Global Warming Has Been Very, Very Good for Me

Golly, I love global warming.

This spring and early summer was the coolest and wettest since we moved to our current western Maryland farm 20 years ago. My pastures are lush with clover; we took our lambs to the butcher six to eight weeks earlier than normal. We raise 99% grass-fed lambs (a little bit of corn to get them to follow the bucket, since we don’t use sheep dogs). They put on weight this year like we’ve never seen before. That’s good for our business and good for our customers, who get a more flavorful and more tender carcass, faster.

We had really wet conditions in April, May, and June. July was, typically, dry. But we got 0.5 inch of rain on the 22nd and another 0.5 on the 24th. That’s unprecedented. August is typically the wettest month of the summer, largely because high temperatures induce thunder storms. Hard to tell whether that pattern will hold, but we got good storms on August 14 and 18. But it doesn’t matter, because my lambs are in the freezer, not on pasture. I’m mowing, in anticipation of the year ahead. If I were into making hay, this would be the year.

So far this year, we had two days that touched 90 (F) before August, and about four since then—par for the course for August. Often, we’ve had that many 90-degree days in April. July, August, and early September typically feature a lot of 90+ days.

My wife noticed on the Weather Channel (her favorite view) that some parts of Chile had seen snow this summer, a totally new experience this early (or late) in their season. That was a surprise. We were in Chile two years ago at this time and saw no indications of snow, although the temperatures in Santiago were temperate. Low temperatures are showing up around the globe, and NASA data indicate we haven’t seen global warming in a decade.

Now, global warming evangelists will argue that you can’t extrapolate global data from local conditions. Weather isn’t climate. Fair enough, if they would follow the same rule. Hurricanes aren’t global conditions, nor are tornadoes, or other “extreme” weather events. But the warming advocates are quick to jump on those local phenomena, claiming, against all evidence, that global warming is producing extreme weather. That’s simply hokum.

Golly, does the truth of the global climate mean we don’t have ways to scare folks about what’s happening locally into policies that aim to affect global political action? Maybe that undercuts the decades-old bogus environmental credo of “think globally, act locally.”

Some 15 years ago, I wrote a commentary for Electricity Daily, headlined “Global Warming Got Your Dog,” taking the greens to task for claiming that every untoward weather event showed the hand of man in pumping CO2 emissions. I got a whiny response from my friend Ralph Cavanagh of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), denying that mainstream environmental groups were making such claims.

Sorry, Ralph, but I called the trend correctly. The greens, including NRDC, were soon attributing virtually every extreme weather event to man-made global warming. Indeed, the politically correct term is no longer global warming, but “climate change.” The new term encompasses anything one wants: too much rain, too little rain; too warm, too cool; too much snow, not enough snow. It’s all man-made “climate change,” as if the climate hasn’t and doesn’t continually change in ways chaotic, regardless of the works of man.

In that regard, a recent article by two Aussie scientists and a Kiwi in the Journal of Geophysical Research—highlighted by Marc Morano of Climatedepot.com—provides strong evidence that most of the variation of global temperatures in the past 50 years has an entirely natural explanation: the El Nino Southern Oscillation, also known as ENSO. It’s a powerful article, although difficult for laymen to parse. The journal is published by the American Geophysical Union, and articles are peer-reviewed.

Skepticism about the now-conventional wisdom of global warming appears to me to be growing. The New York Times has published several articles recently about sunspot activity and the possible link to the Earth’s climate, including a fine July 20 piece. Many skeptics of man-made global warming have long argued that Earth’s climate fluctuates well within the 11-year sunspot cycle. We are currently in a very limp sunspot period, which may explain why global temperatures haven’t gone up for the past decade. The Times’s excellent science blogger, John Tierney, has long provided a platform for skeptics (aka “deniers”) to make their case.

Most recently, Chris Landsea, one of the most respected hurricane experts, and a research team have concluded in an American Meteorological Society journal that observed increases in strong tropical storms, including hurricanes, are the result of better observing and monitoring technology. At the same time, Michael Mann of Penn State, and colleagues, have reported in Nature that tropical storms in recent years have been unusually high historically.

I’m with Landsea on this. Mann, who was the author of the now-discredited “hockey stick” analysis of global warming trends, says that “proxy” evidence shows storms are stronger and more frequent now than 1,500 years ago. Landsea, an empiricist, notes that there is no real evidence to support any such claim, and primary evidence—satellite data—debunks the “more and stronger” hypothesis.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration had to pull out all the political stops to win House approval for the Waxman-Markey climate change (and all kinds of other, largely noxious, stuff) bill, 219-212, last summer. But the prospects for passage in the Senate may be slim. Nebraska Republican Sen. Mike Johanns, former secretary of agriculture in the George W. Bush administration, predicted that the cap-and-trade legislation won’t pass in the Senate because it will hurt farmers, a potent lobby in Washington.

There is growing concern that the Obama cap-and-trade legislation can’t pass this year, because the administration will push as hard as it can for healthcare legislation. That will take any wind out of the sails of an energy bill, which is at least as complicated and difficult to see as a healthcare reform.

For those of us daring, or foolish, enough to bring up global warming in our conversations with friends and acquaintances (I do this a lot at picnics and pig roasts, and suffer slings and arrows of uninformed animus), the Marshall Institute has published a useful pamphlet, “The Cocktail Conversation Guide to Global Warming.” If you are bold enough to broach the topic with friends and neighbors, read this. If you aren’t willing to talk about the issue, fearing fisticuffs or brush-asides, print the pamphlet and discretely distribute copies during the party.

The Obama administration will face a nasty choice this fall: energy legislation or healthcare reform. The administration may have to decide that it will trade one against the other in Congress. My guess is that the White House and the Democrats will take health reform, however it takes shape, against Senate approval of cap-and-trade legislation, if it comes down to that tradeoff. I suspect it will. Healthcare, as difficult as it is to explain, is far simpler than energy and cap-and-trade, particularly given the many trade-offs the Democrats had to accommodate to pass a House bill.

Healthcare reform is something that touches many millions of Americans (not me, thank goodness, because I’m covered by Medicare, which amounts to “socialized medicine” in the framework of the Republican’s debate).

In that context, cap-and-trade and global warming are, at best, peripheral issues. Most voters don’t have a clue about options to control “global warming” and probably don’t care. Also, they don’t regard Medicare or Medicaid as “socialized medicine,” any more than they regard the health plans that covers members of Congress, their staff, or federal employees as “socialized medicine.”

Polling by both parties and independent pollsters shows that energy and global warming doesn’t really kick up the political meter. Many Americans are more concerned about the economy and their own personal health insurance than the state of the environment.

A recent Peter Hart poll found that 50% of Americans believed that economic stimulus was the most important issue facing the Congress, followed by healthcare (23%) and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (13%). “Energy and climate change initiatives” came in at a dismal 7%.

So when Congress comes back to Washington this month, my bet is that energy legislation will die in the Senate, while the Congress will focus on healthcare legislation. There will be a congressional donnybrook, with an uncertain outcome.

But the ultimate result will not be legislation to address alleged global warming, regardless of what happens to healthcare. I suspect the Obama administration will prudently jettison energy legislation in order to win a healthcare showdown.

Welcome to the O.K. Corral of legislation.

 —Kennedy Maize is MANAGING POWER’s executive editor.