RAHN: The global-warming apocalypses that didn’t happen

The defining moment for climate change has come and gone, again

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“The Arctic Ocean is warming up, icebergs are growing scarcer, and in some places the seals are finding the water too hot. Reports from fishermen, seal hunters, and explorers all point to a radical change in climate conditions and hitherto unheard-of temperatures in the Arctic zone. Exploration expeditions report that scarcely any ice has been met as far north as 81 degrees 29 minutes. Within a few years it is predicted that due to the ice melt the sea will rise and make most coastal cities uninhabitable.” — from an Associated Press report published in The Washington Post on Nov. 2, 1922.

You may have noticed that the predicted disaster 92 years ago did not happen, nor have other predicted catastrophes from the global-warming crowd.

On July 5, 1989, Noel Brown, then the director of the New York office of the United Nations Environment Program, warned of a “10-year window of opportunity to solve” global warming — “entire nations could be wiped off the face of Earth by rising sea levels if the global-warming trend is not reversed by the year 2000. Coastal flooding and crop failures would create an exodus of ‘eco-refugees,’ threatening political chaos.”

The U.N.-forecast disaster never occurred. However, thanks must be given to Mother Nature for the unexpected 17-year pause in global warming rather than the actions of mankind, which have continued to spew out carbon dioxide at record levels. This little error has not stopped the doomsayers at the U.N.

In 2007, the chief of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said, “If there’s no action before 2012, that’s too late. What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment.” It is now 2014 and nothing was done before 2012, so, since it is “too late,” why spend any more time and money fighting global warming?

On Jan. 19, 2009, James Hansen, climate expert who until last year was head of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, firmly declared that President Obama “has only four years to save the Earth” — which you might have noticed he failed to do. Back in 2006, Al Gore told us that we had only “10 years” to solve the global-warming problem.

Since his recommendations are most unlikely to be accepted and acted on in the next two years, and since there has been no statistically significant warming since the former vice president received his vision, what do you think he will say two years from now?

“The longer the planners delay, the more difficult will they find it to cope with climate change once the results have become grim reality.” This is from an article in Newsweek on April 28, 1975, warning us of the dangers of — global cooling. (You can find most of these and many more quotes on the Climate Depot website, collected by Marc Morano, illustrating how little the experts really know about climate change.)

The just-released report by the IPCC toned down much of the rhetoric from its previous reports because its predictive models failed to anticipate the 17-year pause in warming and the increasing disagreements among the many “experts” who were involved in drafting the report. For years, knowledgeable and thoughtful critics of the earlier IPCC reports, such as the United Kingdom’s Nigel Lawson, former chancellor of the Exchequer, have been arguing that it made far more economic sense to concentrate on adaptation rather than mitigation, which is probably impossible with existing technologies as well as the political reality.

For instance, sea levels have been slowly rising since the end of the Little Ice Age around 1850. Coastal cities have not disappeared, though, because in the normal course of constantly rebuilding structures and infrastructures, we have been elevating them. For the most part, this is not a piece of some grand master plan (other than building codes for new structures), but the basic fact is that “new” cities are constantly being built on top of “old cities,” a practice that has gone on for at least a few thousand years.

The good news is that mankind will probably adapt to climate change just fine, as we have been adapting since the end of the Ice Age. New studies show that to date, the benefits of global warming have been greater than the costs, and are likely to remain so for many more decades. More carbon dioxide, warmer temperatures and more rainfall benefit farming. Shipping costs are reduced as ports, roads and rails have more ice- and snow-free days. Cold weather kills more people than warm weather, and most people enjoy longer warm seasons for sports and other recreation.

The reason we have a global-warming crisis is because crisis sells. It allows politicians to tax, spend and assert more control. Undoubtedly, more people would have read this column, if the headline had been, “World to end.” So ignore the “experts” and enjoy the summer, which most of us will find is too short.

Richard W. Rahn is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and chairman of the Institute for Global Economic Growth.

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