“Policies to ‘stop climate change’ are based on climate models that completely failed to predict the lack of warming for the past two decades. Observational data show clearly that the predictions of unacceptable warming by more carbon dioxide are wrong. Economic discount rates aside, policies designed to save the planet from more carbon dioxide are based on failed computer models.”
Has there ever been a movement in human history that did not present itself as an ethical cause?
Ghengis Khan supposedly informed his victims: ‘I am the punishment of God. If you had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you!’
Like its predecessors, this cause has generated plenty of sanctimonious slogans: ‘intergenerational justice’, ‘saving the planet’, ‘sustainability’, ‘negligible carbon footprints’. In reality, the cause has brought ugly, bird-killing windmills, which have replaced the psalmist’s ‘cattle on a thousand hills’; hapless native peoples have been expelled from their from ancestral lands, sometimes at gunpoint, so wealthy corporations and foundations could claim to be saving the planet, at no small profit to themselves; fraud in the trading of carbon credits has cheated honest taxpayers. But for this cause, as for most of its predecessors, the end justifies the means.
Policies to ‘stop climate change’ are based on climate models that completely failed to predict the lack of warming for the past two decades. Observational data show clearly that the predictions of unacceptable warming by more carbon dioxide are wrong. Economic discount rates aside, policies designed to save the planet from more carbon dioxide are based on failed computer models.
The desperate attempts to save the cause with one improbable excuse after another are reminiscent of the attempts, at the end of the eighteenth century, to save the phlogiston theory of combustion, as it reeled from one observational blow after another. In the process, real damage has been done to the reputation of science and to the scientific method. Data has been manipulated, honest scientific debate has been stifled, educational institutions have been turned into brain-washing centers for the cause, and trusting citizens have been misled by much of the mass media.
And what is the great danger that this noble cause purports to save us from? Human emissions of carbon dioxide, a transparent, odorless, non-toxic gas, essential for plant growth and contained at about 40,000 parts per million (ppm) in our own breaths. Carbon dioxide has been mercilessly demonized as ‘carbon pollution’, when in fact it is a benefit to the planet. Agricultural production has increased substantially and the Earth is greener today with the 400 ppm current levels of carbon dioxide than it was with preindustrial levels of about 280 ppm. And two or three times higher levels would be even better.
Over most of the Phanerozoic eon – the last 550 million years – carbon dioxide levels have averaged several thousand parts per million, and life flourished abundantly, on the land and in the seas. There is no observational support for the theoretically dubious claim that ‘more carbon dioxide will cause unacceptable global warming, or more extreme weather’.
For questions that are answered with equations in physics, there is an old saying, only half in jest: ‘getting the sign right is the hardest thing’. There is an ethical question connected with attempts to control carbon dioxide emissions.
And many people have gotten the wrong sign for the answer.
William Happer is the Cyrus Fogg Brackett Professor of Physics at Princeton University. This post is a slightly revised version of his Foreword to Andrew Montford’s new study for the for The Global Warming Policy Foundation, “Unintended Consequences of Climate Change Policy.”