Mr. Obama’s remarks at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy’s Commencement May 20 demonstrate the extent to which his advisors are keeping him divorced from the facts.
The bulk of his speech was devoted to what is now becoming more and more obviously a non-problem: “the challenge … that, perhaps more than any other, will shape your entire careers – and that’s the urgent need to combat and adapt to climate change.”
Some facts. In the 11 years 2004-2014, the rate of global warming taken as the mean of the three terrestrial datasets was one-twentieth of a degree. The ARGO ocean dataset shows warming of one-fortieth of a degree. The mean of the two satellite datasets shows no warming at all. Subject to formidable uncertainties, the ARGO database gives perhaps the best guide to the underlying warming rate. None of these real-world measurements is the stuff of what Mr Obama called “a peril that can affect generations”.
Next: “Climate change is real”. Well, yes. So is the M31 galaxy.
The question is whether it’s a threat. On the evidence to date, the answer is No for global warming, and Yes for M31, which already occupies ~ 3 degrees of arc in the sky, making it bigger than the moon (but it won’t hit us for 4 billion years or so – much like manmade global warming at the present rate). [UPDATE: recent findings show the ‘halo’ of the galaxy to be even larger]
Next: “Our analysts in the intelligence community know climate change is happening. Our military leaders — generals and admirals, active duty and retired — know it’s happening. Our homeland security professionals know it’s happening. And our Coast Guard knows it’s happening.” Me too! Me too! The question is how fast it’s happening (not very), and how much it is to do with us (not much) and whether it will get worse (no) and whether it will be cheaper to act today than to act tomorrow (a unanimous No from almost every economist who has written a peer-reviewed paper on the subject, and even from the IPCC).
Next: “The planet is getting warmer: 14 of the 15 hottest years on record have been in the past 15 years.” No. 14 of the 15 hottest years since 1850 have been in the past 15 years. So what? The “n out of n+1 years were the hottest evaaah” is how babies do statistical trends. Yes, the planet is getting warmer, but at a glacial and unthreatening rate. The medieval (1400 AD), Roman (300 BC), Minoan (1400 BC), Old Kingdom (2250 BC) and Holocene (4000-8000 BC) warm periods were all warmer than today. Yet here we all are.
Next: “Our scientists at NASA just reported that some of the sea ice around Antarctica is breaking up even faster than expected. Not exactly surprising, given that at present it has reached the greatest extent for the time of year observed in the 35-year satellite era. Why did Mr Obama not mention that (or any) fact, by way of balance?
Next: “The world’s glaciers are melting, pouring new water into the ocean. Over the past century, the world sea level rose by about eight inches. That was in the last century; by the end of this century, it’s projected to rise another one to four feet.” Actually, most of the world’s glaciers are in Greenland and Antarctica. There are 160,000 of them. Most of them have never been visited, measured, or monitored by Man. And the rate of sea level rise according to tide gauges shows little acceleration compared with the past 150 years. The laser-altimetry satellites, the only ones that purport to show accelerating sea-level rise, have inter-calibration errors that exceed the sea-level rise they purport to measure. The GRACE satellites showed sea level falling from 2003-2008 and only showed an increase when an entirely artificial “glacial isostatic adjustment” was added to make the results conform. The Envisat satellite, during its eight years in operation from 2004-2012, showed sea level rising at a rate equivalent to just 1.3 inches per century. And why would we expect more, given the fact that the sea is barely warming?
Mr Obama talked of climate change as “the most severe threat” that “will impact every country on the planet … a serious threat to global security, an immediate risk to our national security. And, make no mistake, it will impact how our military defends our country. And so we need to act – and we need to act now.” No, we don’t. The evidence just isn’t there.
Then we get the “D” word: “Denying it, or refusing to deal with it, endangers our national security. It undermines the readiness of our forces.” No, it doesn’t. The mean rate of warming on the terrestrial datasets since 1979 is 0.14 degrees. On the satellite datasets, 0.11 degrees. In the oceans, we don’t know: the measurement method that immediately preceded the ARGO network, the XBT network, showed ocean cooling and had to be adjusted to make it fit the story-line. Same with the ARGO network, which originally showed cooling and had to be adjusted. Even then, it only shows warming at a rate equivalent to a quarter of a degree per century.
These adjustments to the sea temperature records, like just about every other adjustment ever made to the terrestrial or ocean networks, have always been in an ever-upward direction. The probability that so many measurements on so many different systems over so long as a century (for the terrestrial records) and a third of that (for the satellite records) and a third of that (for the ARGO record) would all have erroneously understated global warming is as near nil as makes no difference.
