On Nov. 2, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its “ 2014 Summary for Policymakers .” This report has been described as the starkest warning yet about the need to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions or face “the chaos of runaway climate change,” despite the scientific fact there has been no significant increase in the average global temperature since 1998.
Unfortunately, rather than acknowledge the current limitations of computer models to predict future temperatures accurately, the IPCC has doubled down by advocating unrealistic energy policies that will have devastating effects on consumers and drastically change our lives.
First, the science: Many people still don’t realize peer-reviewed scientific literature has found there has been no significant global warming since “Seinfeld” aired its final episode in 1998, even though nearly half of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions have occurred since 1990. Additionally, the computer models used by the IPCC to predict temperatures over the past 20 years have been woefully inaccurate and, as a result, the models have predicted warming would be four times higher than the actual observed temperatures.
Even though the IPCC has historically failed to predict future temperatures accurately, it is somehow more certain than ever before that human activity is the driving force behind the changing climate, and humanity must act fast to curb our emissions of carbon dioxide or face dire consequences.
IPCC leaders tell us we must rapidly abandon energy sources such as coal, natural gas and oil in favor of intermittent renewable energy sources or face a climate crisis, claiming “we have the means to limit climate change” and “all we need is the will to change.” The problem is that this just isn’t true.
In the United States, 80 percent of the energy we use comes from coal, oil and natural gas. Despite government mandates and billions of dollars in subsidies, wind and solar power make up just a tiny fraction of our energy production. In fact, in 2011, wind and solar made up just 1.17 percent and 0.18 percent of the total energy produced.
These two highly subsidized energy sources together produced less energy than burning wood, which produced 1.98 percent of the energy consumed in the United States. Wind and solar are also unreliable, producing electricity only when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing. Without large-scale storage, which is estimated to be decades away, these sources of energy are simply not viable alternatives to fossil fuels for our energy needs, no matter how “certain” IPCC reports may claim to be.
Understanding climate science is an important part of planning for the future. Using reports that overestimate certainty while ignoring the growing scientific evidence that suggests the climate is less sensitive to increases in carbon dioxide emissions than policymakers generally assume is not helpful in this pursuit.
To make the right decisions about the best ways to adapt to climate variability, we must use the best available science to act as our guide. Using inaccurate climate models is foolish.
Isaac Orr is a research fellow for energy and environmental policy at The Heartland Institute.