July 2009

Ben Lieberman, an energy policy scholar at the Heritage Fondation, testified yesterday before the House and Senate Western Caucus, on the economic impact of the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act, a cap-and-trade energy tax that passed through the House of Representatives on June 26th.

Here’s a sobering excerpt:

“Overall, Waxman-Markey reduces gross domestic product by an average of $393 billion dollars annually between 2012 and 2035, and cumulatively by $9.4 trillion dollars.  In other words, the nation will be $9.4 trillion dollars poorer with Waxman-Markey than without it.”

To read the full testimony, click here.

CEI Director of Energy and Global Warming Policy, Myron Ebell, has been ranked number three on Business Insider’s “The 10 Most Respected Global Warming Skeptics.”  See an excerpt below.

Myron Ebell may be enemy #1 to the current climate change community. Ebell works for the free-market thinktank Competitive Enterprise Institute and, according to his own bio, has been called a climate “criminal” and a leading pusher of misleading ideas.

California’s largest utility wants to continue a greenhouse gas mitigation program that almost no one supports, the San Francisco Chronicle reports:

A Pacific Gas and Electric Co. program that asks customers to fight global warming by paying a little extra on their electricity bills has enrolled just 31,000 people and takes far more money to run than it generates.

Now PG&E wants to extend the ClimateSmart program, even as consumer watchdogs question whether it’s worth the money….

Launched with great fanfare in 2007, ClimateSmart gives PG&E customers a way to go “carbon neutral.”

People who sign up for the program pay a monthly fee – usually less than $3 – to offset greenhouse gas emissions from the power plants that supply their electricity. Most of the money funds forestry projects that pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere….

But so far, only 31,000 PG&E customers have joined. That’s 0.6 percent of the utility’s 5.1 million customers, far fewer than expected. The California Public Utilities Commission, which approved the creation of ClimateSmart, predicted that 3.3 percent of PG&E customers would sign up.

Looks like the geniuses are still in charge at both PG&E and in California state government.

The John Locke Foundation‘s Michael Sanera today discusses one of his favorite shows — “This Old House” — which he explains has “gone green.” He relates that while often the always-wealthy eco-homeowner loves to show off his alt-energy gadgets and conservation innovations, the price tag is often downplayed — or not even mentioned. A recent episode illustrated this:

The proud homeowner, Alan Worden, showed Kevin (O’Connor, the TOH host) his off-the-grid power plant. First, they stopped at the 28-panel, 4,000-volt photovoltaic solar array that cost $22,000. Even Kevin, not bashful about his green advocacy, noted that since it was a cloudy day, the solar array must not be producing much power. Alan, in a slightly embarrassed tone, responded that the output was less than one-third of its potential output, but no problem, he had a wind turbine on the other side of the house. I could almost hear the viewers gasp when the camera focused on Alan’s $25,000, 5-kilowatt, vertical-axis wind turbine. By the way, the turbine was not turning. Kevin seemed to snicker when he saw it and remarked that it probably put out a lot of energy in the usually high coastal wind conditions.

No sun, no wind, no electricity, no problem. When Alan does have sun and wind, he explained, he sends the power to his battery storage facility. Off they went to the garage-size shed that housed several large columns of batteries. By this time, Alan was too embarrassed to mention the price.

The green, rich, and famous never worry about costs; discussion of money is so tawdry,” Michael writes. Same goes when they try to impose their extreme environmentalist values on the rest of us.

Is global warming making hurricanes more destructive? Did global warming contribute to the devastation of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina? Would Kyoto-style energy rationing help avert future weather-related catastrophes?

Well, just ask Al Gore! In An Inconvenient Truth, Gore claims there’s a “strong new emerging consensus” that global warming is increasing the duration and intensity of hurricanes (AIT, p. 81), he depicts New Orleans as a global warming victim (pp. 94-95), and the threat of increasingly powerful storms is a major part of the alleged “climate crisis” that Gore proposes to solve by restricting our access to carbon-based energy.

Gore’s message is not subtle. The movie poster for An Inconvenient Truth shows a hurricane spinning out of the smokestack of a coal-fired power plant.


As noted in previous posts, I am blogging on excerpts from CEI’s film, Policy Peril: Why Global Warming Policies Are More Dangerous Than Global Warming Itself. Our film (DVD, actually) provides skeptical perspectives on Gore’s “science” and “solutions.”

Today’s excerpt is on hurricanes. To watch it, click here. There’s more in Policy Peril on hurricanes, so if you want to pick up the thread where this snippet leaves off, fast foreward to about 7 minutes and 30 seconds into the film, which you can access here.

The indented section immediately below presents the text of today’s video excerpt, along with the charts appearing in the clip, and links to the supporting scientific papers:

Narrator: What about hurricanes? Gore says there is a “strong new emerging consensus” that global warming is increasing the intensity and duration of major tropical cyclones [hurricanes].

Dr. Patrick Michaels (Cato Institute): I can find a whole bunch of papers that say yes, a bunch that say no, a bunch of papers that say, “I don’t know.”

Narrator: Here’s a study Al Gore will never cite. Phil Klotzbach of Colorado State University measured changes in hurricane strength in the world’s six major hurricane basins from 1986 to 2005. There’s an increase in the North Atlantic, a decrease in the Northeast Pacific, and not much change anywhere else.


To persuade us that hurricanes are becoming stronger, Gore reports that economic damages from hurricanes increased dramatically in recent decades. He shows this on a graph similar to this one.


Figure description: U.S. hurricane damages, 1900-2005, not adusted for changes in population, wealth, and the consumer price index. Source: Pielke, Jr. et al. 2008. Normalized hurricane damages in the United States: 1900-2005. Natural Hazards Review Volume 9, Issue 1, pp. 29-42. 

