October 24th is the International Day of Climate Action. You may hear people in the news, the ‘Net or around you talking about how we need to drop from our current CO2 level of about 390 parts per million down to 350 ppm, their magic number for a happy-happy earth. But it seems I have heard that number somewhere before. Anyway, 350.org is the site driving this orgy of activism, and the website has some information about their purpose:

What does the number 350 mean?
350 is the most important number in the world–it’s what scientists say is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Two years ago, after leading climatologists observed rapid ice melt in the Arctic and other frightening signs of climate change, they issued a series of studies showing that the planet faced both human and natural disaster if atmospheric concentrations of CO2 remained above 350 parts per million.

Everyone from Al Gore to the U.N.’s top climate scientist has now embraced this goal as necessary for stabilizing the planet and preventing complete disaster. Now the trick is getting our leaders to pay attention and craft policies that will put the world on track to get to 350.

Is 350 scientifically possible?
Right now, mostly because we’ve burned so much fossil fuel, the atmospheric concentration of co2 is 390 ppm—that’s way too high, and it’s why ice is melting, drought is spreading, forests are dying. To bring that number down, the first task is to stop putting more carbon into the atmosphere. That means a very fast transition to sun and wind and other renewable forms of power. If we can stop pouring more carbon into the atmosphere, then forests and oceans will slowly suck some of it out of the air and return us to safe levels.

Is 350 politically possible?
It’s very hard. It means switching off fossil fuel much more quickly than governments and corporations have been planning. Our best chance to speed up that process will come in December in Copenhagen, when the world’s nations meet to agree on a new climate treaty. Right now, theyOctober 23, 2009re not planning to do enough. But we can change that–if we mobilize the world to swift and bold climate action, which is what we’re planning to do on October 24th.

Evil CO2 will melt the ice at the poles, spread drought, kill forests, drown polar bears, flood the coasts, and shave your head while you sleep. But the inconvenient truth is that there have been times when the CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere have been significantly higher than today. For example, during the Jurassic period CO2 levels were 3.5 to 5 times higher than now. If only Al Gore had presented his PowerPoint slides to the T Rex, they might be still be alive and staring in Jurassic Park IV: The Quest for Global Climate Change Control.

I can’t get all worked up about global warming climate change like the Chicken Littles of 350.org. Earth is doomed, Doomed, DOOMED! they say, unless Al Gore stops flying around the world like a hummingbird on crack. Hah, just kidding. Al Gore can blow out tons of CO2 gallivanting around the globe for he is the Oscar One. The rest of us have to cut back, as explained in one comment on Etsy:

Small changes in your daily domestic routine can have a huge impact, i.e. lower thermostat temp, turning out lights when leaving a room, hanging laundry to dry, hand washing dishes, and not using a microwave. Simple conservation yields a noticeable difference in the electric & heating bills, too!

While it is true that small changes may have an impact on our own bills, it will have a negligible impact on the CO2 of the world. To have a major impact on CO2, the whole world needs to undergo massive changes. 350.org explains their mission: “the solutions to climate change must be equitable, they must be grounded in science, and they must meet the scale of the crisis.”

I can guarantee that the mission statement will fail in all three parts. Any solutions proposed by governments in Copenhagen this year will not be equitable, but will be heavily weighted on the U.S. and Europe. There is science showing that the earth has been cooling, not heating, in the last decade, and the actions proposed will be far more disastrous than allowing global warming climate change to proceed unchecked.

If reducing the CO2 in the atmosphere were truly critical, it could be easily solved with three steps: electricity is turned off, fossil fuels are unused, and everyone lives like the Amish. You better not be living in a large city, because the lack of electricity and fossil fuels will make transporting food from farms much slower than it is now. If the whole earth turned to an Amish lifestyle, we would have a massive die-off. But that’s OK, since a massive reduction in humanity would mean less CO2 being produced.

And that’s the goal for climate change fanatics, right?

