By: Michael W. Lodato Ph.D.
I’m an 88 year old man who has spent a lifetime solving problems – whether they be in theoretical mathematics, operations research, business management, or whatever
Think pieces are defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as articles “containing discussion, analysis, or opinion, as opposed to facts or news.” Michael’s Think Pieces are a little more than that. When I get interested in a subject enough to think about it, I write a Michael’s Think Piece – an article not intended to tell people what I know about something, but to find out what I know about it. Everything I know – no more and no less – about Climate Change is written below. When and if I learn more I will record it here. I send my Think Pieces to a very small audience – people I trust will steer me straight when I’ve got something wrong.
I work very hard to keep politics out of my think pieces. It is hard to do because I have insights and opinions that might sound political but I don’t base any of them on political ideology. Those who know me remember that I was conservative and Republican. That is no longer the case. I am neither liberal nor conservative, or anywhere in between. There’s no label that fits me. I look at each issue by itself. I don’t go by polls; I go by facts, logic and explanation. Yet, I’m often wrong.
My intention is to present an analysis that is free of political and any other kind of bias. One thing that might help is to refrain from attacking the motives of either side of the issue. So when I include something that I think is important but could be interpreted as bias, I will put it in a text box and label it “Author’s Comment.”
With almost all of the commentary about climate change out in the public square being agenda driven, highly emotional, and political, I thought I ought to try to learn about it.
Climate and Weather
Weather refers to the local changes in the climate we see around us, on short timescales from minutes to hours to days to weeks. Examples include temperature, wind velocity and direction, precipitation, humidity, flooding, atmospheric pressure, amount of sunshine, altitude, rain, snow, clouds, winds, thunderstorms, heat waves and floods – basically, the stuff we hear about on weather forecasts.
Climate refers to longer-term averages (they may be regional or global), and can be thought of as the weather averaged over several seasons, years or decades.
So when addressing the subject of climate change, we should seek answers to questions like:
- Has there been an increase (decrease) in the number and ferocity, of (rainstorms snowstorms, hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis, wild fires) in the past 100 years? (50 years?)
- Has the amount of rain (snow) in a season increased (decreased) in the past 100 years, (50 years? )
People talk about the “Earth’s climate”. In reality, the Earth has many climates, all related to areas and regions of the globe – Tropical climate, California desert climate, polar climate, etc. So each of the above questions need to be asked relative to a well-defined climate.
The term “global average surface temperature” is used in almost all discussions of climate change. It is defined as “the average temperature of the whole earth’s surface”. All discussions of climate change use the term not as the measured temperature at a given time, but the change in this average from what it was at a previous time, often 1880, but sometime from other dates, e.g. 1950.
|Author’s Comment: I find that the use of relative temperature measurements, in terms of increases from some arbitrary date like 1880, “temperature anomaly,” to be confusing. It makes it harder to understand, in general, and in particular, harder to address such questions as “What is the ideal average global temperature?” I was able to find one actual temperature. “According to GISS, the planet’s average surface temperature in 2017 was 58.62 F (14.9 C).” (2017 is considered one of the hottest years in recent history.) I don’t have the planet’s actual average surface temperature for 1880.|
There is evidence that the global average surface temperature has increased since 1880 by about 0.85C (1.53F). And, while that is small change- one that this author would not notice if it occurred today or any other day– it has been the source of a political firestorm. One side warns that the increase in temperature has led to serious climate problems and projects that, based on their computer models, represents an existential threat to mankind. This is serious stuff.
But there are common sense questions that should be addressed because the effect of a rise or fall of the temperature on one climate can be substantially different than the effect on other climates.
Surely, the rise in average temperature can’t effect every climate in the same way – negatively or positively. If some areas of the globe, say the tropics, have become uncomfortably warm, haven’t others areas, say Canada and Scandinavia, become comfortably warm. For decades Canadian “Snow Birds” have spent the winter in the California desert. Will they stop coming? Will the residents of the California desert start spending the summer in Canada? Haven’t humans always adapted to changes in the climate?
In another example rising sea levels don’t directly affect non-coastal areas.
And think of this. The substantial decrease in summer sea ice has exposed the Northwest Passage and its possibilities. A navigable Northwest Passage would present a huge shortcut for shipping across the Northwest Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Usually, ship traffic must go through is the Panama Canal or south around the southern tip of South America. Passing through the Canadian Arctic would cut shipping distances by more than 4,000 miles (at least 7,000km). The issue, until recently, was the presence of sea ice. Now summer sea ice has decreased substantially, exposing the Northwest Passage and its possibilities.
