As early as September, global warming alarmists were claiming 2014 would set the record for highest average global temperature.
While cities and regions in the United States have been breaking record after record for cold temperatures and snowfall, most of the rest of the globe, including the oceans that make up most of Earth’s surface, has been warmer than average. Looking only at the badly flawed land-based temperature measurements, 2014 may be the “hottest year on record.”
But it may not be, since much more accurate satellite temperature measurements indicate 2014 will be a year with only slightly above average temperatures at best.
Assuming for the sake of argument the satellite measurements are wrong, record high temperatures in 2014 would be consistent with climate models, but any good scientist will point out a single record-setting year, just as a single climate catastrophe like a bad hurricane or an anomalous drought, cannot be definitively linked to human activities.
Indeed, when climate realists like myself point out the fact that Earth experienced below-average temperatures during the 1940s through the 1970s, alarmists regularly respond, “two or three decades is too short a time to make general claims about climate.” If three decades of records is too short a time period to leap to conclusions about human-caused climate change, a single year, even a record-setting year, provides far too little data to come to any firm conclusions.
To believe humans are causing global warming, one must blindly embrace admittedly incomplete climate models to the exclusion of all evidence to the contrary.
Climate model temperature projections have consistently been much higher than actual temperatures, and each year the gap between model temperature predictions and actual measured temperatures grows. In addition, whereas climate models have projected steadily rising temperatures over the past two decades, global temperatures have in fact stagnated for 18 years despite a significant increase in greenhouse gases.
Some climate scientists, citing the models, claim we should be experiencing more severe hurricanes, but only one of the top ten deadliest hurricanes in U.S. history has occurred since 1957, with eight of the ten deadliest hurricanes having hit the United States before 1935. In fact, although greenhouse gas levels have risen dramatically since the 1950s, the average number of hurricanes and the number of strong hurricanes have declined substantially.
Biologists have predicted species will go extinct due to human-induced global warming, yet they can’t point to a single species that has. The iconic polar bear, the poster child for species endangered by a warming planet, is thriving. At more than 25,000 bears, the polar bear population increased substantially during the warming of the past half-century. In fact, polar bears numbers are growing in regions of their habitat experiencing higher-than-normal temperatures and lower-than-average sea ice thickness and extent.
Speaking of sea ice, the Arctic experienced dramatic declines in sea ice over the past decade, declines projected by climate models. In the past couple of years, however, Arctic ice has recovered to its average levels for the past decade; the decline has frozen (pardon the pun), as have global temperatures.
In addition, contrary to model projections, Antarctic sea ice has been growing to record levels year after year, setting new records multiple times in 2014 alone. Even climate modelers admit they can’t explain why Antarctica has been growing. Once again, the facts confound the models.
Climate models indicate global warming should be causing more and more-prolonged droughts and increased episodes of extreme rainfall, yet studies show recent droughts fall well within the historical average for frequency, length, and severity, and frequency of flooding events has not increased.
Despite the reported recent warming, deaths related to temperatures or extreme weather events have declined dramatically during the past century, a trend that shows no indication of abating.
The real bugaboo raised by environmental radicals is that sea levels are rising and will rise even more dramatically if global warming is not halted or at least slowed. Sea levels are rising, as they always do between ice ages, but the current rate of rise is well below the average for the past 18,000 years. The rate of rise has not increased over the past two centuries, and a recent study found the rate of sea-level rise has slowed 31 percent since 2002, and by 44 percent since 2004. At this pace, scientists expect sea-level rise of less than seven inches per century.
Whereas none of the climate disaster scenarios spun out by environmental alarmists and faithfully publicized by the mainstream media is being borne out in reality, one significant climate benefit is proving true. Globally, Earth is greening, as increased CO2 levels have proved to be a powerful steroid enhancing plant growth. Farmland and farm yields are both increasing.
How would climate alarmists have world leaders respond to all this good news? By killing fossil fuels.
As author Alex Epstein argues, instead of taking a safe climate and making it dangerous through the use of fossil fuels, we have been transforming a dangerous climate into a safer, more manageable one for human flourishing. This has particular benefits for people in developing countries, for whom additional fossil fuel energy is an economic godsend.
Humans have long fought a war with climate, and to the extent we’ve won, it has been through the use of technology, most recently including fossil fuels. I say let’s keep taking the battle to the climate on behalf of the millions of people still living in poverty.
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. is a research fellow specializing in environment and energy issues for The Heartland Institute, nonpartisan, nonprofit research institute based in Chicago, Illinois.