Guest Opinion: Use the oil spill to examine the issues

The views expressed in Guest Opinions represent only those of the author and are in no way endorsed by Richmond BizSense or any BizSense staff member.

The BP spill has me thinking about the big picture on the global warming debate.

For years now, Global Warming Alarmism (or perhaps hysteria) has been the convenient and allegedly irrefutable justification for proposing draconian taxes, regulatory schemes and untested artificial trading mechanisms that would redistribute wealth from the most productive economies to the least, substituting the judgment of a few “experts” for the workings of the marketplace in the guise of “Energy Policy.”
With the Deep Horizon leak still spewing orange crude into the Gulf of Mexico and dominating the news cycle, the hue and cry against the evils of oil, coal, gas and all of the hydrocarbon based fuels is reaching a new fever pitch.  At times like this, all manner of grandstanding celebrities, politicians and self appointed protectors of the public interest trumpet their moralizing and self-evident (or so they think) solutions.  Ban this, tax that, cap it, trade it, stop it!  Just do it our way!  Save the Gulf! Save the Planet.

But what if it’s not true? What if there is no real consensus that CO2 causes warming, or what if the consensus is based on bad data, unsound science, or both? Who will make the case for sanity and the scientific method?
There is an old saying: “It would take a Philadelphia lawyer to make that case.” Fortunately, a modern Philadelphia lawyer has done just that.  In a 79-page “cross-examination” of the prophets of manmade global warming, University of Pennsylvania Law Professor Jason Scott Johnson skewers all of the major tenets and arguments behind the supposedly “airtight” case against CO2.

To be clear, Johnston does not say the world is not warming, nor does he say that human generated greenhouse gases do not play some role in climate change. Instead, he meticulously exposes the logical fallacies, sloppy methods and preordained conclusions behind the “consensus” that drives the global warming alarmists in their condescending mission to save us from ourselves.
You can read his paper here.

His abstract sums it up: “Review of the peer-edited literature reveals a systematic tendency of the climate establishment to engage in a variety of stylized rhetorical techniques that seem to oversell what is actually known about climate change while concealing fundamental uncertainties and open questions regarding many of the key processes involved in climate change.”

Here are some of his points:
•    Manmade-global-warming models basically ignore the cycles of solar radiation, which correlate very closely with historical temperature increases and declines.
•    When applied to historical data, climate models cannot predict historical temperature without making assumptions that are tantamount to the conclusions they seek to prove
•    Measurements of global surface temperatures systematically overestimate late 20th century temperature increases
•    Climate models cannot confidently predict even short-run climate effects
•    Models project significant warming only if they include positive feedback effects, but there is strong satellite evidence that relevant feedbacks may be negative
•    Alarmists base predictions of sea level rise and species loss on methodology severely criticized as invalid and almost certain to lead to an overestimates of adverse effects by a large number of biologists.

Why does this matter?  Why should Richmond, with its abundance of legal talent, cheer for some Yankee law professor, a Philadelphia lawyer at that?  Simple. Virginia, my friends, exports coal. Lots of coal. The U.S. power grid, like it or not, runs mainly on coal, and we have enough of it to last for something like 400 years, if necessary. Now I for one would like to see an orderly transition to cleaner, more sustainable sources of power (after all, I ride my bike to work almost every day). Nuclear fission and ultimately nuclear fusion hold great potential, and there is almost certainly a role for biofuels, wind, hydro, natural gas and even tidal power. But if, as professor Johnston so skillfully proves, the climate change consensus is really no more than geo-political pseudo-scientific bullying, and if, in reliance on some misinformed consensus, we allow drilling moratoria, taxes, carbon quotas, caps, trades and outright bans to deprive us of existing, abundant and affordable forms of energy before the alternatives are truly ready to take the load, we risk destroying the very wealth and power that will support the development of those alternative sources.  To do so on anything less than fully informed policy based on solid objective science is arrogant, dangerous and self-defeating.

The views expressed in Guest Opinions represent only those of the author and are in no way endorsed by Richmond BizSense or any BizSense staff member.

The BP spill has me thinking about the big picture on the global warming debate.

