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  • Dissecting President Obama’s Global Warming Speech

    This morning, President Obama delivered his climate change speech at a United Nations Summit on Climate Change. Stressing the need for urgent action, Obama told the Assembly that the United States, in his first eight months as President, is becoming a leader in the war against a warming planet.

    Obama began his speech by declaring that the time to act is now:

    That so many of us are here today is a recognition that the threat from climate change is serious, it is urgent, and it is growing. Our generation’s response to this challenge will be judged by history, for if we fail to meet it – boldly, swiftly, and together – we risk consigning future generations to an irreversible catastrophe.”

    The earth’s average temperature has been increasing and decreasing for centuries, and many point to the recent period of warming as evidence of a dangerous human-induced warming. But temperatures have risen and fallen many times before that. The Medieval Warm Period (c. 1100-1450) and earlier periods were likely as warm or warmer than the present. The earth was cooling as recently as the period from the 1940s to the 1970s, giving rise to fears of a coming ice age.

    Obama went on to say:

    No nation, however large or small, wealthy or poor, can escape the impact of climate change. Rising sea levels threaten every coastline. More powerful storms and floods threaten every continent. More frequent drought and crop failures breed hunger and conflict in places where hunger and conflict already thrive. On shrinking islands, families are already being forced to flee their homes as climate refugees. The security and stability of each nation and all peoples – our prosperity, our health, our safety – are in jeopardy. And the time we have to reverse this tide is running out.”

    Catastrophic predictions are poorly supported by evidence and often greatly exaggerated by the likes of Al Gore and other alarmists. But even “The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which Gore considers to be the gold standard of consensus science, projects an increase of 7 to 23 inches over the next century. The lower end of that range is about what has occurred — without serious consequences — over the last two centuries.”

    Moreover, natural disasters are just that: natural. Changing the weather to prevent hurricanes and other natural disasters is currently impossible, but adapting to them is not. For instance, countries and states have shown this by better preparing for hurricanes—building better levees, rebuilding sand dunes and upgrading building codes to withstand damage.  Adaptation to climate change, whether warming or cooling, will prove to be prudent; changing the weather through measures like cap and trade will not be.

    Obama next turned his attention to what the United States is doing to combat climate change:

    And I am proud to say that the United States has done more to promote clean energy and reduce carbon pollution in the last eight months than at any other time in our history. We’re making our government’s largest ever investment in renewable energy – an investment aimed at doubling the generating capacity from wind and other renewable resources in three years. Across America, entrepreneurs are constructing wind turbines and solar panels and batteries for hybrid cars with the help of loan guarantees and tax credits – projects that are creating new jobs and new industries. We’re investing billions to cut energy waste in our homes, buildings, and appliances – helping American families save money on energy bills in the process. “

    Ah, so there is such a thing as a free lunch.

    No, there’s not. These renewable energy investments (read: subsidies) not only cost the American taxpayer but will also result in higher electricity bills since they cannot compete in the market without said investments. For many years, wind energy has been the beneficiary of generous tax credits and subsidies, but it still provides less than 2 percent of America’s electricity. It is unreliable and will be costly ($80 billion) to build transmission lines to bring wind from where it is produced to where it is needed.

    President Obama did mention getting rid of one subsidy: “Later this week, I will work with my colleagues at the G20 to phase out fossil fuel subsidies so that we can better address our climate challenge.” This is commendable, but if the President wants a sound energy policy that will benefit electricity consumers, he should focus on removing all subsidies from the market. Any subsidy, whatever the source of energy or product, distorts normal market forces and encourages government dependence. By subsidizing a portion of the actual cost of a project through a loan guarantee, the government is actually distorting the allocation of resources by directing capital away from a more competitive project. Allowing all energy sources to compete absent of subsidies, mandates or tax credits will benefit consumers most.

    Speaking about the mother-of-all environmental policies, cap and trade, Obama remarked:

    “Most importantly, the House of Representatives passed an energy and climate bill in June that would finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy for American businesses and dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. One committee has already acted on this bill in the Senate and I look forward to engaging with others as we move forward.”

    The Heritage Foundation hosted 6 representatives from organizations, including three government agencies, that modeled the economic impact of cap and trade, and not one projected a net increase in income or employment from cap and trade. It was all about how big the losses would be. And the economic pain, no matter how big or small, would all be for no environmental gain as the current cap and trade bill would reduce global temperatures by only a fraction of a degree. The event can be found here.

    The rest of the president’s talk focused on working with other nations to combat climate change:

    Because no one nation can meet this challenge alone, the United States has also engaged more allies and partners in finding a solution than ever before. In April, we convened the first of what have now been six meetings of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate here in the United States. In Trinidad, I proposed an Energy and Climate Partnership for the Americas. We’ve worked through the World Bank to promote renewable energy projects and technologies in the developing world.

