Out of Control Policy Blog

Contrasts in Climate Change

Hope you get a chuckle out of this climate change juxtaposition like I did.

First, The Indepenent offers the banal observation that the sky is falling, and it's our fault:

    " The global warming danger threshold for the world is clearly marked for the first time in an international report to be published tomorrow - and the bad news is, the world has nearly reached it already.

    . . . .

    [The report] breaks new ground by putting a figure - for the first time in such a high-level document - on the danger point of global warming, that is, the temperature rise beyond which the world would be irretrievably committed to disastrous changes. These could include widespread agricultural failure, water shortages and major droughts, increased disease, sea-level rise and the death of forests - with the added possibility of abrupt catastrophic events such as "runaway" global warming, the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, or the switching-off of the Gulf Stream.

    The report says this point will be two degrees centigrade above the average world temperature prevailing in 1750 before the industrial revolution, when human activities - mainly the production of waste gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), which retain the sun's heat in the atmosphere - first started to affect the climate. But it points out that global average temperature has already risen by 0.8 degrees since then, with more rises already in the pipeline - so the world has little more than a single degree of temperature latitude before the crucial point is reached."

Not so fast, according to new research:

    "The findings from a team of American climate experts suggest that were it not for greenhouse gases produced by humans, the world would be well on the way to a frozen Armageddon.

    Scientists have traditionally viewed the relative stability of the Earth's climate since the end of the last ice age 10,000 years ago as being due to natural causes, but there is evidence that changes in solar radiation and greenhouse gas concentrations should have driven the Earth towards glacial conditions over the last few thousand years.

    What stopped it has been the activity of humans, both ancient and modern, argue the scientists.

    . . . .

    Anthropologist Dr Benny Peiser, from Liverpool John Moores University, said: 'If the research findings are correct, a radical change in the perception of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions will be required.'

    'Instead of driving us to the brink of environmental disaster, human intervention and technology progress will be seen as vital activities that have unintentionally delayed the onset of a catastrophic ice age.'"

Both reports agree that human activity is a significant contributor to global warming (a matter of some debate, I might add), but that's where the similarity ends. With disagreements as vast as this in the science of climate change, the folly of Kyoto and other anti-warming public policy interventions seems blatantly obvious.

I'd imagine that someone could conceivably look at these two pieces and try to argue that there's some "Goldilocks" target range of global temperature that we should strive for...not hot enough to fry us and not cold enough to freeze us. But the Earth's climate has been and always will be a dynamic phenomenon, like plate tectonics. Just as we can't stop tectonic plates from shifting and the mountains from rising and falling, it's hubristic to think that we can control climate through policy and planning.

(Hat tip: JunkScience.com)

Leonard Gilroy is Director of Government Reform


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