For years now, Global Warming Alarmism (or perhaps hysteria) has been the convenient and allegedly irrefutable justification for proposing draconian taxes, regulatory schemes and untested artificial trading mechanisms that would redistribute wealth from the most productive economies to the least, substituting the judgment of a few “experts” for the workings of the marketplace in the guise of “Energy Policy.”
With the Deep Horizon leak still spewing orange crude into the Gulf of Mexico and dominating the news cycle, the hue and cry against the evils of oil, coal, gas and all of the hydrocarbon based fuels is reaching a new fever pitch.  At times like this, all manner of grandstanding celebrities, politicians and self appointed protectors of the public interest trumpet their moralizing and self-evident (or so they think) solutions.  Ban this, tax that, cap it, trade it, stop it!  Just do it our way!  Save the Gulf! Save the Planet.

But what if it’s not true? What if there is no real consensus that CO2 causes warming, or what if the consensus is based on bad data, unsound science, or both? Who will make the case for sanity and the scientific method?
There is an old saying: “It would take a Philadelphia lawyer to make that case.” Fortunately, a modern Philadelphia lawyer has done just that.  In a 79-page “cross-examination” of the prophets of manmade global warming, University of Pennsylvania Law Professor Jason Scott Johnson skewers all of the major tenets and arguments behind the supposedly “airtight” case against CO2.

To be clear, Johnston does not say the world is not warming, nor does he say that human generated greenhouse gases do not play some role in climate change. Instead, he meticulously exposes the logical fallacies, sloppy methods and preordained conclusions behind the “consensus” that drives the global warming alarmists in their condescending mission to save us from ourselves.
You can read his paper here.

His abstract sums it up: “Review of the peer-edited literature reveals a systematic tendency of the climate establishment to engage in a variety of stylized rhetorical techniques that seem to oversell what is actually known about climate change while concealing fundamental uncertainties and open questions regarding many of the key processes involved in climate change.”

Here are some of his points:
•    Manmade-global-warming models basically ignore the cycles of solar radiation, which correlate very closely with historical temperature increases and declines.
•    When applied to historical data, climate models cannot predict historical temperature without making assumptions that are tantamount to the conclusions they seek to prove
•    Measurements of global surface temperatures systematically overestimate late 20th century temperature increases
•    Climate models cannot confidently predict even short-run climate effects
•    Models project significant warming only if they include positive feedback effects, but there is strong satellite evidence that relevant feedbacks may be negative
•    Alarmists base predictions of sea level rise and species loss on methodology severely criticized as invalid and almost certain to lead to an overestimates of adverse effects by a large number of biologists.

Why does this matter?  Why should Richmond, with its abundance of legal talent, cheer for some Yankee law professor, a Philadelphia lawyer at that?  Simple. Virginia, my friends, exports coal. Lots of coal. The U.S. power grid, like it or not, runs mainly on coal, and we have enough of it to last for something like 400 years, if necessary. Now I for one would like to see an orderly transition to cleaner, more sustainable sources of power (after all, I ride my bike to work almost every day). Nuclear fission and ultimately nuclear fusion hold great potential, and there is almost certainly a role for biofuels, wind, hydro, natural gas and even tidal power. But if, as professor Johnston so skillfully proves, the climate change consensus is really no more than geo-political pseudo-scientific bullying, and if, in reliance on some misinformed consensus, we allow drilling moratoria, taxes, carbon quotas, caps, trades and outright bans to deprive us of existing, abundant and affordable forms of energy before the alternatives are truly ready to take the load, we risk destroying the very wealth and power that will support the development of those alternative sources.  To do so on anything less than fully informed policy based on solid objective science is arrogant, dangerous and self-defeating.

Your subscription has expired. Renew now by choosing a subscription below!

For more informaiton, head over to your profile.

Profile


SUBSCRIBE NOW

TERMS OF SERVICE:

ALL MEMBERSHIPS RENEW AUTOMATICALLY. YOU WILL BE CHARGED FOR A 1 YEAR MEMBERSHIP RENEWAL AT THE RATE IN EFFECT AT THAT TIME UNLESS YOU CANCEL YOUR MEMBERSHIP BY LOGGING IN OR BY CONTACTING [email protected]

ALL CHARGES FOR MONTHLY OR ANNUAL MEMBERSHIPS ARE NONREFUNDABLE.