But the graph is misleading. Consider this fact, more people today live in just two Florida counties, Dade and Broward, than lived in all 109 coastal counties from Texas to Virginia in 1930. There’s tons more stuff in harm’s way than there used to be. No wonder damages are bigger!

Dr. Michaels:  If you take a look at hurricane damages and adjust for population levels, for property values–things you have to adjust for–for inflation, you find there is no significant increase in the damage rate. In fact, the 1926 Florida Hurricane is the record holder by farby I believe about $50 billion more damage than Katrina in today’s dollars. So, there’s just no link here.


Figure description: U.S. hurricane damages, 1900-2005, if all hurricane strikes had hit the same locations but with today’s population, wealth, and consumer price index. Source: Pielke, Jr. et al. 2008.

A study on hurricane damages in China comes to the same conclusion as did the Pielke team. From 1983 to 2006, the researchers found no long-term trend in economic losses due to hurricanes once changes in population, the consumer price index, and, most importantly, GDP are taken into account. See the figure below.


Source: Zhang, Q. et al. 2009. Tropical cyclone damages in China 1983-2006. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, April 2009.

Let’s take a closer look at some of Dr. Michaels’s statements.

Michaels (Pat to his friends) says he can find a “bunch of papers” on all sides of the debate on the possible influence of global warming on hurricanes–the point being that Al Gore’s “strong new emerging consensus” does not in fact exist. 

Pat, his research associate Paul C. Knappenberger, and Dr. Robert Davis of the University of Virginia provide a partial list of “skeptical” references on pp. 33-34 of their comment on EPA’s Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking: Regulating Greenhouse Gases under the Clean Air Act (ANPR). I reproduce that list below, plus other studies of skeptical bent, provide links to the scientific papers (or their abstracts) along with pertinent graphic materials, and summarize key finding in bold italics. I also include links to Web-based commentary by Dr. Michaels or the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change.

Key papers affirming the existence of a trend towards stronger hurricanes include:

  • Emanuel, K. 2005. Increasing destructiveness of tropical cyclones over the past 30 years. Nature 436: 686-688. Hurricane strength, a combination of wind speed and duration, which Emanuel calls the “power dissipation index,” increased by 50% since the mid-1970s, and is highly correlated with sea-surface temperature.
  • Webster, P. et al. 2005. Changes in Tropical cyclone number, duration, and intensity in a warming environment. Science 309: 1844-1846. The number and percentage of major (Category 4 & 5) hurricanes increased from 1970 to 2004.
  • Trenberth, K.E. et al. 2007. Observations: Surface and Atmospheric Change [chapter 3 of Climate Change  2007: The Physical Science Basis. Working Group I Report, Fourth Assessment Report, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change]. The intensity of tropical cyclones has increased since 1970.

Papers disputing the global existence and/or magnitude of a trend towards stronger hurricanes include:

  • Landsea, C.W. et al. 2005. Hurricanes and global warming. Nature 438: E11-13. Emanuel mishandled data and his methodology is flawed.
  • Landsea, C.W. et al. 2006. Can we detect trends in extreme tropical cyclones. Science 313: 452-454. The apparent trend towards more powerful hurricanes is a consequence of improved monitoring in recent years of non-landfalling hurricanes. [For Pat Michaels’s review, click here.]
  • Klotzbach, P.J. 2006. Trends in global tropical cyclone activity over the past twenty years (1986-2005). Geophysical Research Letters 33 doi: 10.1029/2006GL025881. From 1986 to 2005, there was an increase in hurricane strength (”accumulated cyclone energy”) in the North Atlantic, a decrease in the Northeast Pacific, and not much change in the other four hurricane basins. [For Pat Michaels’s review, click here.]
  • Swanson, K.L. 2007.  Impact of scaling behavior on tropical cyclone intensities. Geophysical Research Letters 34 doi: 10.1029/2007GL030851. There is no statistically significant correlation between sea surface temperatures and average tropical cyclone intensity in either the Atlantic or western Pacific Ocean from 1950 to 2005. [For Pat Michaels’s review, click here.]

In their comment on EPA’s ANPR, Michaels, Knappenberger, and Davis also list other papers that “do not draw as close a linkage between anthropogenic climate changes and increasing hurricane frequency and/or intensity” as the IPCC purports to find in the scientific literature. Studies of this stripe include:

  • Briggs, W.M. 2008. On the changes in the number and intensity of North Atlantic tropical cyclones. Journal of Climate 21: 1387-1402. There is “almost no evidence that distributional mean of individual storm intensity, measured by storm days, track length, or individual storm power dissipation index, has changed (increased or decreased) through time.” [For Pat Michaels’s review, click here.]
  • Knutson, T.R. et al. 2008 . Simulated reduction in Atlantic hurricane frequency under twenty-first century warming conditions. Nature Geosciences doi:10.1038/ngeo202. Global warming will decrease Atlantic hurricane frequency by so much more than it will increase average hurricane strength that cumulative Atlantic hurricane power in the 21st Century will decrease by 25%.
  • Wang, C. & Lee, S.K. 2008. Global warming and United States landfalling hurricanes. Geophysical Research Letters 35(1): L02708. Warming of the Atlantic Ocean is associated with an increase in vertical wind shear, which in turn coincides with a “weak but robust” downward trend in U.S. landfalling hurricanes. See the figure below. [For Pat Michael’s review, click here.]


Figure description: Number of U.S. landfalling hurricanes from 1851 to 2006 (red bars), the black straight line is the long-term trend, the blue line is the seven-year running mean (from Wang & Lee 2008). 

  • Kossin, J.P. & Vimont, D.J. 2007. A more general framework for understanding  Atlantic hurricane variability and trends. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 88(11): 1767-1781. A large part of the variability of Atlantic hurricane intensity, duration, and frequency can be explained by interannual and multidecadal shifts in a natural oscillation known as the Atlantic Meriodonal Mode (AMM). [For Pat Michaels’s review, click here.]
  • Landsea, C.W. 2007. Counting Atlantic tropical cyclones back to 1900. EOS: Transactions of the American Geophysical Union 88. Improved monitoring in recent years is responsible for most, if not all, of the observed trend in increasing frequency of tropical cyclones.
  • Latif, M., Keenlyside, N., & Bader, J. 2007. Tropical sea surface temperature, vertical wind shear, and hurricane development. Geophysical Research Letters 34(1) L01710. From 1870 to 2003, there is no sustained long-term trend in Atlantic hurricane activity; a key variable controlling wind shear and, thus, Atlantic hurricane strength is the warmth of the topical North Atlantic relative to the warmth of the tropical Indian and Pacific Oceans. [For a review by the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, click here.]
  • Nyberg, J. et al.  2007. Low hurricane activity in the 1970s and 1980s compared to the past 270 years. Nature 447(7145): 698-701. The average frequency of North Atlantic hurricanes decreased gradually from the 1760s until the early 1990s, reaching anomalously low values during the 1970s and 1980s. The period of enhanced activity since 1995 is not unusual compared to other periods of high hurricane activity “and thus appears to represent a recovery to normal hurricane activity rather than a direct response to sea surface temperature.” [For Pat Michaels’s review, click here.]
  • Vecchi, G.A. & Soden, B.J. 2007a. Increased tropical Atlantic wind shear in model projections of global warming. Geophysical Research Letters 34: 1029/2006GL028905. A suite of state-of-the-art climate model experiments project “substantial” increases in tropical Atlantic and East Pacific wind shear over the 21st Century–changes “comparable to or larger than” model-projected changes in other factors affecting hurricanes; hence, the models “do not suggest a strong anthropogenic increase” in hurricane activity in those basins. [For a review by the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, click here.]
  • Vecchi, G.A. & Soden, B.J. 2007b. Effect of remote sea surface temperature change on potential tropical cyclone intensity. Nature 450(7172): 1066-1070. Changes in hurricane intensity due to natural climate variations (such as the warming of one ocean basin relative to another) “may be larger than the response to the more uniform patterns of greenhouse-gas-induced warming.” [For a review by the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, click here.]
  • Vecchi, G.A., Swanson, K.L, and Soden, B.J. 2008. Whither Hurricane Activity? Science 322: 687-689. Science is currently unable to decide, due to insufficient data, which factor chiefly controls Atlantic hurricane intensity–the absolute sea surface temperature (SST) of the basin’s main development region, or the region’s SST relative to other tropical ocean basins. If absolute SST is the key factor, then global warming should increase Atlantic hurricane activity. If relative SST is the key factor, then the future should exhibit “little long term trend” in hurricane intensity. [For Pat Michaels’s review, click here; for a review by the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, click here.]
  • Besonen, M.R. et al. 2008. A 1000-year, annually resolved record of hurricane activity from Boston, Massachusetts. Geophysical Research Letters 35, L14705, doi: 1029/2008GL039950. Analysis of sediment cores from Lower Mystic Lake shows “centenniel-scale variations in  frequency [of category 2-3 hurricanes in the Boston area] over the past millennium . . . with a period of increased activity between the 12th-16th centuries and decreased activity during the 11th and 17th-19th centuries.” In other words, there is considerable natural variability on centenniel scales, and Boston got hit with hurricanes long before the “greenhouse” era of SUVs and coal-fired power plants. [For Pat Michaels’s review, click here.]
  • Mock, C.J. 2008. Tropical cyclone variations in Louisiana, U.S.A., since the late 18th century. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 9, Q05Vo2, doi: 10.1029/2007GC001846. “Parts of the early and mid-19th century exhibit greater tropical cyclone and hurricane activity [in Lousiana] than at any time within the last few hundred years.” Indeed, “If a higher frequency of major hurricanes occurred in the near future in a similar manner as the early 1800s or in single years such as in 1812, 1831, and 1860, it would have devastating consequences for New Orleans, perhaps equalling or exceeding the impacts such as in hurricane Katrina in 2005.” In short, there is no long-term trend in hurricanes in the vicinity of New Orleans, as the figure below shows. [For Pat Michaels’s review, click here; for a review by the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, click here.]


Figure description: Upper graph shows number of Louisiana tropical cyclones along with centered 10-year running sums; lower graph shows number of Lousiana hurricanes along with centered 10-year running sums. Green dots show major hurricanes.

  • Chenoweth, M. and D. Devine. 2008. A document-based 318-year record of tropical cyclones in the Lesser Antilles, 1690-2007. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems 9, Q08013, doi: 10.1029, 2008GC002066. Newspaper accounts, ship logbooks, meteorological journals, and other documents were used to create a new database on hurricane intensity in the islands that wrap around the eastern end and southern fringe of the Caribbean sea. Applying a new methodology, the researchers found no evidence that hurricane activity is increasing over three centuries of recorded events. [For Pat Michaels’s review, click here.]
  • Klotzbach, P.J. and W.M. Gray. 2008. Multidecadal variability in North Atlantic tropical cyclone activity. Journal of Climate 21, 3929-3935. From 1878 to the present, the ups and downs of hurricane activity in the North Atlantic show “remarkable agreement” with changes in the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), which shifts back and forth between  positive (warm) and negative (cool) phases. See figure below. [For Pat Michaels’s review, click here.]


Figure description:  Annually averaged Atlantic basin hurricanes (H), hurricane days (HD), major hurricanes (MH), and major hurricane days (MHD) for the top 20 AMO years (blue bars) and bottom 20 AMO years (red bars).

  • Kuleshov, Y. et al. 2008. On tropical cyclone activity in the Southern Hemisphere: Trends and the ENSO connection. Geophysical Research Letters 35, L14508, doi: 10.1029/2007GL032983. For the 1981/82 to 2005/2006 hurricane seasons, there are no apparent trends in the total numbers and cyclone days in the Southern Hemisphere (South Indian Ocean and South Pacific Ocean. [For Pat Michaels’s review, click here.]
  • Chan, J.C.L. 2007. Decadal variations of intense typhoon occurrence in the western North Pacific. Proceedings of the Royal Society. A, 464: 249-272. From 1960 to 2005, the number of category 4 and 5 hurricanes in the North Pacific undergo a strong multidecadal (16-32 years) variation, largely due to El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), but exhibit no long-term trend. ”Thus, at least for the WNP (western North Pacific], it is not possible to conclude that these variations in intense typhoon activity are attributable to the effect of global warming.” [For Pat Michael’s review, click here; for a review by the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, click here.]
  • Englehart, P.J. et al. 2008. Defining the frequency of near-shore tropical cyclone activity in the eastern North Pacific from historical surface observations (1921-2005). Geophysical Research Letters 35, L03706, doi: 10.1029/2007GL032546. Long-term tropical cyclone frequency off the Pacific coast of Mexico exhibits a significant “negative” trend. See the figure below. [For Pat Michaels’s review, click here.]


Figure description: Hurricane frequency off the Pacific coast of Mexico (from Englehart 2008)

To wrap up, no consensus has been reached about the possible influence of global warming on hurricanes. Consider this joint statement by 120 members of the World Meteorological Organization:

The possibility that greenhouse gas induced global warming may have already caused a substantial increase in some tropical cyclone indices has been raised (e.g., Mann and Emanuel, 2006), but no consensus has been reached at this time.

A considerable body of science, ably reviewed by Dr. Michaels, the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, and the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, indicates that natural multi-decadal climate oscillations are now and will remain the dominant driver of Atlantic hurricane behavior in the 21st Century.

Some final thoughts. First, Gore’s prophesy of an era of increasingly more violent and/or frequent hurricanes no longer seems as plausible as it did in the aftermath of Katrina and Rita and the active hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005.

Ryan Maue, a Ph.D. candidate in Florida State University’s Department of Meteorology, in eye-popping charts of accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) in the Northern hemisphere and globally, shows that we have entered a period that might be described as a “hurricane depression.” ACE in the Northern hemisphere is now at its lowest level in 30 years:


Figure description: May-June-July ACE, 1970 – 2009. The three month ACE for 2009 is the second lowest since 1970.

Globally, tropical cyclone energy is also near record lows over the past 50 years.


Second, even if global warming does make hurricanes stronger, that would not be a valid reason to pursue Kyoto-style energy rationing. As Bjorn Lomborg points out, carbon suppression policies would have no measurable effect on hurricane behavior for many decades (if ever), yet would cumulatively cost trillions of dollars. The possible influence of global warming on hurricanes is simply one more reason to undertake proven, cost-effective measures such as improving building codes, evacuation routes, early warning systems, and emergency response capabilities. Indeed, it is another reason, as Kerry Emanuel, Peter Webster, and eight other leading hurricane experts affirm in a joint statement, for governments to stop subsidizing development in high-risk areas.

Finally, the best hurricane protection strategy for developing countries is economic growth. In 1955, a Category 5 hurricane called Janet slammed into Chetumal, on Mexico’s Yucatan Penninsula, killing 600 people. On August 21, 2007, another Category 5, Hurricane Dean, hit the same spot and killed no one. It may be the first time in history when a Category 5 hit a populated area and everyone survived. What changed between 1955 and 2007? Not the weather. The big difference, Dr. Michaels observes, is that Mexico today is much wealthier than it was in the 1950s. Storm warning information is now widely available, there are better roads for evacuation, and emergency response programs are better funded. Unfortunately, Al Gore’s agenda to reduce global CO2 emissions 50% by 2050 can succeed only if poor countries accept emission limitations that stifle their economic development–a topic we’ll discuss later in this series.

Finally, New Orleans was not a global warming victim, as Gore insinuates. Katrina was the worst natural disaster in U.S. history not because of any extra power the storm allegedly got from global warming (Katrina was only a Category 1 hurricane by the time it hit New Orleans), but because the federal government failed to construct adequate flood defenses for a city built below sea level in a known hurricane corridor. My colleague, John Berlau, chronicles this sad tale in his 2006 book, Eco-Freaks.

Thanks to a regulatory assault by the Obama administration, the coal industry’s very existence is now in doubt. On the demand side, the EPA is trying to use the Clean Air Act to squeeze coal out of the energy business (to learn more, click here). On the supply side, Obama’s EPA wants to use the Clean Water Act to close coal mines.

It’s unprecedented-never before has the government acted so forcefully to destroy an American industry this large. All so Obama can placate the global warming alarmists for whom coal is evil.

Yesterday, my colleague Myron Ebell spoke at the 2009 Coal Summit in Bluefield Virginia. More than 150 representatives from businesses all along the coal supply chain were there, and their spirit in the face of adversity was heartening. There is no quit among Appalachian coal miners-they are determined to fight.

To read more about the coal summit, here’s a write up on the event from the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.

When Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth (AIT), came out in 2006, I expected to see some hard-hitting criticism by scientists of Gore’s unfounded alarmism and by economists of his blithe disregard of the human suffering that energy rationing (cap-and-trade) and mandatory reliance on costly and under-performing renewable energy would inflict on low-income households and poor countries. However, with a few notable exceptions, Gore’s film got mostly rave reviews, earned an Academy Award, and later helped bag him the Nobel Prize.

Because few specialists in the science and economics fields took Gore to task, I jumped into the breach. At first, I thought I could write an adequate expose of Gore’s errors and exaggerations in about 20 pages. But as I dug into the book version of AIT, I found that nearly all of Gore’s assertions about climate change and climate policy were either one-sided, misleading, exaggerated, speculative, or just plain wrong. My critique-published by CEI in March 2007 under the title Al Gore’s Science Fiction: A Skeptic’s Guide to An Inconvenient Truth [1]-grew to 150 pages.

I gave several talks based on this research, including an hour-long presentation on C-SPAN [2]and a minute and fifteen seconds of fame on the Oprah Winfrey Show [3],* along with several video shorts [4]produced by CEI.

Conversations with friends and colleagues persuaded me, though, that the best strategy was to fight fire with fire-produce our own “documentary” about global warming.

We teamed up with Jared Lapidus, a talented young New York-based filmmaker. Jared and I interviewed over 20 experts during 2008 and early 2009. The result is a film titled Policy Peril: Why Global Warming Policies Are More Dangerous Than Global Warming Itself. To view the film, click here [1].

Policy Peril reviews the science to assess whether global warming is the “planetary emergency” Al Gore claims it is. We take a critical look at what Gore and other alarmist claim regarding heat waves, global temperature forecasts, air pollution, malaria, hurricanes, ice sheet disintegration, sea level rise, and the paradoxical scenario in which global warming causes a new ice age. We conclude that global warming is not a catastrophe in the making. There is no climate “crisis.”

We then review the human costs-the health and safety risks as well as adverse impacts on jobs and growth-of Al Gore’s proposed “solutions”: carbon taxes, cap-and-trade, fuel economy standards, bans on new coal-fired power plants, mandates to “repower America” with renewable energy, and carbon tariffs.

The film concludes that these policies have potentially devastating impacts on human welfare, especially to the extent they are exported to developing countries-which they must be if the world is to reduce global emissions 50% by 2050, as Gore and others advocate.

Finally, the film examines alternative strategies to enhance human well-being in a warming world. It concludes that “focused adaptation”-solving with proven methods existing health and environmental problems that global warming might aggravate (such as malaria and hunger)-would save far more lives at less cost than Kyoto-style energy rationing schemes. Moreover, the best climate protection strategy for the world is free trade and economic growth.

Over the next two weeks, I’ll be posting one excerpt from the film a day along with comments and links to newer information that has since come out. The global warming debate is very far from “over.” In fact, the scientific, economic, and moral case against Kyoto-style energy rationing keeps getting stronger.

I look forward to your comments on the film, the individual segments, and the supporting materials.

– Marlo Lewis, Senior Fellow, Competitive Enterprise Institute

[1] Al Gore’s Science Fiction: A Skeptic’s Guide to An Inconvenient Truth: http://ceiondemand.org/2009/07/17/policy-peril-the-truth-about-global-warming/

[2] C-SPAN : http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/ciencia/ciencia_climatechange04.htm

[3] Oprah Winfrey Show: http://www.oprah.com/slideshow/oprahshow/oprahshow1_ss_20061205/12

[4] video shorts : http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=askepticsguide

[5] last word : http://www.oprah.com/slideshow/oprahshow/oprahshow1_ss_20061205/13

[6] Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXw17pIuL0w

EDIT: Links to the individual segments.

Part 1 — Heat Waves

Part 2 — Air Polution

Part 3–Hurricanes

Part 4–Sea Level Rise

Last Friday, I launched a blog series on CEI’s film, Policy Peril: Why Global Warming Policies Are More Dangerous Than Global Warming Itself.  The film is our antidote to Al Gore’s Scare-U-Mentary, An Inconvenient Truth. The blog series highlights 10 short segments of the film, one each day this week and next.

Yesterday’s blog was on the hype about heat waves–the claim that people will drop like flies from heat stress in U.S. cities unless urgent action is taken to cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

Today’s segment rebuts a related scare–the claim that global warming will sicken and kill thousands of us by increasing air pollution. Click here if you want to watch Policy Peril in its entirety. Click here to watch the segment on air pollution.

Here’s the text:

Narrator: But maybe the heat will get us by creating more air pollution. That’s what the Natural Resources Defense Council, or NRDC, said in a report titled Heat Advisory. It sounds plausible because smog forms when emissions of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds bake in the heat of the Sun. However, the NRDC report is fundamentally flawed.

Joel Schwartz (American Enterprise Institute): NRDC uses emissions from 1996 to “predict” ozone levels, smog levels, in the 2050s. So we’re already below the emissions of 1996, and emissions continue to drop because of fleet turnover to cleaner vehicles, because power plants are getting cleaner. And most of those emissions are going to be gone even in about 20 years. And in the 2050s there’s going to be hardly any pollution in the air. But NRDC assumes we’re going to have 1996 emissions levels in 2050.

Narrator: Like heat-related mortality, air pollution levels have fallen as cities have warmed. U.S. air quality should keep improving regardless of climate change.


NRDC’s Heat Advisory report (September 2007) claims that, under a likely global warming scenario, the number of “bad air” days” (days when ozone levels exceed the 8-hour health-based air quality standard set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) would increase by as much as 155% in some of the 10 cities studied. NRDC further states that, “by mid-century, people living in 50 cities in the eastern United States would see a 68 percent (5.5 day) increase in the average number of days exceeding the health-based 8-hour ozone standard established by EPA.” This means the number of unhealthy (”Red Alert”) days would “double.”

