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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.

Carbon dioxide emissions from China have tripled during the same period.

• 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.

Bottom Line

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.

20 comments

1 Ed Reid { 10.01.12 at 11:20 am }

In the ~35 years since the “global cooling” panic, after the expenditure of ~$100 billion on climate research in the US alone, there is still no globally accepted GOAL regarding climate change, nor any PLAN to achieve that non-existent goal, nor any TIMELINE for its achievement. While I view that as a good thing, it certainly does not represent “progress” from the perspective of the climate change community.

With the recent exception of the data from the Climate Research Network in the US, there appear to be no global surface temperature data which are usable without adjustments. I understand that measuring temperature accurately is not easy, but it is also not rocket surgery or brain science, as the US CRN demonstrates.

There is no question that global annual CO2 emissions cannot begin to be reduced until the nations of the globe first stop increasing global annual CO2 emissions.

2 Climate cheat sheet for the presidential debate | Watts Up With That? { 10.02.12 at 3:38 am }

[...] Here is an excerpt from a story by Chip Knappenberger titled Presidential Debate: Climate Change Cheat Sheet [...]

3 johnbuk { 10.02.12 at 4:06 am }

Ed, given all that you say and the fact that real world changes have not matched the predictions of the climate models PLUS CO2 has increased to nearly 400ppm should we not revisit the need to mitigate carbon emissions at all – certainly not at the rate the Climate Community suggests?

4 Dr Burns { 10.02.12 at 4:23 am }

Ed,
What is the evidence that reducing CO2 emissions will effect the global warming that hasn’t been happening for the past decade?
There is NO evidence whatsoever.

5 Patrick Kelly { 10.02.12 at 4:38 am }

There is no question that global annual CO2 emissions cannot begin to be reduced until the nations of the globe first stop increasing global annual CO2 emissions.

6 Ed Reid { 10.02.12 at 7:59 am }

johnbuk @ 3

Yes. See Hansen 1988 projections presented to Congress.

DrBurns @ 4

Agreed, though the TEAM might argue the point.

Patrick Kelly @ 5

Well stated. :-)

7 Dodgy Geezer { 10.02.12 at 8:47 am }

Anyone who does not agree that the world faces a massive disaster from human emissions of CO2, and that a large transfer of money via taxes to leftward-leaning environmental groups is the only way to halt this must be a denier funded by Big Oil, and therefore none of their arguments should be listened to.

The same goes for anyone else who disagrees with me on any subject whatsoever….

8 Marlo Lewis { 10.02.12 at 9:16 am }

Thank you, Chip, for providing so much essential information in such a short space. I almost wish there were a federal mandate requiring candidates of all parties to read this post!

9 Michael J { 10.02.12 at 9:21 am }

> None of the above are a result of Obama Administration
> policies.

I’m none too sure about that. Are you asserting that the poor economy is unrelated to Presidential policies? I think I could mount a reasonable argument against that thesis.

For the humour impaired, the above is (mostly) tongue in cheek. :-)

10 Alan { 10.02.12 at 2:34 pm }

Obama’s climate accomplishments were also documented at:
http://www.appinsys.com/GlobalWarming/MissionAccomplished.htm

11 R. L. Hails Sr. P. E. { 10.02.12 at 4:24 pm }

These facts must be faced by the voters, and candidates, along with other hard energy facts of life: Only carbon and uranium can provide cheap base loaded energy to our nation, all green energies are too expensive, due to inherent unchanging technical reasons. And this will be true for as far as experts can predict, perhaps half a century. And without cheap energy, our way of life can not be sustained. And we have not built much in decades, our grids are aged.

So, Mr Candidate, what will you do?

(I engineered a score of nukes, two score fossil plants and spent decades assessing coming advanced technologies.)

12 Charles { 10.02.12 at 6:50 pm }

Since the climate policy being advocated by the Obama administration will change the composition of the atmosphere by taking one clear, colourless, odourless molecule of CO2 in every 1,780,451 molecules and replacing that with a clear colourless, odourless molecule of Oxygen or Hydrogen, then it is demonstrable that it will change nothing at all, as that will only increase the ability of the atmosphere to discharge energy by 1/1,780,451th.

