October 26, 2011
Man-made global warming: Why many of us are skeptical [Part 1]
In the belief that there are people on the left who are more interested in understanding the right rather than in simply dismissing its decency, I would like to briefly explain why many thoughtful people are skeptical of the claims made on behalf of global warming. By “global warming” I am referring to the claims of Al Gore that man-made carbon dioxide emissions are causing dramatic increases in the Earth’s temperatures; increases that will devastate much of the Earth.
Many of us don’t believe the Al Gore thesis for three primary reasons:
1. There are thousands of scientists in climate science and other scientific fields — some of them among the most distinguished in the world — who do not agree with the Al Gore thesis. One is Richard Lindzen, the atmospheric physicist and Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at MIT, widely regarded as America’s leading climatologist. Lindzen has written that “It is generally accepted that a doubling of CO2 will only produce a change of about two degrees Fahrenheit if all else is held constant. This is unlikely to be much to worry about” and “The basis for the weak [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] argument for anthropogenic climate change was shown to be false.”
Another is Freeman Dyson, one the world’s most admired physicists, who in 2009 told The New York Times Magazine, “The climate-studies people who work with models always tend to overestimate their models. ... They come to believe models are real and forget they are only models.”
Other major skeptical scientists are listed here.
2. They, and many others, point out the obvious fact that throughout the history of the Earth, far more dramatic climate changes have taken place. Greenland was once green, and Iceland was once ice. At one point, the Earth had an ice age and has since warmed considerably — all without one human being living on it, let alone emitting carbon dioxide.
3. 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.” When you are wrong 12 out of 12 times, others are not inclined to radically change America’s and the world’s economies by betting that you are right on the 13th.
Here are the three of 12 other left-wing hysterias that have proven false. (Because of space limitations, I have divided this column into two parts, the second of which will appear in these pages on Nov. 11):
1. Nuclear Power
Though strongly opposing fossil-based energy, the left has also opposed clean nuclear energy. The stated reasons? Nuclear energy is not safe because it can leak radiation and because we do not know how to safely dispose of nuclear waste.
This became hysteria more than 30 years ago when the left made the 1979 nuclear meltdown at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania synonymous with terrible danger from nuclear reactors. Yet, not one person died as a result of Three Mile Island, and exposure to radiation was next to zero.
Even the worst nuclear power disaster in history, the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear reactor disaster, which was entirely a result of Soviet incompetence and lack of concern for its citizens, was far less injurious than the drama around it suggested. As of 2006, 20 years after the disaster, according to the United Nations: “Only 56 people have died as a direct result of the radiation released at Chernobyl … .”
For the left, such numbers are unacceptably small. Thus, the environmentalist group Greenpeace rejected the United Nations numbers and released a report at the same time declaring that many tens of thousands of people will have died from Chernobyl.
Two prominent feminist writers, Gloria Steinem and Naomi Wolf, wrote in their best-selling books, “Revolution From Within” and “The Beauty Myth” — and the news media reported — that 150,000 girls and women a year die of anorexia nervosa. The number is about 200.
3. Silicone Breast Implants
Another left-led hysteria concerned alleged serious dangers of silicone breast implants to women’s health. Feminist and other ideologically driven groups led a campaign to have the implants banned despite the lack of scientific evidence to substantiate their charges. The campaign was successful. In 1991, a California jury awarded $7.3 million to a woman with mixed connective-tissue disease — despite testimony by her doctor that she had showed symptoms two years before getting implants. And the Federal Drug Administration banned the implants in 1992. It wasn’t until 2006 that the FDA bowed to the overwhelming scientific evidence, and reapproved silicone breast implants.
In Part 2, I will list another eight doomsday scenarios of the left, all of which have been promulgated as scientific by the sympathetic news media, and every one of which turned out to be false.
Dennis Prager’s nationally syndicated radio talk show is heard in Los Angeles on KRLA (AM 870) 9 a.m. to noon. His latest project is the Internet-based Prager University (prageru.com).