The Heritage Foundation’s Steven Groves and Ben Lieberman are live at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference reporting from a conservative perspective. Follow their reports on The Foundry and at the Copenhagen Consequences Web site.
“It is not merely scientists and environmental activists who call for swift and forceful action – it’s military leaders in my own country and others who understand our common security hangs in the balance.”
President Obama said this in his Nobel acceptance speech last week. And indeed, as high level government officials arrive on Wednesday December 16 for the critical last 72 hours of the Copenhagen climate conference, the supposed link between national security and global warming is being used to urge along an agreement. But they have it exactly backwards. It is not global warming but ill advised global warming policy that poses the real security threat for the U.S. and its allies.
Obama further explained that “there is little scientific dispute that if we do nothing, we will face more drought, more famine, more mass displacement – all of which will fuel more conflict for decades,” Thus, the argument goes, national and allied defense forces would be increasingly diverted to address humanitarian disasters in the decades ahead, or worse, America and its friends would have to deal with conflicts exacerbated if not caused by the consequences of global warming.
For one thing, this argument is based on far fetched and poorly supported assumptions about the consequences of global warming. For example, the link between warming and drought is not well established, and food production actually skyrocketed between the 1970s and 1990s, a span where world temperatures did increase. President Obama’s parade of horribles also assumes a substantial future temperature increase, something that is increasingly in doubt.
Far more likely is the link between security and global warming policy. The proposal for emissions reductions discussed in some of the proposals floated here are more stringent than those of the House Waxman-Markey bill, which the Heritage Foundation projected would cost 393 billion annually in lost GDP and cumulatively $9.4 trillion dollars by 2035. A weaker U.S economy would likely mean lower defense budgets, and at exactly the same time that the required emissions reductions would raise the military’s already-high fuel bills (along with consumers who will also be paying more for gasoline and electricity). Globally, such an energy tax would worsen poverty around the world and pose a greater threat to stability than a slight increase in temperatures.
That the risk of global warming policy to security is greater than the risk posed by global warming itself is not mere speculation. We have already seen it with biofuels mandates around the world, which were justified in substantial part by the alleged reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Whether corn based ethanol in the US or biodiesel in Europe, the diversion of crops from food to fuel use raised food prices and caused several instances of food related unrest in poor countries. Expect more of the same if global warming policies are allowed to impose burdens on those least able to handle them.
From a pure marketing standpoint, the use of security fears makes sense. It is a way to get the security-minded political right to join the environmentally-minded left in supporting a climate agreement in Copenhagen, and it does so just as support for such an agreement is waning (climategate, the lack of any warming for a decade, the growing chorus is skeptical scientists, the exorbitant cost of such measures). But the sales pitch is a phony one, and dangerously so. Those genuinely concerned about national security threats to America and its allies need to be concerned with global warming “solutions” more than global warming itself.