The Nation’s call for a “national pollution cap of no more than 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere” (20 Progressive Executive Actions, February 11) is impossible to realize. Carbon dioxide circulates globally, so its level is not set by any nation. The level is already 395 parts per million and rising by about two units every year. The time-scale for these molecules falling to sea or land ranges from decades to thousands of years. Even if the United States stops producing industrial carbon dioxide the carbon level will continue to rise with economic growth in other countries.
If the call for a cap refers instead to promoting a set of policies that encourage all countries to agree to the century or so of carbon-free life it would take to return to 350, it has a significant downside. Cheap electricity is essential to continuing the dramatic increase in life expectancy in the developing world in the past 50 years: according to the World Bank, 20 years in Asia, 15 years in Latin America, and seven in Africa before the 1980’s, when a combination of civil war, structural adjustment, and HIV/AIDS drove it back down. Cheap coal is what is available right now, not expensive renewables. It seems immoral to deny developing nations the right the developed world had to development through cheap power, particularly as the technology now exists to scrub emissions from coal, reducing sulfur dioxide and other gasses that really are pollutants, because they damage human health.
I applaud the moral motivation that drives “350,” and a fear of climate catastrophe justifies such a position. As someone who has taught climate statistics, though, I must dispute advocates’ certainty in their fear. The models that try to divide the one degree rise in global temperature since 1850 between human and natural causes are weak, as are claims that the increase has led to catastrophic weather. The future “scenarios” generated by the climate modelers, in which CO2-driven warming escalates in the next century to dramatic proportions, are even weaker. The positive feedbacks to initial warming that are included in climate models are mostly guesswork. In the lab, at least, the response of the heat-absorbing frequencies of carbon dioxide molecules is a square-root function, meaning that additional CO2 has less and less effect on heating.
The world will achieve the goal of 350 surely but slowly, whatever we do with fossil fuels, because temperature will drop 20 degrees over the next 80,000 years, as part of the recurrent 100,000 year temperature cycles of the past few million years. These cycles, which drive CO2 levels down and up with them, mysteriously yet perfectly follow the “Milankovitch” oscillation of the earth’s orbit around the sun from perfect circle (recently) to 5 percent ellipse (in about 50,000 years). Patience.
Caleb S. Rossiter
Adjunct professor, School of International Service and Department of Mathematics and Statistics, American University, Washington, DC
Rossiter on Fracking:
February 13, 2013: Fracking: Economic dream, easily-regulated operation.
When I ran for Congress in 1998 I became a fan of New York State Assemblyman Bill Parment, a thoughtful and responsible analyst who became so expert before taking on any legislation that he drove his colleagues crazy — imagine anyone actually understanding the Dairy Compact! I recently asked Bill to brief me on the controversial topic of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale formation. Here is the result, in words and a song!
Warning: Perhaps like President Obama in the 2013 State of the Union address you believe that the one degree rise in global temperature over the past 150 years will result in a climate catastrophe; that Tropical Storm Sandy, wildfires, and floods show that the catastrophe is already upon us; and that human beings’ industrial emissions are the cause of the one degree rise. In that case you will find this entry hopelessly irrelevant, since there can be no discussion of balancing the well-being of some humans due to economic activity with the demise of all humans due to climate catastrophe.
Of course, if Obama really believed all that, he would never have bragged in the same speech about increasing oil and gas production. But please, my friends, be of good cheer, and don’t worry about your inability to get the worlds’ governments to match their “climate change” rhetoric with their actions. We’re gonna make it: There is absolutely no statistically-significant evidence that extreme weather is more frequent today due to the one degree rise in temperature, and indeed no convincing modeling that separates natural variation from human activities as the causes of the one degree rise! See my “climate” chapter for a detailed discussion of that.
Climate Statistics Prof. & Anti-War Activist Dr. Caleb Rossiter Slams The Left & Asks: ‘Why are the leftists happily hopping into bed with Al Gore, a Dixie whom they have fought on foreign and military policy from the MX missile to aid to the Salvadoran army to landmines?’ – Declares: ‘Leftists are expending resources on what is certainly a non-solution to what is most likely a non-problem.’
Climate Statistics Prof. Dr. Caleb Rossiter: ‘My blood simply boils too hot when I read the blather, daily, about climate catastrophe. It is so well-meaning, and so misguided’ – ‘Obama has long been delusional on this issue’