Commentary Magazine


Topic: global warming

The Walrus and the Liberal Were Walking Hand in Hand

The global warming crowd has been increasingly embarrassed by the fact that while their beloved computer models have been predicting ever higher temperatures, there has been no global warming for the last 18 years. Where could the heat be hiding? The favorite explanation for several years now has been that it is in the deep ocean, below 2,000 meters (1.24 miles), that the heat was being stored.

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The global warming crowd has been increasingly embarrassed by the fact that while their beloved computer models have been predicting ever higher temperatures, there has been no global warming for the last 18 years. Where could the heat be hiding? The favorite explanation for several years now has been that it is in the deep ocean, below 2,000 meters (1.24 miles), that the heat was being stored.

Well, so much for that theory. NASA announced today that a study has shown no warming in the deep ocean between the years 2005 and 2013. If the computer models can’t even predict the past, why would anyone, without a political agenda at least, pay any attention to what they predict about the future?

Meanwhile, Gail Collins in the Times is reporting a walrus crisis:

Let’s consider the walrus crisis.

They’re piling up in Alaska. About 35,000 walruses have formed what looks to be a humongous brown ball along the northern coast. A mass of critters, some weighing 4,000 pounds, are pressed shoulder to shoulder — or flipper to flipper.

Normally, they’d be sitting on chunks of ice, periodically flopping into the water to hunt for snails and clams. But the ice has melted away, and now they’re stuck on land.

For one thing, it doesn’t look even remotely like a ball, much more like a carpet. More importantly than faulty simile, however, is the fact that this is entirely normal walrus behavior. As John Hinderaker at Power Line points out these haulouts, as they’re called, are common in the post-breeding season and have been observed as far back as 1604, in the depths of the “little ice age.” He quotes Wikipedia: “In the non-reproductive season (late summer and fall) walruses tend to migrate away from the ice and form massive aggregations of tens of thousands of individuals on rocky beaches or outcrops.” He also notes that that sentence was very recently deleted from Wikipedia. One can only wonder why.

As for the absence of ice, 2014, it turns out, it has been a pretty good year for arctic ice.

Also the walrus population has about doubled since the 1950s, hardly a sign of an animal under environmental distress.

So while liberals are declaring imminent walrus catastrophe, my only reaction on seeing the photographs was a profound gratitude I wasn’t downwind of 35,000 walruses.

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Good News for Polar Bears. Bad News for Al Gore.

That some of Al Gore’s global warming predictions turned out to be bogus is no longer much of a surprise. As far back as seven years ago, a British court ruled that Gore’s Oscar-winning environmentalist documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth, contained several errors and exaggerations that illustrated the alarmist spirit that motivated the filmmaker. But the news about nature contradicting another one of the former vice president’s predictions should not so much encourage skeptics about global warming theories as inspire both sides in this controversy to lower their voices and to be a little less sanguine about computer models, whether they predict warming or cooling.

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That some of Al Gore’s global warming predictions turned out to be bogus is no longer much of a surprise. As far back as seven years ago, a British court ruled that Gore’s Oscar-winning environmentalist documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth, contained several errors and exaggerations that illustrated the alarmist spirit that motivated the filmmaker. But the news about nature contradicting another one of the former vice president’s predictions should not so much encourage skeptics about global warming theories as inspire both sides in this controversy to lower their voices and to be a little less sanguine about computer models, whether they predict warming or cooling.

The report in yesterday’s Daily Mail concerns the extent of the ice cap covering the Arctic. Gore had warned in 2007 while accepting the Nobel Peace Prize that within seven years the ice cap would vanish in summer. However, satellite photographs confirm that not only has the ice not vanished, in the last two years it has increased somewhere between 43 and 62 percent since 2012. It turns out that in that time some 1.715 million square kilometers of the Arctic are now covered by ice that were water during the 2012 presidential campaign.

Does this mean that global warning is a myth? Not necessarily. Scientists say 2012 was a year of “freak weather” and that the cooling since then is a regression to the mean rather than a complete reversal of past warming trends that some say remain in place in the long term. But since the evidence shows that the ice cap is larger than at any point since 2006, it’s certainly worth noting.

It may be that the global cooling in terms of overall average temperatures that has been going on since 1997 is a mere blip in the long run that will constitute a pause before a period of severe warming. That’s the assertion of some climate scientists and they might be right when they assert that the climate is being influenced more by man-made activity than in the past.

But let’s also remember that most of the same scientists pooh-poohing cooling trends, whether since 2012 or 1997, didn’t predict the decline in temperatures or the growth of the ice pack. Nor did their computer models, which continue to be used to back up claims of dire environmental damage due to warming in the near and long-term future.

Yet instead of some of the ups and downs of actual climate activity—as opposed to the projected doomsday scenarios that are treated by liberals as being not theory but certain truth—inducing some caution, if not humility on the part of those making alarmist predictions, most seem inclined to double down on their assertions.

What these cooling trends indicate is that the factors influencing climate may be a bit more complex than the simple equation between carbon emissions and rising temperatures that popular culture now treats as revealed truth.

Time will tell who has been telling the truth and who has been hyping predictions of doom in order to advance certain ideological agendas that benefit from hysterical predictions. Given the damaging economic cost of some of the anti-warming measures recommended by the Gore crowd, it is understandable that some people might be prepared to treat the entire theory as a lie. But it could be that in order to get us to believe that the world is warming a bit, we’ve been told that it is melting.

If so, it could be that for all of the honors and wealth that has been showered on Gore as a result of his alarmist shtick, he and others like him may have done more harm than good to the environmentalist cause. That’s especially true at a time when President Obama is seeking to rally support for a new climate change treaty that he doesn’t plan to submit for approval to a skeptical U.S. Senate.

In the meantime, the polar bears—the poster children of global warming whom our impressionable children were endlessly told would soon be swimming for their lives in an Arctic denuded of ice—seem to be doing just fine in their expanded frozen empire. We should all toast their good health and learn from this episode to take further pronouncements from Gore and his ilk or anyone else making climate predictions with a truckload of salt.

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BBC Journalists’ Reeducation

“The BBC issues a call to reason,” proclaims Politico’s Dylan Byers, referencing a Telegraph story published over the holiday weekend. The truth, however, is a bit more complicated. The story is about a new BBC policy of sending its journalists to reeducation seminars to learn how to cut balance out of the Beeb’s broadcasts. It’s notable that the trustees at the BBC found any balance to cut. But more important is how general the policy is.

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“The BBC issues a call to reason,” proclaims Politico’s Dylan Byers, referencing a Telegraph story published over the holiday weekend. The truth, however, is a bit more complicated. The story is about a new BBC policy of sending its journalists to reeducation seminars to learn how to cut balance out of the Beeb’s broadcasts. It’s notable that the trustees at the BBC found any balance to cut. But more important is how general the policy is.

Byers’s headline is “Ignore the climate change deniers,” which is how this story has generally been interpreted: as a call to stop featuring those who depart from the consensus on climate science. Byers isn’t wrong to pick up on that, as global warming does seem to be the driving force behind this new policy. But it isn’t limited to that, and whatever one thinks about that particular issue, are journalists really going to cheer a broad new policy to strike dissenting voices from news broadcasts? Here’s the Telegraph:

The BBC Trust on Thursday published a progress report into the corporation’s science coverage which was criticised in 2012 for giving too much air-time to critics who oppose non-contentious issues.

The report found that there was still an ‘over-rigid application of editorial guidelines on impartiality’ which sought to give the ‘other side’ of the argument, even if that viewpoint was widely dismissed.

Some 200 staff have already attended seminars and workshops and more will be invited on courses in the coming months to stop them giving ‘undue attention to marginal opinion.’

“The Trust wishes to emphasise the importance of attempting to establish where the weight of scientific agreement may be found and make that clear to audiences,” wrote the report authors.

The one fair point the BBC report makes is, as quoted by the Telegraph: “Science coverage does not simply lie in reflecting a wide range of views but depends on the varying degree of prominence such views should be given.” But the policy is obviously about more than whether the Earth is round. And it’s easy to see how this can go awry.

First of all, it’s important to embrace the principle that a scientific consensus should still be open to challenge because new information and discoveries are made constantly. As Michael Crichton–no stranger to the science or politics of the issue–said in his famous speech on global warming:

I want to pause here and talk about this notion of consensus, and the rise of what has been called consensus science. I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had.

Let’s be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.

There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period.

Crichton was considered sufficiently threatening to the global warming consensus that he earned a denunciation in congressional testimony from climate fraud Al Gore, who, though a former vice president of the United States, was punching well above his weight on this topic. (I also remember being warned against Crichton’s anti-global warming novel State of Fear–by the bookstore employee ringing up my sale. “It’s right-wing propaganda,” said the cashier, whose opinion I didn’t ask and whose job was supposedly to sell the books in his store.)

But again, the point is not just about global warming. The BBC’s reeducation events are aimed at more than this subject, and it’s pretty easy to see where this general policy is going. The BBC report talks about issues that are supposedly, in the phrasing of the Telegraph story, “non-contentious” and views that are “widely dismissed.” The phrase the BBC report itself uses is “marginal opinion.”

The media personalities of the Western left are notoriously susceptible to epistemic closure. Telling reporters already loath to feature dissenting voices that they should ignore “marginal opinion” and that which is often dismissed by others is a recipe for disaster for news reporting. It’s not so much the directive to tone down opposition voices on one story such as global warming–though that in itself is troublesome–but the broader culture of ignorance that can so easily sprout from employees sent to conferences to learn how to dismiss those with whom they are inclined to disagree.

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Obama’s Climate Laughs No Substitute for Sound Economics

President Obama had a good time mocking congressional Republicans yesterday for being skeptics about climate change. But even he seems to know that selling his radical proposals that will cause serious economic pain will not be as easy a sell as jokes about Flat Earth Republicans.

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President Obama had a good time mocking congressional Republicans yesterday for being skeptics about climate change. But even he seems to know that selling his radical proposals that will cause serious economic pain will not be as easy a sell as jokes about Flat Earth Republicans.

As Politico noted, Obama’s speech to the League of Conservation Voters was notable mainly for the president’s comedy routine aimed at depicting those who haven’t bought into every aspect of the radical environmentalist agenda as extremists with a screw loose. The reason for this strategy is easy to understand.

If Obama’s talking about regulations, he’s losing. If he’s talking about carbon caps for power plants or energy emissions for air conditioners, no one cares. But if he’s talking about crazy Republicans who don’t make any sense—and by the way, are putting children at risk, he charges—well, that’s an argument he can wrap his arms around.

Given the stranglehold that the global warming crowd has on the mainstream media and, even more importantly, in popular culture, the president’s confidence that a majority of Americans may agree with him on climate issues is well founded. But the gap between a general belief that the earth may be warming and a suspicion that human activity may be causing it and support for some of the administration’s prescriptions to address these issues is considerable.

As even the president acknowledged in his speech, his attempt to get rid of coal-fired power plants and force car manufacturers to alter their plans will have economic consequences. But the disconnect here isn’t merely a matter of marketing and better communication, as the White House seems to think.

As I noted back in March, polls have consistently shown that while the American people may believe the climate is changing, they don’t consider this to be a priority when it comes to government action. Liberals tend to think the reason for this is that the public is not yet sufficiently alarmed by the prospect of global warming. But instead of attempting to make a reasonable case for changes that will send electricity and gas prices skyrocketing and the refusal to undertake projects, like the Keystone XL Pipeline, that would increase America’s available resources, they engage in scare tactics that, generally, backfire.

That’s because what the public wants is not so much mockery of skeptics or hysterical and wildly exaggerated predictions of a warming apocalypse but a measured analysis of the cost/benefit ratio of climate legislation. And that is exactly what is lacking in the president’s comedy routine. Even if the courts have given the president the power to enact far-reaching changes without benefit of congressional approval, that doesn’t translate into widespread approval for carbon regulations that will damage the economy and cause genuine economic hardship. Nor will that problem be solved be reports filled with alarmist predictions funded by wealthy activists like Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg that liberals cite to justify the suffering that will be imposed on the public. Though most Americans may think the climate is changing, they don’t think the apocalypse is at hand and aren’t interested in lowering their standard of living merely to gratify extremist ideology.

Merely branding his opponents as crazy won’t resolve this problem. Nor will the usual amorphous rhetoric about the power of green jobs that never seem to materialize and new technologies that will leapfrog over current difficulties that may take decades before they can take the place of fossil fuels, if, in fact, they ever do. In the meantime, they are left facing the prospect of Obama’s proposals creating economic havoc. As some Democrats in energy-producing states are learning, Obama may be getting laughs from coastal elites but his backing for environmentalist extremism may cost his party some Senate seats to the same Republicans he’s been mocking. While he may be thinking in terms of his 2008 boast about turning back the oceans, that seems a poor exchange for unpopular policies even if most Americans don’t agree with the skeptics.

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Sacrifices on the Altar of Obama’s Vanity

By ordering the Environmental Protection Agency to enact sweeping new regulations that will transform the U.S. economy by essentially putting hundreds of coal-fired power plants on the road to extinction, President Obama is finally making good on his famous campaign promise that his election would signal “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and the planet began to heal.” The goal of the new regulations that bypass Congress is to reduce power plant carbon emissions by 30 percent by the year 2030. But in order to do that, hundreds of the more than 600 coal-burning plants will have to close. Though it is impossible to say with any certainty how much damage this will do to the U.S. economy, what Obama is doing with a stroke of a pen will turn the energy industry upside down, send energy prices skyrocketing, and likely send those regions of the country that are dependent on either the coal industry or the plants that use the stuff into crisis.

Though EPA chief Gina McCarthy claimed that the move would actually help the economy and emphasized the plan’s flexibility, that’s the sort of usual empty “green jobs” rhetoric that no one, even on the left, believes anymore. While the more the president wraps himself and his party in the environmentalist flag the better his liberal base and young voters–who have been indoctrinated in the catechism of global warming throughout their education–will feel, Democrats will pay a price for this piece of ideological governance. Embattled red state incumbents may seek to distance themselves from the president, as will Democrat Senate challengers like Kentucky’s Alison Lundergan Grimes. But the White House clearly regards Grimes and others like her as falling into the same category as the large numbers of jobs that will be lost by this decision. They are acceptable collateral damage that can be lived with because the main goal here is to burnish the president’s legacy as a leader who took serious steps to stop the warming of the planet.

Liberals are celebrating the decision both for its supposed benefits on climate change and for the sheer exercise of executive power to achieve liberal ends, but even one of the president’s leading cheerleaders admitted that what happened today won’t really do much to fix the environment. As the New York Times reports:

On Monday, Mr. Obama is bypassing Congress and taking one of the biggest steps any American president has ever taken on climate change, proposing new rules to cut emissions at power plants. Yet, by itself, the president’s plan will barely nudge the global emissions that scientists say are threatening the welfare of future generations.

In other words, all the pain that the EPA will cause won’t actually save a single cute polar bear, keep an Arctic ice flow from melting or those pesky oceans from rising, assuming you believe all of the alarmist claims at the heart of the new warming orthodoxy. What, then, is this all about? The answer lies in the gargantuan conceit of the man in the Oval Office.

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By ordering the Environmental Protection Agency to enact sweeping new regulations that will transform the U.S. economy by essentially putting hundreds of coal-fired power plants on the road to extinction, President Obama is finally making good on his famous campaign promise that his election would signal “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and the planet began to heal.” The goal of the new regulations that bypass Congress is to reduce power plant carbon emissions by 30 percent by the year 2030. But in order to do that, hundreds of the more than 600 coal-burning plants will have to close. Though it is impossible to say with any certainty how much damage this will do to the U.S. economy, what Obama is doing with a stroke of a pen will turn the energy industry upside down, send energy prices skyrocketing, and likely send those regions of the country that are dependent on either the coal industry or the plants that use the stuff into crisis.

Though EPA chief Gina McCarthy claimed that the move would actually help the economy and emphasized the plan’s flexibility, that’s the sort of usual empty “green jobs” rhetoric that no one, even on the left, believes anymore. While the more the president wraps himself and his party in the environmentalist flag the better his liberal base and young voters–who have been indoctrinated in the catechism of global warming throughout their education–will feel, Democrats will pay a price for this piece of ideological governance. Embattled red state incumbents may seek to distance themselves from the president, as will Democrat Senate challengers like Kentucky’s Alison Lundergan Grimes. But the White House clearly regards Grimes and others like her as falling into the same category as the large numbers of jobs that will be lost by this decision. They are acceptable collateral damage that can be lived with because the main goal here is to burnish the president’s legacy as a leader who took serious steps to stop the warming of the planet.

Liberals are celebrating the decision both for its supposed benefits on climate change and for the sheer exercise of executive power to achieve liberal ends, but even one of the president’s leading cheerleaders admitted that what happened today won’t really do much to fix the environment. As the New York Times reports:

On Monday, Mr. Obama is bypassing Congress and taking one of the biggest steps any American president has ever taken on climate change, proposing new rules to cut emissions at power plants. Yet, by itself, the president’s plan will barely nudge the global emissions that scientists say are threatening the welfare of future generations.

In other words, all the pain that the EPA will cause won’t actually save a single cute polar bear, keep an Arctic ice flow from melting or those pesky oceans from rising, assuming you believe all of the alarmist claims at the heart of the new warming orthodoxy. What, then, is this all about? The answer lies in the gargantuan conceit of the man in the Oval Office.

The official explanation for the gap between the president’s rhetoric and the actual impact of the EPA’s dictates is that what the president wants is to start moving the country in “the right direction.” That’s a sobering thought if you consider that what is happening here is a massive government intervention in the private sector to achieve an ideological rather than an economic goal. Anyone inclined to accept the EPA’s new role riding roughshod over both Congress and the economic interests of the country should think long and hard about the prospect that this is merely the first of a new series of rulings from Washington that could hamstring any hopes of a real recovery in the coming years.

More than that, though, is the fact that what Obama really wants here is to show the international community that he means business about restricting the ability of America to do business. The real audience for this spectacle isn’t so much in blue states where any bow in the direction of environmentalism is applauded as it is abroad where other nations are watching to see if the U.S. is really going to walk the walk on climate change rules that could do damage to the American economy. The president wants the Chinese to see that the U.S. will handicap its own industries in order to set a good example for the Communist nation that almost certainly will do little if anything to cap their own growing carbon emissions.

Why would the U.S. hurt itself merely to take the high ground in negotiations with the Chinese and other developing countries even when the move will do very little to solve the climate problem?

President Obama has sorely missed the international adulation that greeted his election in 2008 but which quickly evaporated when most of his foreign fans began to rightly perceive him as nothing more than a left-leaning garden variety U.S. politician rather than the revolutionary figure they applauded. Obama’s various foreign-policy initiatives have largely failed to garner much interest, let alone cheers, abroad. But by recapturing that moment when perhaps many on the left actually believed his boast about turning back the oceans, he hopes to reestablish himself as the prince of hope and change.

Seen in that light, the large numbers of Americans who will be the losers in this exchange are nothing more than human offerings on the altar of Obama’s vanity. He may not heal the planet or even save his party’s chances in the midterm elections as he slides inevitably into lame-duck status. But as long as he can pose as a new messiah, there is no limit to the number of friends, foes, and innocent bystanders that he will sacrifice.

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Ancient Climate Change Doesn’t Bolster Environmentalist Extremism

Advocates of government measures intended to lessen the impact of global warming believe that skeptics of their theories and models are denying science. But in today’s New York Times, the environmental alarmist camp opened up a new front in their war to delegitimize their critics. According to Eric H. Cline, those who are resisting efforts to hamstring the U.S. economy aren’t just arguing with the mythical 97 percent of scientists who share Al Gore’s belief in apocalyptic scenarios about the planet’s future. In the view of this professor of classics and anthropology at George Washington University, they are also denying history.

In an op-ed published today, Cline, the author of a book on the collapse of some of the ancient civilizations of the Near East in the second millennium before the common era, opens his argument by lampooning Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe for his doubts about the warming thesis. Inhofe claims the current climate change arguments are the result of a “hoax,” especially one recent report that warned of the shifts in temperatures causing global conflicts. But Cline claims what Inhofe needs is not so much a science lesson as a history tutorial and then proceeds to give us all a lecture about how a century-long drought brought on by a warming phase in the earth’s history caused a series of famines, wars, and empire collapses in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean around 1,200 BCE. It’s a fascinating piece of history and Cline tells it well, but the problem here is not the professor’s correct assumptions about ancient climate change. The error lies in his belief that the historical record about climate change that could not possibly be caused by human behavior should lead critics of environmental alarmism to abandon their skepticism. Rather than bolstering the Al Gore school of hysteria, the more we learn about past climate change, the shakier the assumptions that are the foundation of global warming theories seem.

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Advocates of government measures intended to lessen the impact of global warming believe that skeptics of their theories and models are denying science. But in today’s New York Times, the environmental alarmist camp opened up a new front in their war to delegitimize their critics. According to Eric H. Cline, those who are resisting efforts to hamstring the U.S. economy aren’t just arguing with the mythical 97 percent of scientists who share Al Gore’s belief in apocalyptic scenarios about the planet’s future. In the view of this professor of classics and anthropology at George Washington University, they are also denying history.

