The Libertarian Warmist Brigade


shutterstock_170221427Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, Professor Jonathan Adler, a scholar with “strong libertarian leanings” urges conservatives to accept man-made global warming, even though it is not “ideologically convenient.” Although I doubt whether his embrace of anthropogenic global warming (AGM) is all that inconvenient — a surefire way for any conservative to gain mainstream credibility is to take up some liberal cause, and lately that means either climate change or same-sex marriage — Adler does, I think, make two important points: 1) one’s ideology should not influence one’s conclusion about climate change (or lack thereof), and; 2) belief in man-made global warming does not necessarily mean that you endorse loony left solutions to climate change.

Fair enough, but Adler himself does not summon any evidence in favor of human-caused warming.  Instead he cites an article in Reason by libertarian science writer Ronald Bailey, who makes the case for AGM. But none of Bailey’s evidence proves any link between human activity and climate change. Indeed, I don’t think he even presents evidence of a long-term warming trend: he cites no data earlier than the 1950s, and much of his data is from the last couple decades — surely a mere blip in climate terms.  Bailey concedes that scientists can only speculate as to the reason for the 17-year hiatus in global warming, and he declares that the growing extent of Antarctic sea ice is “a climate change conundrum.” Other than that, it’s a slam dunk case for AGM.

Ricochetti: is this the best evidence there is for AGM?  I’m not convinced, but if you are, come out and make the case.  There’s nothing to be ashamed of – with Adler and Bailey, you’re in very respectable company.

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  1. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer

    Adam Freedman: But none of Bailey’s evidence proves any link between human activity and climate change. Indeed, I don’t think he even presents evidence of a long-term warming trend: he cites no data earlier than the 1950s, and much of his data is from the last couple decades — surely a mere blip in climate terms. Bailey concedes that scientists can only speculate as to the reason for the 17-year hiatus in global warming, and he declares that the growing extent of Antarctic sea ice is “a climate change conundrum.”

    Correct, though it’s difficult to imagine what such evidence might look like. Given the nature of the subject, our options are either to conduct long-time scale experiments (“Let’s stop industrialization for 100 years and see what happens!”) or rely on computer modeling, which is extremely difficult to do given the complexity of simulating an entire planet’s atmosphere and all the attendant influences on on it. Causation is really hard to nail down with certainty even in simple things, and it’s absurdly hard in cases like this.

    Bailey does, however, write:

    It might be that it is just so happens that natural climate variability has boosted global temperatures and the trends discussed above are occurring coincidentally at the same time the concentrations of carbon dioxide are 30 percent above their highest levels in the past 800,000 years. Correlation does not imply causation. The data cited (and uncited) do not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that man-made climate change is real. However, in my best judgment the preponderance of the evidence suggests that the greenhouse gases produced by humanity are warming the climate and that it could be a significant issue later in this century.

    Again, there might be something there, we should keep an eye on it, and try to understand it better (because we don’t understand it very well now). Otherwise, we should probably relax and enjoy the benefits that modern energy provide us.

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  2. Fredösphere Inactive

    My kids were arguing over global warming a couple of nights ago. Neither seemed aware you could concede the warming point without accepting any or all of the subsequent points. Separating warming from the inevitable so what? seems rather hard for a lot of people. My kids are teenagers. What’s Jonathan Adler’s excuse?

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  3. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer

    Adam Freedman: Although I doubt whether his embrace of anthropogenic global warming (AGM) is all that inconvenient — a surefire way for any conservative to gain mainstream credibility is to take up some liberal cause

    Most of the folks on the Right who are in Bailey’s camp — “lukewarmers” as Matt Ridley identifies himself — have found that it’s a pretty quick way to lose credibility from the Right for the reasons Alder describes and that you cite. If those are the streams you swim in, that can be serious.

    That said, Ridley’s quick to point out that the reaction from fellow conservatives completely lacks the totalitarian, character-assassination style he gets from left-wing alarmists who think he’s selling-out climate change.

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  4. user_189393 Inactive

    What I am not convinced of, Adam, is that there is a libertarian warmist brigade.

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  5. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn

    I read Adler’s piece a couple of days ago because Jonah tweeted it out, but I remain unconvinced by his argument. He starts by accepting assumptions (including the hockey stick and shrinking polar ice, iirc, both of which are disputed or false) as a reason to accept an anthropogenic cause for warming that at present is on pause, but refuses to go farther along the warmists’ line of thinking without giving a reason for diverging. I didn’t find it very logically consistent and couldn’t follow it to his conclusion. It was like an undistributed middle in reverse.

