Climate change and what to do about it has been a subject of controversy for decades. Federal, state and local governments have spent billions of dollars and issued thousands of regulations to deal with climate change or, as it used to be called, global warming. In 2016, the City of Bend passed a climate change ordinance committing staff and resources to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.
Much of the controversy is whether and how much climate change is caused by man-made (anthropogenic) carbon emissions. An entire industry has grown up around the issue of climate change. The movie Inconvenient Truth, produced by former Vice President Al Gore, posits the dangers the world faces if we don’t reduce our carbon emissions. Gore has made a fortune as a global warming alarmist.
The accepted orthodoxy is that anthropogenic global warming is bad and carbon emissions resulting from human activity will devastate the environment. Anyone who questions this orthodoxy is accused of being a denier or a member of the flat earth society. Environmentalists typically cite studies showing 97 percent agreement in the scientific community that human-caused climate change is real.
Some scientists have indeed bought into the notion that anthropogenic climate change is occurring. Models used by climate alarmists like Michael Mann, who created the “hockey stick” graph, and the United Nation’s International Panel on Climate Change, are cited as proof that this is so. There is just one problem with claims of catastrophic global climate changes caused by humans: They simply aren’t true.
Many reputable scientists have questioned the models and assumptions used by the global warming crowd to convince governments to commit significant resources to dealing with climate change. I recently had the opportunity to hear a presentation by Dr. Gordon J. Fulks, who, unlike Gore, has a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Chicago and is a climate specialist. Dr. Fulks does not concern himself with the politics of climate change but with the science that explains it.
According to Dr. Fulks, the climate models with their carbon dioxide drivers run far too hot, when compared with robust satellite and radiosonde temperature data. Over the entire 38-year satellite record, the global temperature has risen far less than alarmists have been predicting it would. That’s fatal for their theory.
Similarly, temperature reconstructions from both ice cores and tree rings show that Earth was as warm or warmer a thousand years ago during the Medieval Warm Period, when no one claims we were burning significant amounts of fossil fuel. Michael Mann’s famous “hockey stick” graph that purported to show unusual warming in the 20th century was found to be seriously flawed. When his data were analyzed correctly, the resulting graph shows the Medieval Warm Period that he was trying to downplay. That turns his hockey stick into the shape of a bathtub! Furthermore, temperature reconstructions from ice cores going even further back show still warmer periods associated with other civilizations: Greek and Roman. Again, man-made CO2 could not have been the cause.
Perhaps even more significant than the flawed models used by environmental groups is the idea that carbon dioxide is harmful. In fact, CO2 is essential for plants and agriculture. It is a major “gas of life” and minor greenhouse gas. Our current level of 400 parts per million (PPM) is not far above the minimum amount required to sustain plant life (200 PPM) and far below CO2 levels during previous periods (up to 7500 PPM). Submarines operate with CO2 levels as high as 5000 PPM. We breathe out 40,000 PPM.
The danger is not from anthropogenic climate change but from misguided attempts to control it. Before Bend spends any more tax dollars pursuing the chimera of global warming in a foolish and costly effort to achieve carbon neutrality, the City Council would be well advised to consider the science of climate change rather than the hysteria of the climate alarmists.
— Paul deWitt lives in Bend.