How Not to Turn Enemies into Friends

Governor Terry McAuliffe displays his CO2 emissions executive order. Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

Governor Terry McAuliffe displays his CO2 emissions executive order. Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

by James A. Bacon

Does Governor Terry McAuliffe deliberately misrepresent what skeptics of the prevailing Global Warmig Orthodoxy think, or does he simply repeat what others have said about what skeptics supposedly believe? Either way, we have a problem. Here’s what he said yesterday before signing an executive order to convene a work group to deliver recommendations for carbon reductions:

Now, some of our legislators have trouble keeping up with the times on this topic. They don’t believe the overwhelming science supporting climate change.

Now, I can’t speak for Virginia’s legislators, but I can speak as a skeptic of Global Warming Orthodoxy, and I don’t know of a single reasonably informed observer who doesn’t believe in “climate change.” Skeptics believe that climate is dynamic, and that it has changed throughout human history. Indeed, they emphasize the cyclical nature of climate, as seen in the alternation between the Roman Warm Period, the Medieval Warm Period, and the modern era with cooler periods. The question is not whether “climate change” exists but what role human activity plays in causing climate change. As even the most ardent advocates of anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change will acknowledge, it is difficult to tease out the human impact from natural climate variability.

Climate skeptics do understand that, all other things being equal, an increased percentage of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere will warm the planet. The question is how much will it increase warming? The computer models predicting steep temperature increases over the 21st century assume the existence of feedback loops in which more CO2 increases temperatures, which increases the evaporation of water (another greenhouse gas), which increases temperatures even more. How that process works still remains an object of scientific inquiry. An unresolved question is the extent to which water in the atmosphere leads to more cloud formation, which reflects sunlight, which cools the planet and counteracts the presence of greenhouse gases to some degree. For the most part, computer models have significantly over-stated warming compared to the historical record. Yes, global temperatures have risen, and, yes, this is the hottest decade since humans have been measuring global temperatures (not “in human history,” as Secretary of State John Kerry recently mis-spoke) but it is not as hot as the computer models of twenty years ago said it would be.

Once we move from the domain of “how fast are temperatures rising and what role do humans play” to “what do we do about it?”, we depart the realm of science and enter that of philosophy and public policy. The Global Warming Orthodoxy reaches far beyond science. It proclaims that the only proper response to warming temperatures is to re-engineer the world’s energy economy in order to reduce CO2 emissions. Even among environmentalists, there is disagreement how to go about this. While championing efforts to combat global warming, the Obama administration concedes that there is a legitimate role for natural gas as a transition fuel to renewable fuel sources, and for nuclear power as a source of base-line electric generation. Many Virginia environmentalists are hostile to both natural gas and nuclear, preferring all new electricity production be renewable. Reasonable people can debate the pros and cons of an all-renewable energy grid, but this is not a debate about “science,” much less about “settled science.” It is a debate about technology, economics, and the trade-offs between electric rates, grid reliability and clean fuels.

There appears to be a widespread prejudice that global warming skeptics (and by that, I mean skeptics of the Global Warming Orthodoxy) are anti-scientific knuckle draggers. In era of polarized politics, I suppose there is no dispelling that notion. But the skeptics themselves know differently. And McAuliffe, by suggesting those who disagree with him “haven’t kept up” with scientific thinking belittles their intellect and, thereby, diminishes any chance of winning cooperation with his agenda.

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21 responses to “How Not to Turn Enemies into Friends

  1. This environmentalist is sorry that policy discussion has arrived at a place that you can call Kabuki Theater. During the sixties the public had been horrified watching and learning what we were doing to our environment. Rachel Carson published Silent Spring. We watched the spectacle of a river burning in Cleveland, and a huge oil spill off the Santa Barbara coast. Senator Nelson’s ‘Earth Day’ galvanized everyone… from all sides of the political spectrum.

    The idea of Senator Gaylord Nelson was to to create “a new national coalition … that put quality for human life on a par with Gross National Product.” It worked.
    Response from the grass roots was so remarkable Congress recessed to join the celebration. Over the next few years, under a Republican President Congress produced all the basic environmental legislation we still have today. Twenty years later the celebration went global.

