• Tag Archives climate change
  • How the Debate on Climate Change Is Cooling Down

    In a previous column, I noted that the typical audience reaction to my talks about the improving state of the world is not joy and thankfulness for the progress that humanity is making in tackling age-old problems such as infant mortality, malnutrition, and illiteracy. Rather, it is the concern about the exhaustion of natural resources and the supposedly irreparable harm that humanity is causing to the environment.

    Apocalyptic warnings about the end of the world as we know it are as old as humanity itself, but recent news should give the doomsayers some food for thought and lower the temperature, so to speak, in the debate about global warming and its future effects on the planet.

    The Models Were Wrong

    In a new study that was published in the journal Nature Geoscience, leading climate scientists have adjusted their previous predictions about global warming and stated that the worst impacts of climate change are still avoidable. Professor Michael Grubb, an international energy and climate change scientist at University College London, said that previous scientific estimates were incorrect because they were based on computer models that were running “on the hot side.”

    According to the new estimates, the world is more likely than previously thought to achieve the main goal of the 2015 Paris agreement and limit global warming to only 1.5°C higher than was the case in the pre-industrial era. Only two years ago, many scientists dismissed the 1.5°C goal as too optimistic and Professor Grubb went as far to say that “all the evidence from the past 15 years leads me to conclude that actually delivering 1.5°C” is unattainable.

    While it is true that the average global temperature is 0.9°C higher than in the pre-industrial era, the scientists now admit that there was a slowdown in warming in the 15 years prior to 2014 – a slowdown that the models did not predict or account for. Professor Myles Allen, another one of the study’s authors, said “We haven’t seen that rapid acceleration in warming after 2000 that we see in the models. We haven’t seen that in the observations.”

    What has changed in the model forecasts since the Paris summit in 2015? The data showing that the climate models are running “on the hot side” has been available for years. In 2015, my colleagues Patrick Michaels and Chip Knappenberger noted that climate models have been overestimating the rate of warming for decades. In 2016, John Christy from the University of Alabama in Huntsville testified before the US Congress that the climate models were inaccurate. For their trouble, all three have been labeled “climate change deniers.”

    The Nature Geoscience study suggests that humanity has more time to transition away from fossil fuels. Should it? That’s debatable, argues William Nordhaus, a professor of economics at Yale University, and his coauthor Andrew Moffatt, in a recently released paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research. The paper combines econometric and climate models to estimate the future impact of global warming on worldwide income.

    The Laws of Economics Still Apply

    By studying 36 estimates of the costs of global warming, the pair predicts that 3°C warming will reduce global income by 2.04 percent and 6°C warming will reduce global income by 8.16 percent by 2100. Nordhaus and Moffatt’s estimates parallel the broad consensus. For example, the IPCC in their Fourth Report estimated that global “mean losses could be 1 to 5 percent of GDP for 4°C of warming”.

    As Ronald Bailey of Reason magazine calculates, current global average income per capita is about $10,000. If the world grows at 3 percent per year over the next 80 years or so, global average income per capita will rise to $97,000. According to Nordhaus and Moffatt’s estimations, therefore, an increase in global temperature by 3°C would reduce global average income per capita by $2,000 to $95,000. A 6°C increase in global temperature would reduce global average income per capita by $8,000 to $89,000.

    “We have a predicament,” Bailey concludes. “How much are we willing to spend in order to make those living in 2100, who will likely be at least nine times richer than us today, $2,000 better off?”

    That is not a purely academic question. Thanks to the concerns over global warming, governments throughout the world have been busy imposing serious additional costs on economic development and reducing real living standards of ordinary people so as to facilitate the fastest possible transition away from fossil fuels. The above studies add to the complexity surrounding the subject of global warming and human response to it. They also strengthen the case of those who argue that any such transition should be driven by technological change, not government mandates.

    Reprinted from CapX


    Marian L. Tupy

    Marian L. Tupy is the editor of HumanProgress.org and a senior policy analyst at the Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity.

    This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.


  • A Carbon Tax Won’t Stop Hurricanes

    In the midst of a severe hurricane season and the destruction wrought by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, many people are claiming that man-made global warming has intensified rainfall and hurricanes. However, comprehensive facts show that rainfall and hurricane activity are well within the bounds of natural variation, and there is no cogent evidence that they have increased over the past century.

    Moreover, the United States contains only 1.9 percent of the world’s surface area, and the earth’s climate oscillates widely over time and place. Hence, focusing on US-area hurricanes that occur within a single year easily distorts the issue of climate change.

