Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Christopher C. Horner, an attorney in Washington D.C. specializing in environmental policy and regulation, particularly international agreements and "global warming". He is affiliated with classical liberal think tanks in Washington and Europe, in which capacity he has testified before U.S. Senate committees and spoken on numerous occasions in the European Parliament and before policy leaders in numerous EU capitals from Madrid to Warsaw. These activities have made him a "climate criminal" according to environmentalist groups, one of which (Greenpeace) has actually taken his weekly garbage on a regular basis. He is the author of the new book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming (and Environmentalism).
FP: Christopher C. Horner, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Horner: It's my honor and pleasure.
FP: So what inspired you to write this book?
Horner: In January 2006 out of morbid fascination I subjected myself to Al Gore personally showing his Power Point at a weekly gathering I attend. It certainly was visually compelling, particularly, as one scientist in attendance noted, if the viewer had no understanding of the issue. But having spent a decade devoted professionally to almost nothing but the issues relevant to this subject, and despite his past record, I remained struck by the remarkable liberties Gore took to create a scientific, historical, and political mythology. Like any good climate geek I knew of the calendar of significant relevant events -- from long-anticipated UN studies to political elections both home and abroad, including the telegraphed punch that is Sen. John McCain's promise to initiate a race to the bottom in Republican presidential primaries -- so it was pretty obvious where this was headed and I felt compelled to engage.
FP: Can you talk a bit about the psychology involved here? The Left really isn’t interested in global warming and the environment, it’s really just about the Left’s lust for power. Give us your angle.
Horner: To distil this to the inescapable, simply note that the demanded response is exactly the same for both the "scientific certainty" of catastrophic man-made global cooling in the 1970s and the "scientific certainty" of catastrophic man-made global warming, both of which we have been falsely assured of. The same movement and even same people drove both alarms. Yet although every single bill on Capitol Hill and even the UN's Kyoto Protocol is demanded in the name of 'it's-real-it's-bad-it's-here-now-it's-our-fault-we-can-impact-it-but-we-must-act-now-it's-a-moral-issue', not one such proposal would under any scenario, under any set of assumptions, according to any champion, actually have a detectable impact on that which it purports to address: the climate. Seems a bit odd. In fact, the reasonable conclusion is that this agenda isn't really about the climate at all, but instead about the one thing that we all agree would result, which is the attainment of longstanding policy objectives of making energy more scarce and moving energy sovereignty to a supranational body -- something called the UNFCCC (www.unfccc.int).
And those longstanding policy objectives are held by the constituent parts of the Kyoto Industry, environmentalist pressure groups who seek to radically redistribute wealth, move the decisions of governing to the least accountable levels, all in the name of dramatically reducing that which they view as pollution: any global human population above 2 billion.
And the only way to have the agenda escape scrutiny is to scare the dickens out of people and shriek both that the debate -- which no one can recall having -- is over and, as is ritual now on all such "greatest threats", "we must act now!"
FP: If global warming is not actual science, how and why is the Left successful in passing it off as such?
Horner: Specifically, the catastrophism isn't grounded in the scientific literature. The alarmists, however, are enabled by a combination of personal and professional intimidation that makes it very risky and often painful and costly for anyone to dare disagree. If you just want to do what you've chosen to do for a living, you know the path of least resistance, and you know what would be very, very risky. Also consider that the lifeblood of research science is, for better or worse, taxpayer dollars. And no one likes standing in line, hat-in-hand, arguing for their appropriation, having to justify their loftiness to bureaucrats and politicians, year-in and year-out. Partly as a result of this, the institution of "science" has succumbed to the lure of massive sums of money that have been guaranteed if they promise the right answer. For about three decades, that answer to just about any relevant question has been one variation or another of "the human did it!" And for about half of that time, "catastrophic man-made global warming" has been the more specific response desired. Numerous scientists have gone on record with their experiences that one would think make terrific news stories but, like so much in this debate, by their absence from the record apparently do not.
Remember, the US taxpayer alone spends $5 billion-with-a-b on climate-related programs. That's the same amount we also send to the National Cancer Institutes every year. I suggest that if "the science is settled" on climate as we are hysterically told -- by people who obviously despise the scientific method of "here's my hypothesis, challenge it" -- then I want my money back or at least an end to this gravy train. And suggesting this would provide the most honest assessment of the state of the science you would ever attain: "by 'the science is settled' I meant you are supposed to take my work seriously enough that I don't have to stand in line with the unwashed every year. Not that 'the science is settled'."
