Blog author: jarmstrong
by on Friday, March 23, 2007

I have tried to read everything that I can find the time to digest on the subject of global warming. I saw Al Gore’s award-winning documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" and even had some nice things to say about it. I have always been put off by the use of terms like "environmental whackos" and "earthist nut balls" from the political right. There is, in my humble opinion, little doubt that the earth is getting warmer. What is in great doubt is almost everything else. How warm will the earth become and how soon? Why is it really warming? What can we do about this problem now? How fast should we respond? And will radical responses, the kind that Al Gore argued for this week in the House hearing room on Capitol Hill, make a real difference? Bottom line: Will these alarmist responses help or harm the overall state of things on the earth? I am presently a skeptic when it comes to proving most of the claims being made by the alarmists. Something inside of me wants to agree with the climatologists who have deep concerns, if for no other reason than to avoid association with the right wing craziness and the radical left.

But make no mistake about it, this issue is politicized in every possible way. Anyone who argues otherwise is asleep. Both sides have a horse in this race. And alarmism does sell right now. Just think about the conspiracy theories that run rampant throughout modern life. Al Gore spoke of the planet "having a fever and if your baby has a fever, you go to the doctor. If the doctor says you need to intervene here, you don’t say, ‘Well, I read a science-fiction novel that tells me it’s not a problem.’ If the crib’s on fire, you don’t speculate that the blanket is flame retardant, you take action." That is about as alarmist as you can get it, so it seems to me. I am not sure if Gore is referring to Michael Crichton’s novel State of Fear, when he refers to a science-fiction novel, but it is a best-seller that has had immense impact on many, including me. Before you blow it off please read it. Be sure to read the forty-plus pages of annotated notes and bibliography of books that Crichton read in order to write this book. It is a fun book, but it makes a serious point that I think Gore and his friends miss. (I actually wonder if the book makes them angry because it is so good.)

The press reports say that Al Gore was at his "most passionate" when describing global warming as a "moral imperative." Dennis Hastert (R.IL) offered agreement with Gore saying that human activity is to blame for the rise in temperature, as did some other Republicans. This crusade has taken on the tones of a moral crusade with many people becoming more and more alarmed. This includes a number of evangelicals who have signed unwise and misleading statements on the climate. I, for one, take the words "moral imperative"  very seriously. I think these words are being pressed into service in troubling ways that border on becoming vacuous if we are not truly careful.

In a column published yesterday by Hoover Institute scholar Thomas Sowell he says that we should not expect a lot of fair and open debate about climate change in the near future. Why? National Public Radio (NPR) recently did a debate in which people were polled before and after the debate. After hearing the debate a good number of people who previously believed global warming was primarily caused by human carbon emissions changed their minds. Sowell suggests that this spells the end of such open debate in the near future. That would be a real shame. If this is really a "moral imperative" then those who are convinced that it is should not fear the debate but rather enter it and show people like me why they are right. I am open to facts and would change my mind if I saw the right reasons to do so. Attacking the motives of the non-alarmists is not convincing at all. In fact, it makes me loathe to accept the Gore thesis more than ever. After all, isn’t this the same politician who invented the Internet?


  • http://lawandliberty.blogspot.com John Modra

    Delighted that Acton exists, and does the hard yards on the critical issues for all us- wether downunder (like me) or upover.
    As a practical production ecologist ( (http://productionecologists.blogspot.com)with a love of physics and down to earth organic and inorganic chemistry I find the discussion of carbon cycles in the main media shallow, simplistic and half baked( all the more reason to blog!). For outsiders who want to keep their heads and help us all ‘keep cool” over this, i suggest you keep asking dumb questions so that the giantists don’t overwhelm us with their diversionary travels across the landscape . The technological fix approach ( diversionary) is a common substitute for substantive science that shows participants are not committed to “the big picture” at all. Keep in touch with topical news via websites in brackets )

  • Tavita

    You said,

    “I am open to facts and would change my mind if I saw the right reasons to do so. Attacking the motives of the non-alarmists is not convincing at all. In fact, it makes me loathe to accept the Gore thesis more than ever. After all, isn’t this the same politician who invented the Internet?”

    This is brilliant, you whine about people attacking denialists, and then presto, you attack Gore.

    First, it’s not Gore’s thesis he is merely pointing to the thesis of the IPCC. If you want facts try reading their most recent Summary for Policy Makers, even George Bush agrees with it.

    http://www.energy.gov/environment/4704.htm

    Second, how long are you folks going to be pushing this old lie about Gore and the internet. It is simply bogus.

    http://dir.salon.com/story/tech/col/rose/2000/10/05/gore_internet/index.html

    http://www.mintruth.com/wiki/index.php?Al%20Gore%20and%20the%20Internet

  • http://stbarbara.blogspot.com John Powers

    Whew, that is a relief. The great scientist of George Bush is now in agreement with the great scientific mind of Al Gore.

