Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Foolish on Climate Change


A smiling Governor Andrew Cuomo, with Al Gore to his right and a rapturous crowd of Democratic dignitaries at his rear, signed into law a new statute last week that he proudly touted as “the most aggressive climate law in the United States of America.” The explicit objective of the new legislation is to reduce the level of greenhouse gas emissions in New York by 85 percent by 2050.

Step one in that direction is the authorization of two huge, offshore wind power projects said to generate enough power to support one million homes. The legislation goes hand-in-hand with Cuomo’s aggressive executive action to block any new pipeline construction within the state, most notably the Williams pipeline designed to bring about 400 million cubic feet of natural gas each day to New York City.

The rationales for the law are contained in the statutory preamble, which makes declarations that are either flatly wrong or overly inflated. One of the more contentious claims is that the only way to minimize the risk of severe climate change is to follow the highly flawed October 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (“IPCC”) special report, which insists that maintaining temperature increases to under 1.5°C in perpetuity requires keeping carbon dioxide concentrations in the earth’s atmosphere below 450 parts per million (its present level is 412 ppm). The effects of climate change allegedly include temperature rises, sea level rises of one foot since 1900, and a higher frequency of “extreme and unusual weather events,” including ones like Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy. The New York legislation notes that environmental policies “should prioritize the safety and health of disadvantaged communities. . .” It also treats New York as a role model that will “encourage” other jurisdictions to follow suit with “complementary” legislation.

What is striking about these solemn pronouncements is that they do not take into account the underlying science and the disastrous consequences of implementing the legislation.

Let’s start with the science. The most notable fact, nowhere mentioned in the bill, shows a jagged up and down movement in global temperatures since 1979, with peaks in 1998 and 2016, both associated with the rise of La Nina and the decline of El Nino. In both instances, a sharp peak was followed by a rapid decline in temperature. During this period, carbon dioxide levels rose at a steady pace. Therefore, it is not possible to explain the cyclical patterns of global temperature by looking solely, or even primarily, at carbon dioxide levels. Instead, it is necessary to find some other drivers of the temperature changes. The plural—drivers—is intentional because multiple combined forces are likely responsible for global temperature changes.

Indeed, two recent studies, one from Finland and the other from Japan, take sharp issue with the basic premise behind the New York legislation. The Finnish researchers concluded with suitable emphasis that: “During the last hundred years the temperature increased about 0.1°C because of carbon dioxide. The human contribution was about 0.01°C.The Japanese study reaches a similar conclusion: “New evidence suggests that high-energy particles from space known as galactic cosmic rays affect the Earth’s climate by increasing cloud cover, causing an ‘umbrella effect’…[which] could be the prime driver of climate warming, and not man-made factors.”

Just recently 90 Italian scientists concluded that carbon dioxide’s impact on the climate was “UNJUSTIFIABLY EXAGGERATED” and other such catastrophic predictions were “NOT REALISTIC.” Indeed, even if attention is focused exclusively on greenhouse gases, water vapor is a far more potent greenhouse gas (and more difficult to measure) than carbon dioxide.

Beyond all this, serious empirical studies confirm that there is no link between carbon dioxide levels and extreme events such as hurricanes. Indeed, the deadliest (but not most severe) hurricane to hit the United States struck Galveston, Texas in 1900, leaving in its wake 8,000 to 12,000 deaths Similarly, the one-foot sea-level rise since 1900 is part of a large trend that has ebbed and flowed for several thousand years, so it is highly unclear whether the recent increase can be tied to carbon dioxide emissions given its weak relationship to temperature levels. Finally, the evidence with respect to glaciers shows a similarly complex pattern, including the growth of the Peterman Glacier in Greenland.

But suppose for the moment that one can establish some connection between carbon dioxide concentrations and sea-level rise. The next question is whether adjustments in carbon dioxide outputs made on a local or global level can do much to change those levels. On this point, how can billions, even trillions, of dollars be justified if the Environmental Protection Agency’s own study, as reported by Ben Zycher in The Hill, shows that “relative to the reference case, by 2100 … global mean temperature is estimated to be reduced by 0.0026° to 0.0065° C, and sea-level rise is projected to be reduced by approximately 0.023 to 0.057 cm.”

The size of the imputed benefit is too small to measure, and far below the 0.56° C drop in temperature from early 2016 to early 2018, which has been largely ignored in the popular press. New York claims that its efforts will encourage others to follow suit. However, the more likely response is that other states and municipalities will back off idle conservation efforts that will only make matters worse. Meanwhile, the global responses will undercut New York’s feeble results. It is well understood that the United States has in recent years made the most progress in reducing carbon dioxide emissions, while countries like China and India continue to record large increases in carbon dioxide emissions.

