A Free-Market Energy Blog

‘Climate Change': Unpacking a Political Term (looking through the looking glass)

By Wayne Lusvardi -- January 15, 2014

Climate Change. A term, which attempts to take the natural weather pattern and attribute it to the activities of humans. Heavily adopted recently for use to promote cave living, the idea that humans are a noxious virus on planet Earth, and the practice of greater separation between the rich and the poor. I know the weather pattern is natural and everything we’re experiencing now has been experienced before, but I still feel all warm, fuzzy knowing that electricity companies are responsible for Climate Change and are being taxed accordingly because of it.”

- Excerpt, UrbanDictionary.com (satirical).

A Wall Street Journal editorial earlier this month, “It Isn’t Climate Change”, makes a valid point that recent “polar vortex” of subzero temperatures in the Midwest, East Coast, and Southern U.S. is not “climate change.” But this begs the question: what is climate change?

The term is used with such vagueness that it could never be used in a scientific experiment to meet Karl Popper’s test of falsifiability. The term has been made so politically correct that it has become Orwellian doublespeak.

In elementary school I learned that areas of the world that once were tropical jungles are now deserts and vice versa. So there is “climate change.” That no one denies, not even so-called climate- change “deniers.” James Hansen, himself associated with the alarmist wing of climate science, made this point clearly:

“Climate is always changing. Climate would fluctuate without any change of climate forcings. The chaotic aspect of climate is an innate characteristic of the coupled fundamental equations describing climate system dynamics.” [1]

Climate change is historical and empirical. But that doesn’t seem to be the same climate change that “climate change” modelers seem to be referring to.

I once worked for the largest water district in California where I studied the vast regional network of dams, reservoirs, lakes, pipelines, canals, and rivers in the Southwestern U.S. built to alleviate sub-regional droughts. This is the water hydraulic system that makes modern industrial society thrive in places where it otherwise couldn’t on the same scale and density.

So there is sub-regional climate change too. And due to modern engineering and the master resource of man-made energy generation to pump water uphill, civilization does not need to be dependent on gravity for where water flows or local climate and drought cycles. The water and power engineers that built Hoover Dam and the Colorado River Aqueduct were 100 years ahead of the current brand of climate-change scientists. And they didn’t need computer models to do it.

Today’s New Definition 

Consider the conventional definition of climate change can be found at Google.com:

The change in global climate patterns apparent from the mid to late 20th century onwards, attributed largely to the increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels.

This isn’t so much a scientific definition as a postmodern sociological definition. Of all the definitions of climate change I could find online, the one that seemed to make the most sense was found at UrbanDictionary.com, a sort of sarcastic dictionary complied by volunteer editors of street lingo to show the absurdity of conventional definitions. Here it is:

A term, which attempts to take the natural weather pattern and attribute it to the activities of humans.

It is the contention of climate change scientists that “climate change” will certainly be induced in the future as a result of industrialization. This is obviously not the same historical “climate change” or the hydrological “climate change” mentioned above. It is more like religious prophecy under the guise of scientism.

But even this version of climate change requires further exploration of yet another layer of meaning of climate change. Following sociologist Max Weber and American philosopher William James, there are multiple layers of meaning for everything even though there is an objective reality.

Climate Change is Topographical

For example, California has nine out of the worst 25 cities for air pollution in the U.S.: Los Angeles, Bakersfield, Visalia, Fresno, Sacramento, El Centro, San Diego, Hanford and Merced.  Texas has no cities on the American Lung Association list of the 25 worst cities for year round particle pollution. Why?

The major causes of smog in Dallas and Houston are cars and plastics, oil and gas production. Most other Texans live in plains and plateaus where any potential toxic substances are dissipated quickly into the atmosphere. Texas is topographically greener than California despite it has greater fossil-fuel usage.

Texas relies on coal for 32 percent of its energy usage, while California only depends on coal for 3.7 percent (but only 15.5 percent of its electricity usage mainly by the Los Angeles Dept. of Water and Power).

Texas imports coal from Wyoming to run TXU power plants in Dallas, while California imports coal powered electricity from Utah to light up Los Angeles.

