From Judith Curry, H. Sterling Burnett
A new paper by researchers Thorsten Mauritsen and Bjorn Stevens in Nature Geoscience lends credence to climate scientist Richard Lindzen’s speculation changes in cloud cover in the tropics in response to surface warming could act as a natural infrared iris, allowing increased infrared radiation to escape back into space, a kind of natural release valve to moderate temperatures.
In 2001, when Lindzen and his colleagues released their paper, it was largely dismissed, without any substantive analysis or further study, and deemed discredited by the climate alarmists who dominate the peer-review process and the media. As Judith Curry notes, pressure from the climate alarm industry meant Lindzen’s theory essentially languished until Mauritsen and Stevens’ paper. Curry quotes Andrew Dessler:
“By 2006, when I submitted an analysis of tropospheric water vapor that investigated whether there was an iris in that, one of the reviewers pointedly questioned why anyone was still working on this issue. I subsequently withdrew the paper. Nevertheless, just because Lindzen et al. did not convincingly demonstrate their case does not mean the iris hypothesis is wrong.”
So the “consensus enforcers” found it necessary to “discredit” the iris hypothesis, and by extension Lindzen himself, since the reduced sensitivity threatened the “consensus.” You can see how this pernicious behavior discouraged scientists from investigating the iris hypothesis (I can only imagine how a grant proposal to investigate the iris hypothesis would have fared in peer review).
The observational record suggests climate sensitivity is lower than model predictions and indicates climate models underestimate changes in the water cycle. Those observations opened the door for Mauritsen and Stevens to investigate the possible existence of important feedbacks like the iris effect.
Running multiple iterations of the ECHAM6 general circulation climate model developed by Germany’s Max Planck Institute, with a mathematical representation of the iris effect, Mauritsen and Stevens found the “inclusion of such an effect in a climate model moves the simulated responses of both temperature and the hydrological cycle to rising atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations closer to observations.”
In other words, a widely used climate model, modified to account for Lindzen’s iris effect, better reflects measured temperatures and changes in the water cycle than do climate models not accounting for the iris effect.
-- H. Sterling Burnett
By E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D.
Some folks just don’t play fair.
Media Matters and ForecasttheFacts.org have just teamed up to pressure the media to not to characterize scientists who doubt claims of dangerous manmade global warming as “skeptics.”
Their preferred term?
First, because skepticism is a scientific virtue, which they don’t want to attribute to those who dare question them.
Second, because “denier” smacks of Holocaust denial, anti-Semitism, and Nazism and so is the perfect smear word.
As expressed in a petition ForecasttheFacts.org sent to the Associated Press (AP), they want the AP Stylebook (which many newspapers follow) to include “an entry that captures the following guideline: Don’t use the term ‘skeptic’ to describe anyone who denies scientific facts (such as...man-made climate change).”
“Our country’s top newspapers are still calling climate change deniers ‘skeptics,’” ForecasttheFacts.org complains on its petition page, “and thereby lending them scientific legitimacy and confusing the public on climate change.”
The problem? None of the thousands of scientists and other scholars who doubt dangerous manmade global warming deny climate change, or even manmade climate change. We just think its magnitude is less than alarmists claim - and on that, the scientific facts are solidly on our side.
As we pointed out in our Open Letter to Pope Francis on Climate Change (Read and sign it now!):
On average, [computer climate] models simulate more than twice the observed warming over the relevant period. Over 95% of the models simulate greater warming than has been observed, and only a tiny percentage come tolerably close. None simulated the complete absence of observed warming over approximately the last 16 (according to UAH satellite data) to 26 (according to RSS lower tropospheric data) years.
Nonetheless, ForecasttheFacts.org and Media Matters demand that the media mischaracterize skeptics.
And they claim a good response from New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan, who on May 7 wrote, “readers are right to watch these choices carefully. The difference between skeptic and denier...may seem minor, but it’s really not. Simply put, words matter.”
Well, yes, words matter. “Skeptic” and “denier” aren’t interchangeable. Not only is the first a term of honor for any scientist, and the second a term of scorn. But also, the first is accurate, and the second isn’t.
We hope the Times, and the AP, will remember that.
Just who are Media Matters and ForecasttheFacts.org?
Media Matters for America is, as Byron York points out, “a left-wing media watchdog founded by former right-wing media star David Brock[,] ...part of a group of institutions - the Center for American Progress, MoveOn.org, and others - that have become increasingly important in Democratic politics.”
