In December 2009, lawmakers and representatives from around
the world, along with scientists, numerous journalists, and various celebrities
flew to Copenhagen, Denmark. For the most part, their goal was to promote
a regulatory scheme aimed at controlling
human carbon emissions by declaring the element a tradable commodity and
establishing laws and regulations to govern the trade.
The proposed regulations were premised on the flawed notion, articulated by the United
Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),
that increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations will
change climate dramatically and thereby cause major ecological and
While many scientists, including us, have observed some
changes in climate, the hypothesized dangerous consequences of rising
atmospheric CO2 are too speculative
for responsible regulatory policy. In analyzing climate policy, decision makers
should be cognizant of three key considerations regarding the impact of
projected rises in atmospheric CO2: (1) policy choices likely will
have no measurable effect on the occurrence of severe weather; (2) positive
effects on ecosystems and biodiversity are likely and should be weighed against
the negatives; and (3) carbon trading schemes (such as the one touted in
Copenhagen) are unlikely to lead to a reduction in atmospheric CO2.
Given these considerations, policy makers must carefully
consider their objectives and the potential impacts, both positive and
negative, of carbon emission control. If climate change regulation proceeds
unchecked, it will likely produce policy that is out of touch with both the
real world and objective science and will likely impose large costs on society
that benefit only a small cadre of “climate
entrepreneurs” and provide no meaningful effect on the Earth’s climate.
It is true that a plethora of researchers have studied
changing patterns in local, regional, and global temperatures, as well as
rainfall, animal and plant life, and sea levels, and that many have drawn the
conclusion that rising greenhouse gases (GHGs) are, to some degree, to blame
for observed and/or forecasted changes in the climate. Policy makers, however,
should not jump to conclusions. They have a responsibility to carefully
consider the limitations of these studies and the impacts of factors other than
manmade CO2. It would be wrong to attribute all observed impacts to
climate change—even more so to GHGs—and even further to levels which could be
controlled by humans. Herein lies our first consideration for policy makers:
that rising atmospheric CO2 will not produce adverse weather
and changes to climate beyond what will occur due to natural variation.
Policy makers should consider that the IPCC’s assumptions
regarding future harm from rising atmospheric CO2 are contradicted
especially recent data that suggests the “global warming” narrative of climate
change is seriously flawed. For example, the latest global temperature and
ocean heat-content data are
both at odds with the claims of disastrous consequences. While researchers
often select time periods to support their dangerous-warming hypothesis, it is
now apparent that forecasts of continued surface and atmospheric warming and
oceanic heat accumulation have been at odds with the observations
for the last decade. Similarly, computer modelers are having difficulty explaining the
between the increases in ocean heat content predicted on the basis of
the dangerous CO2 hypothesis, and the observed ocean heat
Similar caution should be exercised when determining whether causes other
than GHGs may be responsible for observed effects. Arctic temperature data
from coastal stations in Greenland and averages over the Arctic Pacific, North Atlantic, Greenland-Iceland, and the entire circum-Arctic are noted to be at odds with this dangerous
manmade warming hypothesis. Such
data indicates abrupt warming and cooling every few decades that fit well with natural fluctuations in
By contrast, the steady rise in atmospheric CO2 concentrations over
the past century, including especially the last fifty years, does not explain
the variability in surface temperatures in and around the Arctic, further
suggesting that the effect may be caused by something other than GHGs.
Similarly, evidence of warming in cities has indicated that warming and
hydrological changes result directly from the “heat island effect” of
urbanization and changing landscape cover, rather than from atmospheric CO2
Consequentially, policy makers would be wise to also consider alternative
causes for the observed effects.
While some researchers, including us, argue that factors other than GHGs are
responsible for observed climate changes, many do not. Policy makers need not
accept either camp’s findings, but should be aware of these alternative views
and give them due consideration when making their decisions.
Policy makers also need to reconcile scientists’ failure to find a CO2
greenhouse-warming signal despite extensive and objective scouring of climate
records from around the globe over the last century.
We and other scientists
have reached a very simple conclusion: atmospheric CO2 is not an
important driver of weather and climate. This
hypothesis lies in very sharp contrast to the speculations from computer
climate models, which are predicated on a strong relationship between
atmospheric CO2 and air temperature.
