President Trump’s Committee on Climate Security: A Much-Needed, Overdue Return to Science

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by Harley Schlanger, LaRouche PAC:

President Donald Trump plans to appoint a panel to find out if man-made climate change is actually causing an imminent, irreversible, insurmountable, inescapable crisis that threatens not only the entire human species, but planet Earth as a whole. Shouldn’t we find out whether there truly is an impending catastrophe before committing literally trillions of dollars for prevention and remediation, putting at risk the well being of billions of people affected by expensive and unavailable energy? This committee requires urgent support!

On February 20, the Washington Post reported on leaked National Security Council planning documents regarding an executive order to establish a committee “to advise the President on scientific understanding of today’s climate, how the climate might change in the future under natural and human influences, and how a changing climate could affect the security of the United States.”

In an effort to prevent the formation of this committee, a vicious defamation campaign has been launched against Dr. Happer, a distinguished scientist and Princeton Professor of Physics who has been asked to head the committee. Happer is also a deputy assistant to the president and the National Security Council’s senior director for emerging technologies.

The Post snidely noted that several studies have already been performed by various US agencies, but that the NSC document had the audacity to assert that, “These scientific and national security judgments have not undergone a rigorous independent and adversarial scientific peer review to examine the certainties and uncertainties of climate science, as well as implications for national security.”

Happer, the former director of the Department of Energy research program (with a annual budget of $6 billion) has been accused of lacking expertise in the subject matter and of being in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry. This last charge is both untrue in Happer’s case, and is selectively applied: how often are proponents of impending climate doom attacked for being part of the multi-trillion-dollar Climate, Inc.?

Two questions are raised most prominently: is the science settled, and what are the actual costs involved in a Green New Deal?

Is the Science ‘Settled’?

March 5 letter signed by 58 self-described “national security leaders” opposes the climate committee on the grounds that the science is already settled: “Climate change is real, it is happening now, it is driven by humans, and it is accelerating. The overwhelming majority of scientists agree: less than 0.2% of peer-reviewed climate science papers dispute these facts. In this context, we are deeply concerned by reports that National Security Council officials are considering forming a committee to dispute and undermine military and intelligence judgments on the threat posed by climate change. This includes second-guessing the scientific sources used to assess the threat, such as the rigorously peer-reviewed National Climate Assessment, and applying that to national security policy.”

Statistics such as the 0.2% cited in this letter, and the commonly heard “97% of scientists” who agree with climate change are both misleading and inaccurate. First off, there has been no meaningful survey of all scientists with relevant knowledge in this field. Secondly, it is essentially to unpack what it might mean to “agree with” or “acknowledge” climate change. Clearly, climate change exists, and has existed for the history of the earth, even without human involvement.

The question is not whether but to what extent human-caused changes in the atmosphere drive climate variations, and whether such changes are good or bad. A meaningful statistic (but one that does not exist) would indicate levels of agreement with more specific claims:

  • What would be the impact of doubling atmospheric CO₂?
  • To what extent does water vapor cause a feedback effect?
  • To what extent must we take into account the solar magnetic field’s effect on the creation of clouds via cosmic radiation?
  • What is the certainty range on these predictions?
  • How well have climate models of the last two decades fared at predicting the global climate of the past 5 to 10 years?
  • Will the specific, foreseen changes in climate be beneficial or harmful, or a mixture of the two?

The climate of the earth, as it exists in the solar system, is much more complex than a foolishly simple yes-no question about believing in or “denying” climate change.

And how can any such changes be determined? An individual cannot possibly notice that the climate is changing through their personal experience, which is necessarily limited in location and time. And it is of course absolutely laughable to claim that anyone could know, through their personal experience of weather, the cause of any such changes.

Science is not fashion. It is not decided by taking a poll or by seeing what is most popular. The idea that the Earth moves around the Sun was not popular, but it is true. Einstein’s theory of relativity was not supported by a popular vote, but it is true. A scientific argument that relies on appeals to authority is suspect. But, sadly, it coheres with modern education, in which the joy of discovery through experiment is replaced by learning formulas but not their origin, and by performing virtual, simulated “experiments” on iPads, rather than learning by interacting directly with the physical world.

A true, adversarial review of supposedly obvious climate truths is needed to sort out the wheat from the chaff.

What are the Costs?

The United States currently relies on hydrocarbons (fossil fuels) for 78% of its energy needs. The recently proposed Green New Deal calls for a reduction of net CO₂ emissions down to zero within a decade. So-called “renewables,” which currently provide 17% of our electricity, would have to be scaled up to provide 100%. And that doesn’t even address the majority of U.S. energy use, which is not electricity. Transportation by air, land, and sea is overwhelmingly powered by hydrocarbons. What would it take to transition to 100% electric surface transportation? And would this even be technically possible for air and water transportation?

The worldwide costs for the less ambitious goals put forward by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are absolutely mind-blowing. Their Special Report “Global Warming of 1.5°C” claims that in order to prevent a temperature rise beyond 1.5°C, CO₂ emissions must be brought down to net zero by 2050. Point D.5.3 of the summary for policymakers gives an estimate of the cost: “Global model pathways limiting global warming to 1.5°C are projected to involve the annual average investment needs in the energy system of around 2.4 trillion USD2010 between 2016 and 2035.”

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