2012 Repub­li­can guide to the cli­mate de­bate

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

If you’re think­ing of be­com­ing a Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date — and who isn’t these days — you can plan on be­ing pressed on the cli­mate is­sue. In the wake of a re­cent re­port from a panel of the Na­tional Re­search Coun­cil (NRC) reit­er­at­ing its old talk­ing points on cli­mate, The Wash­ing­ton Post ed­i­to­ri­al­ized that all (read “Repub­li­can”) can­di­dates for po­lit­i­cal of­fice should be quizzed about whether they agree with the “sci­en­tific con­sen­sus of Amer­ica’s premier sci­en­tific ad­vi­sory group.”

Al­though this threat is in­tended to in­tim­i­date Repub­li­cans who tend to­ward queasi­ness when con­fronted with en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues, the at­tack is easy to parry and then even to coun­ter­at­tack — that’s why Al Gore and his en­vi­ros duck de­bat­ing so-called “cli­mate skep­tics.”

First, let’s dis­miss a cou­ple of faulty premises of The Post’s editorial.

While it is true that the NRC op­er­ates un­der the um­brella of the Na­tional Academy of Sci­ences, the NRC panel that authored the re­port has noth­ing to do with the pres­ti­gious in­di­vid­ual sci­en­tists who make up the Na­tional Academy of Sci­ences mem­ber­ship. NRC pan­els are highly politi­cized and of­ten stacked, and no cli­mate skep­tics were in­cluded in the panel that wrote the re­port.

Next, science doesn’t work on a con­sen­sus ba­sis. We don’t ac­cept that the Earth re­volves around the Sun be­cause most sci­en­tists or a group of sci­en­tists have agreed to say so. Science is driven by data, not group­think.

In ac­tu­al­ity, the NRC re­port is more an ex­er­cise in po­lit­i­cal science than cli­mate science.

Skep­tics don’t deny global warm­ing or cli­mate change. We think the at­mos­phere prob­a­bly has warmed slightly and on an av­er­age ba­sis over the past 200 years (for un­known rea­sons) and we rec­og­nize that cli­mate is chang­ing con­tin­u­ally, al­beit slowly.

We don’t agree, how­ever, that man-made emis­sions of car­bon diox­ide (CO2) and other green­house gases are hav­ing ei­ther de­tectable or pre­dictable ef­fects on cli­mate — and we have at least two key means of es­tab­lish­ing this point.

First, at­mo­spheric CO2 con­cen­tra­tions have in­creased by about 8 per­cent or so since the mid-1990s. Ac­cord­ing to cli­mate alarmists, this should have caused mea­sur­able global warm­ing. But none has been ob­served, a fact that fi­nally was ad­mit­ted by cli­mate alarmists in the wake of the Cli­mate­gate scan­dal.

Next, if it were true that global tem­per­a­ture was so sen­si­tive and de­pen­dent upon at­mo­spheric CO2 lev­els, then cli­mate mod­els (es­sen­tially elab­o­rate sci­en­tific for­mu­las) could be con­structed to pre­dict ac­cu­rately the tem­per­a­ture ef­fects from chang­ing CO2 lev­els. But not only do ex­ist­ing mod­els not pre­dict the fu­ture tem­per­a­ture, they can’t repli­cate the past when his­tor­i­cal data is put through them.

But shouldn’t we err on the side of pre­cau­tion and re­duce emis­sions any­way? As the U.S. En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency al­ready has demon­strated and ad­mit­ted, we could shut down the United States in terms of CO2 emis­sions for 100 years and we would make pre­cious lit­tle dif­fer­ence in the at­mo­spheric CO2 level — pos­si­bly on the or­der of 5 per­cent.

Given that an 8 per­cent in­crease in CO2 over the past 15 years has amounted to zero global warm­ing, can­di­dates would be on firm ground won­der­ing whether it’s worth wreck­ing the econ­omy over a 5 per­cent in­crease over 100 years. Can­di­dates should not fall for bo­gus dis­trac­tions like melt­ing po­lar ice, threat­ened po­lar bears, bad weather and the like. The Wash­ing­ton Post wants can­di­dates to be quizzed on what they would do about “the ris­ing seas, spread­ing deserts and in­ten­si­fy­ing storms that, ab­sent a change in pol­icy, loom on Amer­ica’s hori­zon.”

Nat­u­ral dis­as­ters, to­po­graphic changes and pop­u­la­tion booms and busts have al­ways oc­curred and will con­tinue to oc­cur. None of these phe­nom­ena can be tied sci­en­tif­i­cally to man-made emis­sions of CO2. So they are sim­ply ir­rel­e­vant sideshow is­sues.

One last science point is the Cli­mate­gate scan­dal. Alarmists claim that nu­mer­ous sub­se­quent in­ves­ti­ga­tions of the mat­ter by in­de­pen­dent groups have failed to un­cover wrong­do­ing or faulty science, but none of these white­washes were truly in­de­pen­dent or any­thing more than su­per­fi­cial. No in­put from skep­tics was in­cluded. The cen­tral point of the science de­bate is whether man-made CO2 emis­sions are caus­ing harm. There is no ev­i­dence that they are. It’s the alarmists who need to be sec­ond-guess­ing them­selves. They’ve been wrong re­peat­edly and never right since they started fore­cast­ing cli­mate doom al­most 25 years ago.

Steve Mil­loy pub­lishes JunkS­cience.com and is the au­thor of “Green Hell: How En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists Plan to Con­trol Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them” (Reg­n­ery 2009).

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