Stossel on Global Warming

(Please forgive today’s formatting issues.  I am not sure why the formatting gods have it in for me this morning.)
I watched John Stossel’s new show last night.  His chosen topic was global warming.  Missing was the ridiculous shouting that characterizes most “topic” shows.  Stossel, to his credit, held a civil and well-managed forum in which opposing viewpoints were treated with dignity.
I like Stossel for any number of reasons.  First and foremost, he is a skeptic–not just of global warming hysteria, but of hysteria in general.  This trait is sorely lacking in the media these days and one wonders if the disease has been transmitted to the general populace.
The history of manufactured crises and ill-founded scares reads like a bad science-fiction novel.  From the 19th century’s  dire prediction of the world running out of whale oil to the Y2K bug, we human beings have an inexplicable fascination with our collective demise.  If it’s not something in the air, it’s something in the water or something lurking in the dark of outer space waiting to clobber us in our sleep.
Like a child living in constant fear of an unpredictable and authoritarian parent, doomsdayers usually think it is something we humans did.  Underneath the unfounded hysteria lies a fundamental fear that our capacity for progress is somehow wrong and that we should be punished for doing so many “unnatural” things to better our lives.  Nature knows best, and she is a vindictive soul.  Anything we do to alter it is bad and will be punished.
The facts of global warming are open to question, but let’s assume for a moment that the alarmists are correct–that the Earth is warming, that this is a bad thing, and that we can do something about it.  Stossel and his guests zeroed in on what I believe to be the central problem in the global warming circus.  Even under the worst scenarios offered up by alarmists, the consequences are far less devastating than the cures.
Global warming advocates target fossil-based fuels.  In reality, though, it is neither practical nor desirable to move away from fossil fuels.  Though this may change in the future, no substitute for decayed dinosaurs is economically viable.  Wind, solar, and even nuclear power are more heavily subsidized than oil.  Drastically cutting oil use would do little to stem the alleged human-generated effects of global warming (even by alarmists’ standards).  However, it would almost certainly reduce the economic well-being of humanity, especially poorer countries.
The solution?  I thought Stossel’s guest, Jerry Taylor, put it best.  It is prudent to watch the weather, and we should be concerned if it becomes clear that we need to act.  In the meantime, the best way to help the poor is to help them get vitamins, clean water, and free trade.  The tangible benefits of wealth far outweigh any good done by crippling energy production.
–Terry thinks Al Gore is a strange fellow and wonders why he won’t debate the case of global warming on its merits.  Oh, wait.  He will make enough money from subsidized green businesses to fill an oil tanker.

About Terry Noel

I am an Associate Professor of Management and Quantitative Methods at Illinois State University. My specialty is entrepreneurship.
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