To no one’s surprise, President Trump’s decision to exit the Paris climate accords has been greeted by the pre-packaged fury of the climate lobby along with the usual apocalyptic warnings of impending doom. In the event, the environmental left professes to be perplexed at the decision since the accords do not require the U.S. to do anything. After all the argument goes, the Paris accords are voluntary. They amount to what the New York Times describes as “…a voluntary agreement, under which 190 countries offered aspirational emissions targets, pledged their best efforts to meet them and agreed to give periodic updates on how they were doing.”
But even if every aspirational emission target were to be met, according to the consensus view, the effect on global warming would be negligible—something on the order of 0.20 of 1 degree by 2100.
So why the hysteria?
For the better part of a half-century climate warriors have attempted to increase their political power under the guise of saving the planet. Apocalyptic rhetoric was, and is, a staple of the game. Take for instance, “The Population Bomb” written by Stanford University biologist Paul R. Ehrlich, a latter day Malthus. The hugely influential book, which sold millions of copies, predicted humanity was at death’s door. There were just too many people for the earth to support.
At the time Dr. Ehrlich wrote, “The battle to feed humanity is over.” He predicted hundreds of millions would starve to death, including 65 million Americans, in the 1970s and that England would cease to exist by the year 2000. Keen observers have noted that England is still with us and that the U.S. has an obesity problem.
One would think that by now Dr. Ehrlich would have had second thoughts. Quite the contrary. According to the Times (in May of 2015), he noted that disaster timetables really have no significance because to him they mean something very different than they do to the average person. He still thinks the end is near. And he wants to control population growth, just as he always did. Allowing women to have as many children as they want, he said, is equivalent to letting them “throw as much of their garbage into their neighbor’s backyard as they want.” Needless to say, Dr. Ehrlich, who thinks people are liabilities, not assets, is an abortion rights fanatic, who supports compulsory population control, including forced abortions. To save the planet, of course.
Then we had the global cooling scare of the 1970s. To be sure the concerns about cooling did not represent a scientific consensus as has been inaccurately claimed by some on the right. (For that matter, neither do the more extravagant claims of the climate warriors today.) In any event, the research into global cooling actually did become part of the starting point for what became research into global warming that eventually got re-branded as the science of “climate change”.
Fast forward to 2017. We are now faced with the climate warriors, fanatics who claim that “the science” compels the U.S. to drastically reduce its use of fossil fuels in order to save earth from impending doom. And anyone who questions that dogma, or even asks awkward questions, must be silenced, as New York Times columnist Bret Stephens learned the other day when he suggested that climate policy decisions should be subject to cost-benefit analysis.
Then there is the matter of the recent 15-19 year hiatus in the measured warming of earth surface temperatures. The hiatus caught the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) flat-footed. Their climate models simply failed to predict a pause in global warming, a pause that is now in its 19th year. Did the failure of the models change the assessment of the modelers? Nope.
Thomas Stocker, a climate scientist at the University of Bern who co-chaired the assessment is quoted in Nature as follows, “I am proud that we have been able to convince politicians that we have come up with a robust assessment of climate change. The scientific essence of previous drafts has not changed and the main messages have all been kept.” Stocker went on to say, “Comparing short-term observations with long-term model projections is inappropriate…We know there is a lot of natural fluctuation in the climate system. A 15-year hiatus is not so unusual even though the jury is out as to what exactly may have caused the pause.” He went on to say that claims that there might be something fundamentally wrong with climate models are unjustified unless “temperature were to remain constant for the next 20 years.”
This, by any reasonable definition, is a non-falsifiable hypothesis. Consider: we now have a 19-year hiatus in recorded global warming. Nevertheless, climate alarmists are demanding action now—even though it will take another 20 years of disconfirming data for them to consider the possibility that their modeling may be seriously flawed. This is simply preposterous on its face. A sensible approach would be to go back to the drawing board and find and correct errors. That is not going to happen because by now the faithful cling to climate models as sacred symbols of their Manichean struggle against climate “deniers”.
Some in the climate alarmist community recognize the problem that the hiatus represents; so much so that there is a serious possibility that the authors of a paper published in Science Magazine relied on falsified data to “prove” that the hiatus does not exist. The article “Possible Artifacts of Data Biases in Recent Global Surface Warming Hiatus” was published in June 2015, shortly before the Paris meeting on climate impact mitigation.
Dr. John Bates, who for 10 years led the data program of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has accused the study’s lead author, NOAA official Tom Karl, of malfeasance. Bates charged that Karl used unverified data sets, ignored mandatory agency procedures, and failed to archive the data.
Karl, former head of the office that produced NOAA climate data, claimed that he developed a better data set by collecting readings of sea water collected by ships, instead of the buoys NOAA had used previously. Karl then adjusted the buoy data to reflect the measurements from ships. But data collected from buoys are cooler than data collected from ships, so adjusting the buoy data had the effect of raising measured surface temperatures, thereby eliminating the hiatus. Problem solved.
Except that the ship data are inferior because the ships themselves are a natural warming source, which means the data are tainted. Moreover, according to whistle-blower Bates, the Karl study ignored satellite data. And that’s not the worst of it. As it happens the computer used to process the data “suffered a complete failure” which means that Karl’s paper cannot be replicated or independently verified since, in violation of the rules, the data were never archived or otherwise shared. (Julie Kelly reports this sorry story in National Review Online).
So Why the Hysteria?
Roughly no one thinks that the Paris accords would make any real difference to climate change by the turn of the next century. And yet, there is an insistent demand for action now, even though it is unrelated to the stated goal. And for comparison purposes think about this. In the event that there is no remedial action taken, it is an absolute certainty that the U.S. will be unable to meet its financial obligations with respect to entitlement spending. But the same progressive forces that demand action now on climate change will resist the prospect of remedial action with respect to entitlements.
The reason is that the underlying agenda of the Paris Climate Accords is to increase the size and power of a global bureaucracy of experts that seeks to diminish the sovereignty of the United States. This is simply about political power, not environmental stewardship.
The political question we face is whether the primary organizing unit of world politics will be the sovereign Westphalian nation-state or ever-growing epistemic networks that operate through supranational organizations like the European Union.
For over 200 years the Westphalian nation-state has served as the foundation of a liberal world order based on the rule of law, individual liberty, property rights, freedom of contract and trade. On the other hand, the naïve utopian instinct that drives Europe’s Kantian cosmopolitanism combined with its relentless bureaucracy building is the perfect recipe for the disaster that Europe has worked so hard to create.
Europe, as it is presently constituted, is incapable of defending itself against external aggression; it is being over run by immigrants who have no interest in assimilation; its labor markets are sclerotic; it is stuck in low growth mode, in part because of the structure if its welfare state, and significant portions of member country populations are flirting with fascist candidates for public office.
So take your pick: the political accountability of the nation-state or rule by stateless experts. It shouldn’t be a tough choice.