This is very, very good…and it has the added advantage of being true…
Steven Hayward, posting at Powerline, answering Hugh Hewitt’s question about how Republican candidates should answer the questions about the pseudo-science of anthropogenic “climate change” on the campaign trail.
This is a long post; better get yourself a cup of coffee. Brother Hugh Hewitt takes note of one of Mitt Romney’s potential tergiversations about climate change last Friday and made a shout out to me for guidance on how GOP candidates should think and talk about the issue on the stump (and suggesting I post the answer here). Hugh got a lot of e-mails attacking Mitt as a RINO for saying that the earth has warmed and that we should be looking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I’m with Hugh in thinking people are mistaken about the first part of that criticism, but think Romney blew it in embracing climate orthodoxy of near-term fossil fuel suppression.
Climate change is a complex matter, not easily tackled in the short sound-byte format of modern campaigns and inch-deep political reporters. It is possible both to acknowledge the potential seriousness of the issue while going on the attack at the same time against the badly flawed conventional wisdom. Herewith a primer on the short answers candidates should give, along with supplemental commentary and additional facts. Even these answers are probably too long for the campaign trail, but is necessary for candidates to at least master this much of the outline of the issue, and have the confidence to speak with authority on it.
Question: Do you believe that climate change is taking place?
Answer: “Yes, the earth has clearly warmed since the end of the “Little Ice Age” roughly 200 years ago, by a little less than 1 degree Celsius. I accept the opinion of the large number of scientists who conclude that human activity has helped cause the warming we’ve experienced so far. The question for scientists is how much further warming might occur, and for policy makers the question is what should be done about it. Both scientists and the environmental community have done a poor job on both questions.”
Comment: This last sentence could be put even stronger, such as “The climate science community and environmental advocates have approached this issue disastrously, wasting 20 years and leading the entire world to a dead end on climate policy.” And add as a twist of the knife: “The environment is much too important to be left to environmentalists. They’ll just make an even bigger mess of everything, like they have on climate change.”
Analysis: To be sure, there are problems with the temperature record on which the finding of 0.8 degrees Celsius warming since the early 1800s is based, and as the “Climategate” scandal revealed, many scientists have abused the data or acted in bad faith, undermining their credibility. But too many of the visible signs of a warmer world, such as retreating arctic glaciers, shrinking arctic sea ice mass, and permafrost melting earlier in the spring, are apparent to deny that warming has taken place. This view has been affirmed by no less a certified non-RINO than Sarah Palin.
Can these changes be attributed to natural climatic changes, such as long-wave ocean current and temperature oscillations, solar activity, and the end of a long-wave climate cycle that gave us the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age? Yes, but the research on these potential explanations is incomplete, often purposely so (that is, the mainstream climate science community suppresses or ignores inquiries into these factors), to be sure. Moreover, the warming effect of changes in greenhouse gas concentrations can be demonstrated in a laboratory, though that is just the beginning of the matter. The effect of current and projected levels of greenhouse gases alone is quite modest–a doubling of carbon dioxide would give you about a 1.1 degree rise in temperature. That’s about it. Not much to write home about. Most of the so-called climate “skeptics,” such as Richard Lindzen and Pat Michaels, agree with this much of the so-called “consensus.” All of the action in the catastrophic climate scenarios–the oft-heard projections of a 3 to 5 degree Celsius temperature increase over the next century–is in the “feedback” effects of warming oceans that greatly magnify warming, changing atmospheric moisture levels, melting ice caps, altered cloud and jet stream behavior, changes in land cover (deforestation), etc. All of these projections may have a plausible basis in theory, but for now must be produced by complicated computer models that assume many of the conditions they set out to prove. The empirical basis for the suite of “feedback” effects is woefully inadequate, and many real world observations so far do not match up with many of the climate models.