by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.
The NASA A-Train satellite constellation symposium I attended last week in New Orleans was in some sense a celebration of the wide variety of global satellite observations we are now collecting from Earth orbit.
This really is the Golden Age in satellite data collection of the global climate system. While a few A-Train satellites are still to be launched, other older satellite assets in the A-Train are now operating well past their planned lifetimes.
There are no plans to replace many of these one-of-a-kind instruments, so much of what we will learn in the coming years will have to come from the analysis of previously collected data.
Unfortunately — at least in my opinion — the existence of this superb national resource depended upon convincing congress almost 2 decades ago that manmade global warming was a clear and present danger to the world.
Manmade Global Warming as the Justification
Since I believe the majority of what we now view as “climate change” is just part of a natural cycle in the climate system, I argued from the outset that NASA should be also selling “Mission to Planet Earth” as a way to better prepare ourselves for natural climate change — something that history tells us has indeed occurred, and we can be assured will occur again.
But behind the scenes there was a strong push for policy changes that even most of the scientists involved supported — ultimately culminating in the governmental control over how much and the kinds of energy sources humanity would be allowed to use in the future.
Cap and Trade, as well as potential regulation of carbon dioxide emissions by the EPA, are the fruits of the labor of politicians, governmental representatives, bureaucrats, the United Nations, and activist scientists who have used global warming as an excuse to accomplish policy goals that would have never been accomplished on their own merits.
Of course, most who speak out on this issue continue to point to the supposed “scientific consensus” on global warming as the justification, but those of us who knew the players also knew of these other motives.
I am often asked, “So, are you saying there is a conspiracy here?”
No, because the ultimate goals were not a secret. Just a bunch of elitists carrying out plans that the politicians supported — with continuing promises of congressional funding for research that those politicians knew would support Job #1 of government — to stay needed by the people. Many of the scientists involved are just along for a ride on the gravy train. Even I ride that train.
The elitism clearly shows through in the behavior of those who speak out publicly on the need for humanity to change its Earth-destroying ways: Al Gore, James Cameron, Harrison Ford, Julia Roberts, RFK, Jr.
These people apparently believe they are God’s gift to humanity. How else can we explain that they do not see the hypocrisy the rest of the nation sees in their behavior?
Unfortunately, I saw this attitude on a smaller scale at the New Orleans meeting. There are many new, young scientists now joining the ranks. They are being mentored by the older scientists who helped spread the alarm concerning manmade global warming. And they will be rewarded for playing the game.
Or will they?
The Times They Are A-Changin’
How is it that government agencies long ago decided to put all their eggs in the man-made global warming basket? Why have the movers and shakers around the world ignored natural climate change — even going so far as to claim it does not exist?
The only reason I can think of again goes back to their elitist beliefs and desired policy outcomes. The belief that a better-educated few should be allowed power over the less educated masses. That government knows better than the people do.
Tomorrow’s election is widely viewed as a referendum on the proper role of government in people’s lives. There is no question that the founders of our country intended there to be maximum of freedom on the part of individuals and the states, while placing strong limits on the role of the federal government.
Just read the Declaration of Independence if you want to see how pi$!ed off the settlers of the original colonies became at the King of England over his intrusion into their personal affairs.
And global warming legislation is now quite possibly the best opportunity the governments of the world have to increase the role of government in people’s lives.
The Basic Economics of Individual Freedom
Yet, many Americans believe that government can more equitably distribute the wealth generated by a country. This is a laudable goal on the face of it.
Unfortunately, history has taught us that trying to impose equality of outcomes only serves to make people equally miserable.
I like to think that I know something about basic economics. It was the subject of the 6th chapter in my first book –Climate Confusion — which received a nice blurb on the jacket from noted economist Walter Williams.
One of the reasons I am willing to stick my neck out and inform people of the uncertain nature of government-approved global warming science is because the basic economics behind any governmental (or environmental extremist) attempts to restrict personal choice in energy use will end up killing people.
In fact, it already has.
The biggest threat to humanity is poverty. Wealthier is healthier. When governments make energy more expensive, or environmental organizations pressure foreign countries to not build hydroelectric dams, poor people die.
Those already living on the edge are pushed over the edge. Energy is required for everything we do, and artificially raising the price of energy cannot help but destroy wealth generation.
If these elitists really were interested in the poor, they would be doing everything they could to help individuals take control of their own economic destinies. One billion people in the world still do not have electricity.
Worried about population growth? Then encourage the generation of wealth. It is the poor of the world that cause global population growth. The wealthy countries of the world have close to zero population growth.
Of course the main argument against this view is “sustainability”. Can the Earth sustain even more people consuming natural resources?
Interesting how those who ask the question have already gotten theirs, and now want to prevent others from doing the same.
But I would ask, can the world sustain the poverty-stricken? Poor countries have had most of their trees cut down. Imagine if global society collapsed and billions of people had to make do on their own with what they could scavenge from nature.
Now THAT would lead to a pollution problem.
What ensures sustainability is free markets. As natural resources of one type become more scarce, their price goes up, which makes alternatives more attractive. People are incentivized to develop new answers to old technological problems. This is why fossil fuels will never be used up. At some point, they simply will become too expensive to extract.
Mass production by factories and corporations should be embraced, rather than derided. It represents the most efficient way of providing goods and services. Waste is minimized because it hurts competitiveness.
But What About Equality?
Equality of outcomes is an illusion. It can never be achieved…unless we totally destroy the people’s motivation to make a better life for themselves.
A vibrant economy is what maximizes the tax revenue collected by the government. The two largest periods of growth in tax revenue collected by the government occurred after two major tax-CUTTING initiatives: JFK’s in the early 1960’s, and Reagan’s in the early 1980’s.
If you really want to help the poor, then help the country grow economically. Want to make sure the poor are taken care of? Then encourage businesses to grow, which will lead to more jobs. Economic activity is what is needed, and since the tax revenue the government receives is a “piece of the action”, more action means more money for government programs.
And whether we like it or not, the only way to ensure this growth happens is to give business owners and entrepreneurs some hope that their risk-taking and creativity will pay off for them personally in the future.
Yes, in the process, some people will get rich. A few will get obscenely rich. But this only occurs because so many consumers want the goods and services those rich few can offer them.
Call it a necessary evil, if you must. But it is, indeed, necessary. The end result will be more money for the poor, not less.
A New Fight Begins Tomorrow
The basic economics and desire to help the poor that have motivated me to speak out in the last 20 years on global warming policy will, starting tomorrow, be the subject of a national debate regarding the proper role of government in helping its people.
Tomorrow’s election is only the start. From then on, education about the practical importance of economic freedom will be central to that debate.
There is no question that our country has an unsustainable growth in our yearly budget deficits, and our total national debt is staggering. Everyone agrees this must change.
And reducing government expenditures must, of course, be part of the debate.
But increasing tax revenue to help support those programs is ALSO part of the solution. And since the only demonstrated (and sustainable)way to accomplish this is to grow the economy, it requires personal economic freedom.
So, what is the primary role of government in all this? In my opinion, it is two-fold: (1) make sure people play fair, and (2) get out of the way.