Climate Change Alarmism - Hurting Clean Energy?

The following information was written for Mapawatt by the folks over at and is an interesting look at the Climate Change debate.  I've expressed my feelings on the topic in my post, "I've solved Climate Change!".  Read the article below for a take on the topic you may not expect to be posted on a site whose whole purpose is to promote using less fossil fuel energy and live more sustainably!


What’s the Real Motivation Behind Climate Change Alarms?

Contrary to what you will hear on the evening news, the controversy over the reality of man-made global warming is far from settled. Recent events have seriously called into question the “science” behind climate-change claims. These same events have also illustrated the lengths to which scientist will go to preserve their funding, and brought to light the relationship between global warming and the emergence of a new commodities market.


In November and December 2009 a hacker disclosed information obtained from emails in the files of the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit. The correspondence revealed a pattern of behavior from 1996 to 2000 showing that climate scientists filtered the data they released to preserve their funding on projects intended to prove the reality of man-made global warming. In the wake of the scandal, Phil Jones, the CRU director, resigned.


At the United Nations Climate Change Conference held from December 7-18, 2009 in Copenhagen, the 45,000 delegates were unable to arrive at a binding accord for emissions limits. The meeting was marked by conflicts between representatives from developed and undeveloped nations and did not adequately address discrepancies in existing climate models. Although many pundits predict catastrophic disasters if global warming is not held to 2 degrees C, the fact remains that in spite of record high levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, the planet is, on average, no warmer than it was in 1998.

(Mapawatt note: I had to do a little digging on this last fact because I'm not a fan of sites that post facts but don't show their data.  Turns out that they're right on.  Data from the NOAA does indeed show that since 1998 the ground temperature, as well as the stratosphere and troposphere have gotten slightly cooler.  I will say that 1998 was El Nino, and this skews the data. )


A 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change included an assertion that the Himalayan glaciers will disappear by 2035. Although cited to a 2005 WWF study, “An Overview of Glaciers, Glacier Retreat, and Subsequent Impacts on Nepal, India, and China,” the original claim was nothing but a speculative comment included in 1999 magazine article. The prediction, made by an Indian scientist, Syed Hasnain, was never formally published or subjected to peer review.

Disputed Sea Levels

Just before the Copenhagen Conference, Stefan Rahmstorf, professor of ocean physics at Potsdam, published a prediction that the world’s oceans would rise six feet by 2100. He based his claim on a recorded 7-inch sea level rise between 1881 and 2001.

Glaciologists pointed out that if the glaciers in the Alps and Himalayas were indeed gone by 2035, or even by 2050 as others claim, the remaining water to account for such a dramatic increase would have to come from the Antarctic and Greenland where melt is negligible at best. Critics dismissed Rahmstorf’s methods as “simplistic” and denounced the timing of his publication as designed to “attract headlines.”

The Elephant in the Middle of the Room

In the midst of all this controversy, an undeniably huge elephant settled in the middle of the room. Calls to create a cap and trade systems for greenhouse gas emissions depend on the belief that man-made global warming is real and that catastrophic climate change is imminent.

In the United States, the House of Representatives has proposed reducing such emissions 17% by 2020 and 83% by 2050. Regional carbon markets have already evolved in the U.S. where carbon credits are bought and sold. The idea is that companies unable to meet emissions caps purchase credits from cleaner entities to offset their own “bad” behavior. Europe already has a fully functional carbon trading market. Essentially, we are seeing the evolution of a new, highly lucrative commodities market completely predicated on worst-case climate scenarios.

None of this, however, detracts from the validity of renewable energy efforts like residential wind power or the need for solid energy conservation tips for average households. It is not necessary to engage in alarmist tactics to illustrate all the good reasons to work for cleaner air and water, to protect endangered ecosystems, or to liberate ourselves from a dangerous political dependence on foreign oil. Alarmism is required, however, to justify new climate taxes and to create a new class of commodities traded on the basis of emission limits.


So there you have it.  My worries, which are expressed in the above piece, are that the public will tire of endless debate about Climate Change and lose focus of the big picture:  Clean Energy is good for society no matter what the outcome of the Climate Change debate is!

We need more intelligent discussion on this topic because I'm sick and tired of politicians who aren't engineers or scientists talking about something they aren't qualified to talk about!  Instead of politicians arguing about what to do about climate change, they need to focus on why clean energy makes us all healthier, more prosperous, and happier; and then sell all those reasons to the voting public.  It shouldn't be a hard sell.  I'd love to see your thoughts on this topic in the comments below.

