May 1991 (vol. 7, #4)
1601 N. Tucson Blvd. Suite 9, Tucson AZ 85716 c 1991
``28,000 Lose Their Jobs''
``Worldwide Economic Growth Cut by 50%''
``US Economy Loses $150 Billion Per Year''
Do these disaster headlines remind you of ``destruction before detonation'' the economic side effects attributed to the nuclear arms race by Physicians for Social Responsibility?
Such consequences are the price of ``insurance'' against threatened global environmental catastrophe.
If the premiums seem a little expensive, we need a ``massive, diverse, locally effective, universal citizens' movement'' to change public policy and ``assure compliance'' with a prevention program, despite its cost. Physicians are said to have a special responsibility to participate in public education on these issues (Ann Intern Med 113:467-473, 1990). It will not be difficult. They can recycle the antinuclear words along with the paper; e.g. ``prevention is the only way to decrease morbidity when treatment is ineffective.''
As public education might prove ineffective, the environmental messiahs make extensive use of the courts. A simple order by a US District Court judge could wipe out 28,000 jobs over the next decade (Robert Cihak, MD, Wash Inquirer 8/10/90). (The preservation of 66,000 acres of old-growth forest 22 acres per pair of birds is said to be necessary to save the spotted owl and its contribution to the genetic diversity of the biosphere.)
Resort to litigation has another advantage besides leverage. It can be a lucrative source of dollars for public education and lobbying campaigns. (See ``The Green Network Grows Greener with Cash'' in Petr Beckmann's Fort Freedom.)
Since the 1970s, most environmental laws have allowed anyone to act as a so-called private attorney general to sue polluters. Most lawsuits are brought by a few national and regional environmental groups. If they win, the plaintiffs are entitled to legal fees, and (nondeductible) penalties go to the US Treasury. But if they settle out of court (as most do), polluters can agree to make a tax-deductible contribution to the ``charity'' of the plaintiff's choice.
The Clean Water Act's ``citizen suit provisions are an off-budget entitlement program for the environmental movement,'' said Michael Greve of the Center for International Rights (Insight 2/18/91).
If the tactics seem heavy-handed, they are justified because we are confronted with the ``end of nature,'' paralleling Jonathan Schell's ``Fate of the Earth.'' While acknowledging that we ``must not do harm and not sound a warning where no threat exists,'' activist physicians state:
There is almost unanimous belief that carbon dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons, and toxic emissions ought to be reduced immediately. The public policy debate is about how much reduction, how fast, and at what cost (Ann Intern Med, op. cit.).
``Almost unanimous''? According to John Maddox, editor of Nature, ``there is a long way to go before the research community concerned with the behaviour of the Earth's atmosphere will win general acceptance of its message that global warming is serious.'' His recommendation: ``Less zeal, more guile'' (Nature 3/8/91).
Global warming adherents find themselves in conflict not only with dissenters, but with the data.
A greenhouse-induced warming would have four distinguishing characteristics: (1) an accelerating rise of temperatures in the 1980s, reflecting the recent rapid increase in greenhouse gases; (2) greater warming in the Northern Hemisphere than in the Southern; (3) greater warming at higher latitudes than lower; and (4) a pronounced warming trend in the continental US.
The data contradict all of these predictions. Satellite observations reveal no significant temperature trend in the 1980s. There is no difference in warming trends in the two hemispheres. In the period since 1940, the period during which most of the accumulation of greenhouse gases occurred, there has been no net warming at high latitudes, but warming has occurred at low latitudes, the opposite of the prediction. Finally, there has been no statistically significant warming trend over the continental US in the past 100 years (R Jastrow, W Nierenberg, and F Seitz Scientific Perspectives on the Greenhouse Problem, the Marshall Press, 1990).
Although many scientists are humbled by the difficulty of the problem, environmentalists are skilled at handling complexities and contradiction. Stephen Schneider, a proponent of the theory that CFC's are depleting the ozone layer, said:
[W]e have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we may have. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest'' (quoted by Dixy Lee Ray in Trashing the Planet, Regnery Gateway, 1990).
So-called friends of the environment advocate recycling everything except nuclear waste. Do they also calculate the human and environmental side effects of all human activity except lawmaking and litigation? In fact, they probably do recognize the implications of their suggestions. They even propose remedies:
[P]riority shall be given to programs that enhance access of the poor to low-cost vehicles and efficient carrying devices, including . . . bicycles, carts, [and] pack animals (ibid). [Nonpolluting animals--Ed.]
Could it be that unemployment among loggers, vast increases in the powers of government (and of international agencies), and impoverishment of the middle class are not merely unwanted adverse effects? Is destruction of the economy the real, hidden agenda?