    The Claims

    While Hurricane Irma was razing the Caribbean and barreling toward Florida, climate scientist David Hastings told the Washington Post, “Hurricane Harvey and Irma should resolve any doubt that climate change is real.” Likewise:

    • CNN’s Ron Brownstein reported during Hurricane Harvey, “There is no doubt that climate change, particularly because of warming the ocean waters and the gulf waters, makes storms like this more common.”
    • Meteorologist Eric Holthaus wrote in Politico that “climate change is making rainstorms everywhere worse, but particularly on the Gulf Coast.”
    • The BBC’s Laura Trevelyan stated, “Of course we do have a changing climate we do have warming waters. With more warming waters, you get more moisture coming into the atmosphere, and what hurricanes absolutely love is moisture because that gives them rainfall. And that’s what’s happened in this situation with Hurricane Harvey.”

    In the same vein, FactCheck.org science writer Vanessa Schipani asserted that global warming “makes intense storms like Harvey more likely to occur.” In support of this statement, she declared that:

    • “A warmer world leads to greater moisture in the atmosphere, which leads to greater precipitation, which leads to more intense storms.”
    • A 2013 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report “found that scientists are ‘virtually certain’ (99 to 100 percent confident) that there has been an ‘increase in the frequency and intensity of the strongest tropical cyclones since the 1970s’ in the North Atlantic Ocean.”
    • One of the “key findings” of a draft report by the U.S. Global Change Research Program is that “human activities have ‘contributed to the observed increase in hurricane activity’ in the North Atlantic Ocean since the 1970s.”
    • The same report says that “studies that have looked at this question have come up with a ‘fairly broad’ range of contributions for humans, but ‘virtually all studies identify a measurable, and generally substantial, [human] influence,’ it adds.”

    The claims above paint a distorted picture of reality by ignoring the most relevant and comprehensive facts about this issue.

    Global Rainfall Trends

    Contrary to the notion that global warming has caused more rain, the authors of a 2015 paper in the Journal of Hydrology studied rainfall measurements “made at nearly 1,000 stations located in 114 countries” and found “no significant global precipitation change from 1850 to present.”

    The paper also notes that previous studies had analyzed shorter timeframes and found rainfall changes that some people had attributed to global warming, but those results were generally not statistically significant and “not entirely surprising given that precipitation varies considerably over time scales of decades.”

    Beyond total rainfall, many climate models predict that global warming will cause the rain to fall in shorter periods, and thus, with more intensity. Yet, even according to the IPCC—which has engaged in deceitful actions to exaggerate global warming—evidence for such an outcome is highly questionable:

    Since 1951 there have been statistically significant increases in the number of heavy precipitation events (e.g., above the 95th percentile) in more regions than there have been statistically significant decreases, but there are strong regional and sub-regional variations in the trends. In particular, many regions present statistically non-significant or negative trends, and, where seasonal changes have been assessed, there are also variations between seasons (e.g., more consistent trends in winter than in summer in Europe).

    This issue becomes even murkier when looking at the bigger picture, because apparent changes in rainfall intensity sometimes vanish when examining longer timeframes that better account for natural variations. For example, the International Journal of Climatology published a paper in 2015 about extreme rainfall in England and Wales that revealed, “Contrary to previous results based on shorter periods, no significant trends of the most intense categories are found between 1931 and 2014.”

    Global Storms and Hurricanes

    A “tropical cyclone” is a circular wind and low-pressure system that develops over warm oceans in the tropics. Cyclones with winds ranging from 39 to 73 miles per hour are called “tropical storms,” and those with winds exceeding 73 miles per hour are called “hurricanes.” Technically, there are different names for cyclones with hurricane-force winds in different areas of the world, but for the sake of simplicity, this article refers to them as hurricanes.

    The datasets below, which were originally published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters in 2011, show that the global number and intensity of tropical storms and hurricanes have not increased over the past four decades:


    Corroborating this data, the IPCC reported in 2012, “There is low confidence in any observed long-term (i.e., 40 years or more) increases in tropical cyclone activity (i.e., intensity, frequency, duration), after accounting for past changes in observing capabilities.”

    In spite of these facts, a national scientific poll commissioned by Just Facts shortly before the 2016 presidential election found that 44% of Trump voters and 77% of Clinton voters believed that the global number and intensity of hurricanes and tropical storms have generally increased over the past 30 years. This sharp disconnect between reality and perception accords with a flood of global warming-related misinformation spread by the media and environmental groups.

    North Atlantic Storms and Hurricanes

    In the North Atlantic region, where hurricanes Harvey and Irma formed, tropical storm and hurricane activity has  significantly increased over the past four decades. However, this trend fades in the wider context of variation over the past century. As explained by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):

    No robust trends in annual numbers of tropical storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes counts have been identified over the past 100 years in the North Atlantic basin.

