Yesterday, Fox News published some troll bait in the form of an Earth Day article.
The piece, entitled “The Earth is doing just fine, thank you,” is the kind of exercise in arrogant turpitude that is Fox’s bread and butter. Of course, this being Fox, there’s also a big steaming turd wedged between the bread and the butter, and if you choose to eat it, well, whose fault is that, really?
But, because my job sometimes involves the ceaseless repetition of disproving anti-facts, and the process has driven me, by some definitions, insane for want of new results, I am going to undress this sloppy sandwich condiment by condiment.
The Introduction Is Wrong
Author Stephen Moore opens the article by saying the following claims are nowhere near the truth: That the planet is running out of natural resources, that we’re overpopulating the globe, that the air we breathe is becoming toxic, that the sea levels are rising and the Earth is warming, “except when it it is cooling down.”
Moore also implies environmentalists “worship the creation rather than the Creator,” which I won’t touch except to say that, were I the Creator of this creation, I’d be mighty miffed about the state my stewards left it in.
I’ll just leave this here:
About the only thing right about Moore’s introduction is that the first Earth Day was celebrated in the 1970s. The rest of his points I’ll get to in the proceeding sections, save the “cooling down” comment. That one we’ll tackle now.
Back in 1975, journalist Peter Gwynne penned an article entitled “The Cooling World,” which posited that Earth is headed for an era of “global cooling.” Ever since, climate change skeptics and deniers have waved its yellowing pages in environmentalists’ faces and screamed that science doesn’t know what it’s talking about because “first it was ‘global cooling,’ and now it’s ‘global warming.’”
In December of last year, Gwynne wrote how tired he is of his article being used to prop up the anti-climate change agenda.
“[A]fter decades of scientific advances,” he wrote in Inside Science, “let me say this: While the hypotheses described in that original story seemed right at the time, climate scientists now know that they were seriously incomplete.”
The climate is warming, he wrote, but that hasn’t stopped “certain websites and individuals that dispute, disparage, and deny the science” from quoting his article.
So, Mr. Moore, at least you have company.
1. No, Our Resources Are Not More Abundant
Moore lists the “factual realities” of the planet one by one, the first one being: “Natural resources are more abundant and affordable today than ever before in our history.”
The price of most natural resources, Moore writes – “from cocoa to cotton to coal” – are cheaper today in real terms than any time in history. While I can’t speak to that, I can speak to the “abundant” side of it.
According to the Global Footprint Network, the rate of resource consumption has outstripped the rate the Earth can replenish them. It would currently take 1.5 Earths to support how much we consume every year.
Best example: Water. In October 2014, NASA scientist Jay Famiglietti published a paper in the journal Nature Climate Change that calculates global groundwater resources are now being drained faster than they can be replenished. The water scarcity issue has now reached a tipping point that is “too big” and “too complex” to be fixed, Famiglietti has explained.
And if the pro-business, pro-conservative Fox News finds the ramblings of a NASA scientist too profane for their capitalist sensibilities, this might be a more persuasive argument: Banks and billionaires are currently buying up as much water as they can. That includes aquifers, lakes and watersheds, water utilities, water rights and shares in water technologies. Notable names in this water venture include Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, UBS, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, Macquarie Bank, Barclays Bank, the Blackstone Group, Allianz, HSBC Bank, George H.W. Bush, Hong Kong’s Li Ka-shing and Manuel V. Pangilinan.
Also, we’re losing our forests, which is leading to droughts and the spread of disease, but let’s not split hairs.
2. No, Energy Is Not “Super-Abundant”
According to Moore, “Energy – the master resource – is super-abundant.” I’ll grant him that one. The U.S. is currently glutted with oil, to the point that gasoline costs so little Californians didn’t even notice their state instituted a carbon tax.
But that energy won’t last forever. Disregarding the fact that more and more nations are investing in renewables (and some nations are almost fully-powered by renewables), and that if we want to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius by this century’s end, and that the fossil fuels still benefit from over $775 billion in government subsidies, one of the largest oil companies in the world, BP, has estimated that there is little more than 53 years’ worth of oil left in the planet.
So enjoy that one.
3. Yes, Air and Water Is Cleaner, but Not Everywhere
Moore writes that, “Our air and water are cleaner.” If by “our” he means America, that’s true in some areas. But America is not the world.
Together, the U.S. and China make up about 45 percent of the world’s carbon emissions, and their pollution impacts the other 55 percent. China, the world’s top atmospheric polluter, has created so much smog that it actually influences the weather in North America.
China has developed so rapidly in the past few decades that it has paid for its prosperity with the health of its land and its citizens. China is so polluted that 40 percent of its arable land has been degraded, its summers have become lethally hot, Beijing’s lung cancer rates have increased by more than 50 percent and at least 670,000 of its citizens have been killed by smog-related diseases.
4. Even If We Aren’t Overpopulating the Planet, We Can’t Feed Everybody
Moore writes that, “There is no Malthusian nightmare of overpopulation” and that birth rates “have fallen by about one-half around the world over the last 50 years.” His next point is that, “Global per capita food production is 40 percent higher today than as recently as 1950.”
Let’s overlook the fact that even at our current population we’re consuming more of the Earth’s resources than is sustainable. I’ll just say three things:
One, the World Food Programme has estimated that climate change will increase the risk of hunger and malnutrition by up to 20 percent by 2050.
Two, we have only 60 years of topsoil left.
Three, 95 percent of our food comes from soil.
You, dear readers, as well as Mr. Moore, are welcome to do the math.
5. Our Natural Disasters Are Just Beginning
Moore lumps sea level rise and global warming together when he says, “The rate of death and physical destruction from natural disasters or severe weather changes has plummeted over the last 50 to 100 years.”
I’m afraid I don’t have the time to check that fact, though I’m sure Mr. Moore has done his research.
I suppose by this point I’m tired. I read a lot and I write a lot every day, and most of it deals with exactly this topic.
South Florida is sinking into the ocean. This isn’t the future I’m talking about; I’m talking about today. Louisiana is even worse off. Its coastline loses 16 square miles every year – though that has less to do with sea level rise than with the destruction wrought by oil drilling. Some 2,000 square miles of Louisiana is now gone.
The extreme weather and deaths that climate change will wreak is still in humanity’s future, yes, but there are countless examples of its effects today. The U.S. Department of Defense has warned that climate change poses “immediate risks to national security,” in part by acting as a “threat multiplier” in already volatile areas.
Stephen Moore and Fox News Are Wrong
Moore closes his article by saying that, “The state of the planet has never been in such fine shape by almost every objective measure. The Chicken Littles are as wrong today as they were 50 years ago.”
Oh, did I mention that Moore is the Distinguished Visiting Fellow, Project for Economic Growth, at The Heritage Foundation. Their money comes from such esteemed sources as Exxon Mobil, the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation and many, many more industrially-minded moguls. DeSmogBlog has a complete list here.
So, yeah, about that sandwich…