June 28, 2013

No time to panic

We aren’t sure that President Barack Obama has declared war on coal, as his fellow Democrat, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, has charged.

But for the past five years, the Obama administration has jacked up regulation of coal-fired electricity-generating plants, making them much more expensive to operate and leading utilities to shutter many of them. Obama’s announcement Tuesday that he will bypass Congress and direct federal regulators to develop the first-ever rules for carbon dioxide emissions from existing plants will deal another huge body blow to coal.

Carbon dioxide isn’t what most of us think of as a pollutant, such as ozone or sulfur dioxide or lead. If it was, each one of us would pollute the air each time we exhale. But federal officials have classified it as a pollutant because it is a “greenhouse gas” that many believe contributes to global climate change. Obama has made it clear that he believes global climate change is real, that human activity causes it, and that its impact could be catastrophic.

“So the question now is whether we will have the courage to act before it’s too late. And how we answer will have a profound impact on the world that we leave behind not just to you, but to your children and to your grandchildren,” he said Tuesday. “As a president, as a father, and as an American, I’m here to say we need to act.”

But if Obama has been reading the newspapers he should know that global temperatures — as measured by the five-year mean temperature — have not risen in the past 20 years, even as greenhouse gas emissions soared. Scientists don’t understand why, but some have begun to question whether the Earth’s climate is as sensitive to increased carbon dioxide as they once thought.

James Hansen, former director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and one of the most prominent global climate change alarmists, has written that this stall in temperature increases may have been caused by burning coal. Really. Apparently, increased carbon dioxide emissions stimulate plant growth. Plants live by “inhaling” carbon dioxide, so increased plant growth removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, reducing global warming.

It is becoming clear that climate science is more complex than many in that field have believed. It is also becoming clear that the most dire predictions of global warming alarmists haven’t come true so far.

But governments around the world have enacted policies to fight global climate change that have made energy production more expensive and less reliable. The initiatives announced earlier this week will just exacerbate those problems here in the United States.


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