Friday, July 12, 2013

Climate Change 101 for Dummies (Part I)

Here is Obama’s argument for his climate change policy which he plans to enact unilaterally - bypassing Congressional approval: “While this progress is encouraging, climate change is no longer a distant threat – we are already feeling its impacts across the country and the world. Last year was the warmest year ever in the contiguous United States and about one-third of all Americans experienced 10 days or more of 100-degree heat. The 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15 years. Asthma rates have doubled in the past 30 years and our children will suffer more asthma attacks as air pollution gets worse. And increasing floods, heat waves, and droughts have put farmers out of business, which is already raising food prices dramatically. These changes come with far-reaching consequences and real economic costs. Last year alone, there were 11 different weather and climate disaster events with estimated losses exceeding $1 billion each across the United States. Taken together, these 11 events resulted in over $110 billion in estimated damages, which would make it the second-costliest year on record.”

I will use the opposite argument and agree what Obama proclaims in the above paragraph is statistically accurate (although there are many others that would refute these claims).

Let’s tackle a few of these claims one at a time. First, the cost for national disasters would normally go up due to inflation, hence any data without adjusting disaster costs for inflation over the course of US history has no meaning. And let’s begin with the most likely reason disaster costs are going up – population increases and sprawl. For instance, the area destroyed by Colorado Springs and Conifer Colorado wild fires last year did not have one home located in these areas two decades ago. Less than 50 years ago the population of Moore Oklahoma was less than 2,000 people and today it approaching 65,000. Heck, it is likely that 40 years ago we would have never known a tornado hit the city of Moore without the climate technology and population sprawl we have today. For this reason, it is impossible to say if fire, tornado, hurricane, and other natural disasters are worse today than a few decades ago. Keep in mind natural disasters in other countries such as Canada or across Europe are no worse than they were decades ago. In Europe this is easy to explain because population and sprawl are on the decline. And finally, on this point, it is important to remember more people also means more infrastructure (homes, roads, etc.) which means the absorption of more heat - making the planet feel warmer. Interestingly, the Obama climate change plan calls for more infrastructure and heat conducting sources: “Moving forward, the Obama Administration will help state and local governments strengthen our roads, bridges, and shorelines so we can better protect people’s homes, businesses and way of life from severe weather.” The plan also says: “Upgrading the country’s electric grid is critical to our efforts to make electricity more reliable, save consumers money on their energy bills, and promote clean energy sources.” Unfortunately, upgrading the electrical grid means expanding it to reach clean energy sources which tend to be far removed from our national grid (For example, solar farms can be found in the desert and other remote unpopulated areas). This means more infrastructures which not only means warmer surface temperatures, but higher costs, not lower ones. This is a massive expense. Remember when then US Energy Secretary Steven Chu said this: “The world should try to have white roofs everywhere to help fight climate change.” This is an admission that warmer climates have nothing to do with CO2, but more to do with infrastructures conducting heat.

2 comments:

  1. I'll believe Obama is sincerely concerned about man's impact on climate change when he stops becoming the world's greatest individual energy hog. Until that happens I can only assume that his hypocrisy reveals there are darker motives in play.

    Good post, Patrick.

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    Replies
    1. Can't have liberalism without hypocrisy.

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