Summary: As we approach the 30th anniversary of the climate change campaign in America, let’s examine the results — and see why so much money and effort has been expended for so little result. Let’s learn to do better.
The 30th anniversary of the climate change campaign
On 23 June 1988 Dr. James Hansen of NASA kicked off the modern campaign for American policy action to fight climate change (see the NYT, the testimony). After thirty years, a vast expenditure of money, work, and political capital, what do they have to show for it? What is the public’s attitude to climate change?
See this report showing how public opinion has changed. They show a slow increase in concern and belief in the need for action. Such as this NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll conducted by Hart Research Associates and Public Opinion Strategies on 14-18 September 2017. N=900 adults nationwide. Margin of error ± 3.3.
“From what you know about global climate change or global warming, which one of the following statements comes closest to your opinion?”
- “Global climate change has been established as a serious problem, and immediate action is necessary.”
- “There is enough evidence that climate change is taking place and some action should be taken.”
- “We don’t know enough about global climate change, and more research is necessary before we take any actions.”
- “Concern about global climate change is unwarranted.”
But getting people to say they want action is easy. More important is how an issue ranks against the many other public policy issues claiming our time and money. Climate change is ranked low among American’s public policy priorities. Climate change is even ranked low among the public’s concerns about the environment.
Activists respond to this by doubling down on doomsterism
Like Americans abroad who speak louder in order to be understood, climate activists have doubled down on their predictions of certain doom. Here are two recent examples.
“Winning Slowly Is the Same as Losing” by Bill McKibben in Rolling Stone.
“The technology exists to combat climate change – what will it take to get our leaders to act?”
If we don’t win very quickly on climate change, then we will never win. That’s the core truth about global warming. It’s what makes it different from every other problem our political systems have faced. …
“And because no one wanted to overestimate – because scientists by their nature are conservative – each of the changes we’ve observed has taken us somewhat by surprise. The surreal keeps becoming the commonplace: For instance, after Hurricane Harvey set a record for American rainstorms, and Hurricane Irma set a record for sustained wind speeds, and Hurricane Maria knocked Puerto Rico back a quarter-century, …
“If his administration manages to defund Obamacare, millions of people will suffer. But if, in three years’ time, some new administration takes over with a different resolve, it won’t have become exponentially harder to deal with our health care issues. That suffering in the interim wouldn’t have changed the fundamental equation. But with global warming, the fundamental equation is precisely what’s shifting.
“And the remarkable changes we’ve seen so far – the thawed Arctic that makes the Earth look profoundly different from outer space; the planet’s seawater turning 30 percent more acidic – are just the beginning. ‘We’re inching ever closer to committing to the melting of the West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, which will guarantee 20 feet of sea-level rise,’ says Penn State’s Michael Mann, one of the planet’s foremost climatologists. “We don’t know where the ice-sheet collapse tipping point is, but we are dangerously close.’The latest models show that with very rapid cuts in emissions, Antarctic ice might remain largely intact for centuries; without them, we might see 11 feet of sea-level rise by century’s end, enough to wipe cities like Shanghai and Mumbai ‘off the map.’
There are plenty of tipping points like this: The Amazon, for instance, appears to be drying out and starting to burn as temperatures rise and drought deepens, and without a giant rainforest in South America, the world would function very differently. In the North Atlantic, says Mann, “we’re ahead of schedule with the slowdown and potential collapse” of the giant conveyor belt that circulates warm water toward the North Pole, keeping Western Europe temperate. It’s tipping points like these that make climate change such a distinct problem: If we don’t act quickly, and on a global scale, then the problem will literally become insoluble. We’ll simply move into a dramatically different climate regime, and on to a planet abruptly and disastrously altered from the one that underwrote the rise of human civilization. “Every bit of additional warming at this point is perilous,” says Mann.
Another way of saying this: By 2075 the world will be powered by solar panels and windmills – free energy is a hard business proposition to beat. But on current trajectories, they’ll light up a busted planet. The decisions we make in 2075 won’t matter; indeed, the decisions we make in 2025 will matter much less than the ones we make in the next few years. The leverage is now.
By Peter Brennan in The Atlantic — “The ocean is suffocating—but not for the first time.”
The ocean is losing its oxygen. Last week, in a sweeping analysis in the journal Science, scientists put it starkly: Over the past 50 years, the volume of the ocean with no oxygen at all has quadrupled, while oxygen-deprived swaths of the open seas have expanded by the size of the European Union. The culprits are familiar: global warming and pollution. Warmer seawater both holds less oxygen and turbocharges the worldwide consumption of oxygen by microorganisms. Meanwhile, agricultural runoff and sewage drives suffocating algae blooms. …
Nielsen is one of a group of scientists probing a series of strange ancient catastrophes when the ocean lost much of its oxygen for insight into our possible future in a suffocating world. He has studied one such biotic crisis in particular that might yet prove drearily relevant. Though little known outside the halls of university labs, it was one of the most severe crises of the past 100 million years. It’s known as Oceanic Anoxic Event 2.
These are exciting articles, arousing fear about a grim future for the world. There are two problems with it. First, Leftists’ poor record of predictions. Second, their history of exaggerating the science.
Leftists’ amnesia about their past predictions
“The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate.”
The Left gives their new predictions of doom with no awareness of their past failed predictions. Before we panic, see the Left’s past warnings. And their false claims and exaggerations.
They are still doing it. Remember the ludicrous “30,000 extinctions every year” stories? The stories about the super-hurricanes coming after 2005 (we got a 12 year long “drought”) and the super-extraordinary 2017 hurricane season (that wasn’t). The long-ago predictions about the End of Snow. And some of the many other predictions about climate change that proved to be false.
