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Standard of Living: The Real Hockey Stick

by Douglas Gregory
January 2, 2013

The long-debunked Hockey Stick graph depicts global average temperature as rapidly increasing since the 1950s along with CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. It is alarming if you are unaware of the statistical follies employed: confirmation bias (excluding contrary data) and the choice of a bogus principal components method that will generate a hockey stick even from random data.

But there is another Hockey Stick that is statistically sound and far more important to human life—the correlations of life expectancy, total GDP per capita, and CO2 emissions. As Indur Goklany, former U.S. representative before the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, states,
From 1750 to 2009, global life expectancy more than doubled, from 26 years to 69 years; global population increased 8-fold, from 760 million to 6.8 billion; and incomes increased 11-fold, from $640 to $7,300. Never before had the indicators of the success of the human species advanced as rapidly as in the past quarter millennium.
This Hockey Stick, the CO2 component of which reflects fossil fuel use to generate the abundant, affordable, and reliable energy necessary for high productivity, depicts a tremendous improvement in human life.

But environmentalists want to end our use of fossil fuels. The consequence—because energy is a constraint on production—will be a decline in productivity and consequently in standard of living and life expectancy, in short, in human material well being.

Some environmentalists intend this, some don’t. Regardless, claiming it’s necessary to stop catastrophic, anthropogenic global warming, they want to extinguish the controlled coal and petroleum fires that power human civilization.

Environmentalists do not want to substitute other abundant and affordable energy options, like nuclear. Instead, they choose wind and solar, which are expensive, intermittent, and unreliable. As a result, many countries in the developed Western world are stagnating economically. In fact, so-called “clean” energy is just another way to subsidize the rich on the backs of the poor.

While this might not be so devastating to the people in developed countries—that is, a severe or total seizure of economic development—not every country has developed as the West has. Third World and Developing countries still need to grow, and much of that investment is going to require the industrial capacity of the West.

Awakening to the problem, some countries are putting their foot down and refusing the environmentalists’ and demand for expensive energy. Poland and the Czech Republic have both told Germany that their unwanted import of expensive solar energy can stop. Both Poland and the Czech Republic are developing countries that are increasingly reliant on coal and natural gas to fuel their economic development.

The Cornwall Alliance’s goal to promote economic development for the very poor, coupled with our recognition that fossil fuel use is not driving dangerous global warming, requires us to accept the usefulness of fossil fuels as a means of helping the poor to develop.

The developed world, too, is not finished developing. We still face natural and manmade disasters and have problems that can be alleviated by more economic development.

There is much to look forward to in this Year of Our Lord 2013. The planet as a whole is wealthier, healthier, and more full of resources than ever. No force of nature prohibits further economic development.

But foolish policies based on needless fears of eco-catastrophes could drive us to curtail or even reverse it, condemning ourselves to declining living standards and the poor to more generations of the high rates of disease, premature death, and squalor that are the true face of poverty.

Please help us combat that prospect and protect the poor at home and abroad, and liberty everywhere, by supporting our work with your generous, tax-deductible donation.

Douglas Gregory is Research and Policy Analyst for the Cornwall Alliance.
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