Sunday, October 28, 2012

Settled Science, Republicans and Democrats

Ezra Klein recently published a blog post in response to a NY Times piece by David Brooks, the conservative on staff there. It was called "The sad history of climate policy, according to David Brooks."

It's interesting on some levels. It shows that the Republicans used their influence to kill initiatives to reduce carbon footprint, forcing the Democrats, who really wanted to do something about carbon into the corner of funding green startups as the only remaining available option. When some of those startups inevitably failed, the Ds became the bad guys on many levels. It is a sad story of the conversion of a bipartisan consensus going away for political gain. Klein makes the point that it is really quite clear who the bad guys are, the Rs.

But there is a big assumption behind all this: Catastrophic global warming is happening. All the scientists say so.

I sent this response to his column:

"First, I completely agree with the premise that if Obama is for it, the Rs are against it, regardless of science. That is the wrong reason to oppose funding to combat the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere. 

"However, when you talk about settled science, most skeptics agree that the climate has probably warmed in the last century or so, and that man's imprint on the planet, whether from CO2 or paving over every living thing has something to do with it. I suspect that most skeptics even believe that additional increases in the CO2 level has a primary impact of warming the environment (about 1.2 deg C per doubling of atmospheric CO2). There are some arguments around how much the earth is warming now, and how much of that is directly caused by man, but let's accept all that for discussion. Let's call all that the "settled science." 

"Now go beyond that. Climate alarmists claim that the future warming will be much greater than the 1.2 degrees per doubling. Their claim is that warmed climate will create a vicious circle that causes climate feedbacks to raise the temperature by much more than 1.2 deg. In fact, they are claiming at least double that, and painting a catastrophic picture of the outcome. That is not settled science. It is based on computer models of an extremely complex, unknown set of interactions that have never been observed. 

"Going beyond that, there is no compelling reason to believe that if one country or even many, were to stop emitting, that it would in fact have any substantial impact on the climate. The costs to significantly reduce our CO2 emissions would be enormous. There would be some definite benefits, but anything beyond very low rate of return is pure speculation. 

"In my opinion the argument is stronger that growing our economies and making good investments, along with regulations that reduce ACTUAL pollution will give us a better outcome as a nation and as a planet. 

In short, runaway climate disaster is not settled science, it is not a part of the "consensus," and it is not a conclusion of the IPCC reports. The measures to mitigate atmospheric CO2, need to be considered as part of a whole and measured against alternative investment paths. 

So while I am opposed to the Rs in many things they do and say today, and I believe their motives in this matter to be morally repugnant, I believe that the action/inaction they are pursuing is fundamentally the best course of action at this time."

I really like my response, so I wanted to save it here. 

Find David Brooks' original column here.

That is all.