Thursday, January 24, 2013

Three Canards and the Truth

Bjorn Lomborg-himself by no means an anthropogenic global warming denier-finds fault with the science behind President Obama’s inauguration speech call to action on climate change. Climate-Change Misdirection:

In his second inaugural address on Monday, President Obama laudably promised to "respond to the threat of climate change." Unfortunately, when the president described the urgent nature of the threat—the "devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms"—the scary examples suggested that he is contemplating poor policies that don't point to any real, let alone smart, solutions. Global warming is a problem that needs fixing, but exaggeration doesn't help, and it often distracts us from simple, cheaper and smarter solutions.

For starters, let's address the three horsemen of the climate apocalypse that Mr. Obama mentioned.

Historical analysis of wildfires around the world shows that since 1950 their numbers have decreased globally by 15%. Estimates published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences show that even with global warming proceeding uninterrupted, the level of wildfires will continue to decline until around midcentury and won't resume on the level of 1950—the worst for fire—before the end of the century.

Claiming that droughts are a consequence of global warming is also wrong. The world has not seen a general increase in drought. A study published in Nature in November shows globally that "there has been little change in drought over the past 60 years." The U.N. Climate Panel in 2012 concluded: "Some regions of the world have experienced more intense and longer droughts, in particular in southern Europe and West Africa, but in some regions droughts have become less frequent, less intense, or shorter, for example, in central North America and northwestern Australia."

As for one of the favorites of alarmism, hurricanes in recent years don't indicate that storms are getting worse. Measured by total energy (Accumulated Cyclone Energy), hurricane activity is at a low not encountered since the 1970s. The U.S. is currently experiencing the longest absence of severe landfall hurricanes in over a century—the last Category 3 or stronger storm was Wilma, more than seven years ago.

While it is likely that we will see somewhat stronger (but fewer) storms as climate change continues, a March 2012 Nature study shows that the global damage cost from hurricanes will go to 0.02% of gross domestic product annually in 2100 from 0.04% today—a drop of 50%, despite global warming.


Hmmm…President Obama sounds like he might be part of the some who “may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science.”

Lomberg goes on to suggest that if we truly want to respond to the threat of climate change in a meaningful and impactful manner, we would be far better served by taking steps to ameliorate the potentially damaging impacts of a warming planet while working to develop new alternative energy sources that actually could possibly reduce or replace our use of fossil fuels. This recognizes the reality that our current alternative energy technologies are not the long term answer and until we come up with ones that are, we are going to continue to rely on carbon based sources to fulfill the vast majority of our energy needs.

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