Friday, June 2, 2017

Logical Thoughts About Climate Change

In the wake of President Trump’s long awaited decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate nontreaty (at least according to the Obama Administration), the liberal left has broken out into hysteria on the assumption that the slowdown in the rise of the sea levels that was brought about by the election of Barack Obama has been reversed by President Trump. Reports of the Earth’s demise due to the US exit from the “executive agreement” are likely to be greatly exaggerated.

The full text of the president’s speech seems to indicate that he is not opposed to a climate treaty in principle, but is chiefly opposed to the cost in American jobs and productivity through the agreement’s call for strict regulations on the United States, but more permissive approach to other countries.

In fact, Mr. Trump called upon climate activists to negotiate a new deal that he would be willing to sign and presumably submit to the Republican-controlled Senate for formal ratification. “I’m willing to immediately work with Democratic leaders to either negotiate our way back into Paris, under the terms that are fair to the United States and its workers, or to negotiate a new deal that protects our country and its taxpayers,” Trump said.

If President Trump is truly skeptical of the danger of climate change, then it seems unlikely that any deal that he could negotiate would be fair to the United States and its taxpayers. If climate change is a hoax, as the president has been known to charge, then any deal would not be beneficial to the American workers that President Trump represents. As a service to the president, I would like to present a logical framework for determining whether a future deal would be fair to the United States… or is necessary at all.

Is climate change real? The first point to consider is whether climate change is actually happening. I will concede that it is. In fact, as the NASA website notes, “Earth's climate is always changing. There have been times when Earth's climate has been warmer than it is now. There have been times when it has been cooler. These times can last thousands or millions of years.”

Is the world climate actually warming? This is a more difficult question to answer. There is debate on whether warming is still occurring. In November 2016, Dr. David Whitehouse wrote on the Global Warming Policy Forum, “Satellite data indicates a large fall in the temperature of the lower Troposphere back to pre-El Nino levels. This decrease has reinstated the so-called ‘pause’ in lower atmosphere temperature.”

If the assumptions that the world is still warming are wrong, it would help to explain why predictions by the global warming alarmists have been so far off the mark. Reason pointed out last year that James Hansen predicted in 1986 that global temperatures would rise by two degrees in 20 years. The actual increase in that time was 0.2 degrees. Hansen’s predictions were off by a factor of 10.

In 1988, Hansen forecast that global temperatures would rise by 3 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit from the year 2025 to 2050 causing sea levels to rise by one to four feet. By 2007, the estimates had been reduced to “8 to 16 inches above 1990 levels by 2090.” Most of the long-term predictions about warming seem to have fallen short.

Is warming caused by human activity? It seems likely that at least some warming is the result of human activity, but warming that occurred prior to the industrialization of the late 20th century cannot be legitimately blamed on human production of carbon dioxide since humans were not big emitters of CO2 in the early 1900s. Patrick Michaels, a climate scientist at the Cato Institute, estimates that about half of the 0.9 degrees in warming since the Industrial Revolution can be attributed to humans.

Is warming a bad thing? If the Earth warms, some parts of the globe will suffer, but other parts will benefit. A warmer Earth could mean longer growing seasons, lower energy costs and fewer cold-related deaths for much of the world. Loss of land from rising sea levels may well be offset by bountiful crops from areas where agriculture is not currently efficient.  

A common claim is that climate change causes more severe weather and worse storms than in the past. However, data from Munich Re, the world’s largest reinsurer, do not support claims that climate change has led to more losses from severe weather. The trend has been mostly flat for the past 25 years even as warming supposedly reached critical levels.  

Can we stop warming if it is catastrophic? It is an unknown whether global warming can be stopped, but it is generally acknowledged even among environmentalists that the Paris agreement would not do it. Bjorn Lomborg estimates that the Paris promises would reduce warming by only 0.05 degrees Celsius over doing nothing. This is a miniscule gain at an enormous price.

Even if we can stop climate change, there are other indirect costs to be considered. Third world nations that are in the process of industrializing may pay the biggest price. Citizens of these nations may lose the opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty because fears of climate change stop development and economic growth. Given that many of the dire forecasts of the alarmists have not come to pass, the cure for climate change may be as bad as the disease.

A better solution is to allow businesses to adapt to the changing climate. Technological innovation is reducing emissions as well as helping people to become more prosperous. Oil companies are now predicting that world consumption of oil will peak and begin to decline in the next few decades even without a top-down mandate from the United Nations.

If we want to enter into a treaty to protect the climate, then negotiate one that will actually acomplish its goal. And actually send it to the Senate for ratification. 

President Trump can take comfort from history as well. When President Bush decided to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol in 2001. The left predicted disaster then as well. Fifteen years later, however, we are still waiting on the apocalypse. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

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