EACH MEMBERSHIP WILL ONLY FUNCTION ON UP TO 3 MACHINES. ACCOUNTS ABUSING THAT LIMIT WILL BE DISCONTINUED.

FOR ASSISTANCE WITH YOUR MEMEBERSHIP PLEASE EMAIL [email protected]




Return to Homepage

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
19 Comments
oldest
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Carter snipes
Carter snipes
12 years ago

99% of the world science community supports the notion that our energy use IS impacting our envirnoment.

Coal, Oil and Gas are dirty, forget whether or not you believe they cause climate change, go buy house next to a plant and try having your children and family be exposed to the dangerous and cancerous chemicals that these fuels emit.
People who base their ideas on policitcal motivations and ignore science and common sense are the most dangerous thinkers and leaders in our society.

Carter snipes
Carter snipes
12 years ago

This kind of Rationalizing away the science and truth that fossil fuels are dirty and bad for our health and environment, is the most dangeruos kind of rhetoric. We need to transistion to clean tech energy! It will be huge for the economy and will create a better place to live.

Tom Bowden
Tom Bowden
12 years ago

Carter – Read the paper. The University of Pennsylvania is not exactly a hotbed of far-right extremism, and the Professor’s credentials on the subject are quite impressive. My point is not to “rationalize” away concerns about the environment and our effect on it, rather, I hope to spark some truly rational discussion. Any policy discussion that begins from the proposition that “science is settled” is not truly scientific. Skepticism is the very heart of the scientific method. Examples of skeptics and radicals who overturned the scientific establishment’s long-settled orthodoxy are legion. Galileo, Einstein, Darwin, the Wright Brothers, Richard Feynman, ….I… Read more »

Jerry Samford
Jerry Samford
12 years ago

Carter’s statement that “99% of the world science community supports the notion that our energy use IS impacting our environment” proves Mr. Bowden’s thesis. Please provide the background data to support your conclusion that there’s a 99% plurality here. (don’t you know, 99% of all statistics are made up on the spot??)

jack williams
jack williams
12 years ago

Bravo! Mr. Bowden! You have articulated what I have been thinking for years! Afterall, the demise of the last Ice Age some 11,000 years ago was not caused by the excesses of man made CO2 emissions so why should we buy into the so-called experts who claim they have the inside track on the subject. I agree that we should take care of our planet and try to find ways to be less dependent on foreign energy supplies. I agree that while coal can be messy, we should find ways to burn it so that it pollutes less. This is… Read more »

Scott Burger
Scott Burger
12 years ago

Regardless of the global warming , the environment and health of our citizens are suffering greatly from dirty fossil fuels like coal and oil. Here in Virginia, bad air quality, mercury, and mountain top removal are poisoning and destroying everything. Regardless of those concerns, our country’s over dependence on fossil fuels creates economic and military problems all over the world. Here in Virginia, that means passenger rail delayed by coal trains, a joke of a state transportation budget, and soldiers and sailors risking their lives. Not to mention the terrorist threats in part inspired by military occupations of foreign lands.… Read more »

Tom Bowden
Tom Bowden
12 years ago

Scott – I am defending rational discussion and policy formation built on sound science and careful analysis of costs and benefits. I made it clear I am in favor of cleaner energy. Might I ask, how do you get to work everyday? I use my legs to power my bicycle, so spare me the sermon on pollution and carbon footprints. My concern is that the focus on CO2 and greenhouse gases misses the point. If fossil fuels are dirty, (and they are) let’s focus on the dirt, not the plant food (i.e. CO2). The economist in me says we should… Read more »

Carter snipes
Carter snipes
12 years ago

Gentleman, There is not one, I repeat one science based research orgnization that supports that premise that the use of fossil fuels is not dangerous and harmful to our envirnoment. That is as established as the fact that Sun is the center of our solar system. None of you live next to a fossil fuel plant and there is a reason for that. Putting forth arguements like the “Law” professor from PA is not helpful to the rational debate that we must have about trasistioning off these materials, it just feeds into the hyberpole and superstition around the “transition debate”… Read more »