The Center for American Progress, in turn, is a Left-wing organization run by Neera Tanden, formerly of the Clinton and Obama administrations and Hillary Clinton’s campaign. And MoveOn.org is another Left-wing organization. Both are funded by self-proclaimed “stateless statesman” billionaire George Soros.
ForecasttheFacts.org is “a project launched ...in January 2012, by 350.org, created by notorious anti-corporation activist Bill McKibben (whom I debated in April in New Orleans), and Citizens Engagement Lab, itself a creation of MoveOn.org, a George Soros-funded appendage of the Democratic Party,” as our friends at the Heartland Institute report.
Its aim is “to expose meteorologists blowing” what ForecasttheFacts.org calls “hot air.” Their “hot air”? Climate facts that don’t line up with the climate alarmist message.
So now you know. Those calling for the media to describe skeptics of dangerous manmade global warming as “deniers” are really just Left-wing, anti-industry, pro-Democratic Party shills.
And since they deny the scientific facts that recent warming has been less than half what the models predicted, and that indeed there’s been no warming at all for at least the last 18 years and 5 months, maybe they should be called “deniers.”
By Denis G. Rancourt
The human animal has an instinct to identify potential dangers and to warn others. It is a built-in survival mechanism of any animal that lives in a group. And it is a strong and constant activity, re-enforced by environmental stressors.
This plays out on several time scales, from the immediate in the case of a potential physical assault, to the weekly in checking the weather forecast, to seasonal in preparing for winter, to life-long in planning for inevitable aging, to leaving good things for our grandchildren…
It is in our fiber to look ahead and to plan ahead, especially in the face of foreseeable or detected dangers.
The whole process can spin out of control when the danger is difficult to perceive yet could be lethal. Think of baboons who are on the lookout for a stalking lion. The slightest shadow movement can make them scream and run for the trees. It’s a tense and highly volatile situation.
At this stage in our evolution we are faced with a pathological extension of our collective survival reflex, which is entirely fabricated by our high priests (government funded scientists and talking heads).
If these high priests were not here to tell us that the atmospheric concentration of the minor constituent CO2 is increasing, and that “global mean surface temperature” has increased by some 0.5 C in the last 100 years, then we would never know about these imperceptible causes of our certain eventual collective death as a species.
The priests explain that our certain extinction will occur from a rising sea level and changing regional climates. That these changes will cause mass migrations, ecosystem collapses, agricultural failures, famines, and disease. They also inform us that those who will suffer most are the most vulnerable inhabitants of the planet, as though this were a new feature of the effects of natural disasters.
Therefore, they urge, we must tax carbon emissions, apply cap and trade, and create a global carbon economy to limit CO2 in the atmosphere. And who better to coordinate it all than the World Bank, IMF, and such, given their stellar records in managing equitable development on this little rock. (Or is that economic enforcement of US regime supremacy?)
Forgive me for saying, but this all sounds rather nutso to me.
Nothing could be more like a religion than this crazy movement. We are expected to accept that an essential and growth-limiting plant nutrient (CO2: ) is a toxic pollutant, that the world will be destroyed because of our collective and intrinsic wickedness of emitting CO2, via floods no less.
Take a deep breath (exhale if you dare) and allow me to state a few facts that might help put things into perspective.
Read the rest of his post here.
The video of Denis’s March 27, 2015, University of Ottawa talk entitled “The science and geopolitics of climate change” was produced by filmmaker Peter Biesterfeld and turned out to be of very good image and sound quality.
This past winter broke tons of low temperature records across the eastern seaboard, but would you have guessed the Northeast just had the snowiest winter since the “Little Ice Age”?
“Looking back through accounts of big snows in New England by the late weather historian David Ludlum, it appears for the eastern areas, this winters snowblitz may have delivered the most snow since perhaps 1717,” wrote seasoned meteorologist Joe D’Aleo with Weatherbell Analytics.
“That year, snows had reached five feet in December with drifts of 25 feet in January before one great last assault in late February into early March of 40 to 60 more inches,” D’Aleo wrote. “The snow was so deep that people could only leave their houses from the second floor, implying actual snow depths of as much as 8 feet or more.”
