Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Left and the Poor

Caleb Rossiter is a bona fide leftist and, his ideology notwithstanding, an adamant global-warming skeptic. He's also perplexed at his fellow lefties' claims to care about the poor while at the same time opposing fossil fuel development. He makes a good case. Here's part of it:
I've spent my life on the foreign-policy left. I opposed the Vietnam War, U.S. intervention in Central America in the 1980s and our invasion of Iraq. I have headed a group trying to block U.S. arms and training for "friendly" dictators, and I have written books about how U.S. policy in the developing world is neocolonial.

But I oppose my allies' well-meaning campaign for "climate justice." More than 230 organizations, including Africa Action and Oxfam, want industrialized countries to pay "reparations" to African governments for droughts, rising sea levels and other alleged results of what Ugandan strongman Yoweri Museveni calls "climate aggression." And I oppose the campaign even more for trying to deny to Africans the reliable electricity—and thus the economic development and extended years of life—that fossil fuels can bring.

The left wants to stop industrialization—even if the hypothesis of catastrophic, man-made global warming is false. John Feffer, my colleague at the Institute for Policy Studies, wrote in the Dec. 8, 2009, Huffington Post that "even if the mercury weren't rising" we should bring "the developing world into the postindustrial age in a sustainable manner." He sees the "climate crisis [as] precisely the giant lever with which we can, following Archimedes, move the world in a greener, more equitable direction."

I started to suspect that the climate-change data were dubious a decade ago while teaching statistics. Computer models used by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to determine the cause of the six-tenths of one degree Fahrenheit rise in global temperature from 1980 to 2000 could not statistically separate fossil-fueled and natural trends.

Then, as now, the computer models simply built in the assumption that fossil fuels are the culprit when temperatures rise, even though a similar warming took place from 1900 to 1940, before fossil fuels could have caused it. The IPCC also claims that the warming, whatever its cause, has slightly increased the length of droughts, the frequency of floods, the intensity of storms, and the rising of sea levels, projecting that these impacts will accelerate disastrously. Yet even the IPCC acknowledges that the average global temperature today remains unchanged since 2000, and did not rise one degree as the models predicted.

But it is as an Africanist, rather than a statistician, that I object most strongly to "climate justice." Where is the justice for Africans when universities divest from energy companies and thus weaken their ability to explore for resources in Africa? Where is the justice when the U.S. discourages World Bank funding for electricity-generation projects in Africa that involve fossil fuels, and when the European Union places a "global warming" tax on cargo flights importing perishable African goods? Even if the wildest claims about the current impact of fossil fuels on the environment and the models predicting the future impact all prove true and accurate, Africa should be exempted from global restraints as it seeks to modernize.

Mindful of the benefits, the Obama administration's Power Africa proposal and the World Bank are trying to double African access to electricity. But they have been hamstrung by the opposition of their political base to fossil fuels—even though off-grid and renewable power from the sun, tides and wind is still too unreliable, too hard to transmit, and way too expensive for Africa to build and maintain as its primary source of power.
Rossiter closes with this:
In 2010 the left tried to block a World Bank loan for a new coal-fired plant in South Africa. Fortunately, the loan was approved (with the U.S. abstaining). The drive to provide electricity for the poor has been perhaps the greatest achievement of South Africa's post-apartheid governments....How terrible to think that so many people in the West would rather block such success stories in the name of unproved science.
One can try to help the poor or one can oppose fossil fuels, but one cannot do both, at least not effectively.

One need not even think about the effect leftists' energy policies have on African poor. Consider how the less well-off in America would fare if the left had their way and limited fossil fuel production even more than they have already by refusing to grant drilling permits on federal lands and offshore.

When fossil fuels are limited their cost goes up. That raises the price of everything that relies on gasoline either in its production or its delivery, which is just about everything. When the price of fuel goes up everything becomes more expensive - food, heating, transportation, rent - and those who live on the margin with very little financial cushion are hurt the most by any increase in prices. The best way to help the poor is to bring down energy costs and the best way to do that is to increase supply.

Not only would this be a boon the world's poor, it would remove our dependence on foreign (Arab) oil, it would enable us to supply Europe's need in the event Russia cuts them off, and it would go a long way to paying down our national debt.

The left maintains that green energy can supply the needs of the poor in Africa and elsewhere, but green energy is even more expensive than fossil fuels. Either the left is so short-sighted that they haven't taken into account the effect of their policies on the poor, or their professed concern for the poor is a sham, or both.