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The Death Spiral for Climate Alarmism Continues

By Kenneth P. Green -- June 2, 2010

“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.”

– James Hansen, “The Threat to the Planet,” New York Review of Books, July 13, 2006.

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

– Kenneth Green, “A Death Spiral for Climate Alarmism, Redux?” MasterResource, September 30, 2009.

As I have written in a previous post, the trend toward abject panic over climate change seems to have reversed course. For all intents and purposes, climate alarmism – which I define as the reflexive tendency to assume worst-case scenarios generated by climate models are automatically true (and to enact public policy based on that belief) – is locked into a death spiral. The public policy implication is profound: substituting adaptation and wealth creating strategies for tears-in-the-ocean mitigation policies in the U.S. and abroad.

On the political front:

The IPCC’s reputation as a serious scientific institution continues to hemorrhage as a nearly endless string of errors and/or bad practices relating to the Fourth Assessment Report come to light.

As Newsweek put it recently,

Some of the IPCC’s most-quoted data and recommendations were taken straight out of unchecked activist brochures, newspaper articles, and corporate reports—including claims of plummeting crop yields in Africa and the rising costs of warming-related natural disasters, both of which have been refuted by academic studies.

Further, Newsweek opines, the case for policy-development based on climate alarmism is also off the rails,

There are excellent reasons to limit emissions and switch to cleaner fuels—including an estimated 750,000 annual pollution deaths in China, the potential to create jobs at home instead of enriching nasty regimes sitting on oil wells, the need to provide cheap sources of power to the world’s poorest regions, and the still-probable threat that global warming is underway. At the moment, however, certainty about how fast—and how much—global warming changes the earth’s climate does not appear to be one of those reasons.

Internationally, things are not much better for the alarmists. The negotiations in Copenhagen were a complete shambles, resulting only in a non-binding, let’s-meet-again memorandum that the various participating countries “recognized” having seen.

Greenpeace activist, and Independent Commentator Joss Garman characterized the “Copenhagen Accord” thus:

This “deal” is beyond bad. It contains no legally binding targets and no indication of when or how they will come about. There is not even a declaration that the world will aim to keep global temperature rises below 2 C. Instead, leaders merely recognise the science behind that vital threshold, as if that were enough to prevent us crossing it.

The only part of this deal that anyone sane came close to welcoming was the $100bn global climate fund, but it’s now apparent that even this is largely made up of existing budgets, with no indication of how new money will be raised and distributed so that poorer countries can go green and adapt to climate change.

In the EU, the vaunted European Trading System continues to come apart at the seams. According to James Kanter at the NYT:

Carbon traders, for example, have been arrested for tax fraud; evidence has emerged of lucrative projects that may do nothing to curb climate change; and steel and cement companies have booked huge profits selling surplus permits they received for free.

And the EU is backing away from previous plans to tighten its carbon reduction targets. According to Greenwire,

For months, Europe has mulled whether to increase to 30 percent its current commitment to reduce CO2 emissions 20 percent from 1990 levels by 2020. E.U. leaders in Brussels, including the bloc’s climate chief, Connie Hedegaard, have seemed to favor such a commitment, while influential member states like Germany and France have expressed skepticism of such a pledge without binding support from other major industrial powers like the United States.

A study, released today by the European Commission, expresses concern that Europe’s trading system for limiting emissions will remain less effective than planned without reductions in carbon allowances over the next decade. But addressing that problem may have to take a back seat for now, Hedegaard said.

Meanwhile, here in the U.S., climate alarmism has sunk so low that Senator John Kerry risks choking himself to death as he ties his tongue into knots to pretend that his climate bill, the misleadingly named “American Power Act,” is not a climate bill. Depending on the date, Senator Kerry disingenuously characterizes as a job creation bill, or a bill to end dependency on foreign oil, or as a bill to rejuvenate the moribund US nuclear energy sector…or anything but what it is, which is a bill full of direct and indirect taxes on carbon: that is, on coal, natural gas, oil, and gasoline.

Pundits give the bill little chance of passage in this Congress, and if Democrats take anything like the whuppin’ they’re expected to get in November, I wouldn’t look for a reprise of the “American Power Act” any time soon. [Personal note to Senator Kerry: Dear Senator, will you please stop perpetuating the fiction that you can create jobs by forcing up the cost of power (and making it less reliable) in the United States. All you’re going to do with your fraudulently titled climate bill is kill jobs, reduce economic growth, export more of America’s industrial base to other countries, and perpetuate the misery of this lackluster economy. Even worse, you’ll hurt the people you claim as your primary constituency – the poor – more than the wealthy, as the poor spend more of their budget on energy than those with greater wealth.]

