Two weeks ago, the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Nelson Institute of Environmental Studies held an Earth Day conference on energy. Associating environmentalism with energy production is a tragedy, as environmentalism is profoundly anti-science and anti-energy.
The Sierra Club, who was represented at the Nelson conference, supports wind and solar power but opposes coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear energy. In other words, they oppose every viable source of energy. And even the use of wind and solar is opposed if they are shown to be visually unpleasant, harm birds or disrupt plants.
With such restrictions — and given the fact it takes tens of thousands of acres of wind or solar to match the output of one coal power plant — it is pure fantasy to believe these “renewable” sources will be a viable source of energy. Even after billions of dollars of government subsidies and decades of research, only 2 percent of the world’s power is supplied by “renewable” energies.
But producing energy is not the concern of environmentalists. Environmentalists oppose any technology that actually produces clean, abundant energy.
Nuclear power, for example, continues to be opposed by environmentalists despite its indisputable efficiency, safety and abundance. The Sierra Club claims “all current plant designs are complex, prone to accidents and have severe security vulnerabilities” and advocates shutting down current plants when their licenses expire. Such objections ignore the actual science and history of nuclear power.
For example, at a UW energy conference David Lochbaum, from the environmental group Union of Concerned Scientists, was asked what it would take for environmentalists to support nuclear power. He promptly answered, “I ask our climate scientists if hell freezing over — would that solve our global warming problem? Because that’s basically what it would take.”
So, despite posing as a “concerned scientist,” and offering a litany of alleged scientific arguments against nuclear power, in the end, science is irrelevant to his group’s position. By his own admission, there is no scientific standard that could ever be met — environmentalists are opposed to nuclear power on principle.
Other environmentalists, such as UW professor Jim Pawley, smear the entire nuclear industry as a group of killers, saying, “This is an industry that built two bombs that killed a lot of people, and since then they have been trying to make something good out of it.” He teaches a “scientific” course on how to respond to global warming.
Crusading under the banner of science while ignoring and distorting science is commonplace in the environmental movement. Science, they say, shows us that many will starve and succumb to disease as the earth warms and that the industrialized world is responsible.
Professors Jonathan Patz and Jonathan Foley from the Nelson Institute, for example, claim there is “growing evidence that climate-health relationships pose increasing health risks under future projections of climate change” and that warming has “already contributed to increased morbidity and mortality.” According to Patz, climate change is “a huge ethical problem” and “one could make the argument that our energy policy is indirectly exporting diseases to other parts of the world.”
To arrive at such claims, they present a long list of data showing that developing countries in Africa and elsewhere are vulnerable to changes in their environment, falling victim to famine and malaria. What about these countries’ lack of development and modernity? Such facts are simply dismissed as requiring more study. As Patz et al. state, “The data available at present does not allow robust control for non-climatic confounding factors such as socio-economic influences.”
Consider the enormity of what is being evaded here. The No. 1 factor determining health and disease prevention is a society’s industrialization, and yet this fact is not only dismissed as a “confounding factor,” it is regarded as an exporter of disease. The authors conclude, “Precautionary approaches to mitigating anthropogenic greenhouse gasses will be necessary.”
So, while industrialization has freed man from the ravages of the natural world, it is this very industrialization that gets blamed for Third World vulnerability to nature. Such studies and a myriad of others like them are not attempts at knowledge, but attempts to pass off environmental dogma as science.
Sacrificing low-cost abundant energy — the lifeblood of an industrialized society — in the name of the uncivilized and unindustrialized is as anti-man as one could imagine.
If one cares about clean, efficient sources of energy, one must reject the anti-industrial, anti-scientific ideology of environmentalism and adopt its opposite — man’s right to exploit nature for his benefit. Whatever the merits of a particular technology, it must be evaluated within a context that upholds energy production as paramount to human prosperity. This requires embracing scientific progress, industry and property rights. Above all, it requires scientific honesty.
Jim Allard ([email protected]) is a graduate student in the biological sciences.