Is Global Warming Real? Experts Pick Sides
Whether you call it “climate change” or “global warming,” roughly one-third of Americans simply don’t believe in it – at least as a genuine threat to humankind, according to surveys conducted this year by Monmouth University, Pew Research Center and Gallup. That reality might come as a shock to some, but there’s a reason why thousands of people ask the internet whether the phenomenon is merely a myth each month. There’s a lot of uncertainty out there.
Some people can’t quite wrap their heads around the science of climate change; some object on religious grounds. Others acknowledge that the climate is changing but don’t think humans are to blame. And many are no doubt buoyed by the president-elect leaving room for interpretation whenever asked about the issue.
Where doubters see grey areas, however, the scientific community finds overwhelming. At least 97% of scientists agree that manmade climate change is hurting the planet, according to recent studies, and many have been making the case for well over a decade. For example, Dr. Naomi Oreskes of Harvard University wrote in 2004 that, “Politicians, economists, journalists, and others may have the impression of confusion, disagreement, or discord among climate scientists, but that impression is incorrect.”
Regardless of where you currently stand or what preconceived notions you may have, climate change remains one of the fundamental issues facing society and our wallets. Increased regulation has the potential to disrupt an array of industries, for example, putting many people out of work. Green infrastructure spending could provide a stimulus in many respects, but would also depend on taxpayer dollars. And doing nothing, or even delaying much further, could literally drown many of the country’s largest economic centers while sparking a massive migration inland.
Considering the level of disagreement that surrounds this matter and how much ultimately is at stake, it’s at least fair to say that everyone needs a truly informed understanding of the issues at hand. With that in mind, we posed the question – Is global warming real? – to a panel of leading experts in related fields. In the interest of promoting an informed discussion, we limited discussion to professors and researchers with a doctorate in environmental science or public policy. You can find their bios and responses below. And if you’d like to join the debate, please share your thoughts in the Comments section at the bottom of the page.
Yes & It’s Bad
- It is easy for the 3% of climate-change denying scientists, who are based in the wealthiest country on the planet, to hold their ground. It must be nice to not worry about this daunting catastrophe about to threaten our lives, but for the majority of the people of the planet, especially those living in climate-vulnerable geographies, climate change is too real.
John Seager – CEO and President of Population Connection
- In a world full of problems, there are none that come close to the scope and potential for destruction, as global warning. Every citizen of Earth, not to mention the scores of flora and fauna that share our planet, has and will be increasingly affected by the man-made heating of our home.
Roland Lewis – President and CEO at Waterfront Alliance
- The false debate about global warming is not being waged in the scientific realm of facts and theories, but instead is being posed by special interests heavily invested in carbon-intensive industries, using the same tactics (and often the same firms) used to delay health warnings on cigarette labels and resist the removal of harmful lead from gasoline and paint. These criminals have no place at any debate, unless it is occurs behind bars.
Gabriel Filippelli, Ph.D – Professor of Earth Sciences and Adjunct Professor of Public Health at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and Director of the Center for Urban Health
The vast majority of scientists have no doubts about the reality and the devastating impact of climate change. It is an existential threat for our planet, and I could go on and on about how it is already shaping our planet, but I think the more important story is how it is impacting real people.
Now, for the first time ever, we have climate refugees. People are having to move out of their islands, their communities, and their homes because of unprecedented droughts, floods, and earthquakes. Just this year in the United States, the Department of Housing and Urban Development had to allocate nearly $50 million to relocating a community from Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana, after reoccurring devastating floods. Climate refugees not only lose their homes where they have raised their children, but in many cases, they also have nowhere else to go.
The problem goes beyond the U.S., of course. Many renowned experts warn that the rate of refugees coming to Europe and the Americas will increase with climate change’s growing impact, as local conflicts will be driven by control over resources that are becoming scarcer. From the Pacific Islands to Bangladesh, to our own backyard, climate change will lead to more people becoming refugees. In fact, according to the United Nations by 2050, more than 250 million people could become refugees, because of the impacts of climate change on their communities around the world.
It is easy for the 3% of climate-change denying scientists, who are based in the wealthiest country on the planet to hold their ground. It must be nice to not worry about this daunting catastrophe about to threaten our lives, but for the majority of the people of the planet, especially those living in climate-vulnerable geographies, climate change is too real.
This does not mean we should be discouraged. There is a lot we can do to make our communities more climate-resilient. A start is investing more in voluntary family planning. An estimated 225 million women in developing countries, lack affordable access to family planning services. Providing them with access and information, could not only reduce our global carbon footprint and make communities more likely to break out of the cycle of poverty, and therefore, more climate-resilient, but it could also empower women to make their own decisions about their own bodies and lives. We already have the key to facing any of our global issues: empowering women. The question is whether or not we will invest in it.
Those who still doubt this reality are in deep denial, or are living on another planet. The science demonstrating climate change is overwhelming and indisputable. This year has already set record for the hottest recorded half-year on record, and is set to surpass last year’s record, according to NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. The ten warmest years since 1880 have all occurred in the last eighteen years.