The Greenhouse Effect
The global average surface temperature represents an average over the entire surface of the planet. The temperatures we experience locally and in short periods can fluctuate significantly due to predictable cyclical events (night and day, summer and winter) and hard-to-predict wind and precipitation patterns. But the global temperature mainly depends on how much energy the planet receives from the Sun and how much it radiates back into space—quantities that change very little. The amount of energy radiated by the Earth depends significantly on the chemical composition of the atmosphere, particularly the amount of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.
The Greenhouse Effect is the process by which an atmosphere holds heat around a planet. A greenhouse gas is a gas that absorbs and emits radiant energy within the thermal infrared range. Greenhouse gases cause the greenhouse effect. The primary greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and ozone. They are important because they absorb the infrared light radiated by the Earth’s surface. If greenhouse gases were not in the atmosphere, all infrared light radiated by the Earth would go back out in space, leaving the Earth too cold for life. But the greenhouse gas molecules absorb the infrared light and re-radiate some of it back to the Earth’s surface.
Here’s a summary of the Greenhouse Effect:
- The sun’s rays reach the Earth
- Most of the heat is absorbed by greenhouse gases and reflected in all directions, warming the Earth
- Some energy is reflected back into space; Some is absorbed and redirected as heat
- Certain gases in the atmosphere block heat from escaping
I conclude that this story is the basis for the disagreement called climate change. One side says that the burning of fossil fuels have increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to such an extent that more of the sun’s heat is absorbed by greenhouse gasses, more heat is reflected toward the Earth and more heat is prevented from escaping. The other side disagrees and in fact cites many benefits of increased CO2 in the atmosphere.
More recently (November 2019) studies indicate that other greenhouse gasses like methane, nitrate oxide and water vaper also pose warming problems. Some have implied that CO2 is nearly irrelevant to the warming that has occurred. They blame water vaper and nitrate oxide as far more significant than CO2.
|Author’s Comment: Correlation vs. Cause and Effect
Because of the seriousness of the debate, we must be extra careful to avoid being swayed by arguments that are mere correlations. For example,
“Major League Baseball has recorded a significant increase in home runs in the last 20 years” is correlation.
“Fossil-supported energy has led to scientific improvements, such as electricity, refrigeration, air conditioning, automobiles, trucks, airplanes, ships, railroads, and so many other things” is a cause and effect statement.
There are really three climate change arguments;
Argument 1, made by those we shall call The Believers, is that, because of the use of fossil fuels, the earth’s climate is changing dangerously and that, in particular, the earth’s temperature is rising at an alarming rate and the results will be catastrophic in a few short years if we don’t do something about it
The Believers include some climate scientists that assert that human-caused climate change is occurring and that it threatens human health and well-being. See the discussion of “the 97% Consensus” in Section 5.
Argument 2 explores the inaccuracies in historic climate data, the limitations of attempting to model climate on computers, solar variability and its impact on climate, the effects of clouds, ocean currents, and sea levels on global climate, and factors that could mitigate any human impacts on world climate. The adherents to this argument, The Skeptics, argue that the pessimistic, and increasingly alarming, climate change scenarios depicted in the media have no scientific basis.
The Skeptics include scientists who assert that “the proposed limits on greenhouse gasses would harm the environment, hinder the advancement of science and technology and damage health and welfare of mankind.” See the discussion of the “petition of scientists” in Section 5.
Argument 3, developed here, is what results from an analytical investigation of the climate change issue from an evidence-based perspective rather than pushing carefully selected political group-think. Let’s call us The Investigators.
The Conflict: The conflicts between The Believers and The Skeptics stem from questions like the following:
- Is the climate of the globe changing?
- Has the use of fossil fuels and its effects been good or bad (in terms of long term trends in human health and welfare)?
- Has the rise in the average global temperature been good or bad, (in terms of long term trends in human health and welfare)?
- Has the increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations been good or bad (in terms of long term trends in human health and welfare)?
- Why is the climate changing?
- What can and should we do about it?
These questions will serve as an outline for the investigation. For questions 2 – 6, I will provide “What the Believers say about it” and “What the Skeptics say about it” and add some comments I hope will help. That way readers can weigh both sides and come to their own conclusions. The answer to question 6 will include my conclusions and recommendations.
Is the climate of the globe changing?
The quick answer is that the climate of the globe is always changing and humans have always adapted to the changes. Even today, people living in northern Alaska and other very cold areas and those living in the nations on the Equator have adapted to the climates where they live.
The Netherlands provides a compelling role model here. After experiencing a massive flood in the 16th Century, the Dutch embarked on a successful and extensive expansion of coastal berms to prevent future floods and bolstered their economy ever since.
