Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Some Sensible Musings on Climate Change

The Tuesday Morning Quarterback was at it again over on ESPN. This time, he is penning sensible words on climate change and the recent mostly useless meeting over in Copenhagen. I don't agree with every single word, but boy, it is hard to find stuff on climate change/global warming that is not totally politically loaded from either point of view. (Click right here to find more TMQ and Easterbrook links).

Heads of State Pause Their Limos at Their Personal Jets to Denounce Fossil Fuel Use:As the Copenhagen climate summit grinds on with -- big surprise! -- nothing specific agreed upon, here's my summary of what you need to know about the global warming issue, bearing in mind yours truly is the author of an 800-page book about environmental policy(that book was so fast-paced, it only seemed like 700 pages):

• There is indeed a strong scientific consensus regarding climate change. The deniers simply aren't honest about this.

• The consensus is that in the last century, air has warmed by about one degree Fahrenheit while the oceans have warmed a little and become slightly acidic; rainfall patterns have changed in some places, and most though not all ice melting has accelerated.

• That consensus is significant, but hardly means there is a crisis. Glaciers and sea ice, for example, have been in a melting cycle for thousands of years, while air warming has so far been good for farm yields. The doomsayers simply aren't honest about how mild the science consensus is.

• Predictions of global devastation -- climate change is a "profound emergency" that will "ravage our planet" -- are absurd exaggerations, usually motivated by political or fund-raising agendas.

• Climate change has serious possible negative consequences, especially if rainfall shifts away from agricultural regions.

• Global poverty, disease, dirty air and lack of clean water in developing world cities and lack of education are far higher priorities than greenhouse gas emissions.

• Smog and acid rain turned out to be far cheaper to control than predicted; the same may happen with greenhouse gases.

• The United States must regulate greenhouse gases in order to bring American brainpower, in engineering and in business, to bear on the problem.

• A carbon tax, not some super-complex cap-and-trade scheme that mainly creates jobs for bureaucrats and lawyers, would be the best approach.

• If the United States invents technology to control greenhouse gases, no super-complex international treaty will be needed. Nations will adopt greenhouse controls on their own, because it will be in their self-interest to do so. Smog and acid rain are declining almost everywhere, though are not governed by any international treaty; nations have decided to regulate smog and acid rain emissions on their own, because it is in their self-interest to do so.

As for the e-mails hacked from a greenhouse research center in the United Kingdom, e-mails are private correspondence. Copying them without permission is at the least unethical, and perhaps a crime. If you saw private letters on someone's desk, photocopied them and posted them on the Web, you would be considered a person of low character. Whoever hacked the climate e-mails is at the very least an unethical person of low character, and one should be wary of the agendas of unethical people.

[+] EnlargeClimate talks
AP Photo/Anja NiedringhausA Copenhagen protester passed out under the strain of verbiage.

That said, many climate scientists are rigidly ideological and believe dissent must be shouted down. This is partly because of money and privilege. The United States and European Union spend about $6 billion annually on climate change research, and every penny goes to alarmism, because it can be used to justify government expansion. Being a climate doomsayer is a path to cash and tenure -- even to celebrity, as making wildly exaggerated claims got Al Gore a Noble Prize plus stock in companies now winning government subsidies triggered by alarmism. The doomsayers are lauded by foundations, go to parties with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and attend taxpayer-subsidized conferences in Nice. They've formed a guild with intense focus on maintaining guild structure. The 1962 Thomas Kuhn book "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" is best-known for introducing the "paradigm shift" concept. Kuhn's larger argument was that science is not an abstract truth-seeking realm, rather, subject to fads and what is now called political correctness, and one in which many scientists are concerned foremost with safeguarding their sinecure by toeing the line.

Plus the alarmists need to divert attention from the inconvenient truth that 20 years ago, Gore and James Hansen of NASA began to say that without immediate drastic action against greenhouse gases, there would soon be global calamities. Nothing was done -- and no problem so far. That is no reason to be complacent -- warming-caused problems may be in store. But for the self-interested alarmists, this is a reason to shout down their critics.

Footnote: John Siemieniec of West Dundee, Ill., was among many readers to note the 140 private jets and 1,200 limos at the climate summit. World leaders and celebrities rode in comfort to a conference to wag their fingers about how somebody else should stop wasting fossil fuel.

I can't add much, other than to say that one, we should treat the earth kindly, because it's where we live and what we have stewardship of, and two, that we should be doing solid science on this, not corrupting the science with political bullcrap.

1 comment:

Ann T. said...

Dear The Observer,
What a relief to find something reasonable on the issue. It is true that fund=raising on both sides is facilitated by alarmism. I am completely sure about that. Everything taken to the lowest possible denominator.

I think this person missed some of the agriculture, though. I think high-elevation, close-to-equator agriculture is suffering somewhat more than say latitudes closer to the north or south pole. (That's morning coffee, for instance.)

This tends to reinforce the world belief that the equatorial states (among the poorest) will be baked and burned for the convenience of those better situated.

What I never understand, the pro-business side should be happier than clams to develop the technology that would end this. While American business pouts, they are missing the boat to the next big thing for U.S. manufacturing sector. I think this R & D could be one thing to bring back our economy, but instead we've got our eyes closed.

Love this! Love this post! Thanks for allowing me to rant!

Ann T.