Dick Cheney

23 February 2007

Jonathan Karl recently interviewed Dick Cheney on the topic of global warming.

JONATHAN KARL: But what's your sense, where is the science on this? Is global warming a fact? And is it human activity that is causing global warming?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Those are the two key questions. I think there's an emerging consensus that we do have global warming. You can look at the data on that, and I think clearly we're in a period of warming. Where there does not appear to be a consensus, where it begins to break down, is the extent to which that's part of a normal cycle versus the extent to which it's caused by man, greenhouse gases, et cetera.

True, there is no unanimous consensus as to the exact amount of anthropogenic warming. But there is a scientific consensus that the anthropogenic causes are very significant, and most likely the largest contributor to the warming of the past 50 years.

IPCC 2001:
"Human activities ... are modifying the concentration of atmospheric constituents ... that absorb or scatter radiant energy. ... [M]ost of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations"
Joint Statement on the Science of Climate Change 2001 (signed by the National Academies of 17 nations, including Britain's Royal Academy of Sciences):
The work of the IPCC represents the consensus of the international scientific community on climate change science. We recognise IPCC as the most reliable source of information on climate change and its causes, and we endorse its method of achieving this consensus. Despite increasing consensus on the science underpinning predictions on global climate change, doubts have been expressed recently about the need to mtigate the risks posed by global climate change. We do not consider such doubts justified.

The National Academy of Sciences 2001:
Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth's atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise... The changes observed over the last several decades are likely mostly due to human activities
American Meteorological Society 2003:
There is now clear evidence that the mean annual temperature at the Earth's surface, averaged over the entire globe, has been increasing in the past 200 years. There is also clear evidence that the abundance of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has increased over the same period. In the past decade, significant progress has been made toward a better understanding of the climate system and toward improved projections of long-term climate change... Human activities have become a major source of environmental change. Of great urgency are the climate consequences of the increasing atmospheric abundance of greenhouse gases... Because greenhouse gases continue to increase, we are, in effect, conducting a global climate experiment, neither planned nor controlled, the results of which may present unprecedented challenges to our wisdom and foresight as well as have significant impacts on our natural and societal systems.
American Geophysical Union 2003:
Human activities are increasingly altering the Earth's climate. These effects add to natural influences that have been present over Earth's history. Scientific evidence strongly indicates that natural influences cannot explain the rapid increase in global near-surface temperatures observed during the second half of the 20th century.
IPCC 2007:
Most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely [>90% certainty] due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.

Cheney goes on:
We've set targets for ourselves in terms of increasing energy efficiency, that is reducing the amount of energy per unit of output. And we're doing better at meeting those targets than I think virtually anybody who signed up with Kyoto. Most of the folks who signed up with Kyoto are not going to meet the targets.
I believe that Cheney is talking about the president's Clear Skies Initiative, but this is comparing apples to oranges. The Clear Skies Act, sponsored by James Inhofe, set only very modest goals for reductions in SO2, NOx, and mercury emissions. It really did nothing with respect to greenhouse gas emissions.

But going forward, if we are going to have a policy, we've got to find ways to do that are not inconsistent with economic growth. You can't shut down the world economy in the name of trying to eliminate greenhouse gases. But there are some answers out there — nuclear power, for example, is one of them. And getting the United States back into the nuclear power game I think would be a significant benefit — both in terms of producing the energy we need, but at the same time not contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.
I'm not aware of anyone proposing that we shut down the world economy in the name of eliminating greenhouse gases. That's just so much hyperbole. Nicholas Stern, chief economist at the World Bank in England, released a 700-page report assessing the costs and benefits of greenhouse gas reductions. I haven't read the report myself, so I can't speak for its accuracy, but he came to the conclusion that it would ultimately cost less to start reducing emissions than it would to continue business as usual.

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