Ahhh, “global warming.” A person seeing the phrase for the first time might wonder if it’s some sort of international campaign for peace and harmony. Such a soft, fuzzy expression. Have “we” truly become, “the world?”
But alas, the expression has far less to do with human relations and much more to do with human control. But as we’ve seen, the intense quest has resulted in some serious overreaching.
As the global warming community blushes (or rationalizes) over revelations that much contrary climate data was hidden, I spoke with Steven F. Hayward, a resident scholar of the American Enterprise Institute, Washington, DC. I had heard him interviewed recently on Bill Bennett’s “Morning in America” radio program, and realized his “climate sense” would be beneficial to R411 readers.
Steven F. Hayward is the author of the “Almanac of Environmental Trends”, and many books on environmental topics. He has written biographies of Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, and of Winston Churchill. Hayward is also a senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute. He writes daily on PowerLineBlog.com, and provides energy posts on the American.com website of AEI. He also writes for “The Weekly Standard.”
Q: How would you describe the current tenor of the global warming debate, primarily since the revelations of efforts to conceal or falsify data that shows warming is far less severe?
A: “The subject is ‘cooling off,’ so to speak. Global temperatures are flat or slightly falling, which is a growing embarrassment for the global warming crowd. There are increasing indications from new research that suggest climate sensitivity to greenhouse gases is overestimated, and that other factors contribute more to temperature variability than greenhouse gases do. It’s coming unraveled.”
Q: What types of data are most commonly used to determine global warming levels?
A: “There are four or five different temperatures series, satellite data, land-based records, and five or six different competing temperature trends. There’s so much chaos going on from year to year that you have to wait eight or nine years before you see an actual trend going on."
Q: You recently attended a United Nations global warming conference in Durban, South Africa. What’s your assessment?
A: “They came up with what is essentially another phony agreement. I say ‘phony,’ because when they’re actually faced with doing something real to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the amount they believe is necessary, they ultimately realize it makes no economic sense at all, and nobody’s going to do it.”
Q: Scientifically, what has been happening with our climate in the past decade? Are we at a net warm or net cool, and by how much?
A: "Essentially it’s flat. In that large of a time period, much of the data can be affected by ‘noise’ and variability. One big hot or cold year will throw off a decade of temperature trends. So, you should take it provisionally. Climate theorists say we should be increasing by about two-tenths of a degree per decade. And the fact that it’s flat or slightly down, the longer that goes on, the more trouble those models get into."
"The only true ‘green’ job is one that's with a profitable company or in a profitable industry, not one that requires government subsidies, tax credits, or mandates from the government."
Q: The word “green” has been greatly overused. How do you describe “green” in a way that makes sense, and is based in reasonable stewardship?
A: "My standard joke is, ‘the only true ‘green’ job is one that's with a profitable company or in a profitable industry, not one that requires government subsidies, tax credits, or mandates from the government. Then, you get into some shadings of definitions. Environmentalists used to say natural gas was green, or greener than coal, because it’s lower in conventional air pollutants and lower in CO2. But now that we have lots of natural gas, they’re turning against that too, which I predicted would happen all along. Nuclear power is green from an air pollution point of view, but environmentalists don’t think so. So ‘green’ is sort of a meaningless term we throw around to make us feel good. Everything should always be evaluated in terms of tradeoff and utility. The question is, what control measures are feasible and affordable?"
Q: By the way, shouldn’t more Americans be up in arms over the pending 2014 removal from the market of the light bulb?
A: "Yes! Why can’t we assume people are intelligent enough to decide on their own what kind of light bulb they want? I use both. I’ve used compact fluorescents for a decade or more because I like to save money, but I also like the old fashioned incandescent bulbs for some purposes, and it makes me mad that they’re taking that choice away."
Q: In what ways should manufacturers who are affected by legislation related to emissions and so-called warming, be pushing back?
A: "The policy should be to settle on a standard and stick with it for a long time, instead of changing our mind every now and then. Stop this guessing game and changing the rules every few years."
Q: Is there a solid lobbying effort by manufacturers?
A: “Liberals like to say ‘big business’ likes to lobby for this or that cause. The truth is, big business isn’t uniform on this. Some will lobby for legislation, others will lobby against it. I don’t follow the particular lobbying values very closely because life is too short. On the horizon, we have (possible passage of) The Reins Act, which says congress must vote in favor of any regulation that a bureaucracy passes that would impose more than $100 million in costs. It would make Congress directly responsible for what these administrative agencies do. This is a big problem. I suspect that if the EPA or some other agency comes out with a very expensive regulation that would affect the manufacturing sector, Congress would have to vote on it, and there would be lobbying about it. Congress would have to directly confront the cost and benefits of these things, who it helps, who it hurts, and you’ll get less of this kind of stuff, unless the case for it is really compelling."
Q: What’s the lesson from the Solyndra debacle?
A: "It’s a cliché, but true: government shouldn’t be in the business of picking winners and subsidizing uncompetitive technologies. The Solyndra loan was part of a $35 billion loan guarantee program that was set up with very little debate. It was started by the Bush Administration to benefit nuclear power. Then, the Obama Administration came in and put half of it towards solar power and batteries, and other stuff that isn’t working very well. I’m old enough to remember the Chrysler bailout of 1979, which was only a $1 billion loan, but it was hugely controversial. And now, we’re passing out $35 billion in loans without hardly any debate. The critics of the Chrysler loan had a point."
Q: Have refrigerants ever been actually proven to erode the ozone layer, or is all theory?
A: "I’m not a chemist or atmospheric scientist, but the basic evidence — that chlorofluorocarbons erode stratospheric ozone — has a decent foundation to it. But we didn’t need to ban all CFCs all at once, or in such a short time frame. So it’s resulted in a ban not only of refrigerants used in air conditioners and refrigerators, but of those CFCs that are used in things such as asthma inhalers. And the substitutes aren’t as good. Some of the substitutes are more expensive, but reasonably affordable, unlike those things that are eliminated without having a good substitute. For the developing world, cheaper refrigerants are more important and beneficial to them. A more reasonable solution would have been, to say, ‘let’s impose some restraints on the use of these chemicals, but let’s also have a longer transition period.’ There was no reason to put it into a 10-year time horizon the Montreal Protocol put in place."
Q: HVACR contractors ultimately have to pass costs along to customers. How should contractors approach all of the energy talk, seeing that they’re virtually powerless to do anything about it?
A: "I’d like to see contractors explain to customers why the prices are what they are. (i.e., costs they’re passing on due to increased regulations.) They might want to hand them a brochure from a government agency (that explains the cost of legislation) and tell them to talk to their congressman. They should politically organize about this. There’s nothing in their power they can do about it, but when congressmen hear from customers (voters) that’s when they take notice, more so than when they hear from lobbyists."
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