    Then unfortunately, the Merchants of Doubt took over our national conversation, denying “the truth about studies linking smoking to lung cancer, coal smoke to acid rain, and CFCs to the ozone hole … and are the same individuals who claim the science of global warming is ‘not settled’.” We are a long way from that first environmental awareness.

    You make the distinction between Global Warming deniers and Skeptics you call the ‘Skeptics of Global Warming Orthodoxy’. Here is a chart from the Union Concerned Scientists that teased out natural and human contributions to warming. Look and see if we can then agree to evaluate the ‘what’ of our human contribution and then find the best ways to eliminate that human contribution.

    It is not just a question of playing by the rules or trying to outrun them. The planetary changes we are witnessing are doing a lot of costly, not just financially costly, damage. You are right. Today’s change is about politics, power and leadership. I would like to see some leadership because just arguing about the resource we use to generate our electricity is not enough. In Hawaii where residential solar with storage is cheaper than the utility rate, leadership had to come from the state utility corporation. Who will move our utility to a new view of the business of electricity?

    Couldn’t make the chart move … Sorry

    http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/science_and_impacts/science/human-contribution-to-gw-faq.html#.V3RToY6hBe8

  2. Yes, Mr. Bacon, all of this is complex. Scientists are learning constantly but there is enough consensus that humans should agree that humans are likely causing environmental changes and, at least generally speaking, those changes indicate long-term issues. HOPEFULLY, all you “skeptics” are correct and the computer models; the almost weekly reports of climate change; the annual reports of additional lost species; the monthly reports that the last month was the hottest on record; HOPEFULLY, all the data that Governor McAuliffe is alluding to is incorrect. HOPEFULLY, Americans will begin to actually read the data and understand the complexity which you refer to, Mr. Bacon.

    But…

    In the words of the great journalist (short story writer and gambler) Damon Runyon: “The race may not go to the fastest, nor the contest to the strongest…but that’s the way to bet.”

    We — Americans — are still betting on the longest long-shot in the most important race in history. The constant chorus from skeptics that “well, maybe the scientists are wrong” and “maybe it’s not human activity” or “maybe sun spots are bigger” or “maybe people like Gov. McAuliffe or former VP Al Gore aren’t underlining the right facts” or your much longer, better-worded dismissal of the massive issue facing the entire planet, continually produce additional failures to act.

    When you, and other skeptics, finally come to the likely conclusion that your skepticism was ill-founded — that you were backing the long, long longshot — it will be too late.

    Since you want to be such a gambler with my kids and grandkids future, at least buy lottery tickets in my name.

    • Salz, you raise legitimate concerns. You and I are reasonable people, and we could have a reasonable conversation. I hope you appreciate the difference, though, between drawing scientific conclusions and philosophical conclusions.

      I could argue that you are gambling as well. Let’s grant you the proposition that global temperatures are heading higher. You’re gambling that spending tens or hundreds of billions of dollars to re-engineer the electric grid will make a difference. One EPA official famously suggested that the Clean Power Plan will reduce global CO2 emissions by .01 degree by the end of the century, which EPA chief Gina McCarthy never denied. Is that really worth the massive cost of implementing the plan? Are there no more cost-effective solutions to pursue?

      • I’m gambling with having to pay more of MY dollars for electricity, for transportation, for other goods and services, Mr. Bacon.

        You, and the other skeptics are gambling with the lives of OTHERS’ children and OTHERS’ grandchildren — as well as the lives of your own progeny.

        I don’t see much equivalence.

        You are generally a conservative thinker (which I appreciate). Why are you deciding to be so liberal with the (potentially) most important issue of your lifetime???

        My philosophy is “Just USE less” of electricity, of transportation, of even food but it is based on science. Please read Dr. Peter Whybrow’s work titled, “American Mania.” The scientific conclusion is that American affluence (and notice I didn’t say Affluenza) is so extreme that we are battling our own biology. The philosophic conclusion is that we should stop being “homo consumens” and return to being “homo sapiens,” human animals who live as part of this world, not some kind of human malcontents who destroy nature to appease our tiniest whims. Using less, the philosophical conclusion to the scientific data is, FOR our OWN good.

        Electricity, to my mind, is not the major issue in climate change which, I argue, is happening and is most likely caused by man. I agree with the ____ Trainer’s work that “Renewables Cannot Sustain the Consumer Society” and he is talking about a society (Australia) which uses one half the per capita carbon that an American uses. In his very detailed analysis, all the best case scenarios for the big four renewables can come nowhere close to maintaining the Australian carbon consumption even if there is no population growth which…

        My concern is, primarily, transportation where we drive everywhere habitually with zero concern for whether we actually need to drive; with zero awareness of any conceivable alternative transportation possibilities; with zero concern for the externalities our driving costs (averaging 54 cents per mile, according to the Victoria Transport Policy Institute); with zero concern for its effect on our health (because driving requires us to burn zero bodily energy); with zero concern that we pay in excess of $30 million a day to keep the Strait of Hormuz open to protect world oil supply; with zero awareness that “my” vehicles are part of the congestion we love to bitch about; with zero…

        Yes, I could be skeptical that, for example, a conservative pro-defense thinker, Milton Couplus (spelling???), found that on a per gallon basis, American drivers should be paying an additional $10.06 per gallon gasoline tax to pay for only some of the externalities our driving creates.

        I’m flummoxed, however, that you and other conservative skeptics refuse to add up the total volume of the data and instead want to fight over tiny specifics without any attempt to “see” a big picture. Why do not you and the other conservative skeptics conclude the concept basic to true conservative thought? “Just Use Less.”

        I do not dispute that you and your wonderful web page have to stay in business and Dominion Power is one of your prime sponsors. (Thank you, Dominion Power!) Instead, Mr. Bacon, you chastise a politician — for god’s sakes — for doing what politicians always do: “Find out which direction the parade is going and get in front.”

        Yes, Dominion has to consider its long term financial interests in deciding whether (or not) to, for example, build off-shore wind turbines or the gas pipeline. That should be a part of the company’s complex analysis BUT also part of their analysis should be the calculation that climate change is most likely happening; that fracking gas (even if not on Dominion’s dime) is most likely leading to additional methane emissions and possibly leading to ground water pollution. If Dominion Power continues to think solely in TODAY’s dollars and cents, there is less chance for Dominion to find customers in the future to extract dollars and cents from…

        Please quit betting on the longest long shot that you (and Dominion Power) can possibly bet on. Bet conservatively.

  3. Thank you for summarizing the informed skeptics’ position so well. Knuckledraggers we are not! The key point you make, and I quote, is: “The question is not whether “climate change” exists but what role human activity plays in causing climate change.” It is useful to consider what we know about sea level changes over the past — say — 20,000 years, a relative blink of the eye geologically, yet mostly before any human activity affected the climate. What we know is, the sea level has been about 100 meters lower than it is today, and also been about 100 meters higher than it is today, as memorialized by prehistoric beaches/sandy deposits/sharks teeth high above the current shore, and also eroded canyons off the coast deep below. What we don’t know, at least thoroughly, is what caused these substantial changes. Yes, there was an ice age which ended 20,000 years ago; yes, we went through a very warm period after than and then cooled down between 8000 to 3000 years ago to roughly where we are today. And now, it appears to be warming again slightly. But why? Science cannot predict the future unless it can model the past, and it cannot, yet, with any accuracy, explain, let alone model, the past.

