Monday, April 22

Global warming losing steam


A pedestrian walks down Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House as the snow continues to fall in the morning hours in Washington on Feb. 10.

A pedestrian walks down Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House as the snow continues to fall in the morning hours in Washington on Feb. 10. PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS/the associated press


Last week’s ubiquitous snowstorms and continued revelations about erroneous predictions by climatologists have aided the skeptics of global warming.

Regardless of what can be said of the contention that the cooling spell proves warming a farce (“warmers” insist that the recent weather events actually add force to their arguments), there is now sufficient cause to stop before going any further with climate regulation.

The public, it seems, has caught on sooner than our heads of government. According to a recent Rasmussen poll, a slim 35 percent of Americans believe that humans are culpable for the planet’s warming.

In addition, in a poll by the Pew Recent Center in which people were asked to rank their top priorities for the nation, global warming finished dead last.

The dwindling confidence in anthropogenic global warming can be explained in part by a stream of recent controversies surrounding the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the body that conducts most of the research concerning this phenomenon.

Last November, computer hackers stumbled upon a bundle of private e-mails from the Climate Research Unit (the IPCC’s main research arm). Based on the e-mails, some have accused officials of data fraud and other strains of unethical behavior.

Sensing danger, the warming warriors immediately pooh-poohed the finding, reiterating their claim to a monopoly on the climate evidence. Their next act was to call for a thorough investigation of the hackers.

Two lines crystallized during this ordeal: (1) The evidence for global warming is so overwhelming that nothing new could possibly arise to challenge it, and (2) those who defame the proponents of global warming are a threat to society (not to mention prostitutes of the energy companies) and deserve to be summarily punished.

These autocratic claims now have to be explained in light of new scandals that have inched into our awareness (slowed considerably by various media outlets).

Many of these scandals relate to the IPCC’s 2007 report, the same all-important document that the Environmental Protection Agency relied on to designate carbon dioxide worthy of regulatory action under the Clean Air Act (in the same dangerous class as nitrous oxide and lead).

The report, which advertises itself as a compendium of peer-reviewed articles, has long been looked on as the locus classicus for climate science ““ the definitive source of information for its time. Like any compendium, however, it is only as good or as valuable as its component parts.

It is now being publicized that some of the most lurid claims contained in the report ““ like the prediction that “up to 40 percent” of the Amazon would be imperiled by global warming ““ somehow played hooky with the peer review process.

This is not surprising. The propagators of these claims have simply discovered what was a painfully obvious truth: Painting a dire scenario about global warming is far more lucrative than arguing that the Earth will remain more or less stable.

Once they learned this, it would not take much training in statistics to produce a mathematical model that appeared to fit the historical data.

Which leads to this basic question: What do we do now?

If you are in the “in crowd,” the answer seems to be: Go full speed ahead!

In spite of the aforementioned scandals, President Barack Obama’s 2011 budget proposes to augment funding to the Global Change Research Program (a global warming stronghold) by more than a fifth. (Aside: At the same time, it excises the budget for manned lunar missions.)

In addition, old threats are being uttered more and more frequently. While Scott Brown’s election has put what seems to be the final nail in the coffin of cap-and-trade, there are whisperings that this will inevitably lead to an even more asphyxiating method of control: EPA regulation of carbon dioxide via the Clean Air Act.

Indeed, the EPA was empowered to do so by a 2007 Supreme Court decision, which prescribed that any administrator, in fact, had to regulate any air pollutants that “in his judgment cause, or contribute to, air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.”

The act’s purview would extend to all “new” sources of carbon emissions ““ anything from tail pipes to power plants ““ while leaving untouched the older sources (whose outdated technology makes them the biggest offenders). It also does nothing to redress the damage caused by biofuels, which turn out to be huge potential contributors to the greenhouse problem, such as it is.

The alternative to geo-engineering, the settlement of greenhouse gas disputes through litigation, is an equally frightening prospect.

In a world where virtually everything (plants, humans, etc.) is a source of carbon dioxide, how on earth do you settle the question of liability?

Of course, the judicial route also leaves a lot to chance, which is undoubtedly a deterrent to people certain of the planet’s imminent destruction.

Seeing the issues that must be accosted, environmentalists will have to consider whether tightening the cinch on global pollution is worth the trouble.

At the moment, it appears that their resolve has not been blunted ““ even with the attacks on their ethical and scientific credentials. But that can all change very quickly as political circumstances transform, and they no longer have the total support of Congress and the administration.

In this sense at least, we are still (barely) masters of our own fates.

E-mail Pherson at [email protected]

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