More than 95% of publishing climate scientists agree that our planet is warming, and that human activity is the primary cause. If you don't believe them, perhaps just look out the window or turn on your TV. You are likely to see daily high-tide flooding in coastal communities, record storms and droughts, or trees blooming on snowless ski slopes in the middle of winter. The rapid melting of Greenland’s ice sheet and the west Antarctica ice sheet pose an existential threat to billions of human lives clustered in metropolitan coastal areas.
Because of the fundamental changes brought forth by anthropogenic climate change, and the mass extinction of thousands of species, scientists are labeling the era we live the "Anthropocene", the geologic era of humans. It is not a compliment.
We got ourselves into this mess. We live in increasingly urgent hope that we can get ourselves out of it. If climate change is truly a global collective action problem, the best possible solution is a price on carbon that can limit the incentive to emit greenhouse gases into our atmosphere, and induce wider adoption of clean energy sources – a carbon tax. The Paris climate accords are a good start, committing each signatory to emissions reductions largely in accordance with their ability.
But America should be doing more to lead the way. No one likes taxes, but if carbon pricing can slow or reverse the greenhouse effect trend line, it is an outstanding bargain, saving our economy many multiples in avoided costs. The billions of dollars a warming earth has already cost us, pale in comparison to the trillions yet to come.
The question of whether man made climate change exists has been definitively answered. Right now, the survival of our species remains a very open question.
Over the last several years, many of us received letters from our insurance companies, abruptly cancelling our homeowners insurance because, after 25 years of faithfully paying for our coverage, we are no longer an acceptable risk, due to our close proximity to the sea. Homes that were once considered valuable waterfront property, are being bought out by FEMA and other government programs, which are encouraging a “strategic retreat” from low lying, vulnerable coastal communities. Homeowners who want to stay, are paying large sums of money to raise their homes 5 feet up, so that they have a chance to survive the next extreme weather event.
Global warming has been documented by hundreds of studies, conducted by thousands of scientists around the world. According to the US EPA, “Rising global temperatures are just one of the many indicators of climate change. Snow and rainfall patterns are shifting, and more extreme weather events, like heat waves and heavy rainstorms, are already taking place. The planet's oceans and glaciers have also experienced changes: oceans are warming and becoming more acidic, ice caps are melting and sea levels are rising. The sum total of these and other indicators are evidence that our world is getting warmer.” To some, these indicators are debatable, but for Long Islanders, these are facts that are causing us to make important changes for our infrastructure, our homes and of our way of life.
We don’t have the luxury of debating; we simply have the responsibility of mitigating the damage and adapting, so that life on this island can be sustainable.
Physical experiments demonstrate how greenhouses gases trap heat that can lead to a warmer earth. Climate models, from simple to complex calculations, track the flow of energy from the sun to different parts of the earth. These calculations have been tested by comparison to previous naturally occurring climate changes, and by comparison to the regional patterns of temperature changes that have occurred in last 100 years. The climate models show that about half of the climate changes that are occurring now, are caused by human activity. This science, indicating human activity is changing climate - has been replicated by many groups, and is widely accepted in the science community.
People who deny that humans are changing climate are using outdated science or misrepresenting small aspects of the science to confuse others. They have not developed a comprehensive understanding of all the science issues, or an alternate climate model that supports their findings. Human induced climate changes are more than just warmer temperatures. Increasing global temperatures force weather changes, that are making dry places drier and wet places wetter, result in more severe storms, increase sea level, increase the acidity of the ocean, and result in widespread changes to ecosystems.
If strong action is not taken, society will be forced to completely restructure where our food and water come from, and where we live. These irreversible changes will result in profound hardships, for the current and future generations. Our challenge is to reduce the use of carbon based fuels, so that current and future generations can prosper on a planet with a favorable climate and strong ecosystems.
First, there’s the science. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – the Nobel-prize-winning body, set up by the United Nations to assess the science of climate change – is known for being conservative. So, it’s significant that the IPCC’s 2014 report deemed the evidence of climate change to be “unequivocal”, pointing to warming of the atmosphere and oceans, melting of snow and ice, and rising sea level.
Just as the Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius predicted 120 years ago, increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – caused by burning fossil fuels and clearing forests – is warming the planet through the greenhouse effect. According to NASA, 2015 was the hottest year “since modern record-keeping began”, and 15 of the 16 warmest years have occurred since 2001.
But, if you’re skeptical of the science, there’s always first-hand experience. I’m a backyard gardener, and I’ve noticed that on average, the last frosts in the spring are coming earlier, a phenomenon occurring in most of the United States. Last year, my husband took a picture of me playing in the waves of the coast of North Carolina on December 27th, when the temperature topped 80 degrees Fahrenheit. I discovered there was a whole stream of photos depicting such unseasonable events on Twitter with the hashtag, #ClimateChangeChristmas.
My experiences with global warming are trivial, but many people have not been so lucky. Here in the United States, many fellow citizens have experienced extreme weather events in recent years, whether Hurricane Sandy in 2012, or the extended California drought. While scientists are careful not to attribute any particular weather event to climate change, it’s clear that warmer temperatures make such “natural” disasters more severe.
Even more important are the experiences of millions of people in developing countries who are already suffering the impacts of a changing climate, through exposure to acute events such as Hurricane Matthew in Haiti, or more chronic problems, such as longer fire seasons in the Brazilian Amazon. Poor households are particularly vulnerable to climate instability. Living in rickety housing, their safety is threatened by storms. With crops dependent on rainfall, their livelihoods are threatened by drought. And lacking insurance and mobility, they are ill-positioned to recover after disaster strikes.
As detailed in my new book, “Why Forests? Why Now?”, with co-author Jonah Busch, conserving tropical forests is one of the best ways to keep the planet cool, by reducing emissions from deforestation, and harnessing standing forests as a safe and natural carbon capture and storage technology. Forests also generate ecosystem services that are especially important for poor households, including resilience to the fires, floods, and landslides associated with climate change itself.
The first step is to accept that global warming is real; the second is to do something about it. Protecting forests is a critical part of the solution.
I want to provide a window onto why we scientists are so confident that global warming is occurring, and that it is caused largely by human beings.
Millions of words have been written about global warming in the popular media, scores of pundits have weighed in, and hundreds of politicians have pronounced their positions. But what do the scientists who actually study global warming have to say?
They say that human-produced greenhouse gases are the principle cause of global warming. Full stop, end of discussion kind of stuff. Scores of scientific bodies and advisory groups around the globe. Thousands of climate scientists and studies. Satellites, sea level gauges, ocean sensors, thermometers. Everything that we use to measure the globe—billions of dollars’ worth—say the same thing. Why are scientists so sure about the root link between easily observed massive increases in greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere from human activities, and the similarly observed increase in global air and sea temperatures? Physics and history.
By their nature, greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide are invisible to incoming ultraviolet radiation arriving from the sun, but trap the outgoing infrared radiation as heat. More greenhouse gas equals more trapping of heat. That is the physics of greenhouse gas molecules. This physics is also written in the geologic history of our planet. We experienced fluctuations in greenhouse gases in the geologic past, and every time these gases increased in the atmosphere, the planet got warmer, ice melted, etc.—you get the picture. The theory of global warming works on basic physics principles, and works on the actual earth as well. Works every time, in fact—come to my lab and I can show you!
But herein lies the disconnection between scientists and the general public—scientific theories are not opinions or crackpot guesses or drunken pronouncements. They are not “I have a theory about why poodles are dumber than collies” kinds of things. Theories are the culmination of tens, and even hundreds of years of observations that tell a consistent, fact-based story. Such is the case for Evolution, Plate Tectonics, and Global Warming as well.
The false debate about global warming is not being waged in the scientific realm of facts and theories, but instead is being posed by special interests heavily invested in carbon-intensive industries, using the same tactics (and often the same firms) used to delay health warnings on cigarette labels and resist the removal of harmful lead from gasoline and paint. These criminals have no place at any debate, unless it is occurs behind bars.
You simply can’t make physics go away by debating about whether it works, but I do have a real debate for you. How and where should resiliency be built into systems to protect vital or vulnerable sectors? How can we further incentivize the market to get off of carbon? How do we retrain workers whose lives and livelihoods have relied on a carbon-intensive economy to take advantage of new opportunities and better jobs? These debates use climate science to inform society—now that is a debate that I want to listen to.
Yes, But It’s Not Bad
- If we can move beyond arguments about the reality of global warming, accept the fact that change is an inherent part of our climate no matter what we do, and direct our attention to more important matters, we can help ensure that important and constructive dialogue take place.
Derek Monson – Director of Public Policy at Sutherland Institute
- Evidence of a global warming crisis does not exist. Indeed, if a several-degree temperature increase by the end of the century should sometime appear likely, previous warming cycles have shown planetary survival could again, miraculously, occur. Certainly, nothing has been written, said or done that suggests spending trillions of present and future dollars to prevent, it would actually do so. Studies are available, however, that have identified far more beneficial uses globally for such huge expenditures.
Paula Easley – Former Executive Director of the Resource Development Council for Alaska, and Independent Consultant specializing in Energy, Land & Natural Resources Policy
- Global warming is natural. The human impacts on climate exist primarily in faulty computer models that underlie the massive government interventions, now enriching well-organized groups who benefit from the vast sums being spent to deal with a non-problem.
Peter Holle – President and CEO at Frontier Centre for Public Policy
In other words, while it sounds interesting on its face, this question is actually a distraction from what we should really be talking about.
For example, focusing our attention on the reality of global warming distracts our attention from the fact that climate change models have thus far predicted between 1.7 and 3 times more warming in temperatures than we are actually seeing in temperature data. By extension, it preempts the scientific questions about human understanding of the climate that would otherwise naturally arise from the failure of climate models to accurately predict climate change.
Focusing on the reality of global warming also distracts us from addressing whether policy ideas that actively seek to influence climate change are more harmful – to both humans and the environment – than policies that simply adapt to a naturally changing climate. And it prevents us from coming to grips with the awkward reality - that proposed climate change policies do not hold much promise for significantly reducing warming temperatures, even though they do dramatically increase government intrusion into and control over people’s personal lives.
This is not to say that obsessing over the reality of global warming is without purpose. It certainly allows the extremes on either side to control the issue, and raise a lot of money (e.g., fundraising mailers that ask for money to help protect the world from “climate deniers”, or “climate alarmists”). This question also keeps reasonable people with differing perspectives – both opinion leaders and elected officials – a safe distance from each other, so that genuine dialogue, practical solutions and principled compromise never happens, thus allowing those currently in power to maintain the status quo.
These realities are major contributors to public cynicism, and sometimes outright disgust, with national politics and governance. Americans are tired of Pyrrhic electoral victories, that are long in promises and short on reasonable solutions, and justifiably so. They thirst for an elevated dialogue around issues like climate change, grounded in American principles and values, which by its nature will produce unexpected agreement, as well as principled compromise.
If we can move beyond arguments about the reality of global warming, accept the fact that change is an inherent part of our climate no matter what we do, and direct our attention to more important matters, we can help ensure that important and constructive dialogue take place.
However, the more relevant question to ask is, “how much of the climate change we have seen over the past century is anthropogenic, and how much natural?”, or its related scientific question, "how sensitive is Earth's climate to changes on its energy budget?" This is particularly relevant since there has always been climate change, and there always will be.
A plethora of empirical evidence suggests that natural climate drivers, and in particular, increased solar activity over the 20th century, have had an important contribution to the observed global warming. Without a large solar driver, one cannot explain, for example, the large - almost periodic changes - in the sea level, observed to be in sync with the solar cycle. Yet, such evidence is blatantly ignored, because of its implications.
If the sun has had a large effect on the climate, it implies that the observed global warming is the results of not just the human contribution, but also the natural solar activity changes. Namely, the same net warming is the consequence of a larger net increase in the radiative budget such that one requires a global climate sensitivity which is on the low side. In fact, this low sensitivity is consistent with further empirical data. For example, Earth over that past half billion years has witnessed 10-fold variations in the CO2 which appear to have no correlation with the temperature. This lack of correlation can be used to place an upper limit of about 1.5°C per CO2 doubling (compared with the canonical IPCC range of 1.5 to 4.5°C), implying that climate sensitivity has to be relatively low.
The low climate sensitivity implies that CO2 doubling over the 21st century will increase the temperature by no more than 2 degrees, and without doing anything drastic, we will fulfill the Paris Agreement goals. So, climate change is real, but significantly less worrisome than often perceived.
Science is never settled. Yet even most climate “skeptics” or “deniers” agree with global warming activists that the earth has warmed moderately since we started coming out of the Little Ice Age, more than a century and a half ago. Moreover, most would cede that manmade greenhouse gas emissions have contributed to the warming experienced over the last six decades. But the agreement ends there.
And that leaves a lot in the “unsettled” category. For example, climate experts disagree on the causes of climate change, and the degree to which - natural variations in solar and volcanic activity, and ocean oscillations like El Niño - contribute to global warming and global cooling. Also, elusive is agreement on: how much human activity affects climate, which climate data and temperature sets are most accurate, and which climate model can best predict the impact of manmade global warming centuries from now.
“Never mind all that,” the alarmists say. “We must act immediately —and big—if only to insure our children and grandchildren have a habitable planet.”
Even if you buy that argument, there’s no denying that the federal government’s global warming regulations are a very costly insurance plan. Moreover, they offer little to no climate protection.
Collectively, global warming policies have the same goal: drive the price of carbon-emitting fossil fuels higher, so people will use less. But hiking energy prices hurts everyone, low-income families most of all. And that’s only a small fraction of the economic pain.
Energy is a staple input for almost all sectors of the economy. Businesses will pass higher energy costs onto consumers, so families will be hit multiple times over – in grocery prices, housing prices, furnishings, clothing - even healthcare costs.
What climate benefit do we get in return? A change on the global thermometer, that’s barely noticeable. If the U.S. cut greenhouse gas emissions to zero today, grinding economic growth to a halt, climatologists estimate it would mitigate warming by no more than a few tenths of degree Celsius by 2100.
Activists argue that the U.S. needs to lead, so others will follow. But there’s no reason to believe that would inspire China, India and the rest of the developing world, to make meaningful CO2 cuts of their own. Despite their investments in renewable technologies, developing nations are still bringing a new coal-fired power plant on line every few days.
Meeting climate “commitments” is nowhere near the top of developing nations’ to-do lists. They’re focused on promoting economic development, obtaining access to reliable power, and addressing real environmental threats like dirty air and water pollution – neither of which has anything to do with carbon dioxide.
And that’s as it should be. Increasing access to affordable energy and growing economically will equip citizens with the resources needed to combat future challenges, whether they are climate-related or not.