Such findings indicate that simulated
computer modeling may be inherently limited in its ability to make accurate
predictions regarding a system as complex as the global climate. This is not to
suggest that computer
research is a trivial pursuit; but rather, that it is not developed enough
to generate reliable prognoses for policy making.
Policy makers owe it to their constituents to make informed decisions
weighing all of the observed climate data rather than relying on outputs from
the artificial worlds of computer climate models.
Commentators and political activists often negatively characterize climate
change as an unnatural process that is bound only to bring disaster.
Unfortunately, some of these characterizations have become embodied in law
through judicial decisions and legislative actions, which have caused a
misunderstanding about the nature of climate change.
To avoid these shortcomings in the next round of climate change action,
reasonable policy makers should reject the notion that a changing climate is
completely one-sided. Instead, they should use the best scientific data
available to weigh the potential positive effects of climate change against the
negative effects and costs of policy intervention to determine which course of
action to take. Thus, in evaluating the chemical and biological influences of
rising atmospheric CO2, special attention should be paid to our
second consideration for policy makers: that the negative effects on ecosystems
and biodiversity of increases in atmospheric CO2 must be properly
weighed against the benefits.
Policy makers must be careful to avoid the mistakes of turning
scientifically inaccurate definitions into laws and regulations. In 2007, for
example, the U.S. Supreme
Court held that greenhouse gases fit within the
Clean Air Act’s capacious definition of “air pollutant,”
creating a legal definition that does not match the science. Rather than being
an “air pollutant,” atmospheric CO2
is the basic building block for all photosynthetic organisms: green plants,
fresh- and ocean-water algae and photosynthetic bacteria.
It forms the basis of most food chains and is vital t o biological life.
Legal definitions at odds with science make it difficult to enact sensible
Imprecise language can also lead to exaggerations about the
potential dangers of CO2 that could cause policy makers to misjudge
the urgency of the situation. For example, today’s level of atmospheric CO2—about
390 ppm (0.039 percent or the equivalent of about four cents in $100)—is not
“dangerously high” from the perspective of photosynthetic organisms. In
fact, 390 ppm is far below the nutrient saturation level for these organisms
and below the optimal level for growth. This
means more CO2 could enhance some critical
ecosystems; yet few scientists, politicians, or “climate entrepreneurs”
consider the positive benefits to these plants under elevated CO2
levels. Furthermore, some marine organisms may actually grow better
and be more productive as a result of ocean acidification caused by dissolving
CO2 in seawater.
As a consequence, some of the fast biological responses—most likely
involving the positive synergistic interactions among changes in temperature,
solar radiation, and bicarbonate—are likely to stimulate marine life and
food production in the world’s oceans. Biologist and oceanographer Dr. Debora
Iglesias-Rodriguez, summarized her findings
on this topic this way:
Increased CO2 in the
Earth’s atmosphere is causing some microscopic ocean plants to produce greater
amounts of calcium carbonate—with potentially wide-ranging implications for
predicting the cycling of carbon in the oceans and global climate modeling. . .
. Our research has also revealed that, over the past 220 years, [single-celled
algae and phytoplankton] have increased the mass of calcium carbonate they each
produce by around 40 percent. These results are in agreement with previous
observations that [single-celled algae and phytoplankton] are abundant
throughout past periods of
ocean acidification, such as that which occurred roughly 55 million years ago.
An examination of the procedures
used in studies that come to contrary findings regarding the effects of CO2
on marine organisms
reveals that they have inappropriately claimed to examine the ocean
acidification issue by adding hydrochloric acid to seawater, rather than taking
the trouble to bubble CO2 through the water to more faithfully
simulate natural conditions. The former procedure of adding acids or bases
directly to the water bypasses the key involvement of CO2 with the
carbonate and bicarbonate geochemical cycling in the ocean, which is why it
generates an opposite conclusion from studies that properly bubble CO2
through water. It is clear that there will be both losers and winners
in relation to ocean acidification; as such, relying exclusively on negative
effects would be a poor recipe for a well-informed policy making.
Recently, some ecologists and
geologists have cautioned about the dangers of carbon myopia—of seeing
and examining only the alleged dangers of rising CO2 levels in the
atmosphere while ignoring the potential harmful effects of managing for CO2.
Moreover, Putz and Redford cautioned that carbon-based conservation can be bad
for biodiversity and harmful to both plants and animals.
They note that carbon-based discrimination will adversely affect non-arboreal
plants, result in shorter tree species, and put non-forested ecosystems at risk
and that “tree planting among carbon investors could create perverse incentives
leading to major biodiversity losses.”
Apart from a few species required for pollination and seed
dispersal, “most vertebrates and invertebrates are superfluous, if not
nuisances, in forests managed for carbon,” Putz and Redford conclude.
That means incentives to sustain and preserve those species will be limited, if
not actually prove detrimental, when policy makers focus exclusively on
reducing atmospheric CO2.
Clearly, there will be winners and losers in a changing
climate, but policy makers must weigh the costs of the negatives (with the
costs of trying to maintain status quo) against the positives. Not all
biological, chemical, and ecological responses to rising atmospheric CO2
portend doom and gloom. Policy makers should focus their discussions on
balancing the pros and cons, rather than pursuing a one-sided strategy of CO2
Recent failures of carbon emission trading, both in the
Chicago Climate Exchange and in the E.U. Emission Trading Market, confirm the
simple but harsh reality that carbon trading is an artificial and unworkable
system that will likely cause more harm than good, since there are simply too
many potential cheaters, too many opportunities to cheat and get away with it,
and too many opportunities to make big profits by cheating. Professor Roger
Pielke Jr. has critically remarked that “very
complex policies full of accounting tricks, political pork and policy
now being devised to create the false promise of an international
climate-solution. Even Science magazine reluctantly agreed on October
23, 2009 that:
The accounting now used for
assessing compliance with carbon limits in the Kyoto Protocol and in
climate legislation contains a far-reaching but fixable flaw that will severely
undermine greenhouse reduction goals. . . . For example, the clearing of
long-established forests to burn wood or to grow energy crops is counted as 100
percent reduction in energy emissions, despite causing large releases of
This leads to our third consideration for policy makers:
that carbon trading will not lead directly to a reduction in atmospheric CO2.
There is a dangerous paralysis creeping into our modern era
as a consequence of unscientific carbon myopia. This paralysis is illustrated
by the nightmare of carbon budget accounting, where the
offset of carbon dioxide
emissions can be achieved through additional storage and protection of carbon
pools located in human settlements. Human settlements store carbon in natural
pools such as vegetation and soil as well as in anthropogenic pools.
Anthropogenic carbon pools encompass buildings, printed materials, landfills,
clothing and living organisms.
Those who have not followed the trading price of carbon emissions
at the Chicago Climate Exchange will be intrigued to learn that carbon began
trading at the modest price of $1
per metric ton in January 2004.  Prices
wildly, reaching a peak value of $7 per
metric ton in May/June 2008.
However, as public interest waned (most likely due, in part, to a lack of
correlation between the extreme scenarios that have been posited and
observations in the real world), the trading price of carbon emissions
fluctuated around a low of $0.10–0.20 per metric ton between October and
December of 2009.
An initial investor in carbon emission reductions back in
January 2004 has now lost 90 percent of his or her original investment on what
has amounted to a tax on a gaseous atmospheric component that is essential for
all life—and on the hydrocarbon energy that powers 85 percent of the U.S.
economy. Speculators who entered the carbon market on May 30, 2008 have lost
98.6 percent of their investments.
In a similar fashion, trading at the E.U. Emission Trading Market
Trading peaked around €30 in April 2006, dropped to less than €1in February
2007, and eventually reached €0.03 in December 2007—a
to 0.1 percent of its peak value. Ironically, at least part of the reason for
the fall was that too many carbon emission credits were allocated relative to
actual emissions. Moreover, E.U. emissions have actually increased over the
same time period—by 10–54 percent in some countries—during this first phase of
the E.U. carbon trading experiment.
For example, emissions as of the end of 2007 for both Greece and Ireland were 25 percent above their 1990 levels; Portugal’s emissions were 38
percent above and Spain’s were 54 percent above.
These, of course, are the very outcomes that carbon trading was supposed to prevent.
The second phase of E.U. trading also is not promising, as
new hurdles and questions have arisen. This is exemplified by the September
2009 decision of the European Court ruling
against the European Commission’s plan to cut emission quotas for Poland and Estonia. The court held that the two countries could not be compelled against their will
to abide by lower emission quotas imposed by the European Commission subsequent
to the acceptance of the Kyoto Protocol.
As further proof of the disconnect between the world
imagined by the politicians and scientists
who rushed to Copenhagen and the real world in which we live, the Australian
government is proposing
to trade carbon under its own emission trading scheme, at a set price of A$10
per ton per year, until July 2012, at which time the cost and price will be
dictated by market forces. We are
willing to bet that its value will be much less than A$10 by December 2012 if a
free market is allowed to prevail.
Given the problems associated with carbon trading
systems—namely the potential and opportunity for cheating to occur and the
precipitous drop in value that has been observed in carbon credits—policymakers
should carefully consider
the negatives before enacting carbon trading systems.
Prudent policy makers should not get swept up by the
shortsightedness of the alarmist media coverage of human-induced global
warming. Rather, given the potential costs and impacts, they should be suspicious that advocates
have subverted science to further their own causes.
Understandably the extent of uncertainty
regarding the role and impact of rising atmospheric CO2 may come as
a shock to those swept up by the fanaticism. Given the uncertainty involved,
policy makers should consider the scientific data carefully.
Decision makers should consider the following questions: Do
we really want a future based on the grievous misunderstanding
engendered by carbon myopia? Can humanity really afford to ignore the real harm
that would be caused by adhering to these fallacies about carbon? We must have
the courage to stand against climate alarmism and stand for rational
stewardship and for reliable, affordable energy. We urge political leaders
of the world to do the right thing and to reject any deal that would tax or
restrict carbon emissions. Only in that way can they protect the jobs, health,
welfare, economic opportunities, environmental quality, living standards, and
civil rights that depend so critically on hydrocarbon energy.
* Dr. Soon is an astrophysicist at the
Solar, Stellar and Planetary Sciences Division of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Dr. Soon has written and lectured extensively on issues related to the
sun and other stars and climate. The views expressed by Willie Soon are
strictly his and do not necessarily reflect those of Harvard University, the
Smithsonian Institution, or the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
** Dr. Legates is an Associate Professor
at the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, University of Delaware and his views are given as a university faculty member under academic freedom rights.
He also serves as the Delaware State Climatologist.
e.g., Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Climate Change 2007:
The Physical Science Basis (Susan Solomon et al., eds. 2007).
phrase “global temperature” and “heat” are used here in laymen sense rather
than in the correct manner as properly founded in physics.
e.g., Kevin E. Trenberth, An Imperative for Climate Change Planning:
Tracking Earth's Global Energy, 1 Current
Opinion in Envtl. Sustainability 19 (2009); see also
Willie Soon & David Legates, Answering 3 Simple Questions, Quadrant Online, Aug. 3, 2009, at fig.1(plotting Hadley Centre/UEA air temperature data from 1995 to 2009 and
Josh K. Willis et al., In Situ Data Biases and Recent Ocean Heat Content
Variability, 26 J. Atmospheric &
Oceanic Tech. 846, fig.4 (2009); David H. Douglass & Robert S.
Knox, Ocean Heat Content and Earth’s Radiation Imbalance, 373 Physics Letters A 3296 (2009); see
also Bob Tisdale, OHC
Linear Trends and Recent Update of NODC OHC (0-700 Meters) Data,
Feb. 5, 2010, at fig.2.
 For a
more complete discussion of this issue, see Willie Soon, Solar Arctic-Mediated
Climate Variation on Multidecadal to Centennial Timescales: Empirical Evidence,
Mechanistic Explanation, and Testable Consequences, 30 Physical Geography 144 (2009).
Alexander Ruzmaikin & Joan Feynman, Solar Influence on a Major Mode of
Atmospheric Variability, 30 J.
Geophys. Res. 4209 (2002); Willie Soon, Variable Solar Irradiance as
a Plausible Agent for Multidecadal Variations in the Arctic-Wide Surface Air
Temperature Record of The Past 130 Years, 32 Geophys. Res. Lett. 16712 doi.10.1029/2005GL023429
(2005); Willie Soon, Solar Arctic-Mediated Climate Variation on Multidecadal
to Centennial Timescales: Empirical Evidence, Mechanistic Explanation, and
Testable Consequences, 30 Phys. Geo.
