If you rely solely on the mainstream media to keep informed, you may not have heard that the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change concluded in New York City on Tuesday. And if you have heard anything -- this being primarily a forum of skeptics -- it was likely of a last gasp effort by "flat-Earthers" sponsored by right-wingers in the pockets of big-oil to breathe life into their dying warming denial agenda. Well, having just returned from the 3 day event, I'm happy to report that the struggle against the ravages of warming alarmism is not only alive, but healthier than ever.
Granting a long overdue forum to noted dissenting scientists, economists and policy experts from around the world, the Heartland Institute-sponsored symposium at the Marriott Marquis offered welcomed reasoned analysis as alternative to last December's hysterical circus which was Bali. It also served as the perfect launch point for a long-awaited un-IPCC report -- Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate: Summary for Policymakers of the Report of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change [PDF].
Compiling the work of over 20 prominent fellow researchers, editor Fred Singer's NIPCC report distinguishes itself from the recent IPCC Fourth Assessment (AR4) and its predecessors in that it was not pre-programmed to "support the hypotheses of anthropogenic warming (AGW) and the control of greenhouse gases." Instead, the nearly 50 page document is a non-political authoritative rebuttal to the multi-government controlled IPCC's "errors and outright falsehoods" regarding warming's measurement, likely drivers, and overall impact.
And its ultimate conclusion of "natural causes and a moderate warming trend with beneficial effects for humanity and wildlife" set the perfect framework for speakers and panelists - many of whom contributed to the NIPCC -- to elaborate on the summit's "Global warming is not a crisis" theme.
While Mainstream Media Ignored, Alarmist Propaganda Machine Attacked
Even before the first mention was made of activists and media misrepresenting current climate science while completely ignoring the serious inaccuracies in virtually all IPCC documents at Sunday's opening dinner, alarmist groups were busy marginalizing the event. Treehugger.com, DeSmogBlog.com and Greenpeace's Kert Davies -- who actually attended -- dubbed it "Denial-a-Palooza," and painted it as a desperate "final battle" in a war that's been long won by their side. Gloating over pending carbon regulations and collaborating GOP politicians, alarm-leader Davies asks:
"Just what do these denial professionals think of the likes of turncoats Walmart, General Electric, GM, Alcoa, Fed-Ex, Coca-Cola, Bank of America to name a few, who have acknowledged the threat, and either endorsed regulatory approaches or and taken measures to shift investment and business practices?"
Perhaps had Davies taken some time off from hijacking press members in the hallway to recycle-to-death his "I'm the skunk at the garden party" line, and actually attended a panel or two, he would have heard Steve Milloy's unsurprising response to that question -- Follow the MONEY. That's right, during a Monday afternoon political session, the founder of junkscience.com explained GE's double-dipping ability to manufacture and sell windmills while receiving government subsidies for doing so. And how, under proposed cap-and-trade plans, companies like Alcoa and DOW will be eligible for retroactive carbon credits for emission abatements they've accomplished in the past. Oh, and who do you suppose owns the exchange where these carbon credits will be traded? Can you spell Goldman Sachs?
Fuel refined from what these greenies don't understand about business could cleanly power the planet for years.
As usual, our friends in the mainstream dutifully dispensed their duties as well. Covering the event for the New York Times, Andrew C. Revkin writes:
"One challenge they faced was that even within their own ranks, the group - among them government and university scientists, antiregulatory campaigners and Congressional staff members -- displayed a dizzying range of ideas on what was, or was not, influencing climate."
Challenge, Andrew? Hearing cogent discussion and widely diverse idea-exchanges in contrast to the monotonous "settled science" IPCC-composed group-speak -- the compulsory soundtrack of previous climate conferences -- far from being a challenge, quickly reaffirmed which side wanted at the truth. As panel member Michael R Fox wrote back in 2006:
"When Michael Crichton said that ‘Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled,' he was right. When it comes to the natural sciences consensus is not science, and science is not consensus."
Revkin closed his attempted hatchet-job with an amazingly low-rent observation:
"The meeting was largely framed around science, but after the luncheon, when an organizer made an announcement asking all of the scientists in the large hall to move to the front for a group picture, 19 men did so."
This was a gratuitous attempt to suggest that few of the participants were actually men of science. Of course, had he opened a program or even journeyed to a few of Monday's 20 panels he would realized that there were, in fact, over 100 in attendance, specializing in everything from climatology to geology to meteorology to physics. In fact, on the final day over 60 scientists found the time to come forward for the commemorative photo.