    As long as Gore is using metaphors and making bizarre claims that anyone who questions him is in tow to Big Oil, I see no reason to even consider his claims.

    JBP

  • Tavita

    JBP says,

    “As long as Gore is using metaphors and making bizarre claims that anyone who questions him is in tow to Big Oil, I see no reason to even consider his claims.”

    Wonderful, forget about Gore, and don’t consider what our President has to say, just seriously consider the scientific claims of the IPCC.

    http://www.ipcc.ch/SPM2feb07.pdf

  • http://stbarbara.blogspot.com John Powers

    OK,

    So if there are serious scientific claims, why not fund the NSF to study this, and leave the politicians out of it?

    Or would that reduce the power-grab nature of the leftish supporters of the global warming theories? I am sure there are many environmental issues that need some study; I am sure there are many many less issues that need further governmnet action.

    JBP

  • http://www.hubsandspokes.com marc

    What you’re referring to there is the [i]political[/i] summary of the IPCC assessment report (which has been released a number of months prior to the release of any scientific report issued by the panel), which is written by bureaucrats, [i]NOT[/i] scientists. It should also be noted that the UN reports have been consistently wrong when it comes to predicting the course of global climate, with many predictions from earlier reports being significantly scaled back in this one.

    While you’re asking people to seriously consider the IPCC summary, you might want to seriously consider [url=http://ff.org/centers/csspp/pdf/20070201_monckton.pdf]just how much serious consideration you give to that document[/url]…

  • Tavita

    Marc,

    You are simply incorrect, the SPM is written by scientists, though their draft is reviewed by representatives from the world’s governments including the U.S.. The scientists have to be happy with the final product and can object if they think the meaning of the science has been changed.

    http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?chanID=sa003&articleID=7A69E4EE-E7F2-99DF-303CDE51F7DD6BBA

    I do take this seriously, I live on an island in the South Pacific, I have to take it seriously. Too seriously to put up with misrepresentations of the IPCC process. And, yes, I will be reading the actual chapters of the reports when they start coming out in May.

    And please tell me how the IPCC reports have been consistently wrong. Or do you mean they consistently refined their predictions as new data became available, as good scientists should?

    The IPCC has been correct about temperature increases which is the heart of the matter, no?

    “It had predicted warming of between 0.15 and 0.3 degrees C (0.27 and 0.54 degrees F) per decade for 1990-2005. The warming turned out to be 0.2 degrees C (0.36 degree F), right in the middle of the range.”

    http://www.celsias.com/blog/2007/02/02/ipcc-report-released/

    But people don’t have to take my word for it. The IPCC reports are available here,

    http://www.ipcc.ch/

  • Tavita
  • Tavita

    JBP,

    The NSF has been funding global warming studies. Here are a few examples.

    http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=105692

    http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=108522&org=NSF&from=news

    http://usinfo.state.gov/xarchives/display.html?p=washfile-english&y=2006&m=August&x=20060816100146lcnirellep0.96719

    The SMP is a summary of the science of global warming for policy makers. (I have no doubt that the some of the studies reviewed are NSF funded studies.) The scientists can tell us what is happening with global warming, but the policy makers (i.e. our elected officials or politicians) have to decide what to do about it.

    The fact of anthropogenic global warming is not a political issue, conservative Bush agrees anthropogenic global warming is real and so does conservative PM John Howard of Austraila, and so does conservative presidential hopeful John McCain.

    What to do about it is political issue. That’s what we should be debating. Is government better able to solve the problem or the market, or some combination of the two? I really don’t care, if you can show me how the market can solve the problem, fine. But then show me how and institute the market based policies that will do it.

    It’s time to do something about it. What we need is both parties competing with each other to show who can solve the problem faster.

    And it is true that IPCC has changed some of its conclusions and one change is that they *more* certain that global warming is very likely due to human activity; with 90% certainty. There is no “great doubt” about it in the scientific community. Given that, we need some countervailing human action to stop it, before we reach a point of no return.

    And it makes traditional conservative sense to deal with it sooner than later. An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. What’s so “radical” about that? Let’s get to it.

  • http://www.discussglobalwarming.com/blog Discuss Global Warming

    There is plenty of doubt. Just because a politician SAYS there is global warming, and gets his buddy-scientists in Universities across the nation and their friends overseas to agree for the sake of extra funding, we should agree all agree with them?

    Once politicians get involved I KNOW it has gone into the gutter.

  • http://stbarbara.blogspot.com John Powers

    So Tavita,

    Are you aware of any studies by the NSF that rank risks to global warming vs. risks such as malaria, aids etc?

    The only one I am familiar with, is the Copenhagen Consensus, which ranked the risk of global warming below malaria, nutrition, and aids.

    Have other rational scientists looked at a the resource allocation necessary to combat global warming?

    JBP

  • Tavita

    JBP,

    The “Copenhagen Consensus” consists of a set of papers written by 10 economists, reviewed by 20 others, it did not have any natural scientists or even public-health experts on its panel. But for me the biggest flaw in their approach is that they are assuming we have to choose and prioritize these problems in the first place. There is no doubt in my mind that the world has enough resources to fight malaria, aids, improve nutrition, and deal with global warming at the same time. What we may lack is political will, but I think there is no rational excuse. Let’s get to it!

    http://www.earth.columbia.edu/about/director/documents/nature081204.pdf

    And there are other studies of the economics of climate change, for instance,

    The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change.

    It argues that there is still time to avoid the negative effects of climate change if serious action is taken now.

    For a summary,

    http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/media/999/76/CLOSED_SHORT_executive_summary.pdf

    The full report can be found here.

    http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/independent_reviews/stern_review_economics_climate_change/sternreview_index.cfm

    But you know, you can do google searches on this as effectively as me if you are really interested. For those who have not made up their minds, I find these two sites helpful.

    http://www.realclimate.org

    and

    http://illconsidered.blogspot.com/

  • Tavita

    Discus Global Warming,

    You have it upside down, the scientists have been ahead of the politicians on this for years. Bush and Howard were kicking and screaming the whole way until they finally agreed that AGW is real. Do you really believe that if Bush’s and Howard’s scientific advisors had been able to find anything wrong with the AGW thesis that they would agree with it?

    But I suppose that if you are that cynical when it comes to the scientific method and our political process that there is no arguing with you.

  • http://careofcreation.org Ed

    “It is a fun book, but it makes a serious point that I think Gore and his friends miss. (I actually wonder if the book makes them angry because it is so good.)”

    Please!!! It may be a “fun” book – but it isn’t a good book; plot is awful, characterizations are absurd, and an author who has to kill off one of his main characters by having him be eaten *alive*(!!!) by cannibals… let’s just say, if Crichton didn’t have a name because of earlier works like Jurassic Park, I don’t think this book would have seen the light of day.

    As far as Crichton’s homilies on global warming are concerned, RealClimate.org ran a very balanced review of the science some time ago. Check it out [URL=http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=74]here.[/url]

  • http://stbarbara.blogspot.com John Powers

    Tavita,
    In real life you have to prioritize. You can chose to prioritize based on screechy politicians, the reactions of Al Gore’s computer generated polar bears, or based on some rather insightful people having formed a consensus.

    “But for me the biggest flaw in their approach is that they are assuming we have to choose and prioritize these problems in the first place”

    I’ll toss this challenge out to you Tavita, go fix the HIV problem, then come back and work on Global Warming. Curing HIV seems relatively simple compared to turning the world economy upside down. Fix that first, build up some credibility in multi-national fixes, then tackle less pressing issues.

    JBP

  • Tavita

    JBP says,

    “You can chose to prioritize based on screechy politicians, the reactions of Al Gore’s computer generated polar bears, or based on some rather insightful people having formed a consensus.”

    I’ll base my actions relative to AGW on the science found in the IPCC reports and elsewhere, thank you very much.

    And JBP says,

    “I’ll toss this challenge out to you Tavita, go fix the HIV problem, then come back and work on Global Warming. Curing HIV seems relatively simple compared to turning the world economy upside down. Fix that first, build up some credibility in multi-national fixes, then tackle less pressing issues.”

    Why wait until, global warming is “pressing” and there is little that we can do about it? That is simply imprudent; if I have heart disease and cancer I treat both. I don’t prioritize them because I haven’t seen dramatic symptons in one of them yet.

    Besides, it’s not hard for me to write letters to my Congressman about HIV *and* Global Warming. And, in fact, I’m on the boards of three ngo’s that have nothing to do with global warming.

    And JBP says that curing HIV seems relatively simple compared to fixing AGW, but that is exactly my point. That is why the Copenhagen group chose those other problems first, with only a hypothetical 50 billion to work with, it seemed more likely that one would see results on HIV compared to AGW. But that doesn’t make the tougher AGW problem go away. That doesn’t mean there are less risks involved with AGW than HIV. In fact, delay will only help to ensure that it will be harder to tackle. That is why we need to start working on it (and HIV) now.

    Incidently, the money I have saved (about $700 annually) by lowering my carbon footprint means I will have more money to send to the Sudan and more money to buy CFLs for the poor families in my town.

  • http://machine2enterprise.com/ Jim Bell

    I saw a recent article in Government Computing News: GSA paves way for IT-based buildings that explains how the state of Missouri is achieving upwards to $30M in savings using some IT/Energy solution, on existing infrastructure, from some firm named Gridlogix.

    The state seems to have a pretty novel approach to achieve a large near term savings. While the Ice Caps melt, maybe its time to look for better technology oriented solutions.

    energylover@gmail.com

  • http://dogood.blogspot.com john modra

    Yes many of the things we can do something about in helping to reduce environmnetal stress are being neglected for agendas that are clearly still in the melting pot —-because we are still uncertain about the cause and effect relationships -like the climate co2 connection . Help us to be not only speculators, but actively using our time and energy while we wait for answers . dogood.blogspot.com