Joel Schwartz masterfully debunked Heat Advisory in two columns published in National Review. In the first column (September 14, 2007), Joel showed that NRDC used 1996 emissions to “predict” ozone levels in the 2050s and 2080s, even though “actual emissions of ozone-forming pollutants are already more than 25% lower than they were in 1996 and will drop another 70%-80%  in just the next 20 years, based on already-adopted and implemented federal requirements.”

Could this be an innocent mistake? Does NRDC not know that laws and regulations already on the books have cut emissions since 1996 and will keep on doing so for decades to come? No way.

As Joel documents, in press release after press release, NRDC enthusiastically applauds various new EPA rules that will dramatically reduce smog-forming emissions from automobiles, diesel trucks, off-road diesel engines, diesel fuel, and power plants.

“Most egregious of all,” Joel comments, “the NRDC report was authored by prominent university and government climate and public health scientists.” These seemingly non-political researchers (Joel names names) lent “the color of their scientific credentials and government and university affiliations” to NRDC’s effort to mislead the public.

Joel also cites a more realistic appraisal of global warming’s impact on air quality–an article in the Journal of Geophysical Research by researchers from NESCAUM (Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management) and Georgia Tech. These analysts project that, from the year 2000 to 2050, “The combined effect of climate change and emissions reductions lead to a 20% decrease (regionally varying from -11% to -28%) in the mean summer maximum daily 8-hour ozone levels over the United States.” They also project a 23% decrease in mean annual fine particulate (PM2.5) concentrations. Joel comments that these estimates are conservative, because “pollutant emissions and ambient levels are dropping much faster than they assume in their study (a fact which I show here). 

The decline in polluting emissions, despite increases in urban summer air temperatures, is quite dramatic, as Joel illustrates in the figures below.


Figure description: Trends in Estimated U.S. Air Pollutant Emissions, 1970-2006. Data Source: U.S. EPA, Air Quality and Emissions – Progress Continues in 2006.


The same story of dramatic progress in reducing emissions “continues in 2008,” as EPA tells us on its Web site.

Percent Change in Emissions

                                                        1980 vs 2008           1990 vs 2008

Carbon Monoxide                              -56                                 -46

Lead                                                     -97                                 -60

Nitrogen Oxides                                -40                                 -35

Volatile Organic Compounds         -47                                 -31

PM 10                                                   -68                                 -38

PM 2.5                                                   NA                                -57

Sulfur Dioxide                                     -56                                 -50

Source: EPA, Emission Trends, http://www.epa.gov/airtrends/aqtrends.html#comparison

Dan Lashof, director of NRDC’s Climate Center, tried to rebut Joel’s critique. He did not challenge Joel’s central points–emissions are already well below 1996 levels, current policies ensure emissions will continue to drop, and, therefore, air quality predictions assuming that 1996 emissions will persist into the 2050s and beyond are completely unrealistic. Instead, Lashof argued that Heat Advisory presents “projections,” not “predictions,” and that the researchers had to use emissions data from an actual year, such as 1996, because “there are no reliable estimates of [ozone] precursor emissions extending to the mid-21st Century.” Moreover, holding emission levels constant is the only way to isolate the effect of global warming on ozone concentrations.

In the second of his National Review columns (September 26, 2007), Joel rips these lame excuses to shreds. He cites several statements in Heat Advisory and the accompanying press release in which NRDC clearly presents its findings as predictions of what will happen in a warming world.

Joel also pokes fun at Lashof’s excuse that NRDC had to use 1996 emissions because who the heck knows what emissions will be 50 years from now. This is emphatically not what NRDC says about the CO2 emissions that allegedly control our climate destiny. Can you even imagine NRDC saying that climate models must use 1996 CO2 emissions to estimate CO2 concentrations in 2050 or 2080 because mid-century estimates of CO2 emissions are uncertain? Joel comments:

Climate activists have no problem trying to force the people of the world to spend trillions of dollars for CO2 reductions based on the presumption that climate models are accurate. But when it comes to ozone, NRDC pleads uncertainty and then chooses increases in future ozone-forming emissions that are grossly at odds with any plausible future scenario. If anything, the statement that “there are no reliable estimates … extending to the mid-21st Century” is far more applicable to greenhouse gas emissions and climate models’ predictive skill than it is for smog-forming emissions.

What about the claim that researchers must hold smog-precursor emissions constant to isolate the global warming impact on future ozone concentrations? EPA offers the same rationale on p. 78 of the Technical Support Document (TSD) for its proposed finding that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health and welfare (EPA’s official response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, 2007). However, the only accurate way to isolate the “global warming effect” on ozone concentrations would be to compare ozone levels in warming and non-warming scenarios based on plausible projections of precursor emissions in the 2020s, 2050s, and 2080s.

Again, EPA would not pay any attention to climate change scenarios that assume 1996 or even 2009 CO2 emissions in 2020, 2050, 0r 2080. So why put any credence in “studies” that assume 1996 ozone precursor emissions in perpetuity even though today’s emissions are already significantly below 1996 emissions? By the 2050s and 2080s, the “global warming effect,” if any, on ozone formation, will likely be negligible. The real point of holding emissions constant is not to isolate a warming effect, but to scare the public.

Those interested in additional information should find the following items useful. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce provides an excellent literature summary on global warming and air pollution in its detailed review of EPA’s endangerment proposal and TSD. Joel Schwartz’s book, No Way Back, explains why air pollution will continue to decline in the decades ahead. Finally, Joel presents his critique of the warming-will-destroy-air-quality scare in this video from the Heartland Institute’s first annual International Conference on Climate Change.

