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Global Warming



All Reason.com articles with the "Global Warming" tag.



Published: Wed, 13 Dec 2017 00:00:00 -0500

Last Build Date: Wed, 13 Dec 2017 03:37:22 -0500

 



Global Temperature Increases Are Lower and Slower, Says New Study

Mon, 04 Dec 2017 17:15:00 -0500

A new study using more than 38 years satellite and weather balloon temperature data hypothesizes that global temperatures are going up more slowly than projected by most climate models. And right on time, these results were challenged by other researchers who defend the scientific climate consensus as embodied in Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports. The new study done by University of Alabama in Huntsville climatologists John Christy and Richard McNider published in the Asia-Pacific Journal of Atmospheric Science argues consensus models may not have accurately captured how storms in the tropics expel excess heat back into space and/or that they have failed to account for how heat is absorbed by the world's oceans. Christy and McNider took into account the effects of volcanic eruptions (cooling) and El Nino (heating) and La Nina (cooling) perturbations on global temperatures during the past 38 years. What they found was warming in the lower troposphere where the bulk of our planet's atmosphere is located at a rate of about 0.096 degrees Celsius per decade. This trend implies that global temperatures will be about 1.1 (± 0.26) degrees Celsius warmer at the time carbon dioxide produced from burning fossil fuels and land use changes doubles in the atmosphere. This is about half of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) estimate of 2.31 (± 0.20) degrees Celsius warmer for a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide. "From our observations we calculated that value as 1.1 C (almost 2° Fahrenheit), while climate models estimate that value as 2.3 C (about 4.1° F)," Christy said in a press release. "Again, this indicates the real atmosphere is less sensitive to CO2 than what has been forecast by climate models. This suggests the climate models need to be retooled to better reflect conditions in the actual climate, while policies based on previous climate model output and predictions might need to be reconsidered." John Abraham, a professor of thermal and fluid sciences at the University of St. Thomas School of Engineering in Minnesota, asserted in The Daily Mail that Christy and McNider have "manipulated the raw measurements to decrease warming by about 38 percent." If by manipulate, Abraham means that Christy and McNider have tried to take into account the effects of volcanic eruptions sending cooling sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere and the large swings in global average temperatures caused by the natural El Nino and La Nina phenomenon, then yes. They have done nothing underhanded or wrong. It is hard not conclude that Abraham is being disingenous when he accuses Christy and McNider of data manipulation. Abraham must know the surface temperature datasets relied upon by IPCC are also "manipulated," using homogenization procedures to take into account weather station moves, instrument changes, time of observation changes, and urban heat island biases. If the amount of warming expected from a doubling of carbon dioxide is much lower than most climate models project that implies that catastrophic climate outcomes are less likely and that humanity will have extra time to adjust to whatever warming eventually results from the increase in the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.[...]



Destroy Capitalism to Save the Climate, Argues New York Times Op-Ed

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 12:45:00 -0500

The New York Times is running an op-ed by Benjamin Y. Fong, essentially reprising progressive simpleton Naomi Klein's 2014 screed, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. In "The Climate Crisis? It's Capitalism, Stupid," the solution to anything Fong dislikes, just like Klein, is the abolition of private property and the imposition of socialism. Fong argues: The real culprit of the climate crisis is not any particular form of consumption, production or regulation but rather the very way in which we globally produce, which is for profit rather than for sustainability. So long as this order is in place, the crisis will continue and, given its progressive nature, worsen. This is a hard fact to confront. But averting our eyes from a seemingly intractable problem does not make it any less a problem. It should be stated plainly: It's capitalism that is at fault. In my review of Klein's book I explained: Canonical Marxism predicted that capitalism would collapse under the weight of its class "contradictions," in which the bourgeoisie profit from the proletariat's labor until we reach a social breaking point. In Klein's progressive update, capitalism will collapse because the pollution produced by its heedless overconsumption will build to an ecological breaking point. "Only mass social movements can save us now," she declares. Fong, faculty fellow at Barrett, the Honors College at Arizona State University and the author of Death and Mastery: Psychoanalytic Drive Theory and the Subject of Late Capitalism, similarly observes, "As an increasing number of environmental groups are emphasizing, it's systemic change or bust. From a political standpoint, something interesting has occurred here: Climate change has made anticapitalist struggle, for the first time in history, a non-class-based issue." Klein dismisses the possibility that advances in modern science and technology incentivized through free markets can solve whatever problems that man-made climate change may pose as the 21st Century unfolds. Klein sneers that such thinking embodies the attitude that "We will triumph in the end because triumphing is what we do." Fong likewise asserts that as long as capitalism exists it is vain to expect intelligent people to come up with technical solutions to climate change. "The simple fact that the work of saving the planet is political, not technical," he argues. "For anyone who has really thought about the climate crisis, it is capitalism, and not its transcendence, that is in need of justification." As a guide to the glorious post-capitalist climate-stable future, Fong actually recommends, Communism for Kids by social theorist Bini Adamczak. "Once upon a time, people yearned to be free of the misery of capitalism. How could their dreams come true?," reads the MIT Press promotional copy. "This little book proposes a different kind of communism, one that is true to its ideals and free from authoritarianism." The book is accompanied "by illustrations of lovable little revolutionaries experiencing their political awakening." You really can't make this stuff up. It's hard to believe in the 21st century that folks like Fong seem totally unaware of the massive humanitarian, ecological, and economic disasters caused by communism. In contrast, the spread of free markets over the past two centuries causes people to live flourishing lives. In my 2012 article. "Free Markets = Sustainable Development," I point out: There is only one proven way to improve the lot of hundreds of millions of poor people, and that is democratic capitalism. It is in rich democratic capitalist countries that the air and water are becoming cleaner, forests are expanding, food is abundant, education is universal, and women's rights respected.... By vastly increasing knowledge and pursuing technological progress, past generations met their needs and vastly increased the ability of our generation to meet our needs. We should do no less for future generations. At Scientific American I added: To truly address climate change, resp[...]



Trump Did Not 'Suppress' the New National Climate Science Special Report

Fri, 03 Nov 2017 16:15:00 -0400

Despite the fears of some climate activists, the Trump administration did not suppress any of the conclusions in the National Climate Assessment program's new Climate Science Special Report. The new report essentially bolsters the climate change consensus that the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere derived chiefly from burning fossil fuels is warming the planet at a relatively rapid rate. The new report is being issued just as the latest United Nations climate change conference gets ready to start up next week. So what does the report find? (1) Global annually averaged surface air temperature has increased by about 1.8°F (1.0°C) over the last 115 years (1901–2016). (2) Based on extensive evidence...it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century [emphasis in report]. For the warming over the last century, there is no convincing alternative explanation supported by the extent of the observational evidence. (3) Global average sea level has risen by about 7–8 inches since 1900, with almost half (about 3 inches) of that rise occurring since 1993. Human-caused climate change has made a substantial contribution to this rise since 1900, contributing to a rate of rise that is greater than during any preceding century in at least 2,800 years. (4) Relative to the year 2000, global mean sea level is very likely to rise by 0.3–0.6 feet (9–18 cm) by 2030, 0.5–1.2 feet (15–38 cm) by 2050, and 1.0–4.3 feet (30–130 cm) by 2100. (4) Annual average temperature over the contiguous United States has increased by 1.8°F (1.0°C) for the period 1901–2016; over the next few decades (2021–2050), annual average temperatures are expected to rise by about 2.5°F for the United States, relative to the recent past (average from 1976–2005).... (5) The frequency of cold waves has decreased since the early 1900s, and the frequency of heat waves has increased since the mid-1960s (the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s remains the peak period for extreme heat in the United States). Over at The Wall Street Journal, physicist Steven Koonin, who served as undersecretary of energy for science in the Obama years, describes the new report as "deceptive." He acknowledges that "much is right in the report" but thinks its tone is misleading in some important areas. Specifically, he notes that the recent rate of sea level rise is just as fast as during various periods in the 20th century, and that heat waves are no more frequent than they were in 1900. Koonin suggests: These deficiencies in the new climate report are typical of many others that set the report's tone. Consider the different perception that results from "sea level is rising no more rapidly than it did in 1940" instead of "sea level rise has accelerated in recent decades," or from "heat waves are no more common now than they were in 1900" versus "heat waves have become more frequent since 1960." Both statements in each pair are true, but each alone fails to tell the full story. Koonin wants to remedy what he thinks are deficiencies in the way climate science is assessed by "convening a 'Red/Blue' adversarial review to stress-test the entire report." Given the thorough politicization of climate science, I doubt that the results of such a review would satisfy either alarmists or deniers.* Watch this space next week for a more detailed analysis of the report. *The epithets that global warming partisans use to denounce their opponents.[...]



