Saturday, April 3, 2010

Der Spiegel on Global Warming

If you are unsure what this whole Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) thing is all about and you want a good introduction to the current status of the situation, this excellent article in English on Der Spiegel. It is a good overview and it is fair to all sides.

Here is as concise a summary of the current situation as I can give.

1. No one (hardly) denies that the earth is getting warmer. Certainly not me; we are still coming out of the last ice age. The earth is always getting a bit warmer or a bit cooler and so far as we can tell always will. That is the first point to keep in mind.

2. The science is far from settled as to whether or not humans (i.e. the industrial revolution) are causing or contributing to global warming and if so by how much. It would make sense that human burning of fossil fuels might be contributing but it is by no means clear that even if we stopped burning oil and coal it would actually slow down or halt global warming.

3. No one has yet demonstrated that the trillions of dollars we are being urged to spend would be better spent on (possibly futile) attempts to stop warming than spending (that we might have to spend anyway) on adapting to global warming (eg. building dikes to keep rising ocean levels from flooding cities.)

4. There has been no publicity about the positive effects of global warming, such as possible longer growing seasons, more arable land in former desert areas, increases in livable areas in northern Canada and Russia etc. The truth is that even if global warming predictions come true, there will be winners as well as losers and not all the losers will be poor countries and not all the winners will be rich ones.

5. The hype, deception, emotional manipulation and outright lies of a great deal of the alarmist lobby has decimated their credibility with most people. For example, Al Gore's movie
"An Inconvenient Truth" is full of wild-eyed claims most scientists are embarrassed by. This kind of propaganda makes the AGW alarmist side look loony and raises suspicions as to who might be getting rich off the scare-mongering.

6. The complexity of the science and the lack of predictive power of the models has led many scientists to adopt an advocacy approach in which the line between the scientific debate itself and the political debate over what to do about the threat becomes blurred. This politicization of science then leads to what is essentially a political battle between two sets of ideology, rather than a scientific debate. Scientists are poor lobbyists and they only hurt themselves when they become wedded to their theories and emotionally invested in certain political policies being followed on the basis of those theories.

7. It appears that the Climategate scandal has demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that Phil Jones lost or destroyed data and rendered his models unreproducible and, in so doing, basically asked the world to spend trillions of dollars on his word without hard data to back it up and models that could re replicated elsewhere. In asking everyone simply to take his word for it he ceased to be a real scientist. The revelations concerning the degree to which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has utilized lobby group, non-peer reviewed articles and made unbelievable mistakes in its report just serves to confirm that what was being peddled as "settled science" is actually political advocacy for a belief system.

8. Polls show public concern over global warming to be dropping all over the world. Governments from France to the US are joining China in adopting a skepticism about taking any actions likely to damage their economies, raise taxes and create unemployment and a reduced standard of living just for the sake of avoiding a danger that may or may not exist.

When the history of this whole episode is written the questions historians will need to ask are: What ideological agenda drove the alarmist forces? Was this an attempt to drive the nations of the earth into world government? Was government regulation the goal? What cultural factors made scientists so susceptible to being turned into political advocates? How does this "scare" relate to the string of environmental scares beginning in the 1960s? Who got rich out of carbon trading? Did the "green economy" create or kill more jobs?

It would seem that the "sciences" most relevant here are sociology, economics and politics, not physics and geography.

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