Dubbed the "high priest of climate skepticism," former Margaret Thatcher adviser Christopher Monckton has become a formidable foe of the movement claiming mankind is causing catastrophic "global warming," noting that the average worldwide temperature has not risen in nearly two decades.
So when President Obama recently announced his plan to bypass Congress and use his executive power to "fight climate change," targeting the coal-energy industry, Monckton responded.
Some of what Obama said was simply copied from Al Gore's writings on global warming, he said, and virtually everything was incomplete, misleading – or wrong.
Obama's declarations included:
- "Science … tells us that our planet is changing in ways that will have profound impacts on all of humankind."
- "The 12 warmest years in recorded history have all come in the last 15 years. … these are facts."
- The "sea level in New York, in New York Harbor, are (sic) now a foot higher than a century ago."
- "The question now is whether we will have the courage to act before it's too late."
It was too much for Monckton.
"The 'image of Earth from space' intro is lifted from Gore's sci-fi movie 'An Inconvenient Truth.' Gore may well have written much of the speech," Monckton said. "The phrase 'carbon pollution' is also lifted from Gore. It occurs 30 times in the text of the speech.
"One imagines he means 'carbon dioxide pollution.' But CO2 is not a pollutant and is not listed as one on the U.S. national inventory of pollutants. It is a naturally occurring trace gas, harmlessly present in the air we breathe out, and in the bubbles in bread, Coca-Cola, and (more importantly) champagne."
Then Monckton launched into a point-by-point demolition of Obama's claims:
The "worry that rising levels [of CO2] might someday disrupt the fragile balance that makes our planet so hospitable" is scientifically unfounded. CO2 concentrations, at almost 400 μatm, are almost as low as they have ever been in geological time. In the Jurassic era, 175 million years ago, CO2 concentration was about 6000 μatm; in the Cambrian era, 550 million years ago, it was 8000 μatm; and in the Neoproterozoic era, 750 million years ago, it was 30,000 μatm, or 75 times today’s concentration. Yet the planet survived and throve.
The statement that "the 12 warmest years in recorded history have all come in the last 15 years" is no big deal. Recorded history, as far as global temperatures are concerned, only goes back to 1850. The weather was warmer than today in the medieval, Roman, Minoan, Old Kingdom, and Holocene Warm Periods, the last of which endured for 4000 years (8000-4000 BC) and was 3 Cº warmer than the present.
Obama says, "Last year, temperatures in some areas of the ocean reached record highs." Welcome to our variable climate, which, like the baseball scores, is a chaotic object where new records will tend to be set all the time. Yet the 3500+ Argo bathythermograph buoys deployed throughout the world's oceans since 2006 show very little ocean warming overall, so that – according to the now-failed ENVISAT satellite, sea level in the 8 years 2004-2012 rose at a rate equivalent to just 1.3 inches per century.
His moan about ice in the Arctic shrinking to its smallest size on record is also little to worry about: for the Arctic ice record only goes back a third of a century. It is likely that there was a lot less ice in the Arctic in 1922 and again in the mid-1930s than there is today, but we cannot demonstrate that definitively.
The statement that sea level is a foot higher than a century ago should also be put in context. In the 11,400 years since the end of the last Ice Age sea level has risen by 400 feet – a rate of getting on for 4 feet a century. So 1 foot a century is no big deal (and the 1.3 inches/century equivalent warming rate from 2004-2012 is still less of a big deal).
He whines on: "2012 was the warmest year in our history." That may or may not have been true for the U.S. (there is good reason to suppose that 1934 was warmer): but it is certainly not true globally:
The graph, showing the Hadley/CRU data, makes clear that January 2007, an el Niño month, was the warmest on record; and 1998, an el Niño year, was the warmest year on record. El Niños are naturally-occurring events. Since the entire trend-line falls within the blue zone of measurement/bias/coverage uncertainty, we do not even know to 95% certainty that there has been any global warming at all for the past 17 years 4 months. Notwithstanding continuing increases in C)2 concentration, there has been no warming at all for 12 years 6 months:
The statement that "Midwest farms were parched by the worst drought since the Dust Bowl [in the 1930s]" is equivalent to a statement that the drought of the dustbowl years was worse than today's drought. Yet the world is warmer now than it was then:
Why was there more drought when there was less warming, if global warming is the chief cause of drought? Besides, as Obama admits, the Midwest was then "drenched by the wettest spring on record." In short, climate has been changing for 4567 million years; it is changing now; and it will continue to change.
