Its April, and fools are out in force. The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, a bellwether for the latest fashion trends in morally smug investing, reports that gadfly shareholder resolutions on global warming showed the most growth in the environmental activism category.
Judging from the ICCR report, the social responsibility set thinks that other shareholders ought to be required to finance research for environmental radicals. If passed, the resolutions would require companies to report on economic risks caused by their green house gas and mercury emissions. They also require describing the operating, financial, and reputational risks derived from past, present, and future greenhouse gas emissions from their operations and products.
Problem is, discussing such risks is a waste of time. Nobody knows if greenhouse gases pose any risk or what those risks might be. Even though media outlets and activist propaganda campaigns have succeeded in portraying industry emissions and SUV drivers as the sole source of global warming, on balance the facts we have suggest otherwise.
Currently, carbon dioxide makes up about 0.037% of the earths atmosphere. Estimates put it at 0.027% 150 years ago, and environmental activists assume that industrialization is responsible for the increase. They claim that unless energy use in the developed world is drastically curtailed, rising carbon dioxide levels will trap more and more heat in the atmosphere. Temperatures will rise, triggering disasters of biblical proportions including sea level increases of 4 to 40 inches, floods, hurricanes, Antarctic glacier surges, the demise of the Gulf Stream , the death of coral reefs, drought, and marauding icebergs off Portugal .
Fortunately, such predictions come from mathematical climate models, not real data. Though constructing models is a worthy scientific undertaking, modeling climate is a difficult problem. At their present stage of development, climate models are better suited to producing scare headlines than to guiding environmental policy.
Even the most advanced models cannot accurately reproduce such basic phenomena as El Nio, cloud cover, regional rainfall, and the variations in the earths energy budget. Furthermore, t he historical record does not show a consistent relationship between carbon dioxide levels and temperature, possibly because plants respond to higher carbon dioxide levels by growing faster and taking more out of the atmosphere. One group of researchers calculated that the broad-leaf forest in North America is capable of removing all of the carbon dioxide created by fossil fuel use in the United States and Canada . If correct, this means that human activity in those two countries has nothing to do with the rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide.
Then theres the sun. A number of solar cycles have been observed. The best known is the 10 to 11 year sunspot cycle, which is accompanied by changes in magnetic activity that produce dramatic changes in ultraviolet and soft x-ray emissions. These may have important consequences for the Earths upper atmosphere, ocean temperatures, and atmospheric water vapor. Analyses of tree rings, ocean sediment cores, and stalagmite deposits suggest that biological processes are correlated with solar activity. During the Maunder minimum, a period from the mid 1650s to the early 1700s, both sunspot number, and temperatures in Europe , reached record lows.
Should environmental radicals succeed in parleying their mathematical fantasies into the expropriation of stockholder profits, a ban on fossil fuels, and the ability to regulate modern industry into extinction, the rest of us can take comfort from the fact that global warming will likely continue. Evidence from a variety of sources, including ice cores, glaciers, tree growth, peat, pollen and seafloor sediments suggests that the earth has been warming in fits and starts since the Little Ice Age (1300-1900). In time, we may even return to the balmy temperatures that characterized the Medieval Warm Period (800-1300). Environmentalists have few scruples about inflicting vast discomfort on other humans. If they get their way, retreating glaciers, more arable land, and the kind of climate that let the Vikings settle Greenland will no doubt be welcome events.
Like Lenin, whose birthday is celebrated on Earth Day, modern environmentalists want power. Green on the outside and red within, theyll do anything to get it, including burning buildings they dont like, planting lynx hair to get control of other peoples land, and using junk science to close down legitimate businesses. We havent run out of food or raw materials as they predicted in the 1970s, or forests and space to put garbage as they predicted in the 1980s.
Legally used pesticides dont turn children into little green monsters, either. For that, one needs environmentalist scare campaigns like the one on global warming.
Investor Responsibility Research Center and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. February 12, 2003 . 2003 Shareholder Proxy Season Overview: Social and Corporate Governance Resolution Trends. http://www.hastingsgroup.com/021203_proxy_season_overview_FINAL.PDF
Copyright 2003, Independence Institute
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