Myron Ebell

Obama Speech to the UN

by Myron Ebell on September 22, 2009

President Barack Obama’s speech on global warming to the United Nations today is based on fantasy.  Here are some quotes from the speech followed by the reality.

“…[T]he threat from climate change is serious, it is urgent, and it is growing.”  Reality: global mean temperatures increased slightly from 1977 to 2000.  Temperatures have been flat since then.

“Rising sea levels threaten every coastline.”  Reality: sea levels have been rising on and off since the end of the last ice age 13,000 years ago.  The rate of sea level rise has not increased in recent decades over the nineteenth and twentieth century average.

“More powerful storms and floods threaten every continent.”  Reality: there is no upward global trend in storms or floods.

“More frequent drought and crop failures breed hunger and conflict in places where hunger and conflict already thrive.”  Reality: there is no upward global trend in major droughts.  Reversals in large-scale cycles have meant that the southward march of the Sahara Desert into the Sahel has been reversed in recent years and the Sahara is now shrinking.

“On shrinking islands, families are already being forced to flee their homes as climate refugees.”  Reality: some Pacific islanders may want to emigrate to New Zealand or Australia and are claiming that their islands are disappearing as the reason, but shrinkage has been minimal in recent decades because sea level rise has been minimal.

President Obama’s policy prescriptions are energy rationing and energy poverty disguised as growth and prosperity.  The emissions reductions that he promises the United States will make through cap-and-trade legislation are dead in the water in the U. S. Senate and would not survive a second vote in the U. S. House.  If enacted, cap-and-trade would consign the economy to perpetual stagnation and make the U. S. into a second-rate economic power.

His policy prescription for poor countries is to promise them massive “financial and technical assistance”.  The track record of paying off poor countries is that it has lined the pockets of corrupt leaders and bureaucracies with billions and tens of billions of dollars, but has done nothing to help those countries become prosperous.  What these countries need is free markets and abolishing barriers to trade.  The global warming policies advocated by the Obama Administration and the Democratic-controlled Congress would raise trade barriers and foster energy poverty throughout the world.  Energy rationing is not the way forward and is not a message of hope for the poorest people in the world, who lack access to electricity and modern transportation.

The Washington Post has discovered that poor people in poor countries need access to modern energy.  In an excellent article on today’s front page, Emily Wax details the energy poverty of Africa, India, and Pakistan.  And she draws the obvious conclusion that has evaded most of the establishment media for years: that’s why India and other developing countries aren’t going to sign on to any UN treaty that mandates reductions in their greenhouse gas emissions.  They don’t need an energy diet; they need thousands of coal-fired power plants.

Wax writes: “Just one in four Africans has access to grid electricity, according to the World Bank. More than 500 million Indians, roughly half the population, have no official access to electricity, and those who do are experiencing rolling brownouts as India’s Power Ministry tries to make up for a 25 percent shortfall in electricity generation. The developing world’s dearth of power hinders prosperity and adds another layer of difficulty to daily life.

“In much of Africa, families depend on generators, candles, kerosene lamps and firewood. Blackouts force shops to close early, schools to cancel classes and hospitals to turn away patients. Foreign investors become wary of parking their money in Africa, experts say.  ‘Big companies in Africa seem to get most of their electricity from generators, or they build their own power plants,’ said Thomas Pearmain, an Africa energy analyst for IHS Global Insight.”

Of course, environmental pressure groups say that poor countries need to avoid “our mistakes” and build a new energy economy using renewable sources and new technologies.  The problem is that most of these new sources provide a lot more sanctimonious self-satisfaction than energy.  I recently drove through upstate New York on a mild summer day.  I saw over seventy windmills in several groups along the way.  Not a single one was turning.  That’s because the wind doesn’t blow much in the summer (when demand is highest because of air conditioning).  In sub-tropical countries like India there isn’t much wind at any time of year.

I was interested to read an item in today’s Climate Wire about a new report by “a prominent Australian scientist.”  Andrew Macintosh of the Australian National University has “spent months modeling 45 different climate change scenarios” and concluded that the target recently agreed by leaders of G-8 nations to limit the global mean temperature increase to two degrees Centigrade could not be met with policies currently in place or being considered.

What caught my attention in this story was the description of Macintosh as a prominent climate scientist.  That’s how computer modelers are routinely described by the global warming alarmists, and the mainstream communications media routinely accept this description.  Climate modelers may have all sorts of qualifications and be absolutely brilliant at using computer models, but those qualifications do not necessarily include knowing much about climatology or meteorology or related fields, such as physics, oceanography, geology, chemistry, biology, etc.

Since I’d never heard of the prominent Professor Macintosh, I decided to look him up on the internet.  I was surprised to find that he’s not a computer modeler at all!  He’s a lawyer! And his position at ANU is Associate Director of the Centre for Climate Law and Policy.  He does have a diploma in environmental studies on top of his 1998 bachelor of commerce and law degree, but he won a prize for environmental law, so that’s probably what he concentrated on while earning his diploma in 2001.

That’s what it takes to be described as a prominent climate scientist if you’re on the alarmist side.  While rummaging around on the internet, I also found the transcript of an April 15 story broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.   The story starts by interviewing two climate skeptics, Professor Bob Carter, a geologist, and Professor Stewart Franks, an environmental engineer.  They told a parliamentary commission that the scientific evidence doesn’t support alarmism.  But then the reporter, Sabra Lane, was quick to point out that Carter and Franks aren’t climate scientists or even reputable scientists at all.

Sabra Lane: “Climate scientist Professor David Karoly says neither Professor Carter nor Franks is recognised as a reputable climate scientist.”  David Karoly: “Bob Carter and Stewart Franks are in fact in a minority of both scientists and climate scientists in Australia.  In fact neither of them is a climate scientist who publishes actively in the climate science literature.”  But here is the very next sentence of ABC’s news story.  Sabra Lane:  “And Professor Andrew Macintosh from the ANU’s Centre for Climate Law and Policy says the Government’s planned cuts to emissions of 5 to 15 per cent by 2020 aren’t enough.”  Having elevated Mr. Macintosh to the ranks of the professoriate, Correspondent Lane does not go on to question his qualifications.

I don’t mean to question Mr. Macintosh’s report.  I haven’t read it.  It may be first rate, although I hope that he is more cautious about the forecasting abilities of computer climate models (which are nil) than his newspaper quotes suggest.  My point is that prominent scientists with long publications records, such as Bob Carter, are routinely described by the media as not being climate scientists and really not reputable scientists at all if they aren’t on the alarmist bandwagon.  On the other hand, lawyers expressing alarmist views are described as prominent scientists.  And the scientists regularly put forward in the media as the world’s leading climate experts often turn out to be computer modelers with little or no background in climate science, Ph. D.s who spent their entire careers in administration, or astronomers who are experts on the atmosphere of Venus.

California here we come?

by Myron Ebell on May 21, 2009

in Blog

California’s voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected a series of tax increases that Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Democratic-controlled state legislature claimed were necessary to save the State from bankruptcy.  The voters have it right, as do the conservative Republicans in the legislature.  State Senate Republicans were so determined to oppose the tax increases that they kicked out their leader when he caved to pressure from the Governor and elected stalwart conservative Dennis Hollingsworth as their new leader.

California is in economic freefall largely as a result of spendthrift government spending, crushing taxes, and heavy-handed regulations that have raised the cost of energy and of doing business in California.   The whole sorry story is explained clearly and analyzed acutely in an op-ed in today’s Washington Times by Tom McClintock, a freshman Republican Member of the House of Representatives and a long-time Member of the California state legislature.  Rep. McClintock said in January that in his judgment it was inevitable that California would default on its debt.  Unless the state legislature suddenly reverses course, McClintock will soon be proved right.  California is facing bankruptcy.

There is an alternative: Governor Schwarzenegger comes to Washington and appears at a congressional hearing.  On one side of the Republican Governor will be House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and on the other side Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).  Schwarzenegger testifies that California is too important to fail and therefore must be bailed out.  After all, California is the model for the nation, especially in its energy and global warming policies (see a CEI paper by Tom Tanton on this subject).  That’s what Schwarzenegger, Pelosi, President Obama, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills), and Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) have been telling the country.  As McClintock writes,  “Congress is well under way toward imposing the same policies on the rest of the nation. California is just a little further down that road.”  Actually it’s not a road, it’s a cliff, and California has already jumped.

The Independent in London this week ran with the latest claim about sea level rise. Their headline illustrated perfectly how ridiculous predictions quickly transform into facts. The story was headlined, “Sea levels rising twice as fast as predicted.” The first sentence did not agree with the headline: “Sea levels are predicted to rise twice as fast as was forecast by the United Nations only two years ago….” That is, the soothsayers have read their chicken entrails again and decided that their previous divinations were not dire enough. This has nothing to do with actual sea level rise. For the past several years, sea level rise has been below the average rate of the twentieth century, which in total was about seven inches.

