I believe that the huge cost of “doing something” substantial about global warming will inevitably cause us to reexamine the science. Just how certain are we that recent warming really has been caused by SUVs spewing carbon dioxide and cows belching methane? After all, the greater the cost of the advertised fixes, the more certain we must be that the scientific consensus really is more than just a political statement.
And why should the science of global warming be so uncertain? Mostly because it is a whole lot easier to make scientific measurements than it is to figure out what those measurements are telling us about how the natural world works. The famous humorist and writer Mark Twain once said, “Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.”
I consider the theory that global warming is caused by mankind to be just one more example of the continuing tradition scientists have of extrapolating well beyond what they think they know. In his 1883 book Life on the Mississippi, Mark Twain also expressed perfectly the proclivity of scientists for turning observations of the natural world into long range predictions which were clearly outlandish. . .
For some strange reason, the more dire the prediction, the better chance of receiving a prestigious award for scaring the rest of humanity with it — Al Gore’s Nobel Peace Prize comes to mind.. . .
While the global-warming debate will probably slow down for some number of months, it will likely return with a vengeance sometime after the fall elections. This is, of course, unless our eight-year stretch of no warming continues. Since January of 2006 when Al Gore announced we have only ten years left to save ourselves, the globally averaged satellite measured temperature of the lower atmosphere has fallen by one degree Fahrenheit. Last month was the fifth-coolest month in the 30-year satellite record.
If global warming doesn’t get its act together pretty soon, there will be a lot of scientists (and more than a few politicians) who will look pretty foolish — but only to those who remember the foolish predictions. Since we still remember a few scientists in the 1970s who were announcing the arrival of a new ice age, I am hopeful that we will also be reminded of the catastrophic warming forecasts when they also fail.
But by then we will have moved on to new kinds of environmental catastrophes to predict and wring our hands over. After all, we scientists are human, too, and we must preserve our traditions.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Dr. Roy W. Spencer, a principal research scientist at the University of Alabama-Huntsville, in National Review Online: