Statement of Patrick Moore, Ph.D.
Before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Subcommittee on Oversight
February 25, 2014
“Natural Resource Adaptation: Protecting ecosystems and economies”
Chairman Whitehouse, Ranking Member Inhofe, and members of the Committee. Thank you for the opportunity to testify at today’s hearing.
In 1971, as a PhD student in ecology I joined an activist group in a church basement in Vancouver Canada and sailed on a small boat across the Pacific to protest US Hydrogen bomb testing in Alaska. We became Greenpeace.
After 15 years in the top committee I had to leave as Greenpeace took a sharp turn to the political left, and began to adopt policies that I could not accept from my scientific perspective. Climate change was not an issue when I abandoned Greenpeace, but it certainly is now.
There is no scientific proof that human emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) are the dominant cause of the minor warming of the Earth’s atmosphere over the past 100 years. If there were such a proof it would be written down for all to see. No actual proof, as it is understood in science, exists.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states: “It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.” (My emphasis) “Extremely likely” is not a scientific term but rather a judgment, as in a court of law. The IPCC defines “extremely likely” as a “95-100% probability”. But upon further examination it is clear that these numbers are not the result of any mathematical calculation or statistical analysis. They have been “invented” as a construct within the IPCC report to express “expert judgment”, as determined by the IPCC contributors.
These judgments are based, almost entirely, on the results of sophisticated computer models designed to predict the future of global climate. As noted by many observers, including Dr. Freeman Dyson of the Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies, a computer model is not a crystal ball. We may think it sophisticated, but we cannot predict the future with a computer model any more than we can make predictions with crystal balls, throwing bones, or by appealing to the Gods.
Perhaps the simplest way to expose the fallacy of “extreme certainty” is to look at the historical record. With the historical record, we do have some degree of certainty compared to predictions of the future. When modern life evolved over 500 million years ago, CO2 was more than 10 times higher than today, yet life flourished at this time. Then an Ice Age occurred 450 million years ago when CO2 was 10 times higher than today. There is some correlation, but little evidence, to support a direct causal relationship between CO2 and global temperature through the millennia. The fact that we had both higher temperatures and an ice age at a time when CO2 emissions were 10 times higher than they are today fundamentally contradicts the certainty that human-caused CO2 emissions are the main cause of global warming.
Today we remain locked in what is essentially still the Pleistocene Ice Age, with an average global temperature of 14.5oC. This compares with a low of about 12oC during the periods of maximum glaciation in this Ice Age to an average of 22oC during the Greenhouse Ages, which occurred over longer time periods prior to the most recent Ice Age. During the Greenhouse Ages, there was no ice on either pole and all the land was tropical and sub-tropical, from pole to pole. As recently as 5 million years ago the Canadian Arctic islands were completely forested. Today, we live in an unusually cold period in the history of life on earth and there is no reason to believe that a warmer climate would be anything but beneficial for humans and the majority of other species. There is ample reason to believe that a sharp cooling of the climate would bring disastrous results for human civilization.
Moving closer to the present day, it is instructive to study the record of average global temperature during the past 130 years. The IPCC states that humans are the dominant cause of warming “since the mid-20th century”, which is 1950. From 1910 to 1940 there was an increase in global average temperature of 0.5oC over that 30-year period. Then there was a 30-year “pause” until 1970. This was followed by an increase of 0.57oC during the 30-year period from 1970 to 2000. Since then there has been no increase, perhaps a slight decrease, in average global temperature. This in itself tends to negate the validity of the computer models, as CO2 emissions have continued to accelerate during this time.
The increase in temperature between 1910-1940 was virtually identical to the increase between 1970-2000. Yet the IPCC does not attribute the increase from 1910-1940 to “human influence.” They are clear in their belief that human emissions impact only the increase “since the mid-20th century”. Why does the IPCC believe that a virtually identical increase in temperature after 1950 is caused mainly by “human influence”, when it has no explanation for the nearly identical increase from 1910-1940?
It is important to recognize, in the face of dire predictions about a 2oC rise in global average temperature, that humans are a tropical species. We evolved at the equator in a climate where freezing weather did not exist. The only reasons we can survive these cold climates are fire, clothing, and housing. It could be said that frost and ice are the enemies of life, except for those relatively few species that have evolved to adapt to freezing temperatures during this Pleistocene Ice Age. It is “extremely likely” that a warmer temperature than today’s would be far better than a cooler one.
I realize that my comments are contrary to much of the speculation about our climate that is bandied about today. However, I am confident that history will bear me out, both in terms of the futility of relying on computer models to predict the future, and the fact that warmer temperatures are better than colder temperatures for most species.
If we wish to preserve natural biodiversity, wildlife, and human well being, we should simultaneously plan for both warming and cooling, recognizing that cooling would be the most damaging of the two trends. We do not know whether the present pause in temperature will remain for some time, or whether it will go up or down at some time in the near future. What we do know with “extreme certainty” is that the climate is always changing, between pauses, and that we are not capable, with our limited knowledge, of predicting which way it will go next.
Thank you for the opportunity to present my views on this important subject.
Attached please find the chapter on climate change from my book, “Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout: The Making of a Sensible Environmentalist”. I would request it be made part of the record.
If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts he shall end in certainties. —Sir Francis Bacon
The global media tells us plainly and bluntly that the vast majority of the world’s scientists believe we are headed for a climate catastrophe that will devastate human civilization and the environment. We have no choice but to act immediately to save ourselves from this apocalypse. The greatest threat is the CO2 released from burning fossil fuels and cutting forests. Fossil fuel use must be cut by 80 percent or more, and we must stop cutting trees. How should we react to this warning?
