A Free-Market Energy Blog

Is the Great Climate Alarm Winding Down?

By Douglas Gregory -- April 18, 2013

“‘Environmentalism is properly the ideology of controlling everything, which is called totalitarianism.’ Thankfully, it is difficult to squash human ingenuity, and industrialization will be a hard beast to slay, though it is neither impossible nor even complicated.”

While debate still swirls around climate change, recent reporting shows the debate’s hot and cold episodes cycle pretty in tune with changes in weather. Perhaps it will help to stand back and take a broad view.

Climate realists have long been aware that global average surface temperature had stopped sometime around 2000, and even a few years before. Lately alarmists had to admit it. The period with no warming is now as long as was period of warming on which fears were based—17 years according to a leaked draft of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5)—despite continued rise of atmospheric carbon-dioxide concentration.

Observed global average temperatures (GAT) are, in fact, below IPCC’s 2007 Assessment Report’s lowest—and most confident—temperature predictions. The new view in the leaked AR5 shows a complete reversal of the AR4 view, which still touted catastrophic, anthropogenic global warming.

Prominent climate alarmists had to respond. Some, like Michael “Hockey-Stick” Mann, remain stalwart. Others, like James Hansen, first admitted the global temperature standstill was real, then, in what may have been a faux pas, said the lack of increased warming was due to an increase in global coal consumption.

IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri acknowledged the “stalled” climate trend but employed the usual alarmist tactic and asked for more time to prove his predictions, thus kicking the can forty years down the road.

Even the U.K. Meteorological office produced updated reports on its temperature predictions, saying it expects no warming in the next five years. Previously, it had forecast an additional 0.1 degree Celsius in that time.

Indeed, the wheels seem to be falling off the climate alarmists’ wagon. Acclaimed physicist Freeman Dyson recently explained that the problem rests in the very heart of climate-change theory (if we can dignify it with that word): the substitution of (hopelessly unrealistic and guess-filled) modeling for experimental and real-world observation. With yet another hockey-stick depiction of past temperatures biting the dust, one wonders when not just the public but also political leaders will at last say, “Enough, children. Quit your fantasies and get back to the real world!”

The bottom line is that no one can say any longer that the world is warming dangerously.

This is in part due to the inherent faultiness of computer models used to predict future warming, which cannot even predict the past, let alone accurately predict the future. Yet, these climate models are the primary basis for increasing government involvement in (and spending on) climate change.

It wouldn’t be so terrible if the projected costs for some of the fixes didn’t cost trillions upon trillions of dollars. Britons are particularly subject to increased electricity and heating bills due to the exorbitant cost of wind power.

True science waits for answers, as opposed to playing guessing games and expecting homage. But that sort of post-normal science has crept into almost all the governments of the industrialized world. The fallacious thinking, post-normal science, and unwarranted alarmism have crept into Christian churches as well.

The fight isn’t over, and environmentalists are looking for influence wherever they can find it. And as it appears in the U.N. Earth Charter, among other places, it’s a dangerous influence.

Environment? Capitalism’s Is Best

Environmentalism affects every facet of life, not just economy and political freedom, though it certainly touches those. Dr. E. Calvin Beisner of the Cornwall Alliance likes to quip, “’Environment’ means my surroundings, and I can’t think of anything that isn’t my surroundings. So environmentalism is properly the ideology of controlling everything, which is called totalitarianism.”

Thankfully, it is difficult to squash human ingenuity, and industrialization will be a hard beast to slay, though it is neither impossible nor even complicated.

Standard of living has risen everywhere across the planet and continues to rise. Total wealth is also up. The cost of almost everything is down relative to income, including even the cost of catastrophe. There has never been less hunger or disease. Nothing is likely to stop this trend—unless it’s environmentalism, particularly because it plugs high-cost, low-reliability “renewable” energy over low-cost, high-reliability fossil fuels and nuclear.
Various means of trying to limit energy have been proposed, from a carbon tax to total cessation of fossil fuel use. All limit economic development, crucial to
standard of living, and with it human health and well being. Any action that punishes the use of energy, including making it more expensive, undermines human life.

But for environmentalists, that’s okay. Sir David Attenborough, like many Greens and proponents of population control, expresses environmentalism’s implications for respect (or lack thereof) for human life:

We are a plague on the Earth. It’s coming home to roost over the next 50 years or so. It’s not just climate change; it’s sheer space, places to grow food for this enormous horde. Either we limit our population growth or the natural world will do it for us, and the natural world is doing it for us right now.

Such dangerous, anti-human thinking threatens everything the industrialized world has accomplished in the last two centuries with regard to health, prosperity, and political and legal reforms.
Although despite its grim outlook on the scientific front reports of climate alarmism’s death are greatly exaggerated, still it’s not
doing well in the court of public opinion. That is likely due to the increasing absence of the predicted climate apocalypse, but the victory isn’t secure yet.

Activists in government and elsewhere continue rallying the troops. They can still inflict a huge amount of damage through new global or national legislation or court actions.

