Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series on climate change, featuring an exclusive interview with Patrick Michaels, climatologist and Senior Fellow in Environment and Energy at Competitive Enterprise Institute. In part one, Michaels explained why the Green New Deal would likely reduce the global temperature by only … about 1/1400 of one degree Celsius.
Could it be that those who are increasingly alarmed not by climate change, but the hysteria surrounding it, are picking the wrong fight, or engaging in the wrong argument?
Given the emotion-driven, religious nature of the climate change subculture within the broader social justice movement, it has proven futile to assert that the climate is not actually changing. It is always changing, and the left has proven that statistics (lies, damn lies, statistics) can always be unearthed to back up almost any assertion, even their hysterical end-of-the-world predictions, or the viability of the Green New Deal.
Instead, even if one stipulates that every bit of what the purveyors of doom are saying is correct, it will prove far more effective to center the debate on man’s ability to actually do anything about it.
Indeed, in the first part of this series, respected climatologist Pat Michaels delivered a startling conclusion based on study of all available evidence: For all the great excitement among climate extremists for an undiluted, full-strength Green New Deal to transform, or bankrupt, the economy – and even if the GND was adopted by every nation in the world – it would reduce the temperature of the planet by – wait for it – about 1/1400 of one degree Celsius.
Unlike most climate scientists, you see, Michaels is not dependent on federal funding and the associated requirement to help shut down all dissent by parroting the talking point that climate change science is “settled.” He is free to conduct a full range of scientific inquiry, not limited to dubious computer models for what will happen 80 years out – when we can hardly predict the weather next week.
And then, there’s the matter of whether global warming is all bad.
Tim: Let’s turn the question around, Pat. Are there any benefits to a planet that’s warming as opposed to cooling or stable?
Pat Michaels: Well, that’s a question that’s a turnaround in the economic literature for quite some time, and my understanding of all this is that a modest warming isn’t that bad according to these economic models, up to about two degrees Celsius or so. That’s because we can see some of the things we’re doing already via satellite data. The planet’s much greener than it was when we started measuring planetary greenness in the late 1970s from satellite. The areas that are growing the most are getting the greenest, or the areas that everybody was so scared about, which happen to be the tropical rainforests of Africa, South America and East Asia, so that’s good news.
This was all initially written up in a paper which appeared in Nature Magazine in 2016, and they found that almost 80% of the global greening was a result of the direct fertilization effect of carbon dioxide that we’re putting in the air. Another small percent was nitrogen deposition. That also comes from stuff that we put in the air via agriculture and land use change, and it turns out that human activity is responsible for around 90% of the planetary greening.
Tim: Ninety percent? So if you take it all away and you make, let’s say, the whole planet, net zero carbon emissions, what would happen?
Pat Michaels: It would not change the climate immediately. You’d stay on the trajectories that you were on for some time because there’s a large thermal inertia in the oceans, so there would still be an effect there, but eventually the temperature would probably revert to what it was, say in the middle of the 20th century, which would be about a half to six tenths of a degree lower than it is today. I don’t know, I don’t think people would think that’s an optimal climate. The fact of the matter is that with discretionary income, people tend to move to warmer places. They do not buy vacation homes in Greenland.
It turns out the UN has 32 families of climate models, and the average warming predicted in the upper troposphere, so around 30,000 feet or so, that is being observed is seven times less than what has been predicted by those computer models. And of those 32 models, there is one that gets the three-dimensional changes in the tropical troposphere correct. Please call the special counsel because it’s the Russian model. And not only does the Russian model get it right, the Russian model has less warming than all of the others.
Usually best scientific practice, say in weather forecasting for a given forecast problem, maybe there’s a possibility of a snowstorm on the east coast or something, that tends to be a pretty tricky forecast. Forecasters don’t take up, say all the eight global weather forecasting models there are and average them up and say, “Ah, that’s the forecast.” No, they look to see which model or models might be working really well given this type of situation or given the recent weather, and they’ll use that model or the ones that seem to be working the best, if there is more than one. So the best practice for climate forecasting would be to use the Russian model.
Tim: If the only way to save the planet right now relied on Russia, I think the left would definitely let the planet go, but that’s just me. So, Pat, has that infamous hockey stick graph that was hocked by Al Gore after he lost the 2000 presidential election and pretty much started the hysteria, has that hockey stick graph stood the test of time and authenticity?
Pat Michaels: Depends on who you ask. It depends upon what data you look at. I mean, if you ask the proponents of it, it’s just fine and dandy. If you ask someone of a more cynical bent, a guy by the name of Steve McIntyre, who’s a Canadian mathematician, he will make the argument that the hockey stick is an artifact of the methodology used to create it. And there’s other very disturbing evidence about recent temperatures that I’m going to let you in on. I don’t think, I don’t think that people who are going to hear this or read this are aware of it, but in response to legitimate scientific discussion, in the year 2005 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration put out a new network of temperature sensors across the United States that didn’t have problems with sighting, meaning there were no buildings next to them.
There was no pavement nearby. The shelter equipment was all the same. The instrumentation is all the same, it’s called the reference climate network, but we now have about 14+ years of reference climate network temperatures over the United States and they show not a lick of warming. This is very disturbing because the climate record that’s used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other organizations and other people around the world over the United States during that period had 6300th’s of a degree Fahrenheit per decade warming in it, so the pristine network gives you nothing. The altered network with lots of quality problems gives you six tenths of a degree per decade. Which would you use?
Tim: Now, the left seems unable to claim victory on anything when the preferred alternative is to keep crying that the sky is falling, but when we look at air pollution, water pollution and yes, carbon emissions, have we not made an awful lot of progress over the last quarter to half a century?
Pat Michaels: Well, certainly. We certainly have cleaned up a lot of the air problems in the United States, in Europe. That’s certainly not happening in China. It’s certainly not happening in Africa, and it was our increasing affluence that gave us the ability to enforce environmental protection. With regard to carbon dioxide emissions, of all the industrialized nations on earth since 2005, the United States has cut its emissions more than any other country. Did you hear that? We’ve cut our emissions more than any other country.
That’s why we don’t need the Paris Accord – it’s just a paper tiger. It allows the Chinese to continue to increase their emissions. They say that they will try to hold them constant around the year 2030. Well, that’s not them doing a damn thing. Economists have known for a long time and predicted for a long time, government economists, United States government economists, that the Chinese economy was going to mature in the late 2020s and so their emissions were probably going to slow down and eventually become constant.
So they’re not doing anything that they weren’t going to be doing anyway. The United States is reducing its emissions and largely because of the discovery of huge amounts of natural gas that we’re now using for power production. When you run a power plant on natural gas, it emits less than half the carbon dioxide of a coal fired power plant, and so our emissions go down.
Tim: So in the end, to what extent do humans actually have the power to control or even affect the climate?
Pat Michaels: I think any person who is realistic knows that we are not going to go to zero emissions, which is what would be required. In fact, a lot of models say you actually have to take some carbon dioxide out of the air eventually. I don’t know if I believe that, but that’s not going to happen. So what human beings are going to do is they’re going to adapt to the changes that are coming.
We have already adapted to the changes that have already occurred. It’s a degree Celsius warmer on the surface of this planet than it was around the year 1900, and during that period in the industrialized world, life expectancy doubled and here in the United States, per capita wealth increased 11-fold. If the temperature went up another degree Celsius, do you really think if it goes up another degree Celsius that all that’s going to turn around and reverse?
You can watch or hear the interview here.