Written by Christopher Booker
If the holder of the most powerful office in the world proposed a policy guaranteed to inflict untold damage on his own country and many others, on the basis of claims so demonstrably fallacious that they amount to a string of self-deluding lies, we might well be concerned. The relevance of this is not to President Bush, as some might imagine, but to a recent policy statement by President-elect Obama.
Tomorrow, delegates from 190 countries will meet in Poznan, Poland, to pave the way for next year's UN conference in Copenhagen at which the world will agree a successor to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. They will see a video of Mr Obama, in only his second major policy commitment, pledging that America is now about to play the leading role in the fight to "save the planet" from global warming.
Mr Obama begins by saying that "the science is beyond dispute and the facts are clear". "Sea levels," he claims, "are rising, coastlines are shrinking, we've seen record drought, spreading famine and storms that are growing stronger with each passing hurricane season."
Far from the science being "beyond dispute", we can only deduce from this that Mr Obama has believed all he was told by Al Gore's wondrously batty film An Inconvenient Truth without bothering to check the facts. Each of these four statements is so wildly at odds with the truth that on this score alone we should be seriously worried.
It is true that average sea levels are modestly rising, but no faster than they have been doing for three centuries. Gore's film may predict a rise this century of 20 feet, but even the UN's International Panel on Climate Change only predicts a rise of between four and 17 inches. The main focus of alarm here has been the fate of low-lying coral islands such as the Maldives and Tuvalu.
Around each of these tiny countries, according to the international Commission on Sea Level Changes and other studies, sea levels in recent decades have actually fallen. The Indian Ocean was higher between 1900 and 1970 than it has been since. Satellite measurements show that since 1993 the sea level around Tuvalu has gone down by four inches.
Coastlines are not "shrinking" except where land is subsiding, as on the east coast of England, where it has been doing so for thousands of years. Gore became particularly muddled by this, pointing to how many times the Thames Barrier has had to be closed in recent years, unaware that this was more often to keep river water in during droughts than to stop the sea coming in.
Far from global warming having increased the number of droughts, the very opposite is the case. The most comprehensive study (Narisma et al, 2007) showed that, of the 20th century's 30 major drought episodes, 22 were in the first six decades, with only five between 1961 and 1980. The most recent two decades produced just three.
Mr Obama has again been taken in over hurricanes. Despite a recent press release from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration claiming that 2008's North Atlantic hurricane season "set records", even its own release later admits that it only tied as "the fifth most active" since 1944. NOAA's own graphs show hurricane activity higher in the 1950s than recently. A recent Florida State University study of tropical cyclone activity across the world (see the Watts Up With That? website) shows a steady reduction over the past four years.
Alarming though it may be that the next US President should have fallen for all this claptrap, much more worrying is what he proposes to do on the basis of such grotesque misinformation. For a start he plans to introduce a "federal cap and trade system", a massive "carbon tax", designed to reduce America's CO2 emissions "to their 1990 levels by 2020 and reduce them an additional 80 per cent by 2050". Such a target, which would put America ahead of any other country in the world, could only be achieved by closing down a large part of the US economy.
Mr Obama floats off still further from reality when he proposes spending $15 billion a year to encourage "clean energy" sources, such as thousands more wind turbines. He is clearly unaware that wind energy is so hopelessly ineffective that the 10,000 turbines America already has, representing "18 gigawatts of installed capacity", only generate 4.5GW of power, less than that supplied by a single giant coal-fired power station.
He talks blithely of allowing only "clean" coal-fired power plants, using "carbon capture" - burying the CO2 in holes in the ground - which would double the price of electricity, but the technology for which hasn't even yet been developed. He then babbles on about "generating five million new green jobs". This will presumably consist of hiring millions of Americans to generate power by running around on treadmills, to replace all those "dirty" coal-fired power stations which currently supply the US with half its electricity.
If this sounds like an elaborate economic suicide note, for what is still the earth's richest nation, it is still not enough for many environmentalists. Positively foaming at the mouth in The Guardian last week, George Monbiot claimed that the plight of the planet is now so grave that even "sensible programmes of the kind Obama proposes are now irrelevant". The only way to avert the "collapse of human civilisation", according to the Great Moonbat, would be "the complete decarbonisation of the global economy soon after 2050".
For 300 years science helped to turn Western civilisation into the richest and most comfortable the world has ever seen. Now it seems we have suddenly been plunged into a new age of superstition, where scientific evidence no longer counts for anything. The fact that America will soon be ruled by a man wholly under the spell of this post-scientific hysteria may leave us in wondering despair.
The man who decoded stonehenge
An excellent Daily Telegraph obituary of the scholar Professor John North, who has died aged 74, made mention of his most important discovery without noting its fascinating implications. It was his calculations that showed that Stonehenge was aligned, not with the sun's rising at midsummer as hippies and druids imagine, but with its setting at midwinter. In other words, Stonehenge was built to mark the dying moment of the northern year, when nature turns back again towards new life - that same symbolic moment which so many cultures have celebrated with midwinter festivals such as the Roman Saturnalia and our own Christmas.
When, a year or two back, I paid tribute here to Prof North's highly significant finding, an imaginative sub-editor gave it the memorably neat headline "Have yourself a megalithic Christmas."
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