As announced last Friday, each day this week and next I’ll post an excerpt of CEI’s film Policy Peril: Why Global Warming Policies Are More Dangerous Than Global Warming Itself. The film is our antidote to Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth . If you want to watch Policy Peril in its entirety, click here.

Today’s segment is on heat waves. Gore and others claim that global warming will make heat waves more frequent and severe, leading to a massive increase in heat-related mortality. Click here to watch the Policy Peril segment on heat waves.

Here’s the text:

Narrator: We often hear that global warming will increase the frequency and severity of heat waves. People will drop like flies! Sounds plausible, doesn’t it? But wait a minute. Summer air temperatures in U.S. Cities have been rising over the past three decades, in part because cities generate heat islands, which expand as cities grow. Yet heat-related mortality has gone down.

Dr. Patrick Michaels (Cato Institute): Bob Davis and I did some work at UVA [University of Virginia] on heat-related mortality, and published it in the refereed literature, showing that the more frequent heat waves are, the fewer people die. That’s because they adapt. And in the average American city–the average of all American cities–heat-related mortality is going down, significantly, not up.  In fact, in the cities in the southern United States–Phoenix, which has a very old population, Tampa–there’s hardly any heat-related mortality at all.

Narrator: As long as politicians don’t make electricity so costly that low-income households can’t afford to run their air conditioners, heat-related death rates should continue to decline, even in a warming world.


In An Inconvenient Truth (p. 75 of the book version), Gore states, “We have already begun to see the kinds of heat waves that scientists say will become more common if global warming is not addressed. In the summer of 2003 Europe was hit by a massive heat wave that killed 35,000 people.”

Gore implies that global warming killed 35,000 people. Yet heat waves have occurred in Europe (and elsewhere) from time immemorial. How does Gore know that global warming caused the 2003 heat wave? Or, if global warming was a contributing factor, how does Gore know how much extra oomph the 2003 heat wave got from global climate change?

In fact, it is impossible to link any single heat wave or other extreme weather event to global climate change.

However, if global warming were responsible for the 2003 Europe heat wave, we would at least expect that, globally, the summer of 2003 would have been a hot one. In fact, the 2003 summer was about average or slightly cooler than average compared to the previous 23 summers.

During June, July and August of 2003, more than half the planet was cooler than the mean temperature of the period from 1979 through 2003. Europe–a tiny fraction of the Earth’s surface–was the only place experiencing unusual heat. See the Figure below.


Figure description: 1000-500 mb thickness temperature anomalies for June, July, and August 2003. Colors (violet to red) indicate standard deviations below, at, and above the mean summer temperature for 1979-2003. Sources: Chase et al., 2006, World Climate Report

There is a simpler, natural explantion for Europe’s hot summer: An atmospheric circulation anomaly trapped a bubble of hot dry air over Europe for several weeks. Here is what the United Nations Environment Program–hardly a bunch of global warming skeptics–had to say:

This extreme weather was caused by an anti-cyclone [high pressure system] firmly anchored over the Western European land mass holding back the rain-bearing depressions that usually enter the continent from the Atlantic Ocean. This situation was exceptional in the extended length of time (over 20 days) during which it conveyed very hot dry air from south of the Mediterranean.

Chase et al. (2006), a team of scientists from Colorado and France, found nothing “unusual” about the 2003 Europe heat wave that would indicate a change in global climate conditions. Among their conclusions: 

  • Extreme warm anomalies equally, or more unusual, than the 2003 heat wave occur regularly.
  • Extreme cold anomalies in the summer months also occur regularly and occasionally exceed the magnitude of the 2003 warm anomaly in standard deviations from the mean.
  • Natural variability in the form of El Nino and volcanic eruptions appear to be of much greater importance in causing extreme regional temperature anomalies than a simple upward trend in time.
  • Regression analyses do not provide strong support for the idea that regional heat waves are increasing with time.  

The death toll in the Europe 2003 summer heat wave was shockingly high–but part of the blame falls on Europe’s historic distaste for air conditioning and the fact that many able-bodied Europeans go on vacation in August, leaving the elderly and infirm to fend for themselves.

Dr. Patrick Michaels, the expert I interviewed for the Policy Peril segment on heat waves, points out that a heat wave of similar magnitude hit France (the epicenter of the 2003 heat wave) in 2006, yet the death toll was about 2,000 people–almost 4,400 less than the standard weather-mortality model would predict. The reason, Michaels argues, is that the 2003 heat wave taught the French a big fat lesson about air conditioning and spurred public and private action to make people safer:

In response to the tragegy of 2003, the French government implemented the National Heat Wave Plan that included a “set-up of a system of real-time surveillance of health data, compilation of scientific recommendations on the prevention and treatment of heat-related diseases, air conditioning equipment for hospital and retirement homes, drawing up of emergency plans for retirement homes, city-scale censuses of the isolated and vulnerable, visits to those people during the alert periods, and set up of a warming system.” In other words, France adapted to the heat wave by providing information to the population at-large and air conditioning to the most vulnerable. No doubt people were also personally more aware of the dangers of summer heat in 2006 than they were three years earlier.

In the United States, heat-related mortality has been going down, decade by decade, even as urban summer air temperatures have increased.


Figure explanation: Population-adjusted heat-related mortality for 28 maor cities across the United States. Each bar of the histogram for each city represents a different 10-year period. The left bar represents heat-related mortality in the 1960s/70s, the middle bar represents the 1980s, and the right bar is the 1990s. No bar at all (in cities like Phoenix and Tampa) means no statistically significant heat-related mortality during the decade. Source: Davis et al. (2003), Changing heat-related mortality in the United States.