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  6. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H

    The most likely situation is humans have a small influence on the climate caused by CO2, a fraction of recent warming.

    From what I’ve gathered, we’ve largely saturated the CO2 effect at current concentrations since it’s a logarithmic effect, (i.e – it takes an additional doubling of CO2 to raise global temperatures the same amount of the most recent doubling.)

    Secondary effects of changing the gas concentrations in the atmosphere (cloud formation, ect.) seem more likely to be negative than positive, meaning the actual increases in temperature from CO2 are less than a raw calculation would indicate. Catastrophic AGW requires large positive feedbacks.

    There’s indication in both theory and observation that the sun is going through a deep minimum in activity over the next century, similar to the Maunder minimum, believed to have caused the medieval mini ice age. (Though I’ve recently seen the existence of this mini ice age called into question.) If this is happening, and I think it’s very likely, we might be thankful for the extra blanket of CO2 around mid-century since it’s much easier to die from cold than heat.

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  7. user_278007 Inactive

    Clearly, the planet has warmed since the Little Ice Age ended circa 1850.  Given the physics of greenhouse warming it’s reasonable to believe that anthropogenic (manmade) CO2 has added to the natural warming trend.  Unfortunately, it’s hard to prove given the planet’s incredible complexity.  Thus far computer models have proven less than accurate.

    Worse, scientists and others who are convinced that anthropogenic warming is significant and dangerous have occasionally overstated their case (e.g., “global warming caused super storm Sandy”), have attempted to shout down dissent,  and have even manipulated their data.

    This has led to the widespread (and growing) belief that global warming is nothing but a scam.  “Alarmists” have been their own worst enemies.  However, malfeasance on their part is not proof that warming is not occurring.

    Even if anthropogenic warming is real, there is still the question of whether it is problematic.  Then there is the further question of what can be done about it.  If it is a problem, we don’t want to take actions that only make things worse as we have certainly done with corn-based ethanol and have likely done with wind turbines.

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  8. AmishDude Member

    There are a few things you have to believe:

    1. The earth is warming.
    2. This warming is measurably appreciable.
    3. This is caused by elevated CO2 levels.
    4. Slightly elevated levels of this trace gas is sufficient to override all competing factors.
    5. This elevated warming will increase anomalous statistically-rare weather events.
    6. There are no appreciable benefits to this warming.

    1. is simply not true. Not by any sense of the scientific method. If theory doesn’t match evidence, then the theory is wrong. Not the other way around. A nice example is Linus Pauling who was horrifically wrong about quasicrystals.

    2. is not true either. Again, there is no evidence.

    3. seems to have been pretty well established but since 1. isn’t true, it means that…

    4. is the problem. If elevated CO2 levels do cause warming “in a lab” it seems that other competing factors overwhelm its effects.

    5. has all the classic elements of a scam. It’s difficult to convince a thoughtful person that 6. is true. So you have to convince them that there will be more floods, more hurricanes, more earthquakes(!). The warmists don’t really dwell on the “fact” of increased bad weather events as much as they do 3.  The feeling of being conned certainly comes from the fact that the warmists never present a balanced portrait. They will never acknowledge any good effects from climate change.

    I live in the upper Midwest and I say, “Four cheers for global warming.” No. Five. No, no, at least a dozen…

    To the layman, even to the non-specialist scientist, this kind of science functions as religion. There are no products from it (supersonic jets, nuclear power) and there are no Mr. Wizard-style demonstrations that will convince you. You either have to be a specialist in the field or you have to take it all on faith. And you have to express outwardly your belief in the dogma for fear of being ostracized.

    As the Gramscians showed, academia can be easily captured by people who are not concerned with being honest. Use money and intimidation and you get a scientific field that is self-selected to take up the cause and intimidated if it attempts to deviate. Couple it with a natural human tendency toward Luddism and you’ve got yourself cult-like behavior.

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  9. AmishDude Member

    Mike H:From what I’ve gathered, we’ve largely saturated the CO2 effect at current concentrations since it’s a logarithmic effect, (i.e – it takes an additional doubling of CO2 to raise global temperatures the same amount of the most recent doubling.)

