by Judith Curry
President Obama’s State of the Union address, and the reactions from opposing politicians and the media, illustrate the raw politics of climate change in the U.S.
Last night, President Obama’s State of the Union address included some fairly substantial words on climate change. The Carbon Brief provides a good summary, including a video link. Here are the relevant text excerpts:
2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record. Now, one year doesn’t make a trend, but this does — 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century.
I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what — I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities. The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it.
That’s why, over the past six years, we’ve done more than ever before to combat climate change, from the way we produce energy, to the way we use it. That’s why we’ve set aside more public lands and waters than any administration in history. And that’s why I will not let this Congress endanger the health of our children by turning back the clock on our efforts. I am determined to make sure American leadership drives international action. In Beijing, we made an historic announcement — the United States will double the pace at which we cut carbon pollution, and China committed, for the first time, to limiting their emissions. And because the world’s two largest economies came together, other nations are now stepping up, and offering hope that, this year, the world will finally reach an agreement to protect the one planet we’ve got.
For emphasis, this morning President Obama tweets:
Senator Inhofe’s response
Senator Inhofe, the new Chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, responds directly to President Obama’s statements about energy and climate. Excerpts:
Tonight we heard the President praise America’s recent economic gains. Our nation’s energy industry deserves the credit for the growth we see today. We are experiencing an energy revolution in spite of the President’s policies that are intended to stifle the development of our domestic resources.
The President’s War on Fossil Fuels and nuclear energy is most evident in his unbridled mandates being issued by the EPA. While he markets these regulations as a means to save us from global warming, a recent NERA study predicts the President’s climate agenda would only reduce CO2 concentration by less than one-half of a percent; it would only reduce the average global temperature by less than 2/100th of a degree; and it would only reduce the rise of sea levels by 1/100th of an inch – or the thickness of three sheets of paper.
In the meantime, the President’s agenda will cost our economy $479-billion dollars; we will experience a double-digit electricity price increase; and tens of thousands of Americans will lose access to well-paying jobs over the course of the next decade.
Why the pain for no gain? As the Wall Street Journal put it when reporting on just one of the President’s many climate regulations – this is a wealth redistribution scheme being imposed by the President thru the EPA. This is the real climate agenda the President chose not to address tonight. It is no wonder because it would impose the largest tax increase in the history of America.
Tonight, the President once again failed to address our national security crisis. Under President Obama’s leadership, roughly $1 trillion has been taken out of our military and transferred to his extreme global warming agenda. This has resulted in our military being downsized to levels not seen since before World War II.
An early sampling of the media response:
Chris Mooney: How far Obama’s message on climate change has come
Politics of ‘warmest year’
Naive scientist that I am, it didn’t occur to me until last night that a narrative the NASA/NOAA press releaseof ‘warmest year’ was needed to provide the President with a sound bite to motivate his climate agenda. A scientifically sound press release like that issued by Berkeley Earth just wouldn’t fit the bill. (JC note: I am deleting the following text ‘the timing of the NASA/NOAA press release on warmest year was motivated by the timing of the President’s SOTU address’)
The Wall Street Journal summarizes the problem with Climate Reporting’s Hot Mess. The article blames the journalists; well its a little difficult to place all of the blame on journalists given the press release that was issued by scientist/administrators Gavin Schmidt and Tom Karl.
An interesting take on ‘warmest year’ by the Federalist: Ignore climate change, Mr. President. For the children. Subtitle: Last year was the warmest year in recorded history. It was also the greatest for mankind. The punchline:
The good news? No one is serious about it.
This is underscored by an article in the Guardian: How concerned are CEO’s about climate change? Not at all. Subtitle: In an annual PwC survey of chief executives, global warming didn’t even make the list of key concerns or priorities, falling far below regulation and taxation. This survey from PWC was timed to be released for the Davos summit.
Is climate change making us stupid?
Last nite, Roger Pielke Jr tweeted:
Pres Obama SOTU climate comments perfectly illustrate Sarewitz’s piece on how climate change is making us stupid: [link]
Of course, even if the climate change apocalypse that Kingsnorth accepts as inevitable magically failed to materialize, every one of my dire predictions would still be likely to come true. Climate change, added on top of all the other causes of these problems, will often make things worse. But for the most part there will be no way to tell which ones are worse than they would have been anyway, or how much worse they have become. So it’s not that apocalyptic fears about climate change are utterly fantastic—climate change may well exacerbate a range of serious and potentially even disastrous problems—it’s that the monomaniacal, apocalyptic version of climate change gives us a picture of the world that is so incomplete that it’s much worse than simply wrong. Worse because, just like religious and political orthodoxy, it cannot be falsified. On the contrary, everything that goes wrong simply reinforces the conviction that there is just one explanation for all our problems—climate change—and that there is only one thing we can do to keep the world from collapsing—stop burning fossil fuels. And thus, worse because the climate-change-as-apocalypse orthodoxy thereby radically narrows the range of viewpoints we are willing to tolerate and the range of options we are willing to consider for dealing with complex challenges to our well-being like natural disasters and infectious disease and poverty and civil strife.
It’s actually hard not to sympathize with Kingsnorth. He’s sad about how things are changing; he likes nature the way it is now, not the way it was before humans settled in Ireland, or not the way it will be after another 100 years of human’s muddling through from one crisis to the next, desperately clinging to technology as the eternal antidote to our follies. The real problem is the hysterics who insist, often in the name of science, that all the suffering to come will have only one true cause, and that redemption can be achieved only by following one true path. No matter that long and sad human experience teaches us where such absolute orthodoxies lead. Indeed, with climate change being blamed for almost everything these days, the one phenomenon that seems to have escaped the notice of scientists, environmentalists and the media alike is that, perhaps above all, climate change is making us stupid.
I would like to address this statement made by the President:
Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what — I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities. The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it.
And also his tweet:
97% of climate scientists agree: Climate change is real. Denial from Congress is dangerous.
The problem is that President Obama is listening to scientists that are either playing politics with their expertise, or responding to a political mandate from the administration (probably a combination of both). Not just administrators in govt labs (e.g. Schmidt, Karl), but think of the scientist networks of John Holdren and John Podesta: to me the scariest one one is Mann to Romm to Podesta.
So what is wrong with President Obama’s statements as cited above?
- His statement about humans having exacerbated extreme weather events is not supported by the IPCC
- The Pentagon is confusing climate change with extreme weather (see above)
- ‘Climate change is real’ is almost a tautology; climate has always changed and always will, independently of anything humans do.
- His tweet about ‘97%’ is based on an erroneous and discredited paper [link]
- As for ‘Denial from Congress is dangerous’, I doubt that anyone in Congress denies that climate changes. The issue of ‘dangerous’ is a hypothetical, and relates to values (not science).
And speaking of the ‘deniers’ in Congress, did anyone spot any errors in the actual science from Senator Inhofe’s rebuttal?
The apparent ‘contract’ between Obama and his administrators to play politics with climate science seems to be a recipe for anti science and premature policies with negative economic consequences that have little to no impact on the climate.
Maybe some day, in a future administration, we can have a grown up conversation about climate change (natural and human caused), the potential risks, and a broad range of policy responses.