We need to get these critics who put science above politics back on the job again.
They would seem to have plenty of revelatory work to do following the September release of a 36-page summary of the U.N. panel’s 2013 report that tells all of us to shudder. Yes, shudder, because as one spokesman said in describing its findings, it shows that “climate change threatens our planet, our only home.”
The scary warming will keep coming at us for centuries, the summary says, but needs action soon in the form of major international restrictions that will slow down and ultimately put a halt to carbon dioxide emissions.
Some warn the fuel changes undertaken to attempt that end could be a major hit on prosperity, especially thwarting hopes in the world’s least-developed nations. In the United States, where President Barack Obama is threatening a war on coal, it could mean we’d be singing the recessionary blues for many a moon.
Given what the report seeks, you’d think it would deal at length with a major fact in conflict with its tone of certainty, admonition and fright. It’s that there has been no global, atmospheric warming for 15 years. The report belittles the issue, saying 15 years isn’t so long in the time span we’re discussing, and, besides, all that additional warmth may be hiding in the depths of the ocean.
Here’s the thing. The computer models that predicted something more accelerated than what has actually happened since 1998 are the same ones predicting disaster in the long run. If they were wrong about the past 15 years, it is a good sign they are wrong about the long run, too.
From the start, skeptics have pointed out that the science of climate has huge problems because of all the factors that cannot conceivably be calculated in trying to figure out what might happen. There are many possible reasons that the average temperature did not go up in the past decade and a half, some of them suggesting we have a lot less to worry about than the report says. One possibility is that carbon dioxide actually has less impact on climate than supposed.
Oh, wait, say the alarmists. People indulging in that kind of talk are “deniers.” By that intended slur, they mean these seekers of more convincing evidence are really just turning their back on the obvious, scientifically demonstrated truth.
Sorry, but it’s the alarmists who are most suspect. Not everyone involved in putting out the U.N. report has impressive scientific credentials. As one writer recently underlined, many of them have close ties with extremist environmental groups, meaning they could well have fallen prey to that which makes fanatics of far too many: overreaching ideology. Among the warming dogmatists, openness and willingness to have other views heard have been too often lacking.
In the meantime, many reputable scientists are among those who say scare talk is unjustified and should be toned down. And there are any number of reputable scientists — including members of the national academies mentioned earlier — who ask tough questions of those who want us all to tremble as we endorse public policies that could be economically ruinous.
Judith Curry, a climate scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology, is a voice of reason in all of this. For scientists to miss telling us of a coming catastrophe would be wrong, she says, adding it is equally wrong when scientists advocate dramatic political action while simplifying or hiding scientific uncertainties.
Jay Ambrose, former Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado.