2008 International Conference on Climate Change: Avery, Singer, Armstrong
Dennis T. Avery
Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute
The Unintended Consequences of Biofuels as a Global Warming ‘Solution’
Avery started off the morning with a talk of the ecologically dangerous side of biofuels. The price of energy independence in recent years has caused the price of corn, wheat, and related goods to drastically increase at the cost of good land. In Avery’s words, biofuel “takes too much land and gives too little fuel,” and should lead us to wonder if the land saved by Norman Borlaug was really meant to be used for biofuel.
The talk concluded with dispelling some common misconceptions: no species have been lost to global warming yet, and the temperature correlation is with sun spots, not carbon dioxide.
S. Fred Singer, Ph.D
Science and Environmental Policy Project
The Catastrophic Impact of Global Warming Fears on Energy Policy
Singer began the talk with several questions. If global warming is natural, then why do models predict major global warming? How effective is mitigation? Some opponents say there’s “something wrong with the data” when greenhouse models estimate the man-made effect as much smaller. He then turned the focus to several energy sources and policies that are simply not efficient: wind/solar/ocean energy sources that very expensive, cap & trade, carbon capture. If the United States was truly on a road to energy independence, why not focus on obtaining energy available right on our own soil and off our shores?
J. Scott Armstrong, Ph.D
Professor, Wharton School
University of Pennsylvania, U.S.
Strengths and Weaknesses of Climate Models
Armstrong’s talk covered his recent public policy forecasting audit of polar bear populations. The US government’s decision to list polar bears as endangered species comes down to forecasts of polar bear populations, yet none of the authors of the Amstrup and Hunter papers called upon the well-established principles of the forecasting field. The forecast of a 2/3 decline in the polar bear population from Amstrup et al. was instead based on the “unaided expert judgments by a single expert” – the lead author.
These forecasts were made despite the fact polar bear populations have been growing rapidly in recent years, and the forecast of increasing ice-free days was projected from only the last several years. The reports involved a complex set of assumptions that make it very difficult to forecast effectively let alone accurately into the future.