California Wants to Ban All Gas-Powered Cars

Thu, 28 Sep 2017 13:00:00 -0400

(image) California Gov. Jerry Brown is reportedly considering a ban on all gas-powered cars.

No, seriously.

Mary Nichols, head of California's Air Resources Board, told Bloomberg News this week that Brown has been pestering her about getting a gas-car ban on the books.

"I've gotten messages from the governor asking, 'Why haven't we done something already?'" she said, adding that Brown is particularly worried that his planet-saving efforts might be outshined by those of other countries.

The United Kingdom and France have both said they will ban the sale of gas and diesel by 2040. Norway's transportation plan calls for all new passenger vehicles to be zero-emission by 2025. India wants to make the switch to electric by 2030.

But it's the People's Republic of China, currently drafting its own ill-defined ban on the production and sale of fossil-fuel-powered vehicles, that is giving Brown the most grief.

Says Nichols, "The governor has certainly indicated an interest in why China can do this and not California."

Apart from envying the autocratic powers of a communist dictatorship, Brown has not said what a ban on gas and diesel vehicles might look like. Nichols herself offers scant detail, other than saying that a complete ban on the sale of new combustion-powered vehicles could arrive as early as 2030 and that all combustion would have to be phased out by as early as 2040.

That's...optimistic. California currently has a goal of getting 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) on the road by 2025, and the prospects of reaching even this far more modest goal are in question.

Despite generous subsidies, purchases of ZEVs still hover below 3 percent of new vehicles sales. Only 13,804 were sold in California in the first quarter of 2017, out of 506,745 in total new vehicle sales.

Only 300,000 "clean vehicles," of which roughly half are partially gas-powered hybrids, have been sold in California. Purely electric vehicles are about .4 percent of the nearly 35 million registered vehicles on the state's roads.

To achieve Brown's goals, he will have to compel 99.6 percent of California drivers to trade in their gas guzzlers for electric vehicles that they currently find too expensive or too impractical. And that doesn't even touch on the issue of providing enough charging stations for these vehicles, or of generating enough electricity to power those stations.

Nor does it cover the issue of affordability. Right now, electric cars are the domain of the well-to-do. A 2016 Berkeley study found that 83 percent of those making use of California's electric vehicle subsidy program made over $100,000.

Getting the rest of the state into these cars would require massive subsidies. Even then, many might end up going without personal transportation.

How any of these practical considerations might be addressed is unknown. Right now, the ban is still just talk. But it's talk that Brown and his subordinates are taking seriously.




Brickbat: Stifling Intellectual Competition

Fri, 22 Sep 2017 04:00:00 -0400

(image) Following a 14-month investigation, Canada's Competition Bureau has closed a probe of three groups accused by environmentalists of making misleading claims about global warming. But the bureau says it may reopen the investigation if it receives new information.




Climate Models Run Too Hot: Settled Science Again

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 10:30:00 -0400

Climate computer model projections of future man-made warming due to human emissions of carbon dioxide are running too hot, says a fascinating new study in Nature Geoscience. Consequently, researchers reckon that humanity has more time to prevent dangerous future climate change than had been suggested earlier by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This is really good news. This new article shows that climate science is not yet "settled science." Of course, this is just one article among many thousands addressing aspects of man-made climate change. While its authors are members in good standing in the climate science establishment, they could be wrong. In fact, on the same day as the Nature Geoscience study was published, the United Kingdom's Met Office issued a report that says this: "After a period during the early 2000's when the rise in global mean temperature slowed...the long-term rate of global warming has now returned to the level seen in the second half of the 20th century." The Met Office attributes the temperature slowdown in the early 21st century to natural climate variations. Specifically, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation had flipped to its cool phase, thus masking ongoing man-made global warming between 1999 and 2014. If true, this would suggest that the climate models are right after all about the long-term temperature trends and that the carbon budget is smaller than the new study calculates. So what did the Nature Geoscience researchers do? They began by calculating what the global carbon budget should be in order to keep future temperatures from rising 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average. Why that level? Because the signatories to the Paris Agreement on climate change committed to "holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels." The researchers next pointed out that the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report, from 2013, estimated that cumulative carbon dioxide emissions since 1870 would have to remain less than 2,260 gigatons of carbon dioxide to stay below the 1.5 C threshold. But as of 2014, cumulative emissions stood at just over 2,000 gigatons of carbon dioxide. Since humanity is currently emitting about 36 gigatons of carbon dioxide annually, that implies that humanity would blow through the remaining IPCC carbon budget around 2021. Here's where it gets interesting. The average global temperature now stands at about 0.9 C above the pre-industrial baseline, which implies that global temperature would have to increase by 0.6 C between now and 2021 if the IPCC carbon budget calculations were right. This is highly implausible since such an increase would be about 10 times faster than than what has actually heretofore been observed. "Taking an average across ESMs [Earth systems models] suggests that our cumulative emissions to date would correspond to about 0.3 C more than best estimates of human-caused warming so far," lead author Richard Millar concludes at CarbonBrief. In the London Times another author of the paper—Myles Allen, a professor of geosystem science at the University of Oxford—said, "We haven't seen that rapid acceleration in warming after 2000 that we see in the models. We haven't seen that in the observations." In other words, climate computer models projected the global average temperature should be about 1.2 C above the pre-industrial baseline for the 2,000 gigatons of carbon dioxide already emitted. Instead, global average temperature is only 0.9 C higher. Running the models forward from a 2015 baseline yields a carbon budget of around 880 gigatons of additional carbon dioxide before passing through the 1.5 C threshold. That amounts to about 20 years of emissions. Glen Peters, a senior researcher at the Center for International Climate Research in Norway, draws out som[...]



