Climate alarmists stick to talking points
11/04/19 Filed in: Energy
Reader feedback at end
SAFE has invested considerable time and energy in following the scientific debate on the manmade global warming theory (MMGWT). To date, our conclusion remains that the theory is far from proven. Furthermore, proposed responses aren’t typically supported by realistic cost-benefit analyses.
See, for example, John Greer’s observations from the 13th International Conference on Climate Change, which was sponsored by Heartland Institute and 16 co-sponsors and took place in July. In addition to 300 in-person attendees, there were some 8,000 participants online, and the subject was covered by an impressive slate of scientific and economic experts. SAFE newsletter, Fall 2019.
Here’s another informative writeup. Agree or disagree, the claims of data manipulation have been thoughtfully developed and merit serious consideration. Where are the real scientists? Gil Gutknecht, townhall.com, 11/3/19; underlying Tony Heller video (12:51), youtube.com, 9/20/19.
One [of computer scientist Tony Heller’s examples] is a chart that demonstrates rising sea levels. Since the end of the last ice age, sea levels have risen by 400 feet. Somehow life on earth adapted. Alarmists claim that the rate of this rise has increased in recent years due to climate change. But, Heller points out that if you simply extend the chart back to the time of Abraham Lincoln, you will see that sea levels, as measured at Battery Park on lower Manhattan, have increased at a fairly steady 2.84 millimeters annually.
We also try to keep abreast of the thinking of climate alarmists, which seems increasingly dominated by political considerations. See, e.g., Marketing the climate crisis, 9/16/19.
Determined to establish global warming as one of the key issues in the 2020 elections, climate hawks are sparing no effort to ensure that the Democratic president nominee (whoever it turns out to be) will advocate a rapid phaseout of fossil fuels in favor of wind and solar energy. This theme was sounded repeatedly at a climate crisis townhall for Democratic presidential candidates on September 4, which was broadcast from New York City and ran from 5:00 PM until midnight. It was subsequently reprised in the third round of Democratic presidential debates on September 12.
SAFE representatives attended two recent talks at the University of Delaware, which left us with similar impressions at the local level. Note the apparent lack of interest in educating people about the MMGWT versus simply telling them to accept the theory and agree that it’s time for action.
I. A climate dialog, Michael Mann, Oct. 21 - Following a “meet and greet” session (with drinks and hors d'oeuvres) on the ground floor of the Star Tower Audion, several hundred attendees filed into an adjacent auditorium to hear the presentation.
Acting director Holly Michael of the Delaware Environmental Institute (DENIN) made the introductions for what was to be an informal interview of Dr. Michael Mann of Penn State (Dept. of Geosciences and the Earth) by Dr. McKay Jenkins of UD (English Dept.).
Mann is an atmospheric scientist who has written 200+ papers, numerous columns, and 4 books. He has been awarded many honors including the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement in 2019.
Formerly a professional journalist, Jenkins described himself as on the intersection of science and communications. “We blew the climate change story for years,” he suggested, by treating skeptical comments as though they were entitled to thoughtful consideration. With such an approach, one has to “fight off the social media platforms that are after you.”
Taking off from this point, Mann complained that many sources are trying to “confuse the public” with deceptive, non-stop (bot-generated?) rhetoric. True climate scientists are aiming at a moving target in trying to get their message accepted in the public square. To cope effectively, they are following different rules than they did in the 1990s by carefully screening interview requests, etc.
As Mann sees it, “big oil” companies like Exxon Mobil are misleadingly striving to create doubts about the manmade global warming theory (MMGWT). He likens their role to the erstwhile role of “big tobacco,” which for years attempted to deny or minimize the harmful effects of smoking on human health.
As for the duly elected head of this nation, President Trump is like Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter books. Thus, he is a practitioner of the dark arts – manipulates language to obscure the facts – and follows a “deny and delay” strategy.
Theory is a powerful element in climate science, but critics say it is “just a theory.” We would just as soon talk about “global warming,” but switched to talking about “climate change” as suggested by conservative pollster Frank Luntz (after he talked to focus groups circa 2002).
There are not many real journalists anymore. Instead, the media gets people sitting around a table. Here is my research. Here is what I think of your research. Then they start yelling at each other.
Scientists must be faithful to the truth, whereas “the other side” has no such compunction. The numbers do not say it is too late to save the planet, but they do say it is time to act with urgency.
There has been some progress, perhaps, in that Republicans are no longer denying that global warming is occurring. They keep saying “we don’t have to take action” right now, however, which produces much the same result as denial.
Denial and delay are supporting doomsday thinking. A solid majority favors action to combat climate change, but there may or may not be a consensus on the specific opportunities to make a difference.
One good principle is to get people involved in field work, which provides an outlet for anxiety. Thus, an English class at UD is spending a bit of time during the semester doing forest restoration work (cutting down invasive species, planting trees).
