November 9, 2011
Opinion: Global warming: Part 2
This is how I began Part 1 of this column, two weeks ago:
“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.”
Those claims are:
1. The Earth is warming to an unprecedented extent (in terms of man’s recorded existence on Earth).
2. This warming is caused by human beings burning fossil fuels.
3. This warming will lead to worldwide catastrophe by the end of this century.
One must believe all three postulates, otherwise the issue is moot. So, for example, even if one believes the Earth is warming but doesn’t believe this will lead to worldwide catastrophe, then global warming is irrelevant.
I don’t believe that all three postulates are true. And, more important, neither do many thoughtful scientists. The notion that virtually every scientist believes that man-made carbon emissions are leading to a global warming that will have apocalyptic consequences — in other words, that “the science is settled” — is repeated so often by the liberal media that many people believe it.
But it is not true. Many distinguished scientists and many scientists who are not well known but who are in climatology and related fields question this alarmist thesis.
In Part 1, I noted the example of Richard Lindzen of MIT, widely respected as the dean of American climatologists. Anyone who cares about science should take his skepticism seriously. It is very significant that Al Gore has refused to debate professor Lindzen or any other prominent scientist who differs with Gore’s views.
One should also take seriously the skepticism of 60 Canadian scientists, all of whom are accredited experts in climate and related disciplines, who wrote the Canadian prime minister an open letter in which they said, among other things: “Observational evidence does not support today’s computer climate models.”
Claude Allegre of France, a member of the French Academy of Sciences, a foreign member of the National Academy of Sciences and the former French Minister of Education (Socialist Party), believes that the vast amount of money governments have thrown at scientists who advocate the man-made global warming theory has distorted science.
And thousands of American scientists have signed a petition against the so-called scientific consensus on global warming.
Let’s be honest: Outside of the rarefied confines of climate science, the vast majority of people who believe the man-made global warming thesis know nothing about climate science and the vast majority of skeptics also know nothing about climate science.
So, on this issue, we all choose what to believe and what to do. I am skeptical because I am not prepared to wreck the Western world’s economy — which is already on the brink of debt-caused collapse — because of computer models about what may happen in half a century.
I am skeptical because climate change is utterly normal — and has never been caused by humans.
I am skeptical because so many pieces of evidence seem to be flawed — from the allegedly shrinking numbers of polar bears to global warming allegedly causing the receding of Mount Kilimanjaro’s glaciers.
But the biggest reason for my skepticism has been, from the beginning, that those most pushing the global warming thesis have cried “wolf” about threats to humanity so often that they have lost all credibility with me and numerous others.
I cite nine examples of these threats, each one of which has turned out to be untrue.
I began in Part 1 with three examples: the hysteria over nuclear power, the false claims about the dangers of silicone breast implants and the outright lies about the number of women who die from anorexia. Feminists such as Gloria Steinem had claimed that 150,000 girls and women die every year of anorexia nervosa. She got that number from another feminist, Naomi Wolf, who has compared anorexia in America to the Holocaust. Wolf, in turn, explained that she got the number from another feminist, Joan Brumberg, former director of women’s studies at Cornell University. And Brumberg says she got the number from the American Anorexia Bulimia Association. When asked, the association said that it was misquoted, that it said there are 150,000 women who suffered from anorexia, not who died from it each year. (Editor’s note: This organization no longer exists; it was absorbed by the National Eating Disorders Association in 2001.) For the record, according to the World Health Organization, the number of American women who die each year from anorexia is around 200. How big a lie the 150,000-number is can be rather easily demonstrated. In the year 2009, fewer than 50,000 females between the ages 15 and 44 died in America of all causes.
Here are another six examples of untruths with which the left has tried to frighten Americans.
4. Heterosexual AIDS in America: In the 1980s, American media featured cover articles about the looming epidemic of heterosexual AIDS in America. They made sure to feature white heterosexual women — members of the second-least likely demographic group in America to contract AIDS (the least likely were lesbians) — in order to illustrate that, in the politically correct phrase of the day, “AIDS doesn’t discriminate.” Or as a Life magazine cover put it, “Now, No One Is Safe.” It was an untruth fostered by the left, including, unfortunately, a fair share of scientists. Of course, in Africa heterosexual AIDS is a very real problem. Indeed, it is a terrible pandemic, the ravages of which I saw firsthand in Zambia and Zimbabwe when I went there to volunteer to help families of AIDS victims.
