Study: We all might be “overestimating climate sensitivity”

posted at 3:11 pm on January 28, 2013 by Erika Johnsen

Having heard it straight from President Obama last Monday, the “devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms” looming in our immediate future are all imminent catastrophes fueled by rapid climate change about which we simply must do something right away — but this is exactly the type of alarmist rhetoric that ensures we pursue the types of ineffective, top-down, big-government, expensive, and internationalist solutions that will actually have very little net effectiveness in sincerely addressing the issue.

One of environmentalists’ favorite past-times includes whipping up a certain amount of global-warming frenzy as an excuse to implement their central-planning pipe dreams, but as a new study out of Norway attests, all of the doom-and-glooming might be just a tiny bit exaggerated, via Bloomberg:

After the planet’s average surface temperature rose through the 1990s, the increase has almost leveled off at the level of 2000, while ocean water temperature has also stabilized, the Research Council of Norway said in a statement on its website. After applying data from the past decade, the results showed temperatures may rise 1.9 degrees Celsius if Co2 levels double by 2050, below the 3 degrees predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“The Earth’s mean temperature rose sharply during the 1990s,” said Terje Berntsen, a professor at the University of Oslo who worked on the study. “This may have caused us to overestimate climate sensitivity.”

As we have seen time and again throughout history, a top-down government trying to dictate people’s behavioral patterns is a reliable recipe for disaster — if we’re sincere in our efforts to get more efficient with our energy habits, why is more regulation, government, and taxpayer spending almost always the proffered solution? Bjorn Lomborg did the topic justice in last week’s WSJ: All of the radical hysterics informing us of the ostensibly terrifying immediacy of calamitous consequences misdirects our time, money, and attention away from finding affordable, practical alternatives that actually do stand a chance at achieving some of the goals environmentalists are always claiming they’re after.

But if the main effort to cut emissions is through subsidies for chic renewables like wind and solar power, virtually no good will be achieved—at very high cost. The cost of climate policies just for the European Union—intended to reduce emissions by 2020 to 20% below 1990 levels—are estimated at about $250 billion annually. And the benefits, when estimated using a standard climate model, will reduce temperature only by an immeasurable one-tenth of a degree Fahrenheit by the end of the century.

Even in 2035, with the most optimistic scenario, the International Energy Agency estimates that just 2.4% of the world’s energy will come from wind and only 1% from solar. As is the case today, almost 80% will still come from fossil fuels. As long as green energy is more expensive than fossil fuels, growing consumer markets like those in China and India will continue to use them, despite what well-meaning but broke Westerners try to do. …

When innovation eventually makes green energy cheaper, everyone will implement it, including the Chinese. Such a policy would likely do 500 times more good per dollar invested than current subsidy schemes. But first let’s drop the fear-mongering exaggeration—and then focus on innovation.


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