By JAY AMBROSE
Scripps Howard News Service
July 07, 2005
In it, he told us that human-induced, catastrophic global warming is a fact, no ifs, maybes or buts.
"The debate is over," he informed the paper's readers. "We know the science. We see the threat posed by changes in our climate. And we know the time for action is now."
Among those with the presumption to disagree is Richard Lindzen, who happens to be one of the world's foremost authorities on global warming, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who served on the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
"Our primary conclusion," he once wrote in the Wall Street Journal of the panel's much-quoted report, "was that despite some knowledge and some agreement, the science is by no means settled. We are quite confident 1) that global mean temperature is about 0.5 degrees Celsius higher than a century ago; 2) that atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide have risen over the past two centuries; and 3) that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas whose increase is likely to warm the Earth."
Nevertheless, he added, he could not underline sufficiently that "we are not in a position to confidently attribute past climate change to carbon dioxide or to forecast what the climate will be in the future" and that "agreement with the three basic statements tells us almost nothing relevant to the policy discussions."
While Lindzen wrote those words some years ago, he is still doing convincing battle with the predictors of gloom and doom, arguing for instance that any increased warming could well be nullified by increased cloud cover, which would bounce the sun's heat back toward the sun. Still other scientists chime in with a variety of arguments against fears that the worst will happen, among them that the warming over the next half century will be measly.
So despite the claims of Schwarzenegger and others, the debate is far from concluded. We have much yet to learn, and that is important because of the pressure - often more ideological and self-interested than scientific - for the United States to join with Europe and others in signing on to something akin to the Kyoto Protocols limiting the emission of greenhouse gases produced in the consumption of energy.
President Bush, much to his credit, has argued that there is plenty of time to act, that technological developments will ultimately come to our rescue and that Kyoto, which does not apply to developing nations, would do little good and great harm. All of this assured he would be a loner at the G-8 conference in Scotland, where other major players ballyhooed Kyoto as the Earth's salvation. They overlook a few things.
They overlook the projection of Bjorn Lomborg, a Danish statistician, that Kyoto would postpone warming by no more than six years over the next 100. They overlook the fact that its costs would nevertheless be enormous; the Wharton Econometrics Forecasting Associates calculated that Kyoto would mean losing 2.4 million American jobs by 2010 if adopted here. They overlook the fact that Kyoto signatories aren't living up to their pledges: By 2010, virtually all of them will be well over their stated goals in reduced emissions, according to one official estimate. Let's call that estimate a hypocrisy detector.
For his part, Schwarzenegger insists he is walking his talk through rules requiring that California will increasingly get its energy from non-emitting sources. Some see a difficulty there: Neither he nor any other politician can mandate the immediate technological means to that end. Noting that California autos are responsible for well under 1 percent of all global warming, a commentary by Investors.com warns that too hard a push on curbing auto emissions could cause the average auto in his state to inflate by thousands of dollars, while lowering temperatures by nothing noticeable.
Schwarzenegger might know as much if he was truly devoted to scientific analysis, and that observation brings me to another quote from Lindzen I found in a survey of newspaper articles: "Science, in the public arena, is commonly used as a source of authority with which to bludgeon political opponents and propagandize uninformed citizens."
Not so bad a debating point in a debate that's supposedly over.
He can be reached at SpeaktoJay(at)aol.com