FP: Crystallize the connection for us how hyping up "global warming" is connected to the hatred of capitalism. In other words, if it wasn’t global warming, it would just be something else, just another weapon to wage war on our society. Illuminate for us how the ideological tactic works.
Horner: A belief in both the certainty of catastrophic man-made global warming and the horrors of capitalism are matters of faith, which tend to be held in tandem. No society in its right mind is going to wilfully do to itself what the environmentalist industry, at its core, desperately seeks: massive diminution of individual liberties and ceding of most decision making to the least accountable level of governance possible, in the name of creating an Edenic world, a Goldilocks world, where man's population, growth, energy use and impact is "just right"; this, by the way, is to be judged in the eyes of people who believe there are just enough of them and way too many of everyone else. In the meantime, environmentalists insist that wealth is the root of all evil; capitalism is the root of such wealth; ergo, capitalism must go. I quote them to this effect, in my book, in their moments of candor. No evidence, no data, no observations are sufficient to disown such people of the faith, despite the unavoidable reality that wealthier is healthier, and cleaner, that only wealthy societies impose the expensive form of showing that one "cares", that is environmental regulations; and that only healthy growing economies agree to layer on more and more. They just cartoonishly scream "big business" and the ritual, accompanying rants.
FP: In your book, you explode ten top global warming myths. Now without giving too much away, can you talk about one or two of these myths here?
Horner: The biggest-ticket item is that which underlies Al Gore's movie and every proposal offered in the name of averting climate catastrophe: that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations drive temperatures. This is absurd. Al Gore even shows this -- without focusing on it -- in his movie. Just look closely at the data he shows in chart form as he rides the hydraulic lift upward to where, on the wall, he claims that temperatures will go unless we agree to the "World War II-style" commitment that for some reason he refuses to provide the details of. This data was published in Science magazine in June 2006 and quite plainly reveals that temperatures drop before CO2 concentrations drop, and that the intimated cause-effect relationship actually doesn't exist. Which is precisely why Gore elected to not superimpose the two charts. Further, the other famous data set, with better historical resolution in the data, also shows that temperatures historically increase before CO2 concentrations increase.
If you want correlation over any period of time that might actually be meaningful -- that is, more than a convenient couple of decades when things might match up -- then look at the sun, and cosmic waves. They correlate over the 20th century -- which is when we have the best data, that is observations and not "proxies" but also in prior centuries -- and CO2 quite plainly does not correlate. After all, as emissions rose it cooled from the 1940's thru the 1970s sufficient to start a "global cooling panic", then as emissions and contributions continued to climb, temperatures reversed. One can only try to be clever -- or ignorant -- with the "it's warmed since the 1970s and emissions have risen since the '70s" syllogism, as one declared Republican presidential candidate confidently informed me when I was given the opportunity to brief him. Yes, and cell phone use has gone up since the 1970s, too. Correlation, however, doesn't mean causation of temperatures in that example any more than it does with a very tiny timeframe with CO2 and temperature. Move your baseline year to 1940 and the whole argument implodes.
FP: We increasingly hear big business cited as being "responsible," and they happen to support the Kyoto agenda. What is behind claims that "even" this particular big bad business supports something – so therefore it must be true?
Horner: We rightly no longer expect much when it comes to industry's willingness to take on a tough fight, particularly in the face of such a shrill attack machine. In Europe, many big businesses can be forgiven for having decided that the fight there is, at least for now, lost and trying to make the best of a bad situation. That's not what we face here, however, because we haven't adopted this agenda. The big businesses pushing it -- and most businesses involved are doing precisely that -- do so because they have designed some scheme aimed at capitalizing off of the energy scarcity agenda. Enron was the pioneer, pushing Kyoto before there was a Kyoto, after acquiring the world's largest windmill company and a half-share in the world's largest solar panel company; these are financial black holes without massive subsidies and mandates, which is precisely what the Kyoto agenda promises. Enron had the world's second-largest gas pipeline network, the cost of space on which would be dearly expensive once coal was regulated out of viability. They set up a trading floor to play bookie to millions of sales of carbon dioxide "credits". All of these elements of the agenda would cost our economy dearly by piling on inefficiencies, as it is in Europe now, with no environmental benefit. This is the world's second-oldest profession, "rent-seeking", that is trying to gain millions from government favors that they could not earn in the marketplace.
