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Junk Science: McCain’s Embarrassing Climate Speech

While no one knows who first uttered the sentiment "It’s better to say nothing and seem a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt," Republican presidential hopeful John McCain’s speech this week on climate change certainly supports the phrase’s validity.

McCain spoke at the facilities of Vestas Wind Technology, an Oregon-based firm that manufactures wind-power systems. The irony of the setting was rich given McCain’s outspoken opposition to pork-barrel spending.

He even risked his presidential hopes by criticizing ethanol subsidies ahead of the all-important Iowa caucuses. Next to solar power, however, wind power is the most heavily subsidized form of energy.

Taxpayers cough up an astounding $23.37 per megawatt hour of electricity produced, according to the Wall Street Journal. In contrast, coal and natural gas are only subsidized to a tune of 44 cents and 25 cents, respectively.

McCain lauded wind as a "predictable source of energy." He must have missed this Feb. 27 headline from Reuters: "Loss of wind causes Texas power grid emergency." The electric grid operator was forced to curtail 1,100 megawatts of power to customers within 10 minutes.

"Our economy depends upon clean and affordable alternatives to fossil fuels," McCain stated.

What he’s talking about is not quite clear since our current economy is about 75 percent dependent on fossil fuels and will remain that way for at least the next 25 years, as solar and wind technologies remain only marginal sources of energy.

If anything, we are likely to be even more dependent on fossil fuels in the future as nuclear power, which provides about 20 percent of our electricity, shrinks in availability as a supply of energy.

Although our energy needs are ever-growing, construction of nuclear power plants is not keeping pace — not one has come online in the last 30 years. Even if a few nuke plants are constructed during the next decades, they will not supply enough power to keep nuclear power at the 20 percent level.

McCain then demonstrated how little he knows about the science of global warming.

"No longer do we need to rely on guesswork and computer modeling, because satellite images reveal a dramatic disappearance of glaciers, Antarctic ice shelves and polar ice sheets. And I’ve seen some of this evidence up close…"

Global warming alarmism, however, is entirely based on the "guesswork and computer modeling" that McCain says isn’t necessary. The reason the United Nations relies on "guesswork and computer modeling" is because the glaciers that are receding have been doing so since at least the 19th century, before significant human output of greenhouse gases.

In any event, the melting of glaciers is not evidence that humans are involved. Glaciers have been advancing and retreating for hundreds of millions of years. Just because humans are witnessing changes in glaciers does not mean that humans are causing them; moreover, Antarctic ice is expanding while any melting of Arctic ice is not likely due to warmer air temperatures.

"We have seen sustained drought in the Southwest and across the world average temperatures that seem to reach new records every few years. We have seen a higher incidence of extreme weather events," McCain stated.

But that "sustained drought" is why the Southwest is commonly known as a "desert" — and it was a desert long before industrial emissions of greenhouse gases.

As to global temperature, the world has cooled since 1998 and the latest research from U.N.-approved researchers indicates that more global cooling is on the way. With respect to extreme weather events, I can’t think of a single scientist — even an alarmist scientist — who has the temerity to stand up and link specific weather events with climate change.

McCain’s apparent climate mentor, Al Gore, learned this lesson the hard way last fall.

McCain touted a so-called cap-and-trade system for controlling greenhouse gas emissions, citing the supposed success of the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments’ cap-and-trade system for the sulfur dioxide emissions linked to the alleged phenomenon of acid rain.

But even if acid rain were a genuine environmental problem — and studies leading up to the 1990 law cast significant doubt — controlling sulfur dioxide emissions is many orders of magnitude easier than controlling greenhouse gas emissions.

The volume of sulfur dioxide emissions to be eliminated is much smaller, the sources (coal-fired power plants) are relatively few and the smokestack technology is comparatively inexpensive.

McCain said that "A cap-and-trade policy will send a signal that will be heard and welcomed all across the American economy." This is unlikely since cap-and-trade’s economic harms have been exposed and condemned by the likes of the Congressional Budget Office, the Environmental Protection Agency and renown economists such as Alan Greenspan and Arthur Laffer.

Even the Clinton administration warned of the economic harms that would be caused by cap-and-trade.

Although China, the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter, vows not to reduce its emissions, McCain says the U.S. should act anyway. So as China, India and other developing nations become the world's greenhouse gas smokestacks, thereby nullifying any reductions made by the U.S., McCain willingly condemns the U.S. to more expensive and less available energy supplies for no environmental benefit whatsoever.

Undaunted by facts, McCain appears to be programmed with every nonsensical green platitude and policy — a truly worrisome situation since global warming regulation is shaping up to be the most important domestic policy issue of the upcoming election.

Many McCain supporters believe he is the candidate to lead the country at a time of war. But there is a war of sorts at home, too — the struggle against the greens for control over vital domestic energy and economic policy. We can’t afford to lose the latter war, either.

Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and DemandDebate.com. He is a junk science expert, advocate of free enterprise and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.