Reflections on Warming

By April 8, 2007Global Warming

There’s such a blizzard of stories these days in light of the (not very) new IPCC report. Remember this is the report that issued its conclusions a month or more ago and the issued its supporting information this past week. Seemed a little backwards to us, but let’s just go with it for the moment. Of course, the old joke about the media’s permanent tag line, “women and minorities hardest hit,” is true even in this story.

The thing about hysteria is that it’s just so darned, well, hysterical. The facts, the science goes out the window in furtherance of the hysteria. Figure most every global warming story you read is written by an Al Gore voter or supporter. That may seem like an outrageous statement, but it’s likely more true than not. Their writing is tinged by their politics. Ours is, so is theirs. There are hordes of scientists who just don’t buy into the hype, but they are given short shrift — if any shrift at all. A CNN story on Friday about the likely impact of warming — sea level rise — featured video of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, a fairly incongruous pairing, but it made fora good visual. And they had it in stock, so what the hey.

However, if you step back from the hype, the hysteria, it is possible to gain some perspective. For example, it’s fair to ask, “What is the proper temperature of the earth?” The earth is some 4.5 billion years old. Over that time, its temperature has fluctuated dramatically, species have come and gone and many have adapted. A story in the WaPo yesterday quoted someone as saying that some 30% of all species would die off with just a rise of a few degrees in temperature. Does this make sense? Would they not adapt? Would other species not come into being? Would others prosper?

And that leads us to the next question: Are there no benefits that would come from a warming of the climate? The 70’s hysteria about global cooling predicted dire consequences of the kind now predicted from warming. Is that logical? Wouldn’t a small drop in global temperature help some areas? Wouldn’t a small increase in temperature, e.g., lead to longer growing seasons in some areas and less reliance on heating oil? Isn’t it logical to assume that cooling or warming would bring a mix of good and bad? Wouldn’t it be logical to conclude that in either case, man and most species would adapt, as they’ve done thus far?

Against the backdrop of the re-heated (no pun intended) IPCC report, we know this is all heretical. But when you step completely away from the frenzy, these issues come into quite clear relief. Our friend and climate expert Bob Carter always talks about the importance of context. The context here is a 4.5 billion year-old earth with climate that has fluctuated wildly over its lifetime. It is at least grandiose — and at worst partisan — to think that our time is the most serious, and to propose a host of costly and long-desired policies as pseudo-solutions.

We’ll continue to urge all policy-makers to ignore the hype and focus on the science. We also hope they’ll not hastily act to test out some untried theories that’ll only serve to put the economy in the tank.