Worse still, New York is backing the wrong horse by looking to solar and wind energy as credible replacements for fossil fuels. The most powerful demonstration of this point comes from Mark Mills of the Manhattan Institute, who shows in painful detail that the technical limitations of both wind and solar power make them at best niche players. There is little chance that wind and solar energy can displace fossil fuels, which at present account for about 80 percent of the world’s energy sources. A slight decline of two percent in fossil fuel use in recent years comes at a cost of $2 trillion in various subsidies. But these will not keep pace with the increased demand for fossil fuels needed to service increasing populations, increased energy consumption in third world countries, and soaring demands for more air and land travel. Nor is there any hope that investment could generate the ninety-fold increase in wind and solar energy that is necessary to reach New York’s unrealistic targets in the next thirty years.

Given the long-term dominance of fossil fuels, the far better strategy for controlling carbon dioxide, or real pollutants like sulfur dioxide, comes from shifting from coal and oil to natural gas, and from innovating new techniques in their production, shipment, and use. Fortunately, the capital costs of getting natural gas to market have been cut in half over the last five years without costly government subsidies. The lower costs will stimulate higher production of fossil fuels, but that should be regarded as a good thing, once we take into account the gains to human welfare that these expenditures generate.

Sadly, the second part of New York’s ambitious energy program is as foolish as the first. At the moment, Cuomo continues to ban fracking in the New York sections of Marcellus Shale, which also extends into Pennsylvania, where thousands of wells are currently in operation, generating both jobs and state revenues. As a result, Western New York is a declining and underprivileged region that could benefit from the material benefits that fracking offers Pennsylvania residents.

To be sure, other areas throughout the country produce abundant supplies of natural gas, but local shortages in New York have become ever more dire, with the Williams pipeline in limbo. Con Edison, the state’s largest utility, has announced a moratorium on hookups for new customers in Westchester County. A second utility, National Grid, has followed suit for New York City and Long Island. The immediate shortages will put billions of capital investment on hold, killing jobs and driving down tax revenues. Given all this, no new business will locate in New York, and many local businesses trapped in New York’s regulatory environment will either close down or move all or some of their operations to states that have adopted more rational policies, like Pennsylvania. The politicians may be cheering in Albany now, but they will pay a high price when their environmental chickens come home to roost.

© 2019 by the Board of Trustees of Leland Stanford Junior University

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  1. MarciN Member

    I was just thinking about Al Gore today. There is a massive heat wave hitting France and Spain this coming week:

    This upcoming heat wave will be very similar to the one that shattered records in late June as a storm system stalls over the northeastern Atlantic, pulling hot air from northern Africa and Spain north and eastward across Europe.

    Europeans have my sympathy after the hot weekend we just spent in the Northeast.

    The cause is a stalled air mass, and I’m sure all of these weather events are related. There’s a tropical storm building off the coast of Florida at the moment too. The Gulf Stream is warm this year–Cape Cod Bay is about 2 degrees warmer than usual. It’s the normal weather fluctuations from year to year. These periodic shifts in weather patterns keep the U.S. weather and hurricane services employed.

    Most likely there is volcanic activity on the sea floor that is causing the ocean temperatures to rise and consequently affecting the air currents.

    It’s difficult for me to decide who is the worst Democrat I’ve known about, but I think I’d have to give that award to Al Gore. When the left antiwar movement was going strong all over the world during the Iraq War of 2003, Al Gore, former vice president of the United States, chose that moment to run around the world raising hysteria about “global warming” and it was all the fault of the greedy and selfish United States.

    Although I’m sure there are intelligent people in Western Europe who didn’t fall for his scam, I’m sure many others did. And whenever they experience a heat wave as they have this past summer, they blame us.

    Al Gore has spread hostility toward the United States everywhere.

    • #1
    • July 22, 2019, at 5:43 PM PDT
  2. James Gawron Thatcher
    James GawronJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member


    I’ll say it again. An incredible amount of money that we don’t have, for technology that will not work, to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.




    • #2
    • July 22, 2019, at 6:18 PM PDT
  3. EB Thatcher

    The policies of New York state government are not making the state attractive to business or new residents. In 2018, New York’s population declined 48,500 from 2017 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. If this continues, we may not have to worry about the liberal influence of NY state as they drive away business investment and population and lose tax revenues.

    In 2013 after re-districting, New York lost 2 seats in Congress, bringing them to 27 seats and therefore 29 electoral votes. It will be interesting to see how many seats they lose after the 2020 census. The six states with the most electors are California (55), Texas (38), New York (29), Florida (29), Illinois (20), and Pennsylvania (20).

    From 2014 to 2018, the increase in population of these states was: California – 1.1 million, Texas – 1.8 million, New York – 300K, Florida – 1.3 million, Illinois – 0, and Pennsylvania – 0. With 2 more years of similar increases and losses before the 2020 census, the reapportionment should be interesting. Given the increases in CA, TX, and FL, it seems likely that they will gain while the other three states (NY, IL, and PA) will lose seats. As far as New York goes, it couldn’t happen to a better state.

