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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Has Al Gore Read Nigel Lawson's Book?

An Appeal To Reason
John Tamny
Has Al Gore read Nigel Lawson's book?

Nigel Lawson, chancellor of the Exchequer under Margaret Thatcher, and author of three books--including his essential account of the Thatcher years, The View from No. 11: Memoirs of a Tory Radical--had trouble finding a publisher for his most recent book, An Appeal to Reason, which casts a skeptical eye on global warming.

As he notes in the foreword, one rejection letter suggested that "it would be very difficult to find a wide market" for a book that "flies so much in the face of the prevailing orthodoxy." So while Lawson acknowledges that his contribution to the discussion won't "shake the faith" of global warming's true believers, he's written what is a very informative book for those not yet convinced that Armageddon is our future, absent massive worldwide government action.

Lawson acknowledges up front that while he is not a scientist, neither "are the vast majority of those who pronounce on the matter" of global warming "with far greater certainty." And throughout, he deliberately uses the term "global warming" rather than the "attractively alliterative weasel words, 'climate change,'" and he does so "because the climate changes all the time."

In discussing global warming, Lawson happily takes the road less traveled in making the basic point about the science of global warming being "far from settled," not to mention that scientific truth "is not established by counting heads," as so many advocates of all manner of popular causes would likely prefer. So while Lawson doesn't hide from the fact that the 20th century ended slightly warmer than it began, he reminds readers that there has been no further evidence of global warming since the turn of the century.

Furthermore, news accounts would have us believe that calculating temperature is a foolproof process. But in reality, these calculations include data taken from the former Soviet Union, along with records from less-developed parts of the world. When Lawson checked U.S. temperature records, records thought to be most reliable, he found that only three of the last 12 years are among the warmest on record; 1934 being the warmest year of all. And though the level of carbon dioxide did increase 30% during the 20th century amid a slight warming trend, it's also boomed this century amid a slight cooling.

When we consider the slight warming that materialized during the 20th century, Lawson notes that it's not certain that the majority of it has to do with human activity. In truth, clouds/water vapor are the biggest contributors to the much vaunted "greenhouse effect," but the science of clouds is "one of the least understood aspects of climate science." Importantly, the earth's climate has always been subject to variations unrelated to human industrial activity, the "medieval warm period" of 1,000 years ago having occurred well before industrialization.

Regarding actions we might take, Lawson reminds readers that we need to avoid the kind of panic that could lead to disastrous policies. Indeed, he makes plain that there "is something inherently absurd about the conceit that we can have any useful idea of what the world will look like in a hundred years time," not to mention the other projected calamities expected to occur over 1,000 years from now. If this is doubted, ask yourself how many times weather forecasts meant to predict the next day have proven to be massively incorrect.

Notably, five out of the six scenarios proffered by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assume that faster worldwide economic growth will bring the living standards of the developing world up to those enjoyed by the developed world today. If we ignore the obvious healthful good that the latter will reveal, it should be said that any unchecked global warming (meaning no Kyotos) will have a trade off in terms of rising global happiness. Lawson points out that the IPCC's stats should at the very least "cheer up those who have been told that disaster stares us in the face if we do not take urgent action to save the planet." Or more simply, Lawson writes that, "Warmer but richer is in fact healthier than colder but poorer."

So while Lawson asks the essential question about whether "it is really plausible that there is an ideal average world temperature," he reminds that average temperature is "simply a statistical artifact." Indeed, he points to Helsinki and Singapore, two cities with vastly different temperatures, both coped with very successfully.

Furthermore, the IPCC's alarmist scenario involving warming of 5.4 degrees over the next 100 years averages out to 0.05F per year. To the extent that the latter scares, from 1975-2000 when the world was mostly in "denial," warming per year averaged 0.04F. We seem to have adapted to that pretty well, plus warming in some parts of the world would bring undeniable good.

