Global Warming

Environmentalism as a religion

The last few graphs from Freeman Dyson’s global warming book reviews in the New York Times:

The United Kingdom has made up its mind and takes the view that any individuals who disagree with government policy should be ignored. This dogmatic tone is also adopted by the Royal Society, the British equivalent of the US National Academy of Sciences. The Royal Society recently published a pamphlet addressed to the general public with the title “Climate Change Controversies: A Simple Guide.” The pamphlet says:

This is not intended to provide exhaustive answers to every contentious argument that has been put forward by those who seek to distort and undermine the science of climate change and deny the seriousness of the potential consequences of global warming.

In other words, if you disagree with the majority opinion about global warming, you are an enemy of science. The authors of the pamphlet appear to have forgotten the ancient motto of the Royal Society, Nullius in Verba, which means, “Nobody’s word is final.”

All the books that I have seen about the science and economics of global warming, including the two books under review, miss the main point. The main point is religious rather than scientific. There is a worldwide secular religion which we may call environmentalism, holding that we are stewards of the earth, that despoiling the planet with waste products of our luxurious living is a sin, and that the path of righteousness is to live as frugally as possible. The ethics of environmentalism are being taught to children in kindergartens, schools, and colleges all over the world.

Environmentalism has replaced socialism as the leading secular religion. And the ethics of environmentalism are fundamentally sound. Scientists and economists can agree with Buddhist monks and Christian activists that ruthless destruction of natural habitats is evil and careful preservation of birds and butterflies is good. The worldwide community of environmentalists—most of whom are not scientists—holds the moral high ground, and is guiding human societies toward a hopeful future. Environmentalism, as a religion of hope and respect for nature, is here to stay. This is a religion that we can all share, whether or not we believe that global warming is harmful.

Unfortunately, some members of the environmental movement have also adopted as an article of faith the be-lief that global warming is the greatest threat to the ecology of our planet. That is one reason why the arguments about global warming have become bitter and passionate. Much of the public has come to believe that anyone who is skeptical about the dangers of global warming is an enemy of the environment. The skeptics now have the difficult task of convincing the public that the opposite is true. Many of the skeptics are passionate environmentalists. They are horrified to see the obsession with global warming distracting public attention from what they see as more serious and more immediate dangers to the planet, including problems of nuclear weaponry, environmental degradation, and social injustice. Whether they turn out to be right or wrong, their arguments on these issues deserve to be heard.

Great points, particularly about the religious nature of environmentalism. Humans appear hard-wired to believe in something greater than themselves. Radical environmentalism fulfills that innate need.

Dyson, a mathematician and physicist, also envisioned the eventual creation of the Dyson Sphere, a structure built around a star to harness its power. They found one in Star Trek once.

(Hattip: Instapundit)

By | May 25th, 2008|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Sensible positions from scientists regarding global warming:

Some scientists who strongly disagree with each other on the extent of warming coming in this century, and on what to do about it, agreed that it was important not to be tempted to overinterpret short-term swings in climate, either hot or cold.

Patrick J. Michaels, a climatologist and commentator with the libertarian Cato Institute in Washington, has long chided environmentalists and the media for overstating connections between extreme weather and human-caused warming. (He is on the program at the skeptics’ conference.)

But Dr. Michaels said that those now trumpeting global cooling should beware of doing the same thing, saying that the “predictable distortion” of extreme weather “goes in both directions.”

Gavin A. Schmidt, a climatologist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in Manhattan who has spoken out about the need to reduce greenhouse gases, disagrees with Dr. Michaels on many issues, but concurred on this point.

“When I get called by CNN to comment on a big summer storm or a drought or something, I give the same answer I give a guy who asks about a blizzard,” Dr. Schmidt said. “It’s all in the long-term trends. Weather isn’t going to go away because of climate change. There is this desire to explain everything that we see in terms of something you think you understand, whether that’s the next ice age coming or global warming.”

Now, if we could just get CNN to stop making those calls.

