99% of the earth’s atmosphere is composed of only two elements, Nitrogen, 78% and Oxygen, 21%. Carbon Dioxide, the greenhouse gas terrifying environmentalists, is only .04% (400 parts per million) of our total atmosphere. It is one of several trace gases that we breathe every day.
Averaged over all land and ocean surfaces, temperatures warmed roughly 1.53°F from 1880 to 2012, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. To emphasis the point, that is one and a half degrees, total, in the past 132 years. What we don’t have is accurate, year-by-year; century-by -century data for the past ten thousand, or even one thousand years to compare against the last century. Without the ability to analyze long-term detailed trends, scientists are left more with theories than with facts.
Not being a scientist, I am including the following passage, which is a direct quote from Dr. William Happer, a Princeton physics professor, before the United States Senate Environment and public works Committee, February 25, 2009:
Let me state clearly where I probably agree with the other witnesses. We have been in a period of global warming over the past 200 years, but there have been several periods, like the last ten years, when the warming has ceased, and there have even been periods of substantial cooling, as from 1940 to 1970. Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) have increased from about 280 to 380 parts per million over past 100 years. The combustion of fossil fuels, coal, oil and natural gas, has contributed to the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere. And finally, increasing concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere will cause the earth’s surface to warm. The key question is: will the net effect of the warming, and any other effects of the CO2, be good or bad for humanity?
The earth’s climate really is strongly affected by the greenhouse effect, although the physics is not the same as that which makes real, glassed-in greenhouses work. Without greenhouse warming, the earth would be much too cold to sustain its current abundance of life. However, at least 90% of greenhouse warming is due to water vapor and clouds. Carbon dioxide is a bit player. There is little argument in the scientific community that a direct effect of doubling the CO2 concentration will be a small increase of the earth’s temperature — on the order of one degree. Additional increments of CO2 will cause relatively less direct warming because we already have so much CO2 in the atmosphere that it has blocked most of the infrared radiation that it can.
In fact, observations suggest that the feedback is close to zero and may even be negative. That is, water vapor and clouds may actually diminish the already small global warming expected from CO2, not amplify it. The evidence here comes from satellite measurements of infrared radiation escaping from the earth into outer space, from measurements of sunlight reflected from clouds and from measurements of the temperature the earth’s surface or of the troposphere, the roughly 10 km thick layer of the atmosphere above the earth’s surface that is filled with churning air and clouds, heated from below at the earth’s surface, and cooled at the top by radiation into space.
But the climate is warming and CO2 is increasing. Doesn’t this prove that CO2 is causing global warming through the greenhouse effect? No, the current warming period began about 1800 at the end of the little ice age, long before there was an appreciable increase of CO2. There have been similar and even larger warmings several times in the 10,000 years since the end of the last ice age. These earlier warmings clearly had nothing to do with the combustion of fossil fuels. The current warming also seems to be due mostly to natural causes, not to increasing levels of carbon dioxide. Over the past ten years there has been no global warming, and in fact a slight cooling. This is not at all what was predicted by the IPCC models.
In the eight years since Dr. Happer’s comments, the trend has remained. I am providing an updated graph from the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). As you can see, the overall trend for global temperatures continues to be relatively flat even though year to year comparisons fluctuate wildly.
The following graph reflects a remarkably consistent pattern of warming and cooling over the past 420,000 years. It should be noted that these are not global temperatures, but were taken from Antarctic ice core samples.
(http://imgur.com/gallery/eFevo. Based on research by J.R. Petit, et. al., for more information: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v399/n6735/abs/399429a0.html; Climate and atmospheric history of the past 420,000 years from the Vostok ice core, Antarctica.)
Sea levels have gradually been rising since the last ice age, about 18000 years ago, but have been carefully monitored since the late 1800’s. Between 1870 and 2004, global average sea levels have risen a total of 7.7 inches or about 0.057 inches per year. From 1950 to 2009, measurements show an average annual rise in sea level of 0.067 inches per year. Scientists, however, have switched to using Satellite data, which has shown a rise of 0.13 inches per year from 1993 to 2009. This means that, assuming no acceleration, in 100 years the average seal level would rise by a little over one foot, almost doubling what would be expected using the old method of tide gauges. Therefore, in assessing the future risk, computer models looking ahead to the year 2100 or 85 years from now, range from eight inches to 6.6 feet. However, the range usually thrown around is between one and four feet. The high end of this range could be disastrous because approximately five million people in the United States alone live within four feet of the local high tide level!