One pertinent example is the Obama Administration’s power plant regulations, crafted by the EPA and environmentalists, to dramatically reduce their CO2 emissions. Alaskans have the nation’s second-highest electricity rates - after Hawaii - and the pending regulations (currently stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court) would increase them. Because all elements of the plan are legally enforceable by both state and federal governments, and our utilities admitted they couldn’t comply with their deadlines, implementation would generate an onslaught of citizen lawsuits.
Since the 1970s, Alaska’s economy has been subjected to environmental lawsuits, affecting virtually every public and private development proposal. These lawsuits have cost investors billions of dollars; they have prohibited countless employment opportunities; they have drained state and local revenues; and they have restricted basic quality of life improvements for Alaska communities that people elsewhere have long taken for granted. Requiring that new public and private projects conduct costly analyses of their impacts on climate change, is a gold-plated gift to elitist anti-development factions, as proving a negative can only be subjective.
Evidence of a global warming crisis does not exist. Indeed, if a several-degree temperature increase by the end of the century should sometime appear likely, previous warming cycles have shown planetary survival could again, miraculously, occur. Certainly, nothing has been written, said or done that suggests spending trillions of present and future dollars to prevent, it would actually do so. Studies are available, however, that have identified far more beneficial uses globally for such huge expenditures.
Most Americans do not believe a colorless, odorless, life-giving, non-polluting trace gas in the atmosphere can begin to control the world’s climate. And they are beginning to get the message that CO2, the miracle molecule, should be celebrated, not cursed.
The narrative that humans are responsible for climate change is derived from computer models used by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The main assumption in these computer models attempting to connect human activity to a warming planet, and justify massive policy change, increased bureaucratic control and central planning of our economy - especially increased taxation - is that minutely rising levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) - a harmless beneficial trace gas - are responsible for higher global temperatures.
These models have predicted temperature rises of several degrees over recent decades, however, none has occurred. Yet, the models have literally become gospel. Politicians and green interest groups are making massively disruptive and damaging changes across various policy envelopes, particularly the aggressive suppression of our conventional energy sectors – based on faulty IPCC models whose predictions are simply wrong.
There has been no warming since 1997. Not coincidently, this was when policy makers decided to stop talking about “global warming” and start talking about “climate change”. This was a convenient and practical change in lingo, because their predictions that increasing CO2 would cause warming temperatures have failed. The term “climate change” allows them to point at any change, and imply it was due to humans. In conclusion, global warming is natural. The human impacts on climate exist primarily in faulty computer models that underlie the massive government interventions, now enriching well-organized groups who benefit from the vast sums being spent to deal with a non-problem.
The answer is "yes", the data show some small warming at higher latitudes, and a slight cooling in the lower stratosphere, as predicted by most climate models. At the same time, the models do a very poor job of predicting temperature trends, and are very bad at explaining the historical record. The models cannot distinguish between the effects of natural phenomena and anthropogenic (manmade) influences; the earth has been warming in fits and starts since the end of the little ice age around 1800-1850. With respect to that nostrum that “the science is settled”, consider this: every climate model predicts that increasing GHG concentrations should create an enhanced heating effect in the tropical mid-troposphere. The satellites have never found it.
Several other parameters are not "real." The horror stories advertised by Al Gore, President Obama, various Hollywood climatologists, and all the other usual suspects are nowhere to be found. Annual increases in sea levels have been constant for around 8000 years. The arctic and Antarctic sea ice levels do not differ as a matter of statistical significance from their 1981-2010 averages; the arctic sea ice seems to be declining while the Antarctic is growing. The frequency and intensity of U.S tornadoes have been declining since the mid-1950s. The frequency and accumulated energy of tropical cyclones are near their lowest levels since satellite measurements began in the early 1970s. U.S. wildfires show no trend over the last thirty years. The Palmer drought severity index shows no trend since 1895. U.S. flooding over the last century is uncorrelated with increasing GHG concentrations. Global per capita food production has increased monotonically since 1993, and the global leaf area (“greening”) has increased about 14 percent since 1982, due in part to carbon dioxide fertilization.
Also not “real” are the effects of U.S. and international climate policies. If we apply the EPA’s own climate model, we discover that the Obama Climate Action Plan would reduce global temperatures in 2100 by 15 one-thousandths of a degree. Our share of the agreement with the Chinese? Another 1 one-hundredth of a degree. A cut in Chinese GHG emissions of 20 percent by 2030: 2 tenths of a degree. The same for a 30 percent reduction by the rest of the industrialized world. And an impossible 20 percent cut by the rest of the developing world: 1 tenth of a degree. The grand total: about half a degree.
What would be very real indeed, are the costs: 1-2 percent of GDP every year, inflicted disproportionately upon the world’s poor.
