Obama on the 'urgency' of combating 'global warming'

Obama's World View on Energy and Climate

In a video shown at a costly, two-day "global warming" jamboree at the Beverly Hills Hotel, hosted by Governor Schwarzenegger of California in November 2008, Barack Obama said:

"Few challenges facing America and the world are more urgent than combating climate change. The science is beyond dispute and the facts are clear. Sea levels are rising. Coastlines are shrinking. We've seen record drought, spreading famine, and storms that are growing stronger with each passing hurricane season. Climate change and our dependence on foreign oil, if left unaddressed, will continue to weaken our economy and threaten our national security."

Obama said he would introduce "a federal cap and trade system to reduce America's emissions of carbon dioxide to their 1990 levels by 2020 and reduce them an additional 80 percent by 2050." He said his administration would "invest" $15 billion a year in solar power, wind power, biofuels, nuclear power and clean coal to "save the planet" by creating 5 million new "green jobs".

A Science-based Response

Few challenges facing America and the world are less urgent than combating the non-problem of "global warming". On all measures, there has been no increase in global mean surface temperatures since 1995; and, according to the University of Alabama at Huntsville, near-surface temperatures in 2008 will be lower than in 1980, 28 years ago, the first complete year of satellite observations. On all measures, global temperatures have been falling for seven full years since late 2001. The January-to-January fall in temperatures between 2007 and 2008 was the greatest since global temperature records were first compiled in 1880, 128 years ago. The rate of new Arctic sea-ice formation in mid-October 2008 was among the fastest since satellite records began almost 30 years ago. There has been no decline whatsoever in the total global extent of sea ice since satellite records began. New records for the extent of northern-hemisphere snow cover were observed by the satellites in the winter of 2001 and again in 2007. This year, many ski resorts are opening early as Arctic weather strikes. Many temperature stations in the northern hemisphere recorded record low temperatures in October/November 2008.

These facts are inconsistent with the notion that "global warming" is occurring, still less that it is dangerous. The Sun continues to show very few sunspots. Many solar physicists now predict at least half a century of global cooling, which would be a far greater and more destructive problem than a little warming.

Obama is not correct to say, "The science is not in dispute." Across all disciplines, some 31,000 scientists approached by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine in 2007/8 signed a declaration to the effect that "global warming" is not a global crisis and that humankind has very little influence over the climate. A survey of climatologists and scientists in related fields by Van Storch (2005/6) established that a considerable proportion of respondents did not believe the alarmist notions disseminated by Al Gore or the UN climate-change panel. The office of Senator James Inhofe maintains a list of more than 500 scientists in climate and related fields who have made public statements questioning at least one aspect of what has falsely been presented as a scientific "consensus".

In any event, as the late Michael Crichton used to say, "If it's consensus, it isn't science: if it's science, it isn't consensus." Science is not done by consensus: and, even if it were, the evidence is that a very considerable body of scientists both within and beyond climatology have grave doubts about the notion of a significant and damaging human influence on the climate.

Though Obama is correct when he says that sea levels are rising, his implication that anthropogenic "global warming" is chiefly responsible is scientifically baseless. Sea level has been rising for 10,000 years in response to the natural global warming that followed the end of the last Ice Age. It has risen 400 feet in that time, at a mean rate of 4 feet per century. However, in the 20th century sea level rose worldwide by less than 8 inches, and Moerner (2004), the world's foremost expert on sea level, who has been studying it for 30 years, says that there is little reason to suppose that sea level will rise significantly faster in the 21st century than it did in the 20th, because most of the land-based ice that once covered North America and northern Eurasia melted long ago, and most of the remaining land-based ice is at high altitudes and also at high latitudes close to the North and South Poles, where there is no danger that it will melt any time soon. The sea ice in the Arctic and Antarctic, even if it had been diminishing (which it has not), would not add even a thousandth of an inch to sea level, because it is already floating.

Obama is not correct to say that "coastlines are shrinking", except to a very limited extent that has little or nothing to do with "global warming". For instance, the east coast of the United Kingdom is being eroded by the sea, but this is attributable not so much to sea-level rise as to the continuing isostatic recovery of the west coast now that the weight of Ice-Age glaciers has gone, causing the British mainland to tilt so that the east coast is being driven downward. This phenomenon has nothing to do with anthropogenic "global warming". There has also been much talk of the allegedly disappearing coast of Bangladesh: however, the land area of Bangladesh has actually increased in the past 30 years through a combination of silt deposits brought down the Ganges to its delta and local tectonic movement.

Obama is wrong to say, "We've seen record drought". In the United States, the droughts of the first half of the 20th century were considerably more severe than anything that has been seen since. John Steinbeck set his novel The Grapes of Wrath in the severe drought of the Great Plains in the 1930s. Patterns of flood and drought have fluctuated throughout the ages, and there has been no discernible or significant alteration in these patterns in recent decades. Indeed, the UN's climate panel specifically gives warnings against attributing individual droughts or floods to anthropogenic "global warming".

Obama is also incorrect to imply that "spreading famines" have been caused by anthropogenic "global warming". There have indeed been catastrophic famines in most of the world's poorest nations in the past two years: however, these famines, and the consequent food riots in a dozen regions, were caused not by any changes to the climate but by the sudden doubling of world food prices. A report by the World Bank attributes three-quarters of that doubling to the fact that vast tracts of agricultural land have suddenly been taken out of food production to grow biofuels, in an unnecessary and ineffective response to the imagined "global warming" scare. In the United States, in just two years, one-third of all agricultural land has been taken out of food production. In Haiti, starvation is now so acute that people are eating pies made of dirt baked in the sun with a tiny pinch of salt and a knob of butter. The "global warming" scare is thus killing millions by starvation, without the slightest effect on the climate. However, it is not yet clear that Obama cares about the starvation that his belief in the "global warming" bugaboo has directly caused.

Obama is incorrect to say that storms are getting worse with each passing hurricane season. There has been no increase in the number or intensity of landfalling Atlantic hurricanes for well over a century. No trend at all. And the number of severe typhoons or tropical cyclones has actually fallen over the past 30 years. The suggestion that hurricane intensity might increase as a result of "global warming" was made by Kerry Emanuel (2005); however, he has since changed his mind to some extent, and the official position of the UN's climate panel is that no link between "global warming" and either the frequency or the intensity of hurricanes has been proven. We know that "global warming" cannot possibly have caused an increase in either the frequency or the intensity of hurricanes, typhoons, or tropical storms over the past 13 years because, on all measures, there has been no "global warming" during that entire period.

For these and other reasons, Obama is erroneous when he suggests that "global warming" will weaken the US economy and threaten national security. The measures proposed by Obama -- cutting 80-90% of US carbon emissions and accordingly closing down 80-90% of the nation's industries -- would fatally weaken the US economy and reduce it to third-world status. It is disingenuous to suggest, as Obama does, that millions of new "green jobs" will appear out of nowhere to replace the scores of millions of jobs that the full implementation of his proposed measures would destroy.

"Global warming" does not, cannot, and will not represent the slightest threat to the national security of the United States. On this too, Obama is not correct. Not only has the planet not warmed for 13 years (or perhaps even for 28 years): even if it were to warm as much as the UN imagines, the consequences would not be as severe as Obama and others have suggested. For instance, the UN projects that global temperatures will rise by 3.3 Celsius at doubling of CO2 concentration:  however, much of that increase in concentration and in temperatures has already occurred over the past century, and sea levels rose by just 8 inches. The UN expects sea level in the 21st century to rise by just 1ft 5in. It is also generally accepted that even a global temperature increase of 2 Celsius would not harm agriculture: indeed, it would be likely to increase agricultural and forestry yields. A temperature increase of more than 2 Celsius as a result of increasing CO2 concentration is highly unlikely, and is founded upon mere speculation by the UN's climate panel. Even if such a temperature increase were to occur, it would be largely harmless and beneficial.

Obama is right to wish to reduce his nation's dependence upon foreign oil from unstable and largely hostile regimes such as Venezuela or the Arab world. But that is a problem quite independent from the non-problem of "global warming". Richard Nixon also wanted to reduce American's dependence upon foreign oil, and announced a program to reduce it by a tenth. Since then, America's dependence upon foreign oil has increased by a third. Obama is about to learn that mere aspiration is not enough.

It is welcome that Obama has accepted the contributions that nuclear energy and clean coal can make. However, he is wrong to place any faith in significant energy supplies from solar or wind energy. These technologies only survive anywhere in the world because they are currently fashionable enough to attract massive subsidies. One of the biggest problems Obama will face in the coming years is maintaining a secure energy supply. For that he will need to continue to rely on coal and other fossil fuels, whether he likes it or not. Fortunately, fossil fuels are not a threat to the planet's climate, and it is no longer credible to pretend that they are.

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