Thursday, December 12, 2019

Madrid and Lessons From Three Decades Of Failed Climate Policy

by Judith Curry

The UN Climate Conference (COP25) is beginning today in Madrid.  I’ve been invited to write an op-ed for a newspaper in Madrid, which I assume will be published sometime this week (in Spanish).  Below is the text of my op-ed.

JC op-ed

The UN Climate Change Conference this week in Madrid provides an important opportunity to reflect on state of the public debate surrounding climate change.

Most of the world’s governments are prioritizing energy security, affordability and industrial competitiveness over commitments made for the Paris climate agreement. Even if these countries were on track to meet their commitments, a majority of the national pledges are totally insufficient to meet the Paris targets. At the same time, we are hearing increasingly shrill rhetoric from Extinction Rebellion and other activists about the ‘existential threat’ of the ‘climate crisis’, ‘runaway climate chaos’, etc.

There is a growing realization that Paris climate agreement is inadequate for making a meaningful dent in slowing down the anticipated warming. And the real societal consequences of climate change and extreme weather events remain largely unaddressed.

How have we arrived at this point? For the past three decades, the climate policy ‘cart’ has been way out in front of the scientific ‘horse’. The 1992 Climate Change treaty was signed by 190 countries before the balance of scientific evidence suggested even a discernible observed human influence on global climate. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol was implemented before we had any confidence that most of the recent warming was caused by humans. There has been tremendous political pressure on the scientists to present findings that would support these treaties, which has resulted in a drive to manufacture a scientific consensus on the dangers of manmade climate change.

Fossil fuel emissions as the climate ‘control knob’ is a simple and seductive idea. However this is a misleading oversimplification, since climate can shift naturally in unexpected ways. Apart from uncertainties in future emissions, we are still facing a factor of 3 or more uncertainty in the sensitivity of the Earth’s temperature to increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. We have no idea how natural climate variability (solar, volcanoes, ocean circulations) will play out in the 21st century, and whether or not natural variability will dominate over manmade warming.

We still don’t have a realistic assessment of how a warmer climate will impact us and whether it is ‘dangerous.’ We don’t have a good understanding of how warming will influence extreme weather events.  Land use and exploitation by humans is a far bigger issue than climate change for species extinction and ecosystem health. Local sea level rise has many causes, and is dominated by sinking from land use in many of the most vulnerable locations.

We have been told that the science of climate change is ‘settled’. However, in climate science there has been a tension between the drive towards a scientific ‘consensus’ to support policy making, versus exploratory research that pushes forward the knowledge frontier. Climate science is characterized by a rapidly evolving knowledge base and disagreement among experts. Predictions of 21st century climate change are characterized by deep uncertainty.

Nevertheless, activist scientists and the media seize upon each extreme weather event as having the fingerprints of manmade climate change — ignoring the analyses of more sober scientists showing periods of even more extreme weather in the first half of the 20th century, when fossil fuel emissions were much smaller.

Alarming press releases are issued about each new climate model prediction of future catastrophes from famine, mass migrations, catastrophic fires, etc. Yet, these press releases don’t mention that these predicted catastrophes are associated with highly implausible assumptions about how much we might actually emit over the course of the 21st century. Further, issues such as famine, mass migrations and wildfires are caused primarily by government policies and ineptitude, lack of wealth and land use policies. Climate change matters, but it’s outweighed by other factors in terms of influencing human well being.

We have been told that climate change is an ‘existential crisis.’ However, based upon our current assessment of the science, the climate threat is not an existential one, even in its most alarming hypothetical incarnations. However, the perception of manmade climate change as a near-term apocalypse and has narrowed the policy options that we’re willing to consider.

We have not only oversimplified the problem of climate change, but we have also oversimplified its ‘solution’. Even if you accept the climate model projections and that warming is dangerous, there is disagreement among experts regarding whether a rapid acceleration away from fossil fuels is the appropriate policy response. In any event, rapidly reducing emissions from fossil fuels and ameliorating the adverse impacts of extreme weather events in the near term increasingly looks like magical thinking.

Climate change – both manmade and natural – is a chronic problem that will require centuries of management.

