Monday, January 29, 2007

More Politics Than Science, Again: Global Warming

On PBS' "Now" last Friday, Laurie David, producer of Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth," proclaimed, with the certainty of a Puritan preacher, that the science is settled, global warming is happening at crisis levels, human activity is to blame -- and anyone who disagrees is sub-humanly ignorant (asserted in perhaps milder words pointing to a similar judgment). Passionate she was and attractive, because I think she's sincere in her passion.

But two people and a few facts leave me thinking she's two-thirds (or more) wrong: yes, global warming is happening (about 1 degree Fahrenheit over the last century, pretty much everyone agrees) but no, not at crisis levels and not caused primarily by human fossil-fuels emissions.

The two people?

(1) Emeritus Professor William Gray, hurricane researcher at Colorado State University, Ft. Collins, who knows that surface global temperature rises and falls for reasons that, as yet, we don't understand. He produces a graph showing such temperatures falling from the mid-1940s through the mid-1970s. Newsweek in 1975 (28 April) warned that lowered temperatures could result in lower harvests, leading to resulting famines that "could be catastrophic."

Let's see: I graduated from high school in 1974, and the only shortage that stands out from that time in my mind today is the humanly contrived gasoline shortages of 1973 and later. I don't remember missing a meal or any empty grocery shelves. Temps fell, yes; but no, no crisis, and no, human activity did not cause the fall.

Gray acknowledges that temps have been rising since the 1970s, but he attributes the current media-and-political "climate" about the rise to, well, forces driving media and politics. Media profits from crisis, which raises not temperatures but media and advertising $ale$. And, whatever viewpoint controls government agencies ends up controlling the intellectual output of researchers who profit from government-grant revenues.

Gray should know. After winning government NOAA grants for 30 years, after the Clinton administration arrived in 1993 (and gave the global-warming-crisis theory a home in government), his grant applications have been rejected. Every time. 13 times, to be exact. "A mild form of McCarthyism" he says, against anyone skeptical of the "crisis."

(2) Richard S. Lindzen, Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at MIT (now there's a title to kill for). He is an often-cited early voice debunking climate-change hysteria. And he's not cooling his debunking. The earth's "always warming and cooling," and the increase we've seen over the past century "is much smaller than (computer climate) models predict we should have seen" given the amount of CO2 we've added. And adding more CO2 may amplify the greenhouse effect less than the earliest additions of CO2 because it's "like painting a window with black paint. The first coat blocks out most of the light; adding three times as many coats doesn't do a heck of a lot."

Now the facts, quoted straight from Stuart Shepard (from whom the above, except for my opening paragraphs, is summarized):

"You've heard there's a consensus among scientists concerning catastrophic human-induced global warming.

"Let's knock that down in three steps.

"One, while there is consensus that the average global temperature has increased, there is not a consensus on:

* How much it has gone up.
* Whether it will continue to go up.
* How much humans are responsible.
* Whether warmer temperature presents a crisis of a benefit.
* Whether increased CO2 levels cause the warming or follow the warming.
* What public-policy action we should take, if any.
* Whether anything we do would have a significant impact.
* Whether anything we do might have the opposite of the desired effect.

. . .

"Two, when someone trumpets a consensus, they're taking the general agreement concerning warmer average temperatures and stretching it to fit everything they are about to tell us we should do -- which is deceitful at best, sinister at worst.

"Three, as Lindzen expressed it, 'Science, first of all, is not conducted by consensus and science is not a matter of authority; it's a process. And so whenever [people] hear politicians declare "the science is settled, the debate is over" and so on, they should be aware, they're not hearing about science.

"He said 'the debate is over' line may be a good political technique, but it's dishonest."

(S. Shepard, "Hot Air: Global warming is more about politics than science," Focus on the Family Action, Focus on the Family Citizen, November 2006, pp. 22--23.)

Concerning the politics of it all, E. Calvin Beisner, associate professor of social ethics at Knox Theological Seminary, believes that recent attempts to get evangelical Christians on the warming-crisis bandwagon express "an intentional effort . . . to split the evangelical vote that has tended to be fairly strong pro-Republican in order to return control of the Congress to the Democratic Party" (Shepard, p. 23).

The Dems now control Congress, but I hope that the cautions Beisner and others of the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance urge will help cool the hysteria (the real warming crisis!)

before it brakes economies, which will certainly hurt the poor (at home and abroad) far more than the middle class and the rich. Why don't we hear Al Gore et al estimate what their global-warming mitigations will cost the most vulnerable among us? (Watch Beisner et al present "Call to Truth, Prudence and the Protection of the Poor: An Evangelical Response to Global Warming" at the Heritage Foundation, July 25, 2006.)