    Heh. In mathematics, we regard logarithmic growth as non-growth.  It is not uncommon to “throw away” log terms. I.e., ignore them in asymptotic analysis.

    Of course the base of the logarithm and the constant in front matter a great deal but here’s a better way to think of logs:

    The logarithm of a million is 6. The logarithm of a trillion is 12. The logarithm of the total number of atoms in the universe is…80.

    That’s why you’ll hear people say “a log is basically a constant”.

    Then again, the Richter scale is a logarithmic scale. So…

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  10. Howellis Inactive

    Don’t forget that these very same people are the ones who raised the alarm about the impending ice age back in the 1970s, about the impending population crisis and famine during the 1960s, and other catastrophes that never happened, but the solution for which is always to give them absolute power over all of us, and to dismantle capitalism and modernity itself.

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  11. Fake John Galt Coolidge
    Fake John Galt

    I live in a flood zone.  At certain times of the year I watch weather and hydrologic prediction services very closely.  Most of theses services release their data several times a day.  These predictive models get somewhat accurate about a day out but still miss the mark a fair amount.  They are better than they used to be but still not that great.

    My question is if your computer models can not accurately get weather and flood conditions predictions correct for a geographic region because the models can not capture enough data then how the heck can they get the weather / climate conditions for the whole world, 500 years into the future right.  The answer is that they can’t.  All the models are is a method for scientist to use to try to understand how our world works better.  To build a billion dollar industry and invoke draconian laws based on what is effectively a learning tool is downright irresponsible.

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  12. Oblomov Member

    I feel like nobody is talking about the gigantic pink elephant in the room, namely that AGW is a smokescreen ginned up to distract us from the real threat: the weakening and imminent reversal of the Earth’s magnetic field. The geomagnetic field has weakened by more than 5% over the past century, which, ironically, just happens to be the very same century that has unspooled over the past hundred years or so. When the Earth’s magnetic polarity flips, Priuses will explode, souffles will collapse, hairdryers will suck instead of blow, and chickens will lay soft-boiled eggs. Also, the magnetosphere will dissolve and disappear for several thousand years, leaving us defenseless against deadly cosmic and solar radiation. Mass extinction, mayhem and havoc will ensue. Hardest hit will be women, whales, woodland creatures and other disadvantaged groups. We know all this will happen because Science. Here, see for yourself:

    What is the Obama administration doing about any of this? Other than engaging in a vast left-wing conspiracy of silence, absolutely nothing. Why is the UN suppressing this information? Because they know that if the truth were exposed, it would make the global warming hysteria look like the monthly meeting of the East Moline Union of Narcoleptic Philatelists. And why do we hear nothing about the role of the Bilderberg Group in all this?

    We must do something about anthropogenic magnetic weakening!

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  13. Instugator Thatcher

    I came across an article by Dr. Patrick Moore (one of the founders of Greenpeace) where he describes why he is a climate change skeptic.

    One of the things he points out in his article is this:

    Over the past 150 million years, carbon dioxide had been drawn down steadily (by plants) from about 3,000 parts per million to about 280 parts per million before the Industrial Revolution. If this trend continued, the carbon dioxide level would have become too low to support life on Earth. Human fossil fuel use and clearing land for crops have boosted carbon dioxide from its lowest level in the history of the Earth back to 400 parts per million today.

    At 400 parts per million, all our food crops, forests, and natural ecosystems are still on a starvation diet for carbon dioxide. The optimum level of carbon dioxide for plant growth, given enough water and nutrients, is about 1,500 parts per million, nearly four times higher than today. Greenhouse growers inject carbon-dioxide to increase yields. Farms and forests will produce more if carbon-dioxide keeps rising.

    We have no proof increased carbon dioxide is responsible for the earth’s slight warming over the past 300 years. There has been no significant warming for 18 years while we have emitted 25 per cent of all the carbon dioxide ever emitted. Carbon dioxide is vital for life on Earth and plants would like more of it. Which should we emphasize to our children?

    Read the whole thing.

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  14. Vectorman Inactive

    AmishDude:There are a few things you have to believe:

    1. The earth is warming.
    2. This warming is measurably appreciable.
    3. This is caused by elevated CO2 levels.
    4. Slightly elevated levels of this trace gas is sufficient to override all competing factors.
    5. This elevated warming will increase anomalous statistically-rare weather events.
    6. There are no appreciable benefits to this warming.