The New England Historical Society wrote that the so-called “Great Snow” of 1717 was so intense that “Puritans in Boston held no church services for two successive weeks” - and if you know anything about Puritans, you know they don’t take missing church lightly.
“Entire houses were covered over, identifiable only by a thin curl of smoke coming out of a hole in the snow,” the Historical Society noted. “In Hampton, N.H., search parties went out after the storms hunting for widows and elderly people at risk of freezing to death.” Sometimes snow would pile so high people would burn “their furniture because they couldn’t get to the woodshed.”
“It wasn’t uncommon for them to lose their bearings and not be able to find the houses,” the society wrote in its account of winter 1717. “People maintained tunnels and paths through the snow from house to house.”
Luckily, in the modern world snow storms are more manageable thanks to plows, de-icing agents and so forth, but even so, some East Coast cities were caught off guard by the extraordinary amount of snow and record cold.
In late January, New York City shut down transit services in the face of about two feet of snow. Similar moves were made in New Jersey, even though the blizzard was not nearly as bad in these two states compared to states in New England.
During that same blizzard, about 30,000 homes in the Boston-Cape Cod area lost power, and near-80 mile per hour winds were reported on Martha’s Vineyard. By March, the city of Boston had gotten more than 110 inches of snow- an all-time record.
Federal agencies in Washington, D.C. shut down in mid-February when the National Weather Service predicted there would be six to eight inches of snow on the ground. The U.S. government was shut down again in early March when forecasters predicted six to seven inches of snow.
The D.C. area’s public schools were also shut down, with students in Fauquier County, Virginia getting 11 snow days and Howard County, Maryland getting seven snow days.
Meteorologists and climate scientists have hotly debated what has caused fierce winters in the last two years. Some climate scientists say it’s global warming, saying warmer temperatures in the Arctic have made the jet stream more wobbly or that warmer temperatures caused more precipitation to build up leading to bigger snowstorms.
Others have argued natural climate cycles are driving the heavy snowfall. Two recent studies from the University of Washington argue that activity in the Pacific Ocean drove warm, dry air into the western U.S. while forcing cold, wet air east.
D’Aleo says a “super La Nina in 2010/11 (2nd strongest in 120 years, by some measures), set up warm water in the central Pacific and cold water near the west coast of North America” and caused drought in the west and frigid weather in the east.
“That warm water came east first to off of Alaska last year leading to the historic winter near the western Lakes and North Central and then the warm water was carried by the currents southeast to the entire west coast forcing the cold to take aim more on the eastern Lakes and Northeast,” D’Aleo wrote.
“The combination of cold and snow here to northern areas and back to the Great Lakes the last two winters, harkens back to the Little Ice Age that ended in the early 20th century,” D’Aleo wrote.
Its ideas would send the West back 100 years and keep poor nations impoverished and wretched
A few years ago, a journalist asked me for my thoughts on the importance of “Earth Hour” which was reprised this past weekend. What I told him applies today, perhaps even more so.
I abhor Earth Hour. Abundant, cheap electricity has been the greatest source of human liberation in the 20th century. Every material social advance in the 20th century depended on the proliferation of inexpensive and reliable electricity.
Giving women the freedom to work outside the home depended on the availability of electrical appliances that free up time from domestic chores. Getting children out of menial labour and into schools depended on the same thing, as well as on the ability to provide safe indoor lighting for reading.
Development and provision of modern health care without electricity is absolutely impossible. The expansion of our food supply, and the promotion of hygiene and nutrition, depended on being able to irrigate fields, cook and refrigerate foods, and have a steady indoor supply of safe hot water.
Many of the world’s poor suffer brutal environmental conditions in their own homes because of the necessity of cooking over indoor fires that burn twigs and dung. This causes local deforestation and the proliferation of smoke-and parasite-related lung diseases.
Anyone who wants to see local conditions improve in the Third World should realize the importance of access to cheap electricity from fossil-fuel based power generating stations. After all, that’s how the West developed.
The whole mentality around Earth Hour demonizes electricity. I cannot do that. Instead, I celebrate it and all that it has provided for humanity. Earth Hour celebrates ignorance, poverty and backwardness.
By repudiating the greatest engine of liberation, it becomes an hour devoted to anti-humanism. It encourages the sanctimonious gesture of turning off trivial appliances for a trivial amount of time, in deference to some ill-defined abstraction called “the Earth,” all the while hypocritically retaining and enjoying the real benefits of continuous, reliable electricity.
