The world political leaders and environmentalists will gather shortly at the UN summit in Paris, in a global effort to combat climate change. Most people consider it the biggest threat facing humanity, even with the continually increasing Islamist terrorist attacks against the West. (Some even claim that climate change causes terrorism, as one academic commentator did on Canada’s public radio CBC in the wake of the Paris massacre). But the UN climate talks are a complete waste of time and energy (particularly, waste of the fossil fuels spent on flying the thousands of summit goers to Paris) and will do nothing to improve human well-being now or in the future.

Climate is always changing, and the impact of human activity on the change is miniscule. Greenhouse gas emissions have been argued to lead to catastrophic climate change through dramatic temperature increases. However, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere in the last 150 years or so (since the Industrial Revolution) has increased only from 0.03 per cent to 0.04 percent, while the global temperature has increased by less than 1 degree Celsius—far less than what the climate alarmists had predicted. Yet, fighting climate change has become just about every government’s mantra that their members repeat endlessly in their quest to gain more control of our lives.

Consider the about-to-be launched climate policy of the socialist NDP government of Alberta, my home province. Its goal is to curtail greenhouse gas emissions by industry, with an anticipated accelerated phasing-out of coal-powered electricity (upon which about half of Albertans depend). This will mean moth balling electricity-generating facilities and a loss of investment and jobs. The oil sands producers which emit 8 per cent of Canada’s greenhouse gases are unlikely to be spared, either, despite the fact that they are already suffering from depressed oil prices, canceled pipeline projects (such as Keystone XL), and increased corporate taxes introduced by this government.

So effective has the governments’ and media’s climate change propaganda been that many people have fallen for it and are willingly following the governments’ lead, like the proverbial lambs. One of the oil sands producers, Cenovus, commissioned a public opinion poll of 2,000 Canadians a year ago. According to the poll, 39 per cent want Canada to switch away from oil consumption within the next ten years, while 28 per cent want to do that in 10 to 20 years. An astounding 67 per cent of those polled want to move away from fossil fuels, due to fears of climate change! The same poll showed that 64 per cent worried that gasoline use is contributing to climate change.

It is tragic how misguided and ignorant of climate change facts people are, given how little impact—especially, any harmful impact—greenhouse gas emissions have on climate. (We are talking about CO2, not toxic pollution). The Alberta oil sands contributed 0.15 per cent to the world’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2011 (the latest data I could find), and Canada’s share (including the oil sands) of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions is 1.59 per cent, according to a recent report from Montreal Economic Institute. Even if we shut down all oil sands operations—or the entire Canadian economy—the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere would hardly change. Yet, the cost of in terms of human misery and suffering would be immeasurable. (Fossil fuels have made human life safer, longer, and more prosperous, as Alex Epstein explains in The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, and cannot be replaced within 20 years by other forms of energy without significant decline in human well-being).

By creating the imaginary threat of man-made climate change, climate alarmists have given governments everywhere a justification to increase state control in our lives. Here in Alberta, the climate change threat is used to squeeze the oil companies (for example, with carbon taxes)—the companies on which our prosperity largely depends, the coal-powered electricity generators, and of course, consumers, who are made to pay more for energy, electricity and products and services whose production requires energy, while continually being pressured through increased taxation and regulation to compromise convenience and comfort, for the alleged goal of reducing our “carbon footprint.”

Climate change has become an unquestioned dogma, yet the fight against it does nothing to improve human well-being. Quite the contrary, it limits our freedom and ability to produce, trade, and prosper; and it diverts attention away from real threats to human life and flourishing, such the Islamists’ quest for a caliphate.

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Jaana Woiceshyn teaches business ethics and competitive strategy at the Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary, Canada. She has lectured and conducted seminars on business ethics to undergraduate, MBA and Executive MBA students, and to various corporate audiences for over 20 years both in Canada and abroad. Before earning her Ph.D. from the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania, she helped turn around a small business in Finland and worked for a consulting firm in Canada. Jaana’s research on technological change and innovation, value creation by business, executive decision-making, and business ethics has been published in various academic and professional journals and books. “How to Be Profitable and Moral” is her first solo-authored book. Visit her website at profitableandmoral.com.

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