Live Earth – Dead Africans? Policies that prevent energy development have lethal consequences for Africa
The recent Live Earth concerts have been roundly criticized for the overheated rhetoric and hypocrisy of their rock star and political headliners, including former Vice President Al Gore. Far more relevant to the debate over catastrophic climate change, however, is this unavoidable fact: if the concerts cause more people to demand that Africa and other poor countries not develop the energy they so desperately need, the false global warming “solutions” could be disastrous for the world’s most impoverished citizens.
Promoters claim the Live Earth concerts drew 2 billion fans – a number equal to people worldwide who still don’t have access to electricity. Others say the actual audience was a fraction of that – a few tens of millions, including via television and webcasts.
About 45,000 attended the actual concert in Australia, 100,000 in Brazil, a few hundred in Washington, DC. In Johannesburg, the first snow in 25 years was blamed for almost nobody showing up. (If this snow was due to climate change, what caused the snow 25 years ago?) Elsewhere the heat was blamed. And only 4.5 million watched the BBC television broadcast in Britain.
However, the concerts might be deemed successful if measured by cash the promoters raked in. By gasoline and aviation fuel burned to get to the events (the stars alone flew a combined 223,000 miles, says the New York Post). By wattage consumed and greenhouse gases emitted to power televisions and air-conditioners for stay-at-home fans. Or by the overheated and often hypocritical rhetoric of global warming catastrophe.
Al Gore demanded immediate action, but ignored his own profligate consumption: over a thousand flights (mostly first class or in private jets) to warn of a “climate crisis,” a house that uses 20 times more electricity than the average US home, and more in a week than 26 million Ugandans together use in a year.
Prince Charles’ three mansions produce 500 times the CO2 emissions of the average British home, and he and his entourages routinely burn thousands of gallons of fuel on globe-trotting flights.
Madonna wailed that people must “jump up and down” to prevent the alleged crisis and “save the planet” – then took a private jet back to one of her nine houses and fleets of gas-guzzling cars.
Actor Ed Begley, Jr. uses alternative energy to supplement enormous amounts of non-alternative electricity that powers the community and movie studios that make his lifestyle and career possible. He believes Africans, by contrast, should have electricity only where they need it: little solar panels “on their huts.”
These alarmists attempt to justify their extravagant lifestyles by grandstanding at Live Earth concerts – and purchasing energy-efficient light bulbs or “carbon offsets” (eg, having trees planted somewhere). With their next breath, they say other people’s energy consumption could cause catastrophic global warming that could bring record cold and heat waves, terrible floods and droughts, disease epidemics and species extinctions.
The only “evidence” they have for any of this are worst-case scenarios produced by computer models that do not accurately reflect complex atmospheric processes and cannot predict temperature or rainfall even one year in the future – much less 40 or 90 years. That’s like saying the movie “Jurassic Park” proves scientists can bring dinosaurs back to life.
But if the concerts cause more people to demand that Africa and other poor countries not develop the energy they so desperately need, these false global warming “solutions” could be disastrous for the world’s most impoverished citizens.
Some 95% of Sub-Saharan Africans still do not have electricity, lights or refrigeration – or have them only a few hours a week. As a result, millions die every year from lung infections caused by pollution from wood and dung fires, and acute intestinal diseases caused by tainted water and spoiled food. Millions more die from diseases that would be largely eradicated by the improved living standards, healthcare systems and agriculture that come with prosperity, modern technology and abundant energy. The situation is likewise dire in many other areas.
But Al Gore, Live Earth rock stars and radical pressure groups like Rainforest Action and Greenpeace constantly battle energy projects in poor countries. They oppose coal and gas-fired power plants because of speculative global warming, hydroelectric projects because they dam up rivers, nuclear power because it generates radioactive wastes. They expect African and other poor nations to base their future on insufficient, expensive, unreliable wind and solar energy. That is a virtual guarantor of perpetual poverty.
Environmentalists also oppose biotechnology to improve agricultural output, insecticides to reduce malaria and other diseases, and even jetliners that bring tourists to Africa and African produce to Europe.
At bottom, environmentalists don’t want the world’s poor to rise up out of poverty and become middle class, because then they would become consumers, use more resources and demand more electricity. Green activists are happy to demand more aid and debt relief, but they do everything possible to prevent energy, mineral and economic development, modern agriculture and living standards, or meaningful opportunities for the world’s poor to take their rightful places among the Earth’s healthy and prosperous people.
Poor countries should worry not about climate change – but about whether they will have electricity for refrigerators, lights, and modern homes, hospitals, schools, shops, offices and factories. They should be concerned not about the supposed (and often far-fetched) risks of development and technology – but about the real, immediate, life-threatening dangers that development and technology would prevent.
Our climate has always been turbulent, unstable and unpredictable. While the scientific debate continues to rage over the mechanisms and consequences of climate change, growing numbers of scientists say there is little evidence that humans and carbon dioxide are the primary cause, or that human influences will bring catastrophic change. (A number of these scientists are featured in the new British television documentary, “The Great Global Warming Swindle” and Chris Horner’s book, “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism.”)
Ice core and other data indicate that, over the past 650,000 years, temperatures usually rose first and CO2 levels increased several centuries later. That’s the inconvenient truth about Al Gore’s alarmist theory.
Other studies point to the sun as the dominant cause of climate change. As its energy output increases, the Earth warms, stronger solar winds reduce the cosmic rays that help generate clouds, fewer clouds cause our planet to warm still more, and warmer oceans release more CO2 into the atmosphere. Less solar energy results in reduced solar wind, more cosmic rays and thus more clouds – further cooling the planet.
If solar scientists are correct, in another decade or so, the sun will begin its weakest cycle in two centuries, possibly leading to another period of global cooling.
The lesson for poor nations is simple. Their people need – and deserve – abundant, reliable, affordable energy to power modern, industrialized, healthy, prosperous nations. Governments and communities must help facilitate this process, and challenge anti-energy pressure groups whenever necessary.
Poor countries don’t have to depend on the World Bank or foreign aid – any more than Britain and the United States had to rely on them to develop and prosper. If their institutions and policies are sound, poor countries and communities can get the investment money and technology they need from private domestic and foreign sources.
African, Asian, Latin American and Eastern European countries have abundant oil, gas, coal, nuclear and hydroelectric resources. And they have the ultimate resource – the brain power, creativity and proud work ethic of their people.
If they can harness these resources, and unleash the power of free enterprise – under sound legal, regulatory, economic and property rights systems – they will generate previously unimaginable opportunity, health and prosperity for their people.
Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and author of many articles on energy and the environment. He has degrees in sciences and environmental law.