The extreme rhetoric of the Extinction Rebellion and other activists is making political agreement on climate change policies more difficult.  Exaggerating the dangers beyond credibility makes it difficult to take climate change seriously. The monomaniacal focus on elimination of fossil fuel emissions distracts our attention from the primary causes of many of our problems and effective solutions.

Common sense strategies to reduce vulnerability to extreme weather events, improve environmental quality, develop better energy technologies, improve agricultural and land use practices, and better manage water resources can pave the way for a more prosperous and secure future. Each of these solutions is ‘no regrets’ – supporting climate change mitigation while improving human well being. These strategies avoid the political gridlock surrounding the current policies and avoid costly policies that will have minimal near-term impacts on the climate. And finally, these strategies don’t require agreement about the risks of uncontrolled greenhouse gas emissions.

We don’t know how the climate of the 21st century will evolve, and we will undoubtedly be surprised. Given this uncertainty, precise emissions targets and deadlines are scientifically meaningless. We can avoid much of the political gridlock by implementing common sense, no-regrets strategies that improve energy technologies, lift people out of poverty and make them more resilient to extreme weather events.


Skeptical Climate ‘Talking Points’ 36-Page Report Released at UN Climate Summit in Madrid

Selected Excerpts:

INTRODUCTION: Global warming hype and hysteria continue to dominate the news media, academia, schools, the United Nations, and the U.S. government. The Green New Deal being pushed on Capitol Hill and in the 2020 presidential race is based upon “solving” an alleged “climate crisis.”

Teen school-skipping climate activists are testifying to the U.S. Congress and the United Nations and young children are being recruited for lawsuits against the U.S. government for its alleged climate “inaction.” The phrase ‘climate emergency’ has emerged as the favorite for climate campaigners.

But the arguments put forth by global warming advocates grossly distort the true facts on a host of issues, ranging from rising sea levels and record temperatures to melting polar caps and polar bears, among others. In short, there is no “climate crisis” or a “climate emergency.”

The UN, climate activists, the media, and academia are using the climate scare as an opportunity to lobby for their alleged “solutions” which require massive government expansion and central planning.

This talking points memo is designed to arm people with the voices of the rising number of scientists, the latest data, peer-reviewed studies on key facts so they can better engage in climate change debate with those advocating the UN/Al Gore/Green New Deal positions.

The global warming movement has morphed into a coalition of “climate cause deniers.” They deny the hundreds of causes and variables that influence climate change and instead try to pretend that carbon dioxide is the climate “control knob” overriding all the others factors and they pretend that every bad weather even it somehow “proof” of their “global warming.”

Footnotes and weblinks are provided to source material in this document.

Claims of an alleged “97% consensus” of scientists are “pulled from thin air”

Despite former Vice President Al Gore’s claim in 2019 that “It’s beyond consensus of 99 percent of the scientists,” the facts say otherwise. There is absolutely no scientific “consensus” about catastrophic man-made climate change. Claims that 97 or 99 percent of scientists agree are not backed up by any “credible” study or poll.

UN IPCC lead author Dr. Richard Tol: “The 97% is essentially pulled from thin air, it is not based on any credible research whatsoever.”

Princeton Professor Emeritus of Physics William Happer in 2017 drew parallels to the “consensus” on witches. “I don’t see a whole lot of difference between the consensus on climate change and the consensus on witches. At the witch trials in Salem the judges were educated at Harvard. This was supposedly 100 percent science. The one or two people who said there were no witches were immediately hung. Not much has changed,” Happer quipped.

CO2 is not the “control knob” of the climate

There is a lack of connection between higher levels of CO2 and warming.  During the Ice Age, CO2 levels were 10 times higher than they are today.

There are many, many factors which impact climate – including volcanoes, wind oscillations, solar activity, ocean cycles, volcanoes, tilt of the Earth’s axis, and land use. CO2 is just one factor, and not the control knob of the climate.

University of Pennsylvania geologist Dr. Robert Giegengack has declared, “CO2 is not the villain that it has been portrayed.”

Today’s levels of roughly 400 parts per million (PPM) of CO2 are not alarming.  In geologic terms, today’s CO2 levels are among the lowest in earth’s history.

