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Alarmist Shows His True Colors

October 7, 2016

Climate Change Weekly #227

A new book by Travis Rieder, a bioethicist at Johns Hopkins University, openly states what I’ve long known: For climate alarmists, people are the true threat to Earth.

Every so often in the past, radical environmental misanthropes have shown their true colors, saying in various ways that to save the planet we’ve got to reduce the human population. Government employees, professors, and international politicians have at various times called people a cancer on the Earth, wishing for a virus to massively reduce human population. The late philosopher Arne Naess wrote the ideal human population on Earth was 200 million, and he called for policies and personal actions to achieve that goal as soon as possible. Meeting that goal means reducing the Earth’s current population by 7.3 billion people.

Rieder, who firmly believes humans are causing a climate catastrophe, sees two choices: Stop using so many “toys” – cars, refrigerators, air conditioners, cell phones, and computers – that require fossil fuels to power them and thus emit carbon dioxide; or stop having so many (or any) children.

Since Rieder recognizes people in developed countries are largely unwilling to give up the energy-intensive devices that make modern civilization possible, and people in developed countries are striving to attain the standards of living and well-being people in developed countries have, the only solution for Rieder is population control and reduction.

To his credit, Rieder explicitly rejects draconian population control policies like forced sterilization and coerced abortion. Instead he calls for personal transformation, rejecting one’s religion if it calls for being fruitful and multiplying, and enacting public policies such as expanded family planning, universal health care, expanding educational opportunities for women, and public service advertising campaigns chastising people for having children.

Among the glaring problems with Rieder’s prescription to solve the climate crisis: His assumption that there is an actual crisis in the offing. In addition, even if humans are causing climate change, and even if that climate change will result in some harms we would like to avoid, there are ways to mitigate or prevent the harms that would be less invasive, less restrictive of liberty, and less costly to society. Rieder fails to recognize the demonstrable power of markets to make human lives and the environment better.

Humans can’t control the climate, but they can adapt to climate changes, and wealthier societies are better able to reduce the harms from and adapt to the vagaries of climate change than poorer societies. Capitalism and free markets are the greatest institutions of wealth generation ever to exist, having brought more people out of penury in the past century alone than all other forms of production and exchange throughout human history.

The policies pushed in the Paris climate agreement, and Rieder’s advocacy to forego modern technologies and appliances, would make individuals and societies poorer, thus undermining the best options we have to respond to any harms resulting from climate change.

Unless markets are weighted down with unnecessary and counterproductive restrictions and regulations limiting the use of fossil fuels, wealthier future generations should be able to affordably undertake any infrastructure and public interventions necessary to reduce or eliminate any harms climate change might cause – without restricting people’s decision to reproduce.

-- H. Sterling Burnett

SOURCES: Bloomberg; Alex Epstein; Indur Goklany; and National Center for Policy Analysis


IN THIS ISSUE …

Sea ice bounces back, again!Increased snowfall results in slower sea level riseParis climate commitments not slowing fossil fuel growthGreenhouse effect changes, slowing warmingPoll: public still doubts climate catastrophe


SEA ICE BOUNCES BACK, AGAIN!

Despite repeated predictions the Arctic would be ice-free in the summer due to anthropogenic global warming, since hitting its earliest minimum extent in 1997 Arctic sea ice has been expanding at a phenomenal rate. Since 1979, while atmospheric carbon dioxide levels increased from 340 parts per million to 400 parts per million, summer sea ice extent has declined by 10 percent. Since the 1997 low, however, the rate of decline has not increased and recently sea ice extent has been growing, almost recovering the entire loss experienced since 1997.

As of September 25, at 4.1 million square kilometers, the Arctic’s sea ice recovery is greater than at the same date in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2015, making it the fourth highest extent on that date in the past ten years.

SOURCES: Global Warming Policy Forum and Not a Lot of People Know That


INCREASED SNOWFALL RESULTS IN SLOWER SEA LEVEL RISE

In a new study in Environmental Research Letters, scientists, using historical records and climate simulations from 35 coupled atmosphere-ocean climate models, found as temperatures rise more snow should fall on Antarctica, reducing sea level rise attributable to warming. According to the study, the increase in snowfall over Antarctica could help reduce the amount of global sea level rise by 51 to 79 millimeters, or about 2 to 3 inches, by the year 2100.