And so we arrive at the most central reality of all: The crusade against fossil fuels has little to do with the environment. Instead, it is a religious movement. The interpretation of destructive weather as the gods’ punishment of men for the sins of Man is ancient; and just as the pagans for millennia attempted to prevent destructive weather by worshipping golden idols, so do modern environmentalists now attempt to prevent destructive weather by bowing down before recycling bins. At a more general theological level: In the beginning, earth was the Garden of Eden. But mankind, having consumed the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Technological Knowledge, has despoiled it. And only through repentance and economic suffering can we return to the loving embrace of Mother Gaia. That is the enviros' preferred reality; but it should not be yours.
No, But Climate Change Is (And It’s Not Bad)
- There is strong evidence that the Earth was warmer than now during the Medieval Climate Optimum, around the year 1000, when Vikings settled Greenland. There have been many - even earlier - warm periods during past 10,000 years of our current interglacial. None of these warmings and coolings had anything to do with burning fossil fuels.
William Happer, Ph.D – Director of CO2 Coalition and Cyrus Fogg Brackett Professor of Physics at Princeton University
- The real danger to agriculture, and therefore to humanity, comes not from global warming but from episodes of global cooling, like ice ages and similar natural events, usually controlled by the sun, or by factors related to the motion of the Earth. There may be ways whereby we can ameliorate such cold periods; it behooves us to test various methods before disaster strikes.
S. Fred Singer, Ph.D – Professor Emeritus at the University of Virginia and Chairman of the Science & Environmental Policy Project and Author of Climate Change Reconsidered
- Fossil-fuel use makes us wealthier, and wealthier societies are better able to anticipate, mitigate, adapt to, and respond to the vagaries of climate change, regardless of the cause, or type of change.
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D - Research Fellow on Energy and the Environment at Heartland Institute
- High-profile environmentalists feed the narrative that we are on the cusp of environmental catastrophe, and fossil fuels and their greenhouse gas emissions are to blame. This decades-long talking point has fueled a furious debate among politicians, policymakers and special interest groups, who largely ignore the body of science that has yet to confirm the climate change disaster prophecy.
Kathy Hoekstra – Regulatory Policy Reporter at Watchdog.org
Alarmists, however, have succeeded in taking the scientific commonplace of a dynamic planet and convinced the scientifically illiterate that change is a problem. The real issues are whether or not current changes in the climate are anthropogenic (man-made) in origin, and amenable to public policy measures. The answer to both is yes, but to a very limited extent. Alarmists exaggerate both, and therein lies the political debate.
Only over the last century and a half, we have been able to measure the pace and extent of planetary warming and cooling, albeit with less accuracy than is often alleged. The surface temperature records, on which alarmists rely - are the product of highly manipulated, incomplete raw data which can, at best, give an estimate of global temperatures. The 37-year satellite record provides more complete and accurate information, but it also has its limitations. Nevertheless, all five global data sets point to the cyclical nature of warming and cooling, rather than the steady warming claimed by alarmists.
Over geological time, variations in the amount of solar energy that reaches the surface of our planet have been the principal source of warming and cooling. Solar output has varied over time, as have such factors as the Earth’s proximity to the sun, and the tilt of the Earth’s axis. These, in turn, affect the water cycle, i.e., oceanic circulation, and the cycles of evaporation and precipitation.
Carbon dioxide (CO2), the life-supporting gas that has been vilified by those pushing the climate change agenda, has at best a marginal impact for a number of reasons well-known to scientists. CO2’s role as a greenhouse gas is logarithmic; i.e., each additional molecule added to the atmosphere - has less impact than the previous molecule. As a greenhouse gas, CO2 plays a very minor role, compared to that of water vapor, by far the most important greenhouse gas. Alarmists rely on computer models that assume that rising CO2 levels amplify the water cycle, leading to the retention of more heat in the atmosphere. This increase only occurs in the models. In the more complicated real world, there is little evidence that the assumptions in the models are credible.
Over the last ten thousand years, there is evidence that human activity can have an effect on climate, but largely at the local level and at the margins, due to such factors as land-use changes. Rapid industrialization and population growth have played a limited role in accelerating these impacts; there is no evidence of fundamental changes in natural patterns over that period.
The increase in atmospheric levels of CO2 over the past two hundred plus years, and the coincidental mild warming of less than a degree Centigrade, have contributed to an increase in the planet’s productivity. Satellite telemetry points to significant greening over the past thirty years. Rather than bemoaning this gentle warming, we should celebrate it.
If there are climate-related public policy measures that are worth pursuing, they can be found at the local level and should be aimed at adaptation, particularly in poorer regions of the globe. As populations continue to grow, particularly in vulnerable areas, governments should ensure that they have programs in place, either to avert, or to ameliorate the impact of climate-related natural disasters - a natural reality, now elevated to apocalyptic proportions to boost the alarmist cause.
While there may be good reasons to reduce our reliance on fossil-based energy, and to develop alternative sources of energy, climate change is not one of them. The draconian measures favored by climate alarmists will have no impact on the climate, but they will have a significant impact on our economic well-being.
Michael Hart is a former official in Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Emeritus Professor of International Affairs at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. He is the author of Hubris: The Troubling Science, Economics, and Politics of Climate Change, available at Amazon and other online retailers.