Should we be scared? Well, before we get too excited, I would like to share a few thoughts. First, comparing satellite data with traditional tide gauges is like comparing apples to oranges. For example: Is it possible that the sampling of tidal gauge measurements, taken around the world, is less comprehensive than the satellite data, which would imply a onetime correction? In other words, if we had satellite data spanning the past 145 years, we would be looking at one consistent methodology. The resulting data may show the same increases as tidal gauge measurements; it may show less or it may show more. My point is that no one knows, because we don’t have a history of satellite data to make reasonable comparisons. Or, could the satellite data be flawed in some way? Second, sea levels are not uniform around the globe, so we are really looking at global averages. Third, the rate of change in sea levels is not constant year to year, so again, we are looking at longer term averages. Fourth, the common explanation for the new satellite data showing a sudden and dramatic increase in sea levels is global warming, however, between 1998 and 2016, average global temperatures have not risen at all. Fifth, there has been no reasonable explanation given which might reconcile the discrepancy between recent satellite data and the past 145 years of tide gauge calculations. And sixth, the computer model ranges are based on sets of hugely varying assumptions, making them basically worthless for any meaningful policy decisions. Seventh, as we read in Dr. Happer’s global warming testimony, there really is no solid evidence that human activity has had any significant effect on either global warming or rising sea levels. In other words, there is a huge difference between hard evidence and theory based computer models.
Even still, there has been a worldwide obsession with “Global Warming”, now often referred to as “Climate Change” which was internationally expressed in the Kyoto Protocol, signed in 1997. It was a well-intentioned treaty to extract agreements from all the nations of the world (especially the developed nations) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, principally Carbon Dioxide. It was hoped that we were all going to gradually switch to solar and wind energy. The idea was that all the nations of the world including the United States would reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and this would be driven by an increase in energy costs. Several nations did sign up; including the United States, however, back home the treaty was never ratified and in fact was never even submitted to the Senate.
The politics of global warming presents a significant challenge to the development of a rational energy policy. For example, former President Obama (a wind and solar advocate) traveled to Alaska for the perfect photo opportunity. Melting glaciers provided a perfect backdrop for a tirade against fossil fuels, proving to environmental groups his commitment to fight global warming; even though the melting glaciers were the result of El Niño, not global warming. Researchers, who were dependent on federal money, were more likely to receive funding for projects friendly to the administration’s philosophy. Environmental groups pressured President Obama to nix the Keystone XL pipeline, which he did with an executive order (later reversed by President Trump). Liberal media personalities ridicule anyone who questions climate change. The phrase “Climate Change Skeptic” has been replaced by “Climate Change Denier”.
I agree that our energy infrastructure needs to be brought into the 21st century, however, the urgency that environmental groups insist require government attention is more politics than reality. The idea that wind and solar are the only answers to our energy challenges is simply not realistic.
Problems with Wind and Solar
Unfortunately, in many parts of the country there are long periods when the sun does not shine and the wind does not blow. For example, in Detroit, Michigan there are only 75 clear days out of 365; meaning that 80% of the year, the sun isn’t shining! And, of course the sun never shines at night. But, that hasn’t stopped a utility company from installing government-subsidized solar panels in the metro-Detroit area, creating the need for a fossil-fuel (natural gas) backup system. Today, energy production coming from wind and solar is a small fraction of our total energy; however, technology is improving both sources of energy and costs are going down to competitive levels. It is technology, not subsidies that are making the big difference. Where wind and solar make economic sense, then let’s use them. But, without the politics of subsidies, special loan programs and grant giveaways!
Skepticism and Scientific Forecasts
In 1989, James Burke narrated a documentary, titled: After the Warming. The film begins at some point in an apocalyptic future where we find Mr. Burke cataloging a series of fictionalized events that have resulted (remember he is in the future) from the industrialized nations failing to heed the warnings of the scientific community regarding greenhouse gas emissions. By the end of the film, having learned from the devastation, humans finally reduce their dependence on fossil fuels. Here are some predictions from the film:
· By 1998 massive droughts cause third world starvation. Three quarters of tropical rain-forests die.