The subject of climate change, also referred to as global warming, is perhaps the most complex scientific issue we have ever attempted to re- solve. Hundreds, possibly thousands of factors influence the earth’s cli- mate, many in ways we do not fully understand. So, first, let us recognize that the science of climate is not settled. In fact, we are only beginning to understand how the earth’s climate works.
It is not correct to use the terms global warming and climate change as if they were interchangeable. Global warming is a very specific term meaning exactly what it says, that the average temperature of the earth is increasing over time. Climate change is a much more general term that includes many factors. For one thing the climate is always changing, whereas it is not always getting warmer. The old maxim “the only constant is change” fits perfectly here. And as the belief in human-caused global warming has come into doubt the term climate change has been adopted as a substitute, even though it means something completely different.
It is one thing to claim increases in CO2 cause global warming and quite another to claim increases in CO2 cause:
• Higher temperatures
• Lower temperatures
• More snow and blizzards
• Drought, fire, and floods
• Rising sea levels
• Disappearing glaciers
• Loss of sea ice at the poles
• Species extinction
• More and stronger storms
• More storm damage
• More volcanic eruptions
• Dying forests
• Death of coral reefs and shellfish
• Shutting down the Gulf Stream
• Fatal heat waves
• More heat-related illness and disease
• Crop failure and food shortages
• Millions of climate change refugees
• Increased cancer, cardiovascular disease, mental illness, and respiratory disease290
• And, a devastating effect on the quality of French wines 291
The science of climatology is only a few decades old. It is not a single science but rather an interdisciplinary cluster of sciences. These include meteorology (the study of weather), atmospheric chemistry, astrophysics and cosmic rays, geology and other earth sciences, oceanography, carbon cycling through all living species, soil science, geology, climate history through the millennia, ice ages and greenhouse ages, study of the sun, knowledge of earth wobbles, magnetic fields and orbital variations, etc. All of these disciplines are interrelated in complex, dynamic patterns that cannot be reduced to a simple equation. That is why climatologists have built very complicated computer models in the hope of predicting future climatic conditions. A “climate change con- sisting of widely divergent groups with sharply differing opinions. The most prominent and formally structured group is the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the scientists,
290. “A Human Health Perspective on Climate Change,” National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, April 2010, http://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/docs/climatereport2010.pdf
291. “Impact of Climate Change on Wine in France,” Greenpeace International, September 2009, http://www.greenpeace.org/raw/content/international/press/reports/impacts-of-climate-change-on-w.pdf
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scholars, activists, and politicians who associate themselves with this organization. The IPCC was created in 1988 as a partnership between the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Program, put simply, meteorologists and environmentalists. Members of this group generally believe humans are causing global warming, that we are changing the climate, and this will generally be negative for civilization and the environment. They claim to represent an “overwhelming consensus among climate scientists.”292
The IPCC is rather insular, believing its members are the only true climate scientists and that those who disagree with them are either some other kind of scientists, or not really scientists at all. Thus there is a self- defined overwhelming, even unanimous, consensus because they don’t recognize the legitimacy of those who disagree with them. In 2007 the IPCC published its Fourth Assessment Report, which stated, “Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic (human- caused) greenhouse gas concentrations.”293
At the other end of this spectrum there is a considerable contingent of scientists and scholars, largely schooled in the earth and astronomical sciences, who believe climate is largely influenced by natural forces and cycles. They were not organized into an official body until 2007 when the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) was formed in Vienna. Led by atmospheric scientist Dr. Fred Singer, the NIPCC published “Climate Change Reconsidered,” a comprehensive scientific critique of the IPCC’s findings, in 2009.294 This report was signed by more than 31,000 American scientists and concluded, “there is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate.”295 Clearly there is no overwhelming consensus among scientists on the subject of climate.296 In my opinion the believers and the skeptics of human-caused, catastrophic climate change can be roughly divided between those who see history in very recent terms (years to thousands of years) and those who see history in the long term (thousands to hundreds of millions of years). Both meteorologists and environmentalists tend to think about weather and climate in
292. “Statistical Analysis of Consensus,” realclimate.org, December 16, 2004, http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2004/12/a-statistical-analysis-of-the-consensus/
293. “Summary for Policymakers,” Fourth Assessment Report, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007, p. 3, http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg1/ar4-wg1-spm.pdf
294. Craig Idso and S. Fred Singer, “Climate Change Reconsidered,” Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, 2009. http://www.heartland.org/publications/NIPCC%20report/PDFs/NIPCC%20Final.pdf
295. “Climate Change Reconsidered,” Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change,” 2009, www.nipccreport.org/
296. “More Than 700 International Scientists Dissent Over Man-Made Global Warming Claims: Scientists Continue to Debunk ‘Consensus’ in 2008 & 2009,” U.S. Senate Minority Report, March 16, 2009, http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Files.View&FileStore_id=83947f5d-d84a-4a84-ad5d-6e2d71db52d9
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terms of recent human history. Geologists, evolutionary biologists, and astrophysicists tend to think of climate in the context of the 3.5 billion-year history of life and the 4.6 billion-year history of the Earth.
The various camps have invented some names for each other and for themselves. Pretty much everyone involved thinks they are “climate scientists.” But people who are convinced we are the main cause of climate change have been dubbed “true believers” and “warmists,” highlighting what are seen to be religious and ideological orientations, respectively. People who are undecided, critical, or questioning are called “skeptics.” The skeptics are happy with this description as it indicates they have an open mind and as scientists they believe they have a duty to challenge un- proven hypotheses. The true believers use the word skeptic as a slur, as in “unbelievers,” as if it is unacceptable to question their beliefs. Then there are the “climate deniers,” or “denialists,” terms invented by the true believers, and characterized by skeptics as associating them with Holocaust deniers. Much of this is just name-calling, but it is useful in the sense that it defines the battleground.