The dialog was followed by a Q&A session, none of which got into scientific arguments for or against the MMGWT. For example:
Q. What do you think about carbon pricing as a way to spur the use of renewable energy? A. Good idea, and make the added cost significant so renewable energy can compete fairly. There will need to be a political debate about the details, however, and Republicans can’t seem to figure out what they want. Fortunately, the elections are coming up.
Q. Will the remedial action that is needed cost too much and wreck the economy? A. No. For one thing, some of the money has already been spent. For another, the costs of climate change will inevitably be underestimated in an effort to “prove it.” What’s the value of a mountain or an ecosystem, for example, and yet we’d pay an awful lot to protect them.
Q. Is it possible to have a win-win outcome by substituting natural gas for coal? A. Trump administration isn’t thinking straight about this. When you take methane leakage from fracking into account, natural gas isn’t much better than coal from an environmental standpoint.
Q. Can this problem be addressed within a capitalist society? A. Maybe not, but let’s start with carbon pricing – which clearly should be doable – and not give the other side an opportunity to “fan the flames” about Socialism. Green New Deal is probably “a bridge too far” over the next decade.
Comment. I’m optimistic because of folks like you who “get it.” It’s essential to be “carbon neutral” by 2050, not just zero emissions but sucking carbon out of the atmosphere. This will be expensive, requiring massive political change in a “make or break election.”
Q. What do you think of a vegan lifestyle? A. “I don’t eat meat,” said Mann, “but won’t give up cheese.” Go as far as you can in this area, but respect the right of personal choice.
II. Addressing climate change in Delaware, Shawn Garvin, 10/28/19 – Appearing as a guest speaker, DNREC Secretary Garvin addressed some 30-40 students (sponsored by “Sustainability Principles in Civil Engineering” and “Climate Change, National Security and Peace”) in a UD lecture hall.
No doubt assuming the students knew what the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control does, Professor Michael Chages introduced Secretary Garvin as a native Delawarean with 25 years of government service.
Garvin said there would be three parts to his talk: DE climate change impact that is happening right now – what we (DNREC and allies) are doing about it – and next steps (contemplated future actions).
Problem: the “state of the state” depends on actions of the rest of the world. Solution: with local and national leadership, we can inspire the rest of the world to take the necessary actions for mitigation and adaptation.
As a low-lying state, Delaware must beware of sea level rise (SLR). Tidal gauge at Lewes shows a 15 inch increase since 1900 (1 inch every 8 years), and the pace is picking up. Projections show 1.7 – 5 feet (2–6 inches every 8 years) of SLR in this area between now and 2100.
More heavy rains are occurring, which along with SLR leads to dangerous flooding and the need for expensive repairs (roads, failed septic systems, etc.)
Global temperatures are rising. There has been a 2 degree Fahrenheit increase in average temperatures since 1900, and 18 of the 19 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000. Higher temperatures have negative effects on human health, resulting in higher healthcare expenses.
Scientists say the cause of these effects is the combustion of fossil fuels, which leads to the emission of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. So the most obvious solution is to progressively reduce the use of fossil fuels for transportation, the generation of electric power, and industrial processes.
The current Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (regional cap and trade system) and Renewable Portfolio Standard (phased-in reduction of state limits on the amount of electric power distributed that is generated using conventional sources) are designed to achieve a 25% net reduction in GHG emissions from power generation by 2025.
Comment: It seems that DNREC should be talking about carbon dioxide emissions, not GHG emissions, since about 95% of the global greenhouse gas effect is due to water vapor in the atmosphere. However, Garvin clearly referred to GHG emissions in his remark, as did the slide that was projected on the screen.
One future step will be state legislation to expand the Renewable Portfolio Standard and thereby further reduce GHG emissions from electric power generation. The next goal has yet to be firmly established, but Garvin suggested it might be a 40% (cumulative) GHG reduction by 2035. He also expressed the hope that the General Assembly can pass this legislation in its current session (i.e., by 6/30/20).
The biggest use of fossil fuels is in the transportation sector; to date there are only 1,100 electric vehicles in Delaware and ways must be found to encourage the acquisition of a lot more of them plus expanding the use of mass transit. Stay tuned.
Finally, as part of its overall climate action plan, Delaware needs more energy-efficient buildings, bigger carbon sinks (plant more trees), etc.
This will be a demanding undertaking, said Garvin, and I have this message for students and young people. “We need your voice” to make it happen. An interactive discussion followed.
In response to skeptical questions from an alumnus, Garvin acknowledged that some people have different views on this subject. However, he said, “97% of the scientists agree with me.” And yes, the climate is a global issue, but that doesn’t mean the US (or its constituent states) can afford to ignore the problems that are brewing.
