V&V Q&A: The Big Picture: The Science, Politics, and Economics of Climate Change

Editor’s Note: The “V&V Q&A” is an e-publication from The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. This latest edition of “V&V Q&A” is an interesting discussion with author Dr. Mark Hendrickson about his new e-book: “The Big Picture.”

Vision & Values: Mark Hendrickson, what prompted you to write this book?

Mark Hendrickson: I’ve been following the issue of global warming/climate change for over 25 years. When I first heard some of the apocalyptic predictions of a human-caused climate disaster, it got my attention; after all, I’m as interested in survival as the next person.

Almost from the very beginning, though, I could see holes in the arguments of those predicting catastrophe. One of the basic problems is the limits of human ability to predict the future. As an economist, I am well aware of those limitations, and therefore I sympathize with climate scientists who likewise have to deal with myriad factors, some imperfectly known or completely unknown, and with an incomplete understanding of how and how much different factors impact each other. Even the IPCC, the UN’s climate change agency, has candidly stated, “long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible.” Of course, that hasn’t stopped certain scientists from insisting that they can! I would be deeply suspicious, though, of anyone who claims that humans can predict, much less fine-tune, Earth’s climate.

When I saw how uncertain science was being used to justify a radical political agenda and immensely costly changes to our society, it prompted me to sound a warning. My warning is basically this: The proposed cure could be far more harmful to human beings than the hypothetical problem.

V&V: What is the state of climate science in the United States today?

MH: Among scientists, there is vigorous debate about almost every aspect of the climate change issue. Other than virtually universal agreement that Earth has been warming since emerging from the Little Ice Age in the 1900s (and all of us living should be grateful for that climatic improvement!) and that the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide has risen, almost everything else is unsettled. By the way, I’ve read a fair amount of abstracts of scientific papers, and one can’t help but be impressed by how complex the science is. My hat is off to the many scientists for their highly advanced technical work.

Where the scientific community has fallen short, I believe, has been in failing to derail the simplistic narrative in the mainstream media that more carbon dioxide means a warmer planet which means climate-related catastrophes. In “The Big Picture,” I go into detail to explain why that notion is spectacularly wrong. I have a chart in the book that traces the history of the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide and average global temperatures as reconstructed by modern science, and it is strikingly clear that the two often move independently of each other.

V&V: What are the politics of climate change?

MH: In a nutshell, scientific research has been dangerously politicized. Ever since former Vice President Al Gore was in the Senate in the early 1990s, government funding for research has gone overwhelmingly (often by a factor of over 100 to 1) to scientists willing to focus on carbon dioxide as a threat—to the tune of tens of billions of dollars. The result is what is known as “official science.” Government has put its figurative finger on the scales and tilted scientific research toward the catastrophist position.

Having written editorials and taken part in radio interviews about global warming over the years, I have been asked, “Have you ever been paid by a fossil-fuel company?” The rude implication, of course, is that if I had (and I haven’t) then my word would carry no weight. I have always responded, “Ask the people on the other side of the question whether they have received government funding.” In almost every case, scientists who trumpet an alarm about global warming have indeed received government funding. My question is: What is the basis for believing that private money corrupts a person, but that government money is pure as snow and signifies that the person receiving it isn’t influenced by self-interest or a self-serving agenda?

Progressives in government have long sought a “carbon tax” on fossil fuels. That is because fossil fuels power most of our economy, so a tax on them would be a gigantic source of revenue for politicians whose careers consist of redistributing wealth to their favored constituencies. And the United Nations pushes global warming as an expedient rationale for redistributing wealth on a global scale.

V&V: Can you say a few words about the economics of climate change?

MH: Sure. When you read the gargantuan dollar figures that proponents of curbing human consumption of fossil fuels, the numbers are stunning. They add up to trillions and trillions of dollars. Immense sums of wealth that could be used to sustain millions of human lives and for us to build safer, more stormproof dwellings and buildings would instead be spent restructuring human society and our energy-consumption patterns. Cheap energy was an indispensable factor in the rise of masses of human beings from poverty to affluence in the last three centuries, and to the extent that government raises our energy costs by banning cheap fossil fuels and forcing us to switch to more costly and often less reliable “renewable” energy sources is a formula to keep people poor. That would be tragic, because the most lethal environment for human beings is poverty.

When you read estimates (those coming from the anti-fossil-fuel crowd) of reducing our fossil fuel consumption by 70 or 80% in the hope of keeping Earth’s average temperature a few hundredths of a degree cooler, it quickly becomes apparent that they have lost a sense of proportion. Never has anyone before asked to spend so much for so little. It simply doesn’t make economic sense.

V&V: Any final thoughts?

MH: One, here is a helpful reminder from the Gospel of John: “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). It is hugely important to be an informed citizen on this issue, or else a political elite is going to put a big hurt on us. Second, We need a healthy respect for the immensely powerful forces of Mother Nature, but we have nothing to fear from using fossil fuels. “The Big Picture” will show you why that is so.

Dr. Hendrickson’s book, “The Big Picture: The Science, Politics, and Economics of Climate Change,” is available as an e-book published by the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) a Washington-based nonprofit. Here is a link to the book: http://www.cfactstore.com/product/the-big-picture/