Op-Ed

The world is always ending. Climate change is just the latest reason.

In a Sept. 15 tweet, Michael Mann urges people to ignore climate change “deniers.” He says, “Report them. Block them. Don’t engage.”

The occasion for this extraordinary advice was a video by Tony Heller. Heller had shown that one of Mann’s recent blog posts was misleading and foolish. Instead of responding to the objections, Mann attacked Heller personally.

CNN’s recent “climate town hall” devoted no time to the question whether we are on course for a climate catastrophe. That is because if they bothered to state the evidence for this view, they would imply that it is legitimate topic of debate. Their position is that science has settled the matter. This is also the implied or explicit position of many other major news media, government agencies and scientific organizations.

Being no expert on these matters, should I, and others like me, defer to the authority of all these prestigious groups? There are good reasons to remain skeptical.

I accept the root scientific and historical premises of climate change alarmism. CO2 has an insulating effect. Because of CO2, the planet absorbs energy from the sun that it would otherwise reflect. Since the time of the Industrial Revolution, we have been burning lots of coal, oil and gas. These fossil fuels consist mainly in carbon. When we burn carbon, we react it with oxygen. This reaction produces heat, but also carbon dioxide.

That much of the story really is, as far as I can tell, “settled science.” It’s also highly plausible that when we increase the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, we trap more energy from the sun.

Climate alarmists also claim (1) the earth has gotten much warmer over the last century and a half, or so; (2) its increasing warmth is due to human activity, especially burning of fossil fuels; (3) unless we radically reduce our production of greenhouse gasses, the earth will warm so much that the consequences will be catastrophic.

Despite what we often hear, many eminent scientists reject these claims. Some say the earth has not warmed, others, that it has not warmed significantly. Many argue that we really do not fully understand why the earth has warmed and that, therefore, we cannot know whether human produced CO2 is the primary driver of global warming. Some argue that the computer models on which climatologists base their predictions are completely unreliable. Even granted that the climate has warmed a lot and that we are the primary cause, it doesn’t follow that we should radically reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Global warming will have benefits as well as costs. Suppose we grant that the consequences would be bad. Thirty trillion dollars bad? That’s the sort of money we’re talking about for serious “climate mitigation.”

We keep hearing about the scientific consensus on climate change. In 2013 Obama tweeted, “Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree: #climate change is real, man-made and dangerous.” That is false. The same year, a survey of members of the American Meteorological Society found that only 52% agreed that global warming is real and man-made. The study to which Obama likely referred did not say anything about scientists’ views on the danger of global warming. Its methodology is widely regarded as dubious, anyway. Where is the serious study showing a consensus view of experts that we are in a climate crisis?

Climate alarmists simply have not been straight with us. There are many impressive graphs supposedly showing how fast the temperature is rising in recent times. These graphs are based not on actual temperature measurements, but on data “adjusted” by the NOAA. These adjustments are controversial and, to many minds, scandalous. “Climategate” exposed some alarmists worrying how to explain the inconvenient fact that global warming had leveled off for 15 years. Now, the old data have been replaced by new data that solve that problem for them. In 1999, NASA showed the 1930’s and 1940’s to be the hottest period of the century in the U.S. In 2016, those extreme temperatures were erased by the new, cooked data.

The fact that so many scientists, media organizations and informed people accept the alarmist scenario just isn’t that impressive. In the early 70’s global cooling was all the rage. We were going to run out of natural resources. Overpopulation would result in mass starvation. The world has always been ending for one reason or another. When everyone was religious, people got worked up about witches, heresy or divine judgment. In this enlightened age we look to science to provide us with some drama.

Maybe we really are in a climate crisis. I don’t know. I’m skeptical. I rather expect that in ten or twenty years we will move on to another apocalyptic fad. We’ll look back on the current hysteria with a mixture of embarrassment and amusement.

Phillip Goggans is a general contractor living in Paintsville.

Editor’s note: The National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the U.S Government reports that “the vast majority of actively publishing climate scientists – 97 percent – agree that humans are causing global warming and climate change. Most of the leading science organizations around the world have issued public statements expressing this, including international and U.S. science academies, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and a whole host of reputable scientific bodies around the world. A list of these organizations is provided here.

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