America (Especially Evangelicals) Rejects a Third Obama Term

Last night Bible-believing Christians showed up for the Republican Party. And they can be cheerful with key statements in the Republican Party Platform.

“We are the party of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The Declaration sets forth the fundamental precepts of American government: That God bestows certain inalienable rights on every individual, thus producing human equality; that government exists first and foremost to protect those inalienable rights; that man-made law must be consistent with God-given, natural rights; and that if God-given, natural, inalienable rights come in conflict with government, court, or human-granted rights, God-given, natural, inalienable rights always prevail….”

“Traditional marriage and family, based on marriage between one man and one woman, is the foundation for a free society and has for millennia been entrusted with rearing children and instilling cultural values.”

“The Bill of Rights lists religious liberty, with its rights of conscience, as the first freedom to be protected.”

“Ongoing attempts to compel individuals, businesses, and institutions of faith to transgress their beliefs are part of a misguided effort to undermine religion and drive it from the public square.”

“Government officials threaten religious colleges and universities with massive fines and seek to control their personnel decisions. Places of worship for the first time in our history have reason to fear the loss of tax-exempt status merely for espousing and practicing traditional religious beliefs that have been held across the world for thousands of years, and for almost four centuries in America.”

“We value the right of America’s religious leaders to preach, and Americans to speak freely, according to their faith…. We pledge to safeguard religious institutions.”

“We endorse the First Amendment Defense Act, Republican legislation in the House and Senate which will bar government discrimination against individuals and businesses for acting on the belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.”

“[W]e assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to children before birth.”



The Climate Change Agenda

“We have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we have.” Steven Schneider, National Center for Atmospheric Research climate researcher

I enjoy reading science (before my history degrees I was a Bachelor of Science major) and I am familiar enough with the scientific method to be suspicious of any talk of “consensus” or claims suggesting that the science is settled on climate change. It is also obvious to me that many climate change activists are in denial or are uninterested in basic economics.

Although data shows no rise of global average temperatures since 1998, I accept the evidence that the planet has warmed almost one degree since the late 1800s. Having total faith in highly speculative computer models and climate projections for future decades is a little harder. I am willing to weigh the evidence that humans might be responsible for any warming of the planet, but I oppose misguided and damaging green policies that are ignorant of economic tradeoffs.

To be supportive of the climate agenda even moderates need to accept solutions that “almost always involve more government (or U.N.) control and less economic freedom, and treat economic progress as the problem, not the solution” (Jay W. Richards, Money, Greed and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem (2009). Of course, the environmental movement attracts a lot of leftists, including those who vigorously oppose global capitalism.

Denial of the good that came from the Industrial Revolution and later industrialization is unfortunate. At the same time that the earth warmed by almost one degree in the 20th century, the Gross Domestic Product increased 1,800 percent, according to one estimate (Richards, p. 199). The 20th century presents us with a wonderful laboratory on how capitalism and industrial growth elevated countless millions of people out of poverty. How many climate activists talk about the economic progress of India and China since 1980?

It seems that many climate activists are ignorant about economic tradeoffs. Before climate activists push for policies that might have, at best, little positive effect on warming, they will need to provide some analysis on how much government-enforced green polices will cost the economy. If they are going to talk about climate change and poverty in future decades, they must also admit the hardships for today’s poor who struggle with expensive energy. Until so, scary climate change scenarios will remain meaningless to those concerned with the welfare of low-income people who do not have the options of richer idealistic activists.

A Climate for Change: A Change to Expensive Energy

As an economic historian, I’m curious about authors who talk about poverty and the poor without any apparent understanding of basic economics. Some of the more interesting cases are in the field of environmental activism. Authored by Katherine Hayhoe and Andrew Farley, A Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions (2009) is devoid of any appreciation on how carbon-based wealth creation lowers poverty rates.

As was the case for A Climate for Change, promotional blurbs on the back cover provide clues about a book. I typically do not have high expectations for books with blurbs from liberal Christians. Having read hundreds of articles in the leftist Christian magazine Sojourners, I’m acquainted with the economic knowledge of liberal activists. I also prefer books that have footnotes and an index (however, I do applaud the book’s list of “Sources,” including four “contrarian” books).

