By E. Calvin Beisner
Because “having one fewer child reduces one’s contribution to the harms of climate change,” Travis Rieder argues, “everyone on Earth ought to consider having fewer children.”
Why? Because people use energy, more people use more energy, some 85 percent of energy worldwide comes from fossil fuels, and using them adds carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere. That in turn makes the atmosphere warmer. And that makes severe weather events like hurricanes, floods, droughts, and heat waves more frequent and more intense.
The argument seems conclusive.
Unless human action isn’t really a major contributor to climate change, or unless climate change isn’t so self-evidently harmful as Rieder and many others think.
Rieder and others who argue similarly appeal to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). They consider it the world’s most authoritative scientific body on the subject. Its 2013 Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) famously declared, “It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”
Since AR5 it has become increasingly clear that the computer climate models on which the IPCC and many governments rely grossly exaggerate CO2’s warming effect. Two lines of evidence show this.
First, on average the models predict two to three times as much warming as observed over the relevant period. This means the models exaggerate CO2’s warming effect by at least double if not triple. Why “at least”? Because, since Earth has warmed as much and as fast in the past as during the modeled period, it’s impossible to rule out natural contributions to recent warming and blame it all—or even any particular portion of it—on CO2.
That leads to the second line of evidence. Past periods of comparable warming demonstrate that, contrary to AR5’s claims, natural forces could have caused the observed warming during the modeled period. Recently, however, three researchers have provided a convincing argument that they did.
Climate scientists John R. Christy and Joseph S. D’Aleo and statistician James P. Wallace III have analyzed the correlations of what they call “Natural Factors”—solar, volcanic, and ocean current (especially El Niño/Southern Oscillation) variations—and human-induced atmospheric CO2 concentration, on the one hand, with global temperature, on the other. They conclude “that once just the Natural Factor impacts on temperature data are accounted for, there is no ‘record setting’ warming to be concerned about. In fact, there is no Natural Factor Adjusted Warming at all.”
In short, not just your child’s but all humans’ future CO2 emissions won’t make a detectable contribution to climate change. And that means they won’t make a detectable contribution to “droughts, storms, rising sea levels,” or any other alleged harmful consequences of it.
Add to that the fact that, according to alarmists’ most authoritative source, it’s not possible to tie increasing frequency or intensity of severe weather events to global warming. Indeed, there’s been no upward trend in either, as, for example, Ryan Maue shows for hurricanes. It follows that global warming, insofar as it happens, and whatever causes it, isn’t likely to be the disaster the alarmists think.
So, whatever else you might weigh when considering how many children to have, you don’t need to weigh their contribution to global warming.
Calvin Beisner is founder and national spokesman of The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.