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Climate Change 7: How Global Warming is Both a “Hoax” and a Legitimate Area of Study

roy-spencerFormer NASA climatologist Roy Spencer, who continues to compile and maintain one of the global satellite temperature records, is one of the leading skeptics of climate alarmism.  As with much of his writing at, his recent concise summary of key points in the debate was excellent.  He argues that climate change is a hoax, not because the earth is not gradually warming, but because of costly policy dictates that demonize CO2 and won’t even make a measurable difference.

While it might sound cynical, global warming has been used politically in order for governments to gain control over the private sector. Bob Watson’s view was just one indication of this. As a former government employee, I can attest to the continuing angst civil servants have over remaining relevant to the taxpayers who pay their salaries, so there is a continuing desire to increase the role of government in our daily lives.

In 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was given a legitimate mandate to clean up our air and water. I remember the pollution crises we were experiencing in the 1960s. But as those problems were solved, the EPA found itself in the precarious position of possibly outliving its usefulness.

So, the EPA embarked on a mission of ever-increasing levels of regulation. Any manmade substance that had any evidence of being harmful in large concentrations was a target for regulation. I was at a Carolina Air Pollution Control Association (CAPCA) meeting years ago where an EPA employee stated to the group that “we must never stop making the environment cleaner” (or something to that effect).

There were gasps from the audience.

You see, there is a legitimate role of the EPA to regulate clearly dangerous or harmful levels of manmade pollutants.

But it is not physically possible to make our environment 100% clean.

As we try to make the environment ever cleaner, the cost goes up dramatically. You can make your house 90% cleaner relatively easily, but making it 99% cleaner will take much more effort.

As any economist will tell you, money you spend on one thing is not available for other things, like health care. So, the risk of over-regulating pollution is that you end up killing more people than you save, because if there is one thing we know kills millions of people every year, it is poverty.

Global warming has become a reason for government to institute policies, whether they be a carbon tax or whatever, using a regulatory mechanism which the public would never agree to if they knew (1) how much it will cost them in reduced prosperity, and (2) how little effect it will have on the climate system.

So, the policy prescription does indeed become a hoax, because the public is being misled into believing that their actions are going to somehow make the climate “better”.

Even using the IPCC’s (and thus the EPA’s) numbers, there is nothing we can do energy policy-wise that will have any measurable effect on global temperatures.

In this regard, politicians using global warming as a policy tool to solve a perceived problem is indeed a hoax. The energy needs of humanity are so large that Bjorn Lomborg has estimated that in the coming decades it is unlikely that more than about 20% of those needs can be met with renewable energy sources.

Whether you like it or not, we are stuck with fossil fuels as our primary energy source for decades to come. Deal with it. And to the extent that we eventually need more renewables, let the private sector figure it out. Energy companies are in the business of providing energy, and they really do not care where that energy comes from.

Recently Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA/GISS, pointedly told President-elect Trump not to mess with their global warming research.  Spencer sympathizes with Gavin that climate change is a legitimate area of study, but

he needs to realize that the EPA-like zeal that the funding agencies (NASA, NOAA, DOE, NSF) have used to characterize ALL climate change as human-caused AND as dangerous would eventually cause a backlash among those who pay the bills.  … Scientists need to stop mischaracterizing global warming as settled science.  …

The only part that is relatively settled is that adding CO2 to the atmosphere has probably contributed to recent warming. That doesn’t necessarily mean it is dangerous.  And it surely does not mean we can do anything about it… even if we wanted to.

Peter Zeller is Director of Operations at Center of the American Experiment.




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