The fact that President Obama has been spreading lies about climate change to support his actions directing the Environmental Protection Agency to impose costly new restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions was exposed last week at a Senate hearing. The lie? Spoken with his trademark don’t-you-dare-question-me confidence during a November 2012 press conference, Obama said: “What we do know is the temperature around the globe is increasing—faster than was predicted even ten years ago.” Then at a Chicago fundraiser on May 29: “We also know that the climate is warming faster than anybody anticipated five or 10 years ago.” He’s likely said the same thing several times in the intervening months.
The hearing “Climate Change: It’s Happening Now” was held on Thursday, July 18, by the Environment and Public Works Committee—chaired by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA). Because Democrats control the Senate, they get more witnesses at a hearing than Republicans. Thursday’s hearing had two panels. Each had three experts (invited by the Democrats) who supported the “alarmist’ position on global warming held by most Democrats and two (invited by the Republicans) who could be called “skeptics.”
During the Q & A time with the first panel—which included the Democrat’s star (Heidi Cullen of Weather Channel fame), Ranking Member Senator David Vitter (R-LA) asked: “Can any witnesses say they agree with Obama’s statement that warming has accelerated during the past 10 years?” After an awkward (to say the least) silence, Cullen tried to change the subject by saying that we need to be looking at longer time periods then ten years and then, ultimately, acknowledged that the warming has slowed, not accelerated. A few minutes later, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) made sure no one missed the point. He repeated Obama’s claim and then asked: “Do any of you support that quote?” Again, silence.
Even the witnesses brought in by the Democrats couldn’t support Obama’s false data. But, there were other interesting aspects of the nearly four-hour-long hearing.
Chairman Boxer, in her opening statement, proclaimed: “Predictions of climate change are coming true right before our eyes.” She added, “We can look out the window and see the evidence of climate change mounting around us.”
I find it interesting that Boxer started off with “predictions.” In preparation for the hearing, the Minority—led by Vitter—produced an important report: “Critical Thinking on Climate Change: Questions to Consider Before Taking Regulatory Action and Implementing Economic Policies.” The 21-page report’s introduction states: “Over nearly four decades, numerous predictions have had adequate time to come to fruition, providing an opportunity to analyze and compare them to today’s statistics. … This report posits that as the developing world has greatly expanded its use of fossil energy and CO2 emissions have increased, then the predictions and claims regarding human influence on climate patterns should be apparent and easily proven.” The remaining 19 pages are filled with predictions and claims—including Obama’s—that are false or foolish, such as Former Vice President Al Gore’s on December 13, 2008: “The entire north polar ice cap will be gone in 5 years.” And a 1989 statement from the Associated Press: “Using computer models, researchers conclude that global warming would raise average annual temperatures nationwide by two degrees by 2010.” Each set of predictions and claims is countered by “The Latest Science.” Reading the report, you’ll find that the claims often contradict the data.
Back to Boxer. She starts with dramatic predictions about heat waves, tropical storms, and hurricanes—which will be more frequent and intense.
The first witness was Cullen, Chief Climatologist at Climate Central—who continued with the “extreme weather events” theme: “The impacts of human-caused climate change are being observed right here and right now in our own backyards and neighborhoods.” She said that warming is happening very, very quickly and that it is expected to accelerate. She talked about extremes seen every day:
- More heavy downpours (a non-meteorological term),
- More heat extremes,
- Increase in hurricane activity,
- Increase in flood magnitude, and
- Southwest increase in droughts and wildfires.
While Boxer and Cullen set the stage, as witnesses number 9 and 10, Roger Pielke, Jr. and Roy Spencer provided the final act in Thursday’s theater.
Pielke, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado and the author of Climate Fix, started with seven “take-home points” that totally eviscerated Boxer and Cullen’s “extreme weather” claims. Showing a series of charts and graphs that can be found in his written testimony, Pielke convincingly proved: “It is misleading, and just plain incorrect, to claim that disasters associated with hurricanes, tornadoes, floods or droughts have increased on climate timescales either in the United States or globally. It is further incorrect to associate the increasing costs of disasters with the emission of greenhouse gases.” The fact of the matter is (From Pielke’s testimony):
- Globally, weather-related losses have not increased since 1990 as a proportion of GDP (they have actually decreased by about 25%).
- Insured catastrophe losses have not increased as a proportion of GDP since 1960.
- Hurricanes have not increased in the US in frequency, intensity, or normalized damage since at least 1900.
- There are no significant trends (up or down) in global tropical cyclone landfalls since 1970 (when data allows for a comprehensive perspective), or the overall number of cyclones.
- Floods have not increased in the US in frequency or intensity since at least 1950.
- Tornadoes have not increased in frequency, intensity, or normalized damage since 1950; and there is some evidence to suggest that they have actually declined.
- Drought has, for the most part, become shorter, less frequent, and has been covering a smaller portion of the US over the past century.
Pielke’s comments are all the more noteworthy when you realize that he generally believes that humans are influencing the climate system “in profound ways.”
Last, but surely not least, was Roy Spencer, who holds a Ph.D. in Meteorology and has spent his entire career in research—specifically satellite information retrieval techniques and global temperature monitoring. Spencer has served NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center as the Senior Scientist for Climate Studies. He agrees with Pielke—and every other panelist that at least some of the recent warming is human-caused: “We probably are having some influence, but it is impossible to know with any level of certainty how much influence.”