    I would add to your excellent list:

    7.  The various mechanisms that trap CO2 and remove it from the atmosphere are not important.

    I remember a graph from the top of a Hawaiian mountain that showed annual oscillations that were much larger than any baseline growth.  As the ocean temperature gets warmer during the summer, it releases CO2 gas, the same as warming a cold soda makes it go “flat.” In addition, plant growth is enhanced with more CO2.

    As previously stated, correlation is not causation.

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  15. Misthiocracy Member

    He sounds a lot like Bjorn Lombord (the Skeptical Environmentalist), who is pretty agnostic on anthropogenic climate change, but is pretty darned certain that blowing trillions of dollars on a quixotic quest to control the weather is a great big waste of money that would do measurably more good if spent on other priorities, like feeding the hungry, curing the sick, housing the homeless, employing the unemployed, clothing the naked, relocating people who live below sea-level, etc…

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  16. Vectorman Inactive

    Also, climate investigators ignore that Mars and Venus are also getting warmer.  Gee, what mechanism might cause this?

    • #16
  17. Metalheaddoc Member

    I think it’s human arrogance at work in deciding that how things are now are how they are supposed to be. Same way with the biosphere. Humans will worry that species A will go extinct. So what happens if it does? Species B will take its place in the chain. Who are we to decide that species A deserves to thrive and species B sits on the bench? Who are we to decide that Greenland is supposed to be a sheet of ice instead of…green? Agriculture will increase in some areas and decrease in others, which will help replenish the soil, right? Why should it be that some areas will remain barren and others lush because it is so right now?

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  18. Seawriter Contributor

    I am not a climate change skeptic.  The climate changes all the time. It was warmer during the Medieval Warm Period and the Roman Warm Period than it is today.  It was colder during the Little Ice Age (and the real Ice Ages) than it is today.

    What I am skeptical of is man’s causing climate change — or even accurately predicting climate change.

    Back in the days of Copernicus and Galileo there were people who would not beleive the Earth rotated around the Sun rather than the Sun rotating about the Earth because it reduced the Earth (and Man) to insignificance.  Man was no longer the center of the universe.  Today the descendants of those who thought that way champion anthroprogenic global warming.  It comfortable restores man’s central importance to the Earth, rather than making us insignificant passengers, just along for the ride.  That is why believe in AGW is both tenacious and pernicious. It’s religion, not science.


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  19. Ryan M Member
    Ryan M

    Adam Freedman: a surefire way for any conservative to gain mainstream credibility is to take up some liberal cause, and lately that means either climate change or same-sex marriage

    This is exactly right.  It also gives us people from our own side to throw under the bus when conservatives come under attack.  You forgot to mention, of course, the “anti-science” of the conservative Christian wing, especially those with the nerve to say that our understanding of the broader implications of macro-evolution is limited…  kind of like your AGW data that goes back 50 years.  Of course, what Adler is doing here is saying that he simply accepts a “consensus.”  That sort of circular reasoning has gotten us lots of funny accepted facts over the years, but as you said, it is a quick and easy way to gain a false acceptance from liberals… I say false, because no matter who you throw under the bus, liberals will still marry you to that person the minute the gloves come off.  McCain, anyone?

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  20. Howellis Inactive

    It aggravates me that climate alarmists claim to care so much about the conditions of the world that will confront people in subsequent centuries, but it does not occur to them that those future people will be much better placed to adapt to and/or solve their own problems than we are now. If we had to use 100 year old technology to solve our problems, we’d be in a heap of trouble. Let’s have confidence that our descendants will be able to deal with a warmer world, if warmer it will be, and focus on our own real problems.

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  21. Tommy De Seno Contributor
    Tommy De Seno

    Because Science!!

    That’s all I get from the AGW crowd.

    Here is the science I ask them about:

    Assuming I accept that the average global temperature rose in the 20th century a little more than 1 degree Fahrenheit (that’s actually their tiny claim, believe it or not), then please, can you tell me if that change is within the standard deviation for climate change for all centuries?  Because if it is, there is no way to tell if that change is man made. What’s the answer?

    Their answer, after a pause accompanied by knitted brow and eyes growing angry is:

    Because Science!

    And then they declare victory in the debate.

    Good grief.

