Saturday, July 6, 2013

Krauthammer: Pity the Fool

Charles Krauthammer (Krauthammer), at this late date in the controversy surrounding global warming, has thrown in his lot with the climate change deniers. He is probably unaware that the number of deniers is dwindling around the world and that even the name, denier, has become anathema to the scientific community. Krauthammer is a conservative though, so he's also a little slow to jump on the Exxon bandwagon with the rest of the crackpots and stealth lobbyists financed by the oil companies.

Krauthammer, for good measure, calls President Obama a fool. He entitles his article in the Washington Post, Obama's global-warming folly, not-so-subtly implying that the President is a fool. Other signs that Obama is a fool are that Russia and China mock him. But China refused to offer Snowden asylum and forced him to leave the country. As of this writing, Snowden is still stranded in the Moscow airport because the Russians will not offer him asylum either except under conditions Snowden finds impossible to accept. Western Europe showed its solidarity with the U.S. by refusing to let an airplane they suspected of carrying Snowden fly through their airspace. This action signaled that U.S. allies will make it very difficult, if not impossible, for Snowden to escape to another country on any airline.

Krauthammer also argues Obama is a fool because “Syria burns.” I believe strongly that the U.S. should avoid getting involved in any conflict between Islamists. That strategy turned out badly in Afghanistan and Iraq. It doesn't sound foolish at all for the U.S. to stand on the sidelines and encourage the islamists settle their own differences in Syria. But Krauthammer says Obama is a fool not to get involved in what could become a quagmire.

Perhaps Krauthammer doesn't really believe the things he said when he blamed Obama for troubles in Syria and for letting a spy escape to China. It isn't the President's job, after all, to stand in airports and block spies from boarding planes. No, what really upsets Krauthammer is Obama's plan to reduce global warming by closing coal-fired power plants.

Krauthammer knows nothing about science, of course. He gives several unconvincing arguments why the U.S. should increase carbon pollution instead of curtailing it. Krauthammer cites a Pew poll that shows that only 28 per cent of Americans believe global warming is an important issue. On issues of scientific controversy, you see, Krauthammer believes we should ignore the scientists and listen to the people, after first inundating them with anti-science propaganda for years.

Suppose the situation were different. Suppose scientists predicted that an asteroid will strike the Earth in 75 years. Would any sane person argue that we should wait and see if the scientists are right? Wouldn't we do everything we can to save the Earth from catastrophe?

Global warming is just as serious a problem as would be that fictional asteroid, but with this difference: Global warming is affecting the entire world now and the effects get worse every year. Every climate scientist in the world agrees on that. The 3 per cent who are still skeptical are not skeptical that global warming is a serious problem, only about how much of it is man-made.

But Krauthammer goes on to argue that we should not take any action against global warming because there has been no increase in global temperature for 16 years—even though at least 12 of these years have been the hottest in recorded history! He apparently has decided that this is an important fact all on his. He has certainly not asked any climate scientists because none of them have become climate deniers recently.

When he uses the argument about temperatures being flat for the last 16 years, Krauthammer is cherry-picking data, a common tactic of global-warming deniers. He picks one fact that appears to contradict global-warming and ignores the thousands of facts that support it.

Scientists have dedicated their lives to studying the climate, using every tool science has created for itself, including thermometers, barometers, hygrometers, wind gauges, high altitude balloons, carbon dating, ice cores drilled from glaciers, tree ring analysis, satellite analysis, and computer simulations. But Krauthammer has chosen to believe that global warming does not exist because there has been no observable increase in global temperature in the past 16 years. Please note that Krauthammer has no way of knowing this is true except by using the tools that scientists have invented, and the scientists who make a living with these tools do not agree with his analysis.

But Krauthammer calls President Obama a fool for believing 100 per cent of the climate scientists instead of listening to the few skeptics who still remain. Krauthammer argues that a theory that cannot explain all of the data must be discarded, though science does not discard a theory until a better one comes along. For example, the theory of gravity cannot explain why the universe doesn't collapse on itself. Nevertheless, we still believe in gravity.

When he calls Obama a flat-earther, Krauthammer is either ignorant of the actual meaning of the word or—more likely—he is trying to redefine the word for political purposes. Flat-earthers are those who believe the earth is flat despite all scientific evidence to the contrary. Obama was accurate when he called global-warming skeptics flat-earthers, because they refuse to believe what science has determined to be true. Krauthammer uses the term as a meaningless insult, trying to deprive a valid accusation of its force.

Neither Obama nor the rest of us should be convinced when Krauthammer tells us the cost of Obama's global-warming policy will be heavy. The article he points to in support of his erroneous claim closes with the words of Nick Akins, a power company CEO, who says Obama’s plan can be carried out “without a major impact to customers or the economy.”

Krauthammer closes his baseless diatribe with the worst argument of all, though it is one that will appeal to the know-nothing branch of the Republican party. He says we should do nothing to slow global warming because other countries are doing nothing. The U.S. is not the only country that has reduced its CO2 emissions. The U.S. reduced its emissions by 200 million tons in 2012. Europe reduced its emissions by 10 million tons. Other countries, like China, have slowed the growth of their emissions.

Many developing nations are concerned about global warming because they have the most to use. Much of Bangladesh is already below sea level. The Maldive islands will soon sink beneath the surface of the Indian Ocean and their residents will seek homes elsewhere.

Even with a large increase in CO2 emissions, China still produced about one third as much CO2 per person as the U.S. India, which Krauthammer chastised for increasing its production of CO2, produced about 10 per cent as much CO2 per person as the U.S. Whether or not these countries are able to reduce their CO2 outputs, the U. S. would have to cut its output in half to match the per person output of Europe.

Incidentally, saying the U.S. is doing more to reduce CO2 emissions than any other country is an egregious example of cherry-picking data. The U.S. produces about twice as much CO2 per person as the European Union. We have a long way to go before we match what others have already done.

The U.S. must be a world leader, not a follower. After the oil price increases of the 1970s and 1980s,we lagged behind the Europeans and Japanese in energy reduction because we failed to lower our consumption. Had we lowered our energy use at that time, our CO2 production per person could be half what it is today. Instead, we kept on increasing our energy use and poured money into the bank accounts of oil company executives and Middle Eastern oil magnates.

Krauthammer ends his article with an inexcusable exaggeration. He says there is no point in America committing economic suicide to no effect. But the U.S. by itself could make a considerable difference in global warming because we produce so much of the world's greenhouse gases. The economic effect of lowering our CO2 will not be catastrophic, because lowering our use of one energy source will increase our use of another. Investments in green energy will create at least 3 times as many jobs as investments in the energy industry. Competition with traditional energy sources will lower the price of natural gas. Farmers will increase their income by generating and selling wind power and by using waste products for biomass energy production.

President Obama wants the U.S. to create new green technologies and thereby lessen the effects of global warming. Krauthammer wants to exchange sustainable, non-polluting green energy projects for a continuation of massive profits for the oil companies and world-wide disasters that keep on increasing in numbers and severity. Who is the fool?

Note: Charles Krauthammer's article, “Obama's global-warming folly”, appeared on July 4 in the Washington Post.

No comments: