The U.N. no longer claims that there will be dangerous or rapid climate change in the next two decades. Last September, between the second and final draft of its fifth assessment report, the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change quietly downgraded the warming it expected in the 30 years following 1995, to about 0.5 degrees Celsius from 0.7 (or, in Fahrenheit, to about 0.9 degrees, from 1.3).
Even that is likely to be too high. The climate-research establishment has finally admitted openly what skeptic scientists have been saying for nearly a decade: Global warming has stopped since shortly before this century began. …
It has been roughly two decades since there was a trend in temperature significantly different from zero. The burst of warming that preceded the millennium lasted about 20 years and was preceded by 30 years of slight cooling after 1940. …
Last month two scientists wrote in Science that they had instead found the explanation [for the long pause in the rise of global temperatures] in natural fluctuations in currents in the Atlantic Ocean. For the last 30 years of the 20th century, Xianyao Chen and Ka-Kit Tung suggested, these currents had been boosting the warming by bringing heat to the surface, then for the past 15 years the currents had been counteracting it by taking heat down deep.
The warming in the last three decades of the 20th century, to quote the news release that accompanied their paper, “was roughly half due to global warming and half to the natural Atlantic Ocean cycle.” In other words, even the modest warming in the 1980s and 1990s—which never achieved the 0.3 degrees Celsius per decade necessary to satisfy the feedback-enhanced models that predict about three degrees of warming by the end of the century—had been exaggerated by natural causes. The man-made warming of the past 20 years has been so feeble that a shifting current in one ocean was enough to wipe it out altogether.
Putting the icing on the cake of good news, Xianyao Chen and Ka-Kit Tung think the Atlantic Ocean may continue to prevent any warming for the next two decades. So in their quest to explain the pause, scientists have made the future sound even less alarming than before.
Remember I am not here attempting to resolve the climate debate, nor saying that catastrophe is impossible. I am testing my optimism against the facts, and what I find is that the probability of rapid and severe climate change is small; the probability of net harm from the most likely climate change is small; the probability that no adaptation will occur is small; and the probability of no new low-carbon energy technologies emerging in the long run is small. Multiply those small probabilities together and the probability of a prosperous twenty-first century is therefore by definition large. You can argue about just how large, and therefore about how much needs to be spent on precaution; but you cannot on the IPCC’s figures make it anything other than very probable that the world will be a better place in 2100 than it is today.
— Matt Ridley, The Rational Optimist
If one accepts that global warming is a grave danger, is it nonetheless necessary to support “mitigating action” even if it can’t be shown to actually improve anything at all? Even assuming that [anthropogenic] global warming were proven beyond a reasonable doubt, the burden of proof of success is still on those who want mitigating action. Specifically, they need to be able to prove that such action has a reasonable chance of achieving the desired ends. They most certainly have not done so. Indeed, many scientists say it’s already too late to stop it. Many argue that even if major global action were taken right now, the expected result over the next century would be too small to make any difference. In other words, it’s futile at this point to enact mitigating actions. (Also here.) Presumably, if it’s too late, then there’s no reason we should still be debating mitigating action. But of course, having realized that the “it’s too late” message is a PR disaster, the message has instead been changed to “it won’t be too late if we act right now!”
By their own admission, if global controls on production and energy use are not imposed by 2020, we’re all doomed. When 2020, rolls around, however, look for the date to be changed to 2025, and so on. Indeed, the global warming gang is like the Seventh Day Adventists who kept predicting the end of the world in the nineteenth century, and then changing the date when it didn’t happen.
Note, however, that the entire narrative depends on the assumption that all mitigating action must consist of socialist edicts and regulations. Could there be mitigating action that is not based on socialist command and control systems? We all know that any such suggestion would be laughed out of the room by global warming scientists, who in addition to being experts on climate, are also experts on politics, economics, and anything else they decide to be “experts” on. Private solutions aren’t even worth discussing in their view, so even if a laissez-faire minded global-warming enthusiast were to suggest something other than government control of the global economy, he would be immediately excluded from the debate. We all know what “mitigating action” really means.
So, there may be any number of mitigating actions supported by global-warming minded free-market people, from better water filtration, to agricultural engineering, to desalinization, to water delivery systems, all which might be done within the context of markets. But no, none of that is acceptable. The only acceptable “mitigating action” for people like Grimes is global governmental control of the entire means of energy usage and production.
Also important to the support of any mitigating action is an analysis of the cost. Knowing that the true cost to people of submitting to a global warming regulatory regime would be very high, it is necessary for the global warming regulators to portray the effects of global warming as being nothing less than a nightmarish post-apocalyptic landscape of Mad Max proportions. This enables them to argue that no cost is too high to adopt their regime.
Back in the real world, however, costs must always be considered.
Most of the “solutions” to global warming offered by the global elites involve the widespread impoverishment of much of the human population by limiting the production of goods, and the use of transportation resources. Such “solutions” would massively undermine advances in the standards of living for billions of ordinary people just as they are finally starting to come out of grinding levels of poverty. In other words, most of the anti-global warming regulators (most of whom are wealthy white people in first-world countries) want to deny the poor of the world their washing machines. For Grimes, a white intellectual in a wealthy country, he won’t bear the true brunt of the global warming “solutions.” But for many people, the cost of the “solutions” for global warming will be extremely high indeed. So perhaps many people can be forgiven for rejecting the rich-white-man assumption that restrictions on energy usage and production are the bee’s knees.
The proponents of global warming regulation completely ignore these costs, and instead insist that desertification will destroy human society, so it’s better to just make everyone poor now, rather than later. The argument goes something like this: global warming will make many areas of the earth uninhabitable and people will become starving bands of scavengers as a result. So, the only solution to this is to force people back down to nearly-unbearable subsistence levels now, so that they don’t become post-apocalyptic cannibals later. They argue, for example, that much of the American South will become a desert and that many coastal cities will be flooded by rising water levels.
All they’re really saying, of course, is that in case of global warming, large numbers of people will have to migrate to other places. When noting that the South will become a desert, they never mention, for example, that Canada, will become much more hospitable in climate, or that the Hudson Bay would become a more temperate area and a natural location for major trade networks and new cities.
So what the global warming crowd has to do is prove that the cost of migration in the future is evidently higher than the cost of destroying the global economy right now. This has most certainly not been proven, and given that huge migratory flows are relatively common in human history, depicting such a situation as akin to the apocalypse is dishonest at best. Moreover, since the sea levels and desertification processes would not occur overnight, we also know that there would be time for persons to migrate, and we also know that many of the places to which they wouldmigrate, are now virtually uninhabited.
Indeed, it would seem that if mass migration is in our future, we would want to do everything we can to encourageeconomic growth now. To invest in technologies that contribute to making capital more easily transportable (like smaller and lighter computers and vehicles) and encouraging people to save for the future.
The alternative offered by the proponents of global warming regulation -pushing much of the developing world back into abject poverty- would be sure to bring something far worse, such as endless civil wars among populations where had a middle-class lifestyle within sight, but was then ripped away by the global elites in the name of saving the world.
So, if global warming is indeed on our horizon, it would appear that perfecting technologies like water desalinization, aqueducts, improved agricultural practices, and lowering the costs of basic staples such as housing and labor-saving appliances would be essential. Much of the world has already been working on these problems, and global warming has had nothing to do with it. The Israelis have been developing better and better water and agriculture systems for decades. Many desert countries (including the western United States) have been working on better water filtration and delivery systems. Many societies, such as The Netherlands and Singapore already deal with various issues related to dense populations.
But can you guess which societies are the best as dealing with these issues? Not surprisingly, the societies that have the wealthiest populations and the most industrialized and capital-intensive economies offer the best solutions for dealing with all the problems that global warming has to offer. In other words, the most free economies offer the best hope for addressing these issues. We don’t hear much from Venezuela, for example, about the latest scientific advances in energy production, water cleanliness, and housing.