Igor Polyakov et al., Observationally Based Assessment of Polar
Amplification of Global Warming, 29 Geophys.
Res. Lett. 1878 doi.10.1029/2001GL011111 (2002), Igor Polyakov et al., Variability
and Trends of Air Temperature and Pressure in The Maritime Arctic, 1875-2000,
16 J. Climate 2067 (2003); Igor
Polyakov et al., Arctic Ocean Freshwater Changes Over the Past 100 Years,
21 J. Climate 364 (2008).
Roger A. Pielke Sr. et al., Unresolved Issues With The Assessment of
Mutidecadal Global Land Surface Temperature Trends, 112 J. Geophys. Res. D24S08
doi.10.1029/2006JD008229 (2007); Souleymane Fall et al., Impacts of Land Use
Land Cover on Temperature Trends Over The Continental United States: Assessment
Using the North American Regional Reanalysis, Int’l J. Climatol.
doi.10.1002/joc.1996 (2009); Cynthia Rosenzweig et al., Mitigating New York
City’s Heat Island: Integrating Stakeholder Perspectives and Scientific
Evaluation, 90 Bull. Am. Meteorological Soc’y 1297
(2009); John R. Christy et al., Surface Temperature Variations In East
Africa and Possible Causes, 22 J. Climate 3342 (2009); John R. Christy et al., Methodology
and Results of Calculating Central California Surface Temperature Trends:
Evidence of Human-Induced Climate Change?, 19 J. Climate 548 (2006).
Christopher Essex, What Do Climate Models Tell Us About Global Warming?,
135 Pure & Applied Geophysics 125 (1991); Willie Soon et al., Moderling
Climatic Effects of Anthropogenic Carbon Dioxide Emissions: Unknowns and
Uncertainties, 18 Climate Res. 259 (2001); Richard S. Lindzen, Taking GreenHouse Warming Seriously, 18 Energy & Env’t 937 (2007);
David H. Douglass et al., A Comparison of Tropical Temperature Trends With
Model Predictions, 28 Int’l J. Climatol.1693 (2008);
Demetris Koutsoyiannis et al., On the Credibility of Climate Predictions,
53 Hydrological Sci. 671
(2008); Philip J. Klotzbach et al., An Alternative Explanation for
Differential Temperature Trends at the Surface and in the Lower Troposphere,
114 J. Geophysical Res. doi.10.1029/2009JD011841 (2009).
 Id. For further discussion and evidence of the secondary role of atmospheric carbon
dioxide and methane on the large glacial-interglacial climate transition of the
past 1 to 2 million years, see Willie Soon, Implications of the Secondary
Role of Carbon Dioxide and Methane Forcing In Climate Change: Past, Present,
and Future, 28 Phys. Geo.
Richard S. Lindzen & Yong-Sang Choi, On The Determination of Climate
Feedbacks From ERBE Data, 36 Geophys.
Res. Lett. doi.10.1029/2009GL039628 (2009) (explaining how climate
feedbacks, rooted in the fast processes of hydrology and clouds in the tropics
amplify the small warming from greenhouse effect of added atmospheric CO2,
were incorrectly represented in frequently cited current climate models).
 Mass. v. EPA, 549 U.S. 497 (2007).
 Id. at 528–30.
 Sherwood B. Idso, Carbon Dioxide and Global Change: Earth in
Transition 67–68 (1989); see also Adip Said, Carbon Dioxide
and Life, Biology Cabinet,
Jan. 13, 2007; Nasif Nahle, Carbon Dioxide and Health, Biology Cabinet, Jan. 13, 2007, available
e.g., Arthur B. Robinson et al., Environmental Effects of Increased
Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide, 12 J. Am.
Physicians & Surgeons 79, fig.23 (2007) (republishing Keith Idso
& Sherwood Idso, Plant Responese to Atmospheric CO2
Enrichment in the Fact of Environmental Constraints: A Review of The Past 10
years Research, 69 Agric. &
Forest Meteorology 153, fig.6 (1994)). It should be noted that
Stephen P. Long et al., Food for Thought: Lower-Than-Expected Crop Yield
Stimulation with Rising CO2 Concentrations, 312 Sci.