OK, I’ve tried really hard not to write about global warming, but sometimes I just can’t help myself. I asked my usual question about identifying the primary source of global warming to some 12- and 13-year-olds last week, and I got the standard answers of mankind, pollution, and CO2. Not one of them correctly identified the sun as the primary cause of global warming on Earth. After all, without the sun, the Earth would be a frozen ice ball drifting in space. To be fair, it’s a trick question because I asked them about global warming, and they responded as if I had asked about human-caused global warming. The two are not the same.

Anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is an edifice constructed of five floors. Here is how Warren Meyer of Coyote Blog explained it:

There are a lot of reasons not to be worried about “inaction” on global warming. To justify the enormously expensive cuts in CO2 productions, on the order of 80% as supported by Obama and Clinton, one has to believe every element of a five-step logic chain:

  1. Mankind is increasing CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere
  2. Increased atmospheric CO2 causes the world to warm (by some amount, large or small)
  3. The increases in CO2 from man will cause substantial warming, large enough to be detectable above natural climate variations
  4. The increases in world temperatures due to man’s CO2 will have catastrophic impacts on civilization
  5. These catastrophic impacts and their costs are larger than the enormous costs, in terms of poverty and lost wealth, from reducing CO2 with current technologies.

Climate alarmists have adopted a rhetorical trick that no one in the media seems willing to call them on. They like to wage the debate over global warming policy on points one and two only, skipping over the rest. Why? Because the science behind numbers one and two are pretty strong. Yes, there are a few folks who will battle them on these points, but even very strong skeptics like myself accept points one and two as proved.

I have no problem accepting #1 and #2 as being proven, but I do not accept #3 as proven. I believe that enough science has been presented to show that the fluctuations in global temperatures have more to do with seasonal variations and solar cycles and less to do with any effects by man, and I’ve written about this before.

I found a ZNet article from 2004 that appears to follow along the lines Warren points out: start with an accepted point, then build on unproven guesses from there:

Before proposing answers to these questions, let us summarize the issues explained so far:

— The world climate is getting warmer. [Depending on your definition of what is "normal temperature," I can accept that. -CM]

— Climate models show that the burning of oil, gas and coal in the industrialized countries is responsible for the climate change. [Climate models are intellectual guesswork and can only reflect reality when they are heavily tweaked after the fact. -CM]

— The expectations for the near future are very disturbing and many catastrophes are highly probable. [But these expectations are based on the guesswork of deeply flawed, and therefore useless, computer models. -CM]

— Today’s (in)action’s will have long-term consequences for the entire biosphere and the living conditions of many future generations. [Yet more guesswork. -CM]

But the uncertainties about AGW do not prevent people from reacting as if they were the gospel truth. Consider the Bishop of Stafford.

A senior bishop in the Church of England has compared people who ignore climate change to Josef Fritzl, the Austrian who kept his daughter locked in a cellar for 24 years, repeatedly raping her and fathering seven of her children.

The Bishop of Stafford, the Right Rev. Gordon Mursell, made the comparison in a parish “pastoral” newsletter and said that people who fail to act to prevent global warming are “as guilty as” Fritzl and “destroying the future of our children,” the Times of London reported Monday.

The bishop denied Monday that he was accusing those who ignore climate change of being child abusers, but said Fritzl was “the most extreme form” of a common selfish streak in humankind.

“In fact you could argue that, by our refusal to face the truth about climate change, we are as guilty as he is we are in effect locking our children and grandchildren into a world with no future and throwing away the key,” he wrote in the letter entitled “following our dream,” distributed around the Diocese of Lichfield.

He defended his comments, saying he did not wish “to shock people unnecessarily.” But he said: “I am simply trying to use an analogy to get people to wake up to the consequences of what we are failing to do, because if we don’t there won’t be a future for our children either.”

Nothing like a sermon of hellfire and global warming to scare obedience right into people. Recycle or you’re destroying the future of our children! Bow down before Saint Gore, or the Earth will burn for your ecological sins!

