I’m all for clean air and water, and a lovely environment. I’m extremely hostile, however, to being bullied. I’ve gotten to the point where I often find myself turning a light on in my home and thinking “Take that Al Gore. I’ll start conserving energy in a serious way when you move into a 2,500 square foot home. Same for you John Edwards. You, too, Hillary.”
I know that, if an energy hog cuts his or her energy use a little bit, he’s still an energy hog. However, when I, who have always tried to be extremely energy conscious because of the hit on my pocket book, try to achieve the goals set for me by these political plutocrats, I end up sitting in the cold and the dark.
I was therefore pleased to read at Newbusters that there is yet another example of the climate change worm turning. This time, the apostate is John R. Christy, a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which just won a Nobel Prize for its support of the global warming theory. Christy has written an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal denouncing the hysteria as a misreading of real science. I’m sure the WSJ will soon make it publicly available, but right now you can see it here:
The Nobel committee praises Mr. Gore and the IPCC for alerting us to a potential catastrophe and for spurring us to a carbonless economy.
I’m sure the majority (but not all) of my IPCC colleagues cringe when I say this, but I see neither the developing catastrophe nor the smoking gun proving that human activity is to blame for most of the warming we see. Rather, I see a reliance on climate models (useful but never “proof”) and the coincidence that changes in carbon dioxide and global temperatures have loose similarity over time.
There are some of us who remain so humbled by the task of measuring and understanding the extraordinarily complex climate system that we are skeptical of our ability to know what it is doing and why. As we build climate data sets from scratch and look into the guts of the climate system, however, we don’t find the alarmist theory matching observations. (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite data we analyze at the University of Alabama in Huntsville does show modest warming — around 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit per century, if current warming trends of 0.25 degrees per decade continue.)
Mother Nature simply operates at a level of complexity that is, at this point, beyond the mastery of mere mortals (such as scientists) and the tools available to us. As my high-school physics teacher admonished us in those we-shall-conquer-the-world-with-a-slide-rule days, “Begin all of your scientific pronouncements with ‘At our present level of ignorance, we think we know . . .'”
I haven’t seen that type of climate humility lately. Rather I see jump-to-conclusions advocates and, unfortunately, some scientists who see in every weather anomaly the specter of a global-warming apocalypse. Explaining each successive phenomenon as a result of human action gives them comfort and an easy answer.
One of the challenges in studying global climate is keeping a global perspective, especially when much of the research focuses on data gathered from spots around the globe. Often observations from one region get more attention than equally valid data from another.
The recent CNN report “Planet in Peril,” for instance, spent considerable time discussing shrinking Arctic sea ice cover. CNN did not note that winter sea ice around Antarctica last month set a record maximum (yes, maximum) for coverage since aerial measurements started.
Then there is the challenge of translating global trends to local climate. For instance, hasn’t global warming led to the five-year drought and fires in the U.S. Southwest?
There has been a drought, but it would be a stretch to link this drought to carbon dioxide. If you look at the 1,000-year climate record for the western U.S. you will see not five-year but 50-year-long droughts. The 12th and 13th centuries were particularly dry. The inconvenient truth is that the last century has been fairly benign in the American West. A return to the region’s long-term “normal” climate would present huge challenges for urban planners.
Christy does not discount the fact that humans produce CO2, but finds the fairly fixes useless (although very inconvenient and costly):
California and some Northeastern states have decided to force their residents to buy cars that average 43 miles-per-gallon within the next decade. Even if you applied this law to the entire world, the net effect would reduce projected warming by about 0.05 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, an amount so minuscule as to be undetectable. Global temperatures vary more than that from day to day.
Suppose you are very serious about making a dent in carbon emissions and could replace about 10% of the world’s energy sources with non-CO2-emitting nuclear power by 2020 — roughly equivalent to halving U.S. emissions. Based on IPCC-like projections, the required 1,000 new nuclear power plants would slow the warming by about 0.2 ?176 degrees Fahrenheit per century. It’s a dent.
But what is the economic and human price, and what is it worth given the scientific uncertainty?
I guess the hysteria will stop eventually, but what irks me almost as much as the hysteria itself is that those who fomented it — the Al Gore’s of this world — will never be held accountable for the huge psychic and economic costs their hysteria created. Instead, the whole thing will just drift painlessly away, with Al Gore either vanishing peacefully into obscurity (and the sooner the better, I say), or latching on to a new cause to keep up his street cred with the Left.