The climate has historically had warm periods and cool periods and will continue to do so.
Two statements that all scientists agree on are:
- Carbon dioxide concentration has been increasing in recent years.
- Temperatures, as measured by thermometers and satellites, have been generally increasing over the last 140 years.
There has been melting of ice in the Polar Regions. Melting sea ice, such as the Arctic ice cap, does not change sea level because the ice displaces its volume but there has been a rising of sea levels along coastlines. An interesting statistic I have found from an AP article on the Greenland ice sheet is that the melting of 110 billion tons of ice corresponds to a 0.01-inch rise in global sea levels. Doing the math says that 11 trillion tons of ice melting corresponds to a 1 inch rise in global sea levels.
Glaciers have shrunk, ice on rivers and lakes is breaking up earlier, plant and animal ranges have shifted and trees are flowering sooner.
The length of the frost-free season (and the corresponding growing season) has been increasing nationally since the 1980s, with the largest increases occurring in the western United States, affecting ecosystems and agriculture. Across the United States, the growing season is projected to continue to lengthen.
Average U.S. precipitation has increased since 1900, but some areas have had increases greater than the national average, and some areas have had decreases. More winter and spring precipitation is projected for the northern United States, and less for the Southwest, over this century.
Projections of future climate over the U.S. suggest that the recent trend towards increased heavy precipitation events will continue. This trend is projected to occur even in regions where total precipitation is expected to decrease, such as the Southwest.
The intensity, frequency and duration of North Atlantic hurricanes, as well as the frequency of the strongest (Category 4 and 5) hurricanes, have all increased since the early 1980s. The relative contributions of human and natural causes to these increases are still uncertain. Hurricane-associated storm intensity and rainfall rates are projected to increase as the climate continues to warm.
There is some concern about wild fires. As an example we have fires related to the Santa Ana Winds in California. When high pressure builds over say California, Nevada, Utah and adjoining states, it sends wind in a clockwise rotation across the Mojave Desert toward the sea. Air compresses as it moves through Southern California canyons and passes. Compression makes the air warmer and reduces relative humidity. Winds gain speed as they funnel through the many canyons and local mountains. Winds roar out of mountains and fan out across the region.
That’s the weather side of the issue. There is also the fuel side – trees, structures, amount and dryness of dead trees, grass and brush in the path of the winds.]
The Believers say there has been in increase in the number and ferocity of forest fires. But The Skeptics say that the science and research of fire in the northern hemisphere is quite clear, there has been a significant decline in forest fires over the last 100-plus years and it is happening, not in spite of rising temperatures and increasing CO2, but because of it. And globally there has been a 25% drop in fires since 2003; rather than burning up the forests, we have been planting more trees than harvesting them for over three decades.
As for storms, droughts, hurricanes, etc. the Skeptics point out that theory and observations indicate that severe storms, both tropical and extratropical, have not increased. There have been no long-term trends in the frequency and severity of droughts and floods, in the frequency and strength of land-falling hurricanes, or in measures of total hurricane strength.
After Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, The Believers predicted that it was a harbinger of ever more powerful tropic storms, yet it was followed for 10 years by something of a “hurricane drought”, according to The Skeptics.
2. Has the use of fossil fuels and fossil supported energy been good or bad, in terms of long term trends in health and welfare?
While I don’t have statement about this question from the Believers or the Skeptics point of view, there is overwhelming evidence that fossil supported energy has benefitted mankind enormously as measured by long term trends in human health and welfare which are strongly positive. This is not correlation. This is cause and effect over time. Think of how, since the industrial revolution, mankind has benefited from electricity, refrigeration, air conditioning, automobiles, trucks, airplanes, ships, railroads, and so many other things made possible by fossil fuels. Think also about how much of our daily lives benefit from oil based products like our toothbrushes, iPhones, golf balls, etc.
Here are some facts I’ve been able to dig up, I’m sure there are many more:
- Since 1950, global life expectancy increased by 48% – from 48 years to 71.4 years in 2015. All regions made substantial gains, including Africa, the poorest continent, where life expectancy increased by 68%.
- Since 1950, global malaria infections are down 37% and malaria-related deaths are down 62% – despite claims by global warming activists that global warming will make insect-borne diseases more prevalent.
- From 2000 to 2016, per capita GDP increased by 54% in Latin America, 62% in Africa, and much higher percentages in Asia.
- As a consequence, the share of world population living in extreme poverty declined by 55%, despite an increase in global population by 3.32 billion in the past 50 years..
- Life years lost due to disability and disease also declined for all age categories, especially children.