“Climate change is governed by hundreds of factors, or variables, and the very idea that we can manage climate change predictably by understanding and manipulating at the margins one politically selected factor (CO2), is as misguided as it gets. Its scientific nonsense,” University of London professor emeritus Philip Stott has noted.

There is no “climate emergency”

Princeton Physicist Dr. Will Happer, a former Trump Science Advisor ripped the claims of a “climate emergency” in 2019.  “We are here [at the UN climate summit in Madrid] under false pretenses, wasting our time talking about a non-existent ‘climate emergency.’”  Happer explained from Madrid. “It’s hard to understand how much further the shrillness can go as this started out as ‘global warming’ then it was ‘climate change’ or ‘global weirding’,  ‘climate crisis’, ‘climate emergency’. What next? But stick around it will happen. I hope sooner or later enough people recognize the holiness of this bizarre environmental cult and bring it to an end.”

Go Socialist or Die!? The Age of the ‘Climate Emergency’ – UN, Universities, Cities, & Now Congress?!  to declare ‘Climate Emergency’ – Gore & Streisand helped pioneer phrase

University of Colorado’s Dr. Roger Pielke Jr. explained how the UN helped shape the hysterical nonsense of a ‘climate emergency.”  The UN IPCC switched to “extreme scenarios” in the most recent report and thus “helped to create the climate apocalypse, a scary but imaginary future,” Pielke explained in 2019.


Exxon Found 'Not Guilty' in Politically Motivated Climate Change Suit

The state of New York sued American oil giant Exxon Mobile for withholding the "true costs" of climate change from investors. In fact, the charges used to be much broader when the suit was filed by the New York attorney general 4 years ago. At that time, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman claimed that Exxon knew about the impact of climate change but failed to inform shareholders.

But even the reduced charges didn't fly with the judge. New York Supreme Court Justice Barry Ostrager not only ruled that Exxon did not mislead investors, but that the AG office lied about producing investors as witnesses who had actually been harmed by the company's "lies."


“The Office of the Attorney General failed to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that ExxonMobil made any material misstatements or omissions about its practices and procedures that misled any reasonable investor,” Ostrager wrote in his ruling.

“The office of the Attorney General produced no testimony from any investor who claimed to have been misled by any disclosure, even though the Office of the Attorney General had previously represented it would call such individuals as trial witnesses,” he added.

Not proving that any investor had been materially harmed by Exxon's actions was critical. It basically meant that the state had absolutely no grounds to bring the suit in the first place.

The $1.6 billion suit brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James alleged that Exxon deceived investors about the true cost of climate change. The trial, which began in October and was the first climate fraud suit to go to trial, was the result of a four-year investigation.

“Today’s ruling affirms the position ExxonMobil has held throughout the New York Attorney General’s baseless investigation,” Exxon spokesperson Casey Norton said in a statement. “We provided our investors with accurate information on the risks of climate change. The court agreed that the Attorney General failed to make a case, even with the extremely low threshold of the Martin Act in its favor,” he added.

The AG was aided by anti-fossil fuel groups and contingency-fee lawyers who helped trump up the charges against Exxon.

When he took the stand on Oct. 30, former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson said that the company tried to understand the impact of climate change, and tried to accurately communicate this impact to shareholders. Exxon said the case was misleading and politically motivated, and the result of a coordinated effort by anti-fossil fuel groups.

“Lawsuits that waste millions of dollars of taxpayer money do nothing to advance meaningful actions that reduce the risks of climate change. ExxonMobil will continue to invest in researching breakthrough technologies to reduce emissions while meeting society’s growing demand for energy,” Norton added.

The legal fight to force fossil fuel companies out of business is just starting. There are dozens of similar lawsuits brought by other states and cities as well as liability suits brought by class action lawyers. This is lawfare writ large and it remains to be seen how successful any of them will be.


Global warning: Facts are facing extinction

Andrew Bolt, writing from Australia

CHILD messiah Greta Thunberg was excited: "500,000 people marched in Madrid last night ... The world is slowly waking up to the climate and environmental crisis."