Over the years the media have largely ignored the scientists and organizations that remain skeptical of human-caused global warming and climate change. The public has been inundated with alarmist headlines about catastrophic climate change and many governments have bought into the belief there is a global emergency that must be addressed quickly and decisively. As with fear of chemicals, fear of climate change results in a convergence of interests among activists seeking funding, scientists applying for grants, the media selling advertising, businesses promoting themselves as green, and politicians looking for votes. It may not be a conspiracy, but it is a very powerful alignment that is mutually reinforcing.
In 2007 the IPCC and one of its main champions, Al Gore, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for alerting the world to the dire threat of human-caused climate change. One would imagine the public would strongly support this alarmist position, having been exposed to such one- sided media coverage and the news of prestigious awards. Amazingly this is not the case, even in countries such as the United States and England, where the official government positions are sharply accepting of catas- trophic human-caused warming.
A Pew Foundation poll conducted in October 2009 found only 36 per- cent of the general public in the United States believes humans are the cause of global warming, whereas 33 percent does not believe the earth is warming and 16 percent believe the earth is warming but that it is due to natural causes. Public opinion was sharply divided along partisan lines: 50 percent of Democrats believe global warming is caused by humans, while 33 percent of independents, and only 18 percent of Republicans agree with this. The trend since 2007 is decidedly
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downwards with about 10 percent fewer people believing in human-caused global warming in all categories.
Another Pew Foundation poll taken in May 2010 asked Americans to rank priorities for Congress. It found only 32 percent think it is very important for Congress to address climate change in the coming months, including 47 percent of Democrats, 29 percent of independents, and 17 percent of Republicans.297
The partisan spread mirrors the poll on belief in human-caused cli- mate change almost perfectly. This is a strong indication that the reason a majority is not concerned about climate change legislation is because it doesn’t believe in human-caused climate change in the first place.
A poll taken by Ipsos Mori in June 2008 found 60 percent of Britons believed, “many scientific experts still question if humans are contributing to climate change.”298 Clearly a majority of the British public does not believe there is a scientific certainty on the subject.
A more recent British poll in February 2010, again taken by Ipsos Mori, showed that only 17 percent of Britons put climate change in their top three most important issues facing them and their families.299
In one of the most surprising surveys taken, 121 U.S. television weather presenters, all members of the American Meteorological Society, were asked their opinions on climate change in April 2010. Ninety-four percent of those surveyed were accredited meteorologists. When asked about the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s statement, “Most of the warming since 1950 is very likely human-induced,” a full 50 percent either disagreed or strongly disagreed. Twenty-five percent were neutral and only 24 percent said they agreed or strongly agreed.300
In April 2013 a US Department of Agriculture-funded survey of US Midwest corn farmer’s beliefs in climate change was published. 18,800 farmers with an income of US$100,000 or more were polled, of whom 26 percent responded (4,778). Only 8 percent of these farmers, who spend their lives in the weather and the climate, agreed with the statement, “Climate change is occurring and it is caused mostly by human activities.” In other words, 92 percent of corn farmers do not believe humans are the main cause of climate change. I say give them all honorary doctorates of science.
297. “Public’s Priorities, Financial Regs: Congress’s Job Rating—13%,” Pew Research Center for People and the Press, May 18, 2010, http://people-press.org/report/615/
298. “Scientists Exaggerate Climate-Change Fears, Majority of Britons Believe,” Mail Online, June 22, 2008, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1028425/Scientists-exaggerate-climate-change-fears-majority-Britons-believe.html
299. “Climate Change Omnibus: Great Britain,” Ipsos Mori, February 24, 2010, http://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/poll.aspx?oItemId=2552
300. Edward Maibach et al., “A National Survey of Television Meteorologists About Climate Change: Preliminary Findings,” George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication, March 29, 2010, http://www.climatechangecommunication.org/images/files/TV_Meteorologists_Survey_Findings_(March_2010).pdf
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Why is there such a high degree of skepticism among professionals and the public when the mainstream media is so biased toward the IPCC view? It would appear they are reading about skeptical opinions on the Internet, blogs in particular, and talking to one another about the subject in an open-minded manner. Obviously most weather presenters are acutely interested in and aware of the fine points of the debate. The fact they disagree with the IPCC “consensus” by two-to-one speaks volumes about where these weather professionals find credibility on the subject of global warming.
Climate science is a classic case of the necessity to distinguish between historical and present facts on the one hand, and predictions of the future on the other. There are a number of things we can say with relative certainty:
• During the past 500 million years, since modern life forms emerged, the earth’s climate has been warmer than it is today most of the time. During these “Greenhouse Ages” the earth’s temperature averaged around 22 to 25 degrees Celsius (72 to 77 Fahrenheit).301 All the land was either tropical or subtropical and the world was generally wetter. The sea level was much higher than today and life flourished on land and in the oceans. These warm periods were punctuated by three Ice Ages during which large ice sheets formed at the poles and in mountainous areas, effectively eliminating most plants and animals in those regions.
• The two Ice Ages that preceded the current one occurred between 460 and 430 million years ago and between 360 and 260 million year ago. From 260 million years ago until quite recently, a Greenhouse Age existed for about 250 million years. Ice started to accumulate in Antarctica beginning 20 million years ago and eventually the cur- rent Ice Age, known as the Pleistocene, began in earnest about 2.5 million years ago.302 The Pleistocene, which we are still in today and during which our species evolved to its current state, accounts for only 0.07 percent of the history of life on earth.
• During the coldest periods of the Pleistocene Ice Age the average temperature of the earth was around 12 degrees Celsius (54 degrees Fahrenheit) and there were large ice sheets on both poles. Before the recent retreat of the glaciers, beginning 18,000 years ago, the ice extended below the U.S./Canada border, over all of Scandinavia, much of northern Europe, and well into northern Russia. The sea was about 122 meters (400 feet) lower than it is today, having risen steadily since then and continuing to do so today.303 In recent times the sea has risen about 20 centimeters (8 inches) per century. The
301. Christopher R. Scotese, “Climate History,” Paleomar Project, April 20, 2002, http://www.scotese.com/climate.htm 302. “Ice Age” Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_age 303. “Sea Level,” Wikipedia, http://en.wikipe
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cause of sea level rise is a combination of melting glaciers (ice on land) and rising ocean temperature, as water expands when it gets warmer.
• The earth’s climate underwent a general warming trend beginning with the end of the last major glaciation, about 18,000 years ago. This has not been an even warming, as there have been many fluctuations along the way. For example, during the Holocene Thermal Maximum between 9000 and 4000 years ago it was warmer than it is today by as much as 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit).304 During this time the present-day Sahara Desert was covered with lakes and vegetation, clearly indicating there was much more rain- fall there than today.305 We know for a fact this was not caused by humans. Many scientists believe it was caused by variations in the earth’s orbit around the sun.
• This historical record highlights the importance of analyzing the starting point and end point of temperature measurements when explaining trends, both up and down. It is warmer today than it was 18,000 years ago. But it is cooler today than it was 5,000 years ago during the Holocene Thermal Optimum. So it could be said we have been in a cooling trend for the past 5000 years even though it is warmer now than it was when the glaciation ended. I will try not to “trick” the reader by cherry-picking timelines that support a particular bias.
• Today the average temperature of the earth is about 14.5 degrees Celsius (58 degrees Fahrenheit), decidedly closer to the Ice Age level than the Greenhouse Age level and only 2.5 degrees above the temperature at the height of the last major glaciation. The fact is we are still in the Pleistocene Ice Age and it is possible another major glaciation may occur sometime in the next 10,000 years, but that is a prediction, not a fact.
• Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is a greenhouse gas in that it tends to heat the atmosphere and thus raise the temperature of the earth. But water vapor is by far the most important greenhouse gas, contributing at least two thirds of the “greenhouse effect.” CO2 and other minor gases, such as methane and nitrous oxide, make up the other third of the greenhouse effect.306 It is not possible to prove the exact ratios among the various greenhouse gases as they interact in complex ways.
304. Chris Caseldine et al., “Holocene Thermal Maximum up to 3oC Warmer Than Today, Quaternary Science Reviews 25, no. 17–18 (September 2006): 2025–2446.
305. “Earth’s Climatic History: The Last 10,000 Years,” CO2 Science, http://www.co2science.org/subject/other/clim_hist_tenthousand.php
306. J. T. Kiehl and Kevin E. Trenberth, “Earth’s Annual Global Mean Energy Budget,” Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 78, no. 2 (February 1997): 197-208, www.atmo.arizona.edu/students/courselinks/spring04/atmo451b/pdf/RadiationBudget.pdf
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In particular, the balance between water vapor and clouds (made up of condensed water vapor) is impossible to predict accurately.307
• We know global levels of CO2 in the atmosphere have risen steadily from 315 parts per million (ppm) to nearly 390 ppm since scientists began taking regular measurements at Mauna Loa on the big island of Hawaii in 1958.308 This is a very short time compared to the 3.5 billion years of life on earth. Many scientists assume that human emissions of CO2 from burning fossil fuels are the main cause of this increase. Some scientists question this assumption. It is a fact that CO2 levels were much higher than they are today during previ ous eras. This will be discussed in detail later.
• The average temperature of the earth has fluctuated during the past 100 years, sometimes cooling, sometimes warming, and in balance has increased somewhat, especially during the periods from 1910 to 1940 and from 1980 to 1998. Since 1998 there has been no further warming and apparently a slight cooling. There is a lot of controversy around the accuracy of these trends. In particular there is a concern that many of the weather stations used to determine the global aver- age were originally in the countryside but over the years have been swallowed up by expanding urban development. The “urban heat island effect” refers to the fact that concrete and heat from buildings results in an increase in temperature in urban areas compared to the surrounding countryside,309 thus the possibility exists that the results have been skewed. In November 20 or hacked, from the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia in the U.K. shocked the climate change community. It was quite clear from a number of email exchanges that the scientists with this most important source of information had been manipulating data, withholding data, and conspiring to discredit other scientists who did not share their certainty that humans were the main cause of climate change. These revelations were quickly dubbed “Climategate” and have since been hotly debated in climate change circles.310 311 312 It is very difficult to find
307. “Forecast: Water and Global Warming,” ESPERE, http://www.espere.net/Unitedkingdom/water/uk_forecast.html
308. R. F. Keeling et al., “Atmospheric CO2 Values (ppmv) Derived from In Situ Air Samples Collected at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, USA,” Scripps Institute of Oceanography, September 2009, http://cdiac.ornl.gov/ftp/trends/co2/maunaloa.co2
309. “Surfacestations Project Reaches 82% of the Network Surveyed,” surfacestations.org, July 16, 2009, http://www.surfacestations.org/
310. “The Tip of the Climate Change Iceberg,” Wall Street Journal, December 8, 2009, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704342404574576683216723794.html
311. James Delingpole, “Climategate: The Final Nail in the Coffin of ‘Anthropogenic Global Warming’?” Telegraph, November 20, 2009, http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/100017393/climategate-the-final-nail-in-the-coffin-of-anthropogenic- global-warming/
312. Andrew C. Revkin, “Hacked E-Mail Is New Fodder for Climate Dispute,” New York Times, November 20, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/21/science/earth/21climate.html
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a balanced account of this scandal. Commentary is divided sharply, with believers claiming that while the scientists involved behaved badly, this does not change the fact that the science is clear that humans are causing warming, while skeptics claim the revelations demonstrate the books have been cooked, placing the entire hypothesis of global warming in doubt.
