July 9, 2009
In Search of an Intelligent Energy PolicyBy Andrew Foy and Brenton Stransky
No responsible energy policy can go forward that is rooted in the belief that man-made carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions significantly contribute to global warming or "climate change" as it is now called. This article will address data from the historical temperature record as well as climate models that refute the theory that: CO2 causes or to a large extend amplifies climate change.
Based on the following data it appears that the only thing consistent about the climate is that it is always changing. Unfortunately, the Waxman-Markey bill, recently passed by the House, sets the foundation for an energy policy guided by the premise that man-made CO2 emissions are causing climate change and must be reduced regardless of the economic consequences.
In the documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" Al Gore presented data from the Vostok Ice-Core, which was a collaborative ice-drilling project between Russia, the United States, and France at the Russian Vostok station in East Antarctica. It yielded the deepest ice core ever recovered, reaching a depth of 3,623 meters. By careful analysis of this historic ice core, researchers reconstructed trends of temperature and CO2 concentrations over a period of 420,000 years.
The authors of the Vostok project concluded that during glacial inception (the beginning of a global cooling period) and termination (the start of a global warming period), temperature goes up or down first followed by an increase or decrease in CO2.1 The conclusions from the original Vostok report have been reproduced from other ice-core samples and it is now well accepted that during glacial inception and termination that atmospheric CO2 content lagged behind shifts in air temperature by 800 to 5,000 years!
The ice-core data is interesting on two accounts: one, it demonstrates that the simple cause and effect relationship presumed by the current man-made climate change hypothesis - "that changes in CO2 levels cause changes in the temperature" - is actually the other way around; two, it demonstrates that the earth has experienced significant warming periods in the past - much warmer than the current period at a time when man wasn't burning fossil fuels!
The following is a graph of CO2 (Green), temperature (Blue), and dust (Red) measured from the Vostok Ice-core as reported by Petit et al., 1999 - you can disregard the red graph for purposes of this discussion. It is clear from the graph that the current warming period (at time 0 on the horizontal axis) is the coolest and most stable warming period recorded - within this warming period, which began 10,000 years ago there have been several warmer periods all of which occurred before man started burning fossil fuels .
Even over the last century where we have undisputedly experienced a warming trend, which is not unusual based on the historical temperature record - there has been two sustained periods where CO2 levels were increasing and yet the planet was cooling. The first period occurred roughly from 1940 to 1975 at which time many scientists were concerned about the prospects of an impending ice-age. The June 24, 1974 TIME Magazine cover read - The Cooling of America.
A Newsweek column from April 28, 1975 stated, "Climatologists are pessimistic that political leaders will take any positive action to compensate for the climate change [cooling], or even to allay its effects. They concede that some of the more spectacular solutions proposed, such as melting the arctic ice cap by covering it with black soot or diverting arctic rivers, might create problems far greater than those they solve. But the scientists see few signs that government leaders anywhere are even prepared to take the simple measures of stockpiling food or of introducing the variables of climate uncertainty into economic projections of future food supplies. The longer the planners delay, the more difficult will they find it to cope with climate change once the results become grim reality." Enough said.
The second period of cooling is occurring now, represented by the graph from Joe D'Aleo - combining temperature data from NASA's Microwave Sounding Unit (MSU) (Blue)and the UK's Hadley Climate Research Unit (Hadley CRUT3v) (Pink)with CO2 data from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii (Green).
The most recent cooling trend, displayed on the above graph, is well outside the predictions of the models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or IPCC (shown below). The IPCC has been the most influential body in driving energy policy in countries around the world and uses climate models like the current Waxmen-Markey bill to make projections regarding how much warming we can expect to save by cutting CO2 emissions to certain levels. The following graph from the Science and Public Policy Institute displays the real temperature trend from 2001-2009 versus the IPCC projections. This graph emphasizes that assumptions used by the IPCC models - that a certain level of CO2 causes a certain degree of warming - must be incorrect!
It would appear from the data that CO2 is unlikely to be the culprit responsible for precipitating or significantly contributing to climate change. The skeptical position can be summed up well by Professor William Happer's statement to the US Senate on February 25, 2009. Happer is the Cyrus Fogg Bracket Professor of Physics at Princeton University. He was also the Director of Energy Research at the Department of Energy (DOE) from 1990-93, where he supervised all of DOE's work on climate change. His statement includes the following:
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.
Is there still a possibility that man-made CO2 could be significantly contributing to climate change? - yes, but this theory seems less and less likely given the recent data and the failure of the models to accurately predict temperature change. It's also important for the public to remember that the burden of proof is not on those skeptical of the man-made climate change theory but rather on the scientists and policymakers who believe an invisible gas - that humans exhale from their lungs with every breath - will cause a climate catastrophe. In the meantime, the one catastrophe we can be sure of is the growing national debt and this is why any responsible energy policy should focus on making use of all the natural resources here at home including oil, natural gas, and coal to grow our economy in this struggling time.
A recent study from EnergyTomorrow.org projected that the economic impacts of private sector spending in 2020 - if drilling bans were lifted on the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), Outer Continental Shelf (Pacific and Atlantic offshore and the Eastern Golf of Mexico), and the Rocky Mountains - would result in the creation of 110,000 - 160,000 jobs and 22 - 33 trillion dollars in revenue. Lifting these drilling bans would appear to be a reasonable place for an intelligent energy policy to begin.
Andrew Foy, M.D. and Brent Stransky are co-authors of the forthcoming book, "The Young Conservative's Field Guide: Facts, Charts and Figures to Convince Your Friends." They can be contacted through their website at www.aHardRight.com.
1. Petit, JR et al. Climate and atmospheric history of the past 420,000 years from the Vostok ice core, Antartica. Nature. 1999:399:429-436.