An Old Fashioned Fisking of Green Hyperbole

I had thought briefly yesterday of producing an old-fashioned fisking of Tom Friedman’s Sunday NY Times column, “Why 2014 Is A Big Deal,” which was lazy and superficial even by his low standards, but thought why bother at this point. How does he come up with gems like this:

Technology is a cruel thing. The innovators who’ve made solar panels, wind power and batteries so efficient that they can now compete with coal and gas [comment: yeah—this must be why wind and solar producers are all lining up to give up their subsidies and tax credits, right?] are the same innovators who are enabling us to extract oil and gas from places we never imagined we could go at prices we never imagined we would reach.

Or this one:

Then you have the hugely important deal that President Obama and President Xi Jinping of China struck on Nov. 12 under which the United States will reduce its carbon emissions 26 percent to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, and China will peak its carbon emissions by or before 2030. China also committed to build by 2030 an additional 800 to 1,000 gigawatts of clean power — or nearly as much new renewable energy in China as all the electrical capacity in America today. That will greatly spur innovation in clean tech and help do for solar, wind and batteries what China did for tennis shoes — really drive down global prices.

Really—all you have to do to drive down emissions and prices of renewable energy is sign a piece of paper with the Chinese? Just like that? Welcome to the world of what I call “Captain Piccard Policy Making: Just say ‘Make it so!,’ and it will happen!” I’m surprised Friedman didn’t call his piece “Climate Peace in Our Time.”

But there’s an even more egregious bit of reporting up right now from Politico about Louisville, Kentucky, where I once lived for a year a long while back: “How the Fastest Warming City in the Country Is Cooling Off.” The story has a number of familiar clichés that demonstrate afresh the ignorance of superficiality of media coverage of environmental issues, which in turn enables environmental advocacy groups to avoid any accountability for their exaggerations and agenda-driven “findings.”

It seems Louisville is an “urban heat island.”

Brian Stone Jr. knows this phenomenon well. Stone is one of the country’s foremost experts in urban heat; he has made a career of literally taking the temperature of communities. “Cities essentially create their own climates,” he says. “And the urban heat island effect is one way to measure that. There’s a heat island effect, really, in every large city.”

But in few places is it felt more than in Louisville, sometimes to deadly effect.

This would be the same urban heat island effect that the climatistas say has no effect on the ground-based thermometers that say were warming dramatically? O-kay.  Anyway, to continue:

For many Louisvillians, the effects are merely unpleasant or annoying. Residents crank up their air conditioners to battle the heat, raising their electricity bills. More coal is burned to keep up with peak demand, sending more pollution into the skies. As pollution and stagnant air bake in the sun, air quality worsens.  [Emphasis added.]

Let’s check out that very last phrase: “air quality worsens.” I looked up the EPA’s latest data for Louisville, complete through 2013, and found the following trends fo the last 23 years (only 13 years for PM2.5), and you can see the results in the four charts below: every category of ambient air pollution is down sharply (73 percent for sulfur dioxide in just the last six years) except for ozone, which has been flat to down slightly just about everywhere in the country (except for California, whose historically higher levels continue to fall).

Ambient Carbon Monoxide in Louisville

Ambient Carbon Monoxide in Louisville


Ambient Sulfur Dioxide inn Louisville

Ambient Sulfur Dioxide in Louisville

Ambient Ozone in Louisville

Ambient Ozone in Louisville


Fine Particulates (PM2.5) in Louisville since 1990

Fine Particulates (PM2.5) in Louisville since 2000

Apparently it is too difficult for Politico reporters to check the data.  But in case anyone wishes to, you can find the raw EPA data here.

Then there’s this:

Heat consistently kills more people in the United States than any other form of extreme weather, including hurricanes, earthquakes and tornados, combined; nationally, about 658 people die every year because of exposure to excessive heat, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. . .

The problem is acute in Louisville. A 2012 study from the Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that 39 people die every year in Louisville from heat-related causes. That means that a city with .2 percent of the U.S. population experiences roughly 6 percent of heat-related deaths every year. The problem is only likely to get worse. Unless Louisville’s warming trend is reversed, the cumulative death toll could reach 18,000 by the end of this century—a projection that far exceeds that for any other city. (Emphasis added.)

This passage ought to be setting off alarms in anyone with minimal statistical literacy. First, the NRDC “estimated” that 39 people in Louisville die of heat each year? Isn’t this something coroners track? Second, if Louisville accounts for 6 percent of total heat deaths every year, then what are other urban areas doing to keep their death tolls disproportionately low? Something here doesn’t add up.

But like the “rape culture” narrative, for the “rape of the earth” narrative facts and rigorous analysis are unnecessary. Because 97 percent!


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