King Canute, attempting to teach his people a lesson regarding his abilities, supposedly went to the sea and commanded the tide to stop. Twelfth-century English historian Henry of Huntington wrote that Canute took his throne to the seashore, but the tide, “continuing to rise as usual dashed over his feet and legs without respect to his royal person.”
President Barack Obama’s naïve and error-riddled speech at Georgetown University on Tuesday clearly demonstrated that he is serious about trying to stop global climate change. However, like the tide, climate change is a natural event of such proportions that it is largely unaffected by human activities. Obama ignores that the “official climate science” on which he bases America’s climate and energy policies has been washed away by 17 years without global warming, despite atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) — the gas Obama blames for rising temperatures — continuing to increase primarily due to the emissions of China and India.
Unlike America’s hopelessly misguided president, the reasons behind Canute’s action were sensible. He wanted to reduce unrealistically elevated expectations of him. Canute’s goal was to show fawning courtiers that there were things over which he had no control. He knew the facts about tides. Sadly for our American friends, and indeed for the whole free world — which depends on a strong America — Obama lacks Canute’s humility and knowledge about nature. The president’s misunderstanding and his apparent disinterest in real climate science is leading the United States into an economic black hole from which it may take generations to recover.
Obama also seems oblivious to real-world economic evidence that the policy path on which he is setting the U.S. has already been tried and has failed in other countries. It is not surprising that when he launched his most recent climate change initiative last week in Berlin, the German public response was less than enthusiastic — they are already suffering the economic and energy consequences of “going green” in a hopeless attempt to stop climate change.
In foisting many of the same policies on America that have already failed in Europe, the president appears to be counting on U.S. media to continue to hide the significance of Climategate and the recent halt in planetary warming.
In telling Georgetown students on Tuesday that he doesn’t “have much patience for anyone who denies that this challenge is real,” Obama reveals his ignorance. Nobody is denying that climate change is “real” and that coping with such changes can be challenging. What skeptical scientists do question, however, is the degree to which human activity causes those changes. Saying that “ninety-seven percent of scientists” “acknowledged the planet is warming and human activity is contributing to it,” as Obama did in his speech, is both wrong and meaningless.
As ICSC policy advisor Lord Christopher Monckton just showed, the study that backs this claim is fatally flawed. First, science is never determined by a show of hands. If it were, the Earth would still be considered flat and the center of the universe and space travel impossible. Second, the only statistic that could be interesting would be the fraction of scientists who study the causes of climate change and support the idea that our CO2 emissions are causing serious climate problems. There has never been a reputable survey that asked experts this question.
As we have come to expect from this president on global warming and energy, yesterday’s presentation included many basic science mistakes and inappropriate cherry picking of data. For example, Obama’s assertions about abnormally high temperatures and the extent of Arctic sea ice melt are either meaningless or simply wrong. Last July, new average U.S. temperature records were set by one-fifth of a degree Fahrenheit. This is meaningless since the measurement uncertainty in most of the record is one-half degree Fahrenheit. Similarly, last July’s record temperature was not based on the highs of the day. A record was set merely because the nights were slightly less cool in July 2012 than those experienced in the 1930s. So, when the high and lows of the day were averaged, a record average was established. Nevertheless, the highs of the day in the 1930s still exceeded anything experienced in July 2012.
Obama also neglected to mention that Arctic sea ice coverage records began only three decades ago, when we first started to monitor the Arctic by satellite. Land-based measurements indicate that it was warmer in the Arctic in the 1930s and so ice melt was likely greater then as well, although no one knows for sure.
Obama used the erroneous phrase “carbon pollution” a total of twenty times in his Georgetown speech.
He is, of course, really speaking of CO2, an odorless, invisble gas essential to plant life and in no way a pollutant. Yet the Obama Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) still designates CO2 a “harmful substance” so as to allow greater bureaucratic control of industry under the Clean Air Act. In Tuesday’s address, the president promised to expand the EPA’s CO2 regulations to cover existing power stations, an action sure to cost billions of dollars and millions of jobs for no environmental benefit. EPA’s claim is based on three lines of evidence that a recent amicus brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court shows are invalid. Regardless, calling CO2 “carbon” helps Obama politically since it encourages people to think of CO2 as associated with soot, something that is pure carbon and is clearly dirty and undesirable.
Of course, we can and should reduce the amount of soot going in to the atmosphere, and apart from China, significant advances have occurred. Scrubber technology for coal-fired power plants has been available for a long time. If Obama really wants to help people’s health and the environment, he should encourage all possible use of scrubbers.
The “carbon pollution” mistake is often used by activists to focus negative attention specifically on coal-fired electricity generation, since “carbon” comes from the Latin carbo, meaning coal. Over 40 percent of U.S. energy comes from coal, and so killing this energy source is fundamental to the president’s apparent goals of expanding government control and redistributing wealth. Obama wants to end coal use entirely in the U.S., no matter how clean it can be made. Obama even told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2008: “What I have said is that for us to take coal off the table as an ideological matter as opposed to saying if technology allows us to use coal in a clean way, we should pursue it.”
Aside from his support for climate change adaptation measures, actions that make sense if carried out properly, Obama’s Georgetown speech appears to be mostly oriented towards accomplishing political objectives unrelated to environmental protection. This is very much in line with former Colorado Democratic Senator Timothy Wirth, who in 1993 summed up the strategy well: “We’ve got to ride to global warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing.”
It is ironic that Obama would equate his unscientific campaign to “fight against climate change” with NASA’s trips to the Moon. Unlike Obama’s dogmatic approach, always focused on reducing greenhouse gases no matter what science demonstrates about the real causes of climate change, NASA learned from their mistakes and made necessary changes.
For example, when Apollo 1 went up in flames, killing all three astronauts in 1967, engineers ended the use of high oxygen atmospheres in manned space vehicles. But, when climate models on which the global warming scare is based fail to forecast what actually happens in the real world, when cyclones and strong tornadoes diminish, when ice cover in Antarctica increases, Obama and his fellow alarmists simply raise the rhetoric.
Trying to scare us away, he labels scientists who want to base policy on real-world observations as members of “the Flat Earth Society.” Such name-calling merely strengthens our resolve to expose the most serious climate threat we face — the exploitation of public ignorance by alarmists such as Obama.
The president was, however, right to say: “This is not just a job for politicians. So I’m going to need all of you to educate your classmates, your colleagues, your parents, your friends. Tell them what’s at stake. Speak up at town halls, church groups, PTA meetings. Push back on misinformation. Speak up for the facts. Broaden the circle of those who are willing to stand up for our future.”
Yes, that is exactly what we will continue to do. Because you are wrong, Mr. President, dangerously wrong. America is too important for anyone, even those of us who are not U.S. citizens, to let it die because of a lie. And much of what you told Georgetown students on Tuesday was indeed a lie.