A Climate for Change has a good dose of apocalyptic rhetoric. The introduction cites the Pentagon report “that abrupt changes in climate may be the greatest security threat we face in the twenty-first century” (xvi). The authors assure us that climate change is affecting people “in drastic ways today” (xvii). Our planet “is beginning to overheat” (31) and the future world could consist of “worldwide conflicts due to food and water shortages” (23). We should be worried; “our world is undergoing a radical transformation” (8). Any benefits of longer growing seasons in northern countries will be short-lived, “followed by harmful conditions” (23).

Writing in 2009, they point out that “scientists suggest the summer Artic will be ice-free as soon as 2015” (97). Al Gore might come to mind. And liberal Bishop Desmond Tutu clarifies that “Climate change is real” (8). Temperatures and sea levels are rising and we humans are the cause.

When the authors mention the Industrial Revolution, they do so in the context of rising temperatures rather than the wonders of industrialization raising living standards and increasing the life span of countless millions.

The authors do admit that there has been no rise of global average temperatures since 1998, but they explain that this time-span is too short to be meaningful. More important is the 1 degree rise in temperature from the late 1800s to today. They have great faith in those people giving us “unequivocal evidence” that humans cause climate change. A popular number with activists is that 97 percent of scientists believe so (71). In A Climate for Change there is the hint that the science is settled and that dissenting (contrarian) voices are a nuisance.

Government intervention (for example, cap and trade) does not appear to be a problem for the authors. There is no debate on government planning that forces people to use the costly energy of solar and wind power. Devoting a half page to the economy, the authors begin: “Another popular argument today is that doing something about climate change will destroy our economy. Well, let’s look at the last few years. We’re doing a pretty good job of destroying the economy already, aren’t we?” (152). There you have it.

Excuse me for stating that their economic analysis is a little thin.



Professors, Climate Radicalism, and Economic Reality

Economist Thomas Sowell writes that when intellectuals ponder and respond to an issue there “is no guarantee that consequential factors have not been left out or misconceived.” A classic example is Karl Marx’s Capital , “an intellectually masterful elaboration of a fundamental misconception – in this case, the notion that ‘labor,’ the physical handling of the materials and instruments of production, is the real source of wealth” (Sowell, Intellectuals and Society, p. 3).

It was environmentalist Paul Ehrlich who wrote in the late 1960s: “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970’s the world will undergo famines – hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.” His prediction was woefully wrong, but he continued to receive “honors and grants from prestigious academic institutions” (Sowell, Intellectuals and Society, p. 11).

Recently a 10-member panel of University of Toronto professors recommended that the university divest coal and oil assets from its $5.9 billion endowment and pension fund. The crimes of oil companies, according to these professors, include “socially injurious behaviour” and a blatant disregard for the 1.5 C global warming threshold preached by climate radicals. Another show of support is a public letter signed by about 200 UT professors that calls for divestment of fossil fuel companies.

It might be futile to explain to these people that the harnessing of fossil fuels will elevate millions of people out of poverty as was the case over the past 200 hundred years. One would require the patience of Job to convince them of the merits of the shale-gas revolution of recent years, notably jobs generated, energy costs reduced, and greenhouse gas emissions lowered (it’s cleaner than coal).

In jurisdictions around the world, the affordable energy from the natural gas revolution has improved the lives of low-income people who generally spend the highest proportion of their income on heating and gasoline. Have you noticed that most zealous environmentalists are professionals or other better-off people who can afford high electricity costs. Fortunately for poorer people, fossil fuel energy will not disappear in the next few decades.

As for Canadians, it will become more obvious in the coming months that a strong Canadian economy depends on Canada’s fossil fuel industry. At some point, the sticky issue of wealth creation will receive attention. When money dries up, people begin to realize that restrictions on wealth creation bring unpleasant consequences.

So will a majority of University of Toronto professors eventually go along with the divestment scheme? There are limitations to idealist ideas, even for academics living in the secure bubble of government money.

Years ago liberal professors in the United States elected free-market economist Milton Friedman to a four-year term on the board of the College Retirement Equity Foundation. As Friedman explained: “liberal professors did not want a conservative as president of the country, but when it came to looking after their retirement funds, that was something else.”

Professors might give little attention to the higher cost of energy for poor people, but they will be less cavalier about their own pensions. I do not foresee the University of Toronto ditching all its energy investments in the near future.