US government report presents dire global warming outlook

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Released on November 23 (the day after Thanksgiving) by an interagency task force representing 13 government agencies, the second volume (1,600+ pages) of the Fourth National Climate Assessment described the purported effects of global warming in great detail. Trump admin. releases National Climate Assessment with dire warnings, Gabriella Munoz & Stephen Dinan, Washington Times, 11/23/18.

Critics claimed the release date had been selected in an attempt to minimize the impact by making it available while Americans were focused on holiday-related activities. After all, the findings of 4NCA2 contradicted statements the president had made about the subject, such as global warming is a hoax and the Paris Climate pact was a “bad deal” for the US.

Here’s how Colin O’Mara [remembered by many Delawareans for orchestrating the Bloom Energy fuel cell fiasco while he was heading the DNREC] put the point. Buried? Feds to release major climate report day after Thanksgiving, Doyle Rice, usatoday.com,
11/21/18.

“It’s an absolute disgrace to bury the truth about climate impacts in a year that saw hundreds of Americans die during devastating climate-fueled megafires, hurricanes, floods, and algal blooms," said National Wildlife Federation president Collin [sic] O’Mara in a statement.

Columnist Eugene Robinson said release of 4NCA2 on Black Friday “provided stunning new evidence” of the president’s climate-change policy, which “amounts to environmental vandalism on a tragic scale.” The world is on fire – and Trump is playing with matches, Eugene Robinson, Washington Post,
11/26/18.

Fat chance that 4NCA2 would be overlooked! Whether or not anyone actually read this tome, global warming alarmists were still gloating over it 10 days later. Time to adopt NRA’s tactics for climate change, USA Today editorial, News Journal,
12/2/18.

Here’s our take, which is considerably less enthusiastic.


I. Prior reports - There have been two major series of official reports on global warming (aka climate change), periodic assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (which operates under the aegis of the United Nations, published its first assessment report in 1990, and is currently in its sixth assessment cycle), and the US government’s national climate assessments (in 2000, 2009, 2014 and now 2018).

Given publication of the major reports in segments and a multiplicity of side reports, there are probably several UN or US reports on global warming published every year. In this instance, 4NCA2 was sandwiched between two UN-sponsored reports:

• IPCC published its Special Report 15 in October, calling for radical acceleration of the fossil fuel energy phaseout.. The IPCC’s latest climate hysteria, Paul Driessen, townhall.com,
10/13/18.

[This report] claims the latest disaster “tipping point” is just 12 years away. If governments around the world fail to make “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society,” human civilization and our planet face cataclysm, the IPCC asserts. *** Oh, and the world will need to spend up to “$60-80 trillion by 2036” to cover the costs involved.

•On November 27, a second UN report characterized Paris Climate pact pledges to cut carbon emissions as insufficient and said it was imperative to pick up the pace. “If the IPCC report represented a global fire alarm, this report is the arson investigation,” said UN Environment Deputy Executive Director Joyce Msuya. UN warns countries are falling behind on Paris climate pledges, John Siciliano, Washington Examiner,
11/27/18.

Hmm, does this “hard sell” approach seem over the top? Perhaps it would be wise to think twice before knuckling under.

II. Use of reports – Numerous government actions have been proposed or taken based on the IPCC and US climate assessments, while ignoring conflicting information. Notably, the Environmental Protection Agency relied on previously published assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the US federal government as the principal basis for its finding that rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are endangering the environment.

SAFE submitted timely comments on this approach, citing conflicting views of various scientific experts, e.g., physicist William Happer of Princeton University. We urged the EPA to conduct a de novo assessment based on the full range of scientific opinion, to include an extensive report that had just been published by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change. Letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson,
6/4/09.

Notwithstanding SAFE’s letter, the proposed finding was finalized in due course. Greenhouse gas endangerment finding, EPA,
12/15/09. (download PDF) The EPA subsequently relied on this finding as a basis for treating CO2 as a pollutant and promulgating regulations on emissions under the Clean Air Act without seeking congressional authorization.

III. The party line – There are undoubtedly differences between the UN and US reports, changes over time within each series, and even inconsistencies between different sections of individual reports. That’s to be expected given the complexity of the subject matter, volume of material, and involvement of thousands of people in preparing and reviewing these reports over time.

Nevertheless, it’s our impression that these reports have tended to validate a preconceived message that global temperatures are rising, human burning of fossil fuels is the principal reason, and the use of fossil fuels must be reduced or ended on a crash basis. As for who should bear the costs involved, the answer is either (a) the recommended actions will pay for themselves, or (b) someone else will cover the bill.

