Last week, The Hill newspaper reported that 31 scientists from universities and colleges in Iowa issued a statement urging GOP presidential candidates to “acknowledge the science of climate change.” (Read the letter itself, here.) Most of the Republican candidates dispute the man-made global warming theory.
Here is my response to those Iowa scientists:
I am not a candidate for public office, but I found your statement on climate change to be quite remarkable. You imply that you have done a cost-benefit analysis of the recent effects of “climate change. Can you send me the reference? I don’t see any economists among your signers, so until I see the study, I doubt that you actually did one. The research I have seen says the benefits of rising CO2 levels, longer growing seasons, and mild winters far outweigh any harms caused by the modest warming of the second half of the 20th century.
You write, “Over the last 40 years intense rainfall has occurred about five times more often than in our previous history.” This sentence is almost comically non-grammatical as its anonymous author tried to fuzz up the time period in order to produce a false impression. Surely you all know that weather was more extreme in the Midwestern U.S. during the Little Ice Age?
Your most important claims appear in the final sentences, but they too are convoluted and largely meaningless.
You start with an appeal to authority in support of a meaningless statement: “All major scientific societies and the US National Academy of Science have affirmed that the recent rise in greenhouse gases in the global atmosphere has contributed to changes in our climate.” Did any of those societies poll their members? No? Oh well. More importantly, even climate “skeptics” believe that the human presence has “contributed to changes in our climate.” At issue is what changes? How much? Are they mostly bad or mostly good? Will they continue (or grow worse)? Ought we try to stop those changes? Your silence on these matters is damning.
The first part of your final sentence urges candidates for public office “to acknowledge the overwhelming balance of evidence for the underpinning causes of climate change…” What does that mean? There is overwhelming evidence that solar cycles and other natural causes caused climate change before there was a human presence. Is that what you mean by “underpinning causes”? Do you mean the clearing of forests, the planting of corn and other modern food crops, or the use of irrigation? There is “overwhelming evidence” that these practices affect local climates. I don’t think any candidates for office would fail to acknowledge this evidence.
The final part of your final sentence urges candidates “to develop appropriate policy responses, and to develop local and statewide strategies to adapt to near-term changes in climate.” No argument from this self-described “skeptic,” in fact I second your good common-sense advice. Climate change, whether natural or man-made, is inevitable, and it makes more sense for societies to invest in adapting to it than trying to stop it. That way, if the “major scientific societies” are wrong about the role of man-made carbon dioxide emissions, as it increasingly seems apparent that they are, we will not have wasted billions or trillions of dollars chasing a mirage. Instead, let’s prepare for extreme weather, regardless of whether it is man-made or natural, since one thing we know for sure that there will be tornadoes, floods, and other weather events in the future.
But perhaps all of this is just nitpicking. The best answer a candidate for office can give to you scientists is the following:
I’m not interested in what a small and non-representative group of liberal academics BELIEVE. I know you all trusted the United Nations to deliver truthful reports about the science of climate change, and you were fooled. With your careers (and probably political ideologies) now at risk, you will be among the last, not the first, to abandon a disproven scientific theory.
I want to see PROOF that climate models are reliable guides to future climate trends, since surveys of climate scientists suggest large majorities of them believe they are NOT. I want PROOF that the warming of the late 20th century didn’t stop around 2000, even though NASA’s satellites say it did. And I want PROOF that there is anything we can do, short of simply ending modern civilization and forcing billions of people to starve to death, that would have any discernible effect on the world’s climate.
Give me that evidence, and I’ll take you seriously. Otherwise, stick to science, and leave the politics to us.
The Heartland Institute