Obama cherry-picks his event with the same relentless care as Al Gore. He talks of Western wildfires scorching an area larger than the state of Maryland and a recent heatwave in Alaska. He does not mention the 10,000 cold-weather and high-snowfall records set just in the U.S. in the past winter; or the 100-year record cold in London and Moscow.
He talks of "the costs of these events" being "measured in lost lives and lost livelihoods, lost homes, lost businesses, hundreds of billions of dollars in emergency services and disaster relief." Yet the annual costs of extreme weather, normalized to allow for growth in population and infrastructure over the past half-century, show no trend. And the economic peer-reviewed literature is near-unanimous in finding that it would cost considerably more to try to mitigate global warming today than to adapt to its consequences the day after tomorrow. In fact, it is 10-100 times more costly to act now than to adapt later.
Obama says, "Farmers see crops wilted one year, washed away the next; and the higher food prices get passed on to you, the American consumer." Well, farmers have always had fluctuating weather and consequent crop failures from time to time. Yet sometimes conditions are ideal, supply high and prices low. Those prices, too, get passed on to the American consumer, not that you will learn that from Obama.
He goes on: "Mountain communities worry about what smaller snowpacks will mean for tourism," but he fails to mention that the United States has seen record snowfall in the past two or three years.
He says, "Families at the bottom of the mountains wonder what it will mean for their drinking water." No, they don't: the December snow cover extent in the northern-hemisphere winter of 2012/13 was the greatest in the entire 34-year satellite record, and the snow cover for the entire winter was the fifth-greatest on record.
Obama says, "Americans across the country are already paying the price of inaction in insurance premiums, state and local taxes, and the costs of rebuilding and disaster relief." No: they are paying just about as much as they always did for extreme weather damage, which is why the insurance companies have found it so very difficult to use climate change as a pretext to talk up premiums.
He trots out the Trots' usual meme that "Ninety-seven percent of scientists, including, by the way, some who originally disputed the data, have now put that to rest. They've acknowledged the planet is warming and human activity is contributing to it."
The survey he mentions actually showed less than a third of a sample of almost 12,000 published papers even implicitly endorsing the notion that humans are contributing to global warming. Only 0.3 percent of the abstracts – just 41 out of 11,944 – said humans had caused more than half of "current" warming: no surprise there, given that there has not been any current warming. And none of the abstracts said warming would be catastrophic.
Obama got some applause for saying, "As a president, as a father, and as an American, I'm here to say we need to act." No: we need not to act. Since it is about 50 times more expensive to act now than to let the predicted global warming happen and pay the far later and lesser cost of adapting to it, it is necessary not to waste our legacy to future generations by spending it on pointless measures now.
He says: "This plan begins with cutting carbon pollution by changing the way we use energy – using less dirty energy, using more clean energy, wasting less energy throughout our economy." Yet the four specific proposals for reducing "carbon pollution" would, if implemented at vast cost, forestall between them so little global warming that modern instruments and methods would not be able to detect it.
He trumpets: "Today, we use more clean energy – more renewables and natural gas –which is supporting hundreds of thousands of good jobs." Yet each "green job" costs between $100,000 and $1 million, destroying many other jobs in the real economy.
He proclaims: "guess what – our economy is 60 percent bigger than it was 20 years ago, while our carbon emissions are roughly back to where they were 20 years ago. So, obviously, we can figure this out." Except that, until he came along, no one was silly enough to do the economic damage he is doing. So the fall in US CO2 emissions is inadvertent: it owes nothing whatsoever to past concerns about global warming.
Obama goes on to say the State Department will decide on the Keystone XL pipeline by evaluating "the net effects of the pipeline's impact on our climate." The net effects will be nil: if the U.S. don’t buy the product, someone else will.