Latest posts by H. Sterling Burnett (see all)
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The Heartland Institute’s 12th International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC-12) was a rousing success. More than 300 scientists, economists, politicians, and other climate-realist fellow travelers attended and/or spoke at the event, with more than 7,000 others watching live online.
Among the most powerful panels was one I had the honor of moderating on sustainability.
The speakers on the sustainability panel universally condemned the concept as it is being used to restrict fossil fuel use and carbon emissions to prevent purported global warming and supposed resource depletion.
Paul Driessen, a senior fellow with the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow, says ensuring sustainability and preventing climate change have become the primary justifications for pushing policies to block fossil fuel development and other natural resource use, deindustrializing developed countries, and restricting economic development in developing countries. This politicized notion of sustainability, when combined with the precautionary principle – which says no new technology, product, or activity should be allowed to be used in society until it is proven to pose no threat of harm to society, people, or the environment – is the biggest threat to continued human progress, especially to raising billions of people in developing countries out of poverty. Sustainability advocates focus all their attention on the harms current fossil fuel uses cause and new innovations might cause, while ignoring the tremendous benefits they currently do or might in the future provide. Policies pushed by sustainability advocates harm people and the environment. Driessen said, “They are not just wrong, they are unethical. … They are an insult to human dignity … inhumane, and even genocidal.”
Independent scientist Indur Goklany showed how the development and use of fossil fuels actually benefits the environment by making humanity’s use of it more sustainable. Goklany points out the Earth is greener and more productive due to fossil fuel use. Gross plant productivity increased 14 percent between 1982 and 2011 due to increased carbon dioxide, nitrogen deposition, and warming. In addition, Goklany showed habitat loss is the greatest threat to wildlife. As a result, because fossil fuel use has made farming more productive – enabling farmers to produce more crop yields per acre and reducing the overall amount of acreage needed to feed present and future populations – fossil fuels are conserving species. Had the use of fossil fuels in agriculture not become widespread, the amount of habitat needed to feed present populations would have put an additional 70 to 78 percent of all species at risk of extinction. In addition, fossil fuels account for 70 percent of global fiber production for clothing, upholstery, etc., and they provide plastics and other materials displacing the use of timber and other plant-based materials for construction.
Goklany concludes, “Fossil fuels have saved much of the rest of nature from humanity.”