Everyone remembers reading about Chicken Little and how the little guy panicked when an acorn fell on his head. He had not had any experience with acorns — how they fall in the autumn — so he reached into his ignorance and warned the world that the sky was falling.
He flashed his warning to several other barnyard fowl, and though they had not felt any “sky” falling, they took alarm at the tone of Chicken Little’s warning, and sought shelter with him. Ready to give them shelter was the friendly fox, who had heard the commotion and lured all the feathered refugees into his den on the pretense of saving them from the disaster.
This centuries-old fable reflects human nature to conjure up scenarios of disaster when things look too good, no matter how improbable and no matter that they are devoid of any rational scientific inquiry.
The March 30 edition of the Athens Banner-Herald included a commentary from the Los Angeles Times written by self-described young voter John Cubelic of New York. Cubelic wrote that his vote in the next election will go only to the candidate who admits that human burning of hydrocarbon fuels is warming up the planet, that “climate change” — by which he means anthropogenic global warming — is already a fact. The author warns that the uncontrolled use of coal, oil and natural gas is provoking an apocalypse, and that the issue of how to control this impending calamity is the principal issue in the coming elections. Nowhere in his polemic does the author furnish one weather fact or engage in any kind of scientific analysis. He provides only the Chicken Little scream that “the sky is falling.”
Contrary to Cubelic’s emotional jumble, the issue of anthropogenic global warming has no basis in fact. It has become a superstition, and also a useful political device for draining money for “research” to “prove” it. It is encouraged not only by climate alarmists but also by those who want the government to control everything. It is belied by well-documented facts, and by tons of weather science.
Anthropogenic global warming is on a par with several other Chicken Little admonishments, not limited to weather, of the recent and more distant past. Those admonishments include the supposed danger of harmful radioactivity from nuclear electric power, the “peak oil” view that we’re running out of oil, and the view that Japan’s recent tsunami was a “nuclear” calamity.
Some simple facts emphasize the reality that anthropogenic global warming is no more than an acorn on Chicken Little’s head:
• Earth’s temperature has warmed and cooled over the millenia. In the last 150 years it has warmed 1 degree Celsius.
• Carbon dioxide, a trace gas absolutely essential for human and other life, is currently four one-hundredths of 1 percent of the atmosphere.
• There is no “trend” in the Earth’s temperature. Over the last 18 years, Earth’s average temperature has been flat constant.
• The most scientific studies of Earth’s temperature have shown that solar activity — variations of radiation due to sun spots — are the most likely cause of temperature variations over the millenia.
• More than 31,000 scientists in physics, chemistry and medicine have signed a petition stating that antropogenic global warming is a myth.
So let’s not be Chicken Littles, even though we might feel guilty for living such a good life. Let’s blame that on the free-market system that encourages human endeavors through scientific inquiry, and the incentives that reward an individual enterprise in a free constitutional system.
Richard Timberlake is a retired University of Georgia economics professor. His most recent book is titled “Constitutional Money: A Review of the Supreme Court’s Monetary Decisions.”