If Al Gore is right and global warming is genuine, grave, and the fault of mankind, why do he and so many environmentalists oppose measures that would reduce those pesky carbon-dioxide emissions? Power sources that could cut atmospheric CO2 rarely seem good enough to satisfy the greens.
Unlike oil and coal, nuclear power does not generate CO2. It may be the most practical, atmosphere-friendly power source now available. And yet the former vice president seems unimpressed.
“I’m skeptical about it playing a much larger role,” he said in London’s Guardian newspaper last May 31. “I don’t think it’s going to be a silver bullet.”
True, nuclear plants produce radioactive waste that must be stored somewhere. Despite an impressive safety record in America, where nuclear power meets 20 percent of energy demand — and even more so in France, where 75 percent of power is nuclear — the potential remains for catastrophic accidents or sabotage. But as Gore and his pals should understand, life involves trade-offs between low-risk options and clear-and-present dangers. If global warming truly is the unfolding horror show that environmentalists say it is, then why do they consider atomic energy even more dangerous?
Indeed, Competitive Enterprise Institute scholar Chris Horner wonders why environmentalists reject alternatives to fossil fuels if they agree with Sir David King, British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s science adviser, that global warming is “the greatest threat facing mankind” and is “worse than terrorism.”
“It is hypocritical that Kyotophile greens almost unanimously still oppose nuclear power and that [the Kyoto treaty’s] own terms exclude greenhouse-gas-free nukes from its permissible sources of gaining ‘credits,’” Horner writes in his forthcoming Regnery book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism.
Green groups are almost comically conflicted on this issue. “Climate change is the greatest threat of all,” Tony Juniper of Friends of the Earth U.K. told the Guardian last March 3. But then FOE’s website declares: “Nuclear power…cannot be part of the solution to climate change.” So, apparently, some threats are greater than “the greatest threat of all.”
Greenpeace executive director Stephen Tindale believes that global warming “will claim hundreds of thousands of lives.” Nevertheless, the group’s website says, “Greenpeace is campaigning to end nuclear power.”
How about hydroelectric? Letting water run through dams, spin turbines, and generate juice is carbon friendly. And yet environmentalists want fewer, not more, dams. The latest ecological craze is to breach dams so fish can swim freely. PacificCorp began re-licensing hearings in San Francisco on August 21 that could prompt their demolition of power-generating dams on the Klamath River to give salmon a fin up.
Well, what of wind power? Here, too, liberals offer double talk. A proposed 130-turbine wind farm off Cape Cod blew into a buzz saw when global-warming foe Sen. Ted Kennedy moaned that it would ruin the ocean view from his Hyannis Port compound.
Amazingly enough, tree huggers even object to using trees to absorb CO2. Naturally, trees inhale CO2 and exhale oxygen. What could be more benign than that?
Yet, after pondering the idea of planting tree farms to consume CO2, eco-crats balked. In November 2000, United Nations and European Union officials involved in the Kyoto treaty process said such tree farms would “destroy the environmental integrity of the agreement.” At negotiations in Milan in December 2003, Horner writes, “those expressing the greatest fear of increased carbon dioxide concentrations quirkishly demanded a limit on what kind of trees be permitted to soak up the menacing precursor of photosynthesis as part of its cruel infliction of more and more oxygen on the unsuspecting planet.”
At the November 2002 World Environment Summit in Johannesburg, Friends of the Earth International and the World Rainforest Movement issued a news release that insisted: “Genetically modified trees must be banned from the Kyoto Protocol.” Thus, even crossbreeding trees so that they neutralize more CO2 than usual, is apparently scarier than global warming itself.
Environmentalists seem to think conservation, ethanol, and perhaps attractive-but-costly solar power can halt global warming in its tracks. That’s dubious. If this supposed problem truly is the imminent planetary death sentence that global warmers say it is, they should grow up and fight CO2, not the tools to lasso it.
– New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a senior fellow with the Atlas Economic Research Foundation in Arlington, Va.