Thursday, April 13, 2006

Global warming skepticism: There have been a number of recent articles raising doubts about the mainstream view of global warming. Here are a couple of the more interesting ones from the British press:

"Kyoto is pointless, say 60 leading scientists"
(Daily Telegraph 4/9/2006)

"There IS a problem with global warming... it stopped in 1998"
(Daily Telegraph 4/9/2006)

There's also a recent op-ed by Dr. Richard Lindzen, currently Alfred P. Sloan professor of atmospheric sciences at MIT, in which he argues that the global warming alarmists have distorted the science, and are suppressing the skeptics. This is quite interesting, especially given that the global-warming alarmists are the ones claiming to be suppressed (likening their political situation to "Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union"), but their side of the story is the one that one always hears on NPR, NY Times, Time magazine, ABC News, etc., whereas skeptics like Lindzen rarely get equal time.

"Climate of Fear: Global-warming alarmists intimidate dissenting scientists into silence"
(Wall Street Journal, 4/12/2006)

Lindzen has also written a longer, more detailed scientific analysis:
"Global Warming: The Origin and Nature of the Alleged Scientific Consensus"
(Regulation, 1992; although this is older, it doesn't sound like his position has changed much)

[/soapbox on]

IMHO, one would need to prove the following 6 points before one could make a scientific case that we should implement major changes in our laws with respect to CO2 emissions:

1) That global warming was actually happening.

2) That it was the result of human activity (not just normal cyclical natural variations).

3) That the degree of human-caused global warming would cause significant harmful consequences.

4) That these consequences could be reversed by taking certain actions.

5) That any such proposed action (such as the Kyoto treaty) would actually be effective in preventing/reversing the harm.

6) That any such proposed action wouldn't cause worse harm than it prevented (i.e., that the "cure" wouldn't be worse than the "disease").

Note that all 6 elements would have to be proven true before it would be appropriate to adopt a major international treaty like Kyoto.

Numerous news articles have shown serious problems with points (5) and (6). Based on my reading, I believe there's also significant legitimate scientific uncertainty about (1) through (4) as well.

And of course, Bjorn Lomborg's 2001 book The Skeptical Environmentalist covers many of the same issues.

I don't expect this one blog post to immediately change many minds on this contentious issue. For now, I'd be satisfied with making the point that the issue is not the simple slam-dunk as is typically portrayed in the usual news media. Nor are the opponents of global warming hypothesis/Kyoto treaty necessarily stupid or corrupt.

[/soapbox off]

Update: It's been pointed out to me via e-mail and online discussion boards that if I can objectively prove that any polluter(s) have caused significant harm to me or my property, I should in general be able to address that through the courts, without requiring broad new laws that regulate entire industries.