The climate-alarm establishment went to a lot of trouble to change "global warming" to "climate change", because they knew very well that there was practically no warming to be seen over the past decade or two, certainly much less than their computer models predicted. All their talk about "record" high temperatures is junk science, where the alleged record increase - a few hundredth of a degree - is much less than the error of the measurements, And, the "record" is for a time scale of a century or less, carefully chosen to coincide with the natural recovery from the Little Ice Age, which began around the year 1800. There is strong evidence that the Earth was warmer than now during the Medieval Climate Optimum, around the year 1000, when Vikings settled Greenland. There have been many - even earlier - warm periods during past 10,000 years of our current interglacial. None of these warmings and coolings had anything to do with burning fossil fuels.)
The sole dispute is about the importance of this human contribution - and whether carbon dioxide from the burning of energy fuels is really significant.
Let me review here my main points:
- The United Nation’s IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has tried very hard to find evidence for a substantial human effect, from the observed increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide; CO2 is a known greenhouse (GH) gas. Yet, the IPCC’s five published assessment reports (1990 -2014) have not succeeded in presenting such evidence.
- Since the GH properties of CO2 are precisely known from laboratory measurements, many scientists have used such data to construct climate models, trying to simulate the Earth’s real atmosphere and its complicated processes. But the disagreement between observed and calculated global temperature changes has been striking. Other atmospheric parameters, like cloud cover and precipitation, show even greater discrepancies.
In other words, the models based on CO2 have never been validated – and therefore, should not be relied on to construct far-reaching policies that consider CO2 a dangerous atmospheric pollutant.
- On the contrary, hundreds of experiments have demonstrated the beneficial effects of increased CO2 for humanity and ecology. Atmospheric CO2 is a natural fertilizer that improves the growth of agricultural crops; at the same time, it reduces their need for water, and helps them survive droughts and other environmental stresses.
- The real danger to agriculture, and therefore to humanity, comes not from global warming but from episodes of global cooling, like ice ages and similar natural events, usually controlled by the sun, or by factors related to the motion of the Earth. There may be ways whereby we can ameliorate such cold periods; it behooves us to test various methods before disaster strikes.
Contrary to what celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio insist, there is simply no empirical evidence of man-made global warming.
Unfortunately, such high-profile environmentalists feed the narrative that we are on the cusp of environmental catastrophe, and fossil fuels and their greenhouse gas emissions are to blame. This decades-long talking point has fueled a furious debate among politicians, policymakers and special interest groups, who largely ignore the body of science that has yet to confirm the climate change disaster prophecy.
But, the bottom line on all sides of this debate is the real question: what role should government have in manipulating the climate based on an unproven premise?
Satellite data has found no global warming over the past 20 years. Numbers from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change show the earth’s temperature rose just 1.5 degrees from 1880 to 2012. And the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows few record high temperatures among U.S. states in recent years, while large-scale record highs were set back in the 1930s.
Regardless of the science - or lack thereof - the prevailing mission is to curb greenhouse gases through costly government regulations. President Barack Obama’s sweeping Clean Power Plan is one prime example, setting a national limit on power plant emissions reduce carbon output 32 percent by 2025. The plan is on hold, as a federal court considers a legal challenge brought by more than two dozen states, who say the plan oversteps federal authority, imposes expensive and unreasonable mandates, and would devastate the economy.
One analysis pits the total cost to the energy sector alone at $220 to $292 billion by 2033, and hike average electric bills for Americans eleven to 14 percent per year. And the poor will be hit the hardest, as they pay three times the percentage of their income to energy bills, than the wealthy.
All for what? The same climate model used by the Environmental Protection Agency shows that in one hundred years, the Clean Power Plan would reduce global temperatures by less than one-twentieth of one degree Fahrenheit. That’s not even significant enough to be measured, much less stop a hurricane or two, or keep an ice cap intact.
None of this is to say we should not work to be good stewards of the environment. Indeed, we already have been. As the American Enterprise Institute notes, the United States economy was twice as energy efficient in 2014 than in 1970, and not because of government regulations. Instead, innovation, greater energy efficiency and advances in technology have allowed greater production while using far less energy.
Humans are changing climate on a regional scale, and not always for the better. In some places, deforestation and slash-and-burn farming have resulted in shifting rainfall patterns, flooding, and desertification. And where megacities have developed, ecosystems that previously existed, no longer do - changing the course of rivers, draining underground aquifers, causing land subsidence, and contributing to flooding.
The recent increase in greenhouse-gas emissions and carbon dioxide, however, can have a small impact on Earth’s temperature and climate. Carbon dioxide is a valuable, naturally occurring gas that is vital to plant growth. Contrary to the way many portray this essential gas, it’s not a pollutant. Earth is greening in large part because of carbon-dioxide increases.
Climate models say temperatures should climb alongside rising carbon-dioxide levels, yet temperatures fell from the 1940s through the 1970s, even while emissions continued to rise. For the past two decades, carbon-dioxide levels have continued to increase, but global satellites have recorded no significant temperature increase for 18 years.