In an op-ed published today, Cline, the author of a book on the collapse of some of the ancient civilizations of the Near East in the second millennium before the common era, opens his argument by lampooning Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe for his doubts about the warming thesis. Inhofe claims the current climate change arguments are the result of a “hoax,” especially one recent report that warned of the shifts in temperatures causing global conflicts. But Cline claims what Inhofe needs is not so much a science lesson as a history tutorial and then proceeds to give us all a lecture about how a century-long drought brought on by a warming phase in the earth’s history caused a series of famines, wars, and empire collapses in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean around 1,200 BCE. It’s a fascinating piece of history and Cline tells it well, but the problem here is not the professor’s correct assumptions about ancient climate change. The error lies in his belief that the historical record about climate change that could not possibly be caused by human behavior should lead critics of environmental alarmism to abandon their skepticism. Rather than bolstering the Al Gore school of hysteria, the more we learn about past climate change, the shakier the assumptions that are the foundation of global warming theories seem.

Contrary to Cline, no one, not even Inhofe, has claimed that the environment has remained static since the Big Bang. Even if we confine our study to the fraction of earth history coinciding with the rise of human civilizations that is called “recorded history,” there is no doubt that the climate has changed many times. Indeed, even if we leave the period studied by classicists and focus only on the last couple of thousand years, we find some extreme changes in climate. The Medieval Warming Period that took place approximately one thousand years ago led to Vikings settling what they called Greenland and finding fertile territory rather than the frozen wastes that currently exist there. That period of warming, which coincided with a new flowering of civilization after the depression of the Dark Ages, was followed by a period of cooling a few centuries later that took a devastating toll on Europe. That “Little Ice Age” that stretched from approximately 1300 to the 19th century led to much colder winters, especially in the period between 1600 and 1800. It was followed by another warming period that may be reaching its peak in our own time.

All of this is fact and demonstrates the impact that a changing climate can have on human existence. But none of it justifies any of the theories about human causation of warming that have become gospel among the chattering classes in our day. Indeed, the more we discuss the way the environment shifted in the period before it could be claimed that human activity or carbon emissions was causing the sky to fall, the less authoritative the talk about this new scientific consensus sounds. It may well be that humans are causing the climate to warm. But that assumption doesn’t explain why sun spots or thermal patterns would be the only possible answers for past warming or cooling periods but that natural causes could not possibly be responsible for what is currently happening.

In other words, rather than making Inhofe look foolish, Cline’s theories are a reminder that it is entirely possible for devastating climate change to occur without a single car being run or coal-fired power plant being operated. Rather than skeptics being in need of history lessons, it is those who take the talk of human causation as an unchallengeable doctrine that would do well to read up on the numerous examples of climate change that preceded the 20th century.

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The Casualties of Obama’s War on Coal

This week President Obama is expected to announce new regulations on carbon emissions that will have a potentially devastating impact on America’s more than 600 coal-fired power plants. The move was made possible by Supreme Court decisions that ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency had the right to regulate such emissions, giving the president virtual carte blanche to remake this sector of our economy without requiring congressional consent. As the New York Times reports today, this decision is being closely watched abroad as governments look to see whether the U.S. is setting a good example for other nations, such as China, whose economies are driven by coal and which do far more polluting of the atmosphere than America does.

Yet the Chinese aren’t the only ones following this issue. The president has already signaled that addressing climate change was one of the priorities of his second term as well as making it clear that he was eager to move ahead and govern by executive order rather than via the normal constitutional process that involves the legislative branch. As such, the White House rightly anticipates that this broadside aimed at the coal industry will be intensely popular with Obama’s core constituencies on the left as well as the liberal mainstream media. But while leading Democratic donors such as Tom Steyer will be cheering a measure that fits his ideological agenda, not everybody in the Democratic Party is going to be happy with what amounts to a new Obama war on coal. In particular, the Democrats’ brightest hope for stealing a Republican-controlled Senate seat this fall—Kentucky’s Alison Lundergan Grimes—may wind up paying a fearful price for Obama’s decision.

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This week President Obama is expected to announce new regulations on carbon emissions that will have a potentially devastating impact on America’s more than 600 coal-fired power plants. The move was made possible by Supreme Court decisions that ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency had the right to regulate such emissions, giving the president virtual carte blanche to remake this sector of our economy without requiring congressional consent. As the New York Times reports today, this decision is being closely watched abroad as governments look to see whether the U.S. is setting a good example for other nations, such as China, whose economies are driven by coal and which do far more polluting of the atmosphere than America does.

Yet the Chinese aren’t the only ones following this issue. The president has already signaled that addressing climate change was one of the priorities of his second term as well as making it clear that he was eager to move ahead and govern by executive order rather than via the normal constitutional process that involves the legislative branch. As such, the White House rightly anticipates that this broadside aimed at the coal industry will be intensely popular with Obama’s core constituencies on the left as well as the liberal mainstream media. But while leading Democratic donors such as Tom Steyer will be cheering a measure that fits his ideological agenda, not everybody in the Democratic Party is going to be happy with what amounts to a new Obama war on coal. In particular, the Democrats’ brightest hope for stealing a Republican-controlled Senate seat this fall—Kentucky’s Alison Lundergan Grimes—may wind up paying a fearful price for Obama’s decision.

As the Times notes, the conundrum of America’s extremist environmentalist lobby lies in the fact that the U.S. is actually doing relatively little of the carbon damage that they believe is fueling global warming. The vast majority of the increase in emissions comes from developing economies around the globe, especially in places like China. While resistance to the sort of tough restrictions on carbon that environmentalists lust for is strong in nations that produce fossil-based fuels, the Chinese believe that the West should pay the steep economic price involved in such schemes while they and other developing nations are allowed to burn all the coal they want. By making his ruling, Obama won’t just be harming the U.S. economy. By setting a good example, Washington thinks their going first will somehow persuade the Chinese to follow suit.

This is highly unlikely. Though it pays lip service to global warming theories, China’s top priority is building their economy. Meanwhile, nations such as Russia are not shy about stating their unwillingness to stop burning coal. But by taking what he believes is the high road with respect to the environment, the president will be fulfilling not only the promises made to his domestic liberal constituencies but also behaving in a manner that is consistent with his belief in multilateral foreign policy.

But back at home this high-minded environmentalism may not play as well as he thinks. Many Americans fear that Obama will damage their economy while doing nothing to alter the warming equation that is being decided elsewhere. Though the media has followed the White House playbook in emphasizing any report that hypes the threat from global warming while downplaying any development that undermines this thesis, the public has demonstrated repeatedly that this issue is not a priority, especially when compared to their concerns about the economy and jobs. And this is exactly what the president’s orders will affect most grievously.

Among the biggest losers will be regions where the coal industry is a mainstay of the economy. Unfortunately for the Democrats, the best example of such a state is Kentucky, where Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell remains the country’s most endangered Republican in an election cycle that should otherwise be quite favorable to the GOP. McConnell has been working hard to tie Grimes to Obama, a charge that she has steadfastly rejected. But the president’s regulatory war on coal will be a body blow to Grimes’s attempt to argue that it will be her and not Obama who will be on the ballot this November. Grimes smartly opposes the administration’s environmentalist stands with respect to coal, but the new orders will escalate the struggle to a point where it could play a crucial role in the midterms. Grimes has sought to make McConnell the main issue in the contest, something that is not to the advantage of the dour minority leader and longtime incumbent. But if the key issue is defense of Kentucky’s coal industry against the White House, it will be difficult for the Democrat to assert that she will be in a better position to resist this assault than the man who may be the majority leader of the upper body next January. In a contest to see who can be most hostile to Obama, the GOP has the edge over even the most independent Democrat.

The war on coal is exactly the ticket to fire up the president’s coastal elite base as well as very much what the international community wants. But it could be the death knell for Grimes’s Senate hopes. If that race makes the difference in deciding control of the Senate, it could be that global warming will be the issue that pushes Obama from a weak-second term incumbent to dead-in-the-water lame duck.

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Scare Tactics Backfire for Environmentalists

President Obama and other leading liberal lights keep telling us that the debate about global warming is over. Though the notion that scientific debates are decided by a vote of scientists or rather than research is decidedly unscientific, this conclusion is echoed throughout the mainstream media and popular culture. Those who are skeptical about the claims that human activity is changing the climate are treated like Holocaust deniers or lunatics. But the problem that those trying to mobilize public support for extreme measures intended to avert the extreme consequences of global warming are having is that most Americans aren’t buying it. Even worse for them, the scare tactics they’ve been employing are actually backfiring.

That’s the conclusion from Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger of the Breakthrough Institute, an environmental research organization who co-authored an op-ed in today’s New York Times titled “Global Warming Scare Tactics.” In it, they point out that rather than helping build support for carbon caps or other restrictions on industry or individuals the attempt to give the impression that an environmental apocalypse is around the corner is backfiring. Most specifically, the widespread practice of linking natural disasters such as hurricanes or wildfires is having the opposite effect on the public.

More than a decade’s worth of research suggests that fear-based appeals about climate change inspire denial, fatalism and polarization.

For instance, Al Gore’s 2006 documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” popularized the idea that today’s natural disasters are increasing in severity and frequency because of human-caused global warming. It also contributed to public backlash and division. Since 2006, the number of Americans telling Gallup that the media was exaggerating global warming grew to 42 percent today from about 34 percent. Meanwhile, the gap between Democrats and Republicans on whether global warming is caused by humans rose to 42 percent last year from 26 percent in 2006, according to the Pew Research Center.

While Nordhaus and Shellenberger are not global warming skeptics they are dismayed at the way the alarmists have undermined the case for climate change.

Claims linking the latest blizzard, drought or hurricane to global warming simply can’t be supported by the science. Our warming world is, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, increasing heat waves and intense precipitation in some places, and is likely to bring more extreme weather in the future. But the panel also said there is little evidence that this warming is increasing the loss of life or the economic costs of natural disasters.

That makes a lot of sense but don’t expect this to change the tactics being employed by either the White House or most environmental activists. Without the gloom and doom scenarios they’ve been trying to float this past decade, they have little to offer either the public or Congress.

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President Obama and other leading liberal lights keep telling us that the debate about global warming is over. Though the notion that scientific debates are decided by a vote of scientists or rather than research is decidedly unscientific, this conclusion is echoed throughout the mainstream media and popular culture. Those who are skeptical about the claims that human activity is changing the climate are treated like Holocaust deniers or lunatics. But the problem that those trying to mobilize public support for extreme measures intended to avert the extreme consequences of global warming are having is that most Americans aren’t buying it. Even worse for them, the scare tactics they’ve been employing are actually backfiring.

That’s the conclusion from Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger of the Breakthrough Institute, an environmental research organization who co-authored an op-ed in today’s New York Times titled “Global Warming Scare Tactics.” In it, they point out that rather than helping build support for carbon caps or other restrictions on industry or individuals the attempt to give the impression that an environmental apocalypse is around the corner is backfiring. Most specifically, the widespread practice of linking natural disasters such as hurricanes or wildfires is having the opposite effect on the public.

