Plenty of Hot Air in Paris, But Not Much Global Warming

Barack Obama (5thL) is greeted by world leaders as he arrives for the family photo at the COP21, United Nations Climate Change Conference, in Le Bourget, outside Paris, on November 30, 2015. More than 150 world leaders are meeting under heightened security, for the 21st Session of the Conference of …
Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty Images

World leaders had their say in Paris. (And brother, did they ever have their say, gabbing so much that the program agenda fell apart, and speakers ended up milling about in the lap of luxury, waiting for their chance to explain how global warming made their various demands irresistible.)

What does the actual data say about climate change?

Contrary to all the hot air emitting from Paris, there isn’t much global warming. If only the real threat we face, Islamist terrorism, fell as far short of its hype as global warming does! Last weekend, Matt Ridley and Benny Peiser noted at the Wall Street Journal that world temperatures “have gone up only very slowly, less than half as fast as the scientific consensus predicted in 1990 when the global-warming scare began in earnest.”

Even with this year’s El Niño-boosted warmth threatening to break records, the world is barely half a degree Celsius (0.9 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than it was about 35 years ago. Also, it is increasingly clear that the planet was significantly warmer than today several times during the past 10,000 years.

Nor can it be the consequences of this recent slight temperature increase that worries world leaders. On a global scale, as scientists keep confirming, there has been no increase in frequency or intensity of storms, floods or droughts, while deaths attributed to such natural disasters have never been fewer, thanks to modern technology and infrastructure. Arctic sea ice has recently melted more in summer than it used to in the 1980s, but Antarctic sea ice has increased, and Antarctica is gaining land-based ice, according to a new study by NASA scientists published in the Journal of Glaciology. Sea level continues its centuries-long slow rise—about a foot a century—with no sign of recent acceleration.

This is, to put it mildly, very different from the hysterical demands for immediate panic dumped by one “world leader” after another in Paris.

Nearly all of them repeated patently untrue claims about severe weather getting worse because of climate change. Every country with beachfront real estate demanded money due to rising sea levels and melting polar ice. Every significant weather event from the past few years was blamed on global warming at some point during Monday’s endless speeches.

The point about how actual warming is far less than the doomsday models from the early years of the global warming panic is very important, because all of this hysteria is based on protean computer models that can be tweaked to produce all sorts of predictions. If the overall warming of the atmosphere is insignificant (or even beneficial, a possibility Ridley and Peiser cover by referring to the work of Richard Tol) then the attitude on display in Paris is absurd, and perhaps counter-productive. If planetary temperatures are not much influenced by human activity, then climate-change hysteria is pointless – unless you happen to be one of the politicians or cronies who benefits from it, of course.

The rhetoric in Paris painted climate change as an accelerating crisis, when it’s actually very difficult to avoid the conclusion that its high-water mark has already come and gone.

New technologies have been developed and implemented at great cost. The skyrocketing temperatures predicted by the alarmists of the Eighties and Nineties didn’t occur… and that’s a big problem for the Church of Global Warming, not just because the two-decade warming “pause” baffles their predictive models, but because the conditions that might conceivably produce man-made global warming have been alleviated. The alarmists demand we do more, more, more… but if human activity truly influences the climate, the data suggests measures already taken across the Western world have been quite effective. Further action would logically be focused on developing nations – the very nations that came to Paris to announce they have no intention of crippling their economies to fight climate change, unless the rest of the world compensates them very handsomely.

There is also the question of cost-benefit analysis, which is the great enemy of collectivist politics – the kind of disciplined thought socialists most desperately require their constituents to abandon. Cost-benefit analysis isn’t just about money – it also includes quality of life. Is the expenditure of money, and damage to our quality of life, from battling climate change far in excess of what we stand to gain? To put the question in crude terms, does it make sense to spend $100 trillion to avoid a problem that will only cost you $100 billion if it occurs?

Such thinking was entirely absent from Paris.

Apocalyptic rhetoric about the impending doom of humanity, unless we take drastic action right this instant, with no questions asked, is a deliberate attempt to short-circuit cost-benefit analysis. The alarmists know that people don’t pinch pennies when they believe they face an existential crisis. A more accurate and reasonable presentation of the actual data on climate change would portray it as a possible problem that can be evaluated and weighed against the cost of further corrective action.

That kind of talk isn’t going to shake billions of dollars out of panicked citizens, however, or convince them to surrender their inalienable rights. The climate change movement is explicitly dedicated to the idea that democracy must be discarded as a luxury the human race cannot afford – no one can be allowed to vote against its demands. Only the most horrible impending catastrophe will convince people to live under what amounts to martial law.

If the smallest amount of economic liberty is permitted to them, citizens start asking pesky questions about how much they’re expected to sacrifice, in exchange for precisely what benefits. That’s why solar and wind power don’t catch on unless consumers are forced to pay for them, and people are beginning to mutter about the cruelty of expecting so many in the Third World to live without energy benefits that effective coal and gas technology can provide at reasonable costs. Paris was rife with talk of setting up international “climate courts” to force developed nations to pay huge fines for their carbon footprints. No citizen of the United States would be given a vote against the judgment of such “courts,” or any say in their deliberations.

You’d never know it from listening to the grandees of Paris demand their billions of dollars in tribute, but climate alarmists are currently sweating through devastating allegations that even the tiny amount of global warming they’ve been able to document is based largely on falsified data and manipulated spreadsheets. Such accusations aren’t new, but they’ve been reaching critical mass over the past year, even as climate alarmists ratchet up their rhetoric to an ear-splitting screech about hundred-year doomsday clocks beginning to tick.

“When future generations look back on the global-warming scare of the past 30 years, nothing will shock them more than the extent to which the official temperature records – on which the entire panic ultimately rested – were systematically ‘adjusted’ to show the Earth as having warmed much more than the actual data justified,” Christopher Booker wrote at the UK Telegraph last February, collecting numerous examples of one-way “adjustments” that invariably twisted flat temperature readings into slight warming curves. More recently, critics such as Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, have accused the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of cherry-picking data and “adjusting” the climate record to hide the global warming “pause.”

The bottom line is that we’re talking about a “crisis” that is extremely difficult to detect, and whose existence as an artifact of spreadsheet adjustments is very different from the huge crisis climate alarmists have predicted for decades. Nothing about what scientists observe today is consistent with thirty years of warnings about human impact on the environment, and the alarmists haven’t come close to explaining why all their vaunted models were so wrong.

Instead, they invest all of their energy in savaging those who express skepticism about the accuracy of their new models, engaging in ridiculous fearmongering like President Obama warning of “submerged countries, abandoned cities, and fields that no longer grow” in Paris, and working to transform climate change into a Unified Field Theory of catastrophe that explains literally everything wrong with the world, up to and including international terrorism.

People with more balanced intellects laugh at the juvenile antics of politicians attempting to claim that global warming caused the Syrian civil war, but beware – in the years to come, these fanciful claims will be inverted to become assertions that every bit of bad news “proves” global warming is happening. We’re not far from hearing the first power-hungry politician claiming that the next Islamist terror attack proves global warming is real, because the rise of terrorism tracks with their “adjusted” climate data.