And if a rousing sermon isn’t sufficient to get you stirred up, how about finding out when you, the evil planet-killing human that you are, should die? This gem comes from ABC in Australia, and based on the answers you give, this Flash game tells you at what age you should die based on how fast you use up your “fair share” of the planet.

Die! You pig, DIE!

As you can see from the picture, my little piggy exploded and told me I should have died at age 2.2 since that’s the age at which I “used up [my] share of the planet.” What a nice way to spread the gospel news of Saint Gore! I know I always look to an exploding cartoon pig to tell people — especially kids — that they should just die, already. It just warms the cockles of my heart, and what’s left of the exploded pig’s heart, to spread that cheery news.

Too bad it’s all a load of tripe. The vast majority of my piggy’s CO2 was calculated based on the amount of money I make and spend, and since I don’t choose to spend my money on global warming indulgences, the Flash game made my pig swell up to a horrible size. But here’s the question — how does my spending now suggest that I should have been offed in the name of Gaia at the age of two, when I wasn’t spending a thing?

But none of that means anything to the irrational anthropogenic global warming supporters. The thing that bothers me most about this nonsense is how such people could easily use it to justify sweeping, radical changes in our society. It’s a short journey between discussions of “when you should die” and justification of when you WILL die. Unconvinced? Government-enforced euthanasia in pursuit of a society filled only with “useful people” has a terrifying historical precedent. It’s happened before, and it could happen again.

I had to snicker when I read an article stating that China had surpassed the U.S. as the largest producer of CO2 on the planet:

China has overtaken the United States as the world’s biggest producer of carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas, figures released today show.

The surprising announcement will increase anxiety about China’s growing role in driving man-made global warming and will pile pressure onto world politicians to agree a new global agreement on climate change that includes the booming Chinese economy. China’s emissions had not been expected to overtake those from the US, formerly the world’s biggest polluter, for several years, although some reports predicted it could happen as early as next year.

But according to the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, soaring demand for coal to generate electricity and a surge in cement production have helped to push China’s recorded emissions for 2006 beyond those from the US already. It says China produced 6,200m tonnes of CO2 last year, compared with 5,800m tonnes from the US. Britain produced about 600m tonnes.

I did a quick calculation of tons of CO2 per person in each three nations. It works out to 4.69 tons per person in China, 19.26 in the U.S., and 9.87 in the U.K. CO2 is also a quick way to measure a nation’s productivity, because industrial processes will produce CO2 as a byproduct. This means that China would need to be twice as productive to reach the level of England, and four times as productive to catch up to the U.S. The Kyoto Protocol failed to be ratified in the U.S. because of the growth of production in China and India. It was easy to see, even back in 1997, that China and India were both growing industrial states, and granting them exemptions from the CO2 emissions limits made the treaty into a joke.

But there is good news — the Washington Post reported that the CO2 produced in the U.S. dropped last year:

U.S. carbon dioxide emissions dropped slightly last year even as the economy grew, according to an initial estimate released yesterday by the Energy Information Administration.

The 1.3 percent drop in CO2 emissions marks the first time that U.S. pollution linked to global warming has declined in absolute terms since 2001 and the first time it has gone down since 1990 while the economy was thriving. Carbon dioxide emissions declined in both 2001 and 1991, in large part because of economic slowdowns during those years.

But why did our CO2 emissions drop last year? The WaPo article explains:

A number of factors helped reduce emissions last year, according to the government, including weather conditions that reduced heating and air-conditioning use, higher gasoline prices that caused consumers to conserve, and a greater overall reliance on natural gas.

Interestingly enough, the countries of Europe suck at dropping their CO2 emissions, based on this article:

EU-15 countries will need to step up their efforts if they are to meet their overall target to reduce emissions of global-warming gases and meet their Kyoto commitment, the EEA warned on 27 October.

