Hidden Agendas Part I
Hidden Agendas Part I
By Candace Oathout
The more I listen to and read about the current furor over Global Warming, the more I have to question the strident cries for immediate action. It seems to me that when we react in response to claims of catastrophic calamities, we usually create a series of unintended consequences that are scary in their own right. The first case that leaps to mind is the Northern spotted owl. It seems that the greater danger to spotted owls in the Pacific Northwest is the expansion of the range of barred owls into their habitat. In the 13 or so years since establishment of critical habitat for this species, the United States timber industry has basically been destroyed, the population of spotted owls has continued to decline and we have experienced massive wildland fires that drastically increase carbon emissions and lay waste to millions of acres of “old growth” forests. I can’t help but wonder how these consequences demonstrate good stewardship of our planet. I cannot understand why eliminating managed care of our forests, putting thousands of people who were employed by the timber industry out of work, destroying small towns in rural areas and causing increased costs for importing the wood we need for building etc. while allowing a natural renewable homegrown resource to be wasted makes any sense.
The environmental community argues that we are not living our lives sustainably because we use more natural capital than is renewable. This is an extremely interesting argument in relation to the timber industry. Again, using the Northern spotted owl as the example, Ann and Paul Erlich in their book, “Betrayal of Science and Reason” state that the unanimous opinion of more than fifty attendees at a December 1993 workshop in Fort Collins, Colorado is sufficient proof that the species was in danger of extinction to completely justify their listing. Fourteen years later, however, after much more monitoring and study, the owl is still declining, not because of habitat destruction by logging interests, but because of the natural expansion of the barred owl into their habitat, defoliation of forests due to insect infestation, and loss of habitat to catastrophic wildland fires. In fact 80% of the habitat loss has been to wildfire. The listing of the Northern spotted owl as endangered and the setting aside of “critical habitat” for it placed 24 million acres of federal land, mostly National Forests, off limits to even minimal forest management practices that could sustain the owl while providing a renewable supply of the wood needed by our society for building and other purposes. This has helped to reduce U.S. timber harvest by 80-90% and forced the importation of wood resources from other countries that lack similar environmental regulations and are much less likely to employ strategic logging and forest management principles. The 2005 US Forest Service Report on the status and trends of Northern spotted owl population trends indicates that this species is less dependent on specifically “old growth” habitat than was stated to force their listing. In fact, some in the environmental movement have stated that they were willing to lie or at least overstate the threat to this species to advance their hidden agenda to dismantle the timber industry in the United States and “protect” old growth forest from logging, but presumably not from wasteful destruction by fire and pest infestation.
We are currently being bombarded with demands to drastically change and reduce our lifestyles based on climate science that has actually only began to be organized roughly 60 years ago. Before 1947 there were no common quantifiable methods of measurement, no multi-disciplinary standards, or even a common language among scientists. Weather related sciences were focused on interpreting history and statistics in order to predict future weather events. The main lesson learned turned out to be that there is no “normal” weather when it is viewed over multi-decadal and millennial timescales. Mostly reliable temperature records have actually only been available for about 150 years.
Climate research remained quite a small field of science into the 1980s. Although any substantial sub-field of physics or chemistry counted its professionals in the thousands, the number of scientists dedicated full-time to research on the geophysics of climate change was probably only a few hundred worldwide. (If you included every scientist competent to at least comment on some aspect, including such fields as biological responses to climate change, it would still be not much above a thousand.) Since these climate scientists were divided among a great variety of fields, any given subject could muster only a handful of true experts. However, as climate research science began to coalesce into a scientific discipline, funding in the form of grants from the federal government and environmental non-governmental organizations became more and more available. In the late 1970’s government funding for climate research expanded exponentially. In the 1980’s universities and other institutions jumped on the bandwagon, increasingly funding research groups in a variety of fields. The number of conferences and papers published proliferated from only a few conferences each year in the early 1980’s to about 40 in 1990 and more than 100 in 1997. As one scientist aptly put it, the “traveling circus” of the greenhouse effect had begun. While no one actually knew for certain, it is estimated that three to four billion dollars a year was being spent on climate research by the end of the 1990’s. The number of full-time climate researchers increased as more funding opportunities became available reaching about a thousand by the beginning of the 21st Century. Obviously climate alarmism pays well.
Early climatologists, such as, Stephen Schneider were desperately trying to explain the complexities of climate to the general population. At the time Schneider was intent on making the case for a rapid global cooling and he was probably right as it was possible to be given all the unknowns in the 1970’s. Thirty seven years later, while we have more information about climate, there are still too many unknowns to state as strongly as Al Gore does that we are doomed unless we drastically change life as we know it in our society. One point that the Erlich’s make in their book that I can completely agree with is that “science never proves anything”.