A Free-Market Energy Blog

A Death Spiral for Climate Alarmism, Redux?

By Kenneth P. Green -- September 30, 2009

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.


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.

Note: Robert Bradley assisted with this post.


(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.


  1. Randy the Ram  

    As soon as politicians realize that there is nothing to win with that climate garbage, they will forget that topic. As soon as the media realize, that their alarmism is ridiculous and that people are sick of this crap, they will leave the topic. And then suddenly it will be fashioned to be a “Sceptic”


  2. Crustacean  

    I hope Mr. Green’s scenario is how this all plays out. What strikes me as more likely to close the curtain on the global warming fraud is: 1) The fecklessness of the U.S. in confronting Iranian nuclear ambitions leads to all-out war in the Middle East; 2) Oil prices reach unprecedented levels, shutting down the global economy; and 3) To even bring up the subject of global warming “remedies” would be to elicit bitter laughter from an impoverished citizenry. Given the growing resistance to cap-and-trade stretching the timeline for legislative action, all of this could happen before a bill passes. End of story for global warming.

    I fervently hope I am wrong.


  3. ThomasBGray  

    We sceptics must be concerned with the effect that the collapse of the AGW panic on much of the “scientific” media that have given unquestioning support to the AGW myth. Will Scientific American, Nature, Science, Nat’l Geographic, Smithsonian, Skeptical Inquirer and other “respected” publication ever regain any hint of respectability? Where can we hop to obtain access to unbiased science reports?


  4. Charles  

    I liked the ‘wishful thinking’ comment in point 7, although I am sad to say it still probably is that. One thing that many of us discount is the desire of the publicly funded scientist to retain all their hard fought for positions and privileges.

    It is the best job they will ever get, and scientists are venal creatures much like the rest of the population, so I don’t expect anything but a very difficult and painful process to convince them to back down on this.

    The damage to science though is incalculable, and it will take a long time for almost everyone in the science industry to regain some measure of credibility in the future, now that all its flaws and shortcomings are being exposed to the public.


  5. Mike Rowe-Sefallek  

    #11 Algore admits it was all a joke.


  6. Cam  

    Spot on Charles – as an environmental scientist myself (and a former AGW ‘believer’ I might add – mind you I dropped the ‘belief’ 6-7 years ago), this is what upsets me the most, is that this very issue will damage science no end. And the eventual scientific skepticism that the world will face in 15-20 years time will be as restrictive on our collective standard of living and our endeavors to protect of the environment as any carbon-trading scheme ever could be.


  7. Charles  

    Well said Cam, and you have also provided the conclusion which I failed to do, which is that this fiasco will be a serious constraint on human progress in the future, when we will need to investigate catering for larger populations, and higher demand on resources.


  8. Oliver K. Manuel  

    Global Warming: One Small Part of a Big Lie

    Space-age measurements since 1959 show clearly that:

    (a) The Sun is a variable star, an unsteady heat source.
    (b) Neutron-neutron interactions are repulsive, not attractive.
    (c) Hydrogen is a solar waste product, not the primary solar fuel.
    (d) The stormy Sun influence Earth’s climate much more than CO2.
    (e) The Sun is a diffuser powered by repulsive interactions between neutrons.
    (f) The Standard Solar Model of a Hydrogen-filled Sun is absolutely obsolete.
    (g) There are no balls of Hydrogen in the sky, and solar neutrinos do not oscillate.

    1. “The Sun is a plasma diffuser that sorts atoms by mass”, Physics of Atomic Nuclei 69 (2006) 1847-1856; Yadernaya Fizika 69, number 11 (2006); http://arxiv.org/pdf/astro-ph/0609509

    2. “Earth’s Heat Source – The Sun”, Energy and Environment 20 (2009) 131-144; http://arxiv.org/pdf/0905.0704

    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel
    Former NASA PI for Apollo


  9. Cal  

    #12 Algore claims he founded the Heartland Institute, the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, Friends of Science, the Science and Public Policy Institute, and the Science and Environmental Policy Project, the Oregon Petition Project, and the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, and that Dick Lindzen, Fred Singer, Roy Spencer, Pat Michaels, John Christy, Ian Plimer, Sherwood and Craig Idso, Robert Balling, David Legates, Claude Allegre, Joanne Nova, and Christopher Monckton are all his children.


  10. Clothcap  

    I had some hopes the EC/EU federalist crazies and the UN that are behind the CoR inspired green death destroying western civilisation would be contained by an Irish no vote. Dream busted. Now for the nightmares. More windfarms, more taxes, more regulations, more unemployment, escalating national debt, loss of nationality. You think you’ve got it bad?
    An Aussie tourist told the woeful tale, arrived in the UK and was then informed there was a £5oo plus fuel surcharge to be paid for the return trip.
    All based on lies, massaged data, bent hockey sticks, agenda driven and rent seeking scientists, Club of Rome, collaborating governments and bought media. We’ve been screwed and may even end up with Tony Bliar (CoR) as our EU president by appointment. Think I’ll go lob a few curly fluorescents at the door of No 10.
    I feel like an unlucky person. Perhaps I should side with the enviro liars, maybe guarantee their failure.
    Save the planet, plant a tree and have a bonfire party on Earth day.


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