1918 (2006) is often cited for his interpretation of Robertson’s data (shown
in Robinson et al., supra note 15, at fig.23) indicating a negative
plant response to CO2, which he hypothesized could be disastrous to
crops. Francesco Tubiello et al., Crop Response to Elevated CO2
and World Food Supply: A Comment on “Food For Thought . . .” by Long et al.,
26 Eur. J. Agronomy 215
(2007), have reconfirmed Robinson’s applicability, while suggesting Long’s
findings grossly exaggerated. In recent literature, it is surprising to find
Long et al. often cited without reference to the strong criticism offered by
Tubiello et al. It should also be noted that Long et al. has not responded to
Tubiello, supra note 15.
e.g., Frederic Bessat & D. Buigues, Two Centuries of Variation in
Coral Growth in a Massive Porites Colony from Moorea (French Polynesia): A
Response of Ocean-Atmosphere Variability from South Central Pacific, 175 Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology,
Palaeoecology 381 (2001). The growing body of similar scholarship
published after the 2007 UN IPCC report is also useful. See, e.g., M.
Debora Iglesias-Rodriguez et al., Phytoplankton Calcification in a High-CO2
World, 320 Sci. 336 (2008); Herfort et al. 44 J. Phycology 91 (2008); Y. Feng et
al., Interactive Effects of Increased pCO2, Temperature and
Irradiance on the Marine Coccolithophore Emiliania Huxleyi, 43 Eur. J. Phycology 87 (2008); Philippe
Tortell et al., CO2 Sensitivity of Southern Ocean Phytoplankton,
35 Geophys. Res. Lett. doi.10.1029/2007GL032583
Iglesias-Rodriguez et al., supra note 17, at 336 (observing that “[m]ost
of these experiments used semi-continuous cultures, in which the carbonate
system was modified by the addition of acid and/or base to control pH”);
Elizabeth Pennisi, Calcification Rates Drop in Australian Reefs, 323 Sci. 27
(2009) (summarizing the research of Alina Szmant, a coral ecologist: “[Szmant]
faults previous lab studies because they used hydrochloric acid, not carbon
dioxide, to lower the pH of the water in the calcification studies”).
e.g., Justin B. Ries et al., Marine Calcifiers Exhibit Mixed Responses
to CO2 –Induced Ocean Acidification, 37 Geology 1131 (2009) (both negative and positive responses
are found when a wide range of marine calcifiers were examined).
Francis E. Putz & K.H. Redford, Dangers of Carbon-Based Conservation,
19 Global Envtl. Change 400
Pielke Jr., Understanding the Copenhagen Climate Deal: the Fix is In, 23
Bridges, Oct. 2009.
Timothy D. Searchinger et al., Fixing a Critical Climate Accounting Error,
326 Sci. 527 (2009).
Churkina et al., Carbon Stored in Human Settlements: the Coterminous United States, 16 Global Change Bio. 135, 136 (2009).
Chicago Climate Exchange, CCX Carbon Financial Instrument (CFI) Contracts Daily Report (last visited Jan. 25, 2009).
Henrik Hasselknippe, Carbon 2006 Towards a Truly Global Market, Point Carbon, Feb 28, 2006, at 25;
Analyse van de CO2-markt (Analysis of Carbon Market), Emissierechten, Nov. 2007. Wikipedia also has a
surprisingly robust discussion. European Union Emission Trading Scheme, Wikipedia
(last visited Jan. 25, 2010).
 European Env’t Agency, Annual European Community Greenhouse Gas Inventory 1990–2007 and Inventory Report 2009: Submission to the UNFCCC Secretariat 9,
Ben Sharples, Australia’s Biggest Companies Lack Investment Plans for Carbon,
Bloomberg, Oct. 7, 2009.
See Richard Lindzen, Climate Science: Is It Currently Designed to
Answer Questions?, paper prepared for meeting in San Marino from 29-31 Aug.
2008 (discussing the cultural, organizational, and
political factors that influence objectivity in Climate Science grants and
Copyright 2009 Willie Soon and David R. Legates. All rights reserved.
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