Texas imports its pollution; California exports it.  With a much higher usage percentage of so-called “dirty” coal-generated power than California, one would think that Texas would suffer from greater air pollution and the “greenhouse effect,” and thus greater global warming and climate change.  But it doesn’t.  Why?

The answer is topographical. Most Californians live in nine topograpahic basins along the coastline that serve as traps for smog. The major cause of smog in California cities is an inversion layerof warm air above cooler air that makes a toxic trap. Natural smog traps cause smog, not only man-made airborne substances.

For the most part, large Texas cities are not located in air basins and thus don’t have smog traps. The climate “changes” in Texas compared to California because of topography, and vice versa in California.

Envelopmentology Not Environmentalism

Following the 15th century Swiss toxicologist Paracelsus, the reason that California has so many smoggy cities is that “the dose makes the poison.” If any substance is concentrated by a trapping environment it becomes potential toxic or potentially capable of producing the “greenhouse effect.” The reason that Texas cities generally are not smoggy is that the “solution to pollution is dilution.”

What regulatory environmental science does is leave the “environment” out of environmental science. Following Paraselsus, I’m not so much an environmentalist as an “envelopmentologist.” What envelops air particles in the atmosphere, perchlorate in subsurface water basins, airborne “Legionnaire’s disease” pathogens in energy tight “sick buildings,” or so-called greenhouse gases in cities is their environments.

If you computer model the air in California you end up prophesying disaster like global warming. If you model Texas air you don’t end up with such Armageddon-like forecasts.

Climate Change: Ideology of a Regional Trade War

Karl Marx was right about one observation. People use ideologies as covers for economic conflicts, although such conflicts are not the sole driving force of history.

Climate change is an ideology in a trade war between a cartel of basin topography states with smoggy cities that don’t want to depend on imported fossil fuel and electricity and plains states that rely on indigenous abundant fossil fuels and can export it to basin states.

“Climate change,” unpacked, is an ideological smokescreen from the reality of this trade war and used to gain political legitimacy for uneconomic alternative energy.


[1] James Hansen et al., “How Sensitive Is the World’s Climate?,” National Geographic Research & Exploration, 9(2): 1993, p. 143.


  1. Gordon Cheyne  

    “If you wish to converse with me, define your terms” — Voltaire quotes

    About time we tried to define what all those journalists are writing about.
    The IPCC have got away far too long with blaming any climate variation on human activity: their definition of “Climate Chang”e doesn’t add up.


  2. Tom Austin  

    The term climate change is a simple truism, developed by sophists to manipulate the ignorant and the uninformed.


  3. Wayne Lusvardi  

    “Climate Change” seems to meet Henry David Thoreau’s definition of what he called “Beautiful Knowledge.” It is beautiful because combating Climate Change saves the beauty and aesthetics of the environment. See Thoreau’s definition below:

    “We have heard of a Society for the Diffustion of Useful Knowledge. It is said knowledge is power, and the like. Methinks there is equal need of a Society for the Diffusion of Useful Ignorance, what we call Beautiful Knowledge…. What we call knowledge is often our positive ignorance; ignorance our negative knowledge.” from “Walking” by Thoreau


  4. Eddie Devere  

    Global warming, sea level rise, and ocean acidification due to human induced CO2 emissions is a predictable and falsifiable theory.

    For example, the theory made predictions on (a) increase in temperatures in winter nights vs. summer days, (b) predictions on warming in the stratosphere vs. troposphere, (c) change in the ratio of C13 and C12 in the atmosphere, (d) decrease in the concentration of oxygen, (d) predictions as to which frequencies in the IR there should be decrease energy leaving the Earth, (e) increase in sea level rise, and (f) decrease in ocean pH.

    The theory of man-made Global warming, sea level rise, and ocean acidification has passed every tested where it’s made a strong prediction. For further information, check out the following website that debunks every (and I mean every) argument made by climate skeptics.

    Climate change is a catch-all phrase that summarizes Global warming, sea level rises, and ocean acidification due to human-emissions of fossil fuel based CO2. While it’s true that the term climate change is often misused by non-scientists, the term actually has some meaning and has made predictions that have been successfully tested.

