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Stephen Hayward of AEI rejects John McCain’s Climate Change/Violent Weather Pattern Hysteria

Friday, January 25, 2008

HH: Joined now by an old friend, Stephen Hayward, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, prolific author of many, many wonderful books, including The Triumphant Age of Reagan. Stephen, always a pleasure, how are you?

SH: I’m good, Hugh, how are you?

HH: I’m grand. How’s your bride?

SH: Oh, she’s wonderful. She’s actually out there in California sitting in the rain with you guys.

HH: You know, like me, you married up, and the brilliant Allison, it’s always good to see her when she’s around legal circles. Hey Stephen, let’s remind people about the work you did on Al Gore’s global warming sham film.

SH: Right. Well, you know, I couldn’t stand it anymore when Al Gore put out his movie saying the world was coming to an end. And so I put out my own rebuttal called An Inconvenient Truth or Convenient Fiction, almost a year ago now. I’ve got to update it soon, because so much happens on this subject almost daily.

HH: Well, last night, a lot happened, and one of those things is John McCain peddling not just global warming, but global warming hysteria. I want to play for you a couple of clips. First, he’s talking about whether or not there needs to be a catastrophe fund, because of this:

JM: This is a terrible problem, not only here in Florida, but across the states that are subject to hurricanes. And as more and more violent weather patterns take place, people’s homes are more and more in jeopardy.

HH: All right, more and more violent weather patterns, and my ears perked up, and I said oh, that’s that hysteria stuff, Stephen. And then he doubles down when the subject turns explicitly to global warming. Here’s more John McCain:

JM: I am in favor of capping trade, and Joe Lieberman and I, one of my favorite Democrats and I, have proposed that it’s…and we did the same thing with acid rain. They’re doing it in Europe now, although not very well. And all we are saying is look, you can reduce your greenhouse gas emissions, you earn a credit. Somebody else is going to increase theirs? You can sell it to them. And meanwhile, we have a gradual reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. We need a global agreement, but it has to include India and China. We need to go back to nuclear power. We cannot be dependent on $400 billion dollars a year paying for foreign oil. There’s a nexus here. But climate change, in my view, is real, it can affect states like Florida dramatically, because I think it has to do with violent weather changes as well.

HH: Now Stephen Hayward, you know this subject up and down. What do you make of John McCain’s assertion that global warming is leading to violent weather patterns which are on the increase?

SH: Well, you know, I suppose it’s too much to expect that a politician actually keeps up with the day to day science on this. And this is something I tell people all the time, is that the media reports all the scary stuff, and they never report the anti-scary stuff. And when I say anti-scary, there’s a steady stream of scientific research that appears almost daily that calls into question all these familiar assertions. So for example, there’s an article out two days ago in the Geophysical Research Letters, one of the premier journals of this subject. The title of the article is called Global Warming and the United States Landfalling Hurricanes. And what is says is, look, hurricanes striking the United States have actually been going down. And the reason they’ve been going down is that oddly enough, global warming, which I say is happening, although I think it’s less severe than McCain says, increases wind shear. Now you’ve got to follow the bouncing ball here. Wind shear actually diminishes hurricane activity and tears them apart. That’s why, by the way, we have fewer hurricanes in years we have high El Nino conditions out in the Pacific. So I mean, McCain just simply doesn’t know what the facts are, and by the way, this isn’t the only study that said that. Even the UN body, the Inter-governmental Panel On Climate Change, the IPCC, says the same thing in their 3,000 page report, if any reporter would ever trouble to read the whole thing.

HH: Now Stephen, I quote you frequently, or at least I paraphrase you, and I say look, we know some warming is going on, we don’t know how much, we don’t know how significant, we don’t know what causes it, and we don’t know if mankind can do anything to reverse it, and we don’t even know if it’s bad. Is that fair?

SH: Yeah, that’s pretty fair. I mean, I can go on for an hour on each one of those clauses, but yeah, that’s quite fair.

HH: All right, given all that, all the uncertainty, other than it’s going up a little bit, John McCain says hey, if we go global warming green, if we do stuff, it doesn’t matter, because we’ll still have a cleaner planet, and there’s no down side. Explain the down side, please.

SH: Well, you know, McCain has endorsed this crazy idea of a 65% reduction in American greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050. Now by the way, he’s just being a low budget liberal, because the Democrats are all asking for 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050. Well, you know, you hear percentage terms, and you know, billions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions, and what does that mean to an ordinary person who drives a car and lives in a house? Well, I’m doing the math on this right now, and it’s very hard on radio to go through the numbers, and it’s quite complicated, and the math is difficult. But the bottom line is this. To reach even McCain’s somewhat more modest target would require essentially replacing the entire fossil fuel energy infrastructure of the United States – coal, natural gas and oil, completely – in forty years. Now by the way, one estimate by a couple of very good economists at Princeton suggest that staying even, meaning holding our greenhouse gas emissions where they are now, with our growing economy and population, would cost at least $3 trillion, trillion with a T dollars, over the next twenty years.

HH: Wow.

SH: And by the way, that’s a low end estimate. And by comparison, I went and looked up what the current dollar cost of the interstate highway system was, and that’s about $400 billion dollars that we spent building all those roads and highways and what not.

HH: So we can have seven new highway systems?

SH: (laughing) Yeah, that’s right. Well, it’s not so much that, it’s just how unrealistic this is when you throw around these numbers.

HH: Yeah, yeah.

SH: And that, by the way, I mean, that’s three…I mean, if we really tried to do that, which we won’t, that will be $3 trillion dollars we’re not spending on everything else you can imagine you’d spend it on – schools, health care, whatever you want to mention.

HH: Here’s the kicker, too. I just finished reading a book that’s a couple of years old, called China, Inc. We’ll do all this, and it won’t matter…

SH: Right.

HH: …because we’re a tiny part of the problem, if indeed it is a problem.

SH: Right. That’s right. Yeah, China has probably already passed us as the leading emitter of greenhouse gases, which takes away a talking point of the greens who like to bash the United States. By the way, here’s something that almost no one knows about, because it doesn’t get any news. In the year 2006, the latest year we have data for, the U.S. actually lowered its greenhouse gas emissions by 1 ½%. That’s the first time that’s ever happened in a non-recessionary year. And I think we’re the only country that’s true about. The Europeans haven’t reported in yet, but all their greenhouse gas emissions are going up. McCain did speak a small portion of the truth by saying the Europeans aren’t doing very well with their emissions trading. It’s a dismal failure, in fact.

HH: Now Stephen, one, if you write anything on this, send it me. I’d love to post it, because I hesitate to write on this, because obviously, you’ve got to spend some time. You’ve spent a lot of time doing this. But when you hear a John McCain or anyone else spouting off this kind of stuff, does it diminish their credibility for the White House, in your eyes?

SH: Well, yes. I mean, but the problem is we really are into a hysteria about this issue, and global warming has become a non-falsifiable hypothesis. You know, if there’s a heat wave, it’s global warming. If it’s cold, it’s global warming, or climate change. You take your pick. And as I say, philosophers call that a non-falsifiable hypothesis. I actually think that in the fullness of time, we’re going to look back on this, and we’re going to look back on Gore’s Nobel Prize a couple of months ago, as the high water mark of climate hysteria, much the way we now look back on Paul Ehrlich’s population bomb in 1969 as the peak of hysteria about population growth. That issue looks very different to us now. I think climate change is going to look very different to us twenty years from now. But right now, we’re at a point of maximum peril for bad policy.

HH: Oh, well put.

SH: …because even McCain’s going along with the idea that we’ve got to jump off a cliff.

HH: Well put. Stephen Hayward, I really appreciate your…by the way, did you listen to the debate last night? Did you hear them say this stuff?

SH: No, I missed all that. I can’t bear to watch these things, I have to say.

HH: You have to write your reaction on this.

SH: Okay.

HH: People have got to know. Stephen Hayward, resident scholar at AEI, thank you, friend.

End of interview.

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