Global Warming and Climate Change

Earth’s climate has been changing since the planet formed and it has been warming – on and off – since the last Ice Age, when a glacier more than a mile thick covered most of North America.  Despite increasingly hysterical attempts by leftist politicians to stifle debate and punish contrary viewpoints, questions over the impact of human activity on this natural phenomenon are, in my opinion, dubious, political and unconvincing.

Whether or not we chose to impose policies that send our energy prices soaring and impoverish our economy, one thing is certain: the earth will continue to warm and cool as it has for four billion years.

Inconvenient Questions

Heartland Institute – New York, New York – March 9, 2009

I must admit to being a little nervous to accept your kind invitation to come to New York to discuss global warming.  I remember that it was right here in this city a year and a half ago that no less an authority than Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said that those of us who still have some questions over their theories of man-made global warming are “liars,” “crooks,” “corporate toadies,” “flat-earthers” and then he made this remarkable statement: “This is treason and we need to start treating them now as traitors.”

Ah, the dispassionate language of science and reason.

I certainly don’t want to die a traitor’s death, so I want the record to be very clear: I believe that the earth’s climate is changing and that our planet is warming.

I must tell you that this is a somewhat sore subject for me.  You see, it was me – and not Al Gore – who discovered the theory of Global Climate Change, and yet all you ever hear is, “Al Gore said this” and “Al Gore said that.”

My climate change discovery came in the fall of 1964, when Miss Conroy took our third grade class to the Museum of Natural History.

It was there that we saw the panorama of dinosaurs tromping around the steamy swamps that are now part of Wyoming.  That panorama was right next to the exhibit of the Wooly Mammoths foraging on glaciers that were also once the same part of Wyoming.

And I thought to myself, “Gee, those dinosaurs are swell.”  And then I thought to myself, “Good God, the climate must have changed.”

I never got a Nobel Prize for that discovery.  In fact, I later found out that Miss Conroy never even nominated me!

So, instead of jetting around the world in a fleet of Gulfstream jets to tell people they need to feel guilty about driving to work, I have to take the subway.

And I don’t get paid $100,000 a speech for my original discovery.  But then again, I don’t have Al Gore’s electricity bills either, so I guess it all balances out.

(You have to admit a certain Helmslyesqe quality to it all: “We don’t conserve – only the little people conserve.)

Anyway, a few years after making my discovery about planetary climate change, I got to high school in the 1970’s and learned from the Al Gores of the time that we foolish mortals were plunging ourselves into another ice age.

It was, after all, beyond dispute.  All the scientists agreed.

By the way, you may have seen the Washington Times story last year about the researcher who had stumbled upon a lurid story in the Washington Post dated July 9, 1971.  It included the scary headline: “U.S. Scientist Sees New Ice Age Coming.”

The scientist based this on a scientific climate model developed by a young research associate named James Hansen.  They warned that continued carbon emissions over the next ten years could trigger a run-away ice age.

And it was rather amusing, because a few months before this old newspaper clipping surfaced, the very same James Hansen had published a paper claiming that continued carbon emissions over the next ten years could trigger a run-away greenhouse effect.

For those in the liberal elite who jet to environmental conferences in Gulfstream jets and drive around in Hummers singing the praises of hybrids and bicycles, the Left now sells indulgences – you can actually calculate your carbon sins on-line and they’ll gladly tell you how much money to send them (all major credit cards accepted) to assuage your conscience.

In fact, I had a friend who paid $45 for one of these “carbon offsets” for his Lincoln Navigator.  By paying $45, this company sends him a very attractive 10-cent decal that certifies his SUV now has absolutely NO carbon footprint.

But then he discovered that Priuses, which do have a carbon footprint, get to use our diamond lanes for free, while his Lincoln Navigator – which for just $45 now has no carbon footprint whatsoever – has to sit in bumper to bumper traffic with all the rest of us carbon sinners.

These carbon offsets are supposed to be used for such activities as planting more trees to absorb carbon dioxide.  After all, young trees absorb much more of this “greenhouse gas” than old trees.

But isn’t replacing old-growth timber with young-growth timber exactly what lumber companies used to do until Al Gore’s acolytes stopped them?

Trees are also very important to reducing energy demand – we’re told that to conserve electricity we need to plant lots of shade trees to shield our roofs from the sun so that we don’t use our air conditioners.  We’re also all supposed to install solar panels on our roofs, although they don’t work so well in the shade from our trees.

In fact, a year or two ago, a Sunnyvale, California couple was ordered to cut down the old redwood trees in their own backyard.  Why?  Their neighbor had installed solar panels in the shade of those redwoods, and the couple was informed that under state law, they’d be fined a thousand dollars a day if they didn’t cut their redwoods down at once.