Spencer tore apart the oft-quoted figure that 97% of scientists support the global warming consensus. He explained that it’s actually 97% of the published papers that acknowledge some human influence—which is “therefore rather innocuous, since it probably includes all of the global warming ‘skeptics’ I know of who are actively working in the field. Skeptics generally are skeptical of the view that recent warming is all human-caused, and/or that it is of a sufficient magnitude to warrant immediate action given the cost of energy policies to the poor. They do not claim humans have no impact on climate whatsoever.”
Why is Spencer “skeptical?” For many reasons, but one involves data he showed covering the Roman Warm Period, the Medieval Warm Period, and the Modern Warm Period. He said: “While today’s hearing is entitled“Climate Change; It’s Happening Now,” it could have been entitled “Climate Change: It’s Happened Before.” He explained: “The last 2000 years of proxy reconstructed temperature variations for the Northern Hemisphere shows that the Modern Warm Period (today) is not significantly different from the Medieval Warm Period of ~1000 years ago, or the Roman Warm Period of ~2000 years ago.”
Spencer also demonstrated the failure of the computer model predictions upon which the IPCC based their projections of global warming. He offered a chart demonstrating the 73 models used and their predictions vs. the actual temperature measurement from two satellite datasets and four weather balloon datasets. “The level of disagreement between models and observations is quite striking.” Spencer pointed out: “The magnitude of global-average atmospheric warming between 1997 and 2012 is only about 50% that predicted by the climate models. …The level of warming in the most recent 15-year period is not significantly different from zero, despite this being the period of greatest greenhouse gas concentration. This is in stark contrast to claims that warming is ‘accelerating.’” He concludes: “It is time for scientists to entertain the possibility that there is something wrong with the assumptions built into their climate models. …and so far their error rate should preclude their use for predicting future climate change.”
Spencer’s testimony mentioned the “cost of energy policies to the poor”—which brings up another interesting contrast presented at Thursday’s hearing: the economics. As each of the Senators gave his or her opening statements, the Democrats—who claim to be the champions of the poor—never mentioned the cost, and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) exclaimed: “To save the planet will be expensive!” He proposed “serious legislation to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions” and called for “bold action,” saying that “the US must lead the world.” He’s introduced legislation for a tax on carbon. (Realize that the same week the hearing was held, Australia’s new Prime Minister announced that he “will ‘terminate’ the country’s carbon tax early ‘to help cost of living pressures for families and to reduce costs for small business.”)
Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) addressed “the President’s intent to pursue a costly regulatory roll out” which he said “demands proof of sound science as well as transparency.”
The economists on the panel where those invited by the Republicans. Diana Furchtgott-Roth was one of them. She’s been chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, chief of staff at the Council of Economic Advisers, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Domestic Policy Council under President George H.W. Bush, and an economist on the staff of President Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers.
I talked to Furchtgott-Roth after the hearing. She told me: “They don’t seem to be interested in whether or not climate change is really occurring. They are not interested in facts. They want a carbon tax because it will give them unlimited power and unlimited power means unlimited campaign contributions.” Furchtgott-Roth pointed out how a carbon tax would hurt the economy and how the expensive proposed solutions would disproportionately affect low-income Americans. A chart she presented shows, based on Department of Labor data, that “those in the lowest fifth of the income distribution spend an average of 24 percent of income on energy, compared to 10 percent of the income for those in the middle fifth, and 4 percent of income for those in the top fifth.” She presented several less costly options for climate change mitigation—if greenhouse gasses are really the problem—but felt they fell on deaf ears.
A lot of data was presented at the Senate hearing—much of which was obviously unsettling to the “alarmists.” During the Q & A, the “skeptics” were less attacked on the content of their testimony than they were on personal issues.
Boxer called out the two economists (Furchtgott-Roth and Dr. Robert P. Murphy, Senior Economist, Institute for Energy Research) because their organizations receive some funding from the oil and gas industry. Furchtgott-Roth pointed out that she’s been writing on these issues since long before becoming a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) attempted to portray Spencer as a knuckle-dragging Bible thumper for his views on evolutionary theory. Spencer laughed, asked where that was coming from, and then told Whitehouse he’d be happy to show the stronger science arguments for design at another time. Clearly, Whitehouse’s comments were inappropriate, considering the topic at hand.
In his opening comments, Sanders smugly called the hearing an “Alice in Wonderland hearing” because the people within the room were “living in two separate worlds.” Clearly, they are. But those two worlds accurately represent the American population—though in differing percentages. At the “Alice in Wonderland hearing” the Majority supports the “alarmist” view, which encourages a carbon tax and other “expensive” solutions. In the real world, the majority doesn’t see climate change as a pressing problem—hence the shift to dramatic “extreme weather events.” Americans prioritize economic growth over protecting the environment—a recent survey puts climate change at number 21 in a list of top concerns. In her written testimony, Furchtgott-Roth stated that “Americans know that no reduction in global warming will occur if America reduces greenhouse gases without similar action by China and India, and these countries have not agreed to comparable steps.”
The hearing’s “take-home points”: Obama lied. Boxer and Cullen’s predictions are false. The models are inaccurate. So, for this we are going to ruin the economy and disproportionately hurt the poor?
The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). Together they work to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom, and the American way of life. Combining energy, news, politics, and, the environment through public events, speaking engagements, and media, the organizations’ combined efforts serve as America’s voice for energy.
Photo credit: SS&SS (Creative Commons)