In December 2009, after months of promotion and hype, the Copenhagen conference on climate change ended in disaster for the true believers. The delegates at the largest international meeting in history failed to reach a single binding decision to control CO2 emissions. There does not seem to be any conceivable strategy to achieve international agreement on this subject. The United States will not sign a deal that does not include China, India, Brazil, and the other developing countries. The developing countries will not agree to reduce or restrict their CO2 emissions so long as the U.S. and other industrialized countries have far higher emissions on a per capita basis. Whereas the U.S. emits nearly 20 tonnes (22 tons) of CO2 per person, China emits 4.6 tonnes (5.1 tons) and India emits 1.2 tonnes (1.3 tons). There is no possibility this impasse will be resolved in the near future. The U.S. will not agree to reduce its emissions to a lower level while the developing countries increase theirs. The developing countries will not agree to a system in which the U.S. and other industrialized countries are allowed even higher per capita emissions. Despite this obvious impasse, the delegates continue to meet regularly, thousands of people jetting to desirable locations like Bali, Montreal, and Rio de Janeiro at public expense, with no possibility of ever reaching agreement.
We can be fairly certain of the facts listed above, with the qualifications given. While this is very interesting, it is not the known facts but rather the unanswered questions that are most intriguing. Climate change cannot be defined by a single question. It is much like peeling back the layers of an onion, beginning with the science, leading to possible environmental impacts, followed by potential economic and social impacts, and concluding with policy options. Among these questions are:
• Is CO2, the main cause of global warming, either natural or human-caused?
• Are human-caused CO2 emissions the principal cause of recent global warming?
• Is the recent warming trend fundamentally different from previous warming and cooling trends?
• If warming continues at the rate experienced in the 20th century into the 21st century will this be positive or negative for human civilization and the environment?
• Is the melting of glaciers and polar ice really a threat to the future of human civilization?
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• Will increased CO2 result in “acidification” of the oceans and kill all the coral reefs and shellfish?
• Is it possible for humans to halt global warming and to control the earth’s climate?
• Which would cost more to the economy, an 80 percent reduction in fossil fuel use or adaptation to a warmer world?
• Could the United States and China ever agree to a common policy on reducing CO2 emissions?
• Is the effort to conclude a binding agreement to control CO2 emissions among all nations futile?
These are just some of the many questions we must answer if we are to make intelligent choices about the direction public policy should take on the subject of climate change. Before going into the fact that both CO2 and temperature are increasing at the same time does not prove one is causing the other. It may be that increased CO2 is causing some or most of the increased temperature. It may also be that increased temperature causes an increase in atmospheric CO2. Or it may be they are both caused by some other common factor, or it may be just coincidental they are both rising together and they have nothing to do with one an- other. Correlation does not prove causation. In order to demonstrate one thing causes another, we need among other things, to be able to replicate the same cause-effect sequence over and over again. This is not possible with the earth’s climate as we are not in control of all (or any of) the factors that might influence climate. Now, if we had a record of CO2 and temperature going back many millions of years and it showed that increased temperature always followed increased CO2, we would be a long way toward proving the point. As we shall see later, the historical record is not so clear on the relationship between CO2 and temperature. Second, it is often ass interests of the environment are one and the same. This may be the case for some factors, such as rainfall, but for others it simply does not apply. Take sea level rise, for example. If the sea level rises relatively rapidly, it will damage a great deal of human infrastructure and a great deal of work and expense will be required either to protect or to replace farms, buildings, wharfs, roadways, etc. But fish and other marine creatures will be perfectly happy with the rising sea level and most land animals will not find it difficult to move a few feet higher. A 1.5 meter (5-foot rise) in sea level may inundate Bangladesh, turning much of it into a salt marsh and displacing millions of people. This would be devastating for humans, but from an environmental perspective there is nothing wrong with a salt marsh. From an ecological point of view, a natural salt marsh represents an improvement over intensive agriculture with monocultures of nonnative food crops.
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Fortunately, no credible scientist believes the sea level will rise anywhere near 1.5 meters in the next century.
A Longer View
Our lifetimes are so short compared to the billions of years of life’s history on earth that we tend to dwell on the very recent past when considering historical information. Nearly all the discussion of climate change is in the context of the past 100 years, or occasionally the past 1000 years, even though the earth’s climate has changed constantly for billions of years. Let’s take a look at the history of climate change in this larger context, in particular the past 500 million years since modern life forms evolved.
The earth’s average temperature has fluctuated widely over the past one bil- lion years (see Figure 1). It is interesting to note that during the Cambrian Period, when most of the modern life forms emerged, the climate was much warmer than it is today, averaging 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit). Only at three other times during the past billion years has the temperature been as cold as or colder than it is today. The age of the dinosaurs, the Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods, experienced a warm climate with a moderate cooling spell in the late Jurassic. Following the dinosaur extinction the climate remained warm for 10 million years, spiking to 27 degrees Celsius (80 degrees Fahrenheit), followed by a gradual decline that eventually led to the Pleistocene Ice Age. As the graph below indicates, it is colder today than it has been throughout most of the past billion years.