    NOAA states that North Atlantic tropical storms show a “pronounced upward trend” since 1878, but this is because these records are “relatively sparse” in their early decades. After NOAA adjusts for the “estimated number of missing storms,” the trend in storm activity is “not significantly distinguishable from zero.” Furthermore, NOAA notes that the upward trend in the unadjusted data,

    Is almost entirely due to increases in short-duration (<2 day) storms alone. Such short-lived storms were particularly likely to have been overlooked in the earlier parts of the record, as they would have had less opportunity for chance encounters with ship traffic.

    With regard to the most intense storms, NOAA reports that “the reported numbers of hurricanes were sufficiently high during the 1860s-1880s that again there is no significant positive trend in numbers beginning from that era…. This is without any adjustment for ‘missing hurricanes.’”

    Even more relevant to the implications of Harvey and Irma, NOAA notes that the record of North Atlantic hurricanes that reach land are “more reliable” than for the entire North Atlantic, and they “show a slight negative trend beginning from 1900 or from the late 1800s.” In other words, the most reliable data shows the opposite of what many media outlets are reporting.

    NOAA emphasizes that one cannot logically assess hurricane trends based only on those that reach land because they are “much less common” than the full number of hurricanes that form at sea. This highlights the absurdity of drawing conclusions based on hurricanes that make landfall, much less hurricanes that make landfall in one region in a single year

    After reviewing the data above, NOAA states, “In short, the historical Atlantic hurricane record does not provide compelling evidence for a substantial greenhouse warming-induced long-term increase.”

    Similarly, the very same 2013 IPCC report cherry-picked by FactCheck.org states, “No robust trends in annual numbers of tropical storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes counts have been identified over the past 100 years in the North Atlantic basin.” This is word-for-word the same as stated by NOAA.

    “Scientists Say”

    Three times in her FactCheck.org article, Schipani used the phrase “scientists say” as if she were citing the universal opinion of scientists. Given the contents of her article, a longer but honest rewording of this phrase would be that “some scientists who have previously misled the public about global warming say so, but some scientists disagree.”

    For example, Schipani quoted climate scientist Michael Mann—creator of the notorious hockey stick chart and inventor of a “trick” to “hide the decline“ in temperatures—as though he were an unquestionable authority. Mann claimed that global warming may have caused Hurricane Harvey to stall over Houston and drop a devastating amount of rain in this location. However, Schipani failed to inform her readers that some other climate scientists, like Roy Spencer, disagree with Mann and write:

    I don’t know of any portion of global warming theory that would explain why Harvey stalled over southeast Texas. Michael Mann’s claim in The Guardian that it’s due to the jet stream being pushed farther north from global warming makes me think he doesn’t actually follow weather like those of us who have actual schooling in meteorology (my degree is a Ph.D. in Meteorology). We didn’t have a warm August in the U.S. pushing the jet stream farther north.

    Similarly, Schipani uncritically cited:

    • The IPCC, whose scientists wrote an array of incriminating emails in which they said things like, “I tried hard to balance the needs of the science and the IPCC, which were not always the same.”
    • Kevin Trenberth, an IPCC lead author who participated in a press conference where he misrepresented the facts about global warming and hurricanes. As a result, Chris Landsea, a scientist who Trenberth had tasked to draft a chapter on Atlantic hurricanes for the IPCC, quit the IPCC and stated, “I personally cannot in good faith continue to contribute to a process that I view as both being motivated by pre-conceived agendas and being scientifically unsound.”
    • The U.S. Global Change Research Program, which cited a certain paper as evidence that climate change is causing more floods, while in reality the paper states, “In none of the four regions defined in this study is there strong statistical evidence for flood magnitudes increasing with increasing” greenhouse gas levels.

    In Conclusion

    Certain media outlets have linked Hurricanes Harvey and Irma to global warming by ignoring wide-ranging facts and cherry-picking timeframes, geographical locations, report contents, and the opinions of scientists. As explained in an academic book about analyzing data, “One of the worst abuses of analytics is to cherry pick results. Cherry pickers tout analysis findings when the results serve the purpose at hand. But, they ignore the findings when the results conflict with the original plan.”

    Webster’s College Dictionary defines science as the “systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation.” By this standard, there are no grounds to claim that global warming has increased rainfall or hurricane activity.


    James Agresti

    James D. Agresti is the president of Just Facts, a nonprofit institute dedicated to publishing verifiable facts about public policy.

    This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.



  • The Totalitarianism of the Environmentalists

    The Totalitarianism of the Environmentalists


    Late last year, I gave a talk about human progress to an audience of college students in Ottawa, Canada. I went through the usual multitude of indicators – rising life expectancy, literacy, and per capita incomes; declining infant mortality, malnutrition, and cancer death rates – to show that the world was becoming a much better place for an ever-growing share of its population.

    It seemed to me that the audience was genuinely delighted to hear some good news for a change. I had won them over to the cause of rational optimism. And then someone in the audience asked about climate change and I blew it.

    While acknowledging that the available data suggests a “lukewarming” trend in global temperatures, I cautioned against excessive alarmism. Available resources, I said, should be spent on adaptation to climate change, not on preventing changes in global temperature – a task that I, along with many others, consider to be both ruinously expensive and, largely, futile.

    The audience was at first shocked – I reckon they considered me a rational and data-savvy academic up to that point – and then became angry and, during a breakout session, hostile. I even noticed one of the students scratching out five, the highest mark a speaker could get on an evaluation form, and replacing it with one. I suppose I should be glad he did not mark me down to zero.

    My Ottawa audience was in no way exceptional. Very often, when speaking to audiences in Europe and North America about the improving state of the world, people acknowledge the positive trends, but worry that, as Matt Ridley puts it, “this happy interlude [in human history will come] to a terrible end.”

    Of course, apocalyptic writings are as old as humanity itself. The Bible, for example, contains the story of the Great Flood, in which God “destroyed all living things which were on the face of the ground: both man and cattle, creeping thing and bird of the air.” The Akkadian poem of Gilgamesh similarly contains a myth of angry gods flooding the Earth, while an apocalyptic deluge plays a prominent part in the Hindu Dharmasastra.

    And then there is Al Gore. In his 2006 film An Inconvenient Truth, Gore warns that “if Greenland broke up and melted, or if half of Greenland and half of West Antarctica broke up and melted, this is what would happen to the sea level in Florida,” before an animation shows much of the state underwater. Gore also shows animations of San Francisco, Holland, Beijing, Shanghai, Calcutta, and Manhattan drowning. “But this is what would happen to Manhattan, they can measure this precisely,” Gore says as he shows much of the city underwater.

    Thinking Environmentalist Laws Through

    It is possible, I suppose, that our eschatological obsessions are innate. The latest research suggests that our species, Homo Sapiens Sapiens, is 300,000 years old. For most of our existence, life was, to quote Thomas Hobbes, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Our life expectancy was between 25 years and 30 years, and our incomes were stuck at a subsistence level for millennia. Conversely, our experience with relative abundance is, at most, two centuries old. That amounts to 0.07 percent of our time on Earth. Is there any wonder that we are prone to be pessimistic?

    That said, I wonder how many global warming enthusiasts have thought through the full implications of their (in my view overblown) fears of a looming apocalypse. If it is true that global warming threatens the very survival of life on Earth, then all other considerations must, by necessity, be secondary to preventing global warming from happening.

    That includes, first and foremost, the reproductive rights of women. Some global warming fearmongers have been good enough to acknowledge as much. Bill Nye, a progressive TV personality, wondered if we should “have policies that penalize people for having extra kids.”

    Then there is travel and nutrition. Is it really so difficult to imagine a future in which each of us is issued with a carbon credit at the start of each year, limiting what kind of food we eat (locally grown potatoes will be fine, but Alaskan salmon will be verboten) and how far we can travel (visiting our in-laws in Ohio once a year will be permitted, but not Paris)? In fact, it is almost impossible to imagine a single aspect of human existence that would be free from government interference – all in the name of saving the environment.

    These ideas might sound nutty, but they are slowly gaining ground. Just last week, a study came out estimating the environmental benefits of “having one fewer child (an average for developed countries of 58.6 tonnes CO2-equivalent (tCO2e) emission reductions per year), living car-free (2.4 tCO2e saved per year), avoiding air travel (1.6 tCO2e saved per roundtrip transatlantic flight), and eating a plant-based diet (0.8 tCO2e saved per year).”

    And then there is Travis N. Rieder, a research scholar at Johns Hopkins’ Berman Institute of Bioethics, who says that “maybe we should protect our kids by not having them.” He wants tax penalties to punish new parents in rich countries. The proposed tax penalty would become harsher with each additional child.

    And that brings me to my final point. Since the fall of communism, global warming has been, without question, the most potent weapon in the hands of those who wish to control the behavior of their fellow human beings. Lukewarmists like me do not caution against visions of an environmental apocalypse out of some perverse hatred of nature. On the contrary, concern for the environment is laudable and, I happen to believe, nearly universal. But environmentalism, like all –isms, can become totalitarian. It is for that reason that, when it comes to our environmental policies, we ought to tread very carefully.

    Reprinted from CapX.


    Marian L. Tupy

    Marian L. Tupy is the editor of HumanProgress.org and a senior policy analyst at the Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity.

    This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.