A View From the Cheap Seats

May 2, 2007

The Other Side of Global Warming – Part 1

Filed under: Environment,Global Warming — trzupek @ 2:42 am


The Othe Side of Global Warming
Part 1: Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquistion

Introduction to the series, from the Editors of The Examiner:

Global warming is a “hot topic” these days. We are often told that human activity is responsible for global warming and that, unless we do something soon, the climate will heat up to catastrophic levels. It is also often said that scientists agree this is the case. Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” is the most popular example of these points of view.

It is not true that scientists have reached consensus on global warming. Thousands of scientists, of all kinds of political viewpoints, believe that the global warming story is either completely untrue, or greatly exaggerated. Unfortunately, their views are rarely heard, for reasons that have much more to do with politics than science.

In this special four part series, we at The Examiner will present the other side of this story. This series is authored by staff reporter Rich Trzupek, with the assistance of his brother, Dr. Larry Trzupek. In addition to writing for The Examiner, Rich has worked as an environmental scientist for over 20 years, specializing in air pollution. He is the author of an authoritative book on the subject, published by McGraw-Hill, has taught classes on the subject at Loyola University and is a frequent lecturer on air pollution issues. Larry is a professor of chemistry and has published numerous scholarly papers in prestigious chemical journals.

By definition, this is a scientific issue, and many people avoid reading about science at all costs. But it’s also an important issue for every American to understand. We hope you will take the time to read what Trzupek and Trzupek have to say. You may agree or disagree with them, but after reading this series, you will have to at least accept this as fact: not every scientist agrees with the popular version of global warming.

By Rich Trzupek
If you’re a Monty Python fan, there’s a good chance one of your favorite memories is the “Spanish Inquisition” episode. That bit is hilarious, and not just because of the goofy costumes. What really puts it over-the-top is our realization of how far modern society has moved from medieval times. We’ve understood for centuries that civilized folks don’t need to employ the rack and thumbscrew to promulgate their views. Rational discussion, an unbiased assessment of scientific fact, and reasoned persuasion should be all that are needed.

We think of the contrast between those two approaches whenever we hear people refer to the “scientific consensus” on “global warming” (technically, it’s known in the scientific community as “anthropogenic global warming”, but we’ll stick with “global warming” here) – the theory that humans are largely responsible for global climate change. Set aside for a moment that science doesn’t operate by consensus. Consensus decides elections and arguments on the Bear’s starting quarterback. Science is what science is. The earth revolves around the sun, for example. And it revolved around the sun even when “scientific consensus” said it was the other way around.

A couple of decades ago you’d have found a “consensus” in favor of communist rule among Eastern Europeans – at least until the Berlin Wall was turned into souvenir paperweights. Our favorite “consensus” was that expressed in Saddam Hussein’s last election in 2002, in which he received 11,495,638 favorable votes. That total was 100% of the Iraqi voting population, topping the 99.96% approval he garnered previous to the ’02 election. That “consensus” probably didn’t bring him much comfort as he was being fitted for a hemp necktie.

Ironically, the idea that there is “scientific consensus” about global warming requires one to ignore a whole lot of scientists in the first place. For example, a recent survey, conducted in 2006, among members of the National Registry of Environmental Professionals showed that 34 percent of environmental scientists and practitioners disagree that global warming is a serious problem facing the planet. 41 percent disagree that the planet’s recent warmth “can be, in large part, attributed to human activity.”

Clearly “consensus” has little meaning when you have to lean on people to get it. If anything, in that situation, it tends to lend doubt to the proposition in question. The incongruity of the “consensus” argument on global warming first struck me when I read the position of an editor in a chemistry trade publication more than 5 years ago. He said essentially that he had no obligation to publish contrary views on global warming, since global warming skeptics were no better than “creationists”. Comparing folks who found scientific holes in an exceedingly complex theory to people who believed the earth was only 10,000 years old seemed a bit much – but as it turns out, his attitude on global warming skeptics was hardly unique.

In subsequent years we’ve seen the following:

•In Oregon, Governor Ted Kulongoski called for the removal of George Taylor as State Climatologist, because Dr. Taylor expressed reservations about global warming. Presumably the governor knew more about climate science than a university professor trained in the field.

•Dr. Heidi Cullen of “The Weather Channel” publicly called for the American Meteorological Association to decertify any professionals who did not toe the line on global warming. George Orwell would have a tough time finding a better example of “groupthink”.

•In Denmark, Bjorn Lomborg, once director of the Institute of Environmental Assessment in Copenhagen was convicted by the Danish Committee on Scientific Dishonesty of “systematic one-sidedness” in his book “The Skeptical Environmentalist”. One of his sins was presenting another side of the global warming question. His conviction was later reversed by the Danish science ministry, which called the original conviction “clearly wrong”.

•Various environmental groups have called for public humiliation or even Nuremburg-type trials for those who question global warming. That attitude has permeated the popular press, as evidenced by the writing of Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman: “Let’s just say that global warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers, though one denies the past, and the other denies the present and future”. Associating global warming skeptics with the stupidity and dishonesty of Holocaust deniers is not only insulting, it’s childish.

•At an individual level, the attitude that global warming is beyond question is beginning to lead to a “Unabomber attitude” among environmental extremists. Dr. Timothy Bell, a former climatology professor at the University of Winnipeg received numerous hostile emails, including 5 death threats, after participating in the BBC documentary “The Great Global Warming Swindle”.

With regard to global warming, it’s fair to say the earth’s climate system is so awesomely complex that no one fully understands it, which makes it all the more disturbing when those who follow the time-honored scientific practice of questioning a current orthodoxy are subject to harassment and intimidation. And what makes it even worse is that the current orthodoxy on global warming is almost certainly wrong, as we will see in the articles which follow.

This situation is without precedent in modern times: one set of scientists is systematically silenced, not because they are asking illegitimate questions, not because they haven’t been able to develop meaningful data, but simply because their questions and data make another group of scientists and politicians feel uncomfortable. This is science with an agenda, which is to say that it’s not science at all. By definition, science’s only agenda is to discover the truth and, from that point of view, questions are always welcome. The global warming proponents have perverted science in a way we have not seen for hundreds of years.

The scientific revolution that began centuries years ago has had some stumbles, but on the whole it has been an overwhelmingly positive development for human civilization. When it comes to a complex scientific question like the extent of human influence on global climate, it’s natural that citizens would have reasonable expectations of society’s scientific professionals.

In that sort of situation, everybody expects a dispassionate collection of facts. Everybody expects a careful evaluation of that data. Everybody expects a fair discussion of the meaning of that data.

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.


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