Noon: Fact-checking Obama's Paris presentation

Marita Noon
Marita Noon

On Dec. 4 at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, Christina Figueres, the UN’s top climate change official, made clear that the meeting wasn’t “about the temperature,” which she said “is just a proxy.” Instead, she revealed it “is about the decarbonisation of the economy,” which means ending the use of fossil fuels, such as natural gas, oil and coal.

World leaders spoke on the opening day of the conference, and each was given three minutes to speak. All followed the rules and stayed within the limited time frame, except for President Obama, who overspoke by nearly five times what he was allotted and ignored the frequent beeps designed to signal that time is up.

What did he have to say that required 14 minutes of prepared remarks?

Obama’s speech was filled with hyperbole and distortions such as these:

The sea is already swallowing villages

The above statement is referencing his recent trip to Alaska and likely is describing Kivalina, a village of indigenous people that he flew over on Air Force One. It is located on a barrier Island, a spit of land not reachable by road. By nature, barrier beaches, islands and other ephemeral structures are constantly changing. For example, in the 1990s the National Park Service had to move the iconic Hatteras Lighthouse because its barrier island had moved away from the ocean and toward the sound side. This migration of the Outer Banks has been ongoing the last 10,000 years — long before any talk of “climate change.”

Despite increasing carbon dioxide levels, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's tide gauge station closest to Kivalina is in Nome, Alaska. It shows no sea level rise in that part of Alaska.

Kivalina may face changes due to nature, but not because of fossil fuels.

Glaciers are melting at a pace unprecedented in modern times

During his Alaska trip, Obama visited Exit Glacier near Seward. Historians, geologists, National Park Service employees and glaciologists have been keeping track of glaciers for hundreds of years, and the records for Exit Glacier are no exception. The records show for more than 100 years, Exit Glacier has been retreating, but the maximum retreat rate was 300 feet per year in 1918. Last year, Exit Glacier retreated a mere 187 feet. Near Exit Glacier at Seward sea levels, as measured by the tide gage there, are actually falling.

Submerged countries. Abandoned cities.

Here, based on later comments, we can guess that Obama is referring to the coral islands of the Pacific. However, researchers J.R. Houston and R.G. Dean examined 57 tide gages with East, Gulf, West, Alaskan, Aleutian and Island having 100-year periods of record. And they show no late 20th century acceleration of sea level rise. Additionally, recent research confirms what Charles Darwin found on the HMS Beagle in the 1830s: corals keep up with rising seas. In July 2014, Science Magazine published a report titled “Warming may not swamp islands.” It states, “Studies suggest that atoll islands will rise in step with a rising sea.”

These three examples are a sampling of the extreme statements Obama offered. Had he stuck to his three-minute timeframe, he might have had to acknowledge that temperature is just a proxy.

What this is really about, as Figueres previously revealed, is “a complete transformation of the economic structure of the world," which will put America in deeper debt and cost everyone more.

But that would be a tough sell to average Americans who aren’t looking for a complete transformation of the structure of the world, which sounds a lot like the goal of the terrorists who attacked Paris.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy.