Paris, the City of Light, which earned its moniker by being an early adapter of natural gas to light its public spaces, is currently hosting COP21 (the 21st Conference of the Parties)—often referred to as the UN Climate Change Conference—that aims to end the use of fossil fuels. There, more than 150 world leaders gathered under the guise of, supposedly, slowing the warming of the planet.
Ask anyone on the street: “What is the big international conference on climate change, going on right now in Paris, about?”—and, assuming you find someone who actually knows it is happening, they will tell you it is to stop global warming. However, on December 4, five days into the 12-day event, Christiana Figueres, the UN’s top climate change official, made clear, that the meeting isn’t “about the temperature”—which she said “is just a proxy.” Instead, she revealed: it “is about the decarbonisation of the economy”—which means ending the use of fossil fuels, such as natural gas, oil, and coal.
No wonder, this year, the world leaders wanted to speak on the opening day of the conference—before the messaging got muddled by comments such as Figueres’. At the start of the show, they could wax eloquent instead of being embarrassed by the meetings’ eventual failure to produce the touted deal. Each world leader was given 3 minutes to speak. All followed the rules and stayed within the limited timeframe—except for President Obama. In an incredible show of hubris, he over-spoke by nearly five times what he was allotted and ignored the frequent beeps designed to signal that time is up.
What did he have to say that required 14 minutes of prepared remarks?
Apparently, if he’d been honest about the “decarbonisation” goal, he wouldn’t get the needed cooperation of countries like India and China—which are continuing to build new coal-fueled power plants at an alarming rate and which intend to remain reliant on fossil fuels for the foreseeable future. Instead Obama’s speech was filled with hyperbole and distortions such as these:
The sea is already swallowing villages
The above statement is referencing his trip recent to Alaska and likely is describing Kivalina—a village of indigenous people that he flew over on Air Force One. It is located on a barrier Island, a spit of land not reachable by road. By nature, barrier beaches, islands, and other ephemeral structures are constantly changing. For example, in the 1990s the National Park Service had to move the iconic Hatteras Lighthouse because its barrier island had moved away from the ocean and towards the sound side; this migration of the Outer Banks has been ongoing the last 10,000 years—long before any talk of “climate change.”
Despite increasing CO2 levels, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tide gauge station closest to Kivalina is in Nome, AK. It shows no sea level rise in that part of Alaska.
Kivalina may face changes due to nature, but not because of fossil fuels.
Glaciers are melting at a pace unprecedented in modern times
During his Alaska trip, Obama visited Exit Glacier, near Seward. Historians, geologists, Park employees, and glaciologists have been keeping track of glaciers for hundreds of years, and the records for Exit Glacier are no exception. The records show for more than 100 years, Exit Glacier has been retreating, but the maximum retreat rate was 300 feet per year in 1918. Last year Exit Glacier retreated a mere 187 feet. Near Exit Glacier, at Seward Alaska, sea levels, as measured by the tide gage there, are actually falling.
Similarly, in Glacier Bay—which Obama didn’t see, but cruise ships frequent—retreat has slowed from its peak in the 1860s.
Submerged countries. Abandoned cities. Fields that no longer grow.
Here, based on later comments, we can guess that he is referring to the coral islands of the Pacific. However, researchers J. R. Houston and R. G. Dean examined 57 tide gages: East, Gulf, West, Alaskan, Aleutianmariana and Island having 100-year-long periods of record and they show no late 20th century acceleration of sea level rise. Additionally, recent research confirms that of Charles Darwin on the HMS Beagle in the 1830s: corals keep up with rising seas. In July 2014,Science Magazine published a report titled: “Warming may not swamp islands.” It states: “Studies suggest that atoll islands will rise in step with a rising sea.”
Regarding his “fields that no longer grow” comment, we’ve seen historic records of changing patterns of coastlines and abandoned lands. One such example is found in the 1897 National Geographic magazine. It makes clear that before the establishment of the Mississippi channel and building of levees, and because of the natural sinking of the Mississippi Delta, the Mississippi overflowed every spring, spreading fresh sediment on the land. Construction of the levees brought that process to a halt. It states: “It is a fact well known to people living in the delta of Mississippi that large tracts of land were long ago abandoned in consequence of overflow by Gulf waters, due to the sinking of the lands.”
These three examples are just a sampling of the extreme statements Obama offered in his 14-minute opening speech that was filled with soaring rhetoric and scary statements. Had he stuck to his 3-minute timeframe, he might have had to acknowledge that temperature is just a proxy. What this is really about, as Figueres revealed at COP18, is “a complete transformation of the economic structure of the world.” Early this year, she restated the same basic ideas: “This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution.”
But that would be a tough sell, maybe not at the meeting in the City of Light, but to average Americans who aren’t looking for a complete transformation of the structure of the world—which sounds a lot like the goal of ISIS and its terrorist allies.
Maybe climate change, or, more accurately, the proposed cure, is the biggest threat facing the world today.
Author’s Note: Special thanks to Bob Endlich for research and development help on this week’s column. Endlich is a retired meteorologist who spent his career in the Air Force. Today, his passion is injecting truth and historic perspective into the climate change narrative.