The unintended consequences of climate control policies

The West’s ill-conceived green policies and pursuit of a carbon-free environment undoubtedly contributed to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine on Feb. 24, thus advancing his goals of resurrecting the defunct Soviet Union. Putin likely calculated that Western preoccupation with a climate control agenda provided a unique opportunity to exploit weaknesses brought on by a self-defeating energy and environmental path.

Months before the invasion of Ukraine, an Oct. 2021, a Wall Street Journal editorial warned bluntly that the West’s, and particularly Germany’s, counterproductive climate policies allowed Putin to hold them hostage. Then, only days after the invasion of Ukraine, on March 1, Michael Schellenberger, a U.S. author and environmental policy writer, noted that the West’s green delusion empowered Russia to carry out a full-scale assault on Ukraine.

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Climate orthodoxy vs. climate skeptics

For a generation, we have been told that the science regarding global warming has been “settled” and that it is anthropogenic, i.e., manmade. The mainstream media and environmental activists alleged that to save the planet, we must take drastic measures to limit greenhouse gas emissions, because we are on the brink of extinction and have only until 2030 to do something about it. Short of that, it would make our planet uninhabitable.

Fighting climate change, therefore, had become an obsession; moreover a threat to national security overriding geopolitical threats posed by Russia and other bad actors.

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With the US dithering, the implications need to be recognized and decisive action taken to avoid disaster in the shape of a Russian victory in Ukraine.

The alarmist nature of Green movements in the U.S. and Europe has taken on the religious fervor of an apocoliptic cult. Its core belief has been that man’s activities, notably the burning of fossil fuels and, more recently, the release of bovine methane, are causing global warming.

To counter this view, a spate of books and scientific papers have challenged the climate change orthodoxy and the assumption that warming temperatures are the result of man. They argue that the adverse effects of global warming have been vastly exaggerated and, importantly, that other non-human factors, over which we have no control, may be at play.

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One of the most influential works questioning the conventional wisdom on climate change has been written by Stephen Koonin, the former Chief Scientist in the Obama Administration and a singularly credible source. In “Unsettled” (2021), Koonin notes that climate alarmism has come to dominate U.S. politics and has become increasingly divorced from science.

Earlier this year, Bjorn Lomborg published “False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions.” Like Koonin, Lomborg states, “the rhetoric on climate change has become ever more extreme and irrational and less moored to the actual science.” The establishment scientists, media, and politicians with an agenda have fanned a panic beyond what can be explained by good sense. Lomborg notes that while “climate change may be real, it is not apocalyptic.” Media headlines such as “Climate Change Could End Human Civilization by 2050” are outrageously over the top and contribute to the panic.

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Both scientists, in effect, accuse the establishment of creating a hoax. In the same vein, Bruce Bunker’s “The Mythology of Climate Change” (2019) noted that we don’t have reliable data to claim with any degree of certainty that there is a climate crisis. These scientists argue that climate is a cyclical phenomenon that has been changing for millennia. More significantly, other factors beyond our control may be contributing to global warming.

Earlier this year the Golbal Climate Intelligence Group (Clintel), composed of 1,100 scientits and professionals from 25 counties, issued  a declaration entitled “There is no Climate Emergency,” essentially substantiating the arguments of authors cited above.” They maintain that:

  • Natural as well as anthropogenic factors cause planetary warming and that it’s happening far slower than predicted;
  • Climate models have serious shortcomings that cast doubt on their reliability;
  • Global warming has not increased natural disasters such as huricanes, floods and doughts;
  • Climate policies must respect scientific and economic policies.

Climate change politics and the war in Ukraine

Although the link may not appear obvious at first, it is clear that the pursuit of net zero policies (and similar) have had the unintended consequence of weakening the West’s hand to counter Russian aggression. It has been “a self-inflicted disaster years in the making,” opined the Wall Street Journal in Oct. 2021. The editorial concluded that Europe’s willingness to harm itself in the name of unachievable climate goals was one of the greatest acts of self-sabotage in history.

The pledge of net zero gas emissions by 2050 had led to the closing of coal power plants while at the same time pouring billions into dubious solar and wind projects, renewable sources of energy that would meet only a small fraction of Europe’s energy needs. Erratic cloud cover, unpredictable wind conditions, and the intractable problem of storing the energy they produce, pose insurmountable obstacles that make these projects of marginal value. Others put it bluntly: the belief that renewables will replace fossil fuels is wishful thinking verging on insanity.

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Even more harmful has been the phasing out of nuclear-powered electric stations, generally considered as one of the safest and most reliable carbon free sources of energy. But Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg said nuclear power is “extremely dangerous and expensive” – a claim that the German Green Party leader Annalena Baerbock chose to take seriously.

In addition to shutting three of its six remaining nuclear power plants, Baerbock announced that the last three will be taken offline by the end of the year – a catastrophically wrongheaded decision. By comparison, the French appear consummately wiser, having generated an overwhelming share of their electiricy (about 75 percent) using nuclear power, with plans for more.

Nevertheless, the general trend of abandoning coal, spurning nuclear and investing in small-scale renewables has led Europeans, and Germany in particular, to become excessively reliant on Russian oil and gas. Since Russia supplied about half of the continent’s needs prior to Feb. 24, the EU has gifted Putin a weapon to blackmail them with and transformed green policies into reasons why Putin ultimately chose to invade Ukraine. He calculated that the EU’s energy needs and green poclies would force them to meekly concede Ukriane to Russia, and that the U.S. would not be able to mobilize a united front.

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Is global warming anthropogenic?

On this issue, experts are divided. One side maintains that global warming is due entirely to human activity, and anyone challenging that belief is labeled a “climate denier,” a stigma comparable to a “Holocaust denier.”

Questioning such orthodoxy has become as dangerous as Galileo maintaining that the Earth revolved around the sun, for which he was tried, forced to repent, and spent the last eight years of his life under house arrest. A latter day Galieo,  Michael Griffin, former head of NASA, merely stated “global warming may be a long-term problem” and “not one we must wrestle with today.” For that he was forced to resign.

Another group of scientists maintain that global climate is a connected system of sun, earth and oceans; wind, rain and snow; forests, deserts and savannas; and everything people do. They conclude that that CO2 emissions at most contribute marginally to global warming.

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It is beyond the scope of this article to fully elaborate on the natural non-human factors that impact on global warming. They are numerous and complex, but ignoring them, Kooney writes, casts severe doubts on the science of climate change. However, to apperiate their significance they need to be mentioned, if only briefly:

  • Changes in the sun’s intensity linked to sunspot activity have correlated closely with heating and cooling periods since 1900;

 

  • The energy produced by the sun is not constant. Currently, the Earth is experiencing the high-temperature end of the latest Ice Age cycle associated with long-term solar cycles;

 

  • Periodic changes in Earth’s orbit and the tilt of its axis influence how much sunlight the Earth’s poles receive from the sun and how it is distributed;

 

  • Variations in Earth’s magnetic field can cause shifts in Earth’s north and south poles, while even a slight tilt in Earth’s axis will cause huge changes in our weather;

 

  • The position of Earth’s magnetic north pole, first located in 1831, has drifted by more than 600 miles (1000 kilometers) to the northwest;

 

  • El Niño oscillations have an inordinate effect on global changes in temperature and rainfall. El Niños, however, have been around since Incas observed them, if not longer.

Hardly any of the climate models reflect these factors in their calculations. Thus, even if emissions of greenhouse gases exact a warming influence on the planet, it is practically impossible to disentangle them from other parts of the climate system.

Worse, goverments in pursuit of “green energy” and “net zero” emissions policies are doubling down on their war on fossil fuels as if the real world did not exist. In mid-August, the U.S. Congress passed the grotesquely misnamed $740 billion Inflation Reduction package, $370 billion of which is dedicated to green energy programs. The cost of green energy policies can now be counted in the trillions.

For Ukraine, the consequences of the delusional green agenda have been even more devastating: they enabled Putin’s genocidal war of aggression against Ukriane, loss of 20 percent of its territory, reducing cities to rubble with casuaties in the tens of thousands and millions fleeing the country.

Jaroslaw Martyniuk is a former energy and environmental economist with the International Energy Agency (IEA)/Organization for Economic Cooperation and Developed Countries (OECD) in Paris. He is also a retired researcher associated with Radio Liberty in Munich and Washington D.C., and  the author of “Monte Rosa: Memoir of an Accidental Spy.”

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily of Kyiv Post.

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