Hope Springs Eternal

Every time in the run up to one of these climate summits, there are expressions that this time the outcome will be different and each time the summit ends with a lot of rhetoric but not much in the way of substance. Why should it be different this time around?

The reasons cited in the Rolling Stone’s article are less than convincing and certainly not sufficient to overcome a nation’s pursuit of its own self-interest. The US and EU nations continue to struggle to achieve healthy levels of economic growth so that standards of living will rise and real unemployment will reach pre recession levels. The EU as a collection of nations is in or on the verge of another recession. Continuing to pursue its failed green agenda with additional commitments will only make the EU situation worse.

The EPA’s power plant rule is facing significant legal challenge. Its cost to the economy, along with the costs of related regulations, will be a large dead weight loss to the economy and will accomplish little in the grand scheme of climate change. Public officials running for re-election and presidential aspirants are all too well aware of that and the overwhelming public sentiment is that we are on the wrong economic track. Looking to the near term future, the sound bite, as President Clinton’s advisors made famous, should be “it’s the economy stupid.” The outcome of this fall’s Senate elections will almost certainly validate that the public believes that many economic, energy policies are failed and that a new direction is needed.

China faces a number of economic and internal challenges. It will need strong economic growth to address them. Anyone who thinks that China will sacrifice their national agenda for a grand bargain to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will be sadly disappointed.

As for the assertion that the effects of climate change growing more visible, I have to ask what planet the author visited to reach that conclusion? The data on extreme weather events does not support that conclusion. Increased warming is asserted to be the driver for more storms, droughts, hurricanes, etc but the data on these events do not validate the claim and global surface temperatures have not increased in 16 years. Further, those who assert that major reductions in emissions are needed to avoid a climate catastrophe are in a dither to explain this lack of warming since 1998. At last count, they had offered up 52 explanations, none of which has a solid scientific foundation.

What is becoming ever more clear is that predictions based on models have not come true, these models simply are not capable of replicating a complex, chaotic system and they are flawed instruments of public policy. The sooner nations come to the realization that scary images should be tested against the facts instead of facts being tested against scary images, the sooner scarce resources can stop being wasted and real problems solved.

Climate change is called that because climate changes. That has been convincingly demonstrated by geologic history. The US climate pattern from the end of the Little Ice Age to today demonstrates cycles of cooling and warming. From the mid 1970s until 1998, we had roughly a 20-year period of warming. We are now in our 16th year of cooling and many scientists believe that could go on for another decade or more. The American people will believe their eyes and be less and less inclined to be swayed by fear mongering.

The Summit if it wants to do something useful and not continue of the promise what can’t be delivered should focus on technology transfer to emerging economies and a reallocation of research dollars to adaptation. Climate will continue to change, independent of the causes, and advanced nations should be using knowledge, innovation, and technology to plan for changes and become more resilient.

This article appeared on the National Journal’s Energy Insiders weblog at http://disqus.com/wokeefe/

Partner & Fellow Blogs