What fuels the climate change activists — science or politics?
A large group of Harvard and Yale students occupied the field during halftime of the annual Harvard-Yale game on November 23 to celebrate their virtue by demanding that the two universities divest all fossil fuel stocks. I assume that not one of the 40 or so students arrested by the police, who took an hour to clear the field, has any substantial knowledge of even one of the 20 or so disciplines subsumed under climatology or the history of climate change throughout human history. (That is also true, incidentally, of myself and well over 99 percent of those who write confidently about climate change.)
If pressed, the students would have simply cited the alleged “scientific consensus” on anthropogenic global warming and shouted down anyone who challenged the existence of such a consensus.
No such consensus exists. In September, 500 scientists and professionals in climate-related fields sent the Secretary-General of the United Nations a “European Climate Declaration,” in which they noted, inter alia, that the computer climate models upon which the predictions of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports are based have consistently failed as predictive tools. They therefore “are not remotely plausible as policy tools” and further ignore that enriching the atmosphere with carbon dioxide (CO2) is beneficial. A little over a decade ago, environmental scientists Dennis Bray and Hans von Storch polled 530 colleagues from 27 countries and asked them to express their agreement with the statement “climate change is primarily the result of anthropogenic causes,” i.e., human behavior, on a scale of one to seven. The average, 3.62, came down almost exactly at the middle — not that scientific issues are determined by majority vote.
Such consensus as exists refers primarily to the IPCC and the allocation of university research funding. Guy Sorman of City Journal reports that in a 2005 conversation with Rajendra Pachauri, the director of the IPCC, the latter told him that he recruited only climatologists convinced of the carbon-dioxide warming explanation.
Dr. Judith Curry, former chair of the department of earth and atmospheric sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, left academia and the world of government-funded research, she says, because “climatology has become a political party with totalitarian tendencies. If you don’t support the UN consensus on human-caused global warming, if you express the slightest skepticism, you are a climate-change denier [i.e., akin to a Holocaust denier]… a quasi-fascist who must be banned from the scientific community…. Those daring to take an interest in possible natural causes of climatic variation — such as solar shifts or the earth’s oscillations — aren’t well regarded in the scientific community, to put it mildly.”
But why ignore natural causes? The earth’s temperatures have been at various times much warmer than today. Climate change alarmists point to rising sea levels as proof of impending doom from anthropogenic warming. But as Professor Richard Lindzen, the Albert P. Sloan Professor Emeritus of Meteorology at MIT, notes, sea levels have been rising since the end of the last ice age.
Dr. Curry points out that from 1910 to 1940, before the dramatic increase in carbon emissions, there was a warming trend, and from 1940 to 1980, the earth experienced a sustained cooling period, even as carbon emissions jumped, giving rise to “consensus” predictions of an impending ice age.
And we may well be entering a similar cooling period. NASA satellites have recorded a heat loss from the thermosphere, which is consistent with observations that we are entering a period of low sunspot activity, similar to that which coincided with the period from the mid-17th to early 18th century known as the Little Ice Age.
Even the raw data of temperature upon which Global Average Temperature (GAT) is based is highly questionable. Seventy percent of the earth’s surface is water, and most of the measurements are based on interpolation between stations. And the recording stations are too frequently in places that inflate the temperature — e.g., near airport landing strips or in built-up urban areas. Aware of the problem, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration set up a network of 114 pristine temperature stations in the lower 48 states in 2005. The recorded data since then show no warming.
BUT EVEN IF ALARMISTS were right about anthropogenic warming, their policy prescriptions are economically and practically insane. Nor do they believe their own hysteria. Former president Obama is famously pronounced his 2008 nomination “the moment the oceans began to slow their rise and the earth began to heal.” Yet he recently put down $15 million on a mansion on Martha’s Vineyard, a coastal island that would be a prime candidate for submersion by rising sea levels.
If the alarmists believed their own 12 years to doomsday scenarios, they’d be pushing the rapid expansion of nuclear energy — the only non-carbon producing form of energy. Yet almost all reflexively oppose any reliance on nuclear energy, despite dramatic recent advances in developing cheaper, smaller, and safer nuclear plants.
Not one Democratic presidential candidate openly repudiated Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s proposed Green New Deal, and several have endorsed it, even though it would bankrupt the United States and end all industrial development, without making a dent in overall carbon emissions. By far the largest polluters — China, India, and Brazil — would still do little to reduce their emissions. A brilliant strategy if we all want to end up in Chinese re-education camps.
Indeed, American capitalism has proven the best engine of carbon emission reduction. The fracking revolution has simultaneously enabled America to reduce carbon emissions more than any other country, by switching to natural gas from coal and petroleum, and to achieve the once-deemed-impossible goal of energy independence. Diogenes had a better chance of finding an “honest man” than one would have of finding a Democratic supporter of fracking.
Unrealistic “green” mandates drive energy prices through the roof. In 1992, Germany committed to reducing carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2020. It will not come close. But electricity rates in Germany, as a result of its Energiwend (energy transition) commitment to wind and solar power, has reached nearly three times the US average. The Minnesota-based Center for the America Experiment did an economic study of the cost of a proposal to use 50 percent renewable energy sources by 2030. It found that doing so would cost the state $80 billion on infrastructure by 2050, increase the average family’s electric bill by $1,200 annually, and reduce the state’s “GNP” (gross national product) by $3 billion per annum, while costing 21,000 jobs.
Too frequently, the obsession with renewables only results in higher carbon emissions. Federally mandated ethanol requirements for gasoline proved a boon for corn farmers and led to skyrocketing world food prices. But the process of producing ethanol, it turns out, releases more CO2 than it saves. Sir John Beddington, former chief science advisor to the British government, notes that to meet European Union renewable directives, countries increasingly have to burn wood, which releases four times as much carbon dioxide as electricity or natural gas per megawatt-hour and 50 percent more than coal. And in cutting down vast numbers of trees, the world is deprived of forests that serve as vast carbon sinks.
DR. CURRY EXPLAINS the elites’ devotion to climate change alarmism. It serves their opposition to capitalism and industrial development, and their preference for world government, run by experts, over democratic nation states. That strikes me as right. To that indictment, I would add one other charge: hatred of human beings. Population control frequently ranks at the top of the climate alarmists’ agenda. Danish statistician Bjorn Lomborg long ago argued in The Skeptical Environmentalist that with the $150 billion dollars that enforcement of the Kyoto Treaty (predecessor to the Paris Accords) would have cost annually, and which would have resulted in, at most, a .2 degree reduction in world temperature by 2100, we could purify all the water in the world and save tens of thousands of lives annually.
I wonder if the virtuous Harvard-Yale demonstrators thought of that?
Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 788. Yonoson Rosenblum may be contacted directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
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