· By 1999 droughts in the United States wipe out half the countries farmers, causing severe food shortages.
· By 2007 super hurricanes from Australia to Florida cost hundreds of thousands of lives.
· By 2008 major accidents at nuclear power stations cause a complete phase out of nuclear energy.
· By 2010 temperatures rise by 3 degrees and ocean levels rise 1 foot.
· In 2010 millions of refugees from the third world attempt to go north from Africa, Southeast Asia and South America causing military confrontations and thousands of deaths.
· By 2010 over 2 million of deaths from starvation. Major rivers throughout the world run dry.
· By 2012 grain production in Siberia and northern Canada reach new highs.
· By 2020 global temperatures rise 5.4 degrees and sea levels rise 2 feet; by 2025, 3 feet and by 2035 southern Florida is under water!
Of course, as we now know, none of these events have occurred or are like likely to occur within the next few decades. Here are a few more examples:
In 2007 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a report that claimed by 2035 the Himalayan glaciers could simply melt away. However, the report was not based on peer reviewed scientific literature, but from a 1999 media interview with a single scientist. Since the report was issued, several scientists have come forward to refute the claim, as “unrealistic”.
How rigorous is “peer reviewed scientific literature”? Back in 2009 the “Climategate” scandal revealed that climate scientists are secretive; almost uniformly biased; and maintain a “circle the wagon” approach to shutting down dissent. Freedom of Information requests were illegally denied to critics; then, computer codes and related data were destroyed so as not to be made public.
NASA has been accused of manipulating global temperature records by greatly reducing the number of reporting stations around the globe and “cherry picking” those selected to make past temperatures appear colder and current temperatures warmer.
Perhaps the most damning news story was recently reported in London’s the Daily Mail. Whistleblower Dr. John J. Bates (one of two Principal Scientists at the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI)) told the Mail that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a flawed report that was rushed to press in advance of the historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change, attended by many world leaders including Barack Obama. To give you a little background: a 2013 report stated that since 1998, global warming had halted or “paused”. This was an inconvenient truth that emboldened critics of climate change and lessened the apparent need for urgent action. The new report authored by Thomas Karl, Director of the NCEI, stated that the 2013 report was based on incomplete data and that global warming had not paused, but in fact had accelerated. This new report was then disseminated to the press and widely reported. But more importantly was touted as fact and influenced the participants in Paris to sign the agreement. However, according to Dr. Bates, Mr. Karl was “insisting on decisions and scientific choices that maximized warming and minimized documentation… in an effort to discredit the notion of a global warming pause, rushed so that he could time publication to influence national and international deliberations on climate policy”.
It has become commonplace for climatologists to blame every abnormal weather event on global warming. For example, in 2013 Lake Michigan water levels were at historic lows; scientists at the Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were quick to blame global warming. However, two years later, Lake Michigan water levels had risen three and a half feet to record highs.
I personally believe that regardless of global warming concerns, the world-wide consequences related to the massive spewing of carbon and air borne pollutants into our atmosphere is not a good thing and efforts should be made to reduce them without seriously damaging economic activity or the worldwide consumption of energy, which should be increased, not decreased. That being said, however, we should mentally separate the science of global warming and the politics of global warming, which is an off-shoot of the Environmentalist movement. These anti-capitalist activists envision a future where all our energy needs come from only two sources: wind and solar. But, these are not practical and reliable sources of energy, and are not able to meet the growing energy needs of the world.
There is a direct correlation between the amount of energy available to a civilization and the civilization’s quality of life. Unless you want to condemn half the population of the globe to poverty, sickness and short lives, then we are going to have to produce more energy. For example, we will need more hospitals, schools, refrigeration, and air conditioning. Electricity improves people’s lives. It is no coincidence that the countries with the best quality of life also consume the most electricity. Rain or shine, day or night a steady stream of electricity. If you could have vast quantities of really clean energy in the developing world in the next decade or so, it’s such an improved world that it takes your breath away… When you start running the numbers of how much more electricity will be needed in China, India, Brazil and other developing countries over the next few decades it is a sobering exercise: Doubling global energy consumption by 2050 and tripling it by the end of the century. (From the documentary Pandora’s Promise)