No, what the world should be waking up to this: Facts are now dead. Rarely have I seen newspapers report exaggerations on the scale I saw after the weekend rally by global warming hysterics, many of them young: "Organisers claimed 500,000 people turned out for the march, but authorities in Madrid put the number at 15,000."

The Washington Post, puzzled, added that there was "no immediate explanation for the disparity in the count". But there is. It's that facts no longer count. What counts is the myth. That's why Thunberg is today's great goddess, treated as an oracle by the United Nations.

She's just 16, refuses to go to school, claims her Asperger's is a "superpower", and is ascribed such mystical powers that her mother even claims "she can see carbon dioxide with the naked eye ... how it flows out of chimneys".

Here is a symbol of a new invincible ignorance — a refusal to even engage with facts and arguments. No wonder Thunberg particularly inspires children, the least educated and most dogmatic.

But this giddy disregard for facts now infects even the smartest adults. Take Therese Rein, who is not just the wife of former prime minister Kevin Rudd, but a very rich businesswoman. Even she joined in blaming Prime Minister Scott Morrison for the NSW bushfires, tweeting. "Parts of NSW on fire at least in part because your party has blocked, and also not initiated, effective climate change policies ... Time to repent"

Time to repent? That's the hot language of faith, not the cool of reason. The science is clear. Morrison can do nothing to change the world's climate and stop fires. Australia is just too small to make a difference.

Rein and other critics such as Malcolm Turnbull are plainly irrational to suggest Morrison could dial down some giant thermostat. Is there any point in also showing that the fires aren't caused by global warming, and that a recent NASA study shows fires are now burning less land, not more?

No, facts have lost their power ever since postmodernism conquered our universities and reassured the stupid they were mere social constructs. Even conspiracies.

To mention facts now is no longer to bring light into darkness, but to set fire to your reputation.

From the Brisbane "Courier Mail" of 9 December, 2019

'We've had bushfires in Australia for 60,000 years': Mark Latham slams State environment minister for breaking rank and blaming fires on climate change

One Nation state leader Mark Latham has slammed the NSW Environment Minister for blaming extreme weather conditions, bushfires and smoke clouds on climate change.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian has refused to be drawn into a climate debate for the length of the fire season, but her Environment Minister Matt Kean on Tuesday said 'no-one can deny' climate change is to blame. Mr Kean was a speaker at the Smart Energy Summit in Sydney on Tuesday, as the Sydney basin was choked by thick, grey smoke.

But Mr Latham told 2GB's Steve Price the comments were 'opportunistic' and didn't take into account Australia's long history with extreme weather. 'In Australia, we've had bushfires for 60,000 years,' he said.

'We've had fires in Sydney before... to be making a political argument relevant to the minister's portfolio defies the proper respect for firefighters themselves,' he said.

Mr Price agreed with the argument, telling listeners he 'couldn't believe' the comments when he heard them. 'What does climate change have to do with arsonists lighting fires?,' he asked.

'What does science say about governments who haven't built a dam in decades and have screwed up water policy to the point where there is no water policy?' 

The air quality in the harbour city was 11 times more than what is considered as a hazardous level. The state's health authorities warned the 'grotty' smoke pollution was a recipe for severe illness.

Particulate readings of 778 for PM2.5 in Mona Vale on the city's north-east coast meant the suburb had the highest reported pollution levels in the world on Tuesday morning. By comparison, Shanghai had a PM2.5 level of 188 while Hong Kong had a reading of just 135 at midday.

Mr Kean said the weather patterns were 'exactly what scientists warned would happen,' Sydney Morning Herald reported. 'We need to reduce our carbon emissions immediately, and we need to adapt our practices to deal with this kind of weather becoming the new normal,' Mr Kean said.

He commented on the low visibility in the harbour city on Tuesday, where it was so low that Sydney ferries were forced to stop running, while smoke infiltrated train stations and set off fire alarms, causing havoc for the public transport system.

Despite Mr Kean's comments, Premier Berejiklian again wouldn't draw any links between the weather and climate change.

'The smoke blanketing Sydney is simply shocking,' Ms Berejiklian said. 'I urge everyone to please follow the advice given by our health experts. Even if you are not directly affected, chances are someone close to you is.'



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


No comments: