The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Old Fashioned Notions

Every six months or so, I revisit the "climate change" debate to assess the arguments and determine whether the current climate situation is worsening. Before I begin, a little background.

My personal belief is that the United States should be energy independent, not so much for environmental reasons, but for national security. On a individual level, I believe that every person should try to be aware of his or her environmental impact. On a personal level, I run part of my home from solar arrays and my car is an electric vehicle. On many days, the car runs on sunshine and my so-called "carbon footprint" is quite small. But EVs and PV arrays (solar) remain quite expensive and are not within the reach of many families—at least not yet.

If we listen to Barack Obama, we are told that "climate change" is the most significant challenge facing our nation. Really?

Proponents of draconian measures to remedy "climate change" continually disregard encouraging climate data and use scare tactics in an effort to frighten the public into supporting what amounts to bad policies that; (1) will have little, if any, real impact on the climate and (2) have serious economic impact on many industrialized and developing nations.

Bjorn Lomborg comments on all of this:
It is an indisputable fact that carbon emissions are rising—and faster than most scientists predicted. But many climate-change alarmists seem to claim that all climate change is worse than expected. This ignores that much of the data are actually encouraging. The latest study from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that in the previous 15 years temperatures had risen 0.09 degrees Fahrenheit. The average of all models expected 0.8 degrees. So we’re seeing about 90% less temperature rise than expected.

Facts like this are important because a one-sided focus on worst-case stories is a poor foundation for sound policies. Yes, Arctic sea ice is melting faster than the models expected. But models also predicted that Antarctic sea ice would decrease, yet it is increasing. Yes, sea levels are rising, but the rise is not accelerating—if anything, two recent papers, one by Chinese scientists published in the January 2014 issue of Global and Planetary Change, and the other by U.S. scientists published in the May 2013 issue of Coastal Engineering, have shown a small decline in the rate of sea-level increase.

We are often being told that we’re seeing more and more droughts, but a study published last March in the journal Nature actually shows a decrease in the world’s surface that has been afflicted by droughts since 1982.

Hurricanes are likewise used as an example of the “ever worse” trope. If we look at the U.S., where we have the best statistics, damage costs from hurricanes are increasing—but only because there are more people, with more-expensive property, living near coastlines. If we adjust for population and wealth, hurricane damage during the period 1900-2013 decreased slightly.
Of course, people like Al Gore would argue that Lomborg is a "denier," a loaded and dishonest term that is used when scientists and others present facts that counter the ever more shrill claims projecting an impending climate catastrophe.

The problem is that dozens of scientific studies present data that are consistent with caution, but not alarm, and certainly not hysteria. Yet, the ardently green community seems to opt for alarm and/or outright hysteria, and dismisses or deemphasizes other potential causes for climate change (e.g., the effect of sun cycles, cloud cover, and ocean currents) out of hand. When asked what percentage of climate change is caused by human activity, very few scientists will answer, because they simply don't know. When asked why climate change models do not accurately reflect known past climatic events, there is silence or obfuscation. When asked why the geologic record indicates massive and disruptive changes in climate (the ice age comes to mind) long before humans used fossil fuels of any kind, there is again silence or obfuscation.

Rather than advocating massive changes to the world economy, it might be better to drop the term "climate change" and return to the old fashioned notions of clean air, clean water, and a clean environment. Rather than the fruitless attempt at international treaties that punish some and reward others, it might be a better idea to allow each nation to take its own path toward a cleaner environment.


Jeff Jacoby comments further:
Unless you’ve spent the last few weeks in solitary meditation on a remote island, you couldn’t miss the wave of media stories breathlessly proclaiming that 2014 was the hottest year in recorded history. As usual, the coverage was laced with alarm about the menace posed by climate change, and with disapproval of skeptics who decline to join in the general panic.

Among those seizing on the news to make a political point was President Obama, who used his State of the Union address to voice disdain for those who don’t share his view. “I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists,” he scoffed. “Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But. . . I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities.”

Well, I’m also not a scientist. But I do know that what NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center actually reported was rather less categorical than what the news accounts — or the White House — might lead you to believe.
He goes on to discuss some of the science and equivocation behind the claims and then writes:
You don’t have to be a scientist to realize that climate is complicated and hard to get right. Climate models have so far been unable to accurately predict changes in global temperature. Experts didn’t foresee the global cooling that began in the 1940s and didn’t anticipate the warming cycle that started in the late 1970s. Climate science is still in its infancy, and it would be folly to treat any single explanation for changes in global temperatures as impervious to challenge or skepticism.
The problem with the president and others who believe that climate change is predominantly man-made is that they seem unable to recognize that challenge and skepticism are integral to good science. Without it, bad assumptions and worse policy will be forced on an unsuspecting public, causing more harm than good—all under the guise of good intentions.