King Canute is Alive and Well and Living in Newark


Politicians in New Jersey are currently bidding to join several other states in passing anti-global warming legislation. There is a bill making its way through the legislature that would commit the state to California-type emissions reductions of 80% by 2050.

The Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center has just produced a widely-noticed report in support of this bill predicting apocalyptic impacts – Inundated boardwalks! Heat deaths! Floods! – across New Jersey if we don’t head of global warming at the pass. The report is a pure advocacy.

It starts with a reasonable view of the climate history, though it consistently shades the science toward alarmism. For example, they say that “According to the consensus view of the scientific community, human activity is the primary cause of global warming”. The UN IPCC actually says that scientists are 90% confident that most of the warming is due to human activity. That is, there is a 1-in-10 chance that this is not true, which is not exactly the same as F=MA.

It then proceeds to provide a much more distorted view of projections for future outcomes. For example, when discussing projected sea level rises, which are a central issue for New Jersey, the report cites the actual range of projections from the IPCC, but then goes on to say that these estimates do not consider the potential impact of catastrophic impacts of things like the meting of the Greenland Ice Sheet. It says that scientists now consider this to be “more uncertain and possibly more serious than before”, based on a blog post at RealClimate. They might have done better to cite the actual IPCC formal statement on this subject. It said that ““Abrupt climate changes, such as the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, rapid loss of the Greenland Ice Sheet or large-scale changes in ocean circulation systems, are not considered likely to occur in the 21st century, based on currently available model results.” Amusingly, having relied throughout the report on the argument from authority that if the IPCC says it, then it’s “science”, the report says that because the IPCC represents a consensus opinion, its conclusions can be considered “conservative”. Really, why? Why wouldn’t they tend to be more alarmist because that is in the interests of the producers of the report? If they’re not objective, why wouldn’t they be skewed in some other different direction?

Where the report (and the proposed law), however, really comes off the rails is in its recommendations for action. The proposed solution for New Jersey: reduce emissions. This is ludicrous. New Jersey could drive its emissions to literally zero tomorrow morning, and it would not measurably impact any of these projected problems. On the other hand, there is not one single recommendation about changes to seaside zoning or building codes, constructing jetties, reservoir engineering or anything else that would ameliorate potential impacts. You know, anything practical. Unlike, say, passing a law that simply mandates a complete restructuring of the state’s economy in order not to solve a potential problem decades from now. Of course, nobody voting for this will be in office in 2050 to be held accountable, but I’m sure that hasn’t occurred to any of our esteemed legislators.


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