Q. The RPS only requires the growing use of renewable energy to replace conventional energy sources. Will consideration be given to requiring that some of that renewable energy be sited in Delaware? A. The governor’s offshore wind working group was aimed at involving Delaware in the creation of renewable energy. Maybe there is a project like that in our future.
Q. Don’t some of these climate mitigation and adaptation initiatives need financial support to get off the ground? A. Yes, and there are many different “pots of money” involved. However, the total amounts available aren’t huge, and this might best be thought of as “catalyst money.”
Q. How are we ever going to get to zero emissions? A. The fight needs to be about more than setting numerical targets, we also need to focus on specific implementation plans that will get more people actively involved.
Q. What’s happening at the national level? A. Unfortunately, the current administration is trying to undo previous achievements. For example, the proposed amendment of the Clean Power Plan would allow the individual states to determine what they will actually do versus requiring them to take action.
Comment: There aren’t enough qualified climate change teachers in 8th grade; Delaware needs a new certificate program.
Q. How can we win over people who complain about renewable energy costs? A. The more transparent the programs are, the more support there will be – people won’t obsess about paying a little more on their electric power bill if they understand what is at stake.
Q. (Asian student). Everyone knows climate change isn’t being driven by human activity, so why do critics keep attacking the point? A. Some people may not accept the scientific consensus, but we don’t need to give them equal time. The true opinion split isn’t 50/50, it’s more like 97/3.
Q. How can we develop a more positive message than “climate crisis”? A. We need to focus on benefits as well as costs. Renewable energy offers a lot of economic development potential for this state and for the nation as a whole.
* * * * * *
The debate of the MMGWT will be resolved in due course, as scientific debates generally are, but it may take decades. Science is a search for truth, not an opinion survey, and the issue of what drives the Earth’s climate trends over time is very complex. Give the scientists time to do their thing, and they will come up with the right answers (and new questions, which is what knowledge always leads to).
In the meantime, why assume answers that have not been proven and make decisions that could prove very costly? Economical and reliable energy sources are essential to a modern economy, and it would be foolish to force suboptimal choices based on political or ideological considerations. For example, solar and wind power are not sufficiently reliable to power the electric grid, and the fuel cell power provided by Bloom Energy is far too expensive.
Consider how Californians feel, whose electricity is being periodically blacked out due to forest fires (attributed to climate change in some quarters) that could potentially be blamed on the electric power company. A new dark age: California’s blackouts are self-inflicted, Jarrett Stepman, dailysignal.com, 10/13/19.
Do we want to get stuck with an expensive, unreliable electric grid in this part of the country, let alone forced to pay subsidies for electric vehicles, charging stations, etc.? Not if SAFE has anything to say about it! So don’t come to us with talking points and say “take our word for it,” offer a logical interpretation of the facts and allow us to make up our own minds.
#I think yours is the only report on Mann's talk. UD has not produced one which is a surprise. With such a high-profile presenter in a high-profile forum, I would have assumed something would have appeared on UDaily... – SAFE ally
#A valid critique of these presentations, we need to find a path forward. – SAFE member (DE)
#How could anyone take even any word from Michael Mann seriously? I won’t try to provide the evidence from what he has written and said, but it is well-known amongst all scientists. – SAFE member (GA)
#I was struck by two passages from the recap of DNREC Secy. Shawn Garvin’s talk. – SAFE director
Q. (Asian student). Everyone knows climate change isn’t being driven by human activity, so why do critics keep attacking the point? A. Some people may not accept the scientific consensus, but we don’t need to give them equal time. The true opinion split isn’t 50/50, it’s more like 97/3. Is this a misprint or something? I assume from the answer the student meant the opposite? Or did he?
No misprint, the Asian student (probably Chinese) really said something along those lines - which Garvin essentially sidestepped. But that doesn’t mean the student was a potential ally, because the typical Asian view is that the US & Europe should hamstring their own development as a matter of economic equity.
Problem: the “state of the state” depends on actions of the rest of the world. Solution: with local and national leadership, we can inspire the rest of the world to take the necessary actions for mitigation and adaptation. How could anyone think this, and what’s the real agenda?
Secretary Garvin was probably just toeing the “party line.” The climate alarmists have to say this, because otherwise the impact of US (let alone state) emissions is obviously pretty "small beer."
#Several thoughts on these write-ups: (1) The oceans absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, or release it if the oceans are warming. (2) Because fuel cells have been labeled as "renewable energy" by the General Assembly, some people think it's a good idea to use them - not appreciating that fuel cells run on natural gas and are a prohibitively expensive source of electric power for utility scale installations. (3) I recall seeing icebergs being calved from a shrinking glacier on an Alaskan cruise, and fellow passengers pondering whether the (all seeing, all knowing) government needed to do something about the situation. Fostering informed thinking about these issues isn't easy - SAFE member (DE)