Obama Misleads Students About the Climatic Impact of Energy Choices pb


by Bob Carter and Tom Harris, ©2014, ICSC

(Oct. 3, 2014) — In his major address on the economy at Northwestern University on Thursday, President Barack Obama told students, “If we keep investing in clean energy technology, we won’t just put people to work assembling, raising, and pounding into place the zero-carbon components of a clean energy age; we’ll reduce our carbon emissions and prevent the worst costs of climate change down the road.”

But what has climate change got to do with energy supply? Almost nothing.

Climate change issues are concerned with environmental hazards, whereas energy policy is concerned with supplying cheap and reliable electricity to industry and the public. Where is the relationship?

Until the 1980s, there was none. That one is now perceived testifies to the effectiveness of relentless lobbying by environmentalists and commercial special interests towards the idea that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power-generation using hydrocarbon-based fuels will cause dangerous global warming.

This idea has become so entrenched that even prime ministers and presidents now misuse “carbon” as a shorthand for “carbon dioxide”, and often refer to it a pollutant. For example, during his 13-minute address at the UN’s Climate Summit 2014 in New York City on September 23, Obama referenced “carbon pollution” seven times and “carbon emissions” five times. That’s almost one misnomer per minute.

In reality, CO2 is environmentally beneficial; it is the elixir of life for most of our planetary ecosystems. No evidence exists that the amount humans have added to the atmosphere is producing dangerous warming, or, indeed, any measurable temperature rise at all.

Many negative consequences flow from wrongly connecting energy and global warming issues. Foremost amongst them has been a lemming-like rush by governments to generously subsidize what are otherwise uneconomic sources of energy, solar and wind power in particular.

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) asserts that worldwide investment in renewables (not counting large hydropower) amounted to an incredible $214 billion in 2013. IRENA explains that this rate of expenditure needs to more than double by 2030 in order to achieve the impossible goal of restricting ‘global temperature’ rise to 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

Obama paints alternative energy sources as environmentally virtuous because they are claimed to reduce CO2 emissions, and are both renewable and supposedly clean sources of power.

Wind and solar energy are certainly renewable when the wind blows and the Sun shines. But they are absent otherwise, so it’s tough luck if that’s when a hospital needs power to perform emergency surgery. Such intermittency also makes these sources entirely unsuitable to be major contributors to a national energy grid.

Besides dramatically increasing the cost of electricity, alternative energy sources are far less environmentally friendly than the President would have us believe. Wind turbines kill millions of birds and bats every year, and some rare species will undoubtedly be vulnerable to extinction if the pace of wind power expansion continues. Massive solar power stations have a disastrous effect on desert ecosystems, especially during construction.

These problems are becoming apparent even to the European Union, originally the world’s green energy leaders. For example, EU Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger recently stated in Berlin that European energy policy must change from being climate driven to being driven by the needs of industry.

All nations need to return to the historic separation that previously existed between energy policy and climate policy, analyzing and planning for each in accord with their own distinct requirements and resources.

This means abandoning the Obama’s naïve mantra that our energy choices affect global climate.
Dr Bob Carter is former professor and head of the School of Earth Sciences at James Cook University in Australia. Tom Harris is Executive Director of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition.

Tom Harris, B. Eng., M. Eng. (Mech.), is Executive Director of the International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC), 685 Fraser Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario K2A 4E2 CANADA

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