    If you’d like to debate the cost of doing something about climate change, that’s fine. But the theory that humans are causing global warming, sea level rises, and ocean acidification is on absolutely solid ground.
    In fact, I challenge any of the skeptics who write for this website to make a theory that does a better job of predicting what’s actually happening and then convince >97% of scientists in the field of climatology that your theory is better able to predict global temperatures, and ocean pH/level. Good luck! You’ll need it.


  5. Wayne Lusvardi  

    Mr. Devere:

    The purest experimental control to falsify global warming would be to test the greenhouse gas effect on some place like Mars.

    Below is a post post from a scientist from 2007 from a blog I once hosted. Engineer Stephen S. Rashid asked why with billions of dollars spent on climate change studies the U.S. government did not study the greenhouse effect on Mars as a controlled experiment? Why didn’t you study it? Mars is colder than Earth even though it has twice the level of CO2. Read below:

    Why Didn’t We Prove Greenhouse Effect on Mars?

    Stephen S. Rashid – Advanced Turbomachine Pasadena Pundit – Jan. 13, 2007

    People tend to confuse a statistical connection with cause and effect. A statistical connection is necessary, but not sufficient, to prove cause and effect. One must also define the mechanism, and prove it through calculation and/or experiment, by which something happens. For example, it can be proven statistically that virtually everyone involved in a car accident has eaten carrots recently before the accident occurred. That, however, is not proof that eating carrots causes car accidents. You have to prove why eating carrots causes car accidents, and that the converse is also true, that not eating carrots prevents car accidents.

    If we assume that CO2 causes global warming by absorbing energy, we have to realize the implications of that premise. In order to have an equal effect on global temperature as the other atmospheric components, CO2 would need to absorb 500 times the energy per pound as O2, and 1700 times the energy per pound as N2. To control the global temperature, CO2 would need to surpass these energy absorption levels, as extreme as they seem already. So, it’s not enough to prove that CO2 absorbs “more” energy than O2 or N2, you must prove it absorbs a lot more energy, in fact, at least the amount of energy noted above.

    By my calculation, Mars should have twice the greenhouse effect as Earth, based on it’s atmospheric CO2 content, planetary surface area, and solar flux, however, it actually is colder than one would expect (based on it’s distance from the Sun). Such a greenhouse effect would have been easy to prove. A simple temperature probe on the 2 Mars rovers we sent up could have measured the temperature in the sun prior to entering the Martian atmosphere, and again, in a sunny spot on the surface. The greenhouse effect of the 96% CO2 Martian atmosphere should have been evident with the surface temperature being hotter than the temperature in near space. To pull off such an experiment would have been peanuts in cost compared to the overall cost of the mission, and would have proved, or disproved, one of the most important environmental discussions of human history.but, we didn’t do that. I wonder why?

    We always have to remember two things. One, that science has politics too. If I want a grant to study the possible link between eating carrots and car accidents, I’ll get more traction with the assertion that the premise is true (with grave implications for future humanity), than I will if I say up front that I don’t expect to find a real connection. And once I get that grant, others in my field will naturally try to get on the gravy train with their own studies. Eventually, the “consensus” of thought on the issue will be “overwhelming”, and entire industries will spring up trying to remedy this carrot eating menace. At that point too many people have too much invested to go back and re-examine the initial premise. (Think about asbestos removal, today. The asbestos used in insulation is white asbestos, which is reasonably safe. It’s brown asbestos that poses the health risk. And we replace the white asbestos with fiberglass, which is worse than the asbestos we removed.) Second, real science always wins. We may be in for some expensive detours along the way, but eventually, science will overcome myth and politics.


  6. Dave  

    Mr. Lusvardi’s discussion under the heading “Climate Change is Topographical” is interesting and useful, but only up to a point. Unfortunately, this discussion conflates air pollutants, such as smog, with CO2 attributable to fossil fuel burning. Smog is produced by local photochemical reactions in the atmosphere, and its production and persistence in an area are indeed influenced by local topography. CO2 on the other hand is not produced in the atmosphere, and neither its concentration in the atmosphere nor its assumed deleterious effects on “the climate” are influenced by local topographies. Global warmists habitually conflate air pollutants with CO2 in this way (under the general rubric, “dirty”). Voices of reason need not, and should not, do so.


  7. wlusvardi  

    Thank you for your feedback.

    I checked the topography of Beijing and indeed it is located in a valley rimmed by mountains. Shanghai, however, is not located in an air basin and doesn’t have the air pollution problems that Beijing does.

    The possible reason for the conflation of CO2 and smog is that in California the two are intertwined under the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, which is to reduce CO2 but mostly reduces smog. The new air cooled combined cycle natural gas power plants along the California coast which no longer use ocean water cooling reduce air pollution but are still located in the urban air basins. But these power plants need to be so located to maintain voltage in the grid and quick backup power to renewables. Renewables are just “locking in” natural gas power plants located inside air basins. This won’t reduce smog or CO2.

    For my edification, why are we not worried about water vapor as a greenhouse gas? what is the effect of impounding masses of water in reservoirs as to contribution to greenhouse gas?


  8. Wayne Lusvardi  

    My “trap model” of “climate change” apparently has some validity with climate change scientists. Here is how the website LiveScience.com describes the theory of climate change as deriving from a “trapping” process of greenhouse gases:

    “As their name suggests, greenhouse gases act much like the roof of a greenhouse they trap heat on Earth.

    This process happens in two steps. First, greenhouse gases let the visible and ultraviolet light in sunlight to pass through Earth’s atmosphere unimpeded, and reach the Earth’s surface. But then, when light strikes Earth’s surface and is reflected back to the atmosphere as infrared energy, or heat, greenhouse gases absorb this heat and warm the planet.

    Greenhouse gases and climate change

    Greenhouse gases trap heat in the troposphere, the part of the atmosphere where weather occurs, and the global warming they cause affects the Earth’s climate systems.


  9. Dave Hirsfeld  

    Yes, indeed. However, the trapping of heat by GHGs occurs globally as the results of absorption of infrared radiation by GHGs. The trapping of smog in certain metropolitan areas occurs locally and results from local topography, as you pointed out. The trapping — or dispersion — of smog is its own issue; it doesn’t bear on “climate change”.

    I am not a global warmist; I’m simply addressing a confusion that global warmists constantly seek to exploit.


    • wlusvardi  

      Thank you for a civil conversation and helping with others reading this in understanding global warming theory.

      I understand global warming theory hypothesizes that the air in the Troposphere would warm the entire world. My laymen’s understanding is that in reality the back radiation of heat from the earth is being soaked up by oceans and forests and therefore this complicates the global warming theory. That Mars with twice the CO2 is cooler than earth is another complication. That the earth temperature has cooled over the last 15 years or so despite the rapid and expansive industrialization of China is another unexplainable complication.

      I have advanced education in the sociology of knowledge and the sociology of religion. Using a sociology of scientific knowledge framework, I am very skeptical of global warming theory not on pure scientific issues, but because global warming theorists all come from the Knowledge Class (academics, regulatory scientists, journalists, environmentalists, members of the Democratic Party, religiously liberal Episcopalians, labor unionists, etc.) and global warming “deniers” (who come from the Business Class of industrialists, petroleum engineers, meteorologists and weathermen, retired scientists who are no longer dependent on the largesse of government grants, geologists, Tea Party members and Evangelical Christians, etc). When sociologists see such a class divide they are suspicious that the conflict is not purely scientific but involves an occupational ideology.

      For example, many of the schisms over theology in ancient Christianity had an element of conflict over sources of patronage. This is not to say that materialism solely drives ideologies, but it is undeniable that there is an economic factor in such ideational conflicts. The same holds true for global warming science where there is an economic ideological conflict between the Knowledge Class and the Business Class. I admit I’m in the Business Class camp, if only because Capitalism is the only empirical phenomenon that has historically lifted people out of poverty. And a large part of that has to do with energy to run industrialization and pumping water uphill for civilization to exist in barren places where the “climate” would not otherwise permit.

      A sociology of knowledge framework includes a debunking motif that helps to penetrate the ideological smokescreen and see the ideology for what it is.


  10. Cooler Heads Digest 17 January 2014  

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  11. Rafique Ahmed  

    “Greenhouse effects of Water Vapor Vs. CO-2 ”

    In all major textbooks on meteorology and climatology, and in the National Climatic Data Center website (Search for “NCDC List of Greenhouse Gases”, then click on ” Greenhouse gases – National Climatic Data Center-NOAA”, then click on “Water Vapor”), water vapor is listed as the number one greenhouse gas. Atmospheric content of water vapor varies from almost o% (almost zero percent) by volume over hot deserts and ice caps to about 4% by volume over tropical oceans and tropical rainforests, with an average 0f about 2% by volume. On the other hand, CO-2 content in the atmosphere is only 0.04% by volume (equal to 400 ppm, which sounds enormously magnified). So, atmospheric content of water vapor is 50 times greater than CO2.

    Again, all major meteorology and climatology textbooks show that, of the total CO-2 emission from the surface to the atmosphere, only 3.4% come from fossil fuel burning and the rest of the CO-2 come from natural sources (Ref: “Atmosphere, Weather and Climate”, by R. G. Barry and R. J. Chorley, 10th Ed, Routledge, London/New York, and search the internet for “University of Michigan CO-2 Cycle”, then click on “Images”, then click on the first image) .

    Of the total absorption band in the longwave radiation (terrestrial radiation) by the greenhouse gases, almost all of it is due to the water vapor, and CO-2 absorbs a tiny fraction of the terrestrial radiation.

    Unfortunately, the IPCC does not mention water vapor as a greenhouse gas, which it did on purpose, to justify its existence.

    Search the internet for “Water Vapor Rules Greenhouse System” for the contribution of various greenhouse gases to the greenhouse effect.


  12. Henri  

    Regarding atmospheric CO2, there are certain facts. One of them is that for every CO2 molecule, there are 2500 other molecules in the atmosphere. Then, I am to accept that this molecule and billion others like it (versus 2500-billions other non-CO2), assume an internally energized state of which we know that their average speed causes them to represent a lower absolute temperature that that of the Earth’s crust. By the second law of thermodynamics, there is no way that these CO2 molecules can impart heat to the crust and increase its temp and share that increased temperature to the lower level of the atmosphere, and I mean no way that such can happen. End of discussion as far as the original premise of the AGW is concerned. Pollution exists, and there may be some kind of equivalent effect as that of a green house, but the comparison and therefore the term is quite poorly chosen.We should fight pollution where it is bad, but that’s a different matter. Having visited a number of cities in Indonesia, I was appalled at the level of pollution, while there seemed to be no mitigating efforts organized. But that has nothing to do with CO2 and warming.


  13. Rafique Ahmed  

    CO-2 is Essential for Life.

    The way the IPCC and the news media portray CO-2 , as if it is a poison. In fact, CO-2 is essential for life on earth. Solar radiation is the driving force for all the activities in the biosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, etc. However, animals, including humans, cannot absorb solar radiation. Solar radiation and CO-2 , through photosynthesis, convert solar radiation into biochemical energy of plants, contributing to biomass growth. Animals, including humans, eat plants, and that is how solar radiation is transmitted to animals. So, CO-2 is the building block of life. Thanks that air contains CO-2.


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  15. Ray  

    Mr. Devere might find this interesting. This is from Dr. Everett V. Scott, one of those climate skeptics at “Watts Up With That”.
    “Arctic ice decline is only the latest in a long series of failed predictions by the climate alarmist crowd. In fact, NOT ONE of their predictions has ever come to pass, from runaway global warming, to ocean acidification, to Arctic ice disappearing, to Manhattan submerged, to Tuvalu sinking, to… well, you get the idea. They have been wrong about everything.

    There is a corollary to the Scientific Method called the Null Hypothesis, which states in effect that no current climate parameters [temperature, precipitation, extreme weather events, etc.] have surpassed past extremes. In other words, what we observe today is quite benign compared with past extremes. NOTHING either unusual or unprecedented is happening.

    The entire runaway global warming scare is nothing but a giant, grant-fed scam: more than $100 BILLION in federal funds have been wasted on the manmade global warming scare since 2001. That is a lot of loot, and it buys what it is intended to buy: reams of learned papers assuring us that human activity is causing climate doom.


    The entire human population could fit into a one-kilometer sphere, with room left over. That is hardly enough to change the climate of the entire planet.

    The government came awfully close to its ultimate wet dream: taxing the air we breathe. If not for the internet, they would probably already be doing it.”

    Dr. Everett V. Scott


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