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A Death Spiral for Climate Alarmism, Redux?

Editor Note: In our ‘best of MasterResource’ weekend series, we are pleased to reprint the September 30th post by Ken Green in light of the stalemate of U.S. climate legislation for 2009. Obviously, the onset of Climategate will only reinforce a worst-case scenario for climate alarmism politics.

Desperation is setting in among climate alarmists who by their own math can see that the window is rapidly closing on “saving the planet.”

James Hansen, for instance, said three years ago in the New York Review of Books: “We have at most ten years—not ten years to decide upon action, but ten years to alter fundamentally the trajectory of global greenhouse emissions.” That was also Al Gore’s estimate in “An Inconvenient Truth.” But the time has been ticking away, and it’s increasingly obvious that the Gore/Hansen “wrenching transformation” of the U.S. energy system is simply not going to happen.

Perhaps Copenhagen will make it official.

U.S. cap-and-trade has become a big political liability, in particular, as polls show voters are relatively unconcerned about climate change, and are deeply averse to higher energy prices. That has led Senator John Kerry, for example, to try to hide the ball by changing the name of scheme to “pollution reduction” in order to obscure the reality that it’s basically a massive energy tax. Other Left-leaning politicians (the latest being Houston Mayor Bill White, who is running for the U.S. Senate) are announcing their opposition to cap-and-trade. (1)

Renewable energy is also getting more scrutiny than ever before, awakening not only cost-conscious middle America but grass-roots environmentalists concerned about negative local impacts and big-business intrusion.

Anti-Alarmist Momentum

Here is the death spiral that I believe the the Climate Crisis Industry fears (and is probably right to fear) consciously or subconsciously:

1. U.S. rejects cap-and-trade in 2009, leaving a climate bill in serious trouble for election-year 2010 and beyond.

2. Copenhagen flounders without any U.S. commitment and from developing country opposition, among other things. The failed Kyoto Protocol creeps toward its 2012 expiration date with an all pain, no gain tag.

3. EPA action is delayed by court action and public/political opposition, negating implementation for years and effective implementation for longer. Congressional action to de-authorize EPA becomes more and more likely as businesses, and electric utilities in particular, demand certainty to meet growing U.S. electricity demand coming out of a recession.

4. The climate continues its decade long trend of non-warming for another 10 years, as some scientists have predicted. The return of bitterly cold winters, and more years “without a summer” increases public skepticism about climate science. More revelations come out about data manipulation by NASA, and cherry-picking by scientists trying to paint a false picture of recent warming in historical perspective.

5. Climate initiatives (renewable energy subsidies, etc.) are increasingly scrutinized and attacked as job-destroying corporate welfare by the Right and political capitalism by the Left.

6. Grassroots opposition builds against wind and solar farms because of landscape, wildlife, and people issues–and with the knowledge that such are not going to make a climatological difference. Environmentalists continue to block renewable projects at the local level, making it increasingly obvious that the U.S. risks energy shortages as conventional power generation is also stalled

7. Given the political impasse, and feeling somewhat duped, more and more science writers and academics will start covering hard climate data/trends rather than uncritically flogging the latest garbage-in/garbage-out forecasting. [Okay, this could be wishful thinking on my part, based on a mistaken belief that left-leaning science writers actually care about balanced reporting, and that academics dependent on government grants might develop something resembling a spine, but a person can dream, can't they?]

8. More attention focuses on adaptation and climate engineering, both of which spark furious debates on the Left as, respectively, “defeatist” and “playing God with climate.”

9. The “Great Climate Scare” becomes scrutinized for bad behavior and lessons-learned–which magnifies the intellectual and media turnaround on the issue.

10. Political support ebbs for government-dependent wind, solar, and energy efficiency companies, deflating the bubble and leaving a sad industrial trail of broken, obsolete, or uneconomic wind turbines and solar panels.

Conclusion

In the face of the risks to the climate crisis agenda outlined above, we can expect the climate crisis industry to grow increasingly shrill, and increasingly hostile toward anyone who questions their authority. Politicians are likely to try to ram as much through as they can for their favored constituencies and technologies before the climate crisis runs out of steam, and public concern drops even lower. This is the time for those concerned about public policy to be on high alert, as panicked activists and politicians will be trying every trick in the book to enact their agenda by hook or by crook.

Vigilance is called for more than ever in contentious climate debate.

(1) “In Tyler, [Bill] White told one local resident that he opposes House legislation to cap carbon emissions, often called “cap-and trade,” which local energy companies have begun to advertise against on billboards.”

- Bradley Olson, “Mayor a Different Man on the Stump.” Houston Chronicle, September 29, 2009, p. B1.

6 comments

1 Noblesse Oblige { 11.28.09 at 12:27 am }

Do not underestimate the power of a relentless, agenda-driven ideology of which climate is only one facet. It is far too early to even contemplate victory.

2 garret seinen { 11.29.09 at 1:37 am }

I agree with the above. The immense cash cow deflate will bring out a vitriolic backlash unmatched by anything seen before. But to quote a friend of mine, “History will not be kind to a generation that had all the information available to them and failed to act appropriately. Unlike our ancient ancestors we have no excuse.”
This is not time for complacency.

3 Chris { 11.30.09 at 11:15 am }

Regarding Point 10, due to sunk costs, existing wind turbines and solar panels will still be economical to operate in the future. However, once government subsidies end, there will no new investment in wind turbines or solar panels (i.e., there’s not enough profit to pay back the principal, interest, and return for the investor). Thus, the companies who invested in equipment to supply these industries will fail, burdened with useless factories.

4 Neo { 12.01.09 at 5:28 pm }

With much of the electrical turbines being built abroad (i.e. China), expect increased pushback on government subsidies for wind. The same is pretty much true for the power grid upgrade.
What good are “green jobs” if they all go to offshore ?

5 Neo { 12.01.09 at 7:40 pm }

I get really perplexed over “renewable” energy sources, such as bio-fuels, that are carbon-based. Putting aside the logistics of bringing on the capacity to produce to a meaningful level and the redirection of resources from food production, the only plausible argument is that they create a short term capacity that doesn’t ship dollars offshore, but why then the hostility to more domestic oil production ?
Why would anybody, who is worried about CO2 emissions, promote one carbon-based fuel over another ? I fail to see the long term logic for any AGW “believer.”

6 Bikerdad { 12.02.09 at 10:19 pm }

Why choose renewable bio-fuels over fossil fuels, if CO2 emissions are the concern? Because the renewables are simply cycling existing atmospheric CO2, whereas fossil fuels are essentially releasing sequestered CO2 into the atmosphere. Of course, the renewables aren’t 100% efficient at recyling, as they require fossil fuel usage in their production, but theoretically, they add no net CO2 to the atmosphere.

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