Ed Driscoll

Let's Think Cool About It

Nick Schultz, my editor at TCS Daily, has some thoughts on today’s global warming hysteria:

The alarm bells are ringing louder than ever in global warming circles. An impressive amount of ink has been spilled to scