On April 20, 2007, John Stossel published an article on the ABC News website entitled “The Global Warming Myth.” In this article he suggests there are several myths being promulgated by global warming alarmists, including these four:
- The Earth is warming uncontrollably
- Tis warming is because of humans
- There will be huge disruptions in climate including violent storms and flooded coasts
- Signing Kyoto will help solve the problem
For the most part, we agree with Stossel. But our intention, despite contrary perceptions by single-minded global warming alarmists, is not to discourage the new momentum of worldwide environmental consciousness that has been stoked by this issue. Our intention is to attempt to restore balance to the debate – and it is a debate – and in a larger sense, to restore balance to environmentalism. Huge environmental challenges are not being addressed as forcefully as they were – they all now sit in the shadow of the great global warming boogyman, or even worse, they are now represented as problems that are best addressed by reducing industrial CO2 emissions.
There is an ideological struggle for the soul of environmentalism that anti-environmentalists don’t care about, and environmentalists barely grasp. There are two ways to address environmental challenges and they should be complimentary approaches. One approach centers on reducing consumption, improving efficient use of energy and water, conserving open space. This approach dominates environmental thinking today. But the other approach is vital – and that approach centers on increasing the production of clean energy and water, and developing land to accomplish these goals. We call these two complementary approaches demand side vs. supply side environmentalism. Without a balance between these approaches, solving environmental challenges (without incurring devastating economic hardship) is doomed to failure.
Global warming is not the principle cause of drought, for example, nor of extreme weather. Both of those problems on a global scale can be addressed by reforestation, especially in the tropics. Reforestation, reversing desertification, and refilling aquifers all over the world – actions that will mitigate global warming but are also extremely important to accomplish even if there was no global warming alarm – will require more energy production, to desalinate seawater and to operate pumps to relocate fresh water.
As we document in “Revisiting Desalinization,” for $5.0 billion dollars (which includes a budget for mitigation and disposal of the brine) a desalinization plant can provide water for 5.0 million residential users, and would only require about 250 megawatt-years of electricity per year. This is an astonishingly low amount to those of us who bought into the conventional wisdom that desalinization requires too much energy – one good 1.0 gigawatt nuclear power plant can desalinate 4 cubic kilometers of water per year, enough to supply 20 million residential water users.
Using desalinated seawater to replenish aquifers and supply water to cities requires a lot of scratches in the ground – something the demand side environmentalists decry. But they are wrong. And speaking of scratches in the ground, why aren’t we building canals to redirect excess fresh water from the Volga to the Aral Basin, or from the Congo to the Lake Chad Basin? Compared to the costs to mitigate industrial CO2, redirecting huge volumes of water to restore the lakes and aquifers in Central Asia and in Africa’s Sahel is easily done – but it requires some big scratches in the ground.
The point here is sometimes we have to protect the environment from the environmentalists. The demand side environmentalists often seem to want no development, anywhere, yet now they want to sieze the means of energy production and basically shut it down. Their prescriptions are unrealistic and futile. Stossel is absolutely right about that, but what we are offering is the alternative vision of environmentalism that even someone like Stossel should endorse. We should take all that CO2 tax revenue – and brace yourself, it’s coming – and use it to fund massive development projects to repower and rewater the planet, restoring rains, cooling the land, reforesting, moderating the weather and eliminating severe droughts. That would be a better use of funds.