Lawrence Solomon: Hottest year ever?! Climate doomsayers may have hit the panic button a little too early

(December 11, 2014) Global warming doomsayers have issues confronting reality.

This article, by Lawrence Solomon, first appeared in the National Post

2014 could be the hottest year ever, enthused reporters, environmentalists and government delegates as they descended on Lima, Peru for a UN global warming gabfest, hoping against hope for good news after 18 straight years in which temperatures refused to climb. The increase reported by the World Meteorological Organization for the first 10 months of 2014 — released to give the UN gathering some gravitas — wasn’t enormous, just one-hundredth of one degree warmer than the previous record. But beggars can’t be choosers, especially among determined doomsayers, for whom hope springs eternal.

These upbeat doomsayers — maybe a majority of the 8,000 in attendance from 196 participating countries — had little else to cling to. In the Arctic, the ice cover is now greater than it’s been over the average of the last 15 years. In the Antarctic, the prospects for gloom are sadder still — the sea ice cover is at an all-time high, having set records the last three years in a row. Worse — as underwater robots have just discovered — the ice is much thicker than previously thought. Oh sure, the doomsayers can ordinarily console themselves with computer models showing all this ice is an anomaly — that it should have melted long ago. But what good are computer models by the world’s top climate change scientists — all consensusing one another — when the population at large becomes each year harder to rouse to panic?

In the Antarctic, the sea ice cover is at an all-time high.

Now, as the global warming enthusiasts are packing their bags to leave Lima, bad luck threatens to nose them out of even their one-hundredth-of-one-degree edge. The figures for November — month number 11 — have just come in and it looks like the U.S. is once again betraying the cause: November 2014 with its polar vortex saw almost 9000 record lows, ushering in a record extent of snow cover for North America. To compound the bad luck, the polar vortex has crossed the Atlantic to inflict the U.K. with what’s being billed there as the coldest winter in a century. Barring a miraculously balmy December, the Lima attendees fear, that one-hundredth-of-one degree lead will now be lost.

In truth, even if Christmas does bring warmth, it won’t matter a whit, and not because the true measurements — based on comprehensive satellite readings rather than from a scattering of thermometers on land and ocean buoys — show 2014 to be nowhere near setting records. The doomsayers have been crying wolf for decades but the wolf never appeared. None of the computer models — the sole basis of alarmism — have proven to be accurate. None of the technologies promising to counter climate change— from wind turbines to electric vehicles to carbon sequestration — have been able to deliver. None of the carbon markets have proven to be viable. The public in the developed world has turned skeptical on global warming. And now no government will pay much of anything but lip service in perpetuating the climate change narrative.

The rich western countries are slashing subsidies to renewables, even retroactively abrogating agreements with renewables suppliers, leading to layoffs, bankruptcies and exits from the industry. Governments are ditching their plans to establish carbon markets and carbon taxes. They are backing away from past commitments to the UN to reduce carbon emissions. Some, like Canada and Japan long ago walked away from Kyoto agreements, and all are refusing to walk into onerous new ones. The U.S. Republican Congress, unusually explicit in its hostility to the UN and its climate policies, is blocking funding to the UN’s Green Climate Fund.

What governments are doing is turning to fossil fuels. Thanks to fracking, the U.S. has become the world’s largest oil producer, creating much of the glut now crashing oil prices, just as fracking earlier made the U.S. the world’s largest gas producer, crashing gas prices. Not only is the U.S. gearing up to export both oil and gas, it is also a major coal exporter, helping to crash prices there, too, and to bring affordable fossil fuel to the world. According to estimates this month from the International Energy Agency, the next quarter century and beyond belong to fossil fuels, which just keep growing and growing in popularity.

Many at Lima, perhaps most, understand that fossil fuels are their friend, especially those from poor countries like China and India that want to speed their economic development, or be compensated if they don’t. They’re at Lima, not to sequester carbon but to sequester funds — they demand $100-billion per year — from Western governments willing to pay them to play the game. Many others, those who take the game seriously, hear no dissenting views, and embrace the UN’s call to cut global CO2 emissions to zero, are either willfully blind, deaf or dumb.

Lawrence Solomon is executive director of Energy Probe, a Toronto-based environmental group. Email:

About Lawrence Solomon

Lawrence Solomon is one of Canada's leading environmentalists. His book, The Conserver Solution (Doubleday) popularized the Conserver Society concept in the late 1970s and became the manual for those interested in incorporating environmental factors into economic life. An advisor to President Jimmy Carter's Task Force on the Global Environment (the Global 2000 Report) in the late 1970's, he has since been at the forefront of movements to reform foreign aid, stop nuclear power expansion and adopt toll roads. Mr. Solomon is a founder and managing director of Energy Probe Research Foundation and the executive director of its Energy Probe and Urban Renaissance Institute divisions. He has been a columnist for The Globe and Mail, a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, the editor and publisher of the award-winning The Next City magazine, and the author or co-author of seven books, most recently The Deniers, a #1 environmental best-seller in both Canada and the U.S. .
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