    We also cannot allow the old divisions that have characterized the climate debate for so many years to block our progress. Yes, the developed nations that caused much of the damage to our climate over the last century still have a responsibility to lead. But those rapidly-growing developing nations that will produce nearly all the growth in global carbon emissions in the decades ahead must do their part as well. Some of these nations have already made great strides with the development and deployment of clean energy. Still, they will need to commit to strong measures at home and agree to stand behind those commitments just as the developed nations must stand behind their own. We cannot meet this challenge unless all the largest emitters of greenhouse gas pollution act together. There is no other way.”

    In a case of international cooperation, India, China and the rest of the developing world would likely have to revert to emission output levels that are pure fantasy. On a per-capita basis, China would backtrack to about one 10th of what the United States emitted in 2000. India and most of the developing world would have to drop to even lower levels. This is a de-developing strategy which no country will or should adopt. These countries should focus on getting electricity to all of their citizens before they worry about cutting carbon emissions.

    Technology sharing, on the other hand, has merit. Opening up global markets can act as a means to transfer clean technologies and promote economic growth that will better enable these countries to adapt to climate change, if necessary. Capping carbon dioxide and transferring money from one government to another will do nothing to raise living standards and a lot to lower them.

    In his concluding sentence, President Obama stressed that we should work to leave the world one “that is worthy of our children.” But the suggested policies will leave us with lower economic growth, less income, higher unemployment, and more personal debt for energy that will be more expensive. It will reduce opportunity for growth all over the world. Our children should be more fearful of global warming policies than global warming itself.

    Posted in Energy [slideshow_deploy]

    22 Responses to Dissecting President Obama’s Global Warming Speech

    1. V Wilkinson, UK says:

      "The Medieval Warm Period (c. 1100-1450) and earlier periods were likely as warm or warmer than the present"

      The NOAA graph shows the period referred to in this article. Is the variation shown in the last 150 years anywhere near the last 1000 year variation. See for yourself.


      "The lower end of that range is about what has occurred — without serious consequences — over the last two centuries.”

      Serious inundations are already threatening millions in Bangladesh, there is an increase in the rate at which the ice sheets are melting and sea surface temperatures are the warmest ever recorded (August 2009 – NOAA).

    2. Bill San Antonio TX says:

      …we risk consigning future generations to an irreversible catastrophe."

      The catastrophe is America's wealth, status, and power will diminsh, while China, Russia, India, and dozens more will not reduce emissions. These very same countries will become economically stronger while we become weaker.

      The rise and fall of civilizations is inevitable. But, why would we want to fast foward and speed up our decline?

      Our spending is unsustainable. We will incur permanent tax hikes. The gap between the haves and the have nots will diminish, except the haves will become the liberal elite and the middle class will fall into the have not category – with few exceptions.

      Tax, borrow, and spend will destroy this country as we know it. There is an economic and fiscal breaking point which even American ingenuity cannot overcome.

      THAT will be the "irreversible catastrophe".

      This is just another chink voluntarily taken out of America's armor. Some will not be happy until wealth distribution has brought America to her once mighty economic knees and capitalism is destroyed.

      Did anyone listen to the President of Bolivia's comments about capitalism at the UN today?

    3. J.C. Hughes, Texas says:

      Obama was quoted as saying "No nation … can escape the impact of climate change….our prosperity, our health, our safety – are in jeopardy. And the time we have to reverse this tide is running out."

      Such rhetoric is pure demagoguery and a total insult to informed Americans. The only catastrophe threatening future generations is his misinformed climate change policies.

    4. anon, anon says:

      I don't see any facts supporting the claims above–it's nice to see that the right deals in such measured fact-based thinking. On the other hand an overwhelming scientific consensus agrees that, based on available facts, anthropogenic (i.e. human generated) greenhouse gases are having a significant adverse effect on the climate and related economic and environmental systems.

    5. Nicolas Loris Nick Loris says:

      More on the Medieval Warm Period tomorrow.


    6. anon, anon says:

      The other issue that must be considered is that China and India won't prosper in isolation. Indeed they are prosperous because they sell good and services to us. China is the largest source of greenhouse gases because they manufacture goods for consumption primarily in the west. If our domestic policies affect our prosperity there will be a commensurate decrease in the goods and services consumed from foreign sources like China and India–therefore it is erroneous to infer that we will seal our own demise if we take corrective measures for climate change that have some effect on our relative prosperity. With the interconnected and interdependent nature of global markets we will all succeed or fail together on this issue.

    7. HSR0601 says:

      1. About two thirds of deficit in the U.S. accrue from oil import.

      2. As with "Inaction" cost, $9trillion over the next decade in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, supposedly the same is of inaction on the 21st energy bill to determine war & peace, catastrophe & prosperity. For the global economy to reign in the runaway price of fossil fuels, "Sustainable Option" will be indispensable.

      3. Looking to worthless, painful and wasteful oil wars, namely, the "Original Source" of this great recession, to waste time bickering over meaningless things and drag feet on a defining energy bill are sure to shake the embryonic effect of stimulus package that is an interim measure for build-out of a new foundation.