More than a decade’s worth of research suggests that fear-based appeals about climate change inspire denial, fatalism and polarization.

For instance, Al Gore’s 2006 documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” popularized the idea that today’s natural disasters are increasing in severity and frequency because of human-caused global warming. It also contributed to public backlash and division. Since 2006, the number of Americans telling Gallup that the media was exaggerating global warming grew to 42 percent today from about 34 percent. Meanwhile, the gap between Democrats and Republicans on whether global warming is caused by humans rose to 42 percent last year from 26 percent in 2006, according to the Pew Research Center.

While Nordhaus and Shellenberger are not global warming skeptics they are dismayed at the way the alarmists have undermined the case for climate change.

Claims linking the latest blizzard, drought or hurricane to global warming simply can’t be supported by the science. Our warming world is, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, increasing heat waves and intense precipitation in some places, and is likely to bring more extreme weather in the future. But the panel also said there is little evidence that this warming is increasing the loss of life or the economic costs of natural disasters.

That makes a lot of sense but don’t expect this to change the tactics being employed by either the White House or most environmental activists. Without the gloom and doom scenarios they’ve been trying to float this past decade, they have little to offer either the public or Congress.

 There are a few problems with the scare tactics Gore helped popularized. One is that they aren’t credible. There’s plenty of evidence popping up that shows the increase in temperatures isn’t as advertised as well as that its effects are not as devastating as the global warming alarmists claim. If even the UN is prepared to debunk the notion that every hurricane or fire is the fault of global warming, not to mention the idea that the East and West coasts will be under water within a decade or two, why would anyone imagine that Americans who have good economic reasons to be skeptical about these claims would buy into Obama’s recommendations.

Another is the refusal of the environmental crowd to embrace the most obvious responses to concerns about carbon-based energy: the nuclear option. Nordhaus and Shellenberger say that more Americans respond positively to environmental claims when they are put in a context with viable alternatives rather than calls for draconian cuts in economic activity or personal autonomy that is integral to the use of automobiles and other sources of carbon emissions. But since the same people who are trying to sell us on the notion that the sky is falling about warming are the ones who have already delegitimized nuclear power because of fears that are equally exaggerated or unfounded.

Lastly, the authors have discovered that the extreme scenarios put forward by people like Gore as well as the attempt to convince people that natural disasters are part of the warming scenario don’t increase public support for their ideas. If anything, research shows that hysteria increases skepticism rather than diminishing it. If, as they ask, “climate change is a planetary emergency, why take nuclear and natural gas off the table?”

Nordhaus and Shellenberger have some good advice for environmentalists, especially their effort to convince them to pose their arguments in a context that is more about finding popular solution based in technology rather than pie in the sky scenarios about transforming the planet. But they shouldn’t expect, their warnings to be heeded. The most extreme scare tactics used by global warming alarmists aren’t just a tactic; they are integral to the worldview of these activists. Its not just that they fear that extreme weather will cause damage, if you listen closely to many of them, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that some think humanity has it coming as a natural consequence of capitalism.

Most of all, it’s that sense that we are being sold a bill of goods by the Al Gores that has fueled the backlash against warming advocates. Having tied themselves to claims that are easily debunked, even by those who agree with them on many questions, the environmental movement has painted itself into a corner from which no amount of common sense can extricate them.

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Note to Senate Democrats: We’ve Already Heard About Climate Change

Conservatives who avoid MSNBC like the plague missed a rare moment of clarity about our political culture this morning when his liberal partner Mika Brzezinksi fed Joe Scarborough one of the great straight lines of all time. While discussing last night’s Senate Democrats’ all-night talkathon devoted to climate change, Mika praised it by saying how glad she was that, “they’re trying to have a conversation.” That allowed the man who sometimes plays the role of the network’s token Republican while at others is its resident GOP critic of conservatives, to launch into a comic rant mocking both Brzezinski’s platitudes and the Democrats’ stunt.

Hollywood won’t talk about climate change. The media won’t talk about climate Nobody will talk about climate change. Thank God. Thank God, these brave Democratic senators are risking the wrath of the mainstream media and the Hollywood elites to talk about climate change …Damn the New York Times! They will not talk about climate change. It’s up to these men and women. This is 2014’s version of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”

Scarborough’s sarcasm was, of course, right on target. No matter what you think about the question of human involvement in possible shifts in global temperatures, the idea that it was up to a few dozen Senate Democrats to get the issue on the national agenda is a joke. The mainstream media has spent the last decade or more highlighting the topic at every possible moment and treating the most extreme conclusions produced by alarmist environmentalists as unquestioned truth while popular culture has embraced the global warming agenda with a religious fervor that brooks no dissent.

The problem the Democrats were addressing was not a lack of information about the subject but the fact that while a majority may believe humans are involved with warming, they are either skeptical of the extremists’ claims or don’t care that much about it. That was one of the main conclusions to be drawn from a Pew Research Center poll published in January that showed that global warming ranked 19th on the list of top policy priorities for Americans. Indeed, even the amorphous concern about “dealing with moral breakdown” ranked higher than warming, which was embraced by only 29 percent of those polled as something that demanded immediate action. A separate NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that came out the same week in January showed that addressing climate change ranked dead last among the 13 topics listed with only 27 percent saying it was a priority.

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Conservatives who avoid MSNBC like the plague missed a rare moment of clarity about our political culture this morning when his liberal partner Mika Brzezinksi fed Joe Scarborough one of the great straight lines of all time. While discussing last night’s Senate Democrats’ all-night talkathon devoted to climate change, Mika praised it by saying how glad she was that, “they’re trying to have a conversation.” That allowed the man who sometimes plays the role of the network’s token Republican while at others is its resident GOP critic of conservatives, to launch into a comic rant mocking both Brzezinski’s platitudes and the Democrats’ stunt.

Hollywood won’t talk about climate change. The media won’t talk about climate Nobody will talk about climate change. Thank God. Thank God, these brave Democratic senators are risking the wrath of the mainstream media and the Hollywood elites to talk about climate change …Damn the New York Times! They will not talk about climate change. It’s up to these men and women. This is 2014’s version of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”

Scarborough’s sarcasm was, of course, right on target. No matter what you think about the question of human involvement in possible shifts in global temperatures, the idea that it was up to a few dozen Senate Democrats to get the issue on the national agenda is a joke. The mainstream media has spent the last decade or more highlighting the topic at every possible moment and treating the most extreme conclusions produced by alarmist environmentalists as unquestioned truth while popular culture has embraced the global warming agenda with a religious fervor that brooks no dissent.

The problem the Democrats were addressing was not a lack of information about the subject but the fact that while a majority may believe humans are involved with warming, they are either skeptical of the extremists’ claims or don’t care that much about it. That was one of the main conclusions to be drawn from a Pew Research Center poll published in January that showed that global warming ranked 19th on the list of top policy priorities for Americans. Indeed, even the amorphous concern about “dealing with moral breakdown” ranked higher than warming, which was embraced by only 29 percent of those polled as something that demanded immediate action. A separate NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that came out the same week in January showed that addressing climate change ranked dead last among the 13 topics listed with only 27 percent saying it was a priority.

Why do Americans feel that way? Perhaps its because, as Scarborough noted, they’ve been having the Al Gore party line about the world on the verge of melting incessantly drilled into them for a decade and, even if they agree about the role of human activity, are sensibly skeptical about claims about Florida and Manhattan being under water in 20 years. Perhaps they also find a scientific theory championed by advocates who are unwilling to debate their findings and hell bent on silencing critics as members of the Flat Earth Society or worse to be somewhat suspicious. They also don’t like the fact that the discussion about the topic has taken on a theological rather than a scientific tone in which every conceivable weather event involving heat, cold, wind or precipitation is used to justify a preconceived conclusion about the climate that brooks no opposition rooted in reason or statistics.

Many also understand that some of the most popular measures associated with the climate change caucus would have a devastating impact on the American economy, particularly in states where coal is a major source of employment. Just as important, they have understandably come to associate this movement with Luddite objections to sensible projects like the Keystone XL pipeline that don’t hurt the environment but produce jobs and more energy to allow this country to become less dependent on oil from outside North America. That’s why the most Democratic senators up for re-election this year — Alaska’s Mark Begich, Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu, Arkansas’ Mark Pryor and North Carolina’s Kay Hagan — wanted no part of the show.

It should also be noted that the hours of talk and carefully prepared visual aids were unrelated to any upcoming legislative purpose. In other words, what the Democrat were doing was playing to their base without having to defend a specific proposal or to pretend that what they were about wouldn’t cost Americans dearly in exchange for vague and unproven promises about their future.

But whatever it is that they were doing, the most risible aspect of this spectacle was the notion that it was needed to raise awareness about climate change. As Scarborough’s sarcastic rant made clear, there are few topics on which Americans have heard more in recent years than this one. Their children are inculcated with the global warming catechism in schools. Their movies, plays and television shows are also peppered with references to what is considered right thinking on the issue and abuse for those who dissent.

Americans are smart enough to know that whatever might be slowing happening to the climate, it is a far less pressing matter than issues relating to the health of our economy, jobs, terrorism, education, ensuring the survival of entitlements like Social Security and Medicare, the budget deficit, health care, taxes and crime (to note the top 10 in the Pew poll).

If Senate Democrats want to devote their energies to something useful, they might try their hand at working just as hard on those issues (on most of which they have done nothing as part of their main task of thwarting all legislation passed by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives) rather than pulling an all-nighter to talk nonstop about an issue that Americans have had shoved down their throats for years.

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Money in Politics: Dems Still Don’t Understand that Issues Matter

In the summer of 2012, heading into the last few months of the presidential election, a Bloomberg story offered a corrective to liberal propaganda about conservative money in politics. It was headlined “Unions Gain Under Citizens United Decision They Seek to Overturn,” and explained that “With many union members living in toss-up states such as Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin, labor’s increased efficiency might make a difference.”

Just how much unions gained from Citizens United has now become clear. But so has the fact that the concentration on Citizens United, in which the Supreme Court struck down unconstitutional limits on political participation, is misleading when trying to understand just how dishonest liberal attacks on campaign donations really are. While the left’s paranoid obsession with the libertarian-leaning Koch brothers has always tended toward the absurd, a recent study of campaign donations going back a quarter-century informed us that:

Six of the top 10 political spenders over the last 25 years are unions, including American Federation of State, County and Municipal Emloyees (sic) ($60 million) and the National Education Association ($53 million), the nation’s largest teachers’ union.

The Koch brothers, by comparison, ranked 59th on Open Secrets’ list. The brothers have spent $18 million since 1989, less than 20 percent of what Act Blue has spent since 2004.

That doesn’t mean the Koch brothers and the organizations they support don’t have influence or that unions control elections. Instead, the more important takeaway is about the limits of spending when it comes to trying to convince voters of something they don’t believe or don’t care about.

A case in point is this week’s media blitz about liberal billionaire Tom Steyer, the largest individual donor in 2013. Steyer has decided to throw much more of his money at congressional elections because of his passion for global warming activism. But even Democrats are skeptical of his new effort, and the reason for that skepticism is telling. Politico reports:

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In the summer of 2012, heading into the last few months of the presidential election, a Bloomberg story offered a corrective to liberal propaganda about conservative money in politics. It was headlined “Unions Gain Under Citizens United Decision They Seek to Overturn,” and explained that “With many union members living in toss-up states such as Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin, labor’s increased efficiency might make a difference.”

Just how much unions gained from Citizens United has now become clear. But so has the fact that the concentration on Citizens United, in which the Supreme Court struck down unconstitutional limits on political participation, is misleading when trying to understand just how dishonest liberal attacks on campaign donations really are. While the left’s paranoid obsession with the libertarian-leaning Koch brothers has always tended toward the absurd, a recent study of campaign donations going back a quarter-century informed us that:

Six of the top 10 political spenders over the last 25 years are unions, including American Federation of State, County and Municipal Emloyees (sic) ($60 million) and the National Education Association ($53 million), the nation’s largest teachers’ union.

The Koch brothers, by comparison, ranked 59th on Open Secrets’ list. The brothers have spent $18 million since 1989, less than 20 percent of what Act Blue has spent since 2004.

That doesn’t mean the Koch brothers and the organizations they support don’t have influence or that unions control elections. Instead, the more important takeaway is about the limits of spending when it comes to trying to convince voters of something they don’t believe or don’t care about.

A case in point is this week’s media blitz about liberal billionaire Tom Steyer, the largest individual donor in 2013. Steyer has decided to throw much more of his money at congressional elections because of his passion for global warming activism. But even Democrats are skeptical of his new effort, and the reason for that skepticism is telling. Politico reports:

Opponents and even some Democrats also question whether Steyer will find broad support for a platform that consists of issues like climate change — traditionally, not a huge vote-getter at the polls — and opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline.

“The economy continues to be the top concern for a majority of the American people, and they’re going to want to focus the agenda solely on climate change?” asked Jim Manley, a Democratic strategist and former aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Manley said he supports taking steps on climate but isn’t sure how much impact Steyer will have. …

Greens are taking a more optimistic view, welcoming the chance that Steyer will help their side even the score after four years of liberal chafing at the big-spending politics that Citizens United has wrought.

“The bottom line is that we need much more environmentalist money in politics,” said League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski, whose group has worked closely with Steyer. “Our side will never outspend the big polluters in the fossil fuel industry, but we need to make sure our message is heard, and Tom’s increased investments will help make sure that happens.”

It turns out that, money aside, issues actually matter. The country doesn’t care much about Steyer’s apocalyptic visions and probably won’t much appreciate hearing from a billionaire that they have to make financial sacrifices in order to soothe his conscience. The greens want their message to be heard, but Democrats seem to be aware of the danger in this: the greens’ message is one of hysterical prophecies of doom. Democratic politicians can either listen to Steyer or to their actual constituents.

Steyer, then, is setting out to find the answer to the following question: is there enough money in the world to make people care about his agenda? The Politico story frames Steyer’s activism as a challenge to the Kochs, and although it’s an extraordinarily silly and inapt comparison that reveals just how the media’s Koch addiction has disrupted their ability see clearly on these issues, there is still a valuable lesson. Here’s Politico’s framing of Steyer’s battle:

The former hedge fund executive may be pledging to spend $100 million or more to make climate change a prime election issue in 2014 and beyond, but he’s still a long way from matching the conservative empire of Charles and David Koch — a sprawling network of groups whose diverse causes range from attacking Obamacare to opposing incentives for rooftop solar panels.

So is it the money or the issues? They both matter, but let’s ask the question this way: have the Kochs been more successful than Steyer because they, like Steyer, spend lots of money, or because their high-profile causes align with the concerns and opinions of the public far more than those of Steyer?

Steyer’s effort then should really be understood as an attempt to distract the public from the issues they actually care about–which the Kochs address. This is understandable: ObamaCare is a Democratic Party creation that has unleashed personal suffering and economic devastation–and it’s only just getting started. But the lesson may be not that Steyer has to outspend the Kochs but that he should consider listening to the voters before throwing money at them.

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RE: Will the Warming Debate Cool Off?

When investigating financial matters, the old adage is “follow the money.” That works in politics very often as well. As John Hinderaker points out over at PowerLine, billions of dollars flow from government to scientists who espouse the mantra of climate change and nearly none to those who doubt it. So it’s not surprising that climate scientists tend to believe in the climate change hypothesis: It’s in their self-interest to do so.

But there’s another reason both government and climate scientists love the idea of anthropogenic global warming: power.

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When investigating financial matters, the old adage is “follow the money.” That works in politics very often as well. As John Hinderaker points out over at PowerLine, billions of dollars flow from government to scientists who espouse the mantra of climate change and nearly none to those who doubt it. So it’s not surprising that climate scientists tend to believe in the climate change hypothesis: It’s in their self-interest to do so.

But there’s another reason both government and climate scientists love the idea of anthropogenic global warming: power.

Let’s accept for a moment the predicate that global warming is a real threat and caused by human activity. That would be a problem that could be addressed by government only. So it would greatly increase the scope of government’s reach into the economy and peoples’ lives. That, in turn, would greatly increase the power of politicians. But politicians would need the help and advice of experts in order to formulate policy. So they would need climate scientists to advise them. Getting to whisper in the ears of the powerful is itself a form of power. And as James Madison explained, “Men love power.” So politicians and climate scientists love the idea of anthropogenic global warming.

The exact same phenomenon happened two generations ago when Keynesian economics swept through the profession and then through government. Keynes advocated having government actively work various economic levers in order to keep supply and demand in balance and thus keep the economy humming along smoothly. But in order for politicians to take on the new and empowering role of being the engineers of the economic locomotive, they needed the advice of economists, who were only too happy to give it. Within a generation the line “We are all Keynesians now” was born. 

So follow the money, but also follow the power.

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Will the Warming Debate Cool Off?

This past weekend Politico published a feature that asked who would be the Republican that would break the ice and turn the tide in the debate over what to do about global warming. The article not only took the view of those who argue that climate change is an imminent threat to the planet as unassailable. It also took the view that it was not unreasonable for environmental groups to assume that sooner or later some conservative Republican would flip on the issue. That would do for warming what Ohio Senator Rob Portman did for the gay marriage debate: provide a mainstream right-wing figure that would be the symbol of a national sea change that would forever marginalize opponents.

While Politico pointed out the differences between the two topics and the stiff resistance on the right to the climateers, the piece was still rooted in a belief that “denial” of global warming would probably soon be consigned to the dustbin of history by undeniable proof. Indeed, the expectation was that some forms of that proof—like a rise in the number of destructive hurricanes or other storms—would inevitably cause some in the GOP to change their minds because of the impacts on their states. But the idea that the likes of Marco Rubio will be forced to change his tune on cap and trade and other measures after much of Florida is underwater may not be as certain as liberals think. As the Wall Street Journal reported the same day the Politico piece appeared, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s “fifth assessment report” due out later this month may go a long away toward dampening the alarmism that environmentalists are counting on to sway Congress to adopt their agenda.

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This past weekend Politico published a feature that asked who would be the Republican that would break the ice and turn the tide in the debate over what to do about global warming. The article not only took the view of those who argue that climate change is an imminent threat to the planet as unassailable. It also took the view that it was not unreasonable for environmental groups to assume that sooner or later some conservative Republican would flip on the issue. That would do for warming what Ohio Senator Rob Portman did for the gay marriage debate: provide a mainstream right-wing figure that would be the symbol of a national sea change that would forever marginalize opponents.

While Politico pointed out the differences between the two topics and the stiff resistance on the right to the climateers, the piece was still rooted in a belief that “denial” of global warming would probably soon be consigned to the dustbin of history by undeniable proof. Indeed, the expectation was that some forms of that proof—like a rise in the number of destructive hurricanes or other storms—would inevitably cause some in the GOP to change their minds because of the impacts on their states. But the idea that the likes of Marco Rubio will be forced to change his tune on cap and trade and other measures after much of Florida is underwater may not be as certain as liberals think. As the Wall Street Journal reported the same day the Politico piece appeared, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s “fifth assessment report” due out later this month may go a long away toward dampening the alarmism that environmentalists are counting on to sway Congress to adopt their agenda.

Lest one think this is the product of some right-wing Koch-brother funded “denier” group, the IPCC is one of the organs of global warming orthodoxy and shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore. But once it states that the “temperature rise we can expect as a result of man-made emissions of carbon dioxide is lower than the IPCC thought in 2007,” then that will be a powerful argument to put the brakes on the alarmism the warmers are promoting. The data doesn’t debunk the notion that temperatures have risen and, as Byron York wrote in the Washington Examiner yesterday, you can bet that a group that is so deeply invested in the thesis of global warming will find a way to spin their figures as somehow reinforcing the movement’s almost religious belief in their thesis.

But if even the IPCC concedes that warming is not quite the threat they were claiming only a few years ago, it makes it much harder to argue that the amount of warming we are getting presents anything like the threat that we’ve been told to expect. Nor is it clear that the impact of all these changes will be negative.

Exaggeration of the threat from any climate change is business as usual for environmentalists who think they should be allowed to tell what they consider to be white lies in order to jolt the public and politicians into action. If the data from the IPCC and other reports are coming up short of the dire predictions of some of the computer models that have been used to back up climate alarmism, it is no surprise since it is clear that they have been designed to produce such results and interpreted accordingly.

It’s also important to note that one of the most common assumptions thrown about by the warming community—including liberals like President Obama—is that “extreme weather” is the result of climate change. That allows environmentalists to assert that virtually anything that happens out of the ordinary—whether heat waves or cold fronts, droughts or hurricanes—is the product of global warming. But as author and researcher Bjorn Lomborg points out in the Washington Post this assumption is not backed up by the sort of scientific consensus that the warmers assert is behind their alarmist models of future temperatures.

Lomborg is no climate change denier. He thinks warming is real and that it is at least partly the result of human activity. But he notes that the IPCC’s 2011 report on extreme weather provided little comfort for those who would like to blame Hurricane Sandy on climate change. The evidence shows that while some kinds of weather are getting more extreme, other activity, such as drought, is actually less likely. Nor is there any data to back up the idea that hurricanes have become stronger or more frequent. He also says other reports, including one in Nature, point to extreme weather becoming less likely as temperatures go up slightly. Nor is it a given that all of the effects of warming will be bad. This makes sense since, after all, the warming of the globe in the period after the little Ice Age of the Middle Ages in the Northern Hemisphere is widely believed to have helped fuel progress and growth in the period that gave birth to the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and the Industrial Revolution.

As York rightly concludes, even if scientists—that group that Obama and liberals keep telling us are virtually unanimous in backing the most extreme alarmist scenarios—will debate the latest inconclusive data, it’s clear that the case for radical anti-warming measures that would impact the economy has gotten less persuasive.

Given the way belief in warming—irrespective of the lack of conclusive proof—has become embedded in popular culture as a sacred doctrine that can only be questioned at the cost of one’s status as an enlightened individual, don’t expect these new chinks in the environmentalist armor to be widely discussed in the mainstream liberal media. But left-wing groups expecting opposition to environmental alarmism to collapse shouldn’t hold their breath waiting for conservatives to abandon positions that just got stronger.

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Why Al Gore’s Warming Fibs Matter

Al Gore has done it again. Having been repeatedly lambasted for making exaggerated claims and telling outright lies in order to promote his environmentalist agenda, he’s now committed another gaffe that will further undermine his credibility and that of his cause. As Politico reports, in an interview with the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein while once again claiming that global warming was the cause of an increase in storms and hurricanes, Gore made the following assertion:

In the interview, published Wednesday, Gore said that “the fingerprint of man-made global warming is all over” storms like hurricanes and other extreme weather events.

“The extreme events are more extreme. The hurricane scale used to be 1-5 and now they’re adding a 6,” he said, according to a transcript of the interview.

But, as Politico noted, other experts and the Post’s own environmental reporters were quick to point out that this isn’t true. The National Weather Service itself admitted that no such plan existed.

Though this was the most egregious element of the interview, as the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto pointed out, it wasn’t the only one. Just as dishonest was his claim that the temporary flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy in lower Manhattan justified Gore’s claim in his Oscar-winning movie, An Inconvenient Truth, that the area would soon be permanently underwater. But, as New Yorkers are well aware, the 9/11 memorial is currently dry. Gore’s alarmist predictions are just as daft today as they were when the film first came out.

This is certainly fodder for Gore’s critics and will, in turn, elicit more impassioned defenses of him from his fans. More significantly, it will also generate comments from slightly more sober advocates of the global warming agenda, to the effect that such fibs don’t really matter because their purpose is to raise awareness of a genuine threat to humanity, albeit one not quite so imminent or terrible as the nightmare scenarios spun by the former vice president. But, as Taranto also pointed out, Gore’s mendacity is significant, not just because a lot of people believe him, but because they cast doubt on the entire enterprise he’s seeking to promote. If, as believers in global warming continually tell us, skeptics are undermining faith in facts and science, there is no greater contributor to such cynicism than Al Gore.

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Al Gore has done it again. Having been repeatedly lambasted for making exaggerated claims and telling outright lies in order to promote his environmentalist agenda, he’s now committed another gaffe that will further undermine his credibility and that of his cause. As Politico reports, in an interview with the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein while once again claiming that global warming was the cause of an increase in storms and hurricanes, Gore made the following assertion:

In the interview, published Wednesday, Gore said that “the fingerprint of man-made global warming is all over” storms like hurricanes and other extreme weather events.

“The extreme events are more extreme. The hurricane scale used to be 1-5 and now they’re adding a 6,” he said, according to a transcript of the interview.

But, as Politico noted, other experts and the Post’s own environmental reporters were quick to point out that this isn’t true. The National Weather Service itself admitted that no such plan existed.

Though this was the most egregious element of the interview, as the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto pointed out, it wasn’t the only one. Just as dishonest was his claim that the temporary flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy in lower Manhattan justified Gore’s claim in his Oscar-winning movie, An Inconvenient Truth, that the area would soon be permanently underwater. But, as New Yorkers are well aware, the 9/11 memorial is currently dry. Gore’s alarmist predictions are just as daft today as they were when the film first came out.

This is certainly fodder for Gore’s critics and will, in turn, elicit more impassioned defenses of him from his fans. More significantly, it will also generate comments from slightly more sober advocates of the global warming agenda, to the effect that such fibs don’t really matter because their purpose is to raise awareness of a genuine threat to humanity, albeit one not quite so imminent or terrible as the nightmare scenarios spun by the former vice president. But, as Taranto also pointed out, Gore’s mendacity is significant, not just because a lot of people believe him, but because they cast doubt on the entire enterprise he’s seeking to promote. If, as believers in global warming continually tell us, skeptics are undermining faith in facts and science, there is no greater contributor to such cynicism than Al Gore.

At stake here is not Gore’s reputation. In his post-political existence, he has proven himself impervious to shame or to criticism. Having enriched himself on government-subsidized “green” investments and profiteered from the creation of a failed cable channel that wound up netting him a cool $100 million from its sale to the Qatari owners of Al Jazeera, Gore can thumb his nose at fact-checkers and critics alike and laugh all the way to the bank.

Gore is no stranger to challenges to the credibility of the assertions to his movie. Though there are a number of websites that point to numerous, significant errors in the movie, a British court ruled that it should be viewed as a polemic rather than fact when a critic sued to prevent it from being shown in schools as an authoritative view of the subject of global warming.

We need not rehearse the contentious debate about global warming to understand just how insidious Gore’s willingness to play fast and loose with the facts on global warming is for the maintenance of a civil discussion on the subject. But if those who believe the U.S. must take drastic action to halt global warming continue to insist that the facts lie all on one side of the argument, it is incumbent on them to stick to the facts and not make exaggerated claims.

Gore has never been able to do that. Thus, he has done more to both fuel the most alarmist and unrealistic scenarios about the possible impact of global warming and to inspire skepticism about this belief. Wherever the truth may lie on this subject, and there are strong cases to be made on both sides, surely there should be no tolerance for a man who routinely lies about it.

Yet no matter how often his falsehoods are uncovered, the environmental community rarely if ever takes Gore to task. He has reaped all sorts of applause and honor for his lies from an Oscar to a Nobel Prize. Indeed, the more his assertions are debunked, the less his fans seem to care. But they should. No one has done more to sink the discussion about global warming into the realm of sci-fi fantasy alarmism or to invite more skepticism than Gore. It’s clear that the more his lips move, the less likely it is that we’ll hear the truth. Those who advocate concern about climate change and who want to mobilize Americans to support the measures they believe will save for the planet should be pleading him for him to shut up, lest doubters about the environmental faith in warming be further undermined. 

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Rohrbacher Is Hurting the Intellectual Credibility of Conservatism

Representative Dana Rohrbacher’s offense isn’t on par with what his colleague Blake Farenthold said, but it was problematic in its own right.

Mr. Rohrbacker told his constituents that global warming is a “total fraud” that is part of a wider liberal conspiracy. “That’s what their game plan is,” Rohrbacher said. “It’s step by step by step, more and bigger control over our lives by higher levels of government. And global warming is simply that strategy in spades.”

I’ve written before on the matter of climate change (see here and here), so there’s no need to once again rehearse in detail my arguments. I’m fully aware of some of the radical elements that exist within the environmentalist movement. Still, the argument that global warming is a “total fraud” is simply wrong–and the implication that all climate scientists (and others) who believe in global warming are either part of a gigantic liberal conspiracy or useful idiots is ludicrous. 

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Representative Dana Rohrbacher’s offense isn’t on par with what his colleague Blake Farenthold said, but it was problematic in its own right.

Mr. Rohrbacker told his constituents that global warming is a “total fraud” that is part of a wider liberal conspiracy. “That’s what their game plan is,” Rohrbacher said. “It’s step by step by step, more and bigger control over our lives by higher levels of government. And global warming is simply that strategy in spades.”

I’ve written before on the matter of climate change (see here and here), so there’s no need to once again rehearse in detail my arguments. I’m fully aware of some of the radical elements that exist within the environmentalist movement. Still, the argument that global warming is a “total fraud” is simply wrong–and the implication that all climate scientists (and others) who believe in global warming are either part of a gigantic liberal conspiracy or useful idiots is ludicrous. 

We know that the concentration in the atmosphere of carbon dioxide has increased markedly during the past 150 years, that humans have been responsible for a significant increase in atmospheric CO2 over the past two centuries, and that as a result, the earth has gotten warmer.

At the same time, there’s a good deal of uncertainty based on future climate projections and what needs to be done. As the conservative Jim Manzi has pointed out, pumping out more CO2 triggers an incredibly complicated set of feedback effects, one we don’t fully understand. And the fact that over the past 15 years air temperatures at the Earth’s surface have been flat while greenhouse-gas emissions have continued to soar has puzzled intellectually honest climate scientists. Earth may be less sensitive to CO2 emissions than previously believed.

As we move forward, let’s hope the discussion about climate change is not dominated by ideologues on either side. The discussion should be calm, reasonable, and empirical. We can do without the mocking arrogance that characterizes both extremes. And there’s no need for climate change to be a weapon in the culture wars.

As for conservatives, they can write intelligently on climate change. Or they can sound like Dana Rohrbacher. For the sake of the intellectual credibility of conservatism, I hope we see more of the former and less of the latter.

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Do Democrats Really Want a War on Coal?

President Obama may think his speech today outlining an unprecedented package of measures aimed at stopping global warming will burnish his legacy. The set of executive orders announced today was exactly what his liberal base has been yearning for throughout his presidency, and the ideological tone of his speech must he highly satisfying for a president who enjoys dictating to what he considers his intellectual inferiors and despises working with a Congress that rejected these measures. But while liberals are cheering Obama’s far-reaching fiat, a lot of Democrats, especially in coal-producing states, must be far from happy.

The president’s orders that will impose new carbon emission levels on existing power plants will raise the price of energy for everyone and harm an already fragile economy that has struggled to maintain an anemic recovery. By itself that may prove to be a political liability for Democrats running in next year’s midterm elections even if by now most Americans have had their natural skepticism about global warming alarmism pounded out of them by an ideological media. But an all-too-candid Obama advisor may have made a crucial gaffe that could kill the president’s party in coal-producing states next year. As the New York Times reported in their piece on the president’s speech:

Daniel P. Schrag, a geochemist who is the head of Harvard University’s Center for the Environment and a member of a presidential science panel that has helped advise the White House on climate change, said he hoped the presidential speech would mark a turning point in the national debate on climate change.

“Everybody is waiting for action,” he said. “The one thing the president really needs to do now is to begin the process of shutting down the conventional coal plants. Politically, the White House is hesitant to say they’re having a war on coal. On the other hand, a war on coal is exactly what’s needed.”

To which Democrats running in places like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and more than a dozen other coal-producing states may say, “Thanks for nothing.”

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President Obama may think his speech today outlining an unprecedented package of measures aimed at stopping global warming will burnish his legacy. The set of executive orders announced today was exactly what his liberal base has been yearning for throughout his presidency, and the ideological tone of his speech must he highly satisfying for a president who enjoys dictating to what he considers his intellectual inferiors and despises working with a Congress that rejected these measures. But while liberals are cheering Obama’s far-reaching fiat, a lot of Democrats, especially in coal-producing states, must be far from happy.

The president’s orders that will impose new carbon emission levels on existing power plants will raise the price of energy for everyone and harm an already fragile economy that has struggled to maintain an anemic recovery. By itself that may prove to be a political liability for Democrats running in next year’s midterm elections even if by now most Americans have had their natural skepticism about global warming alarmism pounded out of them by an ideological media. But an all-too-candid Obama advisor may have made a crucial gaffe that could kill the president’s party in coal-producing states next year. As the New York Times reported in their piece on the president’s speech:

Daniel P. Schrag, a geochemist who is the head of Harvard University’s Center for the Environment and a member of a presidential science panel that has helped advise the White House on climate change, said he hoped the presidential speech would mark a turning point in the national debate on climate change.

“Everybody is waiting for action,” he said. “The one thing the president really needs to do now is to begin the process of shutting down the conventional coal plants. Politically, the White House is hesitant to say they’re having a war on coal. On the other hand, a war on coal is exactly what’s needed.”

To which Democrats running in places like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and more than a dozen other coal-producing states may say, “Thanks for nothing.”

Even if one accepts the constant lecturing from the White House and much of the media that claims there is no debate about their dire predictions of warming—a point that was undermined by a New York Times story published earlier this month which spoke of rising temperatures having actually slowed over the last 15 years rather than going through the roof, as we keep being told—the impact of Obama’s plans on the economy could be severe. While the ideological left is more worried about their doomsday predictions for the planet than the job-killing aspects of the president’s proposals, most Americans have their eyes firmly fixed on their wallets in an economy that remains in the doldrums despite the optimism created by housing prices and a booming stock market (until the last week).

Coal is still responsible for 37 percent of America’s energy production and with new technologies for mining it is no longer the ecological nightmare that it was routinely depicted as being for decades. That means that the president’s new regulations will have a drastic impact on energy prices and reduce the income of a vast cross-section of Americans.

By signaling to the country that, despite official denials by the White House, what the administration is contemplating is a “war on coal,” the president is more or less consigning Democrats in coal-producing states to a grim fate. The president’s cheerleaders are quick to remind us that elections have consequences and that since Obama campaigned on these issues, we should not be surprised that he would attempt to govern as he campaigned. They’re right about that. But now that the “war on coal” tag can be directly traced to an architect of the president’s plan rather than being attributed to GOP propaganda, it may be that there will be elections in the future with consequences that Democrats don’t care for as much as the one in 2012.

Liberals have been delighted with the idea that the president would use his executive powers to enact measures that have already been turned down by Congress. Though cap and trade bills were defeated by huge margins, Obama is now putting them into effect for all intents and purposes by a vote of 1-0. Yet it is exactly the freedom to act with impunity by a reelected president that should scare many Democrats. Were these issues put to congressional debate and votes, Democrats in coal states could count on using the legislative process to derail any war on coal.

But with Obama acting alone all they can do is stand by and watch in horror. The war on coal may cost American consumers dearly. But it may cost some Democrats their seats in the House and the Senate.

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Global Warming Alarmism Cools Down

The Economist – which has long been concerned about the rise in Earth’s temperature and its consequences for civilization — has a significant article in the current issue. It begins this way:

Over the past 15 years air temperatures at the Earth’s surface have been flat while greenhouse-gas emissions have continued to soar. The world added roughly 100 billion tonnes of carbon to the atmosphere between 2000 and 2010. That is about a quarter of all the CO₂ put there by humanity since 1750. And yet, as James Hansen, the head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, observes, “the five-year mean global temperature has been flat for a decade.”

Temperatures fluctuate over short periods, but this lack of new warming is a surprise. Ed Hawkins, of the University of Reading, in Britain, points out that surface temperatures since 2005 are already at the low end of the range of projections derived from 20 climate models. If they remain flat, they will fall outside the models’ range within a few years.

“The mismatch between rising greenhouse-gas emissions and not-rising temperatures is among the biggest puzzle in climate science right now,” The Economist adds.

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The Economist – which has long been concerned about the rise in Earth’s temperature and its consequences for civilization — has a significant article in the current issue. It begins this way:

Over the past 15 years air temperatures at the Earth’s surface have been flat while greenhouse-gas emissions have continued to soar. The world added roughly 100 billion tonnes of carbon to the atmosphere between 2000 and 2010. That is about a quarter of all the CO₂ put there by humanity since 1750. And yet, as James Hansen, the head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, observes, “the five-year mean global temperature has been flat for a decade.”

Temperatures fluctuate over short periods, but this lack of new warming is a surprise. Ed Hawkins, of the University of Reading, in Britain, points out that surface temperatures since 2005 are already at the low end of the range of projections derived from 20 climate models. If they remain flat, they will fall outside the models’ range within a few years.

“The mismatch between rising greenhouse-gas emissions and not-rising temperatures is among the biggest puzzle in climate science right now,” The Economist adds.

The article rightly does not argue that anthropological global warming is a delusion. But it does make the point that an awful lot depends on whether the climate is less sensitive to CO2 emissions than previously believed. It makes (almost literally) a world of difference if Earth’s temperature increases 0.8-1.9°C v. 4.0-6.0°C. The low end would be something we could easily absorb; the high end would justify drastic interventions. So much depends on the model one uses and the confidence one places in them.

Based on the latest science, the Economist summaries things this way: 

given the hiatus in warming and all the new evidence, a small reduction in estimates of climate sensitivity would seem to be justified: a downwards nudge on various best estimates from 3°C to 2.5°C, perhaps; a lower ceiling (around 4.5°C), certainly. If climate scientists were credit-rating agencies, climate sensitivity would be on negative watch. But it would not yet be downgraded.

When I wrote on this subject a couple of years ago (see here  and here), I pointed out (a) the concentration in the atmosphere of carbon dioxide has increased markedly during the past 150 years; (b) humans have been responsible for a significant increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration during the past two centuries; (c) as a result, the earth is getting warmer; but (d) there’s a good deal of uncertainty based on future climate projections and what needs to be done. In light of that, adaptation rather than a completely unworkable system of global carbon rationing may be the way to go.

Here’s how I put it at the time:

Many climate scientists fear that unless dramatic steps are taken soon, we’ll see rising sea levels, contracting ice sheets, more floods and intense tropical cyclones, the spread of tropical diseases like malaria, the submergence of parts of continents, alterations in our ecosystems, and food and water shortages. Perhaps so; those concerns are certainly worth considering. But as Jim Manzi – who combines a sophisticated understanding of the scientific and economic stakes of the climate-change debate — has pointed out, pumping out more CO2 triggers an incredibly complicated set of feedback effects, and the most important scientific debate is really about these feedback effects. In Manzi’s words, “Climate models generate useful projections for us to consider, but the reality is that nobody knows with meaningful precision how much warming we will experience under any emissions scenario. Global warming is a real risk, but its impact over the next century could plausibly range from negligible to severe.”

Conservatives should be part of that conversation. There’s an intellectually credible case to be made that it’s unwise to embrace massive, harmful changes to our economy in the face of significant uncertainties based on incomplete knowledge of how the climate system will respond in the middle part of the 22nd century.

That is, I think, very much where we are today. Even the Economist is beginning to think so. 

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The Climate and the Constitution

On Monday, President Obama announced the appointments of Gina McCarthy to run the Environmental Protection Agency and Ernest J. Moniz to take charge of the Department of Energy. In a week when the country is focused on the issue of the debt, the sequester and the budget, these nominations are not generating as much interest as the question of whether the administration is orchestrating government cutbacks to increase pressure on Congress to raise taxes. But their significance should not be underestimated. As the president indicated, he is planning on using these two agencies and their leaders to pursue an aggressive climate change agenda in his second term.

The debate about global warming and the hysteria that has become an integral part of the environmentalist agenda is one thing. But the key issue involved in these appointments and the president’s intentions for the next four years is one that revolves around legal issues as much as it does scientific disputes. It doesn’t matter whether you are in full agreement with the president on this issue or buy into only a part of it or none at all. The question before the nation here is whether the executive branch can or should give itself the power to run roughshod over Congress and unilaterally implement new regulations that will give the force of law to the president’s climate beliefs. If McCarthy and Moniz intend to use their regulating power to redraw the laws concerning fossil fuel emissions or the ability to explore or drill for new energy sources, then the result will be as much of a Constitutional crisis as anything else.

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On Monday, President Obama announced the appointments of Gina McCarthy to run the Environmental Protection Agency and Ernest J. Moniz to take charge of the Department of Energy. In a week when the country is focused on the issue of the debt, the sequester and the budget, these nominations are not generating as much interest as the question of whether the administration is orchestrating government cutbacks to increase pressure on Congress to raise taxes. But their significance should not be underestimated. As the president indicated, he is planning on using these two agencies and their leaders to pursue an aggressive climate change agenda in his second term.

The debate about global warming and the hysteria that has become an integral part of the environmentalist agenda is one thing. But the key issue involved in these appointments and the president’s intentions for the next four years is one that revolves around legal issues as much as it does scientific disputes. It doesn’t matter whether you are in full agreement with the president on this issue or buy into only a part of it or none at all. The question before the nation here is whether the executive branch can or should give itself the power to run roughshod over Congress and unilaterally implement new regulations that will give the force of law to the president’s climate beliefs. If McCarthy and Moniz intend to use their regulating power to redraw the laws concerning fossil fuel emissions or the ability to explore or drill for new energy sources, then the result will be as much of a Constitutional crisis as anything else.

As the New York Times reports:

The E.P.A., which the Supreme Court granted authority to regulate carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases, is in the midst of writing regulations governing such emissions from new power plants. Those rules, expected to be completed this year, would essentially bar construction of any new coal-fired power plants unless they included the means to capture carbon gases, a technology that does not yet exist on a commercial scale.

But to make a real dent in the nation’s emissions, the agency must then devise emissions limits for existing plants, a hugely controversial project that could force the shutdown of dozens of older coal-burning power plants, cause a steep drop in domestic demand for coal and trigger a sharp rise in energy prices.

No matter how carefully written — and Ms. McCarthy is an expert on federal air quality law — any such regulations would be subject to intense opposition in the courts, and in Congress, which could seek to overturn the regulations.

The problem here is that the Court’s decision about the EPA as well as the Clean Air Act that Congress already passed gives the executive branch far-reaching powers to transform the American economy without congressional approval. That means the president could potentially draw up rules that could not only have a deleterious impact on fuel exploration and recovery methods like fracking, but also force American industries and businesses to go implement costly changes to satisfy the whims of environmentalists that could cost the country jobs and reduce the chances for growth.

That is not to say that Congress and the courts could not throw a monkey wrench into any of the president’s plans. They could, and the prospect of the administration embarking on a series of executive orders and regulatory expansions without the say-so of the legislative branch would produce a historic challenge that might determine the fate of both the economy and any hopes for maintaining limits on an already imperial presidency.

The Constitution created a template by which the various branches of government could exercise checks and balances on each other. At the core of that is the notion that writing laws are the purview of Congress. When a president assumes the right to draft, pass and then enforce laws in areas like global warming, where Congress has expressly refused to act on the subject, it is a sign of a lack of respect for the constitutional process. The executive must be allowed a great deal of leeway in areas like foreign policy and national defense, where the role of the president to act as commander in chief is rooted in law and tradition. But no president ought to be allowed to play the autocrat when it comes to domestic policy.

A desire to do good is never an excuse for a license to govern by fiat. We hope that the former constitutional law professor sitting in the White House will restrain his hubris and instruct his new appointees to act within the law rather than to play god with American businesses. While the panic of those who think the world really is going to melt is real, so, too, is the Constitution. If the president creates a climate in Washington in which our legal framework becomes a matter of the president’s dictates, we will all be the losers in the long run–no matter where you stand on global warming.

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Where’s Al Gore? Where He Belongs

Tonight is Bill Clinton’s much-anticipated speech to the Democratic National Convention, but as Politico noted this morning, a very high-profile member of Clinton’s administration will be missing his first convention since he left office: Al Gore.

Politico offers the reason–the country’s complete lack of interest in the global warming crusade–but gets the progression of Gore’s fading from the spotlight backwards. Politico writes:

Gore’s evolution over the past four years — from a central figure in the Democratic Party to a no-show at its biggest event — matches what has happened to the issue of climate change itself, which moved to the sidelines alongside its chief crusader, environmentalists and some Democrats say.

It’s not like Gore hasn’t noticed — and his frustration with Obama has been on display. He’s leveled criticism at Obama for abandoning the push for a climate change bill. He accused him of failing to use the bully pulpit to spread the word about the dangers of rising global temperatures. And he faulted Obama for putting off tough new smog regulations.

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Tonight is Bill Clinton’s much-anticipated speech to the Democratic National Convention, but as Politico noted this morning, a very high-profile member of Clinton’s administration will be missing his first convention since he left office: Al Gore.

Politico offers the reason–the country’s complete lack of interest in the global warming crusade–but gets the progression of Gore’s fading from the spotlight backwards. Politico writes:

Gore’s evolution over the past four years — from a central figure in the Democratic Party to a no-show at its biggest event — matches what has happened to the issue of climate change itself, which moved to the sidelines alongside its chief crusader, environmentalists and some Democrats say.

It’s not like Gore hasn’t noticed — and his frustration with Obama has been on display. He’s leveled criticism at Obama for abandoning the push for a climate change bill. He accused him of failing to use the bully pulpit to spread the word about the dangers of rising global temperatures. And he faulted Obama for putting off tough new smog regulations.

It’s true that as Gore’s discredited claims and hypocritical lifestyle were shoved aside by concerns about the economy, Gore’s presence in the media went with them. But Gore marginalized global warming as much as global warming marginalized him. And more specifically, had Gore been a well-rounded politician with a general grasp on a range of subjects who retained the admiration of his peers—as a vice president and almost-president should—he would never have disappeared from view.

Instead, Gore went from stolid but respected vice president to sidelined enviro-zealot building an invisible cable television station around Keith Olbermann (who has also since disappeared completely from view). That’s not a sad commentary on a supposedly indifferent public whistling past the polar bear graveyard; rather, it’s an indication that Gore gave up on serious public policy and has appropriately and expectedly lost the attention of the public because of it.

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Eco-Luddites New Target: Air Conditioning

The leftist critique of capitalism and all the improvements in the quality of life that it has brought remains what it has always been: the desire of intellectuals to dictate to the rest of humanity how they may live. Or even more to the point, how many of them may live at all. Thus, the latest New York Times feature about the evils of air conditioning and how the increasing demand for it in the Third World is unsustainable tells us a lot more about the left and its mindset than it does about the future of society.

The piece in the Sunday Review by Elisabeth Rosenthal at least is honest about why more air conditioning is needed. It is a major factor in productivity around the world. The economic boom in places like Singapore and other warm-weather cities was made possible in no small measure by air conditioning. As population growth and economic activity rises in other Third World cities, more AC will be needed. But for the Times, this spells environmental doom since they tell us the energy used to run the units and the emissions from the coolants will create more global warming. The answer from the left to this conundrum is typical of the sort of eco-Luddite argument we’ve been hearing for decades. People will have to learn to live without air conditioning in the same way they are told to live without the freedom that automobiles give them. Sweat more and shut up about it seems to be the mantra. But the problem with this sort of thinking is not just the arrogance of western liberals telling people to do without modern conveniences; it is that it reflects a lack of understanding of human potential.

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The leftist critique of capitalism and all the improvements in the quality of life that it has brought remains what it has always been: the desire of intellectuals to dictate to the rest of humanity how they may live. Or even more to the point, how many of them may live at all. Thus, the latest New York Times feature about the evils of air conditioning and how the increasing demand for it in the Third World is unsustainable tells us a lot more about the left and its mindset than it does about the future of society.

The piece in the Sunday Review by Elisabeth Rosenthal at least is honest about why more air conditioning is needed. It is a major factor in productivity around the world. The economic boom in places like Singapore and other warm-weather cities was made possible in no small measure by air conditioning. As population growth and economic activity rises in other Third World cities, more AC will be needed. But for the Times, this spells environmental doom since they tell us the energy used to run the units and the emissions from the coolants will create more global warming. The answer from the left to this conundrum is typical of the sort of eco-Luddite argument we’ve been hearing for decades. People will have to learn to live without air conditioning in the same way they are told to live without the freedom that automobiles give them. Sweat more and shut up about it seems to be the mantra. But the problem with this sort of thinking is not just the arrogance of western liberals telling people to do without modern conveniences; it is that it reflects a lack of understanding of human potential.

There is something slightly disingenuous about this entire discussion since it is the use of heat in winter rather than air conditioning in summer that may have the bigger carbon footprint. But, as George Will wrote Friday in the Washington Post, forty years after the Club of Rome’s seminal work about “The Limits of Growth” that spawned a generation of environmental hysteria, there is a reason why what he calls “apocalypse fatigue — boredom from being repeatedly told the end is nigh” has set in. The idea that “intractable scarcities” in virtually all commodities would be created by continued population growth” has effectively been debunked by virtually every technological development since then. But don’t tell the environmental extremists.

Those plagued by Malthusian pessimism about the future of humanity have always underestimated human innovation. Instead of humanity being reduced in the decades after the first “Earth Day” to a “Soylent Green” nightmare of shortages and poverty in which scarcity of limited resources as swamped by a surplus of people, we have seen prosperity grow. To the surprise and dismay of the doomsayers, this has happened not only in the West but also in developing nations whose citizens believe they have the same right to comfort as the residents of the Upper West Side.

As both Abe and John Steele Gordon noted on Friday, just as nobody among the environmental hysterics foresaw the decline of CO2 emissions because of the way the free market mandated changes in the way we produce energy, so, too, are they unable to imagine that humanity is capable of solving other problems. And one need only read the hundreds of comments by the liberal readership of the Times in response to the article about air conditioning to see that many of them are still focused on the thesis that underlined that original fallacious Club of Rome report about scarcity: there are too many people on the planet and laws must be passed to limit procreation.

That is the inevitable conclusion of any such argument against capitalism. The default position of the left is to always fall back on the idea that there too many people and that those who are allowed to live in the future must heed the instruction of the intellectuals and accept restrictions on their freedom if they are to be permitted to remain.

The eco-Luddites may sweat in the summer if they like and preach to the masses about the benefits of fans and tell us why sleeping (naked) in rooms where the temperature is 84 degrees is really comfortable as Ms. Rosenthal suggests. The rest of us will rely on the free market to do what it has always done: provide cost-effective solutions to humanity’s problems and keep our air conditioners humming when it is hot. The only answer to the problem the Times references is more growth, more wealth and more innovation. Which is to say more capitalism and more individual freedom.

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Remembering Cockburn’s Heresies

In the last two decades, as a generation of leftists left this veil of tears, the obituary page of the New York Times has become the last redoubt of Stalin’s American fellow travelers. Sendoffs for Marxist writers and activists have consistently played down their red ties and portrayed them as  heroic and stalwart defenders of principle whose past support for mass murderers is a mere detail best forgotten and therefore usually unmentioned. However, the Times’ appreciation of polemicist Alexander Cockburn was a slightly different variation on that theme.

Instead of just playing down Cockburn’s vicious hatred for Israel which opened him up for justified accusations of anti-Semitism, the nation’s newspaper of record also decided to ignore the cause to which the writer had devoted much of his last years: his disagreement with advocates of global warming.

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In the last two decades, as a generation of leftists left this veil of tears, the obituary page of the New York Times has become the last redoubt of Stalin’s American fellow travelers. Sendoffs for Marxist writers and activists have consistently played down their red ties and portrayed them as  heroic and stalwart defenders of principle whose past support for mass murderers is a mere detail best forgotten and therefore usually unmentioned. However, the Times’ appreciation of polemicist Alexander Cockburn was a slightly different variation on that theme.

Instead of just playing down Cockburn’s vicious hatred for Israel which opened him up for justified accusations of anti-Semitism, the nation’s newspaper of record also decided to ignore the cause to which the writer had devoted much of his last years: his disagreement with advocates of global warming.

As John Fund writes over at National Review Online, Cockburn’s denunciation of global warming as a fraud (led by what he termed as that “hypocritical mountebank” Al Gore) constituted a genuine heresy from his longtime leftism. Fund believes that had Cockburn not fallen ill, he might have helped generate a genuine debate about the issue. That would have been interesting, and Cockburn deserves credit for not being one more leftist sheep following the ideological party line on this issue. But I think Fund is probably being a bit too generous when he says, “Conservatives should recognize that he was getting more and more things ‘right’ toward the end.”

Fund, who got to know him when he was his editor at the Wall Street Journal, rightly acknowledges that Cockburn was a “fierce and often irrational critic of everything to do with Israel.” But the irrationality was not just your garden-variety left-wing distaste for Zionism. His Counterpunch website was denounced by Alan Dershowitz and others for promoting anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Cockburn’s sly comments about the “nasty stories about Jews sloshing around the press” helped publicize 9/11 truther lies while allowing him to profess his neutrality about the subject.

In Cockburn’s case, the Times’ obit did mention, at least in passing, his attempts to minimize Stalin’s mass murders as well as the fact that he was fired from the Village Voice for being paid by an anti-Israel group. But it left the discussion of anti-Semitism on the cutting room floor along with any mention of his heresy on global warming. The newspaper generally likes its dead leftist heroes untainted by accusations of anti-Semitism. But it’s clear they can’t tolerate any discussion of their deviations from the current orthodoxy on climate change.

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