SAFE disagrees with several aspects of this outlook. In brief: (1) The Manmade Global Warming Theory remains unproven, and there has been little credible evidence that global warming threatens to spiral out of control. (2) Even if the MMGWT were valid, wind and solar power could not be relied on to meet our energy needs – more reliable energy sources (e.g., natural gas and nuclear) are needed to power the electric grid. (3) It would be advisable to eliminate all existing mandates and subsidies for renewable energy and allow energy source decisions to be determined by market economics – subject to reasonable regulation of pollutants (not including CO2, a trace gas essential for life on this planet). Midterm issues: Renewable energy,
9/10/18.

With this background in mind, let’s consider how 4NCA2 supports the manmade global warming mantra.

IV. Global temperatures are rising due to fossil fuel use – Average global temperatures rose 1.8°F between 1900 and 2016, and the trend is accelerating. 4NCA2, chapter 2 (footnotes omitted), globalchange.gov, 2018.

•Long-term temperature observations are among the most consistent and widespread evidence of a warming planet. Global annually averaged temperature measured over both land and oceans has increased by about 1.8°F (1.0°C) according to a linear trend from 1901 to 2016, and by 1.2°F (0.65°C) for the period 1986–2015 as compared to 1901–1960.

• Over the last century, changes in solar output, volcanic emissions, and natural variability have only contributed marginally to the observed changes in climate (Figure 2.1). No natural cycles are found in the observational record that can explain the observed increases in the heat content of the atmosphere, the ocean, or the cryosphere since the industrial era. Greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are the only factors that can account for the observed warming over the last century; there are no credible alternative human or natural explanations supported by the observational evidence.

•With significant reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases, the future rise in global average temperature could be limited to 3.6°F (2°C) or less, consistent with the aim of the Paris Agreement (see Box 2.4). Similarly, without major reductions in these emissions, the increase in annual average global temperatures relative to preindustrial times could reach 9°F (5°C) or more by the end of this century.


Hmm, sounds like an open and shut case, but there are several holes in the reasoning.

#CO2 LEVELS - Projected growth in atmospheric CO2 is based on the most extreme of several scenarios in the report, and the projected temperature increase would be substantially lower with either of the “lower” scenarios (see chart from the report). 4 problems with the new climate change report, Nicholas Loris, dailysignal.com,
11/26/18.

Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 assumes “the fastest population growth (a doubling of Earth’s population to 12 billion), the lowest rate of technology development, slow GDP growth, a massive increase in world poverty, plus high energy use and emissions.” It also estimates nearly impossible levels of coal consumption, fails to take into account the massive increase in natural gas production from the shale revolution, and ignores technological innovations that continue to occur in nuclear and renewable technologies.





#COMPUTER MODELS – Historical temperature data are available, although questions have been raised about which set of measurements to use (e.g., satellite data vs. ground level measurement stations) and possible fudging of the data. As for future temperatures, these data are generated by computer models that have proven quite inaccurate. Heartland Institute experts react to latest government climate report, Tim Huelskamp et al., press release, heartland.org, 11/24/18.

“This report is a scientific embarrassment. Not only does it rely on computer models to predict the climate through the end of the century, it relies on computer models from five years ago that have been laughably wrong, failing to get even close to reality since 2013. Happily, President Trump has on his advisory staff Dr. William Happer, who knows how flawed these models are and will advise the president to not base a single aspect of U.S. policy upon them.” Jay Lehr, Science Director, Heartland Institute.

#NATURAL CAUSES – There are ongoing scientific efforts to better understand the causes of climate change, and much remains to be learned. Accordingly, it would be foolish to accept the findings of 4NCA2 without considering the full range of information that is available.
Ibid.

The Heartland Institute has published 4,000 pages of the Climate Change Reconsidered series by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC). Those reports cite many hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific papers that show how every conclusion of this latest government report are false. *** The idea that global temperatures could rise as much as 12 degrees in the next 80 years is absurd and not a shred of actual data and observation supports that. And as noted in Climate Change Reconsidered, sea levels have not been rising at an accelerated rate, and global temperatures have stayed largely the same for much of the last 20 years.

Not only have global warning and cooling trends alternated over the ages, but there is current evidence that another reversal may be brewing:

•“The sun is entering one of the deepest Solar Minima [low incidence of sun spots] of the Space Age,” which could lead to a big dip in global temperatures within “a matter of months.” NASA scientist warns of strange solar activity and record cold, Andrew West, flagcross.com,
11/13/18.

•Researchers have concluded that the current state of the Labrador current are comparable to conditions during the Little Ice Age (roughly 1600-1850 AD), which again could portend sharply lower temperatures. Ocean circulation in North Atlantic is at its weakest for 1,500 years, Mark Prigg, dailymail.com,
11/26/18.

•And for what it’s worth, northern Illinois just experienced its snowiest November since 1975. Snowstorm dumps up to 13 inches on Chicago area, Katherine Rosenberg-Douglas & Karen Cullotta, Chicago Tribune,
11/26.18.

V. It’s imperative to reduce or end the use of fossil fuels - People focus on relatively near term events, while heavily discounting longer-term predictions, e.g., a forecast increase in global temperatures by the year 2100. Much of the 4NCA2 content seems to be designed to tie the long-term predictions to present day situations.

Chapter one (overview) describes a host of potential problems, including rising sea levels, coastal flooding, more severe storms, bigger forest fires, and greater danger of international conflicts. Basically, there’s something of interest for just about everyone.

High temperature extremes and heavy precipitation events are increasing. Glaciers and snow cover are shrinking, and sea ice is retreating. Seas are warming, rising, and becoming more acidic, and marine species are moving to new locations toward cooler waters. Flooding is becoming more frequent along the U.S. coastline. Growing seasons are lengthening, and wildfires are increasing. These and many other changes are clear signs of a warming world.

Chapter two (our changing climate) elaborates on the climate change predictions, but much of the ensuing material is repetitive filler.

National topics (chapters 3-17) include the purported effects of global warming on forests, coastal areas, agriculture & rural communities, transportation, human health, tribes and indigenous people, and US international interests. Just about everyone can find some point of connection to the circumstances in their daily lives, e.g., Delawareans might be struck by comments about coastal flooding that could potentially affect the value of their vacation homes.

Regions (chapters 18-27) portrays global warming effects in 10 specific areas from the US Caribbean to Hawaii & US-affiliated Pacific islands. Thus, inhabitants of the Northern Great Plains can read up on potential problems re water availability.

The final two chapters cover potential responses. While adaptation strategies may be helpful, it seems, major emissions reductions will be urgently needed – the sooner the better.

So what’s to disagree with here? Not much, unless – as some critics claim - the facts reported were “cherry picked” and the environmental effects misrepresented in an effort to create propaganda-like materials that would scare the public.

#INTENT - Global cooling was the theory du jour until the 1980s; now it’s global warming (aka climate change). Either way, the proposed solution is invariably more government-mandated programs to save the day. The doomsday cult, Derek Hunter, townhall.com,
11/25/18.

Another critic characterized 4NCA2 as “a poorly organized, over-lengthy piece of junk that hardly fills one with confidence in the motives of its authors.” Climate change is affordable, Holman Jenkins, Wall Street Journal,
11/27/18.

#EVIDENCE – Many claims in 4NCA2 have been challenged on grounds that they are unsupported and/or incorrect. Heartland Institute experts react to latest government climate report, Tim Huelskamp et al., press release, heartland.org,
11/24/18.

“The physical evidence proves conclusively that sea level is not rising at increased levels. The frequency and strength of hurricanes has been declining for years, not increasing. The same goes for tornados, floods, and forest fires. In fact, there is no evidence that further increases in carbon dioxide emissions will have any deleterious effect on the planet or its temperature. .” Jay Lehr, Science Director, Heartland Institute.

The claims about forest fires are particularly impactful as this topic has been in the news very recently. The world is on fire,
op. cit.

Trump visited California to see firsthand the destruction of the horrific Camp Fire [in vicinity of Paradise, CA], which killed at least 85 people — with the death toll expected to rise as more remains are found — and destroyed nearly 14,000 homes. According to the new climate assessment, the cumulative forest area burned in the western United States by wildfires since 1984 is fully double what it would have been if climate change had not occurred.

Who can say, however, that this and other recent forest fires were caused (or enlarged) by global warming? California suffered far bigger forest fires decades ago, and there is ample evidence that misguided forestry practices have increased the risk of such fires by fostering a super-abundance of smaller trees and combustible underbrush. The real problem with California fires, Betsy McCaughey, townhall.com,
11/21/18.

The Little Hoover Commission [in a report submitted earlier this year] predicts "proactive forest management practices" can create healthier forests that will "check the speed and intensity of wildfires." These practices will return forests to the natural conditions of previous centuries, when forests had 40 trees per acre instead of hundreds.