 There is no reason not to expect these trends to continue. Think about it this way. Adaptation is what human beings by nature do. There are very few Eden-like spots on Earth where people can survive and thrive without housing, clothing, and agriculture–all forms of adaptation. In free societies especially, people constantly adapt (innovate, experiment, modify private behavior and public policy) to improve their health, safety, and comfort.

If global warming makes more U.S. cities more like Phoenix or Tampa, we can reasonably anticipate that more cities will have heat-mortality rates like Phoenix and Tampa–practically zero!

For a useful overview of the scientific literature, see the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s comment on EPA’s proposed endangerment finding. The Chamber draws the common-sense conclusion: “Overall, there is strong evidence that populations can acclimatize to warmer climates via a range of behavioral, physiological, and technological adaptations” (p. 4).

Air conditioning is one of the great health-enhancing, life-saving technologies of the modern world. Air conditioners run on electricity. What we really have to worry about, especially in a warming world, is that politicians will adopt energy policies–actually, anti-energy policies–that force low-income households to turn off their air conditioners in hot weather.

The cap-and-trade bill Congress is now debating, the Waxman-Markey bill, named for its co-sponsors Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Ed Markey (D-MA), would function as a massive energy tax, driving up the cost of gasoline, heating oil, and electricity. A study by the Heritage Foundation finds that Waxman-Markey would increase annual household electricity costs by $468. At the same time, many household incomes would decline as GDP drops by up to $300 billion per year. Similarly, Charles River Associates, in a study for the U.S. Black Chamber of Commerce, estimates that Waxman-Markey would increase electricity prices while decreasing average household purchasing power by $730 in 2015, $800 in 2020, and $830 in 2030. This is a recipe for sickness and death.

It’s just one reason our film is subtitled, “Why Global Warming Policies Are More Dangerous Than Global Warming Itself.”

CNN notes that there are “5 freedoms you’d lose in health care reform” as promoted by the Obama Administration: the freedom to choose your doctors, the freedom to choose what’s in your plan, the freedom to keep your existing plan, the freedom to be rewarded for healthy living, and the freedom to choose high-deductible coverage.

Earlier, we described how Obama’s health-care plan would destroy many affordable health-care plans, raise taxes on the middle class, and break Obama’s campaign promises, as well as his recent pledge that “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it.”

As CNN notes, “the Obama platform would mandate extremely full, expensive, and highly subsidized coverage — including a lot of benefits people would never pay for with their own money — but deliver it through a highly restrictive, HMO-style plan that will determine what care and tests you can and can’t have.” “If you prize choosing your own cardiologist or urologist under your company’s Preferred Provider Organization plan (PPO), if your employer rewards your non-smoking, healthy lifestyle with reduced premiums, if you love the bargain Health Savings Account (HSA) that insures you just for the essentials, or if you simply take comfort in the freedom to spend your own money for a policy that covers the newest drugs and diagnostic tests — you may be shocked to learn that you could lose all of those good things under the rules proposed in the two bills” that Congressional leaders have drafted to implement Obama’s plan.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants to rush the health-care bill through Congress before most people can even figure out what’s in the bill. That’s how she pushed through Congress the $800 billion stimulus package, which contained hidden provisions that ended welfare reform, and which is now projected to cut the size of the economy “in the long run.” (The stimulus package was supposed to deliver a short-run “jolt” that would quickly lift the economy, but unemployment rose rapidly after its passage, and the package has actually destroyed thousands of jobs in America’s export sector, as well as subsidizing welfare and waste.)

The bill may be rewritten at the last moment to provide more giveaways to special interests, like the huge cap-and-trade energy tax that Pelosi recently strong-armed through the House. (As Obama once noted, his version of that tax would make people’s electric bills “skyrocket.”) The energy tax was pushed through before the text of the bill even became available. The bill was over 1090 pages long and contained special interest giveaways to a legion of big corporations and their lobbyists. At the last minute, 300 more pages were added to the bill that few in Congress had even read, and had to be manually inserted into the existing 1000 pages after the bill was passed, based on guesses about where those pages would fit in. Thus, the bill did not even really exist at the time it was passed.

These tax increases are part of a long line of broken promises, such as Obama’s pledge to enact a “net spending cut,” which he flouted with proposed budgets that will explode the national debt through $9.3 trillion in massively increased deficit spending.

Obamacare would also apparently restrict resources for end-of-life care for the elderly, and mandate wasteful end-of-life counseling for the elderly (such as lecturing them about the right to hasten their own death by refusing nutrition).

Earlier, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office gave an honest but “devastating assessment” of the incredibly high cost of the health-care plans backed by Obama, which would cost well over a trillion dollars, to cover just a fraction of the uninsured.

Obama is angry about that truthful conclusion, as well as the CBO’s finding that his wasteful stimulus package will actually reduce the size of the economy “in the long run.” (Obama had claimed that only his stimulus package could save America from “disaster” and “irreversible decline“).

So Obama recently invited CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf, a “Democratic appointee,” to the White House to pressure him to reduce his cost estimates.

It is doubtful that Obamacare would live up to any of Obama’s claims. His other legislation hasn’t. His stimulus package has been a fiasco, as much of the public now realizes: just 25% say it has helped the economy.

And his cap-and-trade energy tax, if passed by the Senate, would cost the economy trillions, while doing little to cut greenhouse gas emissions, since it contains so many special interest giveaways and environmentally-destructive provisions like protections for ethanol subsidies, which harm the environment, destroy forests, and cause world hunger. Meanwhile, Obama has undermined nuclear energy, which reduces greenhouse gas emissions, by wastefully blocking use of the Yucca Mountain nuclear-waste disposal site after billions of dollars in taxpayer money had already been spent creating it.