Remember the big “acid rain” scare during the 1970s and 1980s attributing damage to lakes and forests to emissions from Midwestern utilities? If so, did you ever hear the results of a more than half-billion-dollar, 10-year-long national Acid Precipitation Assessment Program study that was initiated in 1980 to research the matter?
As it turned out, those widespread fears proved to be largely unfounded, since only one species of tree at a high elevation suffered any notable effect, and acidity in lakes was traced to natural causes. The investigating scientists reported that they had “turned up no smoking gun; that the problem is far more complicated than it been thought; that other factors combine to harm trees; and that sorting out the cause-and-effect was difficult and in some cases impossible.”
Robert Bruck, a North Carolina State University plant pathologist who worked on the project, observed: “if you’re environmentally oriented, you going to find things to be concerned about; if you’re one who finds no reason to get excited, you’ll find much to support that too.”
Although the Reagan-Bush Administration refused to sponsor any acid rain legislation before the results were in, the regulatory groundwork had already been established through the EPA to avoid letting a perfectly good crisis go to waste.
Senators John Heinz (R–PA) and Timothy Wirth (D-CO) had previously cosponsored a “Project 88” to provide a pathway for converting environmental issues into business opportunities. That media-fueled alarm about acid rain provided a great basis for new “allowance trading” legislation to create markets for buying and selling excess sulfur dioxide (SO2) credits. Project 88 became the Clean Air Act of 1990.
Carbon-capping cronies: Enron, Al Gore, and friends
One of the big traders in the SO2 allowance market was Enron. Back at that time in the 1990s the company was diversifying its energy business and already owned the largest natural gas pipeline that existed outside of Russia, a colossal interstate network. However natural was having difficulties competing with coal.
The hype about global warming which had been ginned up by then-Senator Al Gore’s infamous 1988 congressional hearings on the matter provided what Enron recognized as a dream opportunity. After all, since a cap-and-trade market had been established for SO2, why not do the same for CO2 which was already being blamed for a climate crisis? Natural gas was a lower CO2 emitter than coal. Besides, they knew exactly where to go in Washington to get some help.
Enron’s CEO Ken Lay had met with President Clinton and Vice President Gore in the White House on August 4, 1997, to prepare a strategy for the upcoming Kyoto conference in December. Kyoto was the first step toward creating a carbon market that Enron desperately wanted Congress to support.
But there was one very pesky problem. Unlike SO2, which really does produce unhealthy smog, CO2 wasn’t a pollutant…at least not yet…and therefore the EPA had no authority to regulate it. So after Al Gore’s Senate pal Timothy Wirth was appointed to become Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs in the Clinton-Gore Administration, Enron’s boss Lay began working closely with him to lobby Congress to grant EPA necessary CO2 regulatory authority plus also gain public support for the UN’s Kyoto Protocol initiative.
And lobby they did. Between 1994 and 1996 the Enron Foundation contributed nearly $1 million to the Nature Conservancy, and together with the Pew Center and the Heinz Foundation they engaged in an energetic and successful global warming fear campaign which included attacks on scientific dissenters. Incidentally, the Heinz Foundation, headed by Teresa Heinz Kerry, generously provided a $250,000 award to Al Gore’s star congressional hearing witness, NASA’s James Hansen, who subsequently went on public record supporting her new husband John Kerry’s failed presidential bid. [NOTE: Hansen was a government employee at the time, normally forbidden from political activity.]
An internal Enron memorandum stated that Kyoto would “do more to promote Enron’s business than almost any other regulatory initiative outside the restructuring [of] the energy and natural gas industries in Europe and the United States.”
The rest, as they say, is history. Al Gore and his partner David Blood, the former chief of Goldman Sachs Asset Management (GSAM), took big stakes in the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) which was poised to make windfall profits selling CO2 offsets if and when cap-and-trade was passed in Congress. Speaking before a 2007 Joint House Hearing of the Energy Science Committee, Gore told members: “As soon as carbon has a price, you’re going to see a wave [of investment] in it…There will be unchained investment.”
Thanks to a 2010 Republican mid-term House cleaning that didn’t occur.
Windy Hurricane Sensationalism Poses Extreme Science Threat
There’s nothing like terrible and destructive weather events to stir up climate scaremongering. A notable example occurred just prior to the release of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2007 Summary for Policymaker’s Report following the devastating 2004 summer storm season which witnessed five landfall hurricanes in Florida that captured media attention throughout the world.
Opportunities to link this unusual pattern to manmade global warming were not lost on some IPCC officials, particularly Dr. Kevin Trenberth, a scientist in the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in New Zealand. In October of that year he participated in a press conference that announced: “Experts found global warming likely to continue spurring more outbreaks of intense activity.”
But there was a serious challenge. The IPCC studies released in 1995 and 2001 had found no evidence of a global warming–hurricane link, and there was no new analysis to suggest otherwise. Dr. Christopher Landsea, an expert on the subject at the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, was astounded and perplexed when he was informed that the press conference was to take place.
As a contributing author on both of the IPCC’s previous reports and an invited author for the upcoming 2007 report, Landsea believed there must be some huge mistake. He had not done any work to substantiate the claim. Nobody had. There were no studies that revealed an upward trend of hurricane frequency or intensity…not in the Atlantic basin or in any other basin.
Landsea wrote to top IPCC officials imploring, “What scientific, refereed publications substantiate these pronouncements? What studies being alluded to have shown a connection between observed warming trends on Earth and long–term trends of tropical cyclone activity?”
