Another view of ‘spurning science’ (A rebuttal to McKibben, Markowitz & Betts)

This piece was originally published in the Sunday Rutland Herald – Times Argus,   June 17, 2017)

by John McClaughry

Last Sunday readers of this paper were greeted with a hundred column inches of opinion from Bill McKibben, Deborah Markowitz and Alan Betts, bemoaning President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, thus “undercut(ting) our civilization’s chances of surviving global warming.” (McKibben).

This sermon from the climate pulpit requires a bit of balance.

1. “Twenty years of patient diplomacy produced the Paris accord … a high achievement of the diplomatic art” (McKibben). A more realistic assessment would be that, after the Copenhagen Conference of 2009 failed to get an agreement on binding carbon dioxide reduction quotas, the Obama administration pulled out all the stops to get an agreement — no matter how ineffectual — that could crown Obama’s eight years in office. The ultimate result of this “patient diplomacy” was an agreement whereby the developed nations agreed to squeeze $100 billion a year out of their taxpayers to pay off the Third World countries to make it look like they are joining in carbon dioxide reduction.

2. “We’ve watched the early disintegration of Antarctica’s great ice sheets.” (McKibben). But consider this, from NASA-GISS (Oct. 30, 2015): “A new NASA study says that an increase in Antarctic snow accumulation that began 10,000 years ago is currently adding enough ice to the continent to outweigh the increase losses from its thinning glaciers.” The NASA lead scientist was quoted as saying that the long crack in the Larsen C ice sheet was “probably just simply a natural event that’s just waiting around to happen” (The New York Times, Jan. 16, 2017).

3. “George W. Bush abandoned the 1997 Kyoto accord that was negotiated by the Clinton administration.” (Markowitz). Actually, it was William J. Clinton who abandoned the Kyoto protocol when the U.S. Senate, including Sens. Leahy and Jeffords, voted 95-0 for the Byrd-Hagel resolution (July, 25, 1997) telling Clinton not to even think about submitting that to the Senate.

4. “Drought, floods and wildfires are directly linked to the greenhouse gases we’ve poured into the atmosphere” (McKibben). Testifying before a House committee (March 29, 2017) Dr. Roger Pielke Jr., an internationally known IPCC scientist from the University of Colorado, told the committee: “There is little scientific basis in support of claims that extreme weather events — specifically, hurricanes, floods, drought, tornadoes and their economic damage — have increased in recent decades due to the emission of greenhouse gases. In fact, since 2013 the world and the United States have had a remarkable stretch of good fortune with respect to extreme weather, as compared to the past. The lack of evidence to support claims of increasing frequency or intensity of hurricanes, floods, drought or tornadoes on climate time scales is also supported by the most recent assessments of the IPCC and the broader peer-reviewed literature on which the IPCC is based.” (For such evidence-backed assessments, Dr. Pielke, who agrees that greenhouse gas emissions have an effect on climate, has been the target of frantic efforts of suppression and harassment by the climate change lobby.)

5. “China is shutting coal mines as fast is it can build wind turbines” (McKibben). It’s true that China is shutting down 103 outdated, inefficient and smog-producing coal plants, and reducing mining accordingly — not because of China’s concern about carbon dioxide emissions, but because its local governments, lacking any property tax base, raced to build coal plants to bring in revenues. The result is an oversupply of electricity and vast clouds of life-threatening smog. The idea that China is pushing wind turbines to replace the shuttered coal plants and mines is not supportable. China is racing ahead with 6.4 gigawatts of advanced nuclear plants to produce the baseload power inefficiently generated by the old coal plants.

6. All of the authors hail the Paris agreement as essential to staving off the expected (by them) global climate catastrophe. What effect would it actually have if every nation conscientiously agreed to cut back on carbon dioxide emissions as promised (fat chance)? Energy economist Bjorn Lomborg (a Dane not in the pay of the fossil fuel industry) estimated the reduction of global temperature that would be produced after 70 years of faithful compliance by all 195 countries, using all the Paris assumptions and promises. The result: one-sixth of one degree C. That is, instead of rising by 1 degree C by 2100, global temperatures would rise by 0.83 degree C. The Wall Street Journal reported (June 1, 2017) that even the Paris accord’s supporters concede that meagre prediction, which was also confirmed by a similar study by an MIT group. Lomborg also points out that “this invisible achievement would come at a staggering cost, somewhere between $1 trillion and $2 trillion a year.” Lomborg favors “aggressive research into low-emitting, cost-effective energy technologies, which is the only realistic way to reduce fossil fuel consumption.”

7. What does retired NASA-GISS climate scientist James Hansen, perhaps the most extreme doomsayer in the climatology community, the man whose testimony in 1988 sent Al Gore into global warming orbit, say of the Paris accord? “It’s a fraud really, a fake. … There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned” (Guardian, Dec. 20, 2015).

8. “The Obama Justice Department should launch an investigation of climate skeptics under the Racketeer Influenced Criminal Organization (RICO) Act” (Betts). Actually Betts, who identifies himself as “a leading climate scientist” much in demand by his neighbors for his help and guidance, didn’t say this in this paper, but he was one of 20 scientists to issue this public demand in September 2015. I confess it galls me to watch this self-important climate activist declaiming about “the integrity of science,” and in the same breath demanding that those who disagree with his version of climate science be put in jail.

As annoying, as narcissistic and as poorly informed as Trump often is, I concur with the Wall Street Journal editorial (June 1, 2017) that he did the right thing to withdraw us from this charade. It promised to cost Americans trillions of dollars, cripple our economy relative to our competitors, and if observed — which it would almost certainly not be — would at most produce a sixth of a degree less warming by 2100.

Now let’s move forward as James Hansen advises, by phasing out coal (for purely health and environmental reasons), in favor of next generation nuclear energy.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute. He has degrees in physics, nuclear engineering and political science.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Mary F Daly June 20, 2017 at 12:50 pm

Great article and I agree that nuclear energy is a good option.


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