5. Secondhand smoke: The longest living, healthiest generation in history, American baby boomers, has bought the notion that secondhand smoke is a major killer even though most of them grew up with daily secondhand smoke. Fifty thousand Americans a year, we are told, are killed by secondhand smoke. This is another hysteria masquerading as science. One highly regarded UCLA epidemiologist, Dr. James Enstrom, has debunked the mainstream epidemiological studies on secondhand smoke. His findings, printed in the British Medical Journal, were that “The association between exposure to environmental tobacco smoke and coronary heart disease and lung cancer may be considerably weaker than generally believed.”
Concerning the hysteria over secondhand smoke outdoors, Michael B. Siegel, professor of Community Health Sciences at Boston University and a longtime proponent of indoor bans on smoking, wrote: “No evidence demonstrates that the duration of outdoor exposure — in places where people can move freely about — is long enough to cause substantial health damage. ... From a public health perspective, [the outdoor ban is] pointless. … New York’s ban on outdoor smoking seems to fulfill its opponents’ charge that the movement is being driven instead by an unthinking hatred of tobacco smoke.”
Some asthmatic children may have an increase in asthmatic episodes as a result of being around secondhand smoke. But that is far from the mendacious claim that secondhand smoke kills 50,000 Americans a year.
6. Baby formula: Just as virtually an entire generation that grew up surrounded by secondhand smoke is the healthiest generation in American history, so, too, this same generation was overwhelmingly bottle-fed. Nevertheless, there has arisen a genuine hysteria over bottle-feeding. Breast-feeding is usually better for a baby, but the health difference is very slight. The intensity of the opposition to bottle feeding is just another hysteria. Ask new mothers about the intense pressure they feel to breast-feed.
7. Homelessness in America: During the 1980s, another major crisis in America was announced by left-wing activists — homelessness. Of course, every homeless person is a tragedy, but, again, the left created the hysteria. The spokesman for the cause, Mitch Snyder, routinely announced that there were between 2 million and 3 million homeless Americans. And the press, as usual, would regularly cite these numbers to demonstrate how callous America is toward its own people. The numbers, however, were completely made up. In other words, all lies. The number of American homeless given at the time by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) was between 250,000 and 350,000. When finally questioned about his numbers by Ted Koppel on ABC’s “Nightline,” Snyder admitted the numbers were invented. “Everybody said we want a number,” Snyder told Koppel. “We got on the phone, we made a lot of calls, we talked to a lot of people, and we said, ‘OK, here are some numbers.’ They have no meaning, no value.”
8. Hunger in America: After the homelessness numbers were finally dismissed as fraudulent, the left focused attention on another alleged area of Americans’ callousness for fellow Americans — hunger. Thus, John Edwards, 2004 Democratic candidate for vice president, repeatedly proclaimed that “35 million Americans last year went hungry. … This [election] is about those 35 million people who are hungry every single year.”
There was no truth to this charge. The only basis for it was a U.S. Department of Agriculture Report that said that about 35 million Americans experienced “household food insecurity.” That term does not, the USDA emphasized, mean hunger. It only means being forced to reduce “variety in their diets” or eat a “few basic foods” at various times of the year.
9. Peanuts: In 2005, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 11 Americans died of all food allergies — adults as well as children, and from an allergy to any food, not just peanuts. Yet, schools across America have banned peanuts and peanut butter, among the few protein-rich foods many children like to eat. Compare this to about 10,000 children who are hospitalized each year for sports-related traumatic brain injuries. The peanut hysteria has been led by liberal school officials, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, and Consumer Reports, a liberal magazine that helped stoke the hysteria about secondhand smoke and various other non-issues.
So, dear reader, please forgive me and tens of millions of others for not believing that because human beings burn fossil fuels in 2011, Manhattan will be under water by 2100. When those who promote this scenario are zero for nine in all their prior attempts to change society through apocalyptic scenarios, you can understand why we’re a bit skeptical about No. 10.