Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Global warming - No Dissent Allowed

George Will recently wrote a column challenging Global Warming as being settled science. Eric Alterman thinks that Will should be prevented from writing about such things.
And while we’re on the topic, isn’t it irresponsible for newspapers and ABC News to promote the views of a man like George Will who has no expertise whatever about global warming but seeks to disarm us in the face of its threat?
Since Alterman has no more expertise on the subject than Will, his point seems to be that Global warming is too important to allow debate. Unfortunately, this is the general policy in the MSM. The magazine Nature ran an article in which the author reviewed nearly a thousand articles from Science and reported that they unanamously agreed that global warming is happening and that humans are the cause. An independant reseachers tried to duplicate these results and could not. He found that the vast majority of articles were not climate studies at all. The ones that were never came out and said that human-indiced global warming is happening. This got almost no coverage while the original article made the wire service and is now accepted wisdom.

This has been going on for nearly 20 years, since Global Warming was first announced during an August heat wave. Surveys of reporters have shown that they believe Global Warming to be real and that they need to be advocates on the subject. So much for professional objectivity.

Accordingly, any article that indicates new "proof" for Global Warming is taken at face value. Any sceptics are labeled as such but professional lobbiests are simply presented as "Global Warming experts".

At the same time, all a Global warming evangelist has to do is claim some sort of coercion and the media will report it uncritically.

For example, one of the biggest questions about Global Warming is how modern temperatures compare with historic times. If current temperatures are lower than at some point in human history then it is unlikely that the predicted appokolypse will happen. For several decades it was assumed that a warm period did occur around a thousand years ago followed by a cold period starting in the 14th century and lasting until the mid-19th century. The was challenge by a chart known as the Hockey Stick, produced by researcher Michael Mann. Mann's reconstruction of the last thousand years showed a fairly flat temperature range until the mid-19th century when it suddenly started rising sharply. The thing about the Hockey Stick is that it was published without peer review. In scientific circles, peer review is considered the gold standard and anything published without it is simply opinion. Moreover, Mann use government grants in producing his work and is obligated by them to make all of his research public. when congress pushed Mann to release his data he refused ad went to the press with complaints about being bullied by non-scientists. Congress backed off.

Similarly, NASA scientist James Hansen has alledged censorship, "In my more than three decades in government, I have never seen anything approaching the degree to which information flow from scientists to the public has been screened and controlled as it is now,".

Actually, there are no restriction on the information that Hansen can (and does) release. The rules that Hansen is complaining about restrict NASA from recomending specific policy to Congress. This is a sensible rule since NASA is supposed to to be a neutral science advisor, not a lobbiest. Hansen wants to go beyond that with Congress and, by taking his case to the press, has been allowed more lattitude than warming sceptics at NASA (yes there are some - see here).

Assuming that Global Warming is happening and that the world is hotter than it has been in 160+ million years, what are the effets likely to be? The coverage here is laughably one-sided. The truth is that no one has any idea. There have been attempts to use computer models meant for global weather to predict local effects but this is a misuse of the models and guarenteed to give bad data.

Hurricane Katrina was widely attributed to Global Warming with the warning that more devistating storms will follow. What was not reported was that no climatologist is on record as saying that Katrina was caused or even strengthened by Global Warming. Katrina was will within normal hurricane strength - it was only a category 3 when it struck land.

We are told that Global Warming will cause more Katrina-style destruction plus flooding, drought, plague, insect invasions, etc. There is no proof for any of this speculation. A study done by the US in the 1990s showed that the net effect on our country would be benificial. Farmers would have slightly longer growing seasons and fewer late frosts. There would be some adjusting of crops with a net increase of food produciton. The worst projeted was that a few already-stressed forests might die out. Greenpeace and other environmental rejected this projection and descided to push a doomday scenario. This has been accepted with the complicity of the MSM.

Finally, there is no discussion of the costs of reducing CO2 emmisions. This is usually presented as a painless cap-and-trade plan but the signatories of the Kyoto Protocalls have discovered that this puts a limit on their economies. Worse, the restrictions madated by Kyoto are meaningless. Real cuts would affect everyone in the world on a daily basis. There would have to be major restrictions on travel, lighting, heating, cooling, even food production and transportation. The extent of the cutbacks needed to stop Global Warming are never discussed. The result is that people will either buy into meaningless but painful restrictions like Kyoto or really painful cutbacks.

These are what is missing from the debate on Global Warming - the fact that there is still a debate, the likely effects if it is real, and the mitigation costs.

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