Let’s move back to the initial belief that climate change is real. The fact of the matter is that no overwhelming consensus exists among climatologists on the magnitude of future warming, man’s impact on the climate, or on the urgency to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions.
In fact, looking at the data from the federal government’s own National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change provides plenty of reason to slow down on alarmism.
There are a number of climate phenomena that activists warn are signs of oncoming, catastrophic global warming. Among these alleged markers of environmental doom are: increasing hurricanes, widespread floods and droughts, and a sea level rise that will harm coastal communities.
- Hurricanes Are Not Becoming More Frequent. The IPCC notes in its most recent scientific assessment that there are “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,” and that there are “no significant observed trends in global tropical cyclone frequency.” Further, “confidence in large-scale changes in the intensity of extreme extratropical cyclones [such as ‘Superstorm’ Sandy] since 1900 is low.”
- Floods and Droughts. The IPCC noted that it overstated previous conclusions about increasing trends and that “the compelling arguments both for and against a significant increase in the land area experiencing drought has hampered global assessment.” The IPCC found evidence for increases, decreases, and no trend at all in flood activity or severity. So whatever your theory on climate change and floods, the IPCC has studies to back you up—which suggests that there’s a lot of uncertainty on this topic.
- Sea Level Rise. Though every year seems to bring on a prediction of imminent sea level rise direr than the last, the observed reality does not reflect this. Corresponding to the recovery from the Little Ice Age, sea level has risen about eight inches in the past 130 years. During this period, the rate of this rise has varied on multidecadal time scales, making identifying exact reasons behind upswings, such as what has been observed over the past few decades, difficult. But whatever the cause, the current rate of sea level rise (about 12-13 inches per century) lies far beneath alarmist projections of several feet or more by the year 2100.
President Barack Obama has proposed a “keep it in the ground” environmental agenda, which pushes American policy away from cultivating energy from fossil fuels and natural gas. This economic ignorance is as alarming as the scientific ignorance. The proposed policy nonsolution of avoiding fossil fuels, which Obama’s scientific adviser recently called “unrealistic,” will exact significant economic pain on families and businesses.
Conventional fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas primarily power the American and global economy. These natural resources meet 80 percent of the world’s energy needs because they are affordable and reliable. They also significantly improved the quality of life and health for billions of people all over the world. Regulating conventional fuels out of existence will raise energy prices that hit families again and again because almost everything we buy requires energy to make.
Keeping fuel in the ground keeps the world’s poorest citizens trapped in poverty. It will deprive the 17 percent of the world’s population who don’t have access to electricity and 35 percent who don’t have clean cooking facilities from achieving a better standard of living.
The web of denial charade might provide enough hot air to make some subsidized windmills spin, but it carries a concerning message that threatens scientific debate and dismisses economic realities.
Nicolas Loris, an economist, focuses on energy, environmental and regulatory issues as the Herbert and Joyce Morgan fellow at The Heritage Foundation. Read his research.