Climate, Fossil Fuels & the Global Poor

on September 19, 2014

The Cornwall Alliance has organized “Protect the Poor: Ten Reasons to Oppose Harmful Climate Change Policies.” It urges prioritizing the interests of the global poor by prioritizing the wider availability of cheap energy, which primarily means fossil fuels. About 100 Christian notables were asked to be the initial endorsers, and I was honored to number among them.

You can read the declaration here. And here’s a World magazine story about it that quotes me.

Chiefly this declaration reacts to religious voices that hype global warming scare scenarios. Too often these voices claim that human use of fossil fuels will precipitate cataclysmic climate change, that the world’s poor will be the chief victims, and that the global economy must ultimately be completely restructured to first reduce and then ultimately eliminate fossil fuels. They typically don’t mention that what they demand eventually would cost untold trillions of dollars, with no guarantee of any significant impact on climate, and based on the fantasy that fossil fuels can be replaced plausibly in the foreseeable future with renewable energy sources.

Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of the world’s poorest live without access to electricity. For heating and cooking they rely on burning wood or animal dung, precipitating widespread illness and premature death. At the same time, costs for fossil fuels are falling, thanks to new discoveries and technologies, like fracking, which of course climate activists oppose. Expensive alternatives to fossil fuels, like windmills and solar panels, realistically cannot help the global poor.

Hundreds of millions of the world’s poor have escaped poverty over the last 20 years, in China, India, Indonesia, Brazil and elsewhere, at the greatest rate in human history, thanks to economic growth facilitated by fossil fuels. China and India are busily building more coal fired power plants to provide electricity for their growing nations. Climate activists are peeved. But despite the growing emissions, there’s been no increase in global temperatures in over 15 years. The increase during the last century was about one degree.

Climate activists, based on their computer models, insist that global temperatures will resume their climb eventually. But these computer models did not predict the long stall. This Cornwall Declaration declaration doesn’t claim human activity has no impact on climate. But it is skeptical that experts can make dogmatic predictions about the future, for which evidence is lacking.

Most importantly, the declaration stresses the human cost of strict adherence to climate activism orthodoxy. The wealthy West perhaps can afford to absorb some of what climate activists demand. But the global poor would be consigned to permanent, chronic poverty if climate change orthodoxy were rigorously imposed on the global economy.

Just this week a Methodist bishop pronounced global warming a chief threat to humanity. Mainline Protestants officials have bewailed climate change for many years. They love disaster scenarios, especially if they align with their statist political and economic goals! But some Evangelicals over the last decade have also jumped aboard the cause of climate alarmism. They do not readily admit their cause is primarily for well-heeled western environmentalists. Most of the world, especially the Global South, is more interested in economic growth, which is only realistically plausible with inexpensive fossil fuels.

There’s often a cold comfort in grim pessimism, predicting the worst about the future. But sustained global economic growth, including the newly realized availability of affordable fossil fuels, is good news, especially for the poor. Christian leaders should celebrate this ongoing empowerment of the previously poor and emerging hope for the remaining poor. After all, God still reigns, and sometimes He rescues humanity from itself.

  1. Comment by jmireur on September 19, 2014 at 10:33 am

    Whyizzit we shouldn’t use fossil fuels, Ain’t we recycling when we do? Old dinosaurs and plants that lived millions of years ago? Are they tool old maybe? Should we demand the paper recycling folks empty the dumpster behind the church for paper everyday, to keep it from getting too old? Should we send solar panels to Africa? Shh, don’t give ’em ideas.

  2. Comment by Greg on September 20, 2014 at 10:19 am

    Here’s a look at Leo Dicaprio’s three homes:

    And one of Al Gore’s houses:

    That ought to tell you all you need to know

  3. Comment by Byrom on September 20, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    This brings to mind a number of points.
    First, global warming/climate change/climate disruption hysteria is based solely upon computer models and temperature readings that only go back to the late 1800s. The models appear to be skewed to produce a desired outcome. As the old computer saying goes: garbage in, garbage out. And just demonize anyone who disagrees!
    There also seems to be a huge desire to worship the creation and not the Creator. That is accompanied by the desire of so-called experts and smart people to control the lives of the rest of us.
    Fossil fuels are plentiful and contain vast stores of energy compared to current means for using solar or wind energy. That being said, solar or wind power has its place in serving remote areas where electrical lines are not yet run. (Fossil fuels are also organic!)

  4. Comment by MarcoPolo on September 26, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    God’s not going to rescue anybody from the rise of global temperatures.
    And it seems naive to still believe there exists no evidence to support the human impact on our environment.
    I know Mark Tooley isn’t that dense. I could be wrong?!

  5. Comment by MarcoPolo on September 29, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    So Mark Tooley, let’s just keep polluting the air with the noxious poison that fossil fuels spew, and disregard the need for cleaner energies…after all, what was good at the turn of the 20th century, couldn’t be bad for the 21st, right?!
    Sheesh! These are serious environmental issues. Why err on the side of obstructionism? When we have the opportunity to avail ourselves to a cleaner renewable source of energy, like the sun and wind?

    These things affect EVERYBODY eventually. We must take the lead, if change is ever going to happen.

  6. Comment by Rezwan Razani on November 8, 2014 at 9:59 am

    The Bible is pretty clear about fossil fuel use reduction. If we run out of fossils before God returns, we are denied entry into the kingdom of heaven:

    Matthew 25:
    1“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
    6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
    7“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
    9“‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’
    10“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
    11“Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’
    12“But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’
    13“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

    We don’t know how long the energy is supposed to last – so make sure it will last indefinitely – sustainably. Don’t burn up all your oil, don’t eliminate your options. Have plenty of backup, start preparing your alternate energy NOW and make sure there’s plenty of oil to greet the Bridegroom when he arrives.

  7. Comment by Mark Bell on November 23, 2014 at 5:04 pm

    Yeah, those fossil fuels did a lot of good sitting in the ground for millions of years, right?

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