Climate change hysteria may finally be peaking

I’m all for clean air and water, and a lovely environment. I’m extremely hostile, however, to being bullied. I’ve gotten to the point where I often find myself turning a light on in my home and thinking “Take that Al Gore. I’ll start conserving energy in a serious way when you move into a 2,500 square foot home. Same for you John Edwards. You, too, Hillary.”

I know that, if an energy hog cuts his or her energy use a little bit, he’s still an energy hog. However, when I, who have always tried to be extremely energy conscious because of the hit on my pocket book, try to achieve the goals set for me by these political plutocrats, I end up sitting in the cold and the dark.

I was therefore pleased to read at Newbusters that there is yet another example of the climate change worm turning. This time, the apostate is John R. Christy, a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which just won a Nobel Prize for its support of the global warming theory. Christy has written an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal denouncing the hysteria as a misreading of real science. I’m sure the WSJ will soon make it publicly available, but right now you can see it here:

The Nobel committee praises Mr. Gore and the IPCC for alerting us to a potential catastrophe and for spurring us to a carbonless economy.

I’m sure the majority (but not all) of my IPCC colleagues cringe when I say this, but I see neither the developing catastrophe nor the smoking gun proving that human activity is to blame for most of the warming we see. Rather, I see a reliance on climate models (useful but never “proof”) and the coincidence that changes in carbon dioxide and global temperatures have loose similarity over time.

There are some of us who remain so humbled by the task of measuring and understanding the extraordinarily complex climate system that we are skeptical of our ability to know what it is doing and why. As we build climate data sets from scratch and look into the guts of the climate system, however, we don’t find the alarmist theory matching observations. (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite data we analyze at the University of Alabama in Huntsville does show modest warming — around 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit per century, if current warming trends of 0.25 degrees per decade continue.)

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Mother Nature simply operates at a level of complexity that is, at this point, beyond the mastery of mere mortals (such as scientists) and the tools available to us. As my high-school physics teacher admonished us in those we-shall-conquer-the-world-with-a-slide-rule days, “Begin all of your scientific pronouncements with ‘At our present level of ignorance, we think we know . . .'”

I haven’t seen that type of climate humility lately. Rather I see jump-to-conclusions advocates and, unfortunately, some scientists who see in every weather anomaly the specter of a global-warming apocalypse. Explaining each successive phenomenon as a result of human action gives them comfort and an easy answer.

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One of the challenges in studying global climate is keeping a global perspective, especially when much of the research focuses on data gathered from spots around the globe. Often observations from one region get more attention than equally valid data from another.

The recent CNN report “Planet in Peril,” for instance, spent considerable time discussing shrinking Arctic sea ice cover. CNN did not note that winter sea ice around Antarctica last month set a record maximum (yes, maximum) for coverage since aerial measurements started.

Then there is the challenge of translating global trends to local climate. For instance, hasn’t global warming led to the five-year drought and fires in the U.S. Southwest?

Not necessarily.

There has been a drought, but it would be a stretch to link this drought to carbon dioxide. If you look at the 1,000-year climate record for the western U.S. you will see not five-year but 50-year-long droughts. The 12th and 13th centuries were particularly dry. The inconvenient truth is that the last century has been fairly benign in the American West. A return to the region’s long-term “normal” climate would present huge challenges for urban planners.

Christy does not discount the fact that humans produce CO2, but finds the fairly fixes useless (although very inconvenient and costly):

California and some Northeastern states have decided to force their residents to buy cars that average 43 miles-per-gallon within the next decade. Even if you applied this law to the entire world, the net effect would reduce projected warming by about 0.05 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, an amount so minuscule as to be undetectable. Global temperatures vary more than that from day to day.

Suppose you are very serious about making a dent in carbon emissions and could replace about 10% of the world’s energy sources with non-CO2-emitting nuclear power by 2020 — roughly equivalent to halving U.S. emissions. Based on IPCC-like projections, the required 1,000 new nuclear power plants would slow the warming by about 0.2 ?176 degrees Fahrenheit per century. It’s a dent.

But what is the economic and human price, and what is it worth given the scientific uncertainty?

I guess the hysteria will stop eventually, but what irks me almost as much as the hysteria itself is that those who fomented it — the Al Gore’s of this world — will never be held accountable for the huge psychic and economic costs their hysteria created. Instead, the whole thing will just drift painlessly away, with Al Gore either vanishing peacefully into obscurity (and the sooner the better, I say), or latching on to a new cause to keep up his street cred with the Left.

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Comments

  1. Danny Lemieux says

    I stand by my prediction that, within his lifetime, Al Gore will be mocked as a false prophet of doom. However, in the meantime, he will have gotten very, very rich as an elder of his Gaia cult.

  2. johnfromcolumbus says

    I see a parallel with Bush Derangement Syndrome and the Global Warming Hysteria. I sense the BDS on the left is in decline, probably as a function of Lame Duck President status. We can hope that Christy’s Op Ed is indeed a sign of Global Warming Hysteria peeking. However, just the other day, a local (columbus, ohio) weatherman followed a story about the SoCal fires, his first comment was that Global Warming was to blame then proceeded to tell us our weather forecast. This from a lead meteorologist on the newsbroadcast. How embarrassing.

    Anyway, I digress. There is an upside to the Global Warming Hysteria. Energy conservation! How great would it be if we, being the Middle East’s biggest customer, were able to take our business elsewhere.

  3. Mike Devx says

    “However, when I, who have always tried to be extremely energy conscious because of the hit on my pocket book, try to achieve the goals set for me by these political plutocrats, I end up sitting in the cold and the dark.”

    No, Book, you won’t end up sitting in the cold and the dark. The government, in its compassion, will distribute to you the same certain small amount of wood and oil that it distributes to everyone else. You’ll get to run one light, just like everyone else. And you’ll get just enough heat to keep from freezing, just like everyone else. You do have sweaters and blankets, don’t you?

    But this whole thing isn’t really about complete government control of your entire life. We promise! Some things are just regretfully necessary. We do this with sad regret.

    Your one government-allowed light will be dim, and you will be chilled within your layers of blankets. But bright, warm comfort arrives when you realize EVERYONE else has been forced by government directive into suffering too!

    Well, not quite everyone is suffering along with you. There are the politically connected apparatchiks in their bright, warm dachas. And Kim Jong Il’s palace is a tiny, brightly lit speck of light in that night-time NASA photograph of a completely-black, totally-darkened expanse of North Korea.

    Isn’t that a grand vision for all the huddled, miserable people of, America! America!

  4. says

    I completely agree that certain individuals like Al Gore have pushed a global warming hysteria into the American public’s eye. Check out archives like the New York Post that have 1000+ articles related to Al Gore and environmentalism. We need reasonable individuals to help the environment, not Al Gore who outshines the topic. If the media wants to shape its focus around global warming, perhaps they should start focusing on ‘power figures’ that lead a very ungreen lifestyle.

    I have recently reevaluated lifestyle factors and have become more aware of issues that all individuals can relate to on a daily basis. http://energybill2007.us has been great source for learning about Energy and Fuel and how the American public can refocus its attentions to better standards. If you are into the message, sign the petition. Support is one of the greatest actions possible!

  5. Mike Devx says

    I have read that as our GDP has doubled in the last twenty years, we’ve reduced our energy output per GDP unit by 50%.

    It’s true there are lies, damned lies, and statistics. If this one is true, then we have managed to keep our energy output FLAT while doubling our productive output. That is an amazing achievement.

    Perhaps all the hyperbole has raised our consciousness. While we repudiate them at the ballot box, perhaps we ought to continue to keep their hectoring voices in our conscience. That paradigm has worked, so far.

  6. Ophiuchus says

    You know, I have always thought the climate change skepticism is a form of “knee-jerk conservatism”, if you’ll forgive the pejorative allusion. If the environmentalists are for it, then conservatives have to oppose it. Honestly, sometimes I think that environmentalists should come out some day and vigorously assert that the earth goes around the sun, just to see how the conservatives react.

    If you set aside your biases, whether they be conservative or liberal, and just read the science, you will surely come to the conclusion that there really is something to this climate change thing. It’s extremely complex and there’s NOBODY who understands it all. But the vast majority of climate change skepticism I have read is ill-informed. The fellow quoted above is, of course, in a different category entirely. He really does know what he’s talking about. But then, a lot of other scientists who also know what they’re talking about disagree with him. So, do you pick and chose which scientists you accept based on their support for your pre-determined political biases, or do you just look at the big picture and base your conclusions on the recommendations of the bulk of scientists?

  7. says

    Ophiuchus, no one at this blog doubts that the climate is changing. However, we note that the climate has changed before — many, many times. We are doubtful of the hysteria, we are doubtful about the urgency, we are doubtful about its anthropocentric origins, we are doubtful that Western hysteria is relevant given China’s and India’s pollution rich ascendancy, and we are doubtful that the consequences are going to be as bad as they say they are. We also find less than encouraging news that the climate change proponents have announced that debate is closed, notwithstanding increasing evidence that their data and conclusions are flawed.

    Having said that, all of us here (and I think I speak for my readers too) like living in a pollution free world and would love to see America break the connection to the oil rich tyrannies around the world. But those are different arguments, and don’t include having multimillionaires who live in multiple mansions and own multiple cars lecturing us to sit in the cold and the dark, and take the bus.

  8. Ophiuchus says

    First, Bookworm, if you promise not to use the term “hysteria” in reference to concerns about climate change, then I promise not to use the term “block-headedness” in reference to skepticism about climate change. (Actually, I wouldn’t use that term in any case, but you get my point.)

    Let’s go over your points.

    1. Climate has changed many times. That’s true, and life survived. We’re pretty certain that every one of the mass extinctions was due, in essence, to dramatic climate change induced by a big meteor strike. Sure, life survived. But the biggest animals didn’t. I’m not suggesting that we’re in for anything that extreme. But even tiny climate changes can be very expensive. Consider how much infrastructure we have that assumes a particular climate. A small increase in temperatures in central North America would make the Great Plains incapable of supporting agriculture. How many billions of dollars will the lost of the Wheat Belt and the Corn Belt cost us? Sure, we can adapt — but how many billion dollars will it cost to adapt? Some areas will get more rain — but they’ll need to invest more money in flood control. Areas with less rain will need to invest more money in water projects. Low-lying areas will suffer greater storm damage. Port facilities will have to be modified. HVAC systems in every building in the country are sized for a particular climate. Change the climate and all those HVAC systems need to be modified. All of this is expensive. We won’t be broiled to death — we’ll be nickeled and dimed to death.

    2. You doubt the urgency. This is a slow-moving process. Even if humanity stopped ALL carbon emissions today, the temperature would continue to climb for decades. We’re driving an oil tanker that takes five miles to change course, and you’re saying that there are no icebergs visible within three miles.

    3. You are doubtful about its anthropogenic origins. Do you doubt the greenhouse effect? Do you doubt that CO2 is a greenhouse gas? Do you doubt that CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere are increasing? The basic physics for all this was established more than a century ago. Physicists have been speculating that this would happen for at least a century. That’s what the physics says. Only now are we getting empirical confirmation of what theory says should be happening. What part of the basic physics do you doubt?

    4. I agree that China and India are rapidly becoming major emitters — estimates are that China has already passed the US in carbon emissions. Yes, we’re screwed. Had we taken a more constructive approach ten years ago when this thing was getting started, we might have been able to set up the foundations for a Kyoto 2 in 2012 that would have been able to address China’s emissions. But we were short-sighted then and now the problem is much worse. So you recommend what? That we might as well get used to it? That we not bother taking any other steps? Are you saying that, since the iceberg is only three miles away, we might as well give up and not bother trying to change course?

    5. You are flat, dead wrong when you state there is “increasing evidence that their data and conclusions are flawed.” This is very complicated stuff, and yes, there are zigs and zags, but the overall development has been one of steadily accumulating evidence that, not only is climate change very real, but it is happening more quickly than we had previously estimated. I’ll be happy to explain the science here, but I won’t bother if you’re not interested in the science.

    6. And how many multimillionaires do you think there are that are happily ensconced in their huge carbon footprints, urging us to ignore Al Gore?

  9. says

    Are you saying that, since the iceberg is only three miles away, we might as well give up and not bother trying to change course?

    Why do you always seem to come up with solutions for things in that past that can’t be changed, but ask others for solutions now in the present?

    The people behind the global warming economic scam are corrupt. That is all that matters. When people operate with hubris as the main strategic objective, it doesn’t matter what their facts are or what their science is based upon. It won’t end well.

  10. Ophiuchus says

    The people behind the global warming economic scam are corrupt.

    Wow, that’s quite a claim. Got evidence?

    it doesn’t matter what their facts are or what their science is based upon

    Well, OK, if that’s the way you want to think. Me, I prefer logic, reason, facts, evidence — that sort of thing. ;-)

  11. says

    Given that Al Gore buys carbon credits in a Green investment portfolio he is part of, while advocating others buy carbon credits to assuage their environmental guilt…. it is not quite a claim at all.

  12. says

    There is no logic, no reason, no fact, and no evidence that can change the mind of a true believer of the cause. Some causes are flexible enough, of course, to actually want their followers to have an open mind, but not Global Warming.

    Using an American patriot as an example, it would take a ridiculous amount of facts to even begin to create doubt in the American patriot that America is not the greatest and most ethically correct nation in the history of the world.

    It is simply not feasible even if it was possible.

  13. says

    Well, OK, if that’s the way you want to think. Me, I prefer logic, reason, facts, evidence — that sort of thing. ;-)

    Why do people always want to crop up their opponent’s quotes. It is not as if you are paying by the number of characters you post to the internet.

    What I actually said was, “When people operate with hubris as the main strategic objective, it doesn’t matter what their facts are or what their science is based upon. It won’t end well”.

    Such propaganda techniques might be justified by spiritual leaders marshalling Leftist creed and dogma, but anyone can see what I actually wrote. They can clearly see that you cut off part of the actual sentence, not just part of a paragraph.

    Such techniques just aren’t effective when used in that way.

    Me, I prefer logic, reason, facts,

    Is it simply part of your logic, reasoning, and facts to regularly edit people’s beliefs so that knocking them down becomes easier, Ophiuchus?

    To recap the point: it does not matter at all whether you use facts or scientific techniques, given that Global Warming is simply an attempt at self-glorification and hubris.

  14. Ophiuchus says

    Sorry I misread you, ymarsakar. I apologize. So tell me, since you yourself do rely on logic, reason, facts, etc, what statements in the IPCC report do you find objectionable?

  15. says

    It isn’t the IPCC report that is the problem. Whatever people write on paper, it doesn’t change fundamental human flaws. Organizations, trends, and ideologies are predicated upon who the actual membership and leadership are. A good and wise person could make the UN and Global Warming successful at solving problems for the benefit of humanity. A bad and unwise person would convert even the United States Constitution into a tool of terror and enslavement.

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