December 7, 2011
Climate change: A reasoned skeptic’s response
Read Joey Green’s article: Is Dennis the Menace?
In my two columns (part 1 / part 2) on why thoughtful people might be skeptical about the apocalyptic global warming/climate change scenario, I addressed the issue with a seriousness and respect that Joey Green does not exhibit in his response. He apparently felt that sarcasm and put-downs comprise an adequate response. They don’t.
Nevertheless, the issue is too important not to respond. So here are responses to selected statements by Green:
1. “Dennis explained the main reason why he and ‘many thoughtful people’ remain skeptical that human activity produced global warming. . . .”
Green puts “thoughtful people” in quotation marks, as if it is impossible for thoughtful people to be skeptical of the four claims made by global warming advocates:
a) The Earth’s temperature is rising rapidly and dangerously.
b) It is doing so because of man-made emissions of carbon dioxide.
c) The result will be a worldwide catastrophe — including unprecedented rising of the sea level leading to inundated coastal countries and cities; similarly unprecedented droughts leading to wars for water; and extraordinarily severe and numerous hurricanes making landfall.
d) Therefore industrialized nations must immediately and drastically curtail use of fossil fuels by imposing high taxes on their use and vast government spending on “green” technology. In that way, fossil fuels, the engine of mankind’s unprecedented economic prosperity and technological progress, will be abandoned. Industrialized nations must also transfer hundreds of billions, ultimately trillions, of dollars to poor nations to compensate for the alleged destruction those nations will experience due to our failure to halt warming in time.
Remember, one must fully agree with each of the first three propositions. Skepticism regarding any one of the three means that man-made global warming is not the crisis it is purported to be. And then there would be no need for the fourth proposition.
Green, like most people on the left, doesn’t believe that thoughtful people can be skeptical about any of the propositions. So, allow me to restate:
Aside from dissent by many very distinguished scientists within the small community of climate scientists and elsewhere, common sense dictates skepticism.
For one thing, how do those who are so certain about global warming and about what will occur a half century from now explain the fact that long before there were any human beings, let alone man-made carbon emissions, the Earth experienced periods of far greater warming and intense freezing? Isn’t it obvious that there have been myriad reasons for far more dramatic climate change — none of which have anything to do with humans or carbon dioxide?
Second, are we really going to transform Western economies — nearly all of which are already burdened by unsustainable debt (caused overwhelmingly by entitlements owed by the welfare state) — based almost entirely on computer models?
Third, how do we know that warming is necessarily bad? When the world or portions of it have warmed in human history, it has usually been far more a blessing than a problem.
Fourth, very few of the global warming alarmists’ immediate predictions, or even descriptions of current developments, have been true. For example, one of the most frequent warnings by Al Gore and others has been that “climate change” — what happened to “global warming,” by the way? — will result in unprecedentedly severe and devastating hurricanes. Yet, this very week, on Dec. 4, the United States passed 2,232 days without being hit by a major (Category 3) hurricane — the longest period since 1906. Have you read that in your mainstream paper? Does it mean anything that yet another alarmist prediction has proved false? According to Roger Pielke Jr., professor of environmental studies at University of Colorado, the previous record of consecutive days without a major hurricane in the United States, 1900-1906, “will be shattered, with the days between intense hurricane landfalls likely to exceed 2,500 days.”
But to Green, professor Pielke cannot be among the “thoughtful people.” For Green, no skeptic, no matter how distinguished a scientist he may be, can be thoughtful.
Green is not alone, unfortunately. This is typical of how most on the left think. They are certain that people with whom they differ — on virtually any subject — cannot be thoughtful, or intelligent, or compassionate; only those on the left possess these traits.
For the record, as I note in almost all my columns, unlike Green, I believe that there are thoughtful people on both sides of this issue.
2. “He [Dennis] wisely neglected to mention that a paper Lindzen delivered in 1992, titled ‘Global Warming: The Origin and Nature of Alleged Scientific Consensus,’ was underwritten by OPEC, and that Dyson proposed that soaring carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere could be offset by his cockamamie scheme to mass cultivate specially bred ‘carbon-eating trees.’ ”
Here is another example of how people on the left like Joey Green deal with those with whom they differ. Since he could not deny that professor Richard Lindzen of MIT is widely respected as the dean of American climatologists, he attributes corrupt motives to Lindzen’s global-warming skepticism. Again, in Green’s mind, it is impossible that a thoughtful and decent person, let alone a preeminent climate scientist, differs with the left. Therefore, Lindzen must be portrayed as a form of prostitute. Nineteen years ago, Lindzen was paid by OPEC to deliver a lecture on scientific consensus. And for Green that proves that Lindzen sold his lifelong reputation as a scholar for a lecture fee.
Likewise, Joey Green depicts Freeman Dyson, one of the most highly regarded physicists in the world, as a fool. One thing Green doesn’t lack is self-esteem. How else to explain that the author of “Joey Green’s Cleaning Magic,” “Joey Green’s Amazing Kitchen Cures” and “Joey Green’s Supermarket Spa: Hundreds of Easy Ways to Pamper Yourself With Brand-Name Products You’ve Already Got Around the House” feels capable of dismissing two of the world’s most highly regarded scientists — one as corrupt and the other as a buffoon?
3. “I’m not quite sure why Dennis is unwilling to wreck the economy to save humanity from the threat posed by global warming. A few years back, he was completely willing to wreck the economy by going to war in Iraq to combat the threat posed by nonexistent weapons of mass destruction.”
As it happens, I only supported the war in Iraq once it was under way. To Chris Matthews’ surprise, I told him on “Hardball” before the invasion of Iraq that an invasion of Iraq would be a major gamble. I was always ambivalent about invading Iraq because I knew how inhospitable Iraqi culture was to democracy and liberty. But once we invaded, it was, to me, unconscionable not to support America and Britain and other free societies against al-Qaeda, the Ba’ath Party and other quintessentially evil forces we were fighting. If Green thinks that America, decent Iraqis and the civilized world would have been better off by leaving the Iraqi people to the Islamists and Ba’athists, we have a different moral code. And whatever huge sums we spent on the war in Iraq pale in comparison to the economic price we and Europe would pay if we taxed energy and transferred money to the Third World in the amounts demanded by global warming alarmists.
4. “Dennis also claims that the left wing has exaggerated the dangers of nuclear power because the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl resulted in only 56 direct deaths.”
That is not an honest summary of my argument. Chernobyl was one of my examples. I argued that the left wing exaggerated the dangers of nuclear power when it used the film “The China Syndrome” and its star, Jane Fonda, and organized huge rallies against nuclear power across America, after the accident at Three Mile Island — where not one person died. As for Chernobyl, my two points were that the disaster there was caused by incompetent design and a lack of safety measures due to Soviet disinterest in the lives and health of its citizens, not because nuclear power is so inherently dangerous that the danger can’t be mitigated when built and run responsibly; and that even Chernobyl, which, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, released 400 times more radioactive material than the atomic bomb in Hiroshima, killed only 56 people.
So, yes, the left has wildly exaggerated the dangers of nuclear power — as it did every one of the other examples I gave.
5. “I can’t really understand how anyone could seriously equate the threat posed by global warming with the dangers of silicone implants, secondhand smoke, baby formula and peanut allergies.”
This, too, was intellectually dishonest. I did not equate the threats. Of course the alleged threat of worldwide inundation of coastal cities is incomparably more serious than the alleged dangers of peanut allergies. What I wrote was: “We see this doomsday scenario as only the latest in a long line of left-wing hysterias — every one of which turned out to be either fraudulent or wildly exaggerated, and propagated for reasons having little to do with science, but labeled as ‘science.’ ”
6. “Even if every example Dennis gave of the left wing’s attempts to incite hysteria had not contained misleading half-truths ...”
This is a falsehood. Not once did Green show that any example, let alone “every example,” on my list of left-wing hysterias “contained misleading half-truths.” Each example was documented and remains the whole truth. In 29 years of broadcasting, I have earned a reputation as scrupulous with regard to truth — I even wrote an article for The Wall Street Journal defending Hillary Clinton against charges of anti-Semitism, because I was certain the charges were false. It was, therefore, more important to me to defend Hillary Clinton, with whom I differ on just about every major issue, than to allow a falsehood to go unrefuted. Had Joey Green been more interested in intellectual debate than in mockery, sarcasm and writing non-sequiturs about Herbert Hoover, horse manure in early 20th century New York, the economics of slavery and Gerald Ford’s silly comment about Eastern Europe (which no conservative in America believed), he would have made the effort to prove why my examples were indeed “misleading half-truths” instead of simply declaring them so.
7. “Why discuss a scientific issue scientifically when you can turn it into an illogical and irrational partisan argument for your own self-aggrandizement?”
Green asserts that I turned a scientific issue into “an illogical and irrational” argument. I suppose that when one is used to writing or speaking only to those who agree with him, an assertion is sufficient to convince. But nowhere does he demonstrate my illogic or irrationality. My argument about all the previous hysterias believed in and advanced by lay people and scientists that turned out to be fraudulent was made because, like just about every reader of this journal — and, I presume, Joey Green — I knew nothing about climate science. But I also knew very little about heterosexual AIDS when I read the decidedly minority view of Michael Fumento in Commentary Magazine that heterosexual AIDS in America was a myth. His compelling arguments, grounded in scientific evidence and logic, convinced me, and he turned out to be entirely right. For the sake of more AIDS funding, and in order to de-stigmatize AIDS as primarily a gay men’s (and intravenous drug user) disease, people lied about a looming epidemic of heterosexual AIDS in America. I also knew nothing about the science of silicone breast implants. But I read both sides and concluded that the alleged terrible dangers of the implants constituted junk science. In other words, my point was that on all these left-wing scares, my batting average on ferreting out truth from hysteria was very high, and the left’s has been zero.
The more I have read on global warming over the last five years, the more I have become convinced that what we have here are agendas — most especially the abandonment of fossil-based fuels for green technology and the transfer of wealth to the Third Word — in the guise of science. We also have sincere scientists on both sides. I ask all those reading this debate to please acquaint themselves with all the scientists who write against the global warming scenario. These scientists are overwhelmingly ignored by the mainstream American media. (They are not ignored in the UK, among other countries.)
Just last week, perhaps the leading authority on long-term (2 million to 3 million years) environmental changes, professor Nils-Axel Mörner, former head of the Paleogeophysics and Geodynamics department at Stockholm University, wrote a scathing article about the alleged rising sea levels. This man, who headed the Maldives Sea Level Project, called the United Nations IPCC report on rising sea levels “a scandal that should be called Sealevelgate.”
But why be serious when you can more easily label all those with whom you differ as unthoughtful people, characterize your opponent’s arguments as “shoveling plenty [of ...]”; assert that I engaged in “illogical and irrational partisan argument for [my] own self-aggrandizement”; claim that people like me are not “using their brains”; and that I used “twisted logic”?
Green should understand that while insults and sarcasm may elicit cheers from some fellow leftists, such writing doesn’t further honest debate. In fact, it may even convince some people who even Joey Green considers thoughtful that global warming alarmism is the latest hysteria.