Environmentalists Surf Tsunami Tragedy

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Published January 03, 2005

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Environmental activists are shamelessly trying to exploit last week's earthquake-tsunami catastrophe in hopes of advancing their global warming and anti-development agendas.

Two days after the tragedy, the executive director of Greenpeace UK (search) told the British newspaper The Independent, "No one can ignore the relentless increase in extreme weather events and so-called natural disasters, which in reality are no more natural than a plastic Christmas tree."

Friends of the Earth (search) Director Tony Juniper told the same British newspaper, "Here again are yet more events in the real world that are consistent with climate change predictions."

A spokesperson for the Indonesian arm of Friends of the Earth told the Agence France Presse, "We can expect in the coming years similar events happening as a result of global warming and therefore help and prevention are the responsibility of the Northern countries as well."

Exploitation of tragedy is a sport played not only by environmentalists. Insurer Munich Re used the event as an opportunity to renew its call for action to fight global warming, which the insurance industry has recently started to blame for natural disasters.

Concerned about large payouts for natural disaster claims, insurance companies are very eager to establish global warming (search) as a contributing factor to those disasters, so they can sue deep-pocket businesses supposedly responsible for that global warming. Efforts to invoke supposed global warming as the culprit for this week's death and destruction are patently absurd as the multiple tsunamis were not a "weather event" in the slightest. The tsunamis were caused by an earthquake, which, by the way, is a real, not a "so-called," natural disaster.

Earthquakes aren't caused by the weather or greenhouse gas emissions; they're caused by tectonics — that is naturally moving geological faults. While tectonics may cause climate changes, the reverse is not true.

Despite the fictional tsunami that hit New York in the movie "The Day After Tomorrow," there is no realistic climate change scenario that could possibly cause a tsunami-spawning earthquake.

While tsunamis may also, on occasion, be caused by the breaking of polar ice into chunks — the natural process of iceberg creation known as "calving" — such tsunamis tend to be harmless localized events.

Environmentalists are also looking to blame economic development for the devastation wreaked by the tsunamis in hopes of slowing down progress in the third world.

"A creeping rise in sea levels tied to global warming, pollution and damage to coral reefs may make coastlines even more vulnerable to disasters like tsunamis or storms in future, experts said," reported Reuters this week.

"Coasts are under threat in many countries," said Greenpeace's Brad Smith to Reuters.

"Development of roads, shrimp farms, ribbon development along coasts and tourism are eroding natural defenses in Asia."

Actually, sea levels in the region have been declining, according to satellite data and the long-term record of sea level changes for Bombay. Virginia state climatologist and Cato Institute fellow Patrick Michaels said in a media release this week that linking the Indian Ocean tsunamis to global warming is "in grave contravention of well-known facts about changes in sea level in that region."

Moreover, the environmentalists are in feverish denial about the two factors that will, in the end, contribute most to the horrendous death toll from the tsunamis — the lack of an early warning system and lack of adequate post-disaster sanitation, both of which are tragic by-products of the region's severe economic under-development. Given that fact, how deceptive and calculating of the environmentalists to blame "development" as the deadly cause!

It's bad enough that environmentalists continually try to advance their agendas based on what can only be described as comically wrong information. But what's really troubling is that they seem hell-bent on denying poor nations the opportunity to develop economically so as to pull themselves out of their abject poverty.

Global warming activists are pressuring U.S. banks not to make loans to energy projects in the developing world. Without energy, third world economies are doomed to remain undeveloped. Citigroup and Bank of America have already caved in to activist demands, while, as pointed out by CSRwatch.com, J.P Morgan Chase is being pressured by activists wielding second-graders.

Malaria is yet another threat that tsunami survivors will face. Yet the environmentalist-led, junk science-fueled ban on the insecticide DDT has had, and will continue to have, terrible human and economic impacts on the developing world.

In its Dec. 29 editorial entitled, "Death by Environmentalist," the Wall Street Journal wrote, "It's been estimated that malaria costs Africa 1.2 percent of its GDP, or some $12 billion annually. The pandemic compromises the educational development of the children it doesn't kill, and it depletes the mental and physical vigor of the adult population."

The tsunamis are a terrible natural disaster — but they pale in comparison to the not-so-natural disaster known as modern environmentalism.

Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and CSRwatch.com, is adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, and is the author of Junk Science Judo: Self-defense Against Health Scares and Scams (Cato Institute, 2001).

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