      4. As the overall oil reserve in Middle East, let alone the rest of oil-producing areas, is on the decline more than known, the region blessed with affluent sun rays also needs to ready for a new groundwork, particularly in this context AEU is beginning to concentrate on future energy and Iranian EV is rolling out recently, the countries in the region will never stand still on the occupation, that means no matter what the result is, the repetitious mistake at the cost of invaluable lives and gigantic spending will end up with a heartbreaking tragedy once again.

      5. Facing a sharp downturn in fossil fuels all over the world, the world-wide overpopulation growing consistently is using up tremendous fossil fuels at an alarming pace. Especially when the own conventional resources in some dense countries is facing drastic dent, it adds up explicitly.

      6. For that reason, it is widely accepted that the price of fossil fuels is expected to go up and up simply, which is behind all but major states taking a bold and speedy action in a bid to put the global economy on a sustainable and solid ground.

      7. Thankfully and interestingly enough, 100s of Companies (with $13 Trillion) Are Demanding Strong Climate Deal in Copenhagen just like environmental activists, a coalition of more than 500 Global Businesses is also demanding ambitious new climate deal, and the report by Blair and the Climate Group, a London-based nonprofit organization, found a climate-change accord among all countries would spur economic growth and create as many as 10 million jobs by 2020.

      8. Currently, a 21st energy bill has passed the House and is making its way through Senate. According to CBO, this bill known as more progressive generally would trim budget deficit by $24.4 billion of a net gain.

      9. I think the world is eagerly looking forward to Americans' participation, and if it were not for world-wide massive job creation, the world can not pull the economy out of this recession successfully.

      10. I'd say only science and innovation can meet this challenge, and the science enough for all around the globe to live in harmony is awaiting final assembly by way of innovation. It seems to me that this great recession is pitching us a serious lesson to make sure we build a bridge for future generations, otherwise, our generation, too, is falling off the cliff.

      Thank You !

    8. Whicket Williams Kin says:

      Well, I think that Iran will develop the bomb, explode it on Israel, and Jesus will return, and all this will be moot, as we will then be living in a one world government, with King Jesus ruling the nations with a rod of Iron, as promised.

    9. Sol Shapiro, Aurora, says:

      I saw no mention of geo-engineering, an approach to stop global warming in short order before added statically increased climate catastrophes become worse and give the world the century or more it will need to change its energy base. Study and being ready for deployment of geo-engineering approaches has been endorsed by many prominent scientists over the past 30 years; and with the past few months by the Royal Society of Britain, by the American Meteorological Society and discussed in detail by the National Academy of Sciences – with a major statement, I believe, to be inlcuded in its report on America's Climate Choices due out early 2010. Contact me for links Somarl@msn.com

    10. Tom Minnesota says:

      Global warming is unproven by peer review science standards. There is no way that 1% of our energy mix (wind) will ever be 50% (coal). http://www.energysense.net. Bad science. Bad economics. Big government. The debate is not over. No developing country will agree to a decrease in co2 when there are NO technical means of meeting the targets.

    11. AN AMERICAN says:


      Good points.

      But, it doesn't matter if a single developing country agrees or not.

      It only matters if WE agree to it. Who do you think is going to get burned on this?

      Start buying gold.

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    14. lilikindsli says:

      DNSqlg I want to say – thank you for this!

    15. Romase says:

      site best

    16. Su, Rhode Island says:

      Why does no one seem to understand the up-down global temperature issue? As a geologist, I have to tell you all, that although temperatures fluctuate normally in the Earth's surface, the incredible high point we've now reached is unparalleled in the entire history of the Earth. The highest point reached before now was just over 1/2 of our current temperatures. And, I hasten to add, we are actually entering into the next cycle of glaciation. That means the global surface temperature is supposed to have dropped already. We are far far far above the normal level for this stage in the cycle of glaciation, and the temperature variation we are seeing is decidedly not normal.

    17. ida says:

      thank you for the good points. I can't stand watching people being brainwashed by the IPCC any longer. Human CO2 emission is only 0.28% of the world's greenhouse gasses and 95% of greenhouse gasses is water vapor so CO2 can't possibly have a significant effect on the climate like many say. We have major natural CO2 producers like the volcanos and the oceans. People tend to confuse the cause and effect part of this climate change. First the temperature rises, then the CO2 level (because of the oceans). There have been times when the temperature of the planet was higher than it is today and times when the CO2 level was much higher. The only reason why this is becoming such a great deal to us is because we refuse to admit the fact that this is a natural occurrence and there is nothing we can do. With the technologies we have today, we feel obliged to stop the climate change because people like to feel like they can control something as huge as the planet's climate. This is a way to make money and a reason to tax the public. Open your eyes people!

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    21. Sane Person says:

      As if your opinions have anything to do with the fact that it is very possible that by 2100 80% of the population may be dead from the effects of global warming.

      The scientific community is practically unanimous.

      What does that tell you?

      That you are stupidly in denial and by your actions, or in-action,

      inevitably responsible for the demise of your own progeny!

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