***Update 2/12/10 - Warning: I like to play devil's advocate.  I have to hand it to RePower America and their great page, "Climate Change causes more severe weather".  Not only do they provide a really great clip from the Daily Show that mocks Global Warming deniers, but they also cite their facts, which include:

  • Climate change causes more frequent and severe snowstorms

  • We can expect more extreme weather

  • The world is warming at a quickening pace

I only mention this to show that this is a complicated debate, and continuing to just debate it will only slow efforts to move to a clean energy future.  I think we all can agree that fossil fuels dirty our air, pollute our land and water (during extraction) and oil keeps us reliant on the middle east.  Let's us all get behind getting off fossil fuels for this reason!

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I agree that the climate change issue is irrelevant to renewable energy efforts. So why did you provide space to to propagate their views, none of which are new? MapaWatt has been a valuable and informative blog for me in the past, but if it turns into a climate change diatribe, I'm gone.
Chris Way to go, some intellectually honest opinion. The the issue is about the waste of our natural resources, and the resistance by old industries to embrace the new. Clean energy is economically good for us. There will be innovation, new jobs, and a progressively improved standard of living - facilitated by energy - that is created without making oil companies richer.
@Tony- Residential wind power is a good option, but not for every location. I don't want to promote a technology of any kind without pointing out the advantages and disadvantages of using it. This is why on the page you reference on my site, we spent a lot of time answering the important questions and pointing out what is required for wind power to work for your particular application. I don't want to encourage my readers to run out and invest in wind turbines without doing some homework to determine how this technology is going to perform in their application. As you pointed out, setting up single residential turbines in an urban area is probably not a viable option. But many of these locations could still benefit from large industrial wind farms to supply electricity.
@David - I'm not trying to turn MapaWatt into a "climate change blog" nor am I attempting to force my views upon anyone else. My primary goal is to further the climate change debate, keep people talking about it, and encourage the non-believers that energy conservation is still a worthy goal. It doesn't matter if man-made global warming exists or not. While my views on the issue may not be anything new, all of the evidence we presented is new and involves recent events. I've always felt there were gaps in the man-made climate change argument, and it appears that my views were shared by the insiders as well. Otherwise, they wouldn't have gone to such great lengths to manipulate data to prove their argument and preserve their funding. At the end of the day, I believe it is important to conserve energy and find alternative renewable energy sources. My belief that these are worthy goals is not predicated on the existence of global warming, and my preferred method of sharing these views with my readers is through education and not scare tactics.
Saying "the debate is over" is political speech, not scientific. A scientist will always consider new evidence. Aside from alarmism, I'd say that green-washed policy is the next biggest threat to public opinion and action. Programs like "cash for clunkers" and federal funding for corn ethanol are given a "green" label simply to gain congressional votes. But even a cursory look reveals that they are poor investments from an environmental standpoint. How long will people believe our message of efficiency and renewable energy with such poor examples to date?
Daniel, Great point. I hate when I hear "the debate is over". I think we just have to be vigilant in getting our pragmatic message out there. We have to keep suggesting common sense ideas that better society. And we also have to speak up when we see others are wrong!
Very nice overview. One cannot ignore the fact that Climate Change (I thought it was Global Warming? - oh well.......) "Alarmists" have much to gain personally and financially by fanning the flames. Sustainability is just the right thing to do - for us and the environment.
I'm an AGW denier and I agree completly with your comments above. If we want clean air and water we need to focus on those areas, instead we argue endlessly about saving the world from future climate disasters. These claims cannot be supported scientifically, so it has devolved into a Belief sytem some call a quasi-religion. It's time to focus on clean air and water; dump the save the planet thing.
Why is it "time focus on clean air and water" and not "sav[ing] the planet??" Because people have a desire to save themselves far sooner than a desire to save others. You'll focus on clean air and water because YOU need them to survive, not because the planet -- all the living things upon it -- need these things to continue living as well. Too many people ignore the fact that we -- the life on Earth -- live in interdependence of eachother. "Saving the planet" is just another way of saying "save yourself."
I have some doubts about "the validity of renewable energy efforts like residential wind power". From the page you linked to: "Do you have steady winds of 10 mph or greater at 85 to 150 feet off the ground?" This pretty much kills wind power as a viable option in urban areas (where most of the population lives). For people in rural areas living on >= 1 acre things may be plausible.


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