The House and the Senate held competing A-list hearings on global warming on Wednesday at 10AM. Testifying before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee was Dr. Rajendra K. Pachauri, the Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Testifying before the House Ways and Means Committee was Dr. James E. Hansen, whom the committee described as an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University’s Earth Institute. He is of course also Director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. I tried to watch both hearings on the internet and thereby undoubtedly missed a lot of good stuff as I switched back and forth. Interestingly, Pachauri, an economist and engineer, talked mostly about global warming science, while Hansen, an astronomer, talked mostly about economics. Pachauri was utterly dreary. Hansen was an interesting mix. He inveighed against cap-and-trade as an ineffective scam designed to pay off big business. He instead endorsed a stiff carbon tax with 100% of revenues rebated to consumers.

When asked by Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) about what would happen to North Dakota and its near-total reliance on brown coal for producing electricity, Hansen said that employment in the coal industry would go down, but that North Dakota had lots of potential for wind power and potentially for growing well-designed bio-fuels. He observed that these new industries might create more jobs than would be lost in the coal industry. That is true. One of the ways to create jobs is to make production and use of capital less efficient. For example, there would be tens of millions, probably even hundreds of millions, of new jobs in North Dakota and throughout rural America if mechanized agriculture were banned. Then the federal government could throw billions of dollars of taxpayer money into improving farming technology. Think of the breakthroughs that could be made with revolutionary new horse-drawn plows, etc.

The Republican witnesses—Professor William Happer at the Senate hearing and Professor John Christy at the House hearing—were articulate, intelligent, and scientifically accurate. Christy made a strong case against energy poverty. Naturally, most Senators and Representatives were unimpressed and unhappy with them.

Obama Scores Zero on Econ 101

by Myron Ebell on February 25, 2009

in Blog

In his first address to Congress, President Obama said that the “stimulus” legislation and other short-term economic policies were necessary to prevent a decade-long recession. He then went on to advocate energy and global warming policies that will foster a perpetual recession. First, he promised that federal funding and mandates will make the United States the world leader in renewable energy technologies. As an article that might have been published in the Onion but actually appeared in the Los Angeles Times last week noted, the only thing holding renewable energy technologies back is a number of necessary technological breakthroughs that will make them work. Apparently, our President is too young to have learnt that the federal government has been throwing taxpayer money at renewables since the 1970s.

The President then called on the Congress to send him cap-and-trade legislation that would make renewable energy profitable by raising the price of conventional energy produced from burning coal, oil, and natural gas. Yes, renewable energy will become profitable, many jobs will be created, and we’ll have to settle for a significantly lower standard of living as a result. The sad fact is that the new Administration has some highly-regarded establishment Democratic economists in it, but is for some reason pursuing economically illiterate and consequently disastrous policies.

While President Obama focuses on short-term economic recovery, he proposes long-term energy and global warming policies that will lead to economic decline. Federal subsidies for “green” jobs and mandates for renewable energy will raise energy prices and thereby suck money out of people’s pockets and jobs out of manufacturing.

But President Obama’s green jobs fantasy is only the beginning of the bad news he has in store for American consumers, workers, and taxpayers. He is also urging Congress to enact a cap-and-trade scheme to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Cap-and-trade is another name for energy rationing. It is a sneaky tax that will benefit some big business special interests by raising people’s electricity, gasoline, and heating bills through the roof. It should not be a surprise that many big corporate CEOs support President Obama’s energy rationing policies. They stand to make huge profits, so why should they care what sharply higher energy prices will do to working American families struggling to pay their bills?

Andrew Revkin of the New York Times has just posted a piece on Dot Earth that discusses a recent poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press that finds that global warming has dropped to the bottom of people’s concerns. Asked to rate their top priorities from a list of twenty issues, only 31% listed global warming as one of their top priorities. That’s down five percent from last year. The biggest drop was for protecting the environment, which dropped fifteen points to 41%. For comparison, the top concerns were the economy at 85%, jobs at 82, and terrorism at 76%.

That’s the background for trying to enact energy-rationing programs that can only work if they raise energy prices considerably. Perhaps Al Gore needs to raise more than the $300 million goal of his We can Solve It advertising campaign, which is designed to convince people that they agree with him that global warming is our most serious problem and demands immediate and radical action (such as replacing all the coal-fired power plants that supply half of America’s electricity within ten years). Although Mr. Gore has insisted that the American people already agree with him on global warming, this poll demonstrates that his mass media advertising campaign is going to be an uphill climb.