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Don’t Believe the Hype

Wall Street Journal – July 2, 2006

This is an editorial that condemns former Vice President Al Gore’s contentions that there is a true consensus on the issue of human caused global warming.  It cites a few of the more outrageous claims of Mr. Gore which I believe he has soften since last July. The editorial is written by Richard Lindzen, a Sloan Professor at MIT who is an outspoken critic of the climate change melodrama and has been cheered and maligned from the two camps.  Reading his thoughts is important for anyone that still has an open mind on this important issue.

I guess I have a small axe in this fight since this entire site is dedicated to continuing the education and the conversation on both sides of this issue. Full disclosure – the Wall Street Journal called me a “semi-skeptic” when they quoted me a few weeks back for my comments on this site. I think that this topic is important enough that rushing to judgment is a mistake.

According to Al Gore’s new film “An Inconvenient Truth,” we’re in for “a planetary emergency”: melting ice sheets, huge increases in sea levels, more and stronger hurricanes, and invasions of tropical disease, among other cataclysms–unless we change the way we live now.


…we are all suffering the consequences of President Bush’s obtuseness on the matter….Mr. Gore assures us that “the debate in the scientific community is over.”


When Mr. Stephanopoulos confronted Mr. Gore with the fact that the best estimates of rising sea levels are far less dire than he suggests in his movie, Mr. Gore defended his claims by noting that scientists “don’t have any models that give them a high level of confidence” one way or the other and went on to claim–in his defense–that scientists “don’t know. . . . They just don’t know.”  [Editor’s note: isn’t that what I have been saying??]


To take the issue of rising sea levels, these include: that the Arctic was as warm or warmer in 1940; that icebergs have been known since time immemorial; that the evidence so far suggests that the Greenland ice sheet is actually growing on average. A likely result of all this is increased pressure pushing ice off the coastal perimeter of that country, which is depicted so ominously in Mr. Gore’s movie. In the absence of factual context, these images are perhaps dire or alarming.


Alpine glaciers have been retreating since the early 19th century, and were advancing for several centuries before that. Since about 1970, many of the glaciers have stopped retreating and some are now advancing again. And, frankly, we don’t know why.


The other elements of the global-warming scare scenario are predicated on similar oversights. Malaria, claimed as a byproduct of warming, was once common in Michigan and Siberia and remains common in Siberia–mosquitoes don’t require tropical warmth.


Greg Holland of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., who argues that it must be global warming because he can’t think of anything else. While arguments like these, based on lassitude, are becoming rather common in climate assessments, such claims, given the primitive state of weather and climate science, are hardly compelling.


So what, then, is one to make of this alleged debate? I would suggest at least three points. First, nonscientists generally do not want to bother with understanding the science. Claims of consensus relieve policy types, environmental advocates and politicians of any need to do so. Such claims also serve to intimidate the public and even scientists–especially those outside the area of climate dynamics. Secondly, given that the question of human attribution largely cannot be resolved, its use in promoting visions of disaster constitutes nothing so much as a bait-and-switch scam. That is an inauspicious beginning to what Mr. Gore claims is not a political issue but a “moral” crusade.

Lastly, there is a clear attempt to establish truth not by scientific methods but by perpetual repetition. An earlier attempt at this was accompanied by tragedy. Perhaps Marx was right. This time around we may have farce–if we’re lucky.

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