“Increased snowfall over Antarctica is the sole process connected to global warming that is thought to have a significant mitigating effect on global sea level rise,” said lead author Michael Previdi, a professor at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

SOURCE: Science Daily


PARIS CLIMATE COMMITMENTS NOT SLOWING FOSSIL FUEL GROWTH

Growth in energy demand in developing countries threatens to undermine any greenhouse gas reduction commitments made in the Paris climate agreement. For example, Citigroup reports India’s demand for oil will grow by about 8 percent a year through 2021, and over the next 20 years, about 240 million people will move to cities, with urbanization and rising incomes boosting demand for transportation fuels and electricity generation. India has surpassed Japan, becoming the world’s third largest oil consumer and importer of oil. In addition, Citigroup expects India’s demand for coal, needed to produce electricity and steel, to grow between 6 percent and 8 percent a year through 2020.

Elsewhere, Chinese companies and banks are driving a global coal expansion, as state-owned companies backed by state loans are building coal-fired power plants across the world. While Chinese leaders publicly state they want the country to be a global leader in green power, and they ratified the Paris climate agreement, the world’s largest carbon emitter is building or planning to build coal power plants in Africa, the Balkans, Indonesia, Latin America, Pakistan, and Turkey. These plants will boost global carbon dioxide emissions even as China’s domestic emissions growth slows. Chinese banks and companies are currently involved in at least 79 coal-fired generation projects totaling more than 52 gigawatts (GW) of power, swamping the 46 GW of planned coal closures in the United States by 2020. A study from the San Francisco-based Climate Policy Initiative found China had invested as much as $38 billion in coal-fired power plants overseas between 2010 and 2014 and had announced plans for another $72 billion worth of projects since then.

As China’s power sector struggles with overcapacity due to its slowing economy, the Chinese government is encouraging state-owned coal companies and energy-intensive industries such as concrete, steel, and cement, to “go out” as part of the One Belt One Road Initiative, which aims to open up new opportunities for Chinese companies and to build infrastructure to link China to European markets and beyond.

China is filling a void in developing countries’ energy markets created when the World Bank and Japan and South Korea committed to cease funding fossil fuel-related infrastructure development in 2013 and 2015, respectively.

SOURCES: China Dialogue and Bloomberg


GREENHOUSE EFFECT CHANGES, SLOWING WARMING

A new study in Nature: Scientific Reports indicates Earth’s response to increasing greenhouse gas concentrations is actually altering the greenhouse effect itself, accounting for the recent hiatus in warming temperatures. Researchers used long-term observational data from Earth’s surface and the top of the atmosphere to create two monthly gridded atmospheric and surface greenhouse effect parameters representing the radiative warming effects of the atmosphere and the surface from 1979 to 2014. As estimated by climate models and most climate scientists, the atmospheric and surface greenhouse effect over the tropical monsoon-prone regions contributes substantially to global climate patterns. What is not projected by climate models is the downward tendency of cloud activity in the region contributing to a greenhouse effect hiatus after the early 1990s, prior to the warming pause. The high number of La Niña events between 1991 and 2014 suppressed convection in the tropical central Pacific, reducing atmospheric water vapor content and cloud volume, over time slowing or pausing the rise in temperatures. This significantly weakened regional greenhouse effect offsets enhanced warming in other places and decelerates temperatures on average globally. This pause exists over both oceans and continents.

SOURCE: Nature: Scientific Reports


POLL: PUBLIC STILL DOUBTS CLIMATE CATASTROPHE

A Pew Research Center poll of 1,534 U.S. adults reports nearly three-quarters of Americans don’t believe there is a large “scientific consensus” among climate scientists that humans are causing climate change. According to Pew’s poll Americans are almost equally split over the question of whether humans are causing climate change, with nearly half of those polled, 48 percent, saying Earth is warming due to human activity, while 51 percent believe warming and other changes are either due to natural causes or there is no solid evidence Earth is warming at all.

Only 33 percent of Americans believe climate researchers “understand very well” whether climate change is even occurring. Just 28 percent of those polled say scientists “understand very well” the causes of climate change and only 19 percent say scientists know the best way to respond to climate change.

Oddly, two-thirds of those polled believe climate scientists should have a major role in shaping climate policy, despite believing climate scientists’ research is driven more by their political leanings (27 percent) or their desire to advance their careers (36 percent) than by the best available research (32 percent).

According to the Pew poll a majority of Americans distrust the news media’s coverage of climate change, with 51 percent saying the media does a “bad job” covering the issue. This high level of distrust comes as increasing numbers of mainstream news outlets refuse to cite or quote in their coverage of the issue scientists and scholars who doubt humans are causing catastrophic climate change.

SOURCES: Pew Research Center and CNS

Author
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. is a Heartland senior fellow on environmental policy and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.
hsburnett@heartland.org