In the world-famous drama based on Victor Hugo’s novel Les Misérables, Jean Valjean is released on parole from the Bagne of Toulon after serving nineteen years for stealing a loaf of bread. Yes, for stealing a loaf of bread!
A jail term of 19 years seems like an excessive punishment for a piece of bread. It does invoke anger and sadness in many as they first see the play. But what about real-world situations that are more miserable?
Imagine if whole countries are branded as evil and cancerous for wanting to use natural resources from their own backyard for the betterment of their society!
Welcome to Les Misérables of Climate Change.
In the world of Climate Change, there are two major sections of people. Those who have power and money, and those who are still transitioning to a better life (mostly in developing countries).
For the latter, any improvement in their lives (to meet the basic standards of living that exist in developed countries) is dependent on the economic development of their nation’s economy.
Developing countries don’t have any new recipe for achieving the economic success and prosperity the developed West enjoys today. They all follow the same time-tested methodology: rapid economic growth through industrialization.
Indispensable to industrialization is energy. Vast amounts of energy. Cheap energy. Reliable energy.
And throughout the industrialized world, that abundant, affordable, reliable energy has come, and still comes, overwhelmingly from fossil fuels (especially coal).
The developing countries are now harnessing the same coal to meet the energy demands from their industries and homes. But climate alarmists—those who believe carbon dioxide emissions from burning coal are causing catastrophic global warming—want the developing countries to halt our use of coal.
Climate alarmists think a reduction in coal use will prevent dangerous warming. But there are two major problems with this widely popularized theory.
First, temperatures have not increased to levels that can be deemed dangerous. Today’s temperature levels are similar to those which our ancestors experienced during the 1st and 10th centuries, known as the Roman Warm Period and the Medieval Warm Period respectively.
The Modern Warm Period (18th century – present) began when the Little Ice Age ended in the 17th century. The current warming began when carbon dioxide emissions from human sources were very insignificant. Just like the previous two warming phases, the current phase, too, was caused by natural forces.
Second, the theory that carbon dioxide emissions accelerate warming is not true. Most recent evidence suggest that carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere has no direct relationship with temperature or temperature increase.
In the past 18 years, the rapid increase in carbon dioxide concentrations failed to cause a corresponding increase in warming, a fact that is attested even by staunch climate alarmists like Michael Mann.
Based on these established facts, it is pretty conclusive that (1) humans are not the primary drivers of the current warming; (2) carbon dioxide emissions do not significantly increase global temperatures; and (3) we cannot control the warming or cooling of earth’s atmosphere by reducing our emissions.
To ask developing countries to ban coal and force them to transition to the less efficient and more expensive renewable energy cannot be justified based on the available evidence regarding temperature changes.
Coal is responsible for providing more than 75 percent of energy for the everyday activity of more than 3 billion people in the developing world. To deprive them of coal is to destroy the very fabric of their industrial development and economic progress.
If the climate alarmists win the war on coal, the result will be prolonged poverty in the developing world every bit as intense as that depicted in Les Misérables. For billions of people, it will be a sentence far longer, and far worse, than what Jean Valjean suffered.
Vijay Jayaraj (M.Sc., Environmental Science, University of East Anglia, England), Research Associate for Developing Countries for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, lives in Chennai, India.
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.