One word of warning, however.  Even though you had to cut down your trees at once if a neighbor decided to install solar panels in their shadow, you are forbidden to clear flammable brush from around your home in hazardous fire areas, because that’s an affront to Mother Nature.  You’re supposed to let it burn – and your home along with it – because this is the most environmentally friendly way for Nature to dispose of carbon-trapping vegetation – and thereby releasing lots of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

That’s also why we’re supposed to do away with chemical fertilizer and replace it with natural compost, because replacing man-made greenhouse gases with natural greenhouse gases is the wave of the future.

Another important battle in the war against carbon is to force everyone to use electric cars and trains.  But this also gets a little complicated, because at the same time, we’re all supposed to be cutting way back on our electricity usage – to the point that the California Energy Commission now wants to require every household thermostat to have a remote-control device that will allow the bureaucrats to decide what is the appropriate temperature of your living room.

You need to keep your thermostat set to 90 degrees in the summer to conserve electricity, but we’ll be happy to spend millions of your tax dollars for you to take an electric bullet train from L.A. to San Francisco for the weekend.

In fact, there are only two ways of generating vast amounts of clean electricity for electric cars and trains: hydroelectricity and nuclear power.  But there’s no faster way to send these Luddites into hysterics than to mention that inconvenient truth.

The politically correct replacement is solar energy.  Solar energy is roughly 17 times more expensive than either nuclear power or hydroelectricity – meaning, of course around 17 times LESS electricity to run electric cars and trains.

Energy conservation, then, is the answer, which is why we’re required only to use energy efficient fluorescent lights rather than the warm and fuzzy incandescent bulbs.  But wait – California has banned the disposal of fluorescent lights with your trash because of the extreme environmental hazard they pose in our landfills.

So I approach the subject this morning with an admitted level of confusion as to what these people are thinking.

Let me instead merely pose three inconvenient questions.

First, if global warming is caused by your SUV, why is it that we’re seeing global warming on every other body in the solar system?  For the last decade or so, the Martian south polar ice cap has conspicuously receded.  Pluto is warming – about two degrees Celsius over the past 14 years.  Jupiter is showing dramatic climate change by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Even Neptune’s moon, Triton, has warmed five percent on the absolute temperature scale – the equivalent of a 22 degrees Fahrenheit increase on Earth – from 1989 to 1998.

If you have any doubt, just Google “Pluto Warming” or “Mars Warming” or whatever your favorite planet or former planet might be.

Meanwhile, solar radiation has increased a small but measurable five hundredths of a percent since the 1970’s.

Now, I’m just thinking out loud here, but do you think it’s possible that as the sun gets slightly warmer, the planets do too?

This would be a little scary in its own right, except for the second inconvenient question: If global warming is caused by your SUV, why is it that we have ample historical records of periods in our recent history when the planet’s temperature was warmer than it is today?

During the Medieval Warm Period, from about 900 to 1300 AD, we know that wine grapes were thriving in northern Britain and Newfoundland — and that the temperature in Greenland was hot enough to support a prosperous agricultural economy for nearly 500 years.  That’s why they called it “Greenland.”

That period was brought to an end by the Little Ice Age that lasted from 1300 until 1850.  We know that during colonial times, Boston and New York Harbors routinely froze over in winter and during Elizabethan times, an annual Winter Festival was held on top of the Thames River, which froze solid every year.

And finally, the third inconvenient question: If global warming is caused by your SUV, why is it that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide always follow increases in global temperatures by several hundred years?  Again, I’m just thinking out loud here, but is it possible that if CO2 increases follow temperature increases that might possibly mean that increased CO2 is a byproduct of increasing temperatures – not a cause.

Al Gore must have an answer to these and other questions that have been raised by us treasonous-corporate- toady-holocaust-deniers.  You’ve seen the “Inconvenient Truth.” In it, Al Gore portrays himself as a tireless, lonely sentinel (who should have been President of course) wandering the planet trying desperately to awaken the world to the danger it faces.  “I’ve given this speech a thousand times,” he says about a thousand times.

So I wanted to touch base with all of you today, to find out when he is planning to accept the Heartland Institute’s invitation for an international debate on the subject.  I am absolutely certain that this pious paragon of truth – who assures us he’s willing to go anywhere and talk to anybody to save us from our mortal folly – should be chafing at the bit to show us the error of our ways.

As I understand it, the Heartland Institute has offered our Nobel Peace Prize laureate of the left to debate any one of three internationally recognized authorities, and that you are willing to front all costs – at Oxford University, no less, and in a format of Gore’s own choosing.

After all, Gore’s book extols the importance of science and reason in the public policy debate, so what better way to deliver the coup de grace to us “skeptics” than to expose our fallacies in front of an international audience?

