Sunday, February 10, 2008

Global Warming: For Once, An Unbiased Evaluation

I don't know about you, but I'm really sick of reading vitriolic statements from one side or the other of this debate.

The Believers

The believers put across a convincing case, but a few admit that they are willing to deform the science in order to convince the unprofessional public.

You don't believe me? Here's what one "scientific" believer named Stephen Schneider said in the Detroit News in 1989:

"On the one hand, we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but [...] which means that we must include all the doubts, caveats, ifs, and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists, but human beings as well. And like most people we'd like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change. To do that we have to get some broad-based support, to capture the public's imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have."

So much for the believers. And yes, I think most of them would fit into this category. Please be my guest to disagree.

Time Mag cover
[Thanks to Time Mag for this embarrassing, didactic, rush-to-judgment cover story of April 2006.]

The Skeptics

The skeptics, on the other hand, are media-impotent, i.e. they can't seem to get their message out there in such a way as to make an impact, even though their science is cleaner. I'm not saying they're right, but they're cleaner.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I'll admit I'm a skeptic, but I won't be intolerant of those who are believers--assuming they will return the favor.

What Should We Do?

If even the scientists can't seem to agree on this, then it would seem to be only fair to hold off judgment and action until we know more about the subject.

This is also the conclusion reached by a number of both believers and skeptics at a November 2007 conference at the American Institute for Economic Research.

The AIER is the only "think tank" I know that can honestly claim it is impartial. Most of the others, even places like Cato, have monied donors who are trying to get their point across, albeit a good point in many cases.

AIER has no such donors, relying instead on purchases of their newsletters and publications by the public, and on charitable trust income, the use of which the original donors purposely cannot predetermine.

AIER's recent 2/4/08 Research Reports summary of their November conference on Global Warming should be useful to all impartial thinkers. The article is entitled "Are We Frogs in a Pot," and was written by Michael Rizzo, Ph.D., one of the Institute's researchers.

The conclusion is apt:

"The range of views expressed at our conference suggests that the debate is far from being over, and that there is still time for much-needed rational discussion."

In other words, it is much too early in this scientific debate for governments to be involving themselves in trying to solve a problem that we understand very little about, indeed even whether there really is a problem.

A full run-down of the whole proceedings will come out later this year. Contact AIER for the publication date.

Sometimes we lay people get frustrated with the slow-motion speed of science and with scientists' constant need to "do further research," but it's either accept our human frailty or make huge mistakes that cost us much, much more in the longer run. The public execution of Italian astronomer Giordano Bruno in 1600 comes to mind.

So be impartial, allow others to disagree, and inform yourself. If you do that, you'll be way ahead of the politicians, scare-mongering media, and hysterical, unscientific "scientists" like Schneider.

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