That Leftists has forgotten these predictions does not mean that we should forget.
Mainstream scientists speak about ocean acidification
The truth is out there, so we need not get our information from doomsters — left or right. Before we panic about CO2, see the data from NOAA’s Pacific Marine Enviro Lab website, showing the surface (0–30 meter) pH trend at Station ALOHA (the blue line). It is a long-term trend of pH dropping at a rate of 0.2% per decade (see below). That’s bad news if it continues for a long time, but not yet the DEFCON ONE alarm that Bill McKibben implies.
Here is the cite for the data: “Physical and biogeochemical modulation of ocean acidification in the central North Pacific” by John E. Dore et al. in PNAS, 28 July 2009. Bottom line:
“We document a significant long-term decreasing trend of −0.0019 ± 0.0002 y−1 in surface pH, which is indistinguishable from the rate of acidification expected from equilibration with the atmosphere.”
About that 30% decrease in pH.
Much is made about the 30% decrease in ocean pH over the past 200 years. A common tactic of alarmists is measuring from estimated pre-industrial levels, implying that anthropogenic global warming began in in the early 19th century. That lets them attribute changes after Little Ice Age to anthropogenic forces. That’s quite bogus, since the changes (for example) in human emissions of CO2 became major only after the 1930s.
“It is extremely likely (95 – 100% certain) that human activities caused more than half of the observed increase in global mean surface temperature from 1951 to 2010.”
— Summary for Policymakers to the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report.
“In the past 200 years alone, ocean water has become 30% more acidic — faster than any known change in ocean chemistry in the last 50 million years.”
— Smithsonian Ocean Portal.
“Since the Industrial Revolution, the global average pH of the surface ocean has decreased by 0.11, which corresponds to approximately a 30% increase in the hydrogen ion concentration.”
— Website of NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory.
Mainstream scientists speak about declining ocean oxygen
This is the major cite from The Atlantic article: “Declining oxygen in the global ocean and coastal waters” by Denise Breitburg et al. in Science, 5 January 2018. PDF available on request. Summary:
As plastic waste pollutes the oceans and fish stocks decline, unseen below the surface another problem grows: deoxygenation. Breitburg et al. review the evidence for the downward trajectory of oxygen levels in increasing areas of the open ocean and coastal waters. Rising nutrient loads coupled with climate change — each resulting from human activities — are changing ocean biogeochemistry and increasing oxygen consumption. This results in destabilization of sediments and fundamental shifts in the availability of key nutrients.
In the short term, some compensatory effects may result in improvements in local fisheries, such as in cases where stocks are squeezed between the surface and elevated oxygen minimum zones. In the longer term, these conditions are unsustainable and may result in ecosystem collapses, which ultimately will cause societal and economic harm.
From the paper: “Decreasing solubility is estimated to account for ~15% of current total global oxygen loss and >50% of the oxygen loss in the upper 1000 m of the ocean.” The vast amounts of organic pollution we discharge into the oceans is the major culprit — blaming climate change makes global reforms to reduce this serious problem less likely.
Breitburg et al. in turn cites several papers, of which this is among the most disturbing: “Decline in global oceanic oxygen content during the past five decades” by Sunke Schmidtko et al. in Nature, 16 February 2017. It is a theory and an important line of research — but not a reason to panic, like Peter Brennan in The Atlantic. Abstract…
Ocean models predict a decline in the dissolved oxygen inventory of the global ocean of 1% to 7% by the year 2100, caused by a combination of a warming-induced decline in oxygen solubility and reduced ventilation of the deep ocean. It is thought that such a decline in the oceanic oxygen content could affect ocean nutrient cycles and the marine habitat, with potentially detrimental consequences for fisheries and coastal economies.
Regional observational data indicate a continuous decrease in oceanic dissolved oxygen concentrations in most regions of the global ocean, with an increase reported in a few limited areas, varying by study. Prior work attempting to resolve variations in dissolved oxygen concentrations at the global scale reported a global oxygen loss of 550 ± 130 teramoles (1012 mol) per decade between 100 and 1,000 metres depth based on a comparison of data from the 1970s and 1990s.
Here we provide a quantitative assessment of the entire ocean oxygen inventory by analysing dissolved oxygen and supporting data for the complete oceanic water column over the past 50 years. We find that the global oceanic oxygen content of 227.4 ± 1.1 petamoles (1015 mol) has decreased by more than 2% (4.8 ± 2.1 petamoles) since 1960, with large variations in oxygen loss in different ocean basins and at different depths.
We suggest that changes in the upper water column are mostly due to a warming-induced decrease in solubility and biological consumption. Changes in the deeper ocean may have their origin in basin-scale multi-decadal variability, oceanic overturning slow-down and a potential increase in biological consumption.
For More Information
- Important: climate scientists can restart the climate change debate – & win.
- How we broke the climate change debates. Lessons learned for the future.
- A candid climate scientist explains how to fix the debate.
- Professor Michael Mann destroys the case for massive immediate action on climate change.
- Good news from America about climate change, leading the way to success.
- “Good news for the New Year! Salon explains that the global climate emergency is over.“
- Good news about climate change from an amazing source! — The Guardian.
- Imagine the horrific fate of the losers after the climate policy debate ends.
- Why skeptics will lose the US climate policy debate.
See these books to learn more about the state of climate change
The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters and Climate Changeby Professor Roger Pielke Jr. See my review of it.
Polar Bears: Outstanding Survivors of Climate Change by Dr. Susan Crockford.See See my review of it.