GE has Enron's windmills and some of their pipeline assets, BP has the solar panels. DuPont got out of the nylon business and for reasons peculiar to that decision would have about a half a billion dollars in CO2 equivalence "credits" to sell others who want to keep using energy in the event a Kyoto-style scheme is imposed domestically. Lo and behold, suddenly they strike a "responsible" pose of hand-wringing over Congress' failure to impose this albatross around the economy's neck. Certain cynical power companies have varying motivations, including a desire to be paid to replace aging coal-fired capacity with new gas plants that they have to build anyway; some nuclear providers want to be paid for not emitting CO2 but only water vapor. And the list goes on.
What each of these companies share in common is a belief that their pals in government will stop before they go too far and actually fully implement the Kyoto agenda, but will only go just far enough to provide windfall profits of money for nothing. It is a remarkably cynical and very dangerous game.
FP: So there is a left-right spilt in the general public among those who, respectively, accept catastrophic global warming and those who reject it out of hand. Given this, how do you explain that politicians generally do not break down along those lines, but rather with exception they instead simply argue about how aggressive a governmental response ought to be?
Horner: Politicians of all stripes see tremendous worth in issues which offer them the opportunity to claim that they are here to save us. No issue provides greater such opportunity than the global warming agenda, for reasons stated. There is always more to do, more favors to grant, more money to award. It is the bottomless well of opportunities for them to draw attention to their own fabulousness, as certain of them see it.
FP: You've addressed the motivations of business and politicians; what's in it for, or what motivates, the green groups?
Horner: Green groups raise money off of this issue like nothing else. It attracts devotees like nothing else and nothing else provides them the opportunity to morally preen as they so love to do; it's the end of days! They also write roles for themselves into these agreements, and otherwise secure roles, as consultants and verifiers of emission reductions or trades or compliance programs. And they extract a lot of money from businesses gullibly believing there's some sort of "get out of jail free" card from them, which always simply ensures a noisy mob when the tributes stop. In short, it perpetuates groups whose budgets suggest a mission largely constituted of self-perpetuation.
FP: Walk us through the media's role in all of this.
Horner: Disaster sells in the news business. Waves calmly lapping at the shore don't. "Man at fault!" is huge; "Many factors likely at play; science unsettled" is a loser story. When the temperature goes up, it's man's fault and a big story. If warming is the story line. But the media expose their own ridiculous role in the current alarmism by failing to report things, too. Did you notice that humanity's fate shifted? From a frozen imminent grave to frying like eggs on a pan, and no one deemed that this amazing outcome is newsworthy. Instead, in Orwellian fashion -- "Eastasia has always been the enemy, Winston" -- they just tacked in the other direction when the weather didn't cooperate. This cannot possibly be something they missed. Finally, when predictions that they previously reported prove false, well, that's not news. As I quote ABC News absurdly back peddling when challenged over things that were promised not happening, or different things happen, that's weather, not climate.
FP: So what can we do? What is the most responsible course given what we know or even just suspect?
Horner: As regards policy, we need to avoid succumbing to the hysteria and enacting absurd policies under pressure from trade competitors and anti-capitalists and the Kyoto Industry, generally. Europe is floundering and will only step up the pressure and the rhetoric, which I hope our public will be too well-informed to fall for when it reaches sustained, fever pitch in about a year.
The two things the US government should do are continue our leadership in scientific undertakings, pursuing knowledge of a fantastically complex climate system, but without the biases we now see against scientists who want to pursue non-fashionable research such as into the role of the sun. Second, we should continue our focus on economic growth, which pulls through technology faster and which has led US CO2 emissions to rise at a fraction of the rate of more market-socialist oriented countries such as many in Europe. Specifically, amending the tax code to accelerate depreciation or expensing of capital equipment would turn our stock over even faster.
Individually, we can demand accountability and seriousness of our elected representatives. If a politician is serious about this issue, and very few are, they ought to put their votes where their concern is and either demand steep energy taxes -- don't hold your breath, even if that would lower your CO2 emissions by the way -- or force a Senate vote on the Kyoto Protocol before further absurd promises are demanded. Let's put an end to the apparent confusion that exists in the UN and among Europeans such that they actually state openly that once George Bush leaves office all that Europe wants of us shall come true. We actually did sign Kyoto, sloppy reportage notwithstanding, and it seems impossible that seemingly concerned senators don't know this; so vote on it, or move on. But signing a new treaty as they are cocksure that a President McCain or Clinton would do, will not change what the world insists on ignoring: no Senate is going to commit us to this energy rationing agenda.
FP: Christopher C. Horner, thank you for joining us.
Horner: It's been my pleasure.