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The Best Decade in Human History

January 3, 2020

Climate Change Weekly #346

In his incisive 2014 book, “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels,” author Alex Epstein demonstrated humanity’s development and use of fossil fuels has made life immeasurably better for humans and the environment alike. Epstein showed the most commonly proposed alternative energy sources not only can’t sustain or improve our relatively high level of prosperity, but would lead to economic and social decline in developed countries. Worst of all, the alternatives would leave the poorest in developing countries in continued, unnecessary, poverty.

The most common attack on fossil fuels comes from people pushing the narrative that humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions, primarily from burning fossil fuels, are causing a climate catastrophe. Epstein has a powerful answer to this misguided claim:

“Climate is no longer a major cause of deaths, thanks in large part to fossil fuels. … Not only are we ignoring the big picture by making the fight against climate danger the fixation of our culture, we are “fighting” climate change by opposing the weapon that has made it dozens of times less dangerous. The popular climate discussion has the issue backward. It looks at man as a destructive force for climate livability, one who makes the climate dangerous because we use fossil fuels. In fact, the truth is the exact opposite; we don’t take a safe climate and make it dangerous; we take a dangerous climate and make it safe. High-energy civilization, not climate, is the driver of climate livability.”

Similarly, in the document, Climate Change Reconsidered II: Fossil Fuels (CCR II), the Non-Governmental International Panel on Climate Change wrote:

“Access to affordable, plentiful, and reliable energy is closely associated with key measures of global human development including per-capita GDP, consumption expenditure, urbanization rate, life expectancy at birth, and the adult literacy rate. This research reveals a positive relationship between low energy prices and human prosperity. A similar level of human prosperity is not possible by relying on alternative fuels such as solar and wind power.”

Most recently, English science journalist Matt Ridley, Ph.D. and 5th Viscount, wrote in the British publication The Spectator that the second decade of the 21st century was the best in history in terms of human living standards, despite purported catastrophic warming. Ridley pointed out, for example, that when he was born in 1958, 60 percent of the world’s population was living in poverty, yet in the 2nd decade of the 21st century it fell below 10 percent for the first time. Ridley noted, “Global inequality has been plunging as Africa and Asia experience faster economic growth than Europe and North America; child mortality has fallen to record low levels; famine virtually went extinct; malaria, polio and heart disease are all in decline.” All good news, news well worth publicizing one would think yet, as Ridley writes, “… good news, in no news.”

Among the facts climate fearmongers ignore or even deny—they are the true science deniers—that Ridley highlights are: “we are getting more sustainable, not less, in the way we use the planet,” using less materials to produce the goods and services we consume; “Efficiencies in agriculture mean … despite the growing number of people and their demand for more and better food, the productivity of agriculture is rising so fast that human needs can be supplied by a shrinking amount of land,” and, as a result, forests and wildlands, at least in wealthy countries, are expanding.

Ridley follows Epstein and the more than 100 researchers who contributed to CCR II in commenting on the fact that the environmental policies pushed by the protest movement, Extinction Rebellion, among other climate alarmists (including, I might add, any politician who supports the Green New Deal, or similar policies meant to prematurely end the use of fossil fuels by force), would actually result in using more materials, energy, land, mineral resources, etc., harming the natural environment, and restricting human progress in the process.

Ridley concludes by predicting that in 2030 “we will see less poverty, less child mortality, less land devoted to agriculture in the world. There will be more tigers, whales, forests and nature reserves … the environmental and technological trends are pretty clear—and pointing in the right direction.”

I offer one cautionary note to Ridley’s prediction: politics can intervene to undermine progress, and if global elites in big business and big government institutions collude to prevent peoples in developing and developed countries from using fossil fuels, it will.

—    H. Sterling Burnett

SOURCES: The Spectator; NIPCC; The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels; Climate Etc.


IN THIS ISSUE …

No temperature threat from increase in methane … Much warmer ice free Barents Sea 6500 years ago … Weather related mortality declining as wealth spreads


NO TEMPERATURE THREAT FROM INCREASE IN METHANE

A recent study says the modest increase in atmospheric methane over the past decade should cause an almost immeasurable increase in global average temperatures, and the increase in temperatures attributable to greenhouse gas increases are not—and will not—cause catastrophic climate changes.

The paper, authored by W. A. van Wijngaarden, of the Physics and Astronomy Department at Canadian York University, and Will Happer, part of the Physics Department at Princeton University and former science advisor to President Donald Trump, points out methane in the atmosphere contributes to the earth’s temperature and temperature changes through its impact on the radiative forcing—the difference between the sunlight absorbed by the earth and the sunlight radiated back into space.

Wijngaarden and Happer write that at current concentrations of greenhouse gases, methane has approximately a 30 times larger impact on temperature on a molecule-by-molecule basis than carbon dioxide. However, because carbon dioxide is vastly more abundant in the atmosphere, and is increasing 300 times faster than methane, methane’s contribution to radiative forcing, and thus temperature, is approximately one tenth of carbon dioxide’s impact, all else being equal. Combined, the recent increase in carbon dioxide and methane has contributed at most a virtually immeasurable 0.012 Celsuis per year increase in temperature.

