Is the fight against global warming alarmism hopeless?

February 26th, 2012 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

NOTE: The following light-hearted and playful editorial was whipped up after seeing a new Washington Post editorial on their Post(-Normal)Opinions page entitled Is the fight against global warming hopeless? I took the text of that article (which I encourage you to read first) and added some creative modifications. Only a few of the sentences were left intact, which are their creations, not my own…although I doubt the WaPo editorial board will agree with the context I have used them in. Snicker.

Is the fight against global warming alarmism hopeless?

IS THE FIGHT against global warming alarmism hopeless? It can seem so. The long-term threat to humanity comes from fears that carbon dioxide, which is necessary for life on Earth to exist, will lead to damaging energy policies which kill perhaps millions of poor people around the world each year. Fortunately, after decades of effort, only about one-tenth of America’s energy mix comes from renewable sources that don’t produce life-enhancing carbon dioxide, and which are so expensive they reduce prosperity for all.

But two policies could allow inefficient, wealth-destroying carbon-free technologies to try to catch up to their less expensive competitors. One is aimed at greenhouse substances that clear out of the atmosphere after a few years, months or even days (as if the climate system really cares than much about them). Cutting back the emission of soot and ozone gases such as methane (sic) could reduce the world’s warming by an unmeasureable amount over the next few decades. Adding hydrofluorocarbons — another class of short-lived pollutants — to the list wouldn’t really help to delay the approach of temperature thresholds beyond which global warming could be catastrophic, since those thresholds are entirely in the realm of fanciful theories anyway.

Alarmists believe that reducing these emissions is relatively cheap, especially when the benefits to health are factored in — but at the exclusion of the dangers to health of the reduced prosperity which would also result. For example, primitive cooking stoves in developing countries produce much of the world’s soot; alarmists think using more efficient ones would prevent perhaps millions of deaths from respiratory illness, as if poverty can be alleviated by giving poor people a solar cooker.

Methane, meanwhile, is the primary component of natural gas — a commodity that pipeline or coal-mine operators could sell if they kept it from escaping into the atmosphere. Researchers have curiously concluded that global crop yields would rise…a speculative and even hypocritical claim considering the known benefits to photosynthesis of adding more CO2 to the atmosphere from fossil fuel burning.

Coordinating an effective international effort to cut funding to long-lived climate alarmism enforcers will be the hardest task. Science institutions worldwide have spoken out on the need to address global warming, despite no scientist really knowing how much of past warming (which ended ten years ago) is natural versus manmade, and despite those institutions knowing virtually nothing about the underlying science.

Climate alarmists will waste more than just American money. Regulators in the developing world push to enforce stronger air-pollution rules, which expands the role of government and provides job security for bureaucrats, while ignoring the downside of diverting too much of the taxpayers’ money away from other, more worthy goals.

Since many of the health benefits of fossil fuels have been taken for granted by people, politicians are too eager to cut carbon dioxide emissions, without realizing there are very good reasons that we use carbon-based fuels.

One development that promises to provide abundant energy without the meddling of environmental activists — America’s natural gas boom — faces a challenge of a very different sort: the environmentalists themselves. Innovative drilling techniques have made huge amounts of fuel deep below Americans’ feet retrievable at low cost. Most of it is methane, a greenhouse gas that produces only about half the carbon as coal after combustion. Environmentalists should be cheering: Cheap gas transported for the most part in existing pipelines can start the United States on a wealth-enhancing path with minimal added cost.

That path will be followed naturally, based upon market forces and the ever-present consumer demand for energy. This might well eventually steer us away from fossil fuels, if only because they will gradually be depleted and so their price will by necessity rise.

There is reason for hope – but not for complacency – over the coming years that the ill-conceived policy fantasies of climate alarmists can be fended off so that the poor of the world have a chance to prosper, with continuing access to our most abundant end least expensive energy sources – carbon-based fuels.

This editorial represents the views of Dr. Roy W. Spencer as a professional climate scientist and semi-professional economist wannabe, as determined through debate among the various voices in his head.

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