Monday, July 03, 2006

Today's global warming piece

Excellent piece yesterday at the Wall Street Journal website by Richard Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT. The topic was global warming, and, more specifically, the repeated allegations that there's "consensus" in the scientific community.

Mr. Lindzen takes exception to the claims of Al Gore and the eco-alarmists that there's unanimity in the scientific community on a specific point - that human activity is responsible for global warming, and that it needs to be addressed now before we reach an environmental apocalypse.
Is there really a scientific community that is debating all these issues and then somehow agreeing in unison? Far from such a thing being over, it has never been clear to me what this "debate" actually is in the first place.

The media rarely help, of course. [emphasis mine - LB] When Newsweek featured global warming in a 1988 issue, it was claimed that all scientists agreed. Periodically thereafter it was revealed that although there had been lingering doubts beforehand, now all scientists did indeed agree. Even Mr. Gore qualified his statement on ABC only a few minutes after he made it, clarifying things in an important way. 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."

So, presumably, those scientists do not belong to the "consensus." Yet their research is forced, whether the evidence supports it or not, into Mr. Gore's preferred global-warming template--namely, shrill alarmism.

So, the environmental alarmists keep telling us that there's no debate. The media is relentless in conveying the impression that global warming exists, is caused by human behavior, human behavior needs to be changed, and that the scientific community is entirely monolithic in maintaining those positions. The first of those points is likely, the 2nd and 3rd are speculation at best, and the last is poppycock.

There is also little disagreement that levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have risen from about 280 parts per million by volume in the 19th century to about 387 ppmv today. Finally, there has been no question whatever that carbon dioxide is an infrared absorber (i.e., a greenhouse gas--albeit a minor one), and its increase should theoretically contribute to warming. Indeed, if all else were kept equal, the increase in carbon dioxide should have led to somewhat more warming than has been observed, assuming that the small observed increase was in fact due to increasing carbon dioxide rather than a natural fluctuation in the climate system. Although no cause for alarm rests on this issue, there has been an intense effort to claim that the theoretically expected contribution from additional carbon dioxide has actually been detected. Given that we do not understand the natural internal variability of climate change, this task is currently impossible. Nevertheless there has been a persistent effort to suggest otherwise, and with surprising impact.

It's another really good piece on the topic, from yet another knowledgeable scientist who's not a member of Al Gore's "consensus..."

Technorati tags: Global Warming, Al Gore, Lindzen, Wall Street Journal



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