Al Gore said the other week that climate change is "a principle in physics. It's like gravity. It exists." Sarah Palin agreed that "climate change is like gravity," but added a better conclusion: Each is "a naturally occurring phenomenon that existed long before, and will exist long after, any governmental attempts to affect it."
Over time climates do change. As author Howard Bloom wrote in The Wall Street Journal last month, in the past two million years there have been 60 ice ages, and in the 120,000 years since the development of modern man, "we've lived through 20 sudden global warmings," and of course this was before--long before--"smokestacks and tail pipes."
In our earth's history there has been both global warming and global cooling. In Roman times, from 200 B.C. to A.D. 600, it was warm; from 600 to 900 came the cold Dark Ages; more warming from 900 to 1300; and another ice age from 1300 to 1850. Within the past century, the earth has warmed by 0.6 degree Celsius, but within this period we can see marked shifts: cooling (1900-10), warming (1910-40), cooling again (1940 to nearly 1980), and since then a little warming. The Hadley Climatic Research Unit global temperature record shows that from 1980 to 2009, the world warmed by 0.16 degree Celsius per decade.
As for the impact of reducing global warming, Bjorn Lomborg, director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, outlined in The Wall Street Journal that Oxfam concluded that if wealthy nations diverted $50 billion to climate change that "at least 4.5 million children would die and 8.6 million fewer people could have access to HIV/AIDS treatment." And if we spent it on reducing carbon emissions? It would "reduce temperatures by all of one-thousandth of one degree Fahrenheit over the next hundred years."
All of which brings us to the Copenhagen global warming conference. It involved 193 nations getting together to discuss the threat that global warming poses to our planet and what can be done about it. The goal was to create a global agreement that extended and expanded the Kyoto Protocol so that a global organization could influence and monitor all nations' efforts to reduce their CO2 emissions.
Global warming believers did not get their way, either in extending the Kyoto agreement or in forming any global organization to tell all of the world's people how to lead their lives.
But developing nations did get something--a promise of support for $30 billion over the first three years and a goal of growing it to $100 billion annually by 2020.
The developing nations saw climate change as an enormous financial bonanza if, under the banner of the environment, they could get wealthy nations to transfer wealth to them. The wealthy nations of course saw this as a trap: Why would they want to depress their economic growth by giving money to developing nations? The truth of the Copenhagen agreement is that developing countries want cash from other countries with few strings attached.
So the final Copenhagen deal did not establish greenhouse gas emission targets or specifically address how nations must limit temperature increases to no more than 2 degrees Celsius, but it did agree that CO2 emissions could be measured, reported and verified by . . . well, someone. That, in China's terms, means "developed countries must take the lead" in making emission cuts and providing financial and technical support for developing countries.
As for the U.S., President Obama's, Sen. John Kerry's, and Rep. Edward Markey's support for global-warming control is very strong and long lasting. So passage of the Waxman-Markey or Boxer-Kerry cap-and-trade legislation will be high on their agenda. The problem is that most Americans are changing their mind about the global warming propositions: A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that Mr. Obama's approval rating on the subject has dropped to 45% from 61% in April.
In truth, the world dodged a bullet in Copenhagen. There could have been significant damage to many nations' economies if the warming alarmists' full agenda had been adopted.
But of course the game has not ended. Here in America, Mr. Obama, Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency all seem committed to regulating our behavior and consumption under the guise of addressing a crisis that is not a crisis. They will do so in a way that will not meaningfully reduce global temperatures, but will substantially hurt the economies and opportunities of the world's people.