VI. Don’t worry about the cost of proposed solutions – A word search of various portions of 4NCA2 shows that the word “cost” generally refers to costs blamed on global warming versus costs of responding to it (adaptation or emissions mitigation). Notably, it is claimed in Chapter 29 (emissions mitigation) that US economic output would take a major hit.

In the absence of more significant global mitigation efforts, climate change is projected to impose substantial damages on the U.S. economy, human health, and the environment. Under scenarios with high emissions and limited or no adaptation, annual losses in some sectors are estimated to grow to hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century. It is very likely that some physical and ecological impacts will be irreversible for thousands of years, while others will be permanent.

As for estimating the costs of emissions mitigation, chapter 29 demurs on grounds that the subject has been covered in previous studies.

This chapter does not evaluate technology options, costs, or the adequacy of existing or planned mitigation efforts relative to meeting specific policy targets, as those topics have been the subject of domestic and international analyses. [cites omitted]

Whatever the costs of emissions mitigation might be, however, it seems that they would be substantially offset by co-benefits.

Recent scientific studies suggest that considering the indirect effects of mitigation can significantly reduce or eliminate the potential costs associated with cutting GHG emissions. This is due to the presence of co-benefits, often immediate, associated with emissions reductions, such as improving air quality and public health. There is now a large body of scientific literature evaluating 1) the health co-benefits of mitigation actions, 2) improvement to crop yields, and 3) a reduction in the probability of occurrence of extreme weather and climate-related events over the next decades that would otherwise occur with unabated emissions. [footnotes omitted]

So much for establishing the basis for a cost/benefit analysis for phasing out fossil fuels, which would be a prerequisite for any rational decarbonization strategy. Climate change is affordable,
op. cit.

The biggest holdup to direct action on climate is showing that preventing these changes would be cheaper than enduring them (after factoring in scientific uncertainty). My suggestion to campaigners: Don’t lead with a carbon tax. Lead with tax reform.

Fair enough, and when it comes to tax reform let’s do away with all of the special interest tax credits that Congress keeps trying to extend. Lame-duck Congress must avoid extending the electric vehicle tax credit, Ross Marchand, Washington Examiner,
11/26/18.

VII. Political aspects – If 4NCA2 doesn’t reflect the views of the president, how did it come to be published by his administration? The apparent answer is that the issuance of such a report was required under existing law, and the officials who supported this undertaking couldn’t be readily redirected or replaced. Also, an Obama administration official named Andrew Light – now at the World Resources Institute– reportedly played a key role in shaping the final chapter re emissions mitigation. Obama official helped prepare dire National Climate Assessment, Valerie Richardson, Washington Times, 11/28/18.

The involvement of Mr. Light and other figures known for their climate change advocacy has raised questions about the credibility of the report, which has been widely depicted as a politically neutral, scientific document prepared by disinterested specialists from 13 federal agencies.

When asked about the report, the president has responded by attacking selected aspects versus questioning the overall thrust. Trump responds to dire predictions in the latest US climate report, Michael Bastasch, dailycaller.com,
11/26/18.

•“I don’t believe it,” Trump said when asked by a reporter outside the White House on Monday if he agreed with the latest National Climate Assessment (NCA) report’s projections that global warming could hurt the US economy.

•He also implied that other countries, e.g., China, Japan and the rest of Asia, might have a more significant role in the perceived problem than the US.


For his part, Acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler says US carbon emissions are declining and 4NCA2 shortchanges the role of technological innovation, e.g., the development of “clean coal” processes for generating electric power. Wheeler defends emissions reductions under Trump in climate report pushback, John Siciliano & Josh Siegel, Washington Examiner,
11/28/18.

Has this rather moderate reaction (overly so for our taste) to 4NCA2 been appreciated by the other side? Apparently not, judging from statements like these:

•On a late night comedy show interview, former Vice President and global warming guru Al Gore snarked that “the vast majority of Americans are tired of the ‘constant craziness’ coming out of the Trump administration and are ready for real change when it comes to the climate.” Al Gore: Donald Trump “the face of climate denial,” Jessica Chasmar, Washington Times,
11/29/18.

•In a public interview (conducted before 4NCA2 was published), former president Barack Obama offered a rather uncharitable explanation for deviations from his previously established environmental policies. Obama: US failure to handle climate change challengers because of “racism” and “Mommy issues.” Anyssa Damnon, Washington Free Beacon,
11/21/18.

Oh, well, “politics isn’t beanbag” as the saying goes.

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