Climate Change and the Horizon

Democrat candidates for president appear to have succeeded in elevating the debate over climate change and in selling the idea that unless we take dramatic action now civilization as we know will be radically changed in a little more than a decade. They and the proponents of the Green New Deal appear to be having an impact on public opinion. However, when the size of the bill becomes explicit and the public is forced to address its real priorities climate change may not be in the top tier, especially when the public learns that forced emission reductions here will have little impact on global concentrations of greenhouse gases.

Over the three decades since climate change or global warming has been labeled an existential threat, the day of reckoning has been like the horizon, it recedes as we approach it. How likely is it that that will happen again?  It’s probably a safe bet.  John Christy in Congressional testimony demonstrated that the climate models use to predict catastrophe greatly overstate warming.  Climate sensitivity is less than advocates choose to assume. Of course, climate orthodoxy believers dismiss Christy’s work by labeling him a denier.

More recently—2018—the peer-reviewed American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate published a study by Judith Curry and Nick Lewis that reaffirmed Christy’s analysis.  Their results suggest that actual warming could be 30%- 45% lower than predicted by the apocalyptics.  The Curry-Lewis work is consistent with a 2018 article in Nature by Peter Cox, et al that also concluded that temperature projections were overstated.  These are not the only analytical/ scientific results that should have a tempering affect.

Climate advocates would do well to take a deep breath and acknowledge that there is room for debate.  As someone once said, all models are wrong but some are useful.  Certainly, that is the case with climate models.  Instead of weaponizing uncertainty and skepticisms, they should serve as the foundation for an informed scientific debate and collaboration.  A couple of years ago, Richard Muller, co-founder of the Berkeley Earth Project said that skepticism is “not only healthy but essential for anyone who considers himself objective. … anyone who completely dismisses the skeptics arguments, is not being objective. Climate change is subtle and complicated.”

While Muller believes that global warming is caused by human greenhouse gas emissions, he has also been clear that “there is no compelling scientific result that indicates temperature variability is increasing, that hurricanes (severe or not) are increasing; no good evidence that hurricanes or tornadoes are increasing…”

If more climate advocates would adopt his view that “Any scientist who doesn’t retain substantial skepticism on this subject is not behaving in the classic mode of science.”  Doing so could narrow the differences among scientists and importantly make it more difficult for politicians to exploit climate change as the current gang of candidates is doing. Deficit spending, the national debt, social security, medicare, and increasing violence are genuinely serious public policy issues.  Wasting scarce resources on climate change prevents them on being used to address issues for which there is little doubt about their seriousness.

Author: billo38@icloud.com

Founder and president of Solutions Consulting which focuses on public policy issues, strategic planning, and strategic communications.

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