Having received no replies, he then requested IPCC leadership assurance that the 2007 report would present true science, saying: “[ Dr. Trenberth] seems to have come to a conclusion that global warming has altered hurricane activity, and has already stated so. This does not reflect consensus within the hurricane research community… Thus, I would like assurance that what will be included in the IPCC report will reflect the best available information consensus within the scientific community most expert on this specific topic.”
After the assurance didn’t come, Landsea resigned from the 2007 IPCC report activities and issued an open letter presenting his reasons.
And while the IPCC press conference proclaiming that global warming causes hurricanes received tumultuous responses in the international press, Mother Nature hasn’t paid much attention. In reality, there has been no increase in the strength or frequency of landfall hurricanes in the world’s five main hurricane basins during the past 50-70 years; there has been no increase in the strength or frequency in tropical Atlantic hurricane development during the past 370 years; and the U.S. is currently enjoying the longest period ever recorded without intense Category 3-5 hurricane landfall.
By the way, while there also hasn’t been any increase in mean global temperatures during lifetimes of most of today’s high school students, Kevin Trenberth’s theories still get lots of attention. Searching for answers as to where the “missing heat” that greenhouse gas emissions should have trapped in the Earth’s climate system went, he speculates that the oceans ate them. Unfortunately, the science to support this most recent assertion is once again missing as well.
The Big Himalayan Melting Glacier Snow Job
Although the IPCC is broadly represented to the public as the top authority on climate matters, the organization doesn’t actually carry out any original climate research at all. Instead, it simply issues assessments based upon supposedly independent surveys of published peer-reviewed research. However, some of the most influential conclusions summarized in its reports have neither been based upon truly independent research, nor properly vetted through accepted peer- review processes.
The IPCC’s representation in its 2007 report that global warming would likely melt Himalayan glaciers by 2035 prompted great alarm across southern and eastern Asia, where glaciers feed major rivers. As it turned out, that prediction was traced to a speculative magazine article authored by an Indian glaciologist, Syed Hasnain, which had absolutely no supporting science behind it. Hasnain worked for a research company headed by the IPCC’s chairman, Rajendra Pachauri. The IPCC’s report author, Marari Lai, later admitted to London’s Daily Mail, “We thought that if we can highlight it, it will impact policymakers and politicians and encourage them to take action.”
Well, they were successful and did get some action. This dire prediction prompted concern that rivers fed by the melting Himalayan glaciers would flood, then dry up once the glaciers retreated, endangering tens of millions of people in lowland Bangladesh.
Retired Air Marshal A.K. Singh, a former commander in India’s air force, then foresaw resulting mass migrations across national borders, with militaries (including ours) becoming involved. Purportedly influenced by this, Senate Armed Services Committee members Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and John Warner (R-VA) snuck some language into the National Defense Authorization Act which required the Department of Defense to consider the threat of climate change effects in its long-range strategic plans. One of those national security threats that DOD planners mentioned in 2009 was that global warming would melt the massive Himalayan ice mass.
Political Science: The Winners and Losers
So just how well did this sort of this political science pay off in supporting the various agendas? Well, in the case of Enron…obviously not so great. As for Al Gore, even though his carbon cash-in plans got capped he still harvested lots of the green he was peddling. His pals did okay too. Timothy Worth landed a position as Vice Chair of the United Nations Foundation and the Better World Fund. James Hansen, who Al’s congressional hearings catapulted to fame, is thankfully no longer at NASA, but is still scoring lucrative talking gigs in between routine arrests at Keystone XL Pipeline protest rallies.
The EPA’s employment growth and regulatory ambitions have obviously benefited from IPCC’s alarmist agendas. Its 2009 “endangerment finding” decreeing that atmospheric concentrations of six greenhouse gases (including CO2) “threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations” was based entirely upon IPCC claims which were refuted at the time even by its in-house “Internal Study on Climate” report conclusions. That report, authored by my friend Alan Carlin — who was at the time a senior research analyst at EPA’s National Center for Environmental Economics — stated: “…given the downward trend in temperatures since 1998 (which some think will continue until at least 2030), there is no particular reason to rush into decisions based upon a scientific hypothesis that does not appear to explain most of the available data.”
Yet as IPCC official Ottmar Edenhofer admitted in November 2010, “…one has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. Instead, climate change policy is about how we redistribute de facto the world’s wealth…”
And who are the real losers of such agenda-driven science? One of the biggest is climate science-related credibility. Fellow Forbes contributor Patrick Michaels recently posted an article quoting Dr. Garth Paltridge, a former chief research scientist with Australia’s prestigious Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. Referring to a dilemma in the overselling of global warming, Partridge observes:
The trap was fully sprung when many of the world’s major national academies of science (such as the Royal Society in the U.K., the National Academy of Sciences in the U.S.A., and the Australian Academy of Science) persuaded themselves to issue reports giving support to the conclusions of the IPCC. The reports were touted as national assessments that were supposedly independent of the IPCC and of each other, but of necessity were compiled with the assistance of, and in some cases at the behest of, many of the scientists involved in the IPCC international machinations. In effect, the academies, which are the most prestigious of the institutions of science, formally nailed their colours to the mast of the politically correct.
Partridge then predicts some potentially horrific consequences when the day of reckoning finally arrives. Noting that this day is approaching, he states:
…the average man in the street, a sensible chap who by now can smell the signs of an oversold environmental campaign from miles away, is beginning to suspect that it is politics rather than science which is driving the issue.” [This, he concludes] “is a particularly nasty trap in the context of science, because it risks destroying, perhaps for centuries to come, the unique and hard-won reputation for honesty which is the basis of society’s respect for scientific endeavour.
When that occurs, we all lose.
NOTE: A version of this article first appeared in Forbes online (2/11/14).