Meanwhile, those who support global warming “mitigation” are most interested in crippling the very system that makes it easiest to deal with climate-related issues. By impoverishing the world, the global warming regulators wish to see to it that few could afford the very sorts of technologies that would be most helpful in a warmer world. For David Grimes, “science” apparently tells him that poor population are better at mastering their environment than rich populations. If that’s “science” then we can only hope that “anti-science” eventually prevails.
The constant repetition of the Litany [that modern market activity is destroying the environment] and the often heard environmental exaggerations has serious consequences. It makes us scared and it makes us more likely to spend our resources and attention solving phantom problems while ignoring real and pressing (possibly non-environmental) issues. This is why it is important to know the real state of the world.
— Bjorn Lomborg, The Skeptical Environmentalist
Political heavyweights such as Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Secretary GeneralBan Ki-moon name climate change the “defining issue of our times” and “perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.” Yet, the biggest environmental killer we face is actually indoor air pollution.
More than one third of the world’s population – 2.9 billion people – still burns wood, charcoal and dung indoors to keep warm and cook food. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 4.3 million people in 2012 lost their lives due to indoor air pollution. Compare these figures to the losses from global warming. The new report from the UN Climate Panel recognizes that “at present the worldwide burden of human ill-health from climate change is relatively small compared with effects of other stressors.”Estimates from the WHO and others suggest that between 30 and 150 times more people are killed due to indoor air pollution than global warming. Yet, the latter dominates the headlines.
In the 20th century alone, 260 million people were killed by indoor air pollution, which is more than the losses of the century’s many wars. Together with 21 of the world’s top economists, I analyzed the impact of a wide range of global problems, including air pollution, over a 150-year time span. We calculated the cost of these problems in percent of global GDP in order to compare the progress over time. The good news is that we’re seeing quite some improvements on air pollution. Whereas in 1900 the total cost of this problem was as high as 23 per cent of global GDP, today it is around 6 per cent of world GDP and we believe this number will fall to 4 per cent in 2050.
Thanks to increased access to electric stoves and heaters, the problem today is much less prevalent than before. It is therefore regrettable that some climate-worried Western politicians have second thoughts about further electrification because of CO2emissions. Instead of helping the 2.9 billion people gain access to cheap and plentiful electricity, thus combating our biggest environmental problem, we insist that developing countries focus on renewable energy. For example, the U.S. has decided tono longer support the building of coal-fired power plants in developing countries.
Besides being hypocritical (in the Western world we get only 1.2 per cent of our energy from solar and wind), we deliberately end up choosing to leave about 70 million people in darkness and poverty. An analysis from the Center for Global Development found that if the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the main U.S. development finance institution, spends the next $10 billion on gas electrification, we can help lift 90 million people out of poverty. If on the other hand they continue their preference for investments in solar, wind and other low-emissions energy projects, the same $10 billion can help just between 20 and 27 million people.
Electrification has ended the scourge of indoor air pollution in the rich world, saving millions of lives. In the West, we take our supply of reliable electricity for granted. At the same time, we put our climate concerns before giving access to modern energy to those who desperately need it and die from indoor air pollution. It’s about time we get our priorities right.
Unless government has a technique for solving the demand revelation problem that private entrepreneurs cannot adopt, [Paul] Samuelson and [William] Nordhaus’s statement that “because private provision of public goods will generally be insufficient, government must step in” is a non sequitur. Lacking a way to elicit the necessary information about willingness to pay, we lack assurance that government stepping in will move us closer to economic efficiency…. Whenever private provision of a good is presumed inefficient because of a demand revelation problem, government provision should also be presumed inefficient. We should expect the same goods that exhibit market failure ipso facto to exhibit government failure to achieve Pareto efficiency.
Unless government has a technique for solving the demand revelation problem that private entrepreneurs cannot adopt, [Paul] Samuelson and [William] Nordhaus’s statement that “because private provision of public goods will generally be insufficient, government must step in” is a non sequitur. Lacking a way to elicit the necessary information about willingness to pay, we lack assurance that government stepping in will move us closer to economic efficiency….
