It’s time for a cool and collected second look at the global warming theory. The conviction that the world is dangerously overheating as a result of human activities has Chicken Littles everywhere all aflutter, and demanding that the Bush administration remake the U.S. economy in an effort to prevent disaster.
But before we embark on a response to an alleged threat that could cripple the economy, or lock ourselves into international treaties that put the United States at a competitive disadvantage with world economic rivals, don’t we have some obligation to be sure that whatever warming that exists is really the result of human causes?
The Chicken Littles say no — the sky is falling and delay is a luxury we simply can’t afford. They publicly fret that delay will cause the ice caps to melt, thus flooding coastal areas, submerging small islands and setting off a host of other horrific events. These are the groups that rail against the Bush administration for its refusal to sign so-called Kyoto protocols that would shackle the U.S. economy with billions of dollars in mandates, and who applauded when California legislators imposed stricter fuel economy standards on autos sold in the state, in some sort of grand, but probably empty gesture meant to signal their desire to “save the planet.”
These are the groups that are dismissive of the Bush administration’s sensible recent suggestion that not just global warming, but the cause of global warming, become a focus of more intensified scientific research. Searching for the root causes of climate change, whether natural or man-made, is one top priority of a federal climate change study strategy unveiled last week, which predictably drew fire from the regulate-first, worry-about-the-science-later crowd.
The Bush plan, developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in collaboration with more than a dozen other federal agencies, is aimed at gaining improved “knowledge of the Earth’s past and present climate and environment, including its natural variability, and improve understanding of the cause of observed variability and change.“
But by recognizing that climate conditions “change significantly over the span of seasons, years, decades and even longer time scales,” the report drew cat-calls from the blame-mankind-first types.
One climate change researcher, Willie Soon, says he and his colleagues at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics have reviewed hundreds of studies and concluded that current warming trends are not out of line with historical fluctuations, and no worse than “Medieval Warm Period” from 800 to 1300 A.D., or the cooling that followed, from 1300 to 1900.
“There is no convincing evidence … to suggest that higher temperatures occurred in the 20th century than in the Medieval Warm Period,” he said. “Nor is there any convincing evidence to suggest that either the rate of increase or the duration of warming during the 20th century were greater than in the Medieval Warm Period.”
Although it’s possible that modest climate change is occurring, the critical unanswered question is why?
Geologic records tell us fluctuations in earth temperatures were occurring long before man learned to warm himself by a wood fire. What caused those changes?
Contrary to what the Chicken Littles say, we think such questions are worth pursuing, and the answers worth waiting for, before we permit the specter of an environmental problem of unknown origins and effect to bring on another disaster — this one for the American economy and way of life.