    In spite of the lack of knowledge about climate, there is a legitimate reason to go — now — in the other direction. Fossil fuel is a very limited resource. Not only have we always had a tendency to squander limited resources until they are nearly gone; this is also a resource better saved for other higher-value uses — notably, for the manufacture of plastics and other hydrocarbon products. It probably is in our long-term best interest to establish a carbon tax, to put a discouraging price on the use of fossil fuels, if only to cut down on this rapacious wasting of a scarce resource that future generations will value far more than we do. We should be building more renewable resource generation, and doing more energy savings, and, yes, building more nuclear power stations. In hindsight Jimmy Carter was right about this. If it turns out that we learn, in future, that such efforts have also in fact delayed a modern rise in world sea levels costing large populations to lose their homes, then we will be ahead of that game as well, the right answer for wrong reasons. But there is so much ‘pop’ science out there when it comes to “climate change.” For example, we should have no patience with the silly schemes for CO2 sequestration that would “bury” the carbon for the life cycle of a tree, with no thought to the CO2 produced to manufacture the fertilizer to grow the tree or to the CO2 produced when the tree is consumed or rots at the end of its life.

    In short, I do care about our planet. But I also care about our economy, and what harm we could do to it, chasing a rainbow like climate change.

  4. call me a “skeptic” of those who claim to be skeptics rather than deniers.

    not that hard to see the difference. Acbar is a true skeptic… he knows that he does not know for certain… unlike the deniers who think they know…

    😉

  5. An interesting post….I agree that name calling isn’t constructive.

    But I think it’s a little too simplistic to say there is a “science” v. “policy/philosophy” divide. Throughout history, once science reaches valid conclusions, either the state or market (and usually both) acts on those conclusions to improve the human condition. Whether it’s lead in gasoline/paint, vaccines, forest conservation or the green revolution in agriculture. It’s not like we see science reach conclusions and sit around and say, “Don’t do anything because we don’t know if anything will be effective.” I do believe that science has been treated separate from politics/policy in the past when you look at the examples I cite and many other examples.

    As to warming, I’m like Salz. I look at data point after data point piling up. Maybe nearly every scientist in the world is wrong in their conclusions. Maybe reading month after month is one of the five hottest Julys or Septemebers on record is just a “blip”. But what you’re really asking us to do is take a one in a million bet on the future of our children and grandchildren. I’m fearful that damage done today and in the future will have some irreversible effects. I’d rather error on the side of trying to prevent harmful effects than not doing anything.

  6. OK Skeptics, I just don’t get your thinking. Acbar makes a point that I can understand; regardless of the accuracy of the projections there is reason to move away from using fossil fuels where we can substitute a resource/technology that does not add to the probability of more and greater damage to the climate and to our earth as we know it today.

    The trajectory of heat trapping green house gas emission has gone up dramatically Post WWII. That is fact. Adding to that atmospheric accumulation creates risks.
    Our electricity system is old, much of it needs replacing. Money will be spent on the system, but in Virginia decisions are being made under rules that were appropriate for the generation and distribution of electricity from a centralized structure. Those rules no longer serve the new available technology, or the potential, however great, of climate change.

    New England and NY are looking to islandable microgrids as insurance against another Sandy. It turns out that an increase in distributed generation actually saves money and is more reliable against storms. The price of onshore wind and utility scale solar is competitive with other types of generation. Virginia’s rural solar potential is spectacular and the farmers in IOWA love the money they get from a few acres of leased land to wind generation.

    Our utilities will keep making outdated decisions because those decisions make sense under the old rules. Who will acknowledge that updating the system is insurance against risks that are at least a firm possibility, some of which we are seeing today? As the previous comment says. Let’s err on the side of prevention.

    • Now you’re making arguments that “skeptics” can relate to. Just recognize that you’re making an economicargument in favor of renewables, not a scientific one. There are many good reasons to move toward a more distributed electric grid with a large percentage of renewables. If you want to sway Republicans in Virginia, this is the way you need to talk.

      • well folks shouldn’t have to argue economics with the GOP in the first place, right?

        but if you must then how about some estimates of costs associated with different potential levels of global warming -a risk analysis if you will.

        And I’ve never understood why – it is or should be a 100% true or 100% false proposition and that we do nothing because we know 100% it’s false from the get go. why not approach it as if what happens if it is true in various scenarios from little damage to worst-case catastrophic?

        that’s a tried and true “conservative” approach when dealing with the future.

