appeared on the Washington
Examiner website on January 31, 2019.)
This week, the
New Yorker magazine glowingly profiled Jon Leland, who is
"scaring people about climate change" by placing "This
Place Will Be Water" stickers on buildings in Manhattan. Leland
is obviously claiming that industrial, noncontaminant warming gasses
will warm the air, melt the ice, and expand the water in the seas
enough to inundate the Big Apple.
starts his new "This Place Will Be Desert" campaign in the
Midwest, I'd like to warn him that his stickers make claims that are
scientifically dubious. They're right up there with Rep. Alexandria
Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and her recent claim that "the world's
going to end in 12 years if we don't address climate change."
As to Leland's
current campaign, there isn't much to it. After a dramatic 130-yard
increase from the cyclical ice age that earth goes through every
120,000 years, sea level has been stable for the past 8,000 years,
rising and falling only slightly as temperature changes. In the past
century, the rate of increase has fluctuated between half an inch and
an inch per decade.
Land use and
natural land changes are as important in the equation today as the
expansion of oceans. And the predictions of disappearing islands that
motivated the stickers have proven to be as groundless as predictions
of disappearing polar bears.
As to his new
campaign, the 50 percent increase to date in the concentration of
carbon dioxide has actually fertilized the planet. Crops are now
about 15 percent more productive and deserts are receding. Field
experiments predict that this greening effect will increase by
another 30 percent as carbon dioxide levels rise another 50 percent
over the next 100 years, from today's 4 percent of one percent to 6
percent of one percent. While the experiments also predict that some
nutrients will be reduced by about five percent in some crop
varieties, this would be more than offset by changes in growing
techniques, increased yields, and, most importantly, increased income
from fossil-fueled economic growth.
although global temperature has risen about one degree Celsius since
the start of the industrial revolution, this has not wholly been
caused by industrial warming gasses linked to the economic growth
that has increased the world's wealth, health, and life expectancy so
dramatically. Atmospheric physicists on both sides of the debate over
potential climate catastrophe agree that the first half of the rise,
before 1945, was largely caused by natural sources like long-term
cycles or solar fluctuations. At that point, emissions were too low
to have much impact. The substantial "feedback" warming
that many climate models have predicted from fossil-fueled heat in
the form of increased humidity and hence water vapor, the primary
natural warming gas, has not yet been observed.
Only a quarter
of Africans have electricity in their homes, and businesses across
the continent suffer from interruptions, stalling economic growth and
the access to the clean water that increases life expectancy. There's
a cause I hope Leland and the Ocasio-Cortez can take up with me:
backing African plans to build fossil-fueled power plants equipped
with the scrubbing technology that takes out the real pollutants.
is executive director of the CO2 Coalition.
updates on our latest reports
truth has never been estab-lished by consensus. History reveals many
instances when the scientific consensus of the day was later
discredited. Given the frequency of mis-taken consensus, citizens
everywhere should heed the Royal Society's motto
"don't take anyone's word for it," or more simply,
"see for yourself."