Carter snipes
Carter snipes
12 years ago

Also, I’d like to add that I’m glad their are people who can articulate This like Mr. Burger. I don’t really see how you can argue with that! 🙂

Carter snipes
Carter snipes
12 years ago

And just to clarfiy, I’m not saying the entire scientific communty believes in climate change, I’m saying there is no legitimate science orgnization that has evidence that fossil fuels and the by products and exhaust that it creates are not harmful to humans, animals and plants. It’s dirty stuff, who cares if it cause global warming, it’s dirty stuff. Let’s use our innovation and technology and embrace the future and get clean and renew our economy while doing so. It’s a win all around.

Scott Burger
Scott Burger
12 years ago

I do bike to work when I can, not that its a necessary part of this discussion. I did not say anything about your personal carbon footprint.

My point is that this diatribe about the scientific merits of climate change is really not that important when it comes to formulating actual policy.- there are plenty of other reasons to get off fossil fuels now, regardless of global warming.

I agree with you that we need to fully price, but not as much as it delays the transition. We simply cannot afford to wait until all the corporates agree.

Tom Bowden
Tom Bowden
12 years ago

Scott and Carter – I did not say that fossil fuels were not dangerous or harmful. They are – but compared to what? We’ve tried to force transitions to alternative fuels before- e.g. with subsidies on corn based ethanol. Oops – that drove staple food prices through the roof pushing marginal populations closer to starvation. Would you bother to read a study if it analyzed the relative human costs of fossil vs “bio” fuels or would you simply conclude “Fossil – baaaad – Bio GOOOD” This reminds me of the high minded moral imperative to ban DDT entirely, rather than… Read more »

Scott Burger
Scott Burger
12 years ago

There are two lessons to come from the BP oil gusher and Massey mine disaster: One is that we need to get off fossil fuels A.S.A.P. Our environment cannot take any more stress from it, regardless of what is debated about global warming and regardless of their right to ‘compete’. Secondly, is that we need to get the corporations out of our government. Corporations serve one purpose- make money for shareholders- and cannot be trusted when it comes to matters of public policy. They are undermining citizens’ ability to have an effective government and that is not tolerable. We ignore… Read more »

Tom Bowden
Tom Bowden
12 years ago

Scott Burger – There is a great column today by Bart Hinkle in RTD – He points out the large subsidies hydrocarbon based fuels and nuclear power receive directly and indirectly from the government (i.e. taxpayers). I say cut those subsidies too, and maybe”green energy will look a little greener in the monetary sense, that is. Could be helpful in reversing the deficit too. When government has so many fingers in so many pies, it’s hard to know what the real costs are for any product, and then when they try to “equalize” things with more rules and subsidies and… Read more »

Brett
Brett
12 years ago
Scott Burger
Scott Burger
12 years ago

Agreed!

Chris Farrar
Chris Farrar
12 years ago

I doubt anyone who is not in the business of selling coal or oil would disagree with the premise that we should transition to cleaner, renewable energy. But it is not that simple. We can’t just shut down the world’s power grid (and therefore the world economy) while we try to find better way to provide energy (how can we do that without power and economic resources). I read an article last year written by a scientist (sorry I can’t cite specifics, as I was visiting a bathroom at the time) who laid out the challenges of converting to a… Read more »

Chris Farrar
Chris Farrar
12 years ago

I apoligize for the spelling issues in my first post…and I have one more comment: Let’s also stop subsidizing the corn lobby (read ADM) by forcing ethanol production (ethanol is a net waste of energy and money), and wind/solar farms (we are never going to get a significant supply of energy from them). The problem with the government getting involved in the process of finding better sources of energy is that government is corrupt. The powerful use the government as a revenue source. Look at where politicos make their millions (whether it be oil, nat gas, coal, ethanol, biodiesel, energy… Read more »

Scott Burger
Scott Burger
12 years ago

We need to speed up transition off of dirty fossil fuels, not ‘slow down’, REGARDLESS of global warming debate.

We are on Day 78 of the oil gusher in the Gulf !

Transition is possible-

http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/energy-indepence-declared-at-cypress-with-sunpower-and-bloom/