Therefore, I think they should have a hard time arguing the case for CO2 emission reductions if that is the extent of the transformation of the atmosphere.

13 Brian H { 10.03.12 at 10:24 am }

“This is not to say that human activities do not have an effect on global climate. They do.” Prove it.

I am getting royally ripped at the lukewarmer meally-mouthed pandering to the consensus. Excepting minor local effects, there is no evidence refuting the real Null Hypothesis: all global climate change observed to date is within the bounds of observed and provable natural variation, and there is no evidence outside of output from demonstrably incompetent “unfit for purpose” models that it will do so in the next centuries — output which is evidence only of programming bias.

14 Will H { 10.03.12 at 11:34 am }

Ed,

In your section titled “Relevant Big Picture Greenhouse Gas Emissions Facts” you seem to be unfairly pushing all the blame for increased CO2 emissions off the U.S. and on to the rest of the world, particularly China. This is evident in your first two bullet points showing how U.S. CO2 emissions as a percent of world emissions have declined between 2000 and 2010 while China’s CO2 emissions have increased 3 times.

This isn’t a fair comparison because you did not say how much the U.S.’s CO2 emissions increased on an absolute basis – you just said it decreased on a relative basis to the rest of the world. What if U.S. emissions increased 2x from a large base and overall more than China’s?

Also, have you taken into account the idea of off-shoring pollution? During the 2000 – 2010 time period is exactly when U.S. companies rapidly increased off-shoring manufacturing to China for goods the U.S. consumes. So how can we blame China for producing the goods we used to produce and are still the buyers? The U.S. is the reason China uses so much energy in the manufacturing sector. Peter Tertzakian addresses this topic in his book, “A Thousand Barrels a Second” in case you are not familiar with his work.

15 Will H { 10.03.12 at 11:41 am }

My apologies to Ed. I meant to address my comment to the post’s author, Chip!

16 Ed Reid { 10.03.12 at 12:00 pm }

Will H @14

The author of the post is Chip Knappenberger. I believe your comment should have been addressed to him.

To your second paragraph, please see the link below, which shows that China is the largest emitter, on both an absolute and percentage basis. China’s emissions are currently increasing ~40 times faster than US emissions.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_carbon_dioxide_emissions

To your third paragraph, China could just stop manufacturing products and producing materials to be sold in international markets. I suggest you not hold your breath waiting for that to happen, however.

17 cknappenberger { 10.03.12 at 12:17 pm }

Will H. #14,

Thanks for the comments.

In my third bullet point of the “Relevant Big Picture Greenhouse Gas Emissions Facts” section I discuss absolute emissions when I state that U.S. emissions have not changed during the 21st century (and provide a link to the supporting data).

Do you have any numbers for the net amount of CO2 emisisons imported/exported from the U.S. though international trade? (i.e., your concept of “off-shoring” the emissions)?

Thanks,

-Chip

18 Will S { 10.03.12 at 3:28 pm }

The magician behind the curtain of this grandiose shot in the foot is the unquestioning reliance on climate models. It’s just coincidence, of course, that they have soaked up $70 B in public funds that the government has pumped into this enterprise. It’s now clear that those models can’t even predict the average temperature of the Earth.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203646004577213244084429540.html?KEYWORDS=climate+scientists+panic

http://www.climatedepot.com/a/17674/Climate-scientist-Dr-Murry-Salby-explains-why-manmade-CO2-does-not-control-climate

Yet, on their now disproven guidance, we’re supposed to tax what’s left of the economy into oblivion…. for the benefit of the Earth, of course.

19 Ed Reid { 10.04.12 at 10:52 am }

Will S @ 18

The fact that the “unquestioning reliance” is on multiple climate models, each producing ranges of results says volumes.

“Prediction is very hard, especially about the future.”, Yogi Berra, American philosopher

20 Week in review 10/5/12 | Climate Etc. { 10.05.12 at 3:15 pm }

[...] masterresource:  Presidential debate climate change cheat sheet.  Some [...]

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