A Free-Market Energy Blog

Facts vs. Climate Alarmism

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- December 14, 2009

Editor’s note: Bradley’s op-ed appeared in the December 8th Washington Times under the title “Alarmists Cold-Shoulder Facts”)

Facts are awfully stubborn things. And global-warming alarmists—who generally don’t let facts get in the way of a good, agenda-driven argument—recently lost a key ally in the run-up to the U.N. global-warming pep rally opening today in Copenhagen. They lost actual data supporting their claims.

In defiant acts of desperation, many out-of-the-mainstream environmental alarmists quickly moved to plan B. Some cite the current El Niño—a natural climate variation—warning of “record” high temperatures just on the horizon.

Others continue to trumpet “studies” that paint terrifying environmental fairy tales if world governments do not immediately criminalize carbon, ban fossil fuels, and ration energy.

But these tactics are not new. Paul Ehrlich’s “population bomb” of the 1960s predicted food riots in the United States and around the world. Today, obesity is a bigger problem.

Remember the Club of Rome’s 1972 prediction of resource exhaustion? Fifty-seven predictions were made regarding 19 minerals, and all either have been proved false or will be.

Perhaps most hypocritical is the global-cooling scare promoted by, among others, Mr. Obama’s science czar, John Holdren. Today, Mr. Holdren says a billion people may perish from global warming by 2020.

It’s understandable why public opinion continues to squarely reject the apocalyptic vision of climate change. In Washington, pragmatic politicians of both parties balk at even watered-down proposals to cap greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that will bring higher energy costs and more government control.

There simply is not an appetite for this social-engineering project. And despite the dire warnings of an intellectual cadre, the public is getting it right. The Earth’s average temperature is virtually unchanged from a dozen years ago—a result not predicted by climate modelers or activists.

The rate of sea-level rise has slowed to a crawl, throwing cold water on ice-melting scares. Global hurricane activity is near a 30-year low. Fatalities from tornadoes across the United States this year are on course to be the lowest in more than a decade. (Yes, some scientists link global warming to tornadoes.) In 2009, much of the Midwest and Northeast shivered through the coldest summer in recent memory.

While climate models are supposed to be snapshots of the Earth’s real climate, the mismatch between observed and modeled climate behavior shows that even the best models are not accurate and are likely overestimating outcomes. Gerald North, a Texas A&M atmospheric sciences and oceanography professor, estimates that climate models overestimate warming by roughly 50 percent.

Though climate models have proved to be an obvious inconvenient truth, alarmists continue to ignore this elephant in the room.

In fact, this is buried on Page 805 of the latest assessment from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC): “The set of available models may share fundamental inadequacies, the effects of which cannot be quantified.” It’s telling that this was not stated forthrightly in the assessment’s summary.

Science should trump politics, social engineering and agendas. And public opinion increasingly reflects this, as the case against climate alarmism continues to grow.

But there is a crisis that international leaders need to address at Copenhagen. The real planetary emergency is that 1.5 billion people do not have access to modern, affordable, and reliable forms of energy or the electricity they produce.

The poorest and most underprivileged people in the world would benefit most from coal furnaces, natural gas plants, and other modern resources that our carbon-based economy and infrastructure help generate.

Some environmental elitists may say: “Let them use solar panels.” But the moral imperative of the 21st century is to liberate the master resource of energy from the politics of these reactionary enemies of democratizing progress, prosperity, and quality of life.

 Appendix: Letter to Houston Chronicle (December 11) in Response to Climategate Op-Ed

The Chronicle’s lengthy editorial, “No denying” makes three major points, one sound and the two unsound. Yes, the scientific method requires openness and honesty, something that Climategate has revealed to be absent among top U.S. and international climate scientists who were behind the influential United Nations/Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change climate reports.

But the editorial goes on to state that the climate alarm is “overwhelmingly persuasive” and that NASA scientist James Hansen, the leading alarmist scientist in the world, “is not an ideologue.”

A number of climate-change metrics have become less alarming over time, ranging from global temperature to hurricanes. Climate models (including that of Hansen at NASA’s Goddard Institute) have demonstrably overestimated climate sensitivity to greenhouse gas. But rather than hedge his bets and show humility toward the very complex system he is trying to model, Hansen has called for oil industry executives to be prosecuted and for civil disobedience at coal facilities.

Suffice it to say that Climategate is just the tip of the iceberg of misbehaving mainstream climate scientists whose personal agendas and lack of humility have misled not only themselves but many others. We all deserve better.

Robert L. Bradley is the chief executive officer and founder of the Institute for Energy Research in Houston.

One Comment for “Facts vs. Climate Alarmism”

  1. Jason Makansi  

    I loved your article in Power magazine. I was the chief editor of that publication from 1994-2000 although my tenure there began in 1981. Since then, I have have a successful consulting practice. You might be interested in some of my recent writings regarding cap and trade, Wall Street, and general economics issues. In fact, I am starting a graduate program in sociology to try to bring some different angles to behavioral economics (as if I don’t have enough to do). My ultimate thesis is that cap and trade will be the foundation of the next financial calamity to befall the global economy and what we can do now to prevent that.

    You were in the middle of the Enron scandal from the inside but I was in the middle of it from the outside. I have lots of insights most people don’t have or don’t remember from the industry context. Perhaps we can trade stories some time. I captured some of my observations and analysis in my book, “Lights Out: The Electricity Crisis, the Global Economy, and What It Means to You,” published by John Wiley & Sons, June 2007. I also covered it extensively in my previous book with the same publisher, An Investors Guide to the Electricity Economy.


Leave a Reply