather that makes it onto the Weather Channel is triggered by carbon dioxide emitted from the exhaust pipes of SUVs and the smokestacks of electric utilities. Yet hurricanes vary in intensity and frequency from one year to the next -- and science long ago established that they are caused by the colossal forces of nature rather than the relativity feeble activities of humankind.

As Roy W. Spencer, the principal research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, points out, numerous hurricanes devastated America's Atlantic and Gulf coastlines from the 1930s through the 1950s. The National Hurricane Center, he notes, has "been warning for many years the U.S. coast has had a long run of relatively good luck" and that it was only a matter of time before that streak ran out.

Hurricanes depend on a number of natural and interacting weather actions, including weak shear (the change in wind speed and wind direction at appropriate heights), high sea surface temperatures that build up during the summer, and rapidly forming easterly waves generated off the coast of Africa just south of the Sahara Desert. All hurricanes are unpredictable until they actually start happening. Spencer observes that we tend to forget "that unusual weather is, well, usual."

Yet the punches leveled by Charley, Frances and Ivan have brought the doomsayers out of their caves, eager to blame these catastrophic events on global warming. That phenomenon, they bleat, is mostly the fault of Americans consuming more than their fair share of the world's energy supply -- and because of their reckless appetite for SUVs.

But blaming SUVs for "global climate change" is about as scientifically sound as pawing through the entrails of a chicken to divine the future. The ongoing multi-million dollar campaign to enact costly controls of carbon dioxide emissions has nothing to do with protecting the environment and everything to do with profiting the European Union at the expense of the United States.

IN TRUTH, TONY BLAIR'S URGENT warning about the need to combat "alarming and unsustainable" global warming is really a crude and cynical attempt to fill the coffers of British companies like energy giant BP -- which now likes to style itself as being "Beyond Petroleum."

Under both the Kyoto Protocol on climate change and the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act companies with low carbon dioxide emissions with be allowed to sell "emissions credits" to help other companies offset their higher emissions. The scheme is worth tens of billions of dollars -- so lucrative, in fact, that Enron once tried to corner the trading market by as a near-monopoly broker of the emission credits.

While rigid climate controls would add the stagnant economies of the so-called "old" nations of Western Europe, most notably Blair's UK, France, and Germany, they would put a brake on full-throttle economies in Spain, Italy, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, among others. And they undoubtedly would plunge the United States into a deep and prolonged recession imposing costs ranging from $1,300 to more than $6,000 a year on every American household, without affecting the slight amount of current global warming.

Seniors living on fixed incomes would be especially hard-hit by this unwarranted and unwise federal intrusion into the market place.

In order to comply, Americans would have to reduce their energy use by nearly a third. In the first year alone, the price of electricity would shoot up by 7 to 17 percent, the price of gasoline by 12 to 29 percent, and the cost of coal -- America's energy ace in the hole -- by a staggering 51 to 140 percent, according to the economic forecasting firm of Charles River Associates.

That's far too high a price for Americans to pay merely to indulge Blair's re-election fantasies. When the prime minister brings his global warming proposal up for a vote at the G8 meeting of the advanced industrialized nations in Scotland next year, the U.S. should vigorously reject it.

Conquering growing global epidemics of AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis and ending widespread starvation and chronic hunger ought to be the G8's top priorities. Blair can make his own case to the British electorate without sabotaging the U.S. economy.

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About the Author

Eric Peters is an automotive columnist and author of Automotive Atrocities: The Cars You Love to Hate (Motor Books International) and a new book, Road Hogs.