'Responsibility' vs. 'Do no harm'

Climatologist James White debated author and attorney Christopher Horner on policy responses to global warming, April 8 at the Lakewood Cultural Center, in the debut event of the Centennial Institute distinguished speaker series at Colorado Christian University. Interest from the campus community and metro Denver friends of CCU was high, with attendance of about 400 overflowing the 300-seat auditorium. "Global Warming: Is the Kyoto Agenda Warranted?" was the topic for an hour-long exchange between White, who directs a research center at CU-Boulder, and Horner, whose book Red Hot Lies alleges unfounded alarmism about CO2 emissions. The adversaries were respectful but forceful with their dueling slideshows. Audience questions continued past the scheduled hour of adjournment. If you'd like a DVD of the whole event, click here to request ordering information.

White insisted human activity is massively and adversely modifying the biosphere, but he stopped short of the doomsaying often heard from the Al Gore camp. People will get by even if warming worsens, he said, but we should take climate change as a warning to lighten our footprint -- "training wheels for sustainability." Change on earth is natural, he said, and that includes human-caused change -- "but unlike bacteria, we can control our actions. We can tell right from wrong, we have a sense of responsibility. What is our responsibility to the Earth?"

But Horner said that Obama's energy tax as contained in the cap and trade legislation before Congress violates the principle of "First do no harm." With 155 countries already signaling non-cooperation on carbon emissions, he said, stringent efforts by the US will have negligible impact on warming trends "while leaving us less well-off economically to deal with what's coming anyway."

If climate activists were serious about reducing carbon, he taunted, they would start with clean green nuclear power, not a job-killing tax. Further evidence that they are not serious, Christopher Horner noted, is in a 1991 strategy memo by Club of Rome which said in order to advance their no-growth agenda, "new enemies have to be identified [and] the threat of global warming fit the bill."

"Man has always adapted, and wealthier societies adapted best," Horner asserted in his closing argument. "Access to energy, not energy poverty," will position us to cope with whatever is ahead, another of his slides stated. For a future that may be literally more stormy than today, he pointed out, you'd rather live in affluent Florida than destitute Bangladesh. So the prescription is policies making all the world more like Florida and less like Bangladesh -- exactly opposite to the Kyoto agenda.

Centennial Institute Fellow Kevin Miller, an Aurora entrepreneur, commented afterward: "Can one begin to imagine such a debate being sponsored, let alone tolerated, on the CU-Boulder campus? That's the niche CCU is claiming with its new institute and thoughtful programs like this one."

John Andrews, institute director and former Colorado Senate President, joked that the event avoided being snowed out, only to be blacked out. The evening's mild weather put to rest worries about the "Al Gore jinx" of several recent warming conference, but the debate was ignored by mainstream media. For example, said Andrews, editors at Channel 7 for some reason didn't feel this fit their upcoming series on green issues, while the Denver Post environment reporter avowed Horner's presence made this occasion "not a debate... not news."

But CCU and the Centennial Institute shrugged it off. "Our two nationally-known experts on climate science and climate policy seemed to think it was a debate," said Andrews. "So did a century-old local university. So did our capacity crowd of several hundred open-minded Coloradans. If the MSM choose to be close-minded about this, it's really their problem, not ours."