The Renewable Fuel Standard, for instance, which requires turning 40% of the U.S. fuel crop into ethanol as a “clean” fuel additive, is responsible for an extra 192,000 starvation deaths per year in developing countries and impoverishes everyone.
President Obama is trying to find
new ways to apply old laws to break up the gridlock in the politically opposed houses of our bicameral legislature.

New political appointees to the EPA and other government organizations are trying to strictly limit or tax carbon emissions, sulfur emissions, and mercury emissions.

All of these measures cost money—money a growing world could better use in other ways, like reducing hunger and disease. If EPA wants to reverse the trend of increasing wealth and decreasing disease, poverty, and starvation, it is on the right track.


Douglas Gregory is Research and Policy Analyst for The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.


  1. Eddie Devere  

    As I’ve said multiple times now, this website is going more and more conspiracy theory, and less & less libertarianism.

    Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are multiple reasons to control the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere: (1) (weak) greenhouse gas, (2) (weak) acid gas, and (3) toxic to humans at long-term exposure above 1000 -5000 ppm.

    A true libertarian is one who wants people to be free and who doesn’t want to harm others. A libertarian isn’t a person who thinks its free to pollute the world. This website and its authors need to wake up to the fact that CO2 is a pollutant at high concentrations.


    • rbradley  

      As the case for harm weakens, and the case for net benefits strengthens, more attention naturally will shift over to the “why” behind alarmism. (Judith Curry has a good overview of the trend toward lower climate sensitivity in the peer-reviewed literature.)

      “Good libertarians” look at harms but also look at ‘government failure’alongside market failure. On multiple counts, global government in the name of rationing dense energy (oil, gas, and coal) for pseudoenergy in the vain quest to “stablize climate” is an easy call for rejection.


  2. E. Calvin Beisner  

    CO2 doesn’t become toxic to humans, even at long-term exposure, at levels as low as 1,000 to 5,000 ppm. See http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/idlh/124389.html, especially: “It has been reported that submarine personnel exposed continuously at 30,000 ppm were only slightly affected, provided the oxygen content of the air was maintained at normal concentrations [Schaefer 1951].”


  3. Jack Savage  

    When I can read an article like this in the Times and the Guardian I will start to breathe easier. Not until then.


  4. R. L. Hails Sr. P. E.  

    This scientific conflict is destroying, or has destroyed, America. For two generations, we have eschewed the best coal deposits on earth, we have centuries of high grade coal, but we could not build coal fired power plants. Our present fleet is decades beyond expected life. Our engineering colleges ceased teaching the necessary technical course work decades ago.

    Our entire life sustaining electronic world sits on junk. Our generating plants are worn out, and America no longer has the robust industrial base to rebuild them; the talent is dead, the factories are in China.

    If climate change is real, we are dead. If it is not real, we may be dead anyway. It is a certainty that the management of US energy policy has been developed by fools.


  5. Eddie Devere  

    There’s a difference between long-term exposure and short-term exposure. The toxic levels for short-term exposure are quite high (above 5,000 ppm). But the effects of long-term exposure appear even at the 1,000 to 5,000 ppm levels.
    Check out the following website from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services…summarized below.
    “The levels of CO2 in the air and potential health problems are:

    250 – 350 ppm – background (normal) outdoor air level
    350- 1,000 ppm – typical level found in occupied spaces with good air exchange.
    1,000 – 2,000 ppm – level associated with complaints of drowsiness and poor air.
    2,000 – 5,000 ppm – level associated with headaches, sleepiness, and stagnant, stale, stuffy air. Poor concentration, loss of attention, increased heart rate and slight nausea may also be present.
    >5,000 ppm – this indicates unusual air conditions where high levels of other gases could also be present. Toxicity or oxygen deprivation could occur. This is the permissible exposure limit for daily workplace exposures.
    >40,000 ppm – this level is immediately harmful due to oxygen deprivation.


  6. Eddie Devere  

    More information on the effect of indoor CO2 levels on decision-making can be found here.
    There was a noticeable decrease in the decision-making when the concentration of CO2 was 2500 ppm indoors. So, as the outdoor level increases in going to be harder and harder to prevent 2500 ppm indoors.
    While we are only at 400 ppm today and it will take a long time to reach outdoor levels of 1000 ppm, this is the direction that we are headed right now if we don’t take actions to change.
    We will likely cap CO2 concentrations well below 1000 ppm because of the other issues with CO2 (weak greenhouse gas and weak acid gas), but I brought out the topic of long-term exposure toxicity because I thought that the people who read this blog would might be motivated to cap CO2 emissions if they understood that long-term CO2 concentrations in the 1000-50000 ppm range have actual effects on the human brain.


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  9. Brian H  

    [corrected tags]
    Devere is incapable of understanding even his own references.
    >5,000 ppm – this indicates unusual air conditions where high levels of other gases could also be present. Toxicity or oxygen deprivation could occur. This is the permissible exposure limit for daily workplace exposures.”

    Other gases, oxygen deprivation — might be indicated, but not caused, by 5000ppm+ levels. Talk about passing the buck! Not to mention the subject.


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