According to a new report by the Copenhagen agency, ‘Greenhouse-gas emission trends and projections in Europe 2006′, existing policies will have slashed greenhouse-gas emissions in the EU-15 by only 0.6% in 2010 – a far cry from the 8% it committed to achieve by 2012.

Let’s think about this a bit: the U.S. hasn’t ratified or participated in the Kyoto Protocols as Europe did, but the U.S. has achieved double the CO2 reduction in a single year as all of Europe has pledged to accomplish by 2010. Interesting, no? But the bottom line is that American carbon dioxide drops in absolute amounts. And that’s good news, right? Well, apparently not to the sourpuss whiners on the Left:

Critics of the administration, including Democratic lawmakers and environmentalists, said the one-year decline did not prove Bush’s voluntary approach to cutting greenhouse gases is working. They noted that the emissions have been rising worldwide since 1990 and that the rate accelerated to 3 percent a year between 2000 and 2004.

“This is more proof that this President just doesn’t get it when it comes to combating climate change,” Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) said in a statement yesterday. “The house is on fire, and he’s trying to douse the flames with a watering can. The science tells us that we need to reduce our emissions by 60-80% by 2050 in order to avoid catastrophic damage.”

The sky is falling! The sky is falling! We need drastic government action to distribute hard-hats to all Americans in order to avoid catastrophic damage! Yeah, right. I’ve already mentioned that mankind’s total contribution to all greenhouse gases is comparable to less than one-third of a penny out of a dollar. So Senator Kerry is saying that to avoid catastrophic damage, we need to drop that to one-sixth of a penny. Frankly, I can’t get all worked up about going from concentrations of 0.0028 to 0.0014.

[hat-tip to Ed Morrissey for his article bringing the three links together. -- CM]

Former Vice-President Al Gore says there is no argument that the Earth is suffering global warming. Politicians and scientists who are wringing their hands over anthropogenic global warming are telling us that we need to cut back on the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases we put into the atmosphere. But is it really a big deal?

Monte Hieb has done a nice job of calculating how much humanity has contributed to the greenhouse effect. He totaled up the greenhouse gases produced by humanity’s activities, and then multiplies them by how much they contribute to the greenhouse effect. For example, nitrous oxide (N2O) has a 310 times greater effect on our greenhouse than carbon dioxide (CO2), and Sulfur Hexafluoride (SF6) has a whopping 23,900 times greater effect. So taking the concentrations and their effects into consideration, Hieb posted how much humanity has affected the Earth’s greenhouse effect. Hold on to your hats for this horrible news — humanity has contributed 0.28% to the greenhouse effect of the Earth.

Yes, that’s 28% of 1%. Or if you’d like another way of looking at it, here’s 28% of a penny, out of one dollar:

28 percent of a penny

So the next time someone complains about how mankind is driving global warming, you can toss them a penny and explain that, if a dollar represents all global warming, humanity’s contribution amounts to less than one-third of that penny. Then ask them why they are freaking out over such a trivial amount.

A pig and a chicken were walking down the street when they noticed a billboard advertisement for a bacon and egg breakfast special. The chicken turned to the pig and exclaimed, “Isn’t it great? Think of all the people made happy by what we do!” The pig responded, “I don’t see why you feel so special. For you, it’s just a contribution, but for me it’s a total commitment.”

Are we totally committed, or are we merely contributing?

Let me give an example. In 1863, as the Civil War dragged on, the North needed men and money for the fight. The North levied a draft, but with a significant loophole — any draftee could get out of service by paying the government a fee of $300. Now it cannot be denied that a draftee buying his way out of service with $300 had contributed significantly to the war effort, but could he be said to be completely committed? Of course not. How could anyone be totally committed when all he had done was throw some money at his problem to make it go away? The soldiers who stood shoulder-to-shoulder in firing lines were completely committed, and almost 600,000 paid with their lives.

