NOTE: The following is a letter Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast sent to Ivanka Trump, top advisor to president Donald Trump. As of today, he has received no response.
Dear Ms. Trump,
Recent news stories report your interest in the climate change issue. I share your deep concern over the future of our planet — it’s an unbelievably beautiful and precious thing, something we must cherish and protect for all of Earth’s creatures and for future generations.
I am writing to urge you to proceed carefully as you explore this subject, because those who claim climate change requires “immediate action” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, or even “transforming the world’s economic system,” have often misrepresented the science and economics of this issue.
My organization, The Heartland Institute, is a national nonprofit organization that has been making the case for conservative and libertarian ideas since its founding in 1984. Many members of the Trump transition team are familiar with our work on climate change and other topics.
The Heartland Institute is “the world’s most prominent think tank supporting skepticism of man-made climate change” (according to The Economist). We have published more books, policy studies, and commentaries on the topic than any other free-market think tank in the world (according to the scientific journal Global Environmental Change). We are one of the top ten free-market think tanks in the world (according to TheBestSchools.org).
The truth is that climate change does not require that we reduce energy consumption or replace fossil fuels with alternative energies.
Your father is right when he questions whether global warming is a genuine “crisis” or a product of hype and exaggeration by various interest groups. He is also right to suggest that the issue is being used to extort money from the United States, handicap American businesses, and undermine our economic growth and prosperity.
Claims That Global Warming Is Already Happening
The popular “evidence” that man-made global warming is already happening and is harmful consists mostly of images of melting ice, heat waves, hurricanes, and rising tides. These images appeared in Al Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth, and more recently in Leonardo DiCaprio’s movie Before the Flood.
Politicians and celebrities sometimes travel to the Arctic and come back saying they have “seen global warming,” that “it is real and already happening.” But these images and claims are highly misleading. You can’t see man-made climate change. Climate is “average weather” over the course of at least 30 years. Extreme weather is always occurring sometime around the world, and always has and always will.
Observing extreme weather events can’t tell us whether the climate is changing, or what might be causing changes in weather or climate. For that, we need to view long-term trends, and even then we need to control for known climate cycles and natural variability.
Simply put, there simply is no hard scientific evidence that potentially harmful warming is happening. Dr. Benjamin Zycher, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote in 2014 a short and accurate summary of research on long-term trends in extreme weather:
The number of wildfires is in a long-term decline.
It has been eight years since a Category 3 or higher hurricane landed on a U.S. coast; that long a period devoid of an intense hurricane landfall has not been observed since 1900. The 2013 Atlantic hurricane season was the least active in 40 years, with zero major hurricanes.
There is no long-term trend in sea-level increases. The record of changes in the size of the Arctic ice cover is far more ambiguous than often asserted, because the satellite measurements began at the outset of the warming period from roughly 1980 through 1998.
Zycher’s summary is supported by the sources he cites as well as four hefty volumes in the Climate Change Reconsidered series produced by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) and published by The Heartland Institute. The NIPCC series is credible: It has been cited in more than 100 peer-reviewed articles. The Chinese Academy of Sciences thought so highly of it that it translated the first two volumes into Mandarin Chinese and published a condensed edition in 2013.
So no, there simply is no hard evidence that man-made climate change is already occurring or that it is bad. You should immediately suspect the credibility (or sincerity) of anyone who claims otherwise. They are using scare tactics to get you to think a certain way.
Appeals to Authority
Those who say global warming is a crisis ask you to believe the opinions of “experts” who, upon closer inspection, are unqualified, speaking outside their areas of expertise, or biased. For example, Al Gore, Leonardo DiCaprio, Bill McKibben, Bill Gates, and Naomi Orestes are not scientists. Senator Gore was flunking undergraduate physics at Harvard when he dropped out of that class.
President Obama’s claim in 2014 that “97% of scientists agree: climate change is real, man-made and dangerous” is not supported by any credible survey or science literature review. NASA, on its website, cites four sources for this claim: two are essays written by college students, one literature review by a socialist historian, and the fourth one a literature review by an Australian blogger.
See Why Scientists Disagree about Global Warming for a full critique of each of these sources, and a summary of more reliable surveys and literature reviews that find extensive disagreement. A copy of that book is enclosed.
Alarmists often cite the reports of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IIPCC), but this is a political, not a scientific, organization. It conducts no original climate research. Its reports are not subject to traditional peer review, and they have become compilations of anecdotal evidence in support of a pre-ordained conclusion. That is not science. See the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change’stestimony to the British Parliament critiquing the latest IPCC report.
Finally, those who say global warming is a crisis often claim that those who disagree with them are either “paid shills of the oil industry” or part of a “vast right-wing conspiracy” that puts economic growth and profits ahead of protecting the environment. Both claims are false.
Al Gore created the myth that global warming skeptics are paid by industry to “sow doubt,” although he falsely claims it was discovered by a former reporter named Ross Gelbspan. There is no evidence of any “skeptic” ever being paid to lie about climate science or its impacts. See Russell Cook’s excellent report on this myth titled Merchants of Smear.
Once you look at the underlying science — the same sort of number crunching you would perform for a complicated business transaction — you will discover there is no scientific case for reducing our use of fossil fuels.
The Science, by the Numbers
Here are the key numbers you need to know to understand the climate change issue:
0.04% The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, that’s about 400 parts per million. In the past century it has only gone up by 0.01 percentage point. Carbon dioxide concentrations have risen and fallen before, in pre-industrial eras, without causing climate to change.
1.0 — 1.5C Climate sensitivity, the change in global temperature likely to result from a doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from pre-industrial levels. We are already half-way to such a doubling, so the warming in the coming century even assuming the alarmists in the debate are right and are not exaggerating, is likely to be too small be to noticeable against natural climate cycles and variability.
1 — 2 mm The long-term annual rise in sea level, since the end of the last Ice Age, which has not increased in the 21st century. This is too small to merit efforts to slow or stop global warming. Claims that sea level is rising faster are based on cherry-picked data sets and fail to take into account land subsidence in some coastal areas.
0.06C The reduction in global temperature that would be achieved by the year 2100 if the U.S. reduced its emissions by 40%, just six one-hundredths of one degree. This is too little to warrant the enormous cost — trillions of dollars — of replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy.
$3,900 The annual per-family cost of Obama’s global warming policies, according to a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
$27 billon How much federal agencies plan to spend on global warming-related programs in 2017.
What Should We Do?
We should all do our share to protect the environment. But the campaign to reduce energy use or to switch from fossil fuels to solar and wind power is not about protecting the environment. It’s about something else.
Since climate is always changing due to natural causes, we should invest in resiliency (hardening infrastructure) and adaptation. Trying to stop global warming from occurring is not necessary, nor is it the best way to protect the environment.
Climate change is a small and remote threat, at best. We probably cannot slow or stop it even if we try. And the cost of ending our primary reliance on fossil fuels is astronomical.
My organization, The Heartland Institute, recommends your father’s administration take the following steps regarding climate change:
Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. While not a scientist myself, I have had the privilege of working with the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), an international team of independent climate scientists whose research supports the various statements made above, and who are willing to pitch in and help your father set a new course for climate policy in the years ahead.
Thank you for your concern and for your openness to differing opinions on this important issue.
Joseph L. Bast