        Even most all true-believers are not looking for a “we stop burning all fossil fuels right now” type answer. Most want to START to move away – incrementally as opportunities to do so – present themselves – LIKE the CPP which does not call for all fossil fuel burning to stop – nothing remotely close to it – and invalidating it in court without a counter-proposal on the hopes that the next POTUS will do nothing – is not
        exactly seeking compromise.

        Opponents have no alternative position other than to assert that the science is a hoax – and doing nothing is the correct response.

        The GOP’s opposition could be accompanied with an alternative proposal – to include risk analysis – rather than repeal and do nothing

        that’s how you “make friends”.

        when your position is to court without a counter-proposal – I’d say that “friendship” is not exactly what they have in mind.

        I’d say that McAuliffe has a realistic position – given these circumstances. All the GOP would do is see that as an opportunity to roll the Gov. If you want “friendship” – put something on the table besides a lawsuit.

  7. It goes without saying that the climate change debate in America has become highly politicized. My personal opinion would be the that the current political debate is not actually about climate change, it’s about changes to our society and energy policy that some would like to see.

    The debate is also about political strategy, whereas Ronald Reagan demonstrated the power of picking a political enemy (Panama was the external “enemy” or scapegoat that propelled Reagan to the presidency). Reagan’s enemy was a bit less “damaging” to the fabric of America, since his enemy was a non-American entity. In the current climate change debate, the enemy are those Americans who do not agree the “sky is falling” and that immediate banning of fossil fuels in the U.S. is required.

    Gov. McAuliffe is simply trying to climb on board with the liberal agenda, but of course he is not banning fossil fuels, so he is to some extent in “no man’s land.”

  8. Conservatives/republicans and the like are always accused by liberals of looking at things too simplistically and not understanding the complex issues.

    When it comes to global warming, it is the progressive liberals who follow simplistic science. They claim that CO2 controls all. The sun, the ocean currents, winds, geothermal activity and many other factors are irrelevant. All that matters is CO2. And anyone who actually wants to examine the scientific factors and actually try to determine the scientific truth is attacked – in effect, for not being simplistic enough.

    Even the IPCC scientists admit in their conclusions that the world’s climate is variable, chaotic and constantly changing thing and that no one can predict what will occur in the future with any certainty. That is the science.

    • I don’t think they look “simplistically” they KNOW it’s complex but they have traditionally trusted science and scientists – from way back and continue to – when talking about El Nino, or hurricane tracking or ozone holes as well as climate.. This is no breakdown in trust.

      Those on the right – no longer trust science as much -and now, less than before – – and it did not start recently – but it has degraded significantly when people started believing in conspiracies – not just isolated ones -but ones worldwide – global – that involved scientists from different countries and governments from different countries.

      Even this is not entirely new. People who remember how the cigarette and cancer issue played out – and right now – today – Virginia is actually getting millions of dollars from a court settlement that found the industry was knowingly and purposely doctoring the science and deceiving people.

      After that similar fighting went on with unleaded gas – DDT, and acid rain – toxins in food and drinking water… All of these issues were based on scientific analyses – that were – pretty much believed by a majority of people.

      Most folks on the left know it’s exceedingly complex and that it takes a lot of education and knowledge to work through it – but they do trust those who have the credentials – not just one or two – but a consensus of all of them at the end of the process when – basic conclusions and findings are made.

      That’s just no longer the case with many on the right these days. Many have lost their trust of science… and how science is done – it seems. They often will believe others who have limited or no scientific background over the scientists.

  9. re: ” My personal opinion would be the that the current political debate is not actually about climate change,”

    well – it’s certainly about not trusting science that in the past – has been trusted.

    Only a few years ago – “science” had reached a consensus that CFCs were causing holes in the ozone and that was said by science to be a bad thing – and so – despite significant economic impacts -we acted on what science advocated be done.

    I think it’s safe to say – that if that happened today – that the same folks who don’t buy CO2 and climate change would also not buy CFCs and Ozone holes and consider it to be a similar “liberal” engendered “scheme”.

    right?

    or if you think I’m wrong – then tell me how CFC/Ozone holes would be believed and acted upon – the difference.. that it would while not CO2 and climate change?

    got any thoughts?

  10. Sorry JAB … been doing that for 4 years cause I agree with you that is the right argument to make in VA. It hasn’t caught on!

  11. yes, reasonable people can — and should — disagree.

    In this morning’s Washington Post are two articles which underline the “big picture” which climate change skeptics refuse to think about.

    In one, “‘Hold’ in the ozone over Antarctica has begun to heal”, we learn that human action, after a 1987 U.S. public policy change, CAN take an environmental concern and (apparently) reverse the downside. It takes tiny steps and generations to change the huge ozone negative into — at this moment — a wash.

    In another, “Humans driving rapid evolution of new species,” we’re assured that humans DO affect nature and the assurance comes with examples of how our activities have changed the planet we live on.

    Why do skeptics EVER think otherwise is NEVER discussed. The data is absolutely clear — unless one rejects all scientific inquiry. The data keeps piling up but skeptics keep trying to find fault in the complexity of each piece of data. Look at the big picture, skeptics, and look at your kids and grandkids. Take them aside and tell them: “I know I might be injuring your lives and lifestyles by my skepticism, but..” and look them in the eyes and explain why/how you continue to ignore the non-stop data (which doesn’t require deep research) which indicates your bet on the longest long shot in history is worthwhile from your point of view.

    • Exactly. The right has politicized science. For the 20th century, science wasn’t “politicized.” Both parties accepted scientific consensus and worked to achieve policy solutions to the problems that science identified. Your ozone example is a good one, as is acid rain. As I mentioned earlier, go look at lead paint/gasoline. There wasn’t some ferocious effort to “debunk” that scientific consensus.

      What truly amuses me is that the right will trot out a teeny tiny minority of scientists (and take a look at some of their funding sources) to say, “Oh gee, there’s no consensus.” But if you and I went to the top 100 universities in the world and we surveyed each environmental science department, you would not find a single department that did not accept the consensus on man made climate change. So, to give any credence to skeptics, you’ve got to believe that the entire elite academic community is in a broad conspiracy to “cook data”or is completely wrong. That’s what you’re really believing if you accept the skeptics’ arguments. That is not a bet worth taking.

  12. Cville, it sounds like you’re so locked into your view on this issue that you totally missed the point of the post. Let’s assume that you and other warmists are 100% right about the science of global warming. When you shift from the question of “what is happening/will happen to global climate” to “what should we do about it?” you are leaping from science to economics and philosophy.

    Fixing the ozone hole was a simple matter conceptually — stop producing Freon. Fixing global warming is 1,000 times more complex. Devising answers requires economic analysis and value judgments. Even people who believe 100% in the danger of global warming disagree on the best path.

  13. Unfortunately, one cannot disagree with the global warming people. Or else.
    If you disagree (or even question) their claims on this one issue, then you are accused of saying other things–whether or not that is true.. I agreed completely with the need to address the ozone issue but since I dared to disagree on global warming, I am being attacked for ozone. They have to make things up to demonize you.

    I am a long time conservationist; I have often been called a “tree-hugger”, for which I am proud. But, just because I believe in conservation and similar issues, that does not mean I am required to automatically follow bad science, just because it is politically correct to do so.
    Larry says we have to trust the scientists; I agree. But Larry, really research the issue and you will see many top scientists do not go along with the made-up consensus. Barack Obama and Al Gore are not scientists. The 97 % figure is a made up slogan. Open your minds and don’t just follow the political crowd.

  14. Let me put a slightly different spin on that. Yes, the ozone hole is linked to release of fluorocarbons and we have dealt (or are dealing) with that. There was no threat to the ozone layer before man came along and released CFCs. Yes, global warming is linked to atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases (CO2 is only one of these, and far from the worst); BUT ALSO global warming has happened many times in prehistory, and far more radically than current trends, as the result of other, unknown (or poorly understood) factors.