    • #3
    • July 22, 2019, at 7:41 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  4. Jon1979 Lincoln

    The other problem with Cuomo’s pipeline ban is it not only negatively effects New York’s ability to increase its natural gas capacity (or oil capacity, for those types of pipelines), it also impacts the six New England states, because you cannot get to Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine or Rhode Island by land from the rest of the United States unless you go though New York. The other options would be lines that cross international boundaries through Canada, or more costly shipping by tanker to New England ports.

    Since most of the New England states have governments as liberal as New York’s is, it’s not an immediate issue — they’re going to virtue signal as much as Cuomo will. But New England did have a heating problem the winter before last due to a cold snap and fuel shortage, and wind and solar power tend to not like cloudy skies and icy conditions, so the alternative energy isn’t going to be a major help in December, January and February.

    • #4
    • July 22, 2019, at 9:36 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  5. DonG (skeptic) Coolidge

    Right on cue we have blackouts in NYC (probably caused by lack of power generation capacity). 

    Off short wind is a horrible choice. It is very expensive to install and maintenance is very expensive and more frequently needed. The ocean is hard on mechanical items.

    The Finnish study used data from a cloud observation satellite and showed a very high correlation between cloud cover and global temperature. This study breaks the attribution of warming since 1960 to CO2 increases. It is back to square 1 on the whole hypothesis.

    • #5
    • July 22, 2019, at 9:54 PM PDT
  6. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. StephensJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    As New York fails, somehow, we are going to get blamed.

    • #6
    • July 23, 2019, at 3:40 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  7. Kozak Member
    KozakJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Companion graph for the one in the post.

    • #7
    • July 23, 2019, at 4:09 AM PDT
  8. Stad Thatcher

    There’s an old bumper sticker that needs to be revived:

    “Environmentalists: Let the b*st*rds freeze in the dark.”

    • #8
    • July 23, 2019, at 5:52 AM PDT
  9. Seawriter Contributor

    James Gawron (View Comment):

    I’ll say it again. An incredible amount of money that we don’t have, for technology that will not work, to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.

    Only if the problem is climate change. The problem this policy is intended to solve is that the government is insufficiently intruding into people’s lives to satisfy folks like Cuomo and Gore. This policy solves that problem. Admittedly it makes everyone else’s lives worse, but that isn’t a problem for those pushing this. They get first choice on allocation of resources.

    • #9
    • July 23, 2019, at 7:36 AM PDT
  10. Ralphie Member

    If it is financially unsustainable, it is unsustainable. I think a meterologist said that. If they are so renewable, I wonder why they are so expensive.

    • #10
    • July 23, 2019, at 8:03 AM PDT
  11. DonG (skeptic) Coolidge

    Ralphie (View Comment):
    If it is financially unsustainable, it is unsustainable.

    But there is a *lot* of Other People’s Money to burn through.

    • #11
    • July 23, 2019, at 9:57 AM PDT
  12. DonG (skeptic) Coolidge

    This is a great chart. Remember to ignore everything left of 1995, since those model outputs are tied to the previous observed temps. The models are clearly wrong and we were told there was high certainty. All part of the greatest Hoax ever.


    Kozak (View Comment):

    Companion graph for the one in the post.


    • #12
    • July 23, 2019, at 10:01 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  13. Stad Thatcher

    DonG (View Comment):
    All part of the greatest Hoax ever.

    I have seen stories every once in a while where some climatologist has gone public and said his data has been changed to support global warming where it was neutral or did the opposite when he took it . . .

    • #13
    • July 23, 2019, at 2:26 PM PDT
    • Like
  14. J Ro Member

    Stad (View Comment):

    DonG (View Comment):
    All part of the greatest Hoax ever.

    I have seen stories every once in a while where some climatologist has gone public and said his data has been changed to support global warming where it was neutral or did the opposite when he took it . . .

    That’s the bottom line: There is no data. They don’t know the global temperature of the past, present, or future.

    Look at the base line on the chart in the post. Although not in this case, it often represents “average global temperatures on the planet in pre-industrial times.” Since there’s no data and it represents centuries of un-monitored un-measured temperatures, they just make it a straight line and call it “0.0” to keep it simple. On some charts, they actually pretend to know annual global temperatures from thousands of years ago.

    In this case it represents some 1981 to 2010 average global temperature. (Not that the satellites cover anything close to the entire surface of the planet. Don’t worry! The data gaps will be filled!) OMG! The average temperature of the global lower atmosphere last month was 0.20 degrees C above the 29 year average! That’s 0.36 degrees F! I‘m going to sell my car and stop eating meat! It’s for the children!

    And what is the formula for gathering inputs for contemporary readings? Do you just take the high reading from everywhere and add them up? Or do you take the high and the low and add up the averages? Is four hours at 80 F more heat than a momentary spike at 85 F? How is that counted? Nobody knows how it’s done because they won’t tell us. There are hundreds of models, which in itself proves that the science is definitely not settled.

    But gee whiz it was awfully hot today where I live!

    Something needs to be done!

    • #14
    • July 24, 2019, at 6:32 AM PDT
    • 1 like

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