TCS Daily

The Day After The Day After Tomorrow

By Paul Driessen - April 22, 2004 12:00 AM

What makes a horror movie so terrifying? It's not just the plotline, script and score. It's being in a dark theater, where everyone is just waiting to be scared half to death. It's the audience's willingness to suspend logic, and enter the director's make-believe world. Maybe most of all, it's the special effects monsters, destruction and mayhem that practically convince us it's all real.

So it is with the supposed apocalypse of global warming. Climate change catastrophe theorists have crafted a clever script, generated some good computer what-ifs, and produced a pretty convincing fright flick. The only thing missing was a score by James Horner, whose music helped make Aliens so edge-of-the-seat scary -- and some Hollywood-style special effects (sfx).

Now, though, The Day After Tomorrow is about to address the musical and sfx oversight -- in a hundred-million-dollar extravaganza that breaks new ground in combining horror, propaganda and manipulation of history and science to serve political agendas. With the Kyoto Protocol now a stiffening corpse on the global stage, producer Roland Emmerich is also gunning to bring the "heroic" treaty back to life, a la Han Solo rising out of his carbonite tomb.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Union of Concerned Scientists, Pew Center, Senators Lieberman and McCain, and other publicists will do everything in their power to make this film a veritable "fright night" of what will happen if we continue to burn fossil fuels. Global temperatures could soar ten degrees, they wail. Tropical diseases will kill millions. Polar ice caps will melt, inundating coastal cities. The US will become a vast desert. And hurricanes and tornadoes will destroy whatever communities rising seas and tidal waves don't.

It's the stuff of nightmares. Fortunately, there is little evidence that this apocalyptic future is anything other than Michael Moore and Hollywood celluloid. Here are the facts behind the classic climate change horror movie subplots.

Frankenclime! Satellites and weather balloon data show no appreciable atmospheric warming since 1979, except in Alaska and Siberia, at night, in mid-winter. Except for those who think a 1-degree rise over the past century is alarming -- and most of that was pre-1940 -- there's little to fear. Some surface temperature gauges do show more warming, but they're near cities and airports, and thus contaminated by exhaust heat.

Climate swings are nothing new. Between 800 and 1300 AD, much of the world was several degrees warmer than today. People grew wine grapes in England, figs in Germany, assorted crops in Greenland. Then came the Little Ice Age, and temperatures considerably colder than today persisted until the climate warmed again around 1900. The likely cause? Changes in the sun's energy output, or perhaps the Earth's orbit, say Harvard-Smithsonian scientists Sallie Baliunas and Willie Soon.

Mosquito! Malaria, yellow and dengue fever are related to the absence of vaccines, pesticides, screens and other health care measures, not to temperatures, tropical disease expert Dr. Paul Reiter points out. Wisconsin had malaria outbreaks in the 1880s; yellow fever claimed 19,000 lives in Memphis in 1878; and 2,000 people got dengue fever in one Mexican border town in 1995, while Texas reported only seven cases.

Water World! Sea levels have been rising at seven inches or more a century since the last ice age. Unless there is another Little Ice Age, they will continue rising at roughly this rate for centuries to come. As to open water in the Arctic, it happens every year in late summer -- following weeks in the 40s and 50s.

Twister! The number and severity of storms, hurricanes and tornadoes is actually decreasing. Property damage may be going up, but that's because people are building more expensive homes in low-lying coastal areas.

The worst tornado ever to hit the U.S. was a mile wide, lasted 3 hours, killed 700 people and leveled entire communities along its 220-mile path across three states -- in 1925. Meanwhile, the frequency of droughts, heat waves and cold snaps has changed little over the past century.

Our understanding of complex weather and climate patterns is still relatively poor, and today's computer models are too primitive to predict next year's climate -- much less the climate for 2050. That's why the models actually generate "scenarios," not predictions. Politicians, journalists and pressure groups can then select the scariest scenarios of the bunch, and trumpet them far and wide -- in an effort to "persuade" countries to adopt restrictive energy and economic policies. That's what they've been doing, and The Day After Tomorrow merely takes the tactic a step further.

When we come out of a horror movie, we know it was just a movie. We might have a nightmare or two, but we don't turn our lifestyles upside down -- to protect ourselves from special effects raptors, aliens and Freddies.

We need to take that same approach to climate change. Support continued atmospheric observations, even-handed research, better computer modeling, and new technologies that use less fuel and emit fewer pollutants. But resist policy prescriptions that are based on Halloween hobgoblins, conjured up by the special effects masters of climate alarmism.

Most of all, we mustn't let climate alarmism justify denying electrical power and economic development to our Earth's poorest people -- two billion of whom still do not have electricity, and must burn cow dung or wood for cooking and heating. Four million infants, children and mothers die every year from lung infections caused by breathing the toxic smoke. Millions more succumb to diseases caused by tainted water and spoiled food -- because there is no electricity to purify water, refrigerate food or operate clinics.

These people need a precautionary principle that safeguards them from these very real, immediate, life-threatening dangers -- not one that "protects" them (and us) from theoretical, exaggerated or imaginary climate change cataclysms.

"We must put humanity back into the environmental debate," says Niger Innis, national spokesman for the Congress of Racial Equality. "We all want to protect our planet. But we must stop trying to protect it from minor or illusory threats - and doing it on the backs, and the graves, of the world's most powerless and impoverished people."

Paul Driessen is the author of Eco-Imperialism ( and director of the Economic Human Rights Project, a joint initiative of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise and Congress of Racial Equality.


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