And while Al Gore remarkably predicts that sea levels will rise over 20 feet over the next century, the mildly more sober IPCC projections fall into the 18-to-59 centimeter category. Importantly, Lawson points out that sea levels have been rising gradually for as long as records exist, and with no noted acceleration amid the period of industrialization. And for those worried about ice sheets melting in parts of Antarctica, Lawson doesn't hide from the latter, but merely points out that they're growing in other parts of the continent.

To the extent that this strikes fear among readers, Lawson suggests an exercise whereby the reader allows ice cubes to melt in a glass of water. When the "level" of water in the glass doesn't rise, it's assumed that this supposed "scare" will be put to bed.

What happens if we do nothing? The IPCC and other groups formed to project various scenarios argue that environmental problems that might result from what is merely a presumption of human-made warming will harm economic growth. That being the case, Lawson calculates that in 100 years those in the developing world will only be 2.6 times as well off as we are today vs. 2.7 times, while the lucky residents of the developed world will "only" be 8.5 times as well off vs. 9.5 times if the theory is licked.

Lawson also reminds readers that assuming the action is nothing, the alarmist groups in no way account for the human ability to adapt to changes in the atmosphere. This is the equivalent of the suggestion that when it rains, people don't seek shelter. Well, of course they seek shelter, and just the same, provisions will be made for rising sea levels and all manner of other evolution regarding the planet.

Some, particularly in the developed world, will buy hybrids and turn off the lights in order to help the global warming cause, but Lawson dismisses those activities as trivial. They certainly are, relative to the economy-enervation that would have resulted from worldwide passage of the Kyoto Treaty, but even if we make the Utopian assumption that the world could agree on a drastic drop in terms of emissions, we're talking a projected earth cooling of 0.2F!

If Lawson's book is missing something, it would likely have to do with it not spending enough time on Al Gore's documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. While Lawson touches on a few falsehoods here and there, a full refutation would have been fun. Also, though he's by no means convinced that humans are warming the earth, he does give in to a carbon tax assuming there are commensurate cuts in the rates of income tax. To this writer, that seems a bit fanciful, given the natural instinct of governments to add taxes while not reducing others.

But in the end, this essential book is an appeal to reason, and there Lawson reminds us that there are numerous potential catastrophes that could reveal themselves now and in the future. Global warming looms small in Lawson's catastrophe rankings, and just as the novel The DaVinci Code contained "a grain of truth--and a mountain of nonsense," so it seems the alarmism surrounding global warming does too.

Worth causing economic hardship to fight? Lawson thinks not.

John Tamny is editor of RealClearMarkets, a senior economist with H.C. Wainwright Economics and a senior economic adviser to Toreador Research and Trading.

No comments:

My Rant

The claim that climate change is direct result of man's energy consumption is simply unproven and politically motivated. While they propound lies that certain lightbulbs or cars will destroy the earth and raise ocean levels as much as 20 feet within the next century, fascists, like Al Gore, fly around in their Gulfstream jets and live in homes that use 22 times the energy of an average American's home! Their propaganda is outrageous and potentially catastrophic for the economies of United States, the developed world and developing world.

The proof of global warming or man's influence on climate change is not settled science. Just consider the source of the big lie: the proselytizing hypocritical high priest of the pagan environmental religion Al Gore or the other Kool-Aid drinking climateers from the left such as Learjet liberals, Hollywood high school drop-outs, billonaire elitists, the left-leaning mainstream media, the United Nations, academia, environmental radicals, socialists, other anti-capitalists and so called "researchers", "experts" and/or "scientists" whose paychecks depend upon the apparent existence of the "issue".

United States energy conservation and independence is a worthy goal that should be supported by Republicans, the Democrat Party, true Democrats, Independents and environmentalists. Energy independence is a major national security concern. However, lying to our people, implementing the cap & trade boondoggle which will crush our economy or doing anything that will cause the United States to transfer an portion of its sovereignty to the United Nations is idiotic. Not in my name!
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