And we are still relying heavily on fossil fuels to supply our energy needs. For example, in 2018, about 63% of electricity generation was from fossil fuels.
Has the rise in average global temperature been good or bad, (in terms of long term trends in health and welfare)?
What the Believers Say
The Believers stipulate that we should not allow the rise, measured from the start of the industrial revolution (1880) and going forward, to go any higher than 1.5 deg. C.
The Believers also note that sea levels have risen, Polar Regions have been affected, including the shrinking of the ice cap at the North Pole, disintegration of ice shelves, melting of Greenland, effects on polar bears, and possible secondary effects on climate in other regions due to changes in ocean currents.
What the Skeptics Say
For starters, they say the warming rate is gradual and fairly constant, not rapid and accelerating as is often claimed. For example, since the start of the industrial revolution, a period of 139 years, the average global temperature has risen 0.8 deg. C. and since 1950, a period of 69 years, it has risen 0.65 deg. C. (roughly 0.0094 deg. C per year).
They point to some positive results relative to the rise in temperature:
- Global yields for wheat, corn and soy have increased significantly, since 1960. US corn yields increased by 20% since 1960, 44% since 1990 and 88% since 1980. U.S. corn production have steadily increased by an average of 2 bushels per acre every year for the past 40 years.
- Global per capita food supply increased by 6% since 2000 even though global population increased by 17%
- Global percentage of undernourished people declined from 15% to just under 11%.
Has the increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations been good or bad (in terms of long term trends in health and welfare)?
What the Believers Say
Carbon dioxide is released through the natural processes such as respiration and volcano eruptions and through human activities such as deforestation, land use changes, and burning of fossil fuels. Humans have increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations by more than a third since the industrial revolution began. This is the most important long-lived “forcing” of climate change.
They also argue that climate change is heating the oceans and altering their chemistry, thus threatening seafood supplies, fueling cyclones and floods. They add that fish populations are declining in many regions due to warming waters.
The Believers say that carbon dioxide emissions impact human health by displacing oxygen in the atmosphere. Breathing becomes more difficult as carbon dioxide levels rise.
The Believers say that climate change is an “existential threat”. By that they mean that if left unchecked climate change will lead to the end of life on earth. Periodically they also announce the time when human existence will cease.
What the Skeptics say.
Man-made CO2 is not a pollutant much less something that is on track to cause apocalyptic climate change. The buildup of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere has significant and well documented food supply benefits.
That’s because rising CO2 concentrations enable plants to grow faster and larger and use water more efficiently, and warming lengthens agriculture growing seasons. One study estimates that CO2 emissions added $3.2 trillion to the value of global agriculture output since 1961.
There is also evidence that fossil fuels make us safer, they say. Since 1990, weather related losses as a share of global GDP declined by about 1/3. One study showed that, since the 1920s, global deaths and death rates related to extreme weather decreased by 93% and 98% respectively. That’s largely the result of fossil-fuel supported technologies and capabilities, mechanized agriculture, synthetic fertilizers, refrigeration, motorized transport, etc.
The Skeptics also add that, contrary to what some would have us believe, increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will benefit the increasing population on the planet by increasing agricultural productivity.
They say that many scientists have pointed out that variations in global temperature correlate much better with solar activity and with complicated cycles of the oceans and atmosphere. They say that there isn’t the slightest evidence that more carbon dioxide has caused more extreme weather but some computer projections do.
Further, they say, for most plants, and for the animals and humans that use them, more carbon dioxide, far from being a “pollutant” in need of reduction, would be a benefit. This is already widely recognized by operators of commercial greenhouses, who artificially increase the carbon dioxide levels to 1,000 ppm or more to improve the growth and quality of their plants.
In a future in which heat-trapping gas emissions continue to grow, increases of a month or more in the lengths of the frost-free and growing seasons are projected across most of the U.S. by the end of the century, with slightly smaller increases in the northern Great Plains. The largest increases in the frost-free season (more than eight weeks) are projected for the western U.S., particularly in high elevation and coastal areas. The increases will be considerably smaller if heat-trapping gas emissions are reduced
The Skeptics say that the incredible list of supposed horrors that increasing carbon dioxide will bring the world is pure belief disguised as science. As for the existential threat posed by increased CO2 in the atmosphere, they point out that none of the predictions have come to pass – including the following:
- In 1969, biologist Paul Ehrlich warned that if something isn’t done to halt human impact on the environment, “everybody” would “disappear” in a cloud of blue steam in 20 years (by 1989).
- Time magazine, in 1974, warned that signs of “another ice age” where everywhere
- In 1989, AP quoted U.N. officials who said the world had only 11 years to reverse global warming or rising seas would “obliterate nations.”
- NASA’s James Hansen said when Barack Obama became president that he had a bare “four years to save the earth.” Nothing happened in 2012 or later.
- In 2008, ABC claimed that Manhattan would be “under water” by 2015.
- In 2006, Al Gore predicted that the Artic would be ice-free within 5 years (by 2013).
- In 2009 he proclaimed that global warming would cause the northern polar icecap to be completely free of ice “in 5 years”. That would be 2014 – a year when the amount of northern polar ice actually increased.]
Why is the climate changing?
Questions that should be addressed here include:
- Is the increase of carbon dioxide concentrations the cause of the temperature increases?
- If so, how much of temperature rise is due to CO2 and how much is due to natural causes which have determined changes in climate for eons,?
What the Believers Say
The Believers strongly assert that human activity is the dominant cause of climate change over the past century. In particular, they say, the Earth is warming primarily because of the use of fossil fuels.
The Believers say that over the past century the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil has increased the concentration of atmospheric CO2. To a lesser extent, the clearing of land for agriculture, industry, and other human activities has increased concentrations of greenhouse gases.
They point to the fact that a group of 1,300 independent scientific experts, under the auspices of the UN, concluded there’s more than a 95% probability that human activities over the past 50 years have warmed our planet. The panel also concluded there’s a better than 95% probability that human produced greenhouse gases such as CO2, methane and nitrous oxide have caused much of the observed increase in Earth’s temperature over the past 50 years.
They also assert that cow flatulence is a significant contributor to the buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere. Beef is responsible for 41% of livestock greenhouse gas emissions, and livestock accounts for 14.5% of total global emissions
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) claims that, according to its computer models, the world has already warmed by 1 degree C and is projected to reach 1.5 deg. C by 2040. If that happens it would bring catastrophic results like rising sea levels, more powerful hurricanes, scorching temperatures, worsening droughts, heavy flooding, and melting glaciers.
In support of their assertions, they point to a survey (The 97% Consensus) of some 12,000 climate scientists regularly publishing in peer-reviewed journals. A key statement in the survey is that 97.1% of scientists agree that “that human activity is very likely causing most of the current Global Warming”.
What the Skeptics Say
The Skeptics refute the 97% Consensus claim, saying that even if human activity is over 50% responsible, the warming is only 0.8 degrees Celsius over the past 180 years, a warming that has tapered off to essentially nothing in the last decade and a half. But even the 97% level of agreement is challenged by The Skeptics. When the study was publicly challenged by economist David Friedman, one observer calculated that only 1.6 percent explicitly stated that man-made greenhouse gases caused at least 50 percent of global warming and that, in 66.4% of the papers reviewed, the scientists had expressed no opinion. So The Skeptics conclude that the percentage of scientists who agree with the notion of man-made catastrophic global warming is significantly less than advertised and that no widespread agreement was reached by the scientists.
The Skeptics further assert that there is no scientific consensus of a global warming threat. They say that, far from viewing the existence of global warming as “settled”, the global warming issue should be considered “unfinished business” requiring further research. It is not true that humans have control over climate. There is no nob, or dial, that controls CO2 or otherwise.
They say further: What is impossible to quantify is the actual percentage of warming that is attributable to increased human caused CO2. There is no scientific evidence or method that can determine how much of the warming we’ve had since 1900 was directly caused by us.
Further, they say: We know that the temperature has varied greatly over the millennia. We also know that for virtually all that time, global warming and cooling were driven entirely by natural forces, which did not cease to operate at the beginning of the 20th Century.
And they say: The claim that most modern warming is attributable to human activities is scientifically insupportable. The truth is we do not know. We need to be able to separate what we do know from that which is only conjecture.”
Petition of Scientists: The Skeptics refer to another consensus of scientists other than “The 97% Consensus.” During 1997, 31,500 concerned American scientists, including 9,029 holding PhDs, signed their names to a petition rejecting the Kyoto Protocol, the first international climate change treaty.
We urge the US government to reject the global warming agreement that was written in Kyoto, Japan in December, 1997, and any other similar proposals. The proposed limits on greenhouse gasses would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind.
“There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing, or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate; Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.”
Also, a posting on the Right Climate Stuff, a website founded by former NASA scientists and engineers says CO2 “is a naturally occurring substance required to sustain human, animal, and plant life, for which there is no substitute”
The truthfulness of the petition has been questioned by Believers just as the veracity of the 97% Consensus has been questioned by Skeptics. (See previous page.) The Believers say that the Petition was created by individuals and groups with political motivations, was distributed using misleading tactics, is presented with almost no accountability regarding the authenticity of its signatures, and asks only that you have received an undergraduate degree in any science to sign.
Author’s Comment: It can be noted that the US Senate voted 95-0 in 1997 to reject the Kyoto Protocol regarding CO2 emissions.
The Skeptics also say that even the most prominent among The Believers don’t behave as if they believe what they preach. They give examples of the heavy use of private jets for air travel and gas guzzling cars and SUVs for local travel by such individuals is not consistent with statements about an existential threat. The Skeptics also point to the multimillion dollar seaside homes of some of leaders of The Believers movement, notably Al Gore and Barrack Obama, as evidence of inconsistent behavior of people who predict that coastlines will overrun such property in 10 years. More recently, at the Democrat Presidential Debate on 10/14/19, not a single question was asked about climate change.
The Skeptics hold that the climate has always changed and what we are experiencing is change where the average surface temperature has risen 0.8 deg. C over the past 180 years. And, even if global warming was caused by humans, the evidence suggests that it would largely be benign and may improve human well-being. (See discussion of Question 2.)
What can, or should, we do about it?
|What The Believers say we should do
The Believers have strongly supported the steps that have been taken so far, including promoting and subsidizing of electric cars, windmills, and solar panels. They say we should greatly expand all three of these programs.
For the future, The Believers have introduced a program called The Green New Deal (GND).
The GND envisions sourcing 100 percent of the country’s electricity from renewable and zero-emissions power within 10 years, say by 2029. That means no electricity from oil, gas, or coal after 2029. That would mean that all electrical power plants in the US using fossil fuels (coal, natural gas and oil) would be shut down.
It also urges government to guarantee everyone a good job with paid medical leave, paid vacations, retirement pensions, health care, housing, good food, high quality college education, repair and upgrading of existing buildings to maximize energy efficiency, overhauling transportation systems, and building extensive high speed rail systems.
Costs: Almost all of the Democrat candidates for president support the position of the Believers to varying degrees. Bernie Sanders says his climate change plan would cost $16 trillion over 10 years. All other democrat candidates propose plans that would cost at least $1 trillion for investment and research designed to wean the U.S. economy off oil, gas and coal by 2050.
The draft of the GND mentions spending $1 trillion over ten years, in addition to extensive taxes and regulations to steer the economy and society as the 15 committee members see fit. (To be clear, the draft text currently calls for the creation of the select committee, which in turn is then tasked with drafting legislation forming the “Green New Deal” itself.) I have been unable to find any cost estimates from The Congressional Budget Office.
What the Skeptics say we should do
The Skeptics say that rather than embark on economically destructive policies to solve a problem that may not exist why not continue to do research and build up evidence of how to confront global warming. They add that prematurely mandating severe reductions of greenhouse gas emissions would make us, and developing countries especially, poorer and less able to cope with any future problems. They are skeptical of the motives of The Believers, pointing to a statement of one of the architects of the Green New Deal who said, “Do you guys think of the GND as a climate thing? Because we really think of it as a how-to-change-the entire-economy thing.”
They assert that U.N. approved models, that are used to project climate impacts, overshoot observed warming by up to five times as much as has actually occurred in the tropical atmosphere – a region where greenhouse theory expects the most rapid warming to occur.
They say that the models are tuned too hot. They overestimate climate sensitivity – the amount of warming expected to occur from a doubling of CO2 concentrations.
They say that the media and its go-to expert class seem more prone to hysteric prophesizing than properly skeptical analysis. After Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, The Believers confidently predicted that it was a harbinger of ever more powerful tropic storms, yet it was followed for 10 years by something of a “hurricane drought”.
Climate change driven by the sun, constitutes a strongly competitive hypothesis to the climate modeling-political hypothesis of human-caused global warming. As many scientists have documented, the position and orientation of the Earth in its orbit around the sun and the sun’s variable activity determine weather and climate. As part of this process, oceans store enormous amounts of solar energy, dwarfing by a factor of 10 the energy stored in the atmosphere. Ocean currents create climate variations over vast regions by transferring their energy around the globe over decades and centuries through a system of interconnected currents and current oscillations.
As for the effectiveness of windmills and solar, the Skeptics point to the fact that only 8% of the electricity of the US is generated from these renewable sources and there is little hope for these sources to replace fossil efficiently. In fact, windmills and solar powered plants require large acreage, so much so that the land required for them to replace coal and natural gas plants would be larger than the area of the state of California. They are also weather dependent and energy storage is a problem.
The Skeptics say that this means that, among other things, the elimination of all fossil fuel generation of electricity will result in the shut down the remaining 15 coal plants in the USA and replace their output with wind and solar. How effective will that be unless the rest of the world gets rid of their coal plants. And there are lots of them. In just 8 countries there are 3,641 coal plants and another 1,892 being built, for a total of 5,533. Isn’t it true that no matter what we do – for example the Green New Deal – will have an effect regarding CO2 unless the rest of the world – especially China and India – do the same?
There are other countries that have committed to getting rid of coal plants. The Paris Agreement, which is not legally binding, has goals consistent with the GND. It has 195 signatories. In 2017, the US announced its withdrawal from the agreement. It is expected to take effect in November 2020.
The Paris Agreement’s central goal, which is to keep global warming below 2 C deg. will require reducing global carbon emissions 40-70 % below 2010 levels by 2050. The Skeptics say there is no known way to do that without compelling developing countries to make substantial reductions in their current consumption of fossil fuels.
Putting energy-starved peoples on an energy diet would trap millions in poverty and slow the march of progress to a cleaner, healthier, more peaceful world. Consequently, developing countries will not consent to implement it.
As for costs of proposals advocated by the Believers, in February 2019, the center-right American Action Forum, estimated that the plan could cost from $51–$93 trillion over the next decade. They estimate its potential cost at $600,000 per household. The organization estimated the cost for eliminating carbon emissions from the transportation system at $1.3–2.7 trillion; guaranteeing a job to every American $6.8–44.6 trillion; universal health care estimated close to $36 trillion.
Others have pointed out that the Green New Deal has the goals of permanently eliminating all planes, cars, cows, oil, gas & the military – even if no other country would do the same. ”
Meanwhile, the Skeptics point to results we are achieving that should be good news to even the Believers. The United States is the world’s leading producer of oil and natural gas, and as a result of greater use of clean-burning natural gas and cleaner, more efficient fuels, we are also a world leader in reducing carbon emissions and other air pollutants. We have a proven model for achieving environmental progress without sacrificing jobs, economic growth, energy security or consumer affordability.
Natural gas is changing America’s energy landscape, powering the modern economy and driving environmental progress. The abundant, low-cost fuel is altering our energy equation, especially as utilities make the switch from coal-to-natural gas in electricity generation.
By 2040, consumers across the country could save an estimated $100 billion, or $655 per household, from the increased use of natural gas throughout our economy – from manufacturing to generating affordable electricity.
The Skeptics find it interesting that hydropower and nuclear power, are not even on the table for consideration. Hence there may be no feasible technical means to reach the necessary 1.5 ˚C climate goal
The Skeptics state further that, even if 97% of climate scientists agreed that humans have caused climate change, and even if they were right, it in no way, shape, or form would imply that we should restrict fossil fuels–which are crucial to the livelihood of billions.
What the Investigators Say We Should Do
|This is where readers should record their own conclusions and recommendations if they care to. What follows are my conclusions.|
What I Say We Should Do
The US Electricity Generation Problem
The following table is from the US Energy Information Administration. It shows that to replace all fossil fuel generation of electricity in the US by 2030 would be all but impossible. This is especially true when one considers that it has taken decades for wind and solar to achieve about 8% level of electricity generation and that the Believers don’t consider nuclear as an alternative. To do this along with elimination of other fossil fuel generators such as in transportation, agriculture, etc. is a fantasy.
ONE: Fossil fuels and fossil supported energy have proven to be an enormous benefit to mankind. We could not have supported the population growth the world has experienced without it.
TWO: The temperature increases or decreases have and will continue to produce beneficial impacts in some regions and harmful ones in others. Where it is harmful humans will adapt to it.
THREE: Climate change is not an existential threat. Certainly, human life will not end in 2029 as predicted by one presidential candidate. Except for children, almost no one who says there is an existential threat behaves like he or she believe it. We should stop scaring children about it.
FOUR: The Believers, behave like members of a fundamentalist religion in that they have an unwavering attachment to a set of irreducible beliefs about the effects of fossil fuel emissions that is marked by absolute certitude and conviction that their views are right and wise and obviously correct. They believe that anyone holding opposing views cannot possibly be doing so for serious reasons and must be acting out of some ulterior motive such as racism or greed or whatever. Non-adherents are condemned and vilified. And this argument comes with its own dooms day prediction. The Believers put those who do not believe that climate change is an existential threat in the same boat as Holocaust deniers.
Five: The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has been more of a positive than a negative relative to long term trends in health and welfare.
Six: There is no scientific evidence about global warming that fails to fit the earth’s natural cycle of warming and cooling.
Seven: The 20th century was one of those stable periods between the Little Ice Age and the next warm period. The earth is warming following the end of an ice age – as you would expect.