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  22. Frank Soto Contributor
    Frank Soto

    Adam Freedman: Bailey concedes that scientists can only speculate as to the reason for the 17-year hiatus in global warming, and he declares that the growing extent of Antarctic sea ice is “a climate change conundrum.” Other than that, it’s a slam dunk case for AGM.

    So other than the fact that there is no warming, there is great evidence that there is warming?

    Going to back away slowly from Bailey now.

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  23. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist

    Adam Freedman: Ricochetti: is this the best evidence there is for AGM?

    The evidence is non-evidence? Models are not evidence, never will be. Their predictive value is either validated or invalidated by evidence — data.

    I have a nephew who is an astrophysicist. His career has been in modeling the behavior of sodium atoms and ions on various planetary bodies. His PhD dissertation invalidated the life’s work of another astrophysicist in the field. That’s science. It doesn’t “prove” anything, but it’s really good at disproving wrong theories. Most laymen don’t understand this.

    When I debate progressives (non-scientists) on this issue, they deny the 17-year pause in average global temperature increase. Are they “deniers?” Yes, because they’re smart enough to know that such an admission utterly destroys the argument for AGW hysteria. The man made contribution to CO2 concentrations has continued over those 17 years — that’s undeniable. This is incredibly damaging to the AGW theory, and even laymen know it.

    Now, modeling over the long-term of complex phenomena is difficult, but it’s not impossible to make progress. My nephew has also taken to modeling the stock market. He’s been using historical data as his inputs and is able to assess the efficacy of his model based on how well the outputs actually fit the historical data over the short-term.

    The problem with AGW modeling is the accuracy of the inputs and outputs is in doubt because the data collection methods on temperature and climate have a lot of error built-in — especially in the past. Satellite data has only been available over the last many decades.

    Add to this that the “precautionary principle” has done nothing noticeable to advance the human condition, and that evil is ascendant in the world and, yes, I disdain AGW arguments.  As Prager questions, would you rather have “he fought CO2 emissions” or “he fought evil (ISIS)” on your tombstone?

    AGW is the perfect progressive cause. It’s all “do what our experts say to save mankind” and no accountability for being utterly wrong.

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  24. Ricochet Moderator

    I used to read the IPCC reports, RealClimate and all the climate blogs and engage in blog debates for years. The interest and intensity on both sides has clearly waned. Even the IPCC is hedging its bets while true believers still spout nonsense about polar bears, meters of sea level rise and superstorms, blissfully unaware that not even the high priests of AGW accept that stuff.

    The fact is that actual warming is at about what radiative physics predicts: a little over a degree centigrade per CO2 doubling.  The supposed massive H2O amplification has been a bust.  And we still don’t even know what is driving the warming since the end of the Little Ice Age two centuries ago, nor what drives the cycles of glaciation that have been occurring for 20 million years.

    Even if we accept that warming will somehow get to a rate 2.o degrees /doubling (and time is running out on that outcome), it is clearly not happening as fast as hyped and the net costs associated by that gradual warming are absolutely not worth the horrific costs of trying to radically curtail fossil fuel use.

    Climate change hype is increasingly a politically enforced aesthetic preference rather than mere thin science with a lot of modeling assumptions that have not panned out.

    The safest answer is that “It is pretty clear that the rate and amount of warming is well below model predictions which changes both the risk-calculus and our working time frame.  This is no time to finance every allegedly green boondoggle much less impose costly drastic actions in order to prevent exaggerated harms that are increasingly improbable but a good time to look at our long range options for our energy future in a rational way.”

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  25. user_86050 Inactive

    I don’t know either way, and I don’t claim to.

    But Einstein said that a scientific theory has to be complete – that is, it has to explain all of the phenomena, not just some of it. I’m willing to grant that some of the phenomena indicate warming, but there’s too many other phenomena that indicate otherwise. For example:

    • The fact that the warming has essentially stopped for a decade or so.
    • Michael Crichton argued that the warming was monitored in places where there were other explanations for the warming.

    I’m not saying that it has been proved wrong. But from what evidence I have, it doesn’t answer all the questions.

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  26. user_1030767 Inactive

    In ecology (by ecology, I mean the pure science of living things and their interactions with the enviroment), there are very few questions you can ask where the answers are 100% yes or no.  I can’t support calling global warming a “hoax.”  I definitely think that warmists greatly overestimate the certainty of their predictions while also underestimating the benefits of fossil fuels for the general population and the intrinsic difficulty of replacing fossil fuels with alternatives.