On the regulatory front,

EPA continues to face opposition to regulation of the greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. On June 10, a resolution authored by Senator Lisa Murkowski (and co-sponsored by 38 others including 3 Democrats) will be voted on. The resolution concludes that it is:

    Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That Congress disapproves the rule submitted by the Environmental Protection Agency relating to the endangerment finding and the cause or contribute findings for greenhouse gases under section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act (published at 74 Fed. Reg. 66496 (December 15, 2009)), and such rule shall have no force or effect.

Finally, on the public opinion front,

Poll numbers continue to decline when it comes to people expressing serious concern about climate change, or willingness to pay anything to remedy it.

The New York Times points out that public belief levels are plummeting even in Jolly Old Britain, (and not-so-jolly old Germany) both of which have been, until recently, seething hotbeds of climate alarmism:

Nowhere has this shift in public opinion been more striking than in Britain, where climate change was until this year such a popular priority that in 2008 Parliament enshrined targets for emissions cuts as national law. But since then, the country has evolved into a home base for a thriving group of climate skeptics who have dominated news reports in recent months, apparently convincing many that the threat of warming is vastly exaggerated.

A survey in February by the BBC found that only 26 percent of Britons believed that “climate change is happening and is now established as largely manmade,” down from 41 percent in November 2009. A poll conducted for the German magazine Der Spiegel found that 42 percent of Germans feared global warming, down from 62 percent four years earlier.

Our “paper of record,” also observes that

The lack of fervor about climate change is also true of the United States, where action on climate and emissions reduction is still very much a work in progress, and concern about global warming was never as strong as in Europe. A March Gallup poll found that 48 percent of Americans believed that the seriousness of global warming was “generally exaggerated,” up from 41 percent a year ago.


My colleague, Steve Hayward, thinks that future historians will peg 2008 as the year that climate alarmism jumped the shark. If so, it’s clear that in 2010, the Fonz is on the sharp declining phase of the jump, headed back down to the water. On every front, climate alarmists are losing, from international negotiations, to domestic legislation, to public opinion. Even the UK’s Royal Society is being forced to reconsider their position on climate change.

We can hope that climate alarmism will be replaced by a new era of climate realism, where the focus is on fostering resilience: building institutions, and helping other countries build institutions that would give them resilience in the face of any sort of climate change, manmade or natural, modest or major. Instead, however, my guess is this won’t happen. The alarmists are unable to give up the sense of panic they need to preserve to promote radical policies. And, to be fair, there is such polarization on the part of climate skeptics that even we climate moderates come in for some slapping around when we admit a vague possibility that humans could cause even modest harm via our influence on the climate. There is little appetite on either side for moderation or realism.

Instead, what I suspect will happen is that the entire issue of climate change will go sub rosa, and be embedded in discussions of energy, sustainability, energy security, renewable energy, protecting biodiversity, or anything that lacks the words “climate change” in the title.


  1. peter oneil  

    Another few years of cooling should help the cause although i suspect that climate will be a political vehicle for the forseable future and the direction (warming or cooling) will be irelavent. PNS is now the order of the day and unless and until this approach is totaly discredited, the ordinary people of this world will enjoy increasing tyrany.


  2. ppp  

    Another few years of cooling and everybody will claim to have been a skeptic from the beginning or to have had doubts…


  3. denis  

    Righto, but those who resorted to such terms as “flat-earthers”, and “treason” won’t be forgotten.


  4. Matthew Bergin  

    It still amazes me that all of this hysteria has been caused by a paltry 0.7 C temperature rise in 150 years. CO2 is not an environmental pollutant it is plant food. My fish tank is a perfect example of how important CO2 is to plant growth. I inject CO2 into my tank for the plants which grow very well in my tank but shut the CO2 off for any length of time and they will start to die. The fish in the tank enjoy the oxygen that is produced by the photosynthesis and the plants enjoy the waste produced by the fish.


  5. Kennedy Maize  

    Maybe, someday but ( doubt it) we can abolish “green” from our policy vocabulary. No one has yet been able to define what constitutes “green jobs,” or “green energy,” or green anything else, other than envy. If the specter of catastrophic global warming vanishes, defining “green” is going to be even more difficult.
    But when that happens, it will deprive us of the use of the “watermelon” invective: green on the outside, red in the middle. Not a big loss.


  6. jay davis  

    The AGW crowd has a lot to answer for. I personally won’t be satisfied until Mann, Jones, Gore, et al are sued and/or prosecuted. As to the politicians who supported them, I hope there is a bloodbath at the polls – the world will not be safe as long as there is a liberal in politics.


  7. nofreewind  

    I’m a total skeptic, but to the posters above. There is no real cooling now. In fact, temperatures with the recent El Nino spiked up again, and that’s according to Roy Spencer’s UAH satellite temperature reading. Roy is a skeptic.
    Then, here it is from 1977, when the satellites started.
    But this trend is no different from the trend from about 1910-1940, when atmospheric CO2 was much lower.


  8. Mark Walker  

    While the words will change, the fight will remain as the socialists disguised as environmentalists will move on to other scares – biodiversity, water, population and now a renewed attack on oil with the GoM disaster.

    Climate, CO2 were never the concerns – wealth transfer and control are the long term goals of these folks, as well as personal gain – and any vehicle to achieve the goals will do.


  9. GHM  

    But folks like James Hansen (NASA GISS), UVA , and other Federal and state agencies and institutions continue to stonewall years worth of FOIA requests to access publically funded research and climate data that seems to ONLY produce apocalyptic climate disaster projections!

    Why? I strongly agree with MIT’s Richard Lindzen that this is directly due to the fact that the federal, state, international, and non-profit agencies funding these “studies”, like the UN, GE, Sierra Club, WWF, and many other fellow-traveler non-profits, are only willing to fund “research” that promises to come up with the conclusions they are looking for!

    And for those who may not know, UVA is challenging VA Attorney General’s subpoena for former professor Michael Mann’s (“hide the decline!” _ climate emails since most of his work was performed using State and Federal grants. Of course this is the same zealot who invented Mann-made global warming through his now discredited “hockey-stick” curve in 2004 that IPCC pounced upon as proof of a crisis. Of course that graph and all related material has silently been deleted from more recent versions of the IPCC’s annual “we’re all gonna die tomorrow” climate reports.

    Whether UVA doesn’t want to be pulled into the cesspool of climate zealots attacking both the personal and professional reputations of real thinking scientists who had not yet sucumbed to the Kool Aid, or is just waiting for an extreamist Congress to Rahm through crippling climate taxes and economic redistribution before letting the public learn the facts is a subject of active debate. Stupidity or Deliberate Criminal Behavior? We’ll know soon and I hope prosecution follows!


  10. harry  

    The November US elections offer the GW skeptics an ideal opportunity to hoist the GW alarmists onto their propaganda. By repeating and debunking the alarmists frequent exaggerations and outrite lies on the subject in political debate the alarmists can be forced to defend the indefensible to their detriment aand ultimate defeat.


  11. Robert R. Reynolds  

    I still see no proof that modeling results are capable of agreeing with past and present climates which leaves great holes in their argument for future unstoppable global warming. I believe in the known geological setting we are in today that definitely shows that 1) the Earth is still below the average temps of the Mesozoic Era (dinosaurs). 2) The Polar regions are still iced up which began 14 myago for the N Pole, and 30+ myago for the S Pole. 3) We are presently in the 5th interglacial epoch of the Pleistocene ice ages that began only 1.75 myago (only a moment of geologic time). These ice cycles lasted an average of 100,000 years each. The 5 interglacials were variable in length, the previous about 10,000 years, our present (Holocene) is about 12,000 years now. 4) A climate graph of the Holocene shows 4 major warm periods, warmer than today, with intervening cool periods. In each of the warm spells man made significant advances. A study of this climate graph reveals the exaggerations and outright fabrications of the AGW advocates claiming unstoppable global warming. 5)Then there are the factors that appear to have been no concern in concocting the mythical hypothesis of AGW. 6) is the fact that as long as we have ice in our polar regions the Earth is in a glacial mode. 7) Our sun is too weak, particularly in its low sunspot mode, to prevent icing up the world without the presence of a reasonable amount of Greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. 8) Recent research by Svendsmark et al strongly indicates indicates that cosmic rays from exploding stars that frequent certain areas along our route through the Milky Way may be related to the formation of heavy low cloudiness as our solar system orbits its galaxy. It is a supreme egotism to imagine man can manage climates. No amount of money spent on control of carbon in our atmosphere will have an appreciable effect on climates that are ever-changing. Man’s long term survival depends on his ability to adapt to inevitable climate change.


  12. Cooler Heads Digest 4 June 2010 | GlobalWarming.org  

    […] The Death Spiral for Climate Alarmism Continues Kenneth P. Green, MasterResource.org, 2 June 2010 […]


  13. J Evans  

    You’re not a ‘skeptic’ if your position is just as locked-in and hardened as the other side; you’re the same as they are. They call you an idiot, you call them idiots. You say *their* evidence is twisted, they say *your* evidence is twisted. They make blanket declarations, you make blanket declarations. It’s less emotionally satisfying to hang out in the middle of a debate, but you’re not willing to ‘look at the truth’ any more than they are.


  14. william  

    I wonder if in the end it will be China that kills it, as China ploughs ahead leaving the rest of the world standing any idea of carbon credit tax on companies will have to be shelved to play catch up.

    China now the biggest exporter, 200 billion dollar deals on oil with 17 countries , building a coal powered station a week for the next 40 years.

    US in debt to China.


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