Eight: Recycling, taxes and regulations will not stop global warming. The false hope created by them delays genuine adaptations such as northward migration, seawall construction and abandonment of low areas.
Nine: Many green-backed policies such as in California, which accounts for 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions, have done little, if anything, for the climate but have succeeded in hurting middle and working-class people far more than the affluent. Californians are paying higher energy prices, higher transportation costs and higher housing costs because of policies designed to cut the state’s greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below 1990 levels. But no scientist has claimed that the climate will be affected by California’s achievement of its target. Nothing that California does would make a difference at all to the global climate.
ONE: Before we do anything else, address the questions raised above, in Sections 1 through 5, much more thoroughly than I have been able to do and come to rational, non-political conclusions. I’ve laid out some of the arguments on both sides as best I could, but I’m not an expert in the field.
As a part of this, do the same for the following additional questions.
- Is the climate today better or worse than the climate of earlier times, say 1880 (the beginning of the industrial revolution) or 1950? How much better? How much worse?
- Is there an ideal global average surface temperature? What is it?
- What is the evidence that the rise in temperature and melting of polar ice, has been harmful? (In most cases, I have only been able to find projections and opinions – not evidence.)
- For each major climate policy proposal, what will be the temperature reduction impact if implemented by 2030 and at the end of this Century, optimistically assuming that promised emission cuts are maintained throughout the century? (Ask this question relative to the US Clean Power Plan (USCPP), the full US promise for the COP21 climate conference in Paris (from which the US has withdrawn.)
- How much temperature reduction is expected from each (and all) of the proposals in the Green New Deal once implemented in 2030 and maintained throughout this century?
Relative to this, a research paper first published in 2015, Impact of Current Climate Proposals, by Bjorn Lomborg provides some answers to the last two questions. The research used the standard MAGICC climate model. They reported that the impacts are generally small. (In 2015, the US was still a part of the Paris Agreement.)
Lomborg discusses Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), an international agreement whereby countries publically outlined what post 2020 climate actions they intended to take under a new international agreement.
The climate actions communicated in these INDCs largely determine whether the world would achieve the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement: which was to hold the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C, to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C, and to achieve net zero emissions in the second half of this century.
Because the climate policy impacts from individual countries are almost additive, they can be almost perfectly partitioned as is evidenced in a table in Lomborg’s article. It showed that, even in the optimistic case, the EU and China each reduce mean global temperature by 2100 of about 0.05°C, and the US and the Rest of the World each reducing a bit more than 0.03°C. That’s not very much.
I would like to insert a comment here that, in my experience and reading, The Believers rule out seeking answers to the kinds of questions I have posed here. They draw a line between allowed and disallowed questions. This imposes limitations on rationality – on the discussion being based on reason and logic.
TWO: Remove all politics from the discussion – on both sides. Unfortunately this won’t happen. We have the wrong people in politics.
THREE: Be explicit about the consequences of any actions proposed. Or inaction. (Just because there is a problem doesn’t mean that we have to solve it, particularly if the cure is going to be worse than the ailment.)
Addressing the consequences won’t necessarily change what actions are taken, but we need to be aware of the effect. The quasi-religious hysteria that has been the hallmark of the dialog may provide meaning for the Believers, but given the global nature of the problem, we need to address it not with panic, but reason, and careful consideration of consequences
Make sure that that any change we make will make a difference to the global climate. For example, even the Believers should recognize the fact is that virtually all growth in greenhouse gasses comes not from the West but from China, India and a host of poorer countries.
FOUR: Do not continue to encourage and definitely stop subsidizing, the development of solar and wind energy. Allow market dynamics to determine their growth as an alternative energy resource. There are too many negatives associated with continuing to encourage continuing this development including cost, environmental harm and danger. For example, more deaths have occurred installing wind and solar power than all deaths involving nuclear.
The money would be better spent finding ways to improve fossil fuel conversion efficiency and adjust to higher temperatures, building sea walls – if it really happens – funding the planting of huge forests, making nuclear safer. Continue to live in a first world manner while doing all of this.
FIVE: If and when the seas rise, retreat from coastal development and push for measures to protect shorelines, improve dams and water systems, elevate roads and install flood pumps (as the city of Miami is already doing). Be prepared to abandon some low-lying areas all together.
SIX: Continue to fund research to learn more about climate. We may find an antidote for all kinds of emissions.
SEVEN: Skeptics (either of the believer’s predictions or their choice of actions, or both) need to become more vocal, and not be silenced by political correctness. They need to confront, challenge, use science, logic and common sense. They may once again prove the sun doesn’t orbit the earth.