People who see virtue in doing without electricity should shut off their fridge, stove, microwave, computer, water heater, lights, TV and all other appliances for a month, not an hour. And pop down to the cardiac unit at the hospital and shut the power off there, too.
I don’t want to go back to nature. Travel to a zone hit by earthquakes, floods and hurricanes to see what it’s like to go back to nature. For humans, living in “nature” meant a short life span marked by violence, disease and ignorance. People who work for the end of poverty and relief from disease are fighting against nature. I hope they leave their lights on.
Here in Ontario, through the use of pollution control technology and advanced engineering, our air quality has dramatically improved since the 1960s, despite the expansion of industry and the power supply. If, after all this, we are going to take the view that the remaining air emissions outweigh all the benefits of electricity, and that we ought to be shamed into sitting in darkness for an hour, like naughty children who have been caught doing something bad, then we are setting up unspoiled nature as an absolute, transcendent ideal that obliterates all other ethical and humane obligations. No thanks.
I like visiting nature, but I don’t want to live there, and I refuse to accept the idea that civilization with all its tradeoffs is something to be ashamed of.
Ross McKitrick is Professor of Economics at the University of Guelph, a Senior Fellow at the Fraser Institute and an adjunct scholar of the Cato Institute.
By Ron Arnold
Harvard historian of science Naomi Oreskes is best known to climate realists for her 2010 screed Merchants of Doubt, but a short, obscure, error-riddled essay she wrote as a chapter in the book How Well Do Facts Travel? The Dissemination of Reliable Knowledge is more significant. In it she examines the 1991 origin of the “skeptics are paid industry shills” narrative found in a legendary set of “leaked Western Fuels memos.”
Oreskes’ chapter is important because she interprets the memos as industry’s plan for a vast national campaign using paid climate scientists to create lasting public doubt about global warming. That’s the same interpretation repeated ad nauseam by climate alarmists such as Al Gore, Ross Gelbspan (1997’s The Heat Is On), and Canadian attack website DeSmogBlog.
Appallingly, nobody in this parade of critics ever fact-checked the memos, not even historian Oreskes. Critics misinterpreted what they were looking at in the hundred-or-so pages of “Western Fuels memos.” They cherry-picked pieces that made skeptics look worst and patched them together into an assumption- laden fairy-tale.
Memos Misnamed, Misunderstood
According to Russell Cook’s excellent Heartland Institute Report Merchants of Smear, and numerous interviews with the “memo” sources, all the critics had was a hodgepodge of e-mail exchanges from a loose coalition of 24 large and small electric utilities worried about a carbon tax bill in Congress.
The fairy tale spinners focused only on emails from the utilities’ coal suppliers. The coalition explored lobbying to raise public concern about the impact of the tax, along with pointing out the weaknesses in the claims humans were causing climate change, using well-established skeptical scientists as spokesmen to balance the deluge of alarmist publicity.
The “memos” were the everyday work products of coalition members- including the Edison Electric Institute, a large trade group of investor-owned utilities-filed away in no particular order. EEI coordinated the most misinterpreted document, a campaign proposal by opinion survey firm Cambridge Reports of Massachusetts. The other “memos” included letters, meeting notices, reports from a hired Washington public relations firm, sample ads from a North Dakota direct mail firm, and similar items.
Innocuous Trade Association Demonized
Less than one-third of the jumbled “memos” involved Western Fuels Association. It’s ironic that they became known as the “Western Fuels memos,” because WFA is just the opposite of what the alarmist critics thought. It wasn’t a lobbying group but rather a nonprofit, member-owned co-op serving consumer-owned rural electric cooperatives and other public power systems. WFA manages mining and transportation of coal from member-owned mines and buys additional coal in the open market, facts printed on the inside cover of WFA’s annual reports.
The coalition’s climate skeptics picked the semi-humorous acronym “ICE,” and Cambridge Reports suggested several names to fit, including “Informed Citizens for the Environment” and “Information Council for the Environment.” Western Fuels used the latter.
The single most misinterpreted page, “Strategy,” listed nine goals, topped by “Reposition global warming as theory (not fact).” Critics mischaracterized that as “orders from headquarters” to reposition the public into believing global warming is not a fact. Al Gore even featured it in ominous red letters spread across a frame of his movie An Inconvenient Truth. Actually, it was merely a suggestion offered by Cambridge Reports.
Even more importantly, Western Fuels Association officials did not even read the Cambridge Reports proposal, because they had already hired Simmons Advertising of Grand Forks, North Dakota. They never saw the “Reposition global warming as theory (not fact)” goal, and they say they wouldn’t have used it if they had, because it was too abstract.
The national campaign never happened, a three-city test run flopped, and the coalition dissolved amid disagreements between skeptics and pragmatists. In July 1991, coalition members went their separate ways. Smaller ones, generally skeptics, chose to fight for sound science and against new regulations, whereas big, investor-owned utilities abandoned the science debate and chose to lobby to favorably influence legislation.
Slanted Focus, Coverage
Of the original “Western Fuels memos,” only fifty poorly scanned, frustratingly incomplete images on a Greenpeace Investigations site are publicly available today. So, where did Oreskes get the entire set?
She claims she found them “in the archives of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) in Washington, D.C.” and advises, “scholars wishing to consult these materials should contact the AMS.”
AMS is actually headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts It maintains a small Washington, DC office for government affairs, but it has no archives. The AMS archivist in Boston verified no such documents ever existed in the society’s archives.
Oreskes said an “Anthony Socci” brought the documents to her attention. The AMS archivist said Socci-a Senate Commerce Committee staffer from 1991 to 1993 who managed hearings for Sen. Al Gore - had been an AMS employee for a time, and likely had a personal copy he made available to Oreskes.
How did Socci get the documents? The most likely answer comes from a letter on EEI letterhead dated May 6, 1991, showing the group’s global warming task force strongly disparaged the skeptic campaign. Within a month, the memos were circulating among environmentalists in Washington. The Sierra Club forwarded a copy to the New York Times, mentioned in a July 8, 1991 article headlined, “Pro Coal Ad Campaign Disputes Warming Idea.”
A noted historian, when asked for the simplest definition of history, said, “History is what really happened.” That’s not what Oreskes wrote.
“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.”
Daniel J. Boorstin
Ron Arnold (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a free-enterprise activist, author, and commentator.
In Oreskes name, these signs are being posted on lakes across the country.
Penn and Teller get hundreds of knucklehead enviros like Oreskes to sign a DHMO (water) ban petition.
By Michael Bastasch
Are government climate agencies tampering with climate data to show warming? Some Republicans think so. California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher says to expect congressional hearings on climate data tampering.
@caerbannog666 expect there to be congressional hearings into NASA altering weather station data to falsely indicate warming￼ & sea rise - Dana Rohrabacher (@DanaRohrabacher) February 20, 2015
Rohrabacher serves as the vice chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, which has jurisdiction over NASA and other agencies that monitor the Earth’s climate.
Rohrabacher has long been critical of the theory of man-made global warming. Lately, the California Republican has criticizing NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for allegedly tampering with temperature data to create an artificial warming trend. Such data is then used to justify regulations aimed at curbing fossil fuel use and other industrial activities.
@grngamine journalist investigation shows records of various weather stations altered by AGW advocates to make it appear to be warming. -Dana Rohrabacher (@DanaRohrabacher) February 19, 2015
@caerbannog666 U seem unaware of latest revelation of data manipulation. NASA reported higher temp than what was record at weather stations - Dana Rohrabacher (@DanaRohrabacher) February 19, 2015
Rohrabacher isn’t the only one to call for hearings on the science behind global warming. Oklahoma Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe has also promised to hold hearings on global warming data.
“We’re going to have a committee hearing on the science,” said Inhofe, who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “People are going to hear the other side of the story.”
For years, those skeptical of man-made global warming have argued that government agencies are altering raw temperature data to create a warming trend. Allegations of tampering have increased as satellite temperature readings show much less warming than land and ocean-based weather stations show.
Science blogger Steven Goddard (a pseudonym) has been a major critic of NASA’s and NOAA’s temperature measurements. Goddard points out that NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center makes the present look warmer by artificially cooling past temperatures to show a warming trend.
“NCDC pulls every trick in the book to turn the US cooling trend into warming. The raw data shows cooling since the 1920s,” Goddard told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an interview last month.
“NCDC does a hockey stick of adjustments to reverse the trend,” Goddard said. “This includes cooling the past for ‘time of observation bias’ infilling missing rural data with urban temperatures, and doing almost nothing to compensate for urban heat island effects.”
NOAA does make temperature adjustments, but it argues such adjustments are necessary to remove “artificial biases” in surface temperature data. The biggest adjustment made by NCDC scientists is cooling past data to take into account the fact that there was a big shift from taking temperature readings in the afternoon to the morning.
“We get a lot of people questioning our data adjustments,” Thomas Peterson, NCDC’s principal scientist, told TheDCNF. There was an “artificial cool bias in the data,” Peterson said.
Switching the time of the day temperatures were taken from the afternoon, when temperatures are warmer, to the morning, when temperatures are cooler, caused a cooling bias in the data. Temperature data from nearby weather stations was used to help create a baseline temperature for different regions.
But there are some drawbacks in surface temperature readings from a few thousand weather stations, boats and buoys spread out across the world. Peterson said the weather station system is “only really good for the U.S.”
“The main problem is where there are a few stations in the middle of nowhere.” Peterson said, specifically referring to weather station data problems on St. Helena Island.
UK Telegraph writer Christopher Booker joined the fray recently, using work by Goddard and other bloggers to criticize climate agencies for data tampering.
“Of much more serious significance, however, is the way this wholesale manipulation of the official temperature record...has become the real elephant in the room of the greatest and most costly scare the world has known,” Booker wrote. “This really does begin to look like one of the greatest scientific scandals of all time.”
Paul Driessen and Roger Bezdek
"Disinvestment” of fossil fuel holdings is misguided, irresponsible, lethal - and racist
“Social responsibility” activists want universities and pension funds to eliminate fossil fuel companies from their investment portfolios. They plan to spotlight their demands on “Global Divestment Day,” February 13-14. Their agenda is misguided, immoral, lethal...even racist.
A mere 200 years ago, the vast majority of humans were poor, sick and malnourished. Life expectancy in 1810 was less than 40 years, and even royal families lived under sanitation, disease and housing standards inferior to what poor American families enjoy today. Then a veritable revolution occurred.
The world began to enjoy a bonanza in wealth, technology, living standards and life spans. In just two centuries, average world incomes rose eleven-fold, disease rates plummeted, and life expectancy more than doubled. Unfortunately, not everyone benefitted equally, and even today billions of people still live under conditions little better than what prevailed in 1810. Bringing them from squalor, disease and early death to modernity may be our most important economic, technological and moral challenge.
Many factors played vital roles in this phenomenal advancement. However, as Julian Simon, Indur Goklany, Alex Epstein and the authors of this article have documented, driving all this progress were fossil fuels that provided the energy for improvements in industry, transportation, housing, healthcare and environmental quality, and for huge declines in climate-related deaths due to storms, droughts, heat and cold. Modern civilization is undeniably high energy - and 85% of the world’s energy today is still coal, oil and natural gas. These fuels support $70 trillion per year in global gross domestic product, to power virtually everything we make, grow, ship, drive, eat and do. The rest of the world deserves nothing less.
Demands that institutions eliminate hydrocarbon stocks, and society stop using fossil fuels, would reverse this progress, jeopardize people’s health and living standards, and prevent billions of still impoverished people worldwide from enjoying the living standards that many of us take for granted.
Trains and automobiles would not run. Planes would not fly. Refrigeration, indoor plumbing, safe food and water, central heating and air conditioning, plastics and pharmaceuticals would disappear or become luxuries for wealthy elites. We would swelter in summer and freeze in winter. We’d have electricity only when it’s available, not when we need it - to operate assembly lines, conduct classes and research, perform life-saving surgeries, and use computers, smart phones and social media.
Divesting fossil fuels portfolios is also financially imprudent. Fossil-fuel stocks are among the best for solid, risk-adjusted returns. One analysis found that a 2.1% share in fossil fuel companies by colleges and universities generated 5.7% of all endowment gains in 2010 to 2011, to fund scholarship, building and other programs. Teacher, police and other public pension funds have experienced similar results.
That may be why such institutions often divest slowly, if at all, over 5-10 years, to maximize their profits. One is reminded of St. Augustine of Hippo’s prayer: “Please let me be chaste and celibate - but not yet.” The “ethical” institutions selling fossil fuel stocks also need to find buyers who are willing to stand up to divestment pressure group insults and harassment. They also need to deal with hard realities.
No “scalable” alternative fuels currently exist to replace fossil fuels. To avoid the economic, social, environmental and human health catastrophes that would follow the elimination of hydrocarbons, we would need affordable, reliable options on a large enough scale to replace the fuels we rely on today. The divestment movement ignores the enormity of current and future global energy needs (met and unmet), and the fact that existing “renewable” technologies cannot possibly meet those requirements.
Fossil fuels produce far more energy per acre than biofuels, notes analyst Howard Hayden. Using biomass - instead of coal or natural gas - to generate electricity for one U.S. city of 700,000 people would require cutting down trees across an area the size of Rhode Island every year. Making corn-based ethanol to replace the gasoline in U.S. vehicles would require planting every single acre of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, North and South Dakota and Wisconsin in corn for fuel. Wind and solar currently provide just 3% of global energy consumption, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports; by 2040, as the world’s population continues to grow, hydroelectric, wind, solar, biomass and geothermal energy combined will still represent only 15% of the total, the EIA predicts.
Not using fossil fuels is tantamount to not using energy. It is economic suicide and eco-manslaughter.
Over the past three decades, fossil fuels enabled 1.3 billion people to escape debilitating energy poverty - over 830 million thanks to coal alone - and China connected 99% of its population to the grid and increased its steel production eight times over, again mostly with coal. However, 1.3 billion people are still desperate for electricity and modern living standards. In India alone, over 300 million people (the population of the entire United States) remain deprived of electricity.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, some 615 million (100 million more than in the USA, Canada and Mexico combined) still lack this life-saving technology, and 730 million (the population of Europe) still cook and heat with wood, charcoal and animal dung. Millions die every year from lung and intestinal diseases, due to breathing smoke from open fires and not having the safe food and water that electricity brings.
Ending this lethal energy deprivation will require abundant, reliable, affordable energy on unprecedented scales, and more than 80% of it will have to come from fossil fuels. Coal now provides 40% of the world’s electricity, and much more than that in some countries. That is unlikely to change anytime soon.
We cannot even build wind and solar facilities without coal and petroleum: to mine, smelt, manufacture and transport materials for turbines, panels and transmission lines - and to build and operate backup power units that also require vast amounts of land, cement, steel, copper, rare earth metals and other materials.
Coal-fired power plants in China, India and other developing countries do emit large quantities of sulfates, nitrous oxides, mercury and soot that can cause respiratory problems and death. However, modern pollution control systems could - and eventually will - eliminate most of that.
Divestment activists try to counter these facts by claiming that climate science is settled and the world faces a manmade global warming cataclysm. On that basis they demand that colleges and universities forego any debate and rush to judgment on hydrocarbon divestment. However, as we have pointed out here and elsewhere, the alleged “97% consensus” is a fiction, no manmade climate crisis is looming, and there is abundant evidence of massive “pHraud” in all too much climate chaos “research.”
We therefore ask: What right do divestment activists and climate change alarmists have to deny Earth’s most destitute people access to electricity and motor fuels, jobs and better lives? To tell people what level of economic development, health and living standards they will be “permitted” to enjoy? To subject people to policies that “safeguard” families from hypothetical, exaggerated, manufactured and illusory climate change risks 50 to 100 years from now - by imposing energy, economic and healthcare deprivation that will perpetuate disease and could kill them tomorrow?
That is not ethical. It is intolerant and totalitarian. It is arrogant, immoral, lethal and racist.
To these activists, we say: “You first. Divest yourselves first. Get fossil fuels out of your lives. All of them. Go live in Sub-Saharan Africa just like the natives for a few months, drinking their parasite-infested water, breathing their polluted air, enduring their disease-ridden flies and mosquitoes - without benefit of modern drugs or malaria preventatives...and walking 20 miles to a clinic when you collapse with fever.
To colleges, universities and pension funds, we suggest this: Ensure open, robust debate on all these issues, before you vote on divestment. Allow no noisy disruption, walk-outs or false claims of consensus. Compel divestment advocates to defend their positions, factually and respectfully. Protect the rights and aspirations of people everywhere to reliable, affordable electricity, better living standards and improved health. And instead of “Global Divestment Day,” host and honor “Hydrocarbon Appreciation Day.”
Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power - Black death. Dr. Roger Bezdek is an internationally recognized energy analyst and president of Management Information Services, Inc., in Washington, DC (www.MISI-net.com).