Climate Change Will Reduce Incomes in 2100 from $97,000 to $95,000

Tue, 19 Sep 2017 11:05:00 -0400

(image) The Yale economist William Nordhaus has spent decades using a combination of econometric and climate models to estimate global warming's future effects. He isn't the only researcher who's been attempting to make such projections, and Nordhaus' latest study considers a range of different estimates. (Get your salt shaker ready.)

In a new National Bureau of Economic Research working paper, Nordhaus and his colleague Andrew Moffatt survey 36 different estimates (derived from 27 studies) of climate change's impact on gross world product by the year 2100. Nordhaus and Moffatt note that "there are many studies of theoretical temperature increases in the 2 to 4°C range, and that they cluster in the range of a loss of 0 to 4% of global output." After crunching the numbers, they report:

The estimated impact from the preferred regression is 1.63% of income at 3°C warming and 6.53% of income at a 6°C warming. We make a judgmental adjustment of 25% to cover unquantified sectors....With this adjustment, the estimated impact is -2.04 (+ 2.21)% of income at 3°C warming and -8.16 (+ 2.43)% of income at a 6°C warming.

The authors note that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Fifth Assessment Report declined to make an estimate of future losses, but in the Fourth Report, the panel stated that "Global mean losses could be 1 to 5% of GDP for 4°C of warming." This means that Nordhaus and Moffatt's findings are broadly in line with the climate change consensus.

So what do these findings portend for people lucky enough to be alive in 2100? Let's consider the best-case scenario first. Annual gross world product is currently somewhere around $75 trillion, which without adjustments means that global income stands at around $10,000 per capita. Assume 3 percent economic growth from now until 2100, and a global population that year of 9 billion. Without climate change, world GDP would rise to $872 trillion and income would be $97,000 per capita. Assuming a 3°C increase in average temperature, that would reduce global GDP from $872 trillion to $854 trillion, and income to $95,000 per capita. At 6°C, the figures would be $800 trillion and $89,000 per capita.

In the unlikely event that global economic growth dawdles along at only 2 percent per year for the rest of this century, gross world product would rise to only $388 trillion and income to $43,000 per capita without warming. A 3°C rise in average temperature would reduce global GDP to $380 trillion and income to $42,000 per person; a 6°C increase would cut global GDP to $360 trillion and income to $40,000 per person.

The Nordhaus and Moffatt survey of studies also found "no indication from the damage estimates of a sharp discontinuity or high convexity." In other words, the studies do not identify threshold effects in which damages from climate change accelerate in the future.

These calculations bring up this question: How much should people living today making an average of $10,000 apiece spend in order to prevent the future incomes from falling from $97,000 to $95,000 per capita?

Now is the time to get out your salt shaker and liberally apply the sodium chloride to these calculations.




Calm People vs. the Apocalypse [Podcast]

Mon, 11 Sep 2017 17:35:00 -0400

"Maybe the way of thinking about discourse in America is not about right and left, or liberal and conservative, or green and carbon belcher," says Reason's Nick Gillespie, "but are you an apocalyptic or not?"

On today's podcast, Gillespie joins Katherine Mangu-Ward, Matt Welch, and Andrew Heaton to talk alarmism—over the debt ceiling and the causes of Hurricane Irma. They also discuss misguided policy responses to September 11th by liberals and conservatives.

Plus an abundance of economic fallacies, from the notion that natural disasters spur economic growth to prosperity through war.

Subscribe, rate, and review the Reason Podcast at iTunes. Listen at SoundCloud below:Subscribe, rate, and review the Reason Podcast at iTunes. Listen at SoundCloud below:

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The Administrative State Strikes Back: Federal Climate Change Draft Report Leaked

Tue, 08 Aug 2017 14:25:00 -0400

A draft version of the U.S. Global Change Research Program Climate Science Special Report has been leaked to The New York Times. Notwithstanding the Times' alarmist headline suggesting "drastic" climate impacts on the U.S., a glance through the 545-page report finds that it is essentially an aggregation of climate change studies that support the scientific consensus that man-made global warming is occurring. According to the report, the global annual average temperature has increased by more than 1.6°F (0.9°C) from 1880 to 2015; the average annual temperature of the contiguous U.S. has increased by about 1.2°F (0.7°C) between 1901 and 2015. Climate models project increases of at least 2.5°F (1.4°C) over the next few decades, which means that recent record-setting years in the U.S. will be relatively "common" in the near future. The report concurs with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's conclusion that it is "extremely likely that most of the global mean temperature increase since 1951 was caused by human influence on the climate." The report also finds that extremely cold days in the U.S. have become fewer while the number of extremely hot days has increased. In addition, extreme percipitation events have become more common in the U.S. The report notes that there is still considerable controversy among researchers when it comes to future trends in hurricane frequency and intensity. Politicians, like most people, don't want to hear bad news that appears to contradict their views. The saga of how the the first National Climate Assessment fared under the George W. Bush administration is cautionary tale. Basically, Bush administration officials edited the report in ways that suggested greater uncertainty about scientific findings than the researchers who put together the report thought were warranted. That effort backfired when the administration's artful editing was leaked to and reported by the media. The new report states that "it does not include an assessment of the literature on climate change mitigation, adaptation, economic valuation, or societal responses, nor does it include policy recommendations." This appears to be accurate, though the report does note that "significant reductions in global CO2 emissions relative to present-day emission rates" would be needed to meet the Paris Agreement on Climate Change's goal of limiting future warming to below 2°C. Scientific data can identify a problem, but they do not tell policy makers the right way to handle a problem. Maybe the best thing to do is to let emissions increase while growing the economy as fast possible, so as to create the wealth and technologies that will enable future generations to deal with whatever problems climate change may generate. Or perhaps more research needs to be directed toward developing cheap low-carbon energy technologies. The report was no doubt leaked by someone with an agenda, and I don't blame anyone in the Trump administration who thinks a shadow science group of Obama leftovers is trying to thwart what it perceives as the president's climate and energy policies. In any case, since that the draft report is available to anyone with an internet connection, it would be ridiculous for officials to try to "suppress" it now. Update: Climate report found over at Internet Archive. Fox News cites several researchers who assert that that means it's been public for months. When the National Academy of Sciences released its report evaluating the process for how the draft Special Report was put together, I did a fairly extensive online search for the draft report and could not find it. Even now over at the official federal U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) website the link to any copy of the report appears to be absent - maybe because the comment period is over? Even so, why not leave the report availab[...]



