Romney: I won’t back down on AGW

posted at 10:49 am on June 9, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

Mitt Romney may have enraged the GOP base with his answers on anthropogenic global warming, but as Politico reports, he won’t back down from them in the face of withering criticism from conservatives.  Instead, he appears to be offering a compromise.  He’ll continue to declare his belief in AGW, but promises not to do anything about it:

Mitt Romney won’t be doing any apology tours on climate change.

The early GOP presidential front-runner has broken with his party’s conservative ranks to declare global warming a real threat to the planet that merits some sort of action to curb heat-trapping emissions.

But the former Massachusetts governor is also quick to trash cap and trade, carbon taxes and other controversial policies that have been kicked around over the last decade in Washington.

In a sense, Romney’s initial global warming stance sounds a lot like that of  former President George W. Bush, who during his two terms reluctantly accepted climate science while fighting Democrats and environmentalists over what to do about it.

Er … okay.  If one accepts the premise of AGW, doesn’t that more or less make it incumbent to craft policies that address it?  After all, the theory states that AGW is cumulative, which means that the longer it goes, the problem increases in at least an arithmetic projection, if not an exponential one.  It’s a bit like saying that the federal budget deficit is a real problem, but continuing to propose budgets with trillion-dollar annual deficits.

You know … like Barack Obama did this year.  Twice.

Of course, one hint that AGW isn’t a threat is that its predictions of arithmetic and exponential catastrophes have utterly failed to materialize.  We don’t have 50 million climate-change refugees, as the UN predicted for this year.  Sea levels haven’t swallowed up whole populations.  The modeling from AGW advocates have repeatedly and routinely failed at predictions, which for normal science would mean an end to the theories they claim to prove.

In fact, former AGW advocate and scientist David Evans drove the point home last month in his debunking of AGW:

This is the core idea of every official climate model: For each bit of warming due to carbon dioxide, they claim it ends up causing three bits of warming due to the extra moist air. The climate models amplify the carbon dioxide warming by a factor of three — so two-thirds of their projected warming is due to extra moist air (and other factors); only one-third is due to extra carbon dioxide.

That’s the core of the issue. All the disagreements and misunderstandings spring from this. The alarmist case is based on this guess about moisture in the atmosphere, and there is simply no evidence for the amplification that is at the core of their alarmism.

What did they find when they tried to prove this theory?

Weather balloons had been measuring the atmosphere since the 1960s, many thousands of them every year. The climate models all predict that as the planet warms, a hot spot of moist air will develop over the tropics about 10 kilometres up, as the layer of moist air expands upwards into the cool dry air above. During the warming of the late 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, the weather balloons found no hot spot. None at all. Not even a small one. This evidence proves that the climate models are fundamentally flawed, that they greatly overestimate the temperature increases due to carbon dioxide.

This evidence first became clear around the mid-1990s.

Physicist William Happer writes about the AGW “science” in First Things this month:

The earth’s climate has always been changing. Our present global warming is not at all unusual by the standards of geological history, and it is probably benefiting the biosphere. Indeed, there is very little correlation between the estimates of CO2 and of the earth’s temperature over the past 550 million years (the “Phanerozoic” period). The message is clear that several factors must influence the earth’s temperature, and that while CO2 is one of these factors, it is seldom the dominant one. The other factors are not well understood. Plausible candidates are spontaneous variations of the complicated fluid flow patterns in the oceans and atmosphere of the earth—perhaps influenced by continental drift, volcanoes, variations of the earth’s orbital parameters (ellipticity, spin-axis orientation, etc.), asteroid and comet impacts, variations in the sun’s output (not only the visible radiation but the amount of ultraviolet light, and the solar wind with its magnetic field), variations in cosmic rays leading to variations in cloud cover, and other causes.

The existence of the little ice age and the medieval warm period were an embarrassment to the global-warming establishment, because they showed that the current warming is almost indistinguishable from previous warmings and coolings that had nothing to do with burning fossil fuel. The organization charged with producing scientific support for the climate change crusade, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), finally found a solution. They rewrote the climate history of the past 1000 years with the celebrated “hockey stick” temperature record.

The first IPCC report, issued in 1990, showed both the medieval warm period and the little ice age very clearly. In the IPCC’s 2001 report was a graph that purported to show the earth’s mean temperature since the year 1000. A yet more extreme version of the hockey stick graph made the cover of the Fiftieth Anniversary Report of the United Nation’s World Meteorological Organization. To the surprise of everyone who knew about the strong evidence for the little ice age and the medieval climate optimum, the graph showed a nearly constant temperature from the year 1000 until about 150 years ago, when the temperature began to rise abruptly like the blade of a hockey stick. The inference was that this was due to the anthropogenic “pollutant” CO2.

This damnatia memoriae of inconvenient facts was simply expunged from the 2001 IPCC report, much as Trotsky and Yezhov were removed from Stalin’s photographs by dark-room specialists in the later years of the dictator’s reign. There was no explanation of why both the medieval warm period and the little ice age, very clearly shown in the 1990 report, had simply disappeared eleven years later. …

The frightening warnings that alarmists offer about the effects of doubling CO2 are based on computer models that assume that the direct warming effect of CO2 is multiplied by a large “feedback factor” from CO2-induced changes in water vapor and clouds, which supposedly contribute much more to the greenhouse warming of the earth than CO2. But there is observational evidence that the feedback factor is small and may even be negative. The models are not in good agreement with observations—even if they appear to fit the temperature rise over the last 150 years very well.

Indeed, the computer programs that produce climate change models have been “tuned” to get the desired answer. The values of various parameters like clouds and the concentrations of anthropogenic aerosols are adjusted to get the best fit to observations. And—perhaps partly because of that—they have been unsuccessful in predicting future climate, even over periods as short as fifteen years. In fact, the real values of most parameters, and the physics of how they affect the earth’s climate, are in most cases only roughly known, too roughly to supply accurate enough data for computer predictions. In my judgment, and in that of many other scientists familiar with the issues, the main problem with models has been their treatment of clouds, changes of which probably have a much bigger effect on the temperature of the earth than changing levels of CO2.

Scientifically, Romney is on weak ground.  Politically, it’s even worse.  He took a beating for his reversal on abortion in the 2007-8 campaign cycle, acquiring the sobriquet of “flip-flopper.”  As a result, Romney simply can’t reverse himself on RomneyCare in Massachusetts, nor will he be able to reverse himself on AGW.  He’s stuck with both positions, and the best he can do on either is to promise to end up doing nothing as President — which isn’t a credible stance, either with the base or with the moderates he seeks to attract.

Breaking on Hot Air