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10 Questions for Those Concerned About Climate Change

By Marty Nemko

The media has declared the debate on climate change over. Mainly citing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which supports a toned-down version of the Al Gore direpredictions, the media insists it’s highly likely that:

1. Global warming exists and poses grave danger to the world.

2. It is substantially manmade and not natural variation.

3. A massive effort to attempt to slow it is justified. To get people on board, the first recommendations are relatively painless: for example, switch to compact fluorescents. But subsequent mandates will likely mean higher prices and scarcer products because of carbon taxes and increased fuel costs. And human freedoms will be restricted. For example, to force people from their cars, the San Francisco Bay Area has already prohibited new freeways for 20 years, forcing people into more gridlock, staying home, or mass transit which often mushrooms travel time, even assuming it serves your destinations. California talks of prohibiting us from setting our thermostat at a comfortable temperature. The Public Interest Research Group, a DC-based advocacy organization, hints at further restrictions’ magnitude: “Stopping global warming will require nothing less than a complete transformation of our economy and society.”

The media dubs anyone who questions the above three assertions to be “deniers,” a term previously reserved for those who insist the Nazi Holocaust never occurred.

I am not a global warming naysayer but, having read a lot of the recent science, having become agnostic. Before making massive efforts, I believe it's worth raising these questions for climate change activists' consideration:

1. It is undisputed that the average global temperature has increased just 0.8 degrees Celsius since 1880, not at all in the last decade. (Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.) Does sufficient evidence exist that global warming will increase enough in the coming century to justify the enormous financial and human costs required to attempt to stop it?

2. If global warming is substantially manmade, why have CO2 concentrations increased in the last decade, yet the average global temperature hasn’t?

3. In assessing whether global warming is occurring, why does Al Gore and his allies cherry-pick certain regions--for example, focusing more on the Arctic than the Antarctic? The latter, according to recent Ohio State University studies, shows no temperature or precipitation increase in the last 50 years. A University of Texas study finds that the Antarctic has more sea ice than 20 years ago. And, most important, why does Gore avoid the key statistic: average global temperature, which, as stated above, has risen minimally since 1880 and not at all since 1998?

4. Why does the media imply that the IPCC report reflects the consensus of thousands of scientists when, as reported on CNN by Dr. Richard Lindzen, a dissenting IPCC scientist and the Alfred Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at MIT, “The summary for policymakers has the input of about 13 of the scientists.”?

5. If there’s consensus, why, on Dec. 20, 2007, did the U.S. Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works issue a report that 400 scientists now believe the evidence doesn’t support that “consensus”? Why has that Senate report gone largely unreported in the media? Why did that Senate committee’s website, which is critical of the climate change “consensus” win The National Science Foundation’s 2007 Gold Mouse Award?

6. If the climate change debate is over, why will 100 scientists argue against the “consensus” at the International Climate Science Coalition conference on March 2-4, 2008?

7. Why should we spend many billions and greatly restrict our freedoms when experts believe that even if global temperatures rise, efforts to slow it will fail? For example, Robert Kaufmann, Director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Studies at Boston University said, “In theory it (global warming) could be slowed, but it is highly unlikely. It would take stopping emissions of all of those gases, so unless we are willing to give up coal and oil and gas, that ain’t gonna happen anytime soon.” For example, the New York Times said, “Every week to 10 days, another coal-fired power plant opens in China that is big enough to serve all the households in Dallas.” In one day, China alone produces more global warming gases than the U.S. could save using all measures proposed by the IPCC.

8. Why should we spend a fortune on a likely failed attempt to stop what may be a nonexistent or relatively minor problem, when many more devastating threats will likely befall us far sooner than 50 years from now? One example: what Time magazine called “The Smallpox Scenario,” in which just a few terrorists simultaneously release a highly communicable, deadly smallpox virus into subways around the world. That could kill millions if not billions of people. Not enough money and resources exist to fund everything, let alone the massive effort global warming activists advocate.

9. Throughout history, humans have solved such panics-- for example, running out of food or energy--through advances in science and technology without requiring society to move backward, for example, restricting driving and freezing our thermostats. Why is this situation different?

10. Why did the Copenhagen Consensus, a group of 36 world-leading experts including four Nobel Prize winners, conclude that, among 17 challenges facing the world, efforts to stop global warming should receive the lowest priority?

The stop-global-warming movement has become religion, accepted more on faith than rationality. Too, some scientists have let their political biases and self-interest color their objectivity--scientists are less likely to get grants if they say there’s no problem. Before we impose enormous financial and human costs on people--disproportionately on people who can least afford it--we desperately need better evidence that global warming is real, large, significantly manmade, with negative effects far exceeding positive ones, realistically stoppable, and imposing opportunity costs lower than the likely benefits. Remember, not that long ago, both Time and Newsweek cover stories predicted disastrous global cooling.

No doubt, we need energy independence, but that could be obtained far less painfully than with the measures that global warming activists demand. Before adopting a “complete change in our economy and society,” we must study the climate change issue not with religious zeal but with intelligent skepticism.

The author holds a Ph.D specializing in program evaluation from the University of California, Berkeley and subsequent taught in its graduate school.

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