Why the Left Can't Solve Global Warming

Fri, 28 Jul 2017 09:55:00 -0400

Environmentalists have been waxing apocalyptic about global warming for several decades now. But what do they have to show for it? America's president just pulled out of the Paris climate accord, leaving a rudderless and bereft global movement. And even if he hadn't, the nation has little appetite for meaningful political action on climate change. Why have environmentalists failed so utterly to push their cause forward after all this time? Because they've gone about it all wrong. Instead of treating global warming like a problem that needs to be addressed regardless of what caused it, the green left has been more obsessed with establishing humanity's culpability and embracing ever more extreme and painful mitigation steps, as if they were more concerned with punishing the perpetrators than solving the problem. Global warming guru Al Gore in 1992 called for the elimination of the internal combustion engine from the planet in 25 years. But the accursed engine is nowhere close to going away given that auto sales (and not hybrids and electrics) are projected to grow for decades to come. Many environmentalists want to eradicate fossil fuels. This will never happen—or at least won't happen for a long, long time—especially in emerging economies that need cheap fuel to spur development and deliver decent living standards. Undeterred, liberals are now saying that we should save the planet by having fewer kids, each of whom creates 58 tons of carbon dioxide each year (more for American parents). This is a ludicrous suggestion that will further drive a wedge between middle-class Americans who live for their families and yuppie, green Americans who live for the enviroment. But the further problem with all these remedies is that they suffer from what's called the collective action problem. Take, for example, forgoing children: If some people forgo but others don't, the former will suffer a deep personal loss and the planet will be no better off. Hence everyone waits for someone else to go first and the "solution" doesn't even get off the ground. If environmentalists want to succeed, they'll have to begin by transforming their own attitudes, focusing less on asking people to sacrifice to save the planet, and focusing much more on smart technological solutions that solve our climate problem without asking so much from us. Morally shaming people into voluntary action doesn't work. And the more attached people are to the things that they are being shamed into giving up, the less effective this strategy. Environmentalists' other strategy to overcome the collective action problem is government coercion to force polluters to cease and desist. But governments, especially democratic ones, don't have carte blanche to inflict endless pain on their citizens without being booted out. That's why Europe's cap-and-trade scheme—under which each industry got a free carbon quota beyond which it had to buy offsets from less polluting companies with permits to spare—has shown pathetic results. Countries simply gamed the program to give their industries a reprieve. A global carbon tax, though in theory a less messy solution, has even less chance of ever being embraced for all kinds of reasons, including that poor countries will expect rich countries to impose a higher tax because they caused the problem in the first place, while rich countries will expect poor countries to shoulder more of the burden as they are currently the bigger polluters. (Given that many global warming warriors fancy themselves to be progressives fighting for the underdog, they should bear in mind that in this battle, might will prevail over right and poor countries will have to face the brunt.) If the environmental movement is serious about addressing climate change, it will have to forget about the fact that humans caused (and are [...]



What the Left Is Doing Wrong in Fighting Global Warming: New at Reason

Fri, 28 Jul 2017 09:55:00 -0400

After three decades of trying, the environmental left is nowhere close to solving global warming. For reasonable people that would be time enough to(image) fundamentally rethink their strategy.

But not for this movement, notes Reason Foundation Senior Analyst Shikha Dalmia.

It keeps demanding ever more outrageous sacrifices on the part of its fellow humans, the latest being that they should have fewer children. But if the movement hasn't succeeded in forcing people to give up their cars and ACs, how in the name of Gaia will it ever get them to give up kids? It's whole approach is riddled with the collective action problem.

There are ways to overcome it and avert planetary catastrophe. But that'll require the greens to give up the blame game and think of global warming more like a meteor strike: An event humanity didn't cause but from which it has to be saved.




Why Does the Left Keep Losing Its Fight Against Global Warming?

Mon, 24 Jul 2017 10:40:00 -0400

For three decades, environmentalists have been claiming that if we don't do something—and fast—to fight global warming, we'll all turn into pumpkins by(image) the end of the century or so. Yet they've made very little headway in getting humanity to act on their suggested remedies. Their latest recommendation is that people should have fewer children.

But I note in my morning column at The Week, the problem with all their "solutions" is that they suffer from the collective action problem, namely getting people to make painful sacrifices without knowing if others will follow suit. For example, if some people forgo children but others don't, the former will suffer a deep personal loss and the planet will be no better off. Hence everyone waits for someone else to go first and the "solution" doesn't even get off the ground.

I note:

If the environmental movement is serious about addressing climate change, it will have to forget about the fact that humans caused (and are causing) the warming and think of our problem like a meteor strike — a catastrophic event that humanity did not cause but from which it has to be saved. In other words, enviros will have to look for technological fixes that don't depend on the environmental equivalent of Mao's cultural revolution to get people to embrace carbon-free lifestyles.

Go here to read the whole thing.




Apocalypse Abuse and 'Climate Doomism'

Thu, 13 Jul 2017 14:00:00 -0400

"There is a seduction in apocalyptic thinking. If one lives in the Last Days, one's actions, one's very life, take on historical meaning and no small measure of poignance," Eric Zencey wrote in 1988. "Apocalypticism fulfills a desire to escape the flow of real and ordinary time, to fix the flow of history into a single moment of overwhelming importance." Lawrence Buell has called apocalypse "the single most powerful master metaphor that the contemporary environmental imagination has at its disposal." The seduction of apocalyptic thinking is on full and lurid display in David Wallace-Wells' article "The Uninhabitable Earth," published in New York magazine earlier this week. The subtitle says it all: "Famine, economic collapse, a sun that cooks us: What climate change could wreak—sooner than you think." Wallace-Wells is engaging in "apocalypse abuse," a term I believe I first encountered in Edith Efron's magnificent and prescient book The Apocalyptics. As I wrote in my 1993 book Eco-Scam, "'apocalypse abusers' typically extrapolate only the most horrendous trends, while systematically ignoring any ameliorating or optimistic ones, offering worst-case scenarios in the guise of balanced presentations." "It is, I promise, worse than you think," Wallace-Wells begins. "Indeed, absent a significant adjustment to how billions of humans conduct their lives, parts of the Earth will likely become close to uninhabitable, and other parts horrifically inhospitable, as soon as the end of this century." Instead of relying on more mainstream projections, Wallace-Wells cherry-picks the worst-case scenarios for melting glaciers, rising sea levels, temperature increases, crop failures, species extinctions, and more. Reacting in a Facebook post, the Penn State climatologist Michael Mann—not a man who's known to underplay the dangers of man-made climate change—declared: "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The article fails to produce it." Mann followed up today with a Washington Post op-ed. Wallace-Wells, he writes, "paints an overly bleak picture, arguing that climate change could render the Earth uninhabitable by the end of this century." He cites several examples of how the New York piece misleads readers, including its misrepresentations about the dangers posed by methane trapped arctic permafrost and recent adjustments to satellite temperature records. Mann is not alone in his criticisms. Another Washington Post article today, this one by Chris Mooney, cites a tweet from the University of Washington glaciologist Eric Steig: "What's written's actually beyond worst possible case. THIS is the 'alarmism' we get accused of. It's important to speak out against it." Many climate scientists object to the article because they fear that such doomism will induce a sense of fatalism in the public and among policy makers. If the end is nigh, why not just sit back and enjoy our time before the apocalypse? In 1989, the Stanford climatologist Stephen Schneider notoriously argued, "We have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This 'double ethical bind' we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both." Some climatologists evidently think that Wallace-Wells has gotten the balance badly wrong. In Eco-Scam, I wrote that apocalypse abusers offer "lurid scenarios of a devastated earth, overrun by starving hordes of humanity, raped of its precious nonrenewable resources, poisoned by pesticides, pollution, and genetically engineered plagues, and baked by greenhouse warming. The new millenarians no lon[...]



The Fatal Flaw in the Fights Against Global Warming and Global Terrorism

Sat, 17 Jun 2017 10:00:00 -0400

Donald Trump and Al Gore would no doubt cringe at the thought that politically speaking, they are brothers from different mothers. After all, what do the Republican president and the Democratic presidential wannabe have in common besides the fact that they are both old, white, pompous dudes who live in mansions and hate Hillary Clinton? Whether they realize it or not, they both believe in the precautionary principle—the notion that even a small chance of a catastrophic event requires sweeping measures to avert it. Nor do they care about the costs of these "sweeping measures"—both in terms of money and individual liberty. Their only disagreement is about the events in question: Trump invokes this principle in his crusade against Islamist terrorism—and Gore and his fellow global warming warriors against climate change. Dick Cheney famously declared that if there was even a "1 percent chance" of another 9/11-style attack by al Qaeda, "we have to treat it as a certainty in our response." For all of Trump's criticisms of the Iraq War, he has a natural instinct for this kind of excess. No sooner did the dastardly Manchester attack occur than Trump reiterated, as he had in his inaugural address, that this "wicked ideology must be obliterated." To that end, Trump, who has never explicitly rejected pre-emptive strikes against states that harbor terrorists, has significantly escalated America's military offensive against ISIS. He has eagerly embraced—and grown—the massive surveillance state he inherited from his predecessors to snoop and spy on Americans. He rejects basic due process rights not just for enemy combatants captured in the theater of war, but even domestic terror suspects such as the New York dumpster bomber. And then there is his plan to subject prospective refugees to "extreme vetting" to ensure with 100 percent certainty that no terrorist enters the country. (Not to be outdone, incidentally, after the London Bridge attack, British Prime Minister Theresa May demanded the authority to censor and control speech on the internet and has also suggested that human rights laws be scrapped if they come in the way of fighting terrorism.) Given that the odds that Americans will perish in any terrorist attack—not just those involving Islamists—on U.S. soil is 1 in 3.6 million per year—if the trends of the last four decades are any indication, such draconian steps to avert another 9/11-style event won't make Americans substantially safer. But they will make them substantially less free. Liberals understand this when it comes to dealing with global terrorism. Al Gore himself gave a great speech in 2006 lamenting all the constitutional protections that the war on terrorism was claiming and expressed alarm that the executive branch had been conducing warrantless surveillance of telephone calls, emails and other internet communication inside America. But when it comes to global warming, Gore's ideological blind spots are more dazzling than the sun. He condemned Trump's pullout from the Paris agreement as "indefensible" and "reckless." Likewise, the ACLU, which has been heroically fighting Trump's travel ban and other constitution-busting moves, bizarrely tweeted that the withdrawal would be a "massive step back for racial justice." But the fact of the matter is that a pre-emptive strike against climate change will be no less damaging for justice, racial or otherwise. The goal of the Paris agreement was to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Centigrade by 2100. But the most optimistic assessments suggest that even if all the signatories live up to their Paris pledges, it's still a Pollyannaish assumption that won't be met. To exceed the agreement a[...]