Next: “Confronting climate change is now a key pillar of American global leadership. When I meet with leaders around the world, it’s often at the top of our agenda – a core element of our diplomacy.” So much more congenial than dealing with real problems, like the murder of Christians in Muslim war zones, the trafficking of children by the million to compensate for the distorting effects of the one-child policy in China, the subsidies by Russia to anti-fracking groups in Europe to keep the gas price artificially high, the stupefying expansion of the U.S. national debt under Mr Obama, the failure of the U.S. Coastguard and border farce to control her own borders, the abandonment of millions of poor people to substandard health care thanks to “Obamacare”, the exaggerations about the supposed “threat” of climate change …
Next: “The effects of climate change are so clearly upon us. It will shape how every one of our services plan, operate, train, equip, and protect their infrastructure, their capabilities, today and for the long term.” No, it won’t: not once one foreign-born occupant of the White House is replaced by another less scientifically illiterate.
Next: “Rising seas are already swallowing low-lying lands, from Bangladesh to Pacific islands, forcing people from their homes. Caribbean islands and Central American coasts are vulnerable, as well.” No, on all counts. In Bangladesh a site survey by Professor Nils-Axel Mörner showed that the only loss of sea shore was caused by erosion after the natives grubbed up mangrove trees to make way for shrimp farms. Sea level was actually falling there. Surveys of Pacific islands show no sea-level rise for long periods – in the Maldives, none for 1500 years. Corals, after all, grow to match sea-level rise.
Next: “Globally, we could see a rise in climate change refugees.” In 2005 the U.N. said there would be 50 million climate refugees by 2010. When there weren’t, a Professor Christina Tirado said in 2011 it would happen by 2020. It won’t. Betcha.
Next: “More intense droughts will exacerbate shortages of water and food, increase competition for resources, and create the potential for mass migrations and new tensions. All of which is why the Pentagon calls climate change a threat multiplier.” Hao et al. (2014), publishing the most comprehensive survey of global land area under drought, found that there had been little change over the past 30 years, and the change had been in the direction of less land suffering drought.
Next: “Severe drought helped to create the instability in Nigeria that was exploited by the terrorist group Boko Haram.” But the IPCC, in its special report of 2012 on extreme weather, and in its 2013 Fifth Assessment Report, says one cannot yet ascribe such individual events to global warming. And that is particularly true given that the area of the globe under drought is in decline.
Next: “It’s now believed that drought and crop failures and high food prices helped fuel the early unrest in Syria, which descended into civil war in the heart of the Middle East.” Same applies. There’s no evidence that particular droughts are attributable to climate change, particularly when the incidence and prevalence of drought are both somewhat declining worldwide. And the doubling of world food prices in recent years was chiefly attributable to taking millions of acres out of growing food for people who need it and using them to grow biofuels for clunkers that don’t.
Next: “Around the world, climate change will mean more extreme storms.” No, it won’t. Extreme storms are caused not by “more energy in the system because of climate change”, but by temperature differentials between adjacent regions of the climate system. Those temperature differentials will decline if and when global warming resumes, certainly reducing extra-tropical storminess and arguably reducing it in the tropics too. No surprise then, that the Accumulated Cyclone Energy Index has shown the combined frequency, intensity, and duration of hurricanes and other tropical cyclones to have been at or near the lowest level in the satellite era over the past five years; there have now been seven or eight years without a major hurricane making landfall in the U.S., the longest hurricane deficit in more than a century; and even the IPCC admits that there has been no particular increase either in tropical or in extra-tropical storminess to date.
Next: “No single weather event can be blamed solely on climate change. But [blaming a single event on climate change] Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines gave us a possible glimpse of things to come – one of the worst cyclones ever recorded.” The weather, like the cricket, will keep setting new records regardless of whether the world is getting gently warmer, gently cooler or not changing at all. Besides, we know that Haiyan and other recent extreme-weather events, such as Sandy, were not caused by “global warming”, for the good and sufficient reason that for more than 18 years there has been little (terrestrial datasets), a smidgen (ocean datasets) or none at all (satellite datasets). That which has hardly happened is far less likely to have caused Haiyan or Sandy than the natural and mathematically-chaotic variability of the climate.
Next: “Climate change means Arctic sea ice is vanishing faster than ever. By the middle of this century, Arctic summers could be essentially ice free.” Not that again. Al Gore said in Bali in 2007 that the Arctic would be ice-free by 2013. Nope. The accident-prone Vicky Pope (what is it with Popes and climate change?) of the accident-prone Wet Office said in 2009 that all the Arctic ice would be gone by 2014. Double Nope. So now it will all be gone by 2050. Any advance on 2050, anyone?