Besides, the conference didn't focus exclusively on rebuking the junk science of AGW. While tracks one and two featured experts in paleoclimatology and climatology, respectively, the remaining three explored the impacts, economics and politics of warming itself and, moreover, the left's hysterical response to it.
Let's Get One Thing Settled -- The Science is NOT
There were a total of 32 discussions between the opening shredding of temperature records and biased recording mechanisms offered by Prof. Robert Balling and Ross McKitrick and the closing session's critique of media bias by ABC News correspondent John Stossel. Of those, 11 were purely devoted to science and another 8 studied impacts, which were often scientifically inclusive.
If I have any complaint at all about the conference it is only that with 5 sessions running concurrently, one was constantly forced to make the difficult decision of which to attend. That said, moving about as best I could landed me in the midst of many fascinating forums. .
I heard Christopher Monckton recall the consequences of Hitler's eugenics programs, Stalin's lyceum movement, Mao's "great leap backward," and the World Health Organization's DDT ban to conclude that it "kills people if you get the science wrong." And he attributed the current AGW scare story to the "same people" arguably responsible for 40 million children dying from malaria by demagoguing DDT:
"It's the international left, it's the media wanting another scare story, it's teachers wanting to seem relevant ... who sense that they can advance their causes, collectively, together, by getting behind this nonsense."
Lord Mockton feels that the public will eventually become aware that the activists do, indeed, have the science all wrong and that "once the penny drops -- that will be the end of this scare too." The former policy advisor to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher predicts we're not far from that point. I wonder.
Moving up two floors I found Dennis Avery pleading that we "don't burn food" by mandating biofuels in a misguided and futile effort to control atmospheric CO2 levels. Singer, Avery's coauthor of the fabulous Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1,500 Years, then spoke briefly about the NIPCC report which he would officially debut in his address to that day's plenary lunch session. Next, J. Scott Armstrong of the Wharton School discussed the impracticalities and pitfalls of warming-induced polar bear population fluctuation forecasts, particularly as they relate to green attempts to have the bears declared an endangered species. More on that later.
In the next session, astrophysicist and geoscientist Willie Soon made an extremely compelling argument that "CO2 is not in charge of all things weather and climate." And Professor Howard Hayden managed a big laugh when he lambasted IPCC reliance on computer models with the words "Garbage in - Gospel out."
Afterwards, Craig Loehle stepped up to the podium to discuss his recently well-received research into non-tree ring proxies. Computing mean temperature anomaly history from eighteen 2000 year-long data sets of 6 different types, Loehle constructed a graph which suggests that mean temperatures between 800 and 1300 A.D (a.k.a the Medieval Warm Period) were approximately 0.3°C warmer than 20th century values. This, of course, stands in complete incongruity to the already discredited hockey stick graph (MBH98 -- Michael Mann et al.) highlighted in Al Gore's movie and prominently featured in the UN's alarming 2001 IPCC Third Assessment Report.
Loehle also demonstrated how his reconstruction fit quite nicely into the 1500 year cycle proposed by Singer and Avery and then elicited a few laughs by adding, "Fred Singer is helping me with this and that should guarantee that I never get it published."
Funny, yes -- but sadder yet.
Unfortunately, due to scheduling conflicts, I only managed to catch the tail end of meteorologist Anthony Watts' presentation. The founder of surfacestations.org has been reporting irregularities in the housings and locations of USHCN weather stations - from which virtually all agencies derive their data -- for quite some time. As I entered, the screen snapped continuous slides of stations placed near AC vents, parking lots, under shady trees, atop sun-soaked asphalt -- you name it. While some were actually funny - all were deeply disturbing.
My final climatology lesson came Tuesday morning from energy expert Richard S. Courtney who presenting a rather passionate analysis of the carbon cycle - specifically its "natural sequestration process [which] can easily cope with human emitted CO2."
Other science presenters time didn't allow me hear were CO2 expert Craig Idso, marine geologist Bob Carter, climate scientist David Archibald, Dr. Timothy Ball, professor Tim Patterson, meteorological researcher William Gray, climatologist Dr. Roy Spencer and too many more to possibly list.
But I'd certainly heard more than enough to understand that minds much greater than those from which the words "the debate is over" sloppily spout know well that it is not.
Green Policy Future -- I fear you more than any science I have seen
I apologize to Dickens for the section heading, but given November's very possible Washington realignment, settling the science may be the least of our worries.
My foray into the conference's politics track began with David Henderson discussing how once UN pressured governments signed on to the IPCC CO2 hysteria, "received opinion" swayed the public to believe that the science was settled; AGW was, indeed, a threat; and that immediate action must be taken. The academic economist stressed that people drafting IPCC reports"are not policy neutral, they're not meant to be -- they're policy makers." And those running the IPCC "are those already convinced so they can't imagine any other conclusion."
Shifting to insanity of a more local nature, former EDF member John Charles told fascinating tales of the business extortive and often ludicrous means by which Portland, OR has attempted to earn the title "America's greenest city." Then came Steve Milloy, whose eye-opening greed-based explanation of just how we find ourselves at the apex of declaring CO2 a toxic chemical in spite of the concept of it driving climate change being "hogwash" I've already acknowledged. Next, director of Climate Strategies Watch Paul Chesser gave a dizzying presentation on the shady relationship between the Center for Climate Strategies, a self-proclaimed technical advisory service organization claiming no specific policy advocacy, and the environmental advocacy group Pennsylvania Environment Council. Mystery fans curious about how alarmist money is driving legislation are encouraged to visit Paul's fascinating site and delve into this Chandleresque web of eco-deception and policy peddling intrigue.
Benny Peiser, social anthropologist at Liverpool John Moores University and editor of the excellent CCnet, addressed an impacts session following an interesting but time overrunning Hurricanes and Global Warming presentation by expert Stan Goldenberg. In his abbreviated podium appearance, Peiser addressed the human condition aspects of the debate. Granted, he says, probability is not on the side of recent Nobel laureate Gore -- who, by the way declined an invitation to speak at the conference.
Nonetheless, let's not minimize or ridicule the public anxiety caused by the headlines from alarmists who constantly declare an absolutely worst case scenario as likelihood. After all, asks Peiser, what if, as CO2 continues to rise, temperatures follow? Or, current foretelling of a possible new Little Ice Age -- the last one caused mass starvation in Europe -- should prove to be right? Listening to his real concerns about these anthropological impacts and the tripling of energy needs should China and India reach a modern lifestyle in the next 40 years certainly moves one's mind nearer the center of the debate.
That is, until you're reminded of what the alarmists are planning.
Which I quickly was at Tuesday morning's final political forum. For openers, CEI senior fellow Marlo Lewis painted a harrowing picture of an America in which CO2 had been declared a pollutant by the EPA. He warned of an extension of Clean Air Act section 165 (preventing significant deterioration of air quality) to limit building and expansion permits for hotels, restaurants or any structure using natural gas for heating or cooking. He then coined the phrase "policy terrorism" to describe potential EPA extortion -- accept cap and trade or we'll blow up your economy. Nice.
Dr. Michael R. Fox then pointed out how lessons learned by the nuclear industry -- after its assault at the hands of "energy illiterate" activists -- must be appreciated in dealing with the current attack by "climate illiterates."
Finally, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works communications director took the helm. While the Bush Administration likely will not, last year's wrongly decided Supreme Court opinion has given future (read that Democrat) EPAs the power to regulate CO2 as a pollutant, warns Marc Morano. Furthermore, the decision was likely based on the AR4 SPM, which was written by not thousands, but rather 52 hand-selected scientists. Morano wonders whether knowledge of the "over 400 prominent scientists from more than two dozen countries recently voiced significant objections to major aspects of the so-called ‘consensus' on man-made global warming" might have swayed the court's majority opinion in another direction. As do I.
He then reminded us of the global Carbon tax urged by a panel of UN experts at Bali. And of the words of MIT climate scientist Dr. Richard Lindzen:
"Controlling Carbon is a bureaucrat's dream. If you control carbon you control life."
As an example of just how scary green policy may soon become -- remember Scott Armstrong's polar bear concerns? Here are Morano's:
"If polar bears are listed under the Endangered Species Act, then someone running a lawnmower in Miami could, theoretically, be cited for endangering the polar bear."
Earlier that morning, the president of the Czech Republic, Hon. Vaclav Klaus, received a standing ovation when he declared Europe's emission reduction goals impossible to meet without lowering populations or creating widespread poverty.
So, they're wrong on the science. They're wrong on the solutions. And, implementing their wrong solutions will impede freedom, retard growth and, ultimately, destroy economies. All while changing global mean temperatures not one single degree.
As I hopped on the train headed for home, it struck me -- I may well have just left the only place on Earth where walked, however briefly, more sane-thinkers on the subject than not.
The chill the thought sent up my spine is not completely gone.
Marc Sheppard is a frequent contributor to American Thinker. He welcomes your feedback.