By | March 2nd, 2008|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Peer-reviewed literature casts doubt on man-made global warming

While preparing a lit review for a recent paper, I ran across this article that makes clear at least some scientists still doubt the man-made link to global warming. Published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal “Renewable Energy,” the author could find no evidence that man-made pollution has led to the global temperature changes. Here’s part of the abstract (italic added for emphasis):

Mathematical expressions which represent possible human influence on global temperature variations are developed, analysed and discussed … This establishment implies that, contrary to previous expectations and opinions, anthropogenic [human-caused] activities hardly generate significant net alterations in global temperature or solar energy patterns. … This is apparently the first scientific finding in the open literature which tends to support the consistent disputing of the human element in climate change by the USA and Australia as well as the views of the “climate skeptics” which heavily supported the September 2003 World Climate Change Conference held in Moscow.

The author is Ernest C. Njau, chair of the physics department at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. Njau elaborates in the full-text of the article:

One of the implications of the contents of this paper is that anthropogenic [man-made] activities are not the dominant force behind the post-1800 global warming trend. Atmospheric CO2 [carbon dioxide] is the primary greenhouse gas that is believed to have contributed to global warming since the beginning of the industrial revolution. The use of fossil fuels (e.g. oil, coal, natural gas, etc.) is the dominant source of anthropogenic CO2. In line with the implications of this paper, Ryabchikov shows that the main source of supply of CO2 to the atmosphere is not anthropogenic activities, but tropical regions of the ocean. These regions supply 2×1010 tons of air-borne CO2 annually to the temperate and circumpolar latitudes of the northern hemisphere.

I don’t claim to understand the science behind this author’s conclusions. But, I can read an academic article, and I know that at least three other scientists had to review and approve of its methods before publication. I also know that the Earth has warmed many times in the past, so there’s little face validity in assuming that its latest warming cycle must be due to human activity.

Njau’s article does not represent the first time that the man-made link to global warming has been questioned in the academic press. In 2005, in the peer-reviewed journal “Pure and Applied Geophysics,” three authors concluded that the current scientific literature did not support the theory that man-made pollution was causing global warming. From their abstract:

Our review suggests that the dissenting view offered by the skeptics or opponents of global warming appears substantially more credible than the supporting view put forth by the proponents of global warming. Further, the projections of future climate change over the next fifty to one hundred years is based on insufficiently verified climate models and are therefore not considered reliable at this point in time.

Given this literature, I feel comfortable saying that I still hold some skepticism regarding global warming.

Furthermore, future research may want to examine whether the reason so many scientists appear eager to assume that man is behind global warming has more to do with ideology than scientific method.

UPDATE: Here’s another peer-reviewed journal article that questions the science: “An Inconvenient Maybe” (2008) in the journal Estudios de Economia.

By | October 13th, 2007|Uncategorized|0 Comments

A rebuke for Al Gore:

A High Court judge today ruled that An Inconvenient Truth can be distributed to every school in the country but only if it comes with a note explaining nine scientific errors in Al Gore’s Oscar-winning film.

The Government had pledged to send thousands of copies of the film to schools across the country, but a Kent father challenged that policy saying it would “brainwash” children. A judge was asked to adjudicate between Stewart Dimmock and the Department of Children, Schools and Families.

Mr. Justice Burton ruled that the film could be sent to schools, but only if it was accompanied by new guidlines to balance the former US vice-president’s “one-sided” views. The judge said some of the errors were made in “the context of alarmism and exaggeration” in order to support Mr Gore’s thesis on global warming.

I wonder if there’s a similar legal effort in the United States.

By | October 11th, 2007|Uncategorized|0 Comments

The Chronicle of Higher Education, the trade journal for academics, editorialized rather negatively on the AAUP’s “academic freedom” statement:

In any event, on purely intellectual grounds, “Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure” would have been better advised to seek a broader preliminary review. That’s because, regardless of one’s views about the propriety of bringing political opinions to the college classroom, the report is ill-executed. It takes aim at arguments that the critics haven’t made; it caricatures other criticisms; and it insists on strange premises — the most singular of which is the idea that “truth” is whatever the members of a discipline say it is.

Besides enunciating the AAUP’s dismal view of conservative scholars, the report makes one other theme abundantly clear. If we take the corporate authorship of the report at face value, the nation’s largest association of faculty members cares far more about the freedom of professors than it does the education of students. In the AAUP’s view, the freedom of faculty members is as broad and open-ended as a circus tent. The freedom of students to be taught in classes that focus on the subject at hand, unadorned by their instructors’ opinings on President Bush, global warming, or immigration — that freedom — hardly exists.

Exactly.

By | September 22nd, 2007|Uncategorized|0 Comments