Humans generally prefer warmer climates to colder ones. When I mention that the global climate was much warmer before this present Ice Age, people often say something like, “But humans were not even around five million years ago, certainly not 50 or 500 million years ago. We have not evolved in a warmer world and will not be able to cope with global warming.” The fact is we did evolve in a “warmer world.” The human species originated in the tropical regions of Africa, where it was warm even during past glaciations nearer the poles. Humans are a tropical species that has adapted to colder climates as a result of harnessing fire, making clothing, and building shelters. Before these advances occurred, humans could not live outside the tropics. It may come as a surprise to most that a naked human in the outdoors with no fire will die of hypothermia if the temperature goes below 21 degrees Celsius (70 degrees Fahrenheit). Yet as long as we have food, water, and shade we can survive in the hottest climates on earth without fire, clothing, or shelter.313 The Australian Aborigines survived in
313. Claude A. Piantadosi, The Biology of Human Survival: Life and Death in Extreme Environments (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003)
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Figure 1. Graph showing global average temperature during the past billion years.314
temperatures of over 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) without air conditioning for 50,000 years.
The fact that humans are essentially a tropical species explains why even today there are no permanent residents of Antarctica and only four million people living in the Arctic (0.06 percent of the global population). Most of the Arctic population is engaged in resource extraction and would not choose to live there otherwise. Historically, the very small populations of indigenous people in the Arctic managed to eke out a living by inhabiting ice-shelters, getting food from marine mammals and oil from marine mammals for heating and light. They used sled dogs for transport and protection from polar bears. There is a good reason why there are more than 18 million people in Sao Paulo, Brazil, only 4,429 residents in Barrow, Alaska,315 and 3,451 inhabitants of Inuvik, Northwest Territory.316
Why are there 300 million people in the United States and only 30 million in Canada, which is larger geographically? One word answers this question: cold. About 80 percent of Canadians live within 100 miles of the U.S. border, as it is warmer there (although not by much in many regions) than it is in 90 percent of Canada, which is frozen solid for six or more months of the year.
So clearly, on the basis of temperature alone, it would be fine for humans if the entire earth were tropical and subtropical as it was for millions of years during the Greenhouse Ages. It would also be fine for the vast majority of species in the world today, most of which live in tropical and subtropical regions. But this would not be the case for some other species that have evolved specifically to be able to survive in cold climates.
The polar bear did not exist until the Pleistocene Ice Age froze the Arctic and created the conditions for adaptation to a world of ice. Polar bears are not really
314. Global Temperature Curve by C.R. Scotese, PALEOMAP Project, http://www.scotese.com/climate.htm
315. “City of Barrow – Farthest North American City,” http://www.cityofbarrow.org/ 316. “Inuvik,” http://www.inuvik.ca/tourism/faq.html
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a distinct species; they are a variety of the European brown bear, known as the grizzly bear in North America. They are so closely related genetically that brown bears and polar bears can mate success- fully and produce fertile offspring.317 The white variety of the brown bear evolved as the ice advanced, the white color providing a good camouflage in the snow. Once bears could walk out to sea on the ice floes, it became feasible to hunt seals. It is possible that if the world warmed substantially over the next hundreds of years that the white variety of the brown bear would become reduced in numbers or even die out. This would simply be the reverse of what happened when the world became colder. Some varieties of life that exist today are only here because the world turned colder a few million years ago, following a warmer period that lasted for over 200 million years. If the climate were to return to a Greenhouse Age those varieties might not survive. Many more species would benefit from a warmer world, the human species among them.
The polar bear did not evolve as a separate variety of brown bear until about 150,000 years ago, during the glaciation previous to the most recent one.318 319 This is a very recent adaptation to an extreme climatic condition that caused much of the Arctic Ocean to freeze over for most of the past 2.5 million years. The polar bear did manage to survive through the inter- glacial period that preceded the one we are in now even though the earth’s average temperature was higher during that interglacial than it is today.320 So as long as the temperature does not rise more than about 5 degrees Celsius (9 degrees Fahrenheit) above the present level, polar bears will likely survive. But that is a prediction, not a fact.
To listen to climate activists and the media, you would think the polar bear population is already in a steep decline. A little investigation reveals there are actually more polar bears today than there were just 30 years ago. Most subpopulations are either stable or growing. And the main cause of polar bear deaths today is legally sanctioned trophy hunting, not climate change. Of an estimated population of 20,000 to 25,000 bears, more than 700 are shot every year by trophy hunters and native Inuit. One hundred and nine are killed in the Baffin Bay region of Canada alone. And yet activist groups like the World Wildlife Fund use the polar bear as a poster child for global warming, incorrectly alleging that they are being wiped out by climate change.
The population of polar bears was estimated at 6000 in 1960. In 1973 an International Agreement between Canada, the United States, Norway,
317. Katherine Hamon, “Climate Change Likely Caused Polar Bear to Evolve Quickly,” Scientific American, March 1, 2010, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=polar-bear-genome-climate
318. “Polar Bear” Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polar_bear
319. Katherine Hamon, “Climate Change Likely Caused Polar Bear to Evolve Quickly,” Scientific American, March 1, 2010, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=polar-bear-genome-climate
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Russia, and Greenland ended unrestricted hunting and introduced quotas. Since then only native people have been allowed to hunt polar bears, although in Canada the native Inuit often act as guides for non- native hunters. As a result of this restriction on hunting, the population has rebounded to its present level of 20,000 to 25,000. The International Union for the Conservation of Natural Resources Polar Bear Specialist Group reports that of 18 subpopulations of bears, two are increasing, five are stable, five are declining, while for six subpopulations, mainly those in Russia, there is insufficient data.321 There is no reliable evidence that any bear populations are declining due to climate change and all such claims rely on speculation; they are predictions based on conjecture rather than actual scientific studies.