Next: “Climate change, and especially rising seas, is a threat to our homeland security, our economic infrastructure, the safety and health of the American people. Already, today, in Miami and Charleston, streets now flood at high tide. Along our coasts, thousands of miles of highways and roads, railways, energy facilities are all vulnerable. It’s estimated that a further increase in sea level of just one foot by the end of this century could cost our nation $200 billion.” But that’s not much more than the previous century’s established, pre-global-warming rate of sea-level rise. And has no one told Mr Obama of the tectonic subsidence of the South-East coast of the United States?
Next: “In New York Harbor, the sea level is already a foot higher than a century ago – which was one of the reasons Superstorm Sandy put so much of lower Manhattan underwater.” Now, given that sea level rose 8 inches globally in the last century, following a long-established rate of rise, there were bound to be some places, depending on local tectonic displacements, among many other factors, that would see a little more sea-level rise than others. So what? Sandy was not caused by climate change in any event: it was an unusual confluence of three storms from different directions in exactly the wrong place. And Sandy would have done just as much damage had sea level been a foot lower.
Next: “Around Norfolk, high tides and storms increasingly flood parts of our Navy base and an airbase.” Regional subsidence again. On only one measure – the poorly inter-calibrated laser-altimetry satellite series – has there been any “acceleration” in the rate of sea-level rise, and even that modest “acceleration”, suspiciously, occurred precisely in the very year when the satellite altimetry record commenced, suggesting that it was not a real change but an artefact of the altered method of measurement. As noted earlier, the GRACE gravitational-anomaly satellites only show rapid sea-level rise after the addition of a monstrous and unreal “glacial isostatic adjustment”, which was introduced at the very moment when even the official sea-level record was about to dip below 3 mm a year.
Next: “In Alaska, thawing permafrost is damaging military facilities.” And is reopening to agriculture lands not cultivated since the Middle Ages. What’s bad about that? Besides, there was more thawing in the 1920s and 1930s than today. Was that caused by manmade global warming? No.
Next: “Out West, deeper droughts and longer wildfires could threaten training areas our troops depend on.” And that, like so much of Mr Obama’s speech, is a manifestly inappropriate argument from the particular to the general – the fallacy of converse accident, or argumentum a dicto secundum quid ad dictum simpliciter, as the medieval schoolmen called it – that Aristotle excoriated as one of the commonest among the untutored and sophistical 2350 years ago. Globally, the land area under drought has been declining gently throughout the satellite era. In that context, blaming a regional drought on global warming is unsound.
Next: “Helping American communities prepare to deal with the impacts of climate change: we have to help our bases and ports, as well. Not just with stronger seawalls and natural barriers, but with smarter, more resilient infrastructure – because when the seas rise and storms come, we all have to be ready.” According to Professor Mörner, who has written more papers about sea-level than anyone alive, during a career spanning half a century, sea level will rise this century by 5 ±15 cm – that’s 2 ±6 inches. Not much wall-building needed, then.
Next: “It can be just as important, if not more important, to prevent threats before they can cause catastrophic harm. And [the] only way – the only way – the world is going to prevent the worst effects of climate change is to slow down the warming of the planet.” Which begs the question: What is the ideal global mean surface temperature? Is it the temperature of the Little Ice Age (a couple of degrees below today, when people died of famine because the summers were too cold)? Or is it the temperature of the beginning of the 20th century? Or today’s temperature? Or several degrees warmer than today? Without even addressing that question, there is simply no scientific basis for taking any action on global warming. Another question: Is it cheaper to mitigate today than to adapt the day after tomorrow? The IPCC concedes that adaptation is cheaper than mitigation. So why mitigate, even if the supposed problem is as big as the IPCC profits by having us believe? Mitigation is not the rational economic choice: therefore, the cost of that incorrect choice will fall, as the cost of all such inappropriate economic choices inevitably falls, disproportionately on the poorest.
Next: “Some warming is now inevitable.” And that is just about the only statement about climate change in the entire speech that is more likely than not to be objectively true. But Mr Obama spoils the moment by adding: “But there comes a point when the worst effects will be irreversible. And time is running out.” Well, no, it isn’t running out. Our position is no worse than it was 18 years 5 months ago, because there has been no global warming for that long. The rational economic choice, given CO2 concentration rising to levels unprecedented in 810,000 years, and yet to the nearest tenth of one per cent there is no CO2 in the air at all and far less warming than predicted is occurring, is to wait and see. Indeed, since it ought to be obvious that a few degrees of cooling would be far more destructive to life on Earth than a few degrees of warming, it would make more sense to prepare for the former, which might otherwise cause real harm, than to prepare for the latter, which is now unlikely to happen and would not cause either widespread or sudden harm if it did.