Yet, Al Gore, who has given his speech “a thousand times,” won’t give it just once in a forum where it might be questioned by a knowledgeable authority.

In a sense, though, we had that debate in the British courts several years ago.  The High Court of Great Britain determined that there were no less than ELEVEN factual errors on key scientific points in that film, and ordered that a disclaimer to that effect must be made in ANY public classroom where this film is shown.

We laugh and shake our heads at all of this, but it is a serious and grim subject because of the actual threat that global warming poses to our planet – and most specifically to California.  And that threat is very real and it is devastating.

I speak of the radical policies that the global warm-mongers are now enacting.

In the summer of 2006, in the name of saving the planet from global warming, California adopted the most radically restrictive legislation anywhere on the planet, including AB 32, which requires a 25 percent reduction in man-made carbon dioxide emissions by 2020.

To put this in perspective, we could junk every car in the state of California right now and not meet this mandate.

At about the same time, the same politicians who adopted these measures also adopted $40 billion of bonds that they promised would be used for highways, dams, aqueducts and other capital improvements.

Now here’s the problem.  Building highways, dams, aqueducts and other capital improvements requires  tremendous amounts of cement.

How is cement produced?  It is produced by taking limestone and super-heating it into a molten state – it comes out the other side as a compound called clinker.  Clinker is about 2/3 the weight of the original limestone.  The missing 1/3 of that weight is carbon dioxide.  And when you include the emissions required to superheat the limestone, it turns out that for every ton of cement, a TON of carbon dioxide is released.  It’s the third biggest source of carbon dioxide in all human enterprise.

But now we have a law that specifically forbids us from doing so.  That was the essence of lawsuits now being filed against construction projects across the state.

So much for construction.

Agriculture is in big trouble, too.

You can start with nitrogen fertilizer, which is a critical component of all agricultural activity.  Unfortunately, it produces large amounts of nitrous oxide, another so-called greenhouse gas that must be radically curtailed in California.

The wine industry is also in for a shock.  Fermentation of wine occurs when a molecule of glucose in the grapes is converted into EQUAL PARTS of alcohol and carbon dioxide.

But the biggest agricultural impact is the administration’s mandate for heavily subsidized use of ethanol fuel.  Ethanol is produced in exactly the same way as the alcohol in wine: the glucose in corn is converted into equal parts of ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide.

Following AB 32, this administration imposed a requirement that all gasoline sold in California by next year must be comprised of at least ten percent ethanol, doubling the current mandate.

Now pull out your calculators and we’re going to have a little fun with math.  An acre of corn produces about 350 gallons of ethanol.  There are 15 billion gallons of gasoline used in California each year.  In order to meet the ten percent requirement in three years, it means converting 4.3 million acres of farmland to ethanol production.  Now that’s a lot of farmland, considering that we have a total of 11 million acres producing crops of any kind.

Current ethanol mandates are already producing serious shortages in other parts of the world, as farmland that had been producing food, shifts to ethanol to chase hundreds of millions of dollars of government subsidies coming out of your pocket.

Higher taxes, higher food prices – and higher gas prices.  What’s not to like?

And we’re seeing this across the board – including commodities like milk and beef that are responding to increased prices for corn feed.

As you see your grocery prices rise as a result of this policy, just be glad you’re not in the Third World.  Food is a relatively small portion of the family incomes in affluent nations, but it consumes more than half of family earnings in third world countries.

So when the global warming alarmists predict worldwide starvation, they’re right.  They’re creating it.

Electricity prices are also taking a heavy hit.  California already suffers the highest electricity prices in the continental United States, but that situation is about to worsen.

A companion measure to AB 32 was SB 1368 that prohibits the importation of electricity produced by coal – even state-of-the-art plants thousands of miles from California that meet all EPA requirements.

Truckee became the first victim of this law.  Truckee was about to sign a 50-year contract for electricity produced by a new coal fired plant in Utah.  They were forced to back off because of AB 1368.  The original contract was for $35 per megawatt hour – the green replacement power will cost Truckee consumers $65 per megawatt hour.

The radical laws now in place in California are having a dramatic impact on energy production, agriculture, manufacturing, wine-making and construction, cargo transportation, just to name a few sectors of our economy.

We are already seeing the economic impact in California.

Until last year, Californian’s unemployment rate tracked with the national figures, but since January of 2007, California’s unemployment rate began a radical divergence from the national figures and is now in double digits and nearly 40 percent higher than the national unemployment rate.

Even more ominous are the figures reported by the census bureau.  In the last three years, 2/3 of a million more people moved out of California than moved in.  Outbound U-HAUL rates are now between six and seven times the cost of renting the same truck to move in to California.

You cannot blame the national economy for these developments – for these you must look to state public policy.

I was struck by the Governor’s speech to the United Nations as he was imposing this lunacy.  He told them:

“Last year in California, we enacted groundbreaking greenhouse gas emission standards.

“We enacted the world’s first low carbon fuel standard.

“Do I believe California’s standards will solve global warming?  No.

“What we’re doing is changing the dynamic, preparing the way and encouraging the future…”

So even the individual most responsible for this economically catastrophic public policy ADMITS that it’s not going to solve global warming.

He just wants to set an example.

And in that singular respect, I believe that he has succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.

There is one other thing that strikes me on this issue, and that is how puny is the amount of carbon dioxide produced by human enterprise, compared to simple, natural processes.

The AB 32 mandate is to reduce man-made carbon dioxide emissions by 170 million metric tons per year.  That’s what all this tremendous economic dislocation is about.

Now let me mention one other man-made source of carbon dioxide that they don’t count.

Every one of us in this room will produce about 2.2 pounds of carbon dioxide today – by breathing.  That’s over 800 pounds of carbon dioxide per year.  Keep your calculators out and stay with me here.

There are 6.6 billion of us on this planet.  That comes to 5.3 trillion pounds or 2.4 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide – simply through the process of human respiration.  And that’s before you count up all the cats and rats and elephants.

So there are 2.4 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide by breathing and 170 million metric tons is what all the fuss in California is about.

You’ve all been snickering a lot and I know that watching Californians running amock is great spectator sport.  New Yorkers especially enjoy knowing that there is at least one state more screwed up than your own.  But I feel compelled to warn you that if the Luddite Left finally succeeds in wrecking California, there are 49 other states that we’re all going to move to – and yours is one of them.

People love to watch events in California – in much the same way that people love to gawk at car wrecks.  You feel guilty about it, of course, and you know you shouldn’t stare, but you just can’t help yourselves.

But you do anyway and there’s at least a respectable reason for it.  When you drive by that wreck, you can tell your children, “Kids, that’s what happens when you don’t pay attention when you drive.”

And California’s wreck is a good time to remind voters, “Kids, that’s what happens when you don’t pay attention when you vote.”

While we’re on that subject, the Obama Administration has just unveiled its budget, a $3.6 TRILLION monstrosity that includes some $650 billion in business taxes.  They call it “cap and trade” but they mean, “cap and tax.”

The problem with business taxes, of course, is that businesses don’t pay them.  Business taxes can only possibly be paid in one of three ways: by us as consumers through higher prices; but us as employees through lower wages and by us as investors through lower earnings on what’s left of our 401-K’s.

And the President’s cap and tax plan is going to cost about $2,100 for every man, woman and child in the nation, or about $8,400 out of the purchasing power of an average family of four in the worst economy in a generation.

Now before the nation follows California off the cliff, perhaps we should first ask how these policies are working in California.

And in that respect, maybe we can assist Gov. Schwarzenegger in his goal of making California an example for the rest of the nation.

Not only has the Governor’s promise of a new era of green jobs failed to materialize, the impact of these restrictions on California’s economy has been nothing short of catastrophic.  As the unemployment rate has skyrocketed since the enactment of AB 32, Californians are clawing their way to escape our new environmental paradise, and the state’s revenues are imploding.

To replace evaporating tax revenues, the Governor just imposed the biggest state tax increase in the history of the country – $13 billion – including increases in income taxes, sales taxes and the car tax.

As California’s economy continues to implode, I think we’re going to see Americans rapidly coming to the conclusion that this isn’t the smartest policy to pursue.

In normal times, people don’t pay a lot of attention to public policy, and that’s why democracies occasionally drift off course.   But when a crisis approaches, that’s when you see the strength of a democracy emerge.  One by one, citizens sense the approach of a common danger and they rise to the occasion.  They focus – they look beyond the symbols and rhetoric – and they begin to make very good decisions.

Political majorities can shift very quickly in such times.  Polls can reverse themselves almost overnight in such times.  And I believe that day is now rapidly approaching.

We have based our entire form of government on the assumption that when people start paying attention, they start making very good decisions.

The radical policies now imposed on California are taking a dreadful toll on its economy and will become ever more dire in the days ahead.  As the impact of these policies is felt, people will begin paying close attention to policy making and to the policy makers responsible, and then they’ll begin exercising something that the majority of California’s public officials have so completely lacked: simple common sense.

Abraham Lincoln put it this way.  He said, if the voters get their backsides too close to the fire, they’ll just have to sit on the blisters a while.

Our nation has some very painful blisters to sit on for a while, but in the process, like Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner, a sadder but a wiser nation we’ll rise the morrow morn.