'Atomic Humanism' and the Eco-Modernist Campaign to Promote Nuclear Power

Tue, 13 Jun 2017 11:40:00 -0400

"Only nuclear can lift all humans out of poverty while saving the natural environment," Michael Shellenberger said in his keynote address at yesterday's annual meeting of the American Nuclear Society. "Nothing else—not coal, not solar, not geo-engineering—can do that." This, he declared, was one of the first principles of "atomic humanism." Shellenberger is the founder of the pro-nuclear green group Environmental Progress, which argues that the best tool for fighting climate change is the no-carbon power generated by nuclear reactors. His speech offered a tour through the sorry history of environmentalist falsehoods and exaggerations about nuclear power. He began with Ralph Nader, who started training activists on how to stop new nuclear plants in the 1960s. (At one inflammatory moment, Nader declared: "A nuclear plant could wipe out Cleveland, and the survivors would envy the dead.") The Sierra Club soon jumped on board the anti-nuclear campaign. Shellenberger quoted a secret 1974 memo from then-executive director Michael McCloskey: "Our campaign stressing the hazards of nuclear power will supply a rationale for increasing regulation...and add to the cost of the industry." Unfortunately, this strategy worked to perfection. What was the activists' alternative to nuclear power? Fossil fuels. For example, Nader argued that we didn't "need nuclear power" because we "have a far greater amount of fossil fuels in this country than we're owning up to...the tar sands...oil out of shale...methane in coal beds." In 1976 Sierra Club consultant Amory Lovins declared that coal "can fill the real gaps in our fuel economy with only a temporary and modest (less than twofold at peak) expansion of mining." That same year, California Gov. Jerry Brown actually advocated the construction of coal-fired plants in place of nuclear power stations. The results? According to Shellenberger, California's carbon dioxide emissions are now two and a half times higher than they would have been had the planned nuclear plants been allowed to go forward. Meanwhile, vastly more people have died as a result of pollution from fossil fuel power generation than from nuclear power. It gets worse. Many prominent environmentalists, worried that abundant nuclear power would lead to overpopulation, endorsed strong anti-human sentiments. As Shellenberger noted: "Giving society cheap and abundant energy would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun," said Paul Ehrlich. "It'd be little short of disastrous for us to discover a source of cheap, clean and abundant energy because of what we would do with it [emphasis original]," said Amory Lovins in 1977. "I didn't really worry about the accidents because there are too many people anyway....I think that playing dirty if you have a noble end is fine," confessed Martin Litton, the Sierra Club member who led the campaign to kill Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in California. Shellenberger concluded by arguing for pro-nuclear activism including mass protests and sit-ins: There is no short-cut around political engagement. Nuclear energy's opponents are well-financed and well-organized. But they have this huge achilles heel: Their entire agenda rests on a rejection of simple physics and basic ethics. They are in the wrong factually and morally. As such, when they are confronted with the truth—when it is pointed out that the emperor is wearing no clothes—they lose their power.... It's time for action. We have to move. We must confront the truth, and confront the threat. By standing up to Sierra Club, NRDC, and other anti-nuclear greenwashers, we saved nuclear plants in Illinois and New York. A new grassroots movement, Gener[...]