“If 98 doctors say my son is ill and needs medication and two say ‘No, he doesn’t, he is fine,’ I will go with the 98. It’s common sense — the same with global warming. We go with the majority, the large majority.” — California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to New York Times writer Thomas Friedman
Global warming is in the news. What first brought it to light to many Americans was Al Gore’s film “An Inconvenient Truth.” Now Earth Day has come and gone with more talk of our impending climate crisis. Even President George W. Bush has acknowledged that global warming may be a problem.
Yet there is still an army of doubting Thomases, some with impressive scientific credentials, who question one or more aspects of the climate-change issue.
Starting with one point of consensus, all scientists agree that the climate is never constant. Yet taking the whole group, climate scientists feel that the earth is on a clear warming trajectory. More than 90 percent say it is due to “carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases from human activities … since 1950,” as quoted from The New York Times. Still, there are those outside that group — the other 10 percent — who say, “Not so fast.”
Chief among those are men like atmospheric physicist S. Fred Singer, professor emeritus of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia, former founding director of the U.S. Weather Satellite Service and president of the Science & Environmental Policy Project. Writing recently for the Independent Institute, a think tank based in Oakland, Calif., Dr. Singer says:
Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” has met its match: a devastating documentary recently shown on British television, which has now been viewed by millions of people on the Internet. Despite its flamboyant title, “The Great Global Warming Swindle” [website] is based on sound science and interviews with real climate scientists, including me. “An Inconvenient Truth,” on the other hand, is mostly an emotional presentation from an individual politician.
What does the documentary argue?
1. There is no proof that the current warming is caused by the rise of greenhouse gases from human activity. Ice core records from the past 650,000 years show that temperature increases have preceded—not resulted from—increases in CO2 by hundreds of years, suggesting that the warming of the oceans is an important source of the rise in atmospheric CO2….
2. If the cause of warming is mostly natural, then there is little we can do about it. We cannot control the inconstant sun, the likely origin of most climate variability…. [E]ven if CO2 were responsible for the observed warming trend, all [the CO2 mitigation] schemes would be ineffective — unless we could persuade every nation, including China, to cut fuel use by 80 percent….
3. [N]o one can show that a warmer climate would produce negative impacts overall. The much–feared rise in sea levels does not seem to depend on short–term temperature changes, as the rate of sea–level increases has been steady since the last ice age, 10,000 years ago.
Singer is not alone. Another prominent doubter is Patrick J. Michaels, a research professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia and past president of the American Association of State Climatologists. He is the chief editor for the “World Climate Report,” according to Greenpeace’s exxonsecrets.org, “a newsletter on global warming funded by the Western Fuels Association,” a not-for-profit cooperative that supplies coal and transportation services to electric utilities. According to ABC News, Michaels has received $100,000 from the Intermountain Rural Electric Association as revealed in a leaked 2006 memo. Along with Stringer, Michaels appears in “The Great Global Warming Swindle.”
Other doubters include Robert C. Balling, Jr., Robert E. Davis, Paul C. “Chip” Knappenberger and Richard S. Lindzen.
Balling is the director of the Office of Climatology and an associate professor of geography at Arizona State University. According to Sourcewatch, he has received “$408,000 in research funding from the fossil fuel industry over the last decade…. Contributors include Exxon Mobil, the British Coal Corp., Cyprus Minerals and OPEC.” On his personal website at ASU, he lists the Drudge Report as first among his “Miscellaneous Sites of Interest.”
Davis is another climatologist at the University of Virginia and, like Singer, is associated with the Independent Institute.
Knappenberger has often collaborated with Michaels, Balling and Davis on research. He is listed as administrator for “World Climate Report,” which bills itself as a:
… hard-hitting and scientifically correct response to the global change reports that gain attention in the literature and popular press. As the nation’s leading publication in this realm, “World Climate Report” is exhaustively researched, impeccably referenced and always timely. This popular web log points out the weaknesses and outright fallacies in the science that is being touted as “proof” of disastrous warming.
Lindzen is probably the most famous of the group, primarily because his op-ed piece published in July 2006 in the Wall Street Journal, “Don’t Believe the Hype: Al Gore is wrong,” has been often cited as the quintessential rebuttal to “An Inconvenient Truth.” He is a professor of atmospheric science at MIT. More recently, Lindzen acknowledged in an article in Newsweek that while the earth’s climate is warming,
What of it? Recently many people have said that the earth is facing a crisis requiring urgent action. This statement has nothing to do with science. There is no compelling evidence that the warming trend we’ve seen will amount to anything close to catastrophe.
He goes further, arguing not only that “the ill effects of warming are overblown,” but “a warmer climate could prove to be more beneficial than the one we have now.” He further states that “actions taken thus far to reduce emissions have already had negative consequences without improving our ability to adapt to climate change” and that “the alleged solutions have more potential for catastrophe than the putative problem.”
What Lindzen and his fellow climate-change questioners show is that in the realms of both science and opinion there may be consensus but there is never unanimity.
At the end of his Newsweek article Lindzen writes:
The conclusion of the late climate scientist Roger Revelle — Al Gore’s supposed mentor — is worth pondering: the evidence for global warming thus far doesn’t warrant any action unless it is justifiable on grounds that have nothing to do with climate.
What he neglects to mention is that Revelle died in 1991, long before the data on global warming had become as conclusive as it is today.