Presidential Debate: Climate Change Cheat Sheet
“[T]he climate effect of greenhouse gas emissions from the production from fossil fuels appears to be less than it is being projected by the world’s best climate models. Yet all climate models agree that U.S. actions alone in reducing greenhouse gas impacts will not have practical impact on the climate. Ipso facto, arguments about energy policy should not be grounded in terms of real-world climate change, present or future.”
With the first presidential debate this Wednesday, and since both candidates have made recent high profile references to climate change and its impacts, perhaps this is a good time to review some basic climate change talking points that each candidates should have at his disposal.
Climate During the Obama Administration
• Over the course of the Obama presidency the rate of global warming has declined.
• Over the course of the Obama presidency the rise of the global sea level has slowed.
• Over the course of the Obama presidency the emissions of greenhouse gases from the U.S. have declined.
None of the above are a result of Obama Administration policies.
• Instead, the vagaries of natural climate variability have led to a (temporary) slowdown of the rise in both global average temperature and global average sea level.
• The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S is largely a result of a poor economy, a rise in the use (and affordable availability) of natural gas, and on-going improvements of the U.S. energy efficiency that were begun long before the Obama Administration.
Relevant Big Picture Climate Facts
• The long-term rate of global temperature rise lies well below the consensus forecasts from climate models.
• The current rate of sea level rise would result in a rise of 9-12 inches between now and the end of this century. The rate of rise has been declining.
• There is no established scientific relationship between observations of many types of severe weather in the U.S. and anthropogenic climate change.
• There is no relationship between U.S. droughts and global temperature.
• There is no detected relationship between U.S. tornadoes and global temperature.
• A major hurricane (category 3 or greater) has not made landfall in the U.S. since 2005—the longest such period of inactivity on record.
• American’s are becoming less sensitive to heat waves.
Relevant Big Picture Greenhouse Gas Emissions Facts
• The U.S. contribution to global carbon dioxide emissions is rapidly declining. For example, the global percentage of carbon dioxide emissions coming from the U.S. dropped from 25% in 2000 to 18% in 2010.
• During the 21st century carbon dioxide emissions from the U.S. have remained largely unchanged while those from the rest of the world have increased by ~8300 million metric tons—an amount equivalent to 150% of the total U.S. emissions.
• Reducing U.S. carbon dioxide emissions by 80% by the year 2050 will have no meaningful impact on the future rate of global temperature rise.
• Emissions growth from China alone would replace the emissions saved by an 80% reduction in the U.S. emissions in less than 10 years’ time—and thus completely wiping out our entire contribution to mitigating climate change.
These are the major facts of significance when it comes to climate change and our ability in the U.S. to change its course. This is not to say that human activities do not have an effect on global climate. They do.
But the climate effect of greenhouse gas emissions from the production from fossil fuels, in net, appears to be less than it is being projected by the world’s best climate models. Yet all climate models agree that U.S. actions alone in reducing greenhouse gas impacts will not have practical impact on the climate. Ipso facto, arguments about energy policy should not be grounded in terms of real-world climate change, present or future.