Whenever private provision of a good is presumed inefficient because of a demand revelation problem, government provision should also be presumed inefficient. We should expect the same goods that exhibit market failure ipso facto to exhibit government failure to achieve Pareto efficiency.
— Larry White, The Clash of Economic Ideas 
If you have the temerity to challenge calls for the government to take aggressive action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, you will probably have someone call you a “climate science denier.” You will further be lectured that “97% of climate scientists agree” on this consensus.
What’s the source of this bogus stat? Cook et al. (2013) is a paper which claims to do the following:
We analyze the evolution of the scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming (AGW) in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, examining 11,944 climate abstracts from 1991–2011 matching the topics ‘global climate change’ or ‘global warming’. We find that 66.4% of abstracts expressed no position on AGW, 32.6% endorsed AGW, 0.7% rejected AGW and 0.3% were uncertain about the cause of global warming. Among abstracts expressing a position on AGW, 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming…Our analysis indicates that the number of papers rejecting the consensus on AGW is a vanishingly small proportion of the published research. [Bold added.]
To repeat, there’s a bait-and-switch occurring here. As Friedman spells out in a very straightforward way, all you need to do is actually look at Cook et al.’s own tables in their paper to see that others (including Cook himself in a subsequent paper!) are misrepresenting their findings. Only 1.6% of the surveyed abstracts clearly say that humans are the main cause of global warming. The 97.1% figure includes papers that merely claim that some amount of warming can be attributed to human activities.
Many of the prominent scientists associated with the “denier” label–such as Richard Lindzen, Roy Spencer, Pat Michaels, and Chip Knappenberger (whom I feature here a lot)–would fit into this “consensus.” You could quite consistently hold the following beliefs:
(A) Human emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases have made the earth warmer than it otherwise would be. (Thus this person would be in the “97.1% consensus.”)
(B) Human activity has had a relatively minor role in the changing temperature/climate since 1750; other factors are far more significant.
(C) Climate change is not a problem worth worrying about. Malnutrition, war, and sanitary drinking water are far more urgent issues for the globe.
(D) Even if climate change poses a potentially serious threat to humans in a few decades, having governments enact certain tax policies today is not at all a suitable solution to this genuine problem.
To repeat, there is nothing contradictory about the above beliefs, and yet anyone holding (B) through (D) would be denounced as denying the “consensus.” (A)
The real issue is not whether one cares about nature, but whether one cares about people. Environmental sympathies are not in dispute; because one puts the interests of one’s children before the interests of the people down the street does not imply that one hates the neighbors, or even is uninterested in them. The central matters in dispute here are truth and liberty, versus the desire to impose one’s aesthetic and moral tastes on others.
— Julian Simon, The Ultimate Resource 2
Those pushing for aggressive government intervention in the name of fighting climate change often claim that “the science is settled” and dismiss any dissenters as “deniers.” The so-called “consensus” is codified in the periodic reports issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The alarmist camp’s repeated references to “peer-review” and the number of organizations behind the IPCC are rhetorically very effective; they have done a great PR job in making it look as if their political solutions really do flow naturally from what the scientists in white lab coats are reporting. But allegations from IPCC authors show that politics and not science drive the process at the IPCC.
As we have documented countless times on these pages (here’s the latest example), the alarmists greatly exaggerate when they claim that aggressive and immediate government action is needed to prevent catastrophe. When you readthe actual scientific literature, as opposed to the pithy summaries given by a few outspoken activists, then we see no cause for alarm. As we shall see, the latest findings stress a growing role for adaptation to a changing climate.
In the present post, I’ll walk through the recent statements issued by two bona fide experts on the economics of climate change: Richard Tol and Robert Stavins. Even though both of them played important roles in the latest IPCC report, they have publicly condemned the IPCC process as political, which distorts the underlying science and misleads policymakers and the public. Besides their impeccable credentials on this topic, Tol and Stavins are both supporters of a (modest) carbon tax. Therefore, their strong condemnations of the IPCC process should receive special attention from those who think “the science is settled” and that anyone challenging the alarmists is a “denier.”…
Jupiter’s Great Red Spot
- Jupiter’s Great Red Spot (GRS) is an atmospheric storm that has been raging in Jupiter’s southern Hemisphere for at least 400 years.
- About 100 years ago, the storm covered over 40,000 km of the surface. It is currently about one half of that size and seems to be shrinking.
- At the present rate that it is shrinking it could become circular by 2040. The GRS rotates counter-clockwise(anti-cyclonic) and makes a full rotation every six Earth days.
- It is not known exactly what causes the Great Red Spot’s reddish color. The most popular theory, which is supported by laboratory experiments, holds that the color may be caused by complex organic molecules, red phosphorus, or other sulfur compounds.
- The GRS is about two to three times larger than Earth. Winds at its oval edges can reach up to 425 mph (680 km/h)
- Infrared data has indicated that the Great Red Spot is colder (and thus, higher in altitude) than most of the other clouds on the planet
Must be all the SUVs and cow farts.
Most environmentalists think that resources are “natural.” But they’re not. No substance on earth - not iron ore, not petroleum, not even land - is a resource unless and until human beings creatively figure out how to use that substance to produce outputs cost-effectively. And innovative, free markets are by far the most powerful engine ever stumbled upon to power such human creativity. As the economic historians Gavin Wright and Jesse Czelusta put it, “the abundance of … mineral resources should not be seen as merely a fortunate natural endowment. It is more appropriately understood as a form of collective learning, a return on large-scale investments in exploration, transportation, geological knowledge, and the technologies of mineral extraction, refining, and utilization.”*
So the great irony is that the chief source of “natural resources” is the very economic institution - entrepreneurial capitalism - that environmentalists accuse of destroying natural resources.
But here’s the mystery. Suppose that Facebook released a report that, after listing a slew of possible dangers of people’s failure to connect even more fully to social media, demands policies that compel greater use of Facebook. Such a report would rightly be greeted with extreme and widespread skepticism. It would be seen as Facebook’s self-interested plea for policies that enhance its power, reach, and profits. So why does so little skepticism greet a government report that demands policies that compel greater use of government?
Why, in other words, does the same healthy distrust of a private company’s alleged demonstration of all the good that will come from forcing people to use more of its services not carry over to government’s alleged demonstration of all the good that will come from forcing people to use more of its services?
Don Boudreaux, responding to Chip Knappenberger statement that “[t]he National Climate Assessment is a political call to action document meant for the president’s left-leaning constituency. What pretense of scientific support that decorates it quickly falls away under a close and critical inspection.”
I’d take Boudreaux’s point one step further: I think history has proven that the public can be convinced to shed their “healthy distrust of a private company’s alleged demonstration of all the good that will come from forcing people to use more of its services” when the state serves as facilitator of those services, such as with health care.
- New IPCC Report Unwittingly Shows Weakness of Alarmist Camp
- Have Past IPCC Temperature Projections/Predictions Been Accurate?
- Nordhaus Not Even Warm In His Energy Predictions
- Exaggerating the Damage Caused by Climate Change
- We have a new climate change consensus — and it’s good news everyone: Adaptation cheaper/better than attempts at prevention
- 95% of Climate Models Agree: The Observations Must be Wrong
- On the Dubious Social Cost of Carbon, Part I
- Renowned climate scientist and originator of the Gaia hypothesis retracts and disavows previous alarmism
- Bits From the Latest IPCC Report + A Few More Bits from the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report
- Will The Overselling Of Global Warming Lead To A New Scientific Dark Age?
- Contra Nordhaus: Three corrections
- Dealing with Climate Change: Prevention vs Adaptation
- Chill Out About Global Warming: We can love nature and still hate the tyranny of bureaucrats’ rules
- Climate Forecast: Muting the Alarm - Even while it exaggerates the amount of warming, the IPCC is becoming more cautious about its effects
- Social Cost of Carbon Inflated by Extreme Sea Level Rise Projections
- The Administration’s Social Cost of Carbon Turns “Social Cost” on Its Head
- Hiding Regulatory Burdens through Faulty Social Cost of Carbon Calculations
- MIT Professor Urging Climate Change Activists To ‘Slow Down’
- A Perspective In Which Carbon Emissions Are Not a “Bad”
- Debunking the 97% ‘consensus’ on global warming
- UN author says draft climate report alarmist, pulls out of team
- Our Fragile Planet
- More Evidence for a Low Climate Sensitivity
- Researchers Professor Judith Curry and Dr. Marcia Wyatt find that a natural cycle is responsible for the 17-year pause in climate change–as well as the previous period of warming–during which there has been no statistically significant rise in the earth’s temperature since 1997.
- Richard Tol reveals biases in IPCC data/report, pulls out
- The IPCC Exposed
- Climate Models’ Tendency to Simulate Too Much Warming and the IPCC’s Attempt to Cover That Up
- Hot Air About Cold Air
- The secret, dirty cost of the green power push
- Going Bananas: Another Climate Change Hustle
- If People Are Like Polar Bears, We’ll Be Fine
- Some Like It Hot
- 2013: largest year-over-year temperature decline in the complete 119 year record—an indication that 2012 was an outlier more so than “the new normal.”
- Climate Science Is Settled. Really?
- Majority rules on climate science?
- A Climate Falsehood You Can Check for Yourself
- It’s mind-boggling. 0.8°C ago, around 1900, life expectancy was one half what it is now. Malaria was endemic. Food and water-borne illnesses were real killers. All have been pretty much vanquished, despite dreaded warming. Not a mention of this.
- Al Gore Forecasted “Ice-Free” Arctic by 2013; Ice Cover Expands 50%
- The Great Green Con: The global warming forecasts that are costing you billions were wrong all along
- Warming Predictions vs The Real World
- Understanding the IPCC Climate Assessment
- With or Without a “Pause” Climate Models Still Project Too Much Warming
- Scapegoating Skeptics
- On “Social Cost of Carbon” Calculations
- Are Climate Change Mitigation Policies a Form of Insurance?
- Climate and the ‘Maunder Minimum’
- What the New IPCC Global Warming Projections Should Have Looked Like
- Reducing Livability: How Sustainability Planning Threatens the American Dream
- AAAS’ Guide to Climate Alarmism
- UN’s New Climate Change Report an Embarrassment, Self-Serving and Beyond Misleading
- Observations Now Inconsistent with Climate Model Predictions for 25 (going on 35) Years
Everyone, including environmentalists, has needs more basic than a pristine environment. We don’t worry about the earth until our survival is secure. This is a natural ordering of needs. Yet environmentalists, after meeting their own basic needs, want to force the poor to reverse their preferences and put the earth before their own survival. I don’t think most environmentalists intend this, but it is the inevitable result of using the force of government to enact protection measures. This is neither desirable nor effective in the long run.
You may be able to do great harm to many of the world’s poor in exchange for some government attempt at environmental improvement (more likely to result in special-interest enrichment), but in the long run it is impossible to convince people to subjugate their survival to the perceived needs of their ecosystem. The real promise for environmental improvement is economic growth. Until people are wealthy enough to consider [voluntarily] paying the cost of a cleaner environment, the fight to force their choices is inhumane and ultimately ineffective.
One of the most disquieting features of the environmentalist movement is its evident abhorrence of modern technology and its Romanticist back-to-nature philosophy. Technology and civilization are responsible, they say, for crowding, pollution, despoliation of resources, so let us therefore return to unspoiled nature, to Walden Pond, to contemplation in a far-off glade. None of these critics of modern culture and civilization seem to realize that the back-to-nature path would not only mean shuffling off the benefits of civilization, but would also mean starvation and death for the vast bulk of mankind, who are dependent on the capital and the division of labor of the modern industrial market economy. Or are our modern Romantics operating on a death, as opposed to a life, premise? It very much looks that way.