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5 questions every presidential candidate should answer: Global warming and energy policy edition

July 30, 2015

By Michael Rubin

On May 24, 2015, Pope Francis issued his second encyclical, “On care for our common home,” addressing environmental issues and climate change. He called for a “revolution” in the international approach and argued that the situation is “now reaching a breaking point.” The United Nations for its part has declared, “Climate change is not a far-off problem. It is happening now and is having very real consequences on people’s lives. Climate change is disrupting national economies, costing us dearly today and even more tomorrow.” And the Pew Research Center has found that across the world (and especially in Africa and Latin America), people identify climate change as the top global threat. The next administration’s response to pressure demanding US action will impact not only diplomatic strategy, but also military posture. After all, the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review cited climate change as a major challenge for which the military must also plan.:

1.) Do you believe that the world is warming? Is climate change a naturally occurring phenomenon, or has man disproportionately contributed to warming? The climate has never been static, but has always been changing (while my graduate work revolved around Iranian history, my undergraduate research focused upon forensic climatology, utilizing mathematical modeling based on correlations derived from leaf physiognomy and then extrapolating past climate based on data sets derived from Cretaceous–Tertiary boundary fossils). The real dispute is not whether climate is changing (even if some dispute whether it continues to warm) but rather whether the rate of climate change is accelerating to a catastrophic conclusion. A broader debate revolves around the degree to which human activity versus naturally occurring phenomena cause climate change. Many policy makers urging regulation of carbon emissions or other human activity argue that warming is predominantly due to anthropogenic factors, such as human production of greenhouse gases. Melting ice caps on Mars—as well as previous warm periods on earth—might suggest a larger role for solar cycles. While evidence suggests some anthropogenic impact on warming, those emphasizing the human aspect are undercut by the repeated failure of their models to predict warming trends, although such failures might simply be the result of the extraordinary complexity of the atmosphere. Nevertheless, no other field of science repeatedly embraces conclusions or seeks policy to be based upon models which have repeatedly delivered inaccurate predictions.

2.) Is climate change necessarily bad for mankind? There is paucity of discussion regarding the consequence of rising temperatures. Between 1900 and 2000, the average global temperatures rose 0.65 Celsius. During the same period, life expectancy probably doubled from perhaps 30 to over 60. Per capita income, meanwhile, increased almost ten-fold, from $680 to $6,500. If the focus is on the rate of warming, shouldn’t the end of the “little ice age” between the 14th and 19th century have brought a retraction in global health and economy? (It didn’t.) Likewise, the “Medieval warm period” coincided with the apex of Islamic civilization. Certainly, the increase in life span and economic productivity is first and foremost due to unrelated medical advances and the industrial revolution, but that suggests also that the impact of climate is just one factor among many that determines health and economic strength. Indeed, as AEI energy and environmental policy expert Benjamin Zycher notes (and his entire collection of analyses is an invaluable resource), that is why the Environmental Protection Agency’s integrated assessment models show net benefits of warming through mid-century, with the theoretical net negatives (for which evidence is slight) eclipsing them toward the end of the century...

Read the full article at the American Enterprise Institute: 5 questions every presidential candidate should answer: Global warming and energy policy edition

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