Tag Archives: Bret Stephens

Fragility

Lower-Otay-Dam-DisasterThe NYT published a rather mild piece on climate policy written by its new “conservative” hire Bret Stephens. The consensus claque went nuts. Dana Nuccitelli, who was in on the fraudulent Cook et al consensus paper so often cited, put up a spectacularly unhinged piece at the Guardian rallying the troops and denouncing Stephens as a “hippy puncher”. Subscription are being cancelled as we speak.

The, more or less, instant over the top reaction to a not terrifically radical suggestion that the more strident claims of the climate alarmists need a second look is not surprising. In fact, it is pretty much the only reaction the climate alarmists can have.

The problem climate alarmists have, along with the fact fewer and few people take climate alarmism seriously, is that their coalition is fragile. At one point, I would say about a decade ago, the need to “do something” about “climate change” as a motherhood issue. After all, the science was certain and the time for debate was over. People who were unwilling to accept the innate truth of the IPCC reports and the urgent need for expensive action were “deniers” and entirely excluded from the scientific or policy discussion. The alarmists knew The Truth.

As Stephens points out in his piece, 100% certainty is almost always an indication of a cult rather than any sort of actual truth. And the problem with complete certainty is that there is no flexibility. Either the claim is correct in every particular – which is very unlikely – or it is not. So, for example, the decade old consensus position that the world was growing warmer and warmer and that increases in CO2 were responsible for that warming was a hostage to fortune which was very unlikely to survive. One cooling year could be waved away as “weather”; declining estimates of temperature sensitivity to CO2 were just obscure enough that they could be ignored or suppressed; but the overall claim and the consensus which surrounded it were and are extremely vulnerable to contradiction or even mild doubt.

On the science side the greatest threats were the inadequacy of the climate models and the advent of the “hiatus”. The models entirely failed to project any circumstances in which temperature ceased to rise when CO2 continued to rise. However the hiatus created exactly that set of conditions for what is now looking like twenty years. (Right this instant, last year’s El Nino, broke the hiatus. However, rapidly cooling post El Nino temperatures look set to bring the hiatus back into play in the next six months to a year.)

The economic side is even worse. It turns out that renewable energy – windmills and solar – costs a fortune and is profoundly unreliable. Governments which went all in for renewables (see Ontario) found their energy prices hockey sticking and the popularity plummeting without, as it turns out, making even a slight impression on the rise of CO2 concentrations.

The economics of climate change and its “mitigation” are a shambles. And it is beginning to dawn on assorted politicians that they might have been railroaded with science which was not quite ready for prime time.

Which makes it all the more imperative for the Nuccitelli and DeSmog blogs of this world to redouble their attacks on even mildly sceptical positions. Had the alarmists been less certain their edifice could have easily withstood a recalibration of the science and a recalculation of the cost/benefits. But they weren’t. They went all in for a position which claimed to know for certain that CO2 was driving world temperature and that there was no other possible cause for an increase or decrease in that temperature.

The problem with that position is that it was premature and very brittle. As lower sensitivity estimates emerge, as other, non-CO2 driven, temperature controls are discovered, consensus climate science becomes more and more embattled. What had looked like a monopoly on political discourse and media comment begins to fray. The advent of Trump and a merry band of climate change skeptics in the regulatory agencies and in Congress, has pretty much killed any forward motion for the climate alarmists in the US. And the US is where this battle will be won or lost. However, the sheer cost of so called “carbon reduction” schemes in the UK, Germany and the rest of Europe has been staggering and has shown next to no actual benefit so scepticism is rising there too. China has both embarked on an embrace of climate change abatement and the construction of dozens of coal fired electrical generation plants every year.

What had been a climate change thought monopoly a decade ago has fractured along dozens of scientific, economic and policy lines. Some of the more intelligent alarmists realize that if dissent is not snuffed out ferociously it will spread. Heterodox science will appear in respectable journals,  non-conforming scientists will be invited to appear before Congress (as happened a few weeks ago), the costs and limited to non-existent benefits of renewable energy and carbon taxes will be closely examined; once the thought monopoly is broken the collapse of the climate change scam is inevitable.

Speed the day.Lower-Otay-Dam-Disaster

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