Climate models predicted more intense hurricanes, too, but for nearly a decade, the United States has experienced far fewer hurricanes making landfall, than the historic average, and those hurricanes that have made landfall, have been no more powerful than previously experienced.
Additionally, sea-level rise has slowed, polar bear numbers have increased, Antarctica is gaining ice, and crop production continues to set records year over year. Each of these points contradicts predictions made in climate models, produced by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Fossil-fuel use makes us wealthier, and wealthier societies are better able to anticipate, mitigate, adapt to, and respond to the vagaries of climate change, regardless of the cause, or type of change.
Scientists are still trying to determine how powerful, interconnected natural forces cause climate fluctuations on decadal, millennial and broader time scales. Primary factors include: changes in the sun’s energy and cosmic ray outputs, periodic shifts in Atlantic and Pacific circulation patterns, and Earth’s axis tilt and position on its elliptical orbit. El Niño warming events and La Niña cooling cycles play shorter term roles.
Many scientists and politicians, nevertheless, say carbon dioxide from fossil fuel use has supplanted these forces, and humans could control Earth’s temperature and climate by regulating CO2 emissions. This ignores important facts.
Carbon dioxide is an essential plant nutrient. Even at just 0.04% of Earth’s atmosphere (400 ppm), it is essential for all planetary life. More CO2 means crops, forests and grasslands grow faster and better.
Another byproduct of oil, natural gas, coal, ethanol, wood and dung burning – water vapor – is by far the most important “greenhouse gas.” (Methane, 0.00017% of the atmosphere, is an inconsequential factor.)
Fossil fuels have lifted billions out of poverty, malnutrition, disease and early death. Still, poor nations are burning them in ever-increasing amounts, to improve billions more lives. They will not cease doing so, even if rich nations completely end their fossil fuel use.
Wind, solar and biofuel energy require vast amounts of land and raw materials, to produce energy that is far less reliable and far more expensive than fossil fuels. Switching to renewable sources would dramatically reduce economies, jobs, living standards and life spans.
Most fundamentally, the issue is not whether CO2 affects Earth’s climate. The question is whether those emissions have overwhelmed powerful natural forces that have always governed the climate, and whether humans are now causing “dangerous” warning.
There is still no real-world evidence that this is the case. Indeed, a moderately warmer planet, with more atmospheric carbon dioxide would hugely benefit plant growth, wildlife and humans – with no or minimal climate effects.
A colder planet with less CO2 would punish them. And a chillier CO2-deprived planet with less reliable, less affordable energy would threaten habitats, species, nutrition, prosperity and the poorest among us.
Finally, Earth’s climate and weather are not behaving in accord with what we have been told to expect from rising CO2 levels.
Average global temperatures have risen barely 0.1 degrees in 19 years and are again trending down as El Niño reverses. Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets are growing. Seas are rising at barely seven inches a century. It has now been eleven years since a category 3-5 hurricane struck the US mainland; the previous record was nine years, 1860-1869, according to NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division.
America and all nations need reliable, affordable fossil fuel energy to improve lives, create and preserve jobs, prevent and recover from disasters, and adapt to future climate changes.
Paul Driessen is the author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power - Black Death and other books on the environment, and Senior Policy Analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow.
Perhaps the best indicator of climate trends is to be found in glaciers. Since about 1750, the general trend has been for glaciers to recede, but how old are those glaciers anyway? The Argentiére Glacier in the French Alps was very large in 1850, but by 1950 had receded enough to reveal Roman lead mines.
The Antarctic glaciers have been there for a million years, but ice cores taken right down to Terra Firma show that Greenland’s glaciers are only about 100,000 years old. During the previous interglacial (called the Eemian), Greenland had no glaciers; they were acquired during the most recent glacial period. Absent those in Antarctica, Greenland, and in a few places like Baffin Island, glaciers are not remnants of the last glacial period. Indeed, they have formed during the present interglacial on its descent into the next glacial period. As just one example, the Quelccaya glacier in Peru is only 1500 years old.
For 500 million years, there was no correlation whatsoever, between temperature and CO2 concentration. For the one last million years, the two have been correlated, with temperature changes preceding CO2 changes.
Current climate change is well within natural variability. That variability is much greater and more rapid than most people know or understand. The temperature change of the last 420,000 years ranges over 12°C with four periods much warmer than today. The world was warmer than today for 97 percent of the last 10,000 years.
The assumption is that a CO2 increase causes a temperature increase, but in every record, it is exactly the opposite. The only place where a CO2 increase causes a temperature increase, is in the computer models of the IPCC. It is the main reason every prediction they ever made was wrong.
The question is, why did they stop talking about global warming and start talking about climate change. The answer is, because their prediction that an increase in CO2 would cause an increase in temperature failed. Using climate change allowed them to point at any change, and imply it was due to humans. This was planned as the quotes indicate.
Image: ronniechua / iStock
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