    On top of all that, I think the Democratic Party is basically a crime syndicate in the guise of a political party.  To the extent that global warming is a problem, I don’t trust them to fix it.

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  27. user_129539 Member

    Still the most important starting point is when you state the earth is warming you have to assume the calculation of that is scientific and not fraudulently based.  Before you had weather satellites taking clockwork evenly displaced temperature measurements, it was impossible to calculate what the average global temperature was to a scientifically sound standard.

    You can only measure what average temperatures have been in a specific location that had sound readings when looking at data, pre-weather satellites. Considering 72% of the earth are oceans it is moronic to extrapolate the average earth temperatures when half the earth did not have any temperature measurements within hundreds of miles of them, prior to the late 70’s. Heck you have a whole continent (Australia) which only had 5 thermometers, with any readings from before the 1940’s.

    If this was not enough they had to go and modify the readings for supposed environmental factors around weather gauges.  Somehow in most cases this resulted in the temperature gauge showing a lower temperature.   Gee I wounder how that happen?

    Lets put it this way, if drug makers used that same statistical standards as Climate scientist did to calculate global temperatures before the 1970’s.  You would have  thousands of additional yearly U.S.  deaths from drugs (at the minimum), drugs makers would be getting sued into bankruptcy, and no one would trust new drugs. Let alone all the drug executives who would be in jail for manslaughter and all the other laws they would of broken.

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  28. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male

    There’s also the question of what do we do about AGW even if it is happening.  Their best answer so far appears to be the Kyoto protocol and similar marginal reductions in CO2 emissions.

    I think it was Mark Steyn who pointed out that even if we fully implemented our “responsibilities under the protocol and sustained the economic damage that would result, the gross effect would be to delay the reaching of the same level of CO2 in the atmosphere by something like 3 months.

    When the progressives endorse a massive program of building nuclear reactors to replace coal-fired power plants, I’ll believe they believe.

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  29. user_18586 Thatcher

    Climate science and global warming theory require MANY predictions of multiple complex systems – something we honestly do not know how to do,  despite the claims of some scientists,  economists  and environmentalists.

    That said,  some aspects of global warming are on stronger ground than others.  Let’s take them in order of certainty:

    First, the things we can say are well understood:

    1.  CO2 is a greenhouse gas.  This is basic physics and well understood.  The presence of CO2 in a gas mixture will help it trap heat from sunlight.

    2. Man is emitting significant quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere.

    3.  Atmospheric concentrations of CO2 are increasing.  We have good measurements from places like Mauna Kea that show the CO2 rise.

    Then there are things that are likely:

    1. The earth has been warming over the past century.  Yes,  there is lots of noise in the data,  and there are have been long cooling periods thrown in  due to short-term cycles or randomness,  but any look at the 100 year temperature chart would make the trend fairly clear,  and a regression analysis returns a positive value with pretty high confidence.

    2.  It’s likely that man-made emissions play some part in this,  although it is very hard to quantify that so the relative proportion of man-caused and natural warming is very hard to determine.

    At this point,  we have reached the limit of scientific ‘consensus’ – the facts on which most climate scientists agree.   One of the shell games activists like to play is to make whatever wild claim about climate they want,  then throw the ‘scientific consensus’ in your face if you disagree.   The most effective argument against that it not to deny that science works or that there is a conspiracy or that scientists are all hoodwinked liberals,  but to point out just how narrow the consensus really is.

    Things we have some evidence for, but don’t understand very well yet:

    1.  The CO2 will remain in the atmosphere for X years.  This is a critical number – if the earth scrubbed all the new CO2 from the atmosphere every year,  we wouldn’t have to worry.  If it stayed in the atmosphere forever,  every pound of emitted CO2 would add to increasing problems in the future.  So the half-life of CO2 in the atmosphere matters a lot,  and this number is still in dispute.

    2. The nature of the positive and negative feedbacks affecting long-term climate.    We discover new ones every day.   Previous ones thought to have a large effect are found to have little to none.   In a complex adaptive system like climate,  its long-term behavior is dominated by feedback loops,  and we still don’t fully understand the ones we know about and of course we don’t know how many we don’t yet know about.

    For example,  just recently it was found that boreal forest do not sink as much carbon as previously thought,  but that rainforests sink far more than was previously known.  This changes the feedback from a strong positive one (increased warmth decreases boreal forest cover,  which reduces the atmosphere’s ability to sink carbon even more)  to a strong negative one (increased warmth causes increased rainforest growth,  which increases the atmosphere’s ability to scrub the carbon from the atmosphere).

    Other examples include algae blooms,  cloud formation,  ocean currents as heat transporters, the role of the deep oceans,  and so on.  Plus of course the ones that may exist that we don’t even know about.

    3.  Sea Level rise will be X for Y degrees of warming.   We really don’t know.   It seems logical to assume that a warmer planet would cause sea levels to rise because warmer waters expand and because more ice would melt into the oceans.  But that’s all speculative.   Some global warming theorists believe that the ice caps would grow due to additional evaporation of moisture into the air.

    Things we have no clue about,  but pretend we do:

    1.  How much damage warming would do to civilizations 100 years from now.

    2. What the economy will look like even 10 years from now,  let alone 100.

    3. How much CO2 we will be emitting in the future.

    4. What the long-term,  multi-generational response of the earth will be to additional warming.

    5. How to stop CO2 growth.  Local carbon taxes do nothing for the global climate,  and may actually make it worse if it drives manufacturing into low-cost but energy inefficient countries like China and India.

    6.  How warming affects short-term weather.

    7.  How to even calculate the cost/benefit of warming avoidance, mitigation, etc.

    This last group of unknowns are the critical ones for legislation.   To justify the kind of expenditure the AGW promoters want,  you have to know how much the earth will warm,  what affect that will have on humans,  how much it will cost to stop it (if it’s even possible),  what the ‘discount rate’ should be on investments today that are designed to stop damages decades into the future,  etc.   Climate scientists have nothing but hand-waving to offer for any of these questions,  yet they are critical to wise policy-making.

    Therefore,  an intelligent response from the right is, “There is certainly scientific evidence for some amount of increased greenhouse effect,  and probably for some amount of man-caused warming.  But if you want to do something about it,  you have to present a plan.  A real plan – one with error bars,  cost/benefit analysis,  hard data,  risk assumptions,  proposals for treaties that will need to be in place globally to make it work,  reasonable effective enforcement plans for those treaties (that will not lead us into wars),  serious estimates of the cost of abandoning fossil fuels,  a serious plan for alternative energy sources that are sustainable without government subsidy and can handle base-load power needs,  etc.

    “While you’re at it,  you have to convince me that you understand enough about the climate system that you can predict how it will respond to this increased CO2 in the medium-to-long term after various feedbacks and cycles have worked through it.   A good start would be building a climate model that can accurately predict the future – not just re-create the past.

    “If you can’t do that,  go away and come back when you can.  In the meantime,  I’ll support more money for research into these areas,  because knowing as much as we can is important.”

    That kind of position is better from a strategic standpoint than outright denial.   Denial gives them the scientific high-ground and allows them to put you on the defensive.   A more nuanced response as above flips the burden back on them  and makes them look like the ones doing the denial.

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  30. Misthiocracy Member

    What I like most about Bjorn Lomborg’s perspective is that it doesn’t matter if climate change is caused by man-made emissions or if it’s part of a natural cycle.

    Even if the computer models are correct, for example, if the Kyoto Protocol had actually been followed it would have delayed global warming by maybe a few years, at a tremendous cost in both cash and human suffering, as resources would have been redirected from programs that actually save and improve lives to a quixotic campaign to delay the inevitable.

    Today he has an op-ed where he argues the best way to cut down on fossil fuel use would be to simply stop subsidizing fossil fuels.

    It’s an old argument, of course, but he throws a twist on it by reporting which countries actually subsidize fossil fuels the most.

    It’s not the USA, for example. The USA only spends about $4 billion a year on fossil fuel subsidies (compared to $14 billion on renewable fuel subsidies).

    The real culprits are countries like Iran ($84 billion per year), Saudi Arabia ($60 billion per year), Venezuela/China/Russia/etc. (between $20 billion and $45 billion per year, each). This is why you can get a gallon of gasoline in these countries for about 10 cents.

    Of course, you’ll never hear these facts from the watermelon lobby, because it’s not actually about climate change as much as it’s about transferring wealth from Western taxpayers to Anti-Western governments.


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