The difference between making a contribution and being totally committed was not lost on the people of the day. A well-dressed gentleman might be greeted with a sardonic call of “There goes a $300 man!” While both soldiers and wealthy “$300 men” contributed to the war effort, the total commitment of the soldiers trumped the monetary contribution of the wealthy.

Here’s a more recent example. The other day I drove behind someone with a TerraPass bumper sticker. The driver was still putting CO2 into the atmosphere, but he had purchased an indulgence from TerraPass so he didn’t have to change his lifestyle and become totally committed to reducing pollution. After a quick look at the TerraPass site, I realized that I could buy forgiveness for my car’s CO2 emissions with a simple yearly payment of $39.95. And it’s so much easier to pay to have someone else take care of my CO2 emissions than it is to be wholly committed to a vastly smaller CO2 footprint. That’s the difference between contribution and commitment.

I have seen the distinction between contribution and being completely and totally committed in another way. Former Vice President Al Gore has spent countless hours bringing global warming to the people’s attention through his movie An Inconvenient Truth, his books, and his speeches. But based on his actions, is Gore merely contributing to a solution, or is he completely committed to that solution?

The answer has to be obvious. While Gore is contributing his time, his energy, and his money, he is far from being totally committed to fixing global warming. Gore talks about the effects of CO2 on global warming, but his actions and lifestyle produces vast quantities of CO2. He has flown many thousands of miles on private and public jets to promote his cause, and his personal mansion consumes more energy in one month than the average American household consumes in a year. If he were totally committed he would change his lifestyle in a significant way, but he has not. Instead, he excuses his large, deep CO2 footprint through his contribution of money to fight the problem in his name.

If you ask me, Al Gore and TerraPass users are the 21st century’s version of the $300 man.

Happy Kyoto Treaty Day! Actually, the Kyoto treaty came into effect for its signatory nations on February 16th, 2005. Did you notice, fellow Americans? Well, if you didn’t, there’s a reason. The United States is not taking part in the Kyoto treaty. In fact, on July 25, 1997, the Senate voted 95-0 against signing the treaty if President Clinton ever presented it to them.

Of the 141 nations who have signed on to the treaty, only 34 nations will actually be limited by it: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland are all signatories of the treaty and are listed as industrial nations who need to limit their evil, polluting ways. Some news articles list 35 nations bound by this treaty, but the 35th is listed as the “European Community,” which is neither the European Union nor a sovereign nation. Since most of the listed nations are already part of Europe, I don’t know who thought it was a good idea to sneak “European Community” onto the list. Four nations who are on the list have not yet jumped on the Kyoto bandwagon: Australia, Croatia, Monaco, and the United States of America.

The rest of the world’s nations–the ones not listed–are not limited at all; essentially, they get a free pass to pollute to their hearts’ desire. As I see it, this treaty has very little to do with ecology and much to do with punishing industrialized nations, because they are the ones required to drop their production of greenhouse gases–either by cutting back on productivity or spending gobs of cash to clean up what is left of their industrial emissions.

In a nutshell, the Kyoto treaty aims to roll back the amount of greenhouse gases produced by developed nations to an artificial 1990 limit. Since no civilization exists without producing greenhouse gases of one form or other, this is effectively saying that the developed nations must either push back their production levels to what they were in 1990 or spend huge sums of money to keep their emissions at 1990 levels. Since it is a basic trend for nations (and people) to produce more and different goods each decade, this is a bit like asking you to voluntarily roll back your wages to the level they were fifteen years ago. For most people, that would be a significant drop in earnings. This is just as true for nations.

Imagine all the things that have been invented and popularized since 1990. If you consider only the field of consumer electronics, you could probably name a score of items that were either rare or nonexistent at the start of the ’90s and that have since become wildly popular: cell phones, PDAs, notebook computers, next-generation video game systems, digital cameras, DVD players, iPods… the list could go on, but that ought to suffice. Now imagine that, because of the pollution that is a by-product of making them, the production of all these items must be pushed back to 1990 levels, or that products in other fields must be artificially pushed back to allow the production of new items. Imagine what that would do to supply and demand, what kind of artificial shortages (and attendant high prices) the situation would create. In such a depressed and deliberately-muzzled market, where electronics are costly and difficult to obtain, how many cool new gadgets are likely to be developed, produced and marketed? Well, the signatories on the Kyoto treaty are about to find out how well that works.

It is for this simple reason that I see the Kyoto treaty as an economic treaty, not a climate treaty. If the treaty actually dealt with scientific facts rather than economic suppositions, it would acknowledge that the primary source of global warming is the sun, and the sun is pretty active right now. Instead, the treaty focuses on six greenhouse gases, listed in Annex A: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6). Of these six gases, CO2 is the one getting the most attention as it comprises more than half the volume of the greenhouse gases in question.

The sad thing is that the treaty completely ignores the most important and most abundant of all greenhouse gases: water vapor. To give you an idea of the difference between the amounts of water vapor and CO2 in the atmosphere, imagine piling 100 pennies on the table and then focusing all your attention on three pennies–because the total amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is about 3%. That is what the scientists behind the Kyoto agreement would like the world to do. But the Kyoto treaty isn’t alone in this blindness about the most plentiful greenhouse gas. Other sites also discuss greenhouse gases without any mention of water vapor. It’s like ignoring the dead elephant in the middle of the room. Why are these people concentrating on the less than 3% that CO2 contributes to the problem, while ignoring the 97% of water vapor? I believe people are so fixated on CO2 because it is man-made, and it can be used as a handy club to beat industrialized nations.

If the Kyoto treaty were really about fixing the environment and stopping global warming, then it would demand that rampant polluters such as India and China be added to the list of polluting nations. But these nations are overlooked in favor of pointing the finger of blame at the U.S. and other developed nations. This means that India and China, both of which are hungry for electric power and the comforts it brings, may continue to build polluting, coal-fired power plants without raising an eyebrow of the Kyoto backers. And India, China, and the U.S. are planning to build lots of new power plants. To quote Mark Clayton’s December 23, 2004 article in the Christian Science Monitor:

The official treaty to curb greenhouse-gas emissions hasn’t gone into effect yet and already three countries are planning to build nearly 850 new coal-fired plants, which would pump up to five times as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as the Kyoto Protocol aims to reduce.

The magnitude of that imbalance is staggering. Environmentalists have long called the treaty a symbolic rather than practical victory in the fight against global warming. But even many of them do not appear aware of the coming tidal wave of greenhouse-gas emissions by nations not under Kyoto restrictions.

Clayton continues to point out that the extra 2.7 billion tons of CO2 put out by new plants in India, China, and the U.S. will dwarf the 483 million tons projected to be cut by Kyoto-complying countries. But some of this extra CO2 can be avoided if we in the United States choose not to create some of the 800+ coal-fired power plants slated for construction around the world. Since no one other than a handful of Californian ecofreaks wants to live in rolling blackout conditions, we must increase the power available to us. So what can we turn to in order to produce the power we need, without creating the CO2 that makes U.N. busybodies foam at the mouth? There is one obvious answer: nuclear power plants.

Oh, the horror! Well, not really. While most people’s initial reaction to a nuclear power plant is to envision terrifying scenes from The China Syndrome, Three Mile Island, or Chernobyl, none of those horrors need happen thanks to the development of pebble-bed reactors. Unlike their unstable big brothers, these smaller reactors cannot cause a meltdown even if all the cooling helium is released from the plant. This means we have the capacity to produce hundreds, if not thousands, of these Chernobyl-free plants around the globe. They are safe, provide inexpensive power, and do not produce the CO2 that makes environmentalists see red.

But environmentalists will never accept nuclear power, even safe nuclear power, because it would encourage countries to become developed and industrialized nations. And they don’t want that. It would destroy their future vision of a clean, primitive, and people-free Earth. Well, free of people who are not the few and right-minded environmentalists, of course.