Michael MoynihanDirector of NDN Green Project and former Advisor to Treasury Secretaries Rubin and Summers
When the UN awarded the Nobel prize to the scientists who make up the IPCC and Al Gore in 2008 for their work in documenting climate change from greenhouse gases, in the eyes of most of the world, the science on this issue was solved. In recent months, however, a number of events have given heart to climate skeptics who never went away. First hacked emails of scientists at the Climate Research Unit in East Anglia England contained statements that caused the institute's director, Phil Jones to resign. Then the IPPC's chairman, Rajendra K. Pachauri became embroiled in conflict of interest questions. The weather itself turned cold at least in influential places like Washington, DC which received a huge snowfall last week. And Phil Jones recently told the BBC there is no statistically significant different in warming trends now and in the 19th Century. The cascade of events brought the issue to the editorial page of the New York Times which this week published an editorial on the controversy, saying the stakes are so high that scientists need to act in a way that is beyond reproach. The new datapoints are not enough to change the views of experts, but they have given the skeptics ammunition with which to launch a full scale offensive in the conservatie media and led, Donald Trump, for example, to call for Al Gore's Nobel prize to be revoked.
While I am not a climate scientist, to my mind abornormally cold weather could be as much an argument for climate change as abnormally hot weather and what happens in Washington DC is not representative of the planet as whole. But I believe these questions are best left to scientists. The question I want to address is whether cold weather this year has any bearing on the need to build a cleaner more efficient economy. In my view, the answer is no. The business and policy case for clean technology is compelling whatever may be happening to global temperatures year to year.
Clean technology is not just about greenhouse gases. It is about reducing conventional pollutants--particulate matter, mercury in fish from burning coal and other byproducts of burning fossil fuels. It is also about promoting peace through renewable power since resource economies are notoriously unstable and undemocratic. (Oil is a virtual magnet for violence and the fact that the oil states tend to be anti-democratic is a special case of this general rule.) And it is about bringing the energy sector into the 21st Century.
Something often forgotten in talking about clean technology is the fact that the energy industry--in particular the electricity industry is unique in the modern global economy in having been starved for decades for money for research and development. The R&D deficit in the electricity industry--the industry at the center of the wider energy network--is severe and it has been severe for decades. This is the deficit that more than climate change or anything else has created the clean technology opportunity.
It is sometimes said that Thomas Edison would recognize today's electricity system it has changed so little in the past century. And one of the main reasons clean tech garnered $5.4 billion in investment last year according to the Cleantech Group, much of it in energy, is that the sector has been neglected for so many years. Switches remain mechanical and wires are often undersized. But the next question is why does the electricity industry spend less than 1% on R&D each year compared with 10% or more in technology industries? The answer is that its highly regulated structure provides no reward for risk and, indeed, creates a bias in favor of legacy technology. The decades old innovation deficit in electricity is what makes the category such a deserving one for investment today. But the cause of that deficit is the chief obstacle to modernizing the industry.
For the investments in clean electricity to achieve their full potential, the underlying reward risk profile of the industry needs to change. The electricity industry requires an upgrade to Electricity 2.0, a new modernized, open architecture to allow more players to participate in electricity markets, democratize global energy and unleash a renewable revolution. Those changes and upgrading our electricity system to Electricity 2.0 need to happen no matter what occurs with global temperatures.
In short, while climate change remains a presssing and perhaps existential concern it is only one of many reasons to create a new clean energy future. Clean technology will be central to America and the world's economic future, regardless of what happens to temperatures in a given month or year.
Director of NDN Green Project and former Advisor to Treasury Secretaries Rubin and Summers
Global warming advocates ignore the boulders
By George F. Will
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Science, many scientists say, has been restored to her rightful throne because progressives have regained power. Progressives, say progressives, emulate the cool detachment of scientific discourse. So hear the calm, collected voice of a scientist lavishly honored by progressives, Rajendra Pachauri.
He is chairman of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which shared the 2007 version of the increasingly weird Nobel Peace Prize. Denouncing persons skeptical about the shrill certitudes of those who say global warming poses an imminent threat to the planet, he says:
"They are the same people who deny the link between smoking and cancer. They are people who say that asbestos is as good as talcum powder -- and I hope they put it on their faces every day."
Do not judge him as harshly as he speaks of others. Nothing prepared him for the unnerving horror of encountering disagreement. Global warming alarmists, long cosseted by echoing media, manifest an interesting incongruity -- hysteria and name-calling accompanying serene assertions about the "settled science" of climate change. Were it settled, we would be spared the hyperbole that amounts to Ring Lardner's "Shut up, he explained."
The global warming industry, like Alexander in the famous children's story, is having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Actually, a bad three months, which began Nov. 19 with the publication of e-mails indicating attempts by scientists to massage data and suppress dissent in order to strengthen "evidence" of global warming.
But there already supposedly was a broad, deep and unassailable consensus. Strange.
Next came the failure of The World's Last -- We Really, Really Mean It -- Chance, a.k.a. the Copenhagen climate change summit. It was a nullity, and since then things have been getting worse for those trying to stampede the world into a spasm of prophylactic statism.
In 2007, before the economic downturn began enforcing seriousness and discouraging grandstanding, seven western U.S. states (and four Canadian provinces) decided to fix the planet on their own. California's Arnold Schwarzenegger intoned, "We cannot wait for the United States government to get its act together on the environment." The 11 jurisdictions formed what is now called the Western Climate Initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions starting in 2012.
Or not. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer recently suspended her state's participation in what has not yet begun, and some Utah legislators are reportedly considering a similar action. Brewer worries, sensibly, that it would impose costs on businesses and consumers. She also ordered reconsideration of Arizona's strict vehicle emission rules, modeled on incorrigible California's, lest they raise the cost of new cars.
Last week, BP America, ConocoPhillips and Caterpillar, three early members of the 31-member U.S. Climate Action Partnership, said: Oh, never mind. They withdrew from USCAP. It is a coalition of corporations and global warming alarm groups that was formed in 2007 when carbon rationing legislation seemed inevitable and collaboration with the rationers seemed prudent. A spokesman for Conoco said: "We need to spend time addressing the issues that impact our shareholders and consumers." What a concept.
Global warming skeptics, too, have erred. They have said there has been no statistically significant warming for 10 years. Phil Jones, former director of Britain's Climatic Research Unit, source of the leaked documents, admits it has been 15 years. Small wonder that support for radical remedial action, sacrificing wealth and freedom to combat warming, is melting faster than the Himalayan glaciers that an IPCC report asserted, without serious scientific support, could disappear by 2035.
Jones also says that if during what is called the Medieval Warm Period (circa 800-1300) global temperatures may have been warmer than today's, that would change the debate. Indeed it would. It would complicate the task of indicting contemporary civilization for today's supposedly unprecedented temperatures.
Last week, Todd Stern, America's special envoy for climate change -- yes, there is one; and people wonder where to begin cutting government -- warned that those interested in "undermining action on climate change" will seize on "whatever tidbit they can find." Tidbits like specious science, and the absence of warming?
It is tempting to say, only half in jest, that Stern's portfolio violates the First Amendment, which forbids government from undertaking the establishment of religion. A religion is what the faith in catastrophic man-made global warming has become. It is now a tissue of assertions impervious to evidence, assertions that everything, including a historic blizzard, supposedly confirms and nothing, not even the absence of warming, can falsify.