    So I don’t deny that CO2 is a factor. What worries me is that it appears to be a minor factor. Yet we would spend a HUGE sum trying to limit CO2 emissions on the ASSUMPTION that it will make all the difference.

    What also worries me is, if it’s true that CO2 is what’s upsetting the applecart today, and we really should be doing something about it, the lead time for making a dent in the makeup of the Earth’s atmosphere is enormous and we should get on with it. Salz has a point: “When you, and other skeptics, finally come to the likely conclusion that your skepticism was ill-founded — that you were backing the long, long longshot — it will be too late.”

    Only I don’t think Salz and others have any basis — yet — for saying that’s the “likely” conclusion of this debate. What we need is a hell of a lot more research, and funding of that research, to get some better, firmer, answers than we now have. Imagine, for example, how much difference a national commitment (like the “war on cancer” or the “year of the brain” efforts) would make if we turned that sort of attention to the fundamentals of climate research — at a tiny fraction of the costs we are talking about incurring to do “carbon sequestration” and rebuild our electric generation and grid on the ASSUMPTION that those will make a difference. This is not knuckle-dragging, folks, it’s common sense economic prioritization.

    I’d also like to see us make that sort of commitment to basic scientific research because it’s the only way to rebut the C’villes of the world who say things like: “to give any credence to skeptics, you’ve got to believe that the entire elite academic community is in a broad conspiracy to “cook data”or is completely wrong.” I know lots of those far more knowledgeable about climate than me who will tell you, the evidence is unequivocal that things are warming up. But they also tell me, or you if you ask, that the increase in levels of CO2 is not likely to be the only thing going on; they just don’t know what else is happening. The consequences of sea-level rise are so severe, they endorse doing what we can, but what little we can do may prove to be irrelevant — and at what cost?

    We also know that scientists can be remarkably conformist. As astronomy and theoretical physics and geology and medicine have demonstrated repeatedly, there are things we “know for certain,” they are received wisdom, that have been totally discredited, and people look back on the past opposition to research into those new developments and wonder, why did they resist checking out the clues, early on, that the truth lay somewhere else. Whether it’s careers in science, or past positions staked out in publications, or hard-fought-for funding that requires the persuasion of ordinary politicians who want simple answers — there is huge momentum out there backing the notion of CO2-driven climate change. This surely is not a conspiracy; it’s just human nature. I for one remain unconvinced that when we look back on this era, halting climate change will prove to be that simple.

  15. Some things that should be part of the debate, but aren’t include the following.

    What do we (scientists) think is the “normal” for earth? If data suggests we are normally “colder,” one might suggest a more activist public policy would be appropriate. But what if the earth is normally a warmer place than we’ve been experiencing for the last several hundred years? To me that suggests it might be foolish to attempt to stick our finger in the hole in the dike, but rather, to attempt to mitigate or address expected changes to coastlines, etc.

    What actions are recommended? What will they achieve? At what cost? And to whom? How are the key factors to be measured, and by whom? Are we going to transfer money from people in South Dakota to protect the multi-million dollar beach homes on the coasts? Remember, we are transferring money from ordinary people who use the Dulles Toll Road to already wealthy landowners in Tysons partially in the name of CO2 reduction. Similarly, much of what flooded in Manhattan during Hurricane Sandy was land reclaimed from the water with fill.

    What role is Wall Street playing in the “Climate Change” debate, especially behind the scenes? If anyone truly believes Wall Street would not attempt to manipulate CO2 mania for private benefit, I’ve got some lumber from my old deck that I’ll sell as coming from San Francisco homes built before the Earthquake. How much of these critical actions are poorly disguised attempts by Wall Street to capture other people’s money?

    Why isn’t federal money going to research climate change caused by factors other than CO2? What caused earlier world warming? Do those factors exist today? What if they are the norm?

    And, yes, we should be looking at how to develop lower-costs, reliable and renewable energy sources because non-renewable means non-renewable.

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