Next: “The world has to finally start reducing its carbon emissions – now. And that’s why I’ve committed the United States to leading the world on this challenge.” There’s no need for any such action. CO2 – not that Mr Obama would ever mention this fact – is plant food. More of it would increase the net primary productivity of all trees and plants, which has grown by 2% per decade in recent decades, thanks to our sins of emission. Yet, even with all the extra CO2 in the air, global temperature is hardly changing. That is why the IPCC has all but halved its medium-term global warming predictions. Rationally, it should have all but halved the long-term predictions too: but that would make it clear to all that there is no manmade climate problem. We are a bit-part player.
Next: “We’re using more clean energy than ever before – more solar, more wind. It’s all helped us reduce our carbon emissions more than any other advanced nation. And today, we can be proud that our carbon pollution is near its lowest levels in almost two decades. But we’ve got to do more.” Wrong on every count. Solar energy fries birds and bats by the million. Wind energy swats them out of the sky. That’s not clean: it’s cruel, and the so-called “environmental” movement looks the other way and cheers as it banks its checks and the birds fall dying at its feet. The cost of so-called “renewables” is an order of magnitude greater than real power, and in most conditions “renewables” cause more CO2 emission than if one generated the power with fossil fuels. Also, real power works all year round. Solar power has been proven not to work at all well at night. Wind power doesn’t work when the wind is blowing too little or too much, which is three-quarters of the time. The poor are the sufferers, for electric power and gasoline are poll taxes. Rich corporations and landowners are the gainers. Strange that the “Democrats” are the ruthless capitalists now, and have no time or care for the poor. And CO2 is not “carbon pollution”. It’s a naturally-occurring trace gas essential to all life on Earth, and trees and plants would be up to 40% more productive, and more drought-resistant, if we could double its concentration. Let us hear no more of “carbon pollution”. Besides, it’s “carbon dioxide”, not “carbon”.
Next: “We have to move ahead with standards to cut the amount of carbon pollution in our power plants.” That childish Al Gore neologism, “carbon pollution”, again. This is not presidential language: it’s baby talk. And no, we don’t “have to move ahead” with any such “standards”. The correct policy would be to abolish the EPA. It is too powerful, too self-serving, too costly, too ambitious for more power, too totalitarian, too anti-scientific, and too partisan.
Next: “Working with other nations, we have to achieve a strong global agreement this year to start reducing the total global emission – because every nation must do its part. Every nation.” This is a reference to the establishment of an unelected, global “governing body” (a.k.a. government) and its associated bureaucracies, including an “international climate court”, at Paris this December. But Mr Obama, at a meeting in Peking in December 2014, unilaterally exempted China from “doing its part”. China decided in its 2000 five-year plan that it would build one or two new coal-fired power stations a [week] from then till at least 2030. By 2003 the first stations came on stream and China’s emissions began rising fast. By 2007 China overtook the U.S. as the world’s largest emitter. Now, just a decade later, China emits twice as much as the U.S., and accounts for half of all coal combusted globally. In another few years, China will emit 40% of the world’s CO2: she is already at 30%.
Next: “The Air Force F-22 broke the sound barrier using biofuels. And the Navy runs an entire carrier strike group – the Green Fleet – with biofuels.” Just one problem with that. As the U.N.’s right-to-food rapporteur, Herr Jean Ziegler, said a few years back, “The diversion of food to biofuels is a crime against humanity.” Why? Because millions of acres that once grew food are now growing inefficient biofuels. The consequence is a net addition to global CO2 emissions, vitiating the original purpose of biofuels. But the still worse consequence is the resultant doubling of world food prices. Yet again, it is the poor who have been hardest hit. Who knows how many millions have died of starvation because – in Haiti, for instance, – even the price of the mud pies made with real mud on which the very poorest subsisted has doubled?
Next: “Our Marines have deployed to Afghanistan with portable solar panels, lightening their load and reducing dangerous resupply missions. So fighting climate change and using energy wisely also makes our forces more nimble and more ready.” The use of portable solar panels by the military has nothing whatever to do with climate change and makes no detectable contribution to reducing it. Besides, the CO2 emissions in the manufacture and installation of solar panels exceed the saving during their short lifespans – typically just five years in the military, and 10-15 years in civilian use.
What is breathtaking about this serially inaccurate and prejudiced speech is that practically every factoid uttered by Mr Obama was either flat out untrue or in need of the heaviest qualification. That the supposed “leader” of the free world should have allowed himself to be so ill informed, and to breach the iron convention that the supreme commander of the United States’ Armed Forces does not, repeat not, preach partisan politics to them, is a measure of how far he has fallen below the necessary minimum standard of political conduct and scientific knowledge and honesty of exposition expected of the occupier of his office. If this speech was the very best that the narrow faction promoting the extremist line on global warming could muster for their mouthpiece, then the skeptics have won the scientific, the economic, the rational, and the moral arguments – and have won them hands down