May 17, 2013

M.D. Harmon: Hysteria obscures lack of substance to climate change claims

There's no need for rules that will hurt the economy when they're aimed at a problem that doesn't exist.

We've seen a ton of stories lately about how terrible the (presumed) effects of climate change will be in Maine and elsewhere, so it's worth noting again that these predictions are largely based on computer forecasts, not actual observations.

In fact, a May 12 Telegram story on weather changes making Maine forests more "vulnerable" ("Maine scientists envision changing forests") contained the following paragraph, arguably its most important: "At this point, the visible impact of climate change in the Maine forest remains mostly subtle and the evidence anecdotal."

OK, all those in favor of making complex, expensive changes in the economy and their own standard of living because of "subtle and anecdotal evidence," raise your hands.

Hmm. Not many are going up, as the Pew Research Center found out in January when it asked Americans to rank its annual list of 21 "critical issues."

"Climate change" came in dead last, with only 28 percent of respondents thinking it was important, a 2-point decline from last year.

So, against activist-generated numbers, let's list some facts:

Global warming has flattened out. According to Dr. James Hansen, the most vocal warming enthusiast at NASA until his recent retirement, "The five-year mean global temperature has been flat for the last decade, which we interpret as a combination of natural variability and a slowdown in the growth rate of net climate forcing."

Since Hansen claimed as recently as 2003 that human-caused "forcings" had overwhelmed natural ones, this is an amazing admission -- but one based on the fact that warming has, if not ended, at least stalled for 10 years or more.

Predictions of increased severe weather phenomena are not coming true. According to Harold Brooks, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Severe Storms Laboratory, "The 12-month period from May 2012 to April 2013 was remarkable for the absence of tornado activity and tornado impacts in the United States."

And NOAA also says the time between landfalls for Category 3 hurricanes now stands at a record 2,763 days, far exceeding the previous figure of approximately 2,250.

("Superstorm Sandy" was a Category 1 hurricane, with winds barely above the 74-mph threshold. Its horrific impact came from merging with another storm from the west and a third front moving south, all of which combined over New York. Global warming would have to be powerful indeed to influence the timing of storms.)

Severe storms will hit us again, and will inevitably be called "evidence of climate change." If that were true, however, what does their absence prove right now?

Atmospheric carbon dioxide has been rising for decades, just reaching 400 parts per million (ppm), "the highest level in 3 million years," scary headlines announced.

But if the link between CO2 and warming were strong, then why have temperatures (as well as storms) leveled off as CO2 rose? And why has it been warmer than now many times in the past, even though CO2 levels were lower -- as was the case 1,000 years ago, when the Vikings settled Greenland and found grapevines in Labrador?

Two scientists, former astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt, an engineering professor at the University of Wisconsin, and William Happer, a physics professor at Princeton and former director of energy research at the U.S. Department of Energy, wrote "In Defense of Carbon Dioxide" for the May 9 Wall Street Journal.

They said, "As many scientists have pointed out, variations in global temperature correlate much better with solar activity and with complicated cycles of the oceans and atmosphere. There isn't the slightest evidence that more carbon dioxide has caused more extreme weather."

Read that again, and then note they say many plants evolved when CO2 was far greater than today (up to 3,000 ppm, 7.5 times higher than now). Thus, "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."

Indeed, greenhouse owners pump CO2 levels up to 1,000 ppm or more to grow larger, higher-quality plants.

Finally, though the news was widely ignored, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported in April that U.S. carbon emissions in 2012 hit their lowest level since 1994. Why?

"Lower natural gas prices resulted in reduced levels of coal generation and increased natural gas generation," and natural gas "is the least carbon-intensive fossil fuel."

Less transportation fuel use (due to the economy) and mild winter temperatures also contributed, with the result that, as climate change skeptic Anthony Watts pointed out, the nation "meets 1997 Kyoto protocol CO2 emissions reductions without ever signing on." We are "the first major industrialized nation in the world" to meet those targets.

And we did so without extracting billions from the productive economy via oppressive carbon taxes.

It's time to stop being scared, and start rebuilding our economy without harmful taxes, rules or fees.

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a free-lance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at:


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