Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Andrew Olmsted

April 11, 2006
Global Warming Skeptics Strike Back
So, a few weeks after ABC News and Time take global warming scaremongering to the next level, a paleoclimatologist in Australia tells us that average global temperatures have been steady over the past seven years, despite ever-increasing amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere during that period. Professor Carter points out that periods of warming and cooling over the past century have not tracked with periods of increasing CO2 emissions and suggests that global warming is just another way for government bureaucrats to increase their power base by creating an emergency that they will have to be given extensive powers to fight.

I am sympathetic to such an argument due to my tendency to prefer as little government as is humanly possible, and the news the temperature hasn't actually changed over the past seven years is certainly interesting. But as I've noted in the past regarding such complex scientific matters, the climate is simply too intricate a system for this data to really prove anything to us. Just because CO2 buildup in the atmosphere may cause global warming, it does not necessarily follow that we will see a precise relationship between levels of CO2 and average global temperatures. It may be that the temperature increases require certain threshold levels of CO2, which would produce just what we're seeing now, a long increase followed by a steady-state situation for an indeterminate time until CO2 levels reach the next threshold, at which point we may see temperature increases again. On the other hand, there may be feedback loops we're not yet aware of through which the Earth's climate adjusts to the warming conditions. The possibilities are effectively endless, and the only way we're going to know for sure is probably through a lot more research and may well happen after the fact.

Don't get me wrong; I am not suddenly endorsing the consensus view of global warming in an attempt to remain contrarian. I am no less agnostic on the question of global warming now than I was before, this is just one more interesting data point. My position remains one of patience. If anthropogenic global warming is occurring, then I suspect we will be far better prepared to deal with it by continuing to grow our economy than by crippling ourselves and condemning millions to death by shutting down the global economy in hopes of preventing something we can't be sure of. If there are ways to switch to energy sources that do not generate CO2, or that generate less CO2, then I have no objection to making those changes if and when they're economically feasible, but I'd prefer to avoid the market-warping effects of government intervention. In fact, I would truly love to see a ten-year moratorium placed on any government action regarding global warming, if only because the only way I think we're likely to see the science placed ahead of the politics of global warming is by removing global warming from the political debate. As long as global warming remains a political question, we'll continue to see each side use whatever science they can find to support their position and to attack any science supporting the other side, without regard for the evidence as a whole. None of us are served by that argument...

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