At the other end of the world in Antarctica, numerous species of pen- guins have evolved over the past 20 million years so that they can live in ice-bound environments. There are also many species of penguins that live in places where there is no ice, such as in Australia, South Africa, Tierra del Fuego, and the Galapagos Islands. It took 20 million years for the Antarctic ice sheet to grow to the extent it has been for the past 2.5 million years, during the Pleistocene Age. Antarctica differs significantly from the Arctic in that most of the ice is on land and at higher elevation. It is very unlikely Antarctica will become ice-free in the near future. It took millions of years for the present ice sheet to develop. In all likelihood the penguins will be able to breathe easily for thousands, possibly millions of years.
Coming closer to the present day, there is good historical evidence that it was warmer than it is today during the days of the Roman Empire 2000 years ago and during the Medieval Warming Period 1,000 years ago.322 323 We know that during the Medieval Warming Period, the Norse (Vikings) colonized Iceland, Greenland, and Newfoundland. The settlements in Newfoundland and Greenland were then abandoned during the Little Ice Age that lasted from about 1500 to the early 1800s.324 The Thames River in England froze over regularly during the cold winters of the Little Ice Age. The Thames last froze over in 1814.325 Since then the climate has been in a gradual warming trend. Given that there were very low levels of CO2 emissions from human activity in those times, it is not possible that humans caused the Medieval Warming Period or the Little Ice Age. Natural factors had to be instrumental in those changes in climate.
321. “Summary of Polar Pear Population status per 2010,” IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group, http://pbsg.npolar.no/en/status/status-table.html
322. “Roman Warm Period (Europe – Mediterranean) – Summary,” CO2 Science, http://www.co2science.org/subject/r/summaries/rwpeuropemed.php
323. “Medieval Warm Period Project,” CO2 Science, http://www.co2science.org/data/mwp/mwpp.php
324. “20th Century Climate Not So Hot,” Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, March 31, 2003, http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/news/archive/pr0310.html
325. “The Frozen Thames in London: An Introduction,” History and Traditions of England, January 10, 2010, http://www.webhistoryofengland.com/?p=613
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Speaking of natural factors, it is clear the climate changes over the past billions of years were not caused by our activities. So how credible is it to claim we have just recently become the main cause of climate change? It’s not as if the natural factors that have been causing the climate to change over the millennia have suddenly disappeared and now we are the only significant agent of change. Clearly the natural factors are still at work, even if our population explosion and increasing CO2 emissions now play a role in climate change. So the real question is, are human impacts over- whelming the natural factors or are they only a minor player in the big picture? We do not know the definitive answer to that question.
Let’s go back to the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report in 2007, which stated: “Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic (human-caused) greenhouse gas concentrations”[my emphasis]. The first word, most, in common usage means more than 50 percent and less than 100 percent, i.e., more than half but not all. That’s a pretty big spread, so clearly IPCC members don’t have a very precise estimate of how much of the warming they think we are causing. If they are that uncertain, how do they know it’s not 25 percent, or 5 percent? They restrict the hu- man influence to “since the mid-20th century,” implying humans were not responsible for climate change until about 60 years ago. So the logical question is, What was responsible for the significant climate changes be- fore 60 years ago, the warming between 1910 and 1940, for example? The most problematic term in their statement is “very likely,” which certainly provides no indication of scientific proof. The IPCC claims that “very likely” means “greater than 90 percent probability.”326 But the figure 90 is not the result of any calculation or statistical analysis. The footnote entry for the term “very likely” explains, “in this Summary for Policymakers, the following terms have been used to indicate the assessed likelihood, using expert judgement, [my emphasis] of an outcome or a result: Virtually certain > 99% probability of occurrence, Extremely likely > 95%, Very likely > 90%, Likely > 66%, More likely than not > 50%, Unlikely < 33%, Very unlikely < 10%, Extremely unlikely < 5%.”327 One expects “judgments” from judges and opinionated journalists. Scientists are expected to provide calculations and observable evidence. I’m not convinced by this loose use of words and numbers.
According to the official records of surface temperatures, 1998 was the warmest year in the past 150 years. Since then the average global temperature remained relatively flat down, completely contrary to the predictions of the IPCC,
326. “Summary for Policymakers,” Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007, p. 3 http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg1/ar4-wg1-spm.pdf
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and in spite of steadily growing CO2 emissions from countries around the world. This drop in temperature is now attributed to natural factors, something that was downplayed in previous predictions. Mojib Latif, a prominent German meteorologist and oceanographer, explains it this way, “So I really believe in Global Warming. Okay. However, you know, we have to accept that there are these natural fluctua- tions, and therefore, the temperature may not show additional warming temporarily.”328 The question is, How long is temporarily? At this writing the global temperature has not increased during the past 16 years. The assertion that it will resume warming at some time in the future is a prediction, not a fact. And even if warming does resume, it is possible that this may be due to natural factors. It is not logical to believe that natural factors are only responsible for cooling and not for warming.
The situation is complicated further by the revelations of “Climategate” in November 2009, which clearly showed that many of the most influential climate scientists associated with the IPCC have been manipulating data, withholding data, and conspiring to discredit other scientists who do not share their certainty that we are the main cause of global warming.329 It has also been well documented that the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Science, which is responsible for one of the primary temperature records, has dropped a large number of weather stations, mainly in colder regions, thus likely making it seem warming is occurring even though this may not be the case.330 The situation is in such a state of flux that it may be several years before an objective process is in place to sort out what is believable and what is not.
Leading up to the 15th Conference of the Parties in the Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen in December 2009, the IPCC, the European Union, and many other participants warned we must keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) or we will face climate catastrophe.331 Yet the global temperature has been 6 to 8 degrees Celsius (11 to 14 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than it is today through most of the past 500 million years. It seems clear that the real “climate catastrophes” are the major glaciations that occurred during the Ice Ages, not the warm Greenhouse Ages when life flourished from pole to pole.
328. “Scientist Explains Earth’s Warming Plateau,” National Public Radio, November 22, 2009 http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=120668812&ft=1&f=1007
329. James Delingpole, “Climategate: The Final Nail in the Coffin of ‘Anthropogenic Global Warming’?” Telegraph, November 20, 2009, http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/100017393/climategate-the-final-nail-in-the-coffin-of- … … anthropogenic-global-warming/
330. Joseph D’Aleo and Anthony Watts, “Surface Temperature Records: Policy-Driven Deception?” Science & Public Policy Institute, June 2, 2010, http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/images/stories/papers/originals/surface_temp.pdf
331. James Murray, “IPCC Chief Warns Even Two Degree Rise Spells ‘Bad News’,” businessgreen.com, March 10, 2009, http://www.businessgreen.com/business-green/news/2238184/ipcc-chief-warns-two-degree
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Figure 2. Global temperature trends 1860–2008 according to Phil Jones of the Climatic Research Unit in the U.K.
The graph on this page, Figure 2, is a record of global temperatures from 1850 to 2008, as prepared by the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in the U.K.332 It was authored by Phil Jones, who was at the centre of the “Climategate” scandal. As previously mentioned, the emails he and his colleagues exchanged indicated they withheld data, manipulated data, and attempted to discredit other scientists who held contrary views. Jones was suspended from his post in November 2009, pending an inquiry into the scandal. Therefore the data this graph is based on are not necessarily credible; they need to be rigorously re-examined.333 But the graph does provide a useful tool for examining a couple of points about recent temperature trends.
The graph indicates global temperature has risen by about 0.8 degrees Celsius (1.4 degrees Fahrenheit) over the past 150 years. But about half of this warming occurred from 1910 to 1940, before the huge increase in CO2 emissions from fossil fuel that began after the Second World War. What caused this increase? We simply don’t know. Then there was a period of cooling from 1940 to 1980, just as CO2 emissions started to increase dramatically. In the mid-1970s, mainstream magazines and newspapers, including Time, Newsweek, and the New York Times, published articles on the possibility of a coming cold period, perhaps another Ice Age.334 335 These articles were based on interviews with scientists at the National Academy of Sciences and NASA, among others. Prominent supporters of the global cooling
332. Phil Jones, “Global Temperature Record,” Climatic Research Unit, March 2010, http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/info/warming/
333. Joseph D’Aleo and Anthony Watts, “Surface Temperature Records: Policy-Driven Deception?” Science & Public Policy Institute, June 2, 2010, http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/images/stories/papers/originals/surface_temp.pdf
334. Mauritzio Marabito, “Same Fears: Different Name?” Spiked, December 10, 2009, http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php/site/article/7817/
335. Robert Bradley Jr, “The Global Cooling Scare Revisited (‘Ice Age’ Holdren Had Plenty of Company),” Master Resource, Septem- ber 26, 2009, http://www.masterresource.org/2009/09/the-global-cooling-scare-revisited/
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theory included present-day global warming supporters such as John Holdren, the Obama administration’s science czar337 and the late Stephen Schneider, a former leading member of the IPCC.338
In 1980, global temperatures began a 20-year rise, according to the now questionable records used by the IPCC for its predictions of climate disaster. This is the only period in the 3.5 billion years of life on earth in which the IPCC attributes climate change to human activity. Since 1998 there has been no further increase in global temperature, even according to the IPCC sources. How does one 20-year period of rising temperatures out of the past 150 years prove we are the main cause of global warming?
The alarmists declare that the present warming trend is “unprecedented” because it is happening on a scale of centuries whereas past warming trends have been much slower, giving species time to adapt. This is shown to be false even during the past century. The IPCC does not contend that humans caused the warming from 1910 to 1940; therefore it must have been a natural warming trend. But the warming from 1910 to 1940 was just as large (0.4 degrees Celsius or 0.7 degrees Fahrenheit) and just as rapid over time as the supposed human-caused warming from 1975 to 2000. How can scientists who claim to be on the cutting edge of human knowledge miss this point?
It is a testament to the fickleness of trends in science, public policy, and media communications that such certainty about human-caused climate change came about. That era finally seems to have ended now that more attention is being paid to the proposition that we really don’t have all the answers. One hopes this will usher in a more sensible conversation about climate change and a more balanced approach to climate change policy.
Figure 3. The HadCRUT 3 record of global temperature since 1980. There is no statistically significant increase in temperature since 1997.336
337. “John Holdren in 1771: ‘New Ice Age Likely’,” Zomblog, September 16, 2009, http://www.zombietime.com/zomblog/?p=873
338. John L. Daly, “Stephen Schneider: Greenhouse Superstar,” August 2008, http://www.john-daly.com/schneidr.htm
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In early 2013 there were three independent announcements by leading believers in human-caused catastrophic climate change that confirmed the standstill in global temperature. James Hansen, Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and senior science advisor to Al Gore, stated “The 5-year running mean of global temperature has been flat for the past decade.” In January 2013 The UK Met Office and the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia released the data for December in their Hadcrut3 and Hadcrut4 global temperature datasets. The data clearly shows that there has been no increase in global temperature for