After delving into the complex physics of radiative forcing, and the contributions of various greenhouse gases to the greenhouse effect, and, indeed, life on earth, the authors conclude, “physics … gives no support to the idea that greenhouse gases like methane, carbon dioxide, or nitrous oxide, are contributing to a climate crisis [and] proposals to place harsh restrictions on methane emissions because of warming fears are not justified by facts.”

SOURCE: CO2 Coaltion


MUCH WARMER ICE FREE BARENTS SEA 6500 YEARS AGO

Research published in the November 15 edition of Science Direct indicates the recent warming in the Barents Sea and across much of the European Arctic is neither unique nor extreme, based on a reconstruction of ocean temperatures and sea ice extent over the past 14,000 years. Although the researchers speculate anthropogenic warming may be contributing to the recent warming of the Barents Sea’s waters, they find they are unlikely to be the main factor. Rather, natural factors are likely responsible for the climate trends in the region.

Examining the accumulation and shifts in marine sediments, biogeochemical changes from Atlantic water inflow and outflow, and changes in the zooplankton and other organic materials, the researchers found a periodic influx of warmer Atlantic ocean waters (Atlantification) in the Barents sea leads to a dramatic decrease in sea ice, altering the overturning of nutrients across they area, and affecting a retreat of ice sheets across the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard and likely elsewhere in the region.

The international team of researchers from universities and research institutes in China, Norway, Poland, and Spain, led by Magdalena Łącka of the Institute of Oceanology in Polish Academy of Sciences, found that approximately 14,500 years ago, when carbon dioxide concentrations were still in the 230 parts per million range (approximately 170 parts per million below present concentrations), western Barents Sea surface temperatures were comparable to today’s 2 to 4 degree Celsius range.

The first evidence of an Atlantification of the arctic occurred around 11,500 before present (BP), accompanied by rapid, large changes in ocean temperatures and ice extent. In fact, the Barents Sea was free of ice during the summer for most of the time period between 9,200 BP and 3,400 BP, with ocean temperatures rising and falling across the region by multiple degrees within the space of a single century.

At its peak warmth, approximately 6,400 years before present, ocean temperatures were as much as 10 degrees Celsius above the present average, with the region being ice-free for four to five months of each year, as opposed to the two months of August and September when they are typically ice-free now.

If this research is correct, for months at a time, for thousands of years, the Barents Sea, and much of the arctic region lacked summer ice, and glaciers in the region were smaller than now. This would mean the present period of relatively frigid ocean temperatures is the anomaly, rather than the norm, for most of the time since the last ice age ended. As a result, asserting there is a definitive signal of anthropogenic climate change based on present ocean temperatures or very recent sea ice fluctuations, is pure speculation, based on climate models, absent a solid understanding of how periodic Atlantification affects the region.

SOURCES: No Tricks Zone; Science Direct


WEATHER-RELATED MORTALITY DECLINING AS WEALTH SPREADS

A study in the July 2019 volume of the journal Global Environmental Change confirms what previous studies in recent years have consistently demonstrated: even as the planet has warmed since 1980, mortality from weather related events has declined sharply, with the decline mainly being attributable to increased wealth. Wealthier, on average, truly is healthier.

The researchers examined the incidences of climate related hazards—for instance, flooding, extreme heat, and wind-related events—and found a statistically significant increase in the number of recorded climate-related hazards from 1980 through 2016. They also found an increase in financial losses due to climate related hazards. Improved and more extensive reporting on extreme climate events account for some of the recorded increase in the number of climate related events. Growing numbers of people moving to areas vulnerable to certain types of weather events, like people moving to coastal areas prone to tropical storms, and more capital intensive projects being built in such areas, account for much of the growth in financial losses due to weather-related events.

Despite these factors, the study demonstrates vulnerability to climate-related hazards has fallen substantially over the time period, with global average mortality and economic loss rates having declined by 6.5 and nearly 5 times, respectively, from 1980 through 2016. While the costs of natural disaster topped $314 billion dollars in 2017, more than double the yearly average cost over 2007–2016, losses as a percentage of global GDP have fallen substantially since 1980.

The researchers found a gap remains in the multi-hazard mortality rate between poorer countries and richer ones, as the multi-hazard mortality rate is 4.4 times larger in low- and middle-low-income countries than middle- and high-income countries. However, “over the last four decades the difference in multi-hazard human vulnerability between poorer and richer countries reduced by almost 2.5 times.” Indeed, mortality linked to climate-related hazards has fallen fastest in the poorer countries experiencing some of the highest average growth rates.

The authors conclude there is a clear negative relationship between mortality and loss rates due to climate related hazards and wealth, with people in wealthier societies being less vulnerable to weather-related hazards because, in part, the “more a country is developed the higher are the investments in protection measures to natural hazards, early warning systems, and disaster risk management strategies. These actions facilitate not only the response but also the recovering phase that follow a natural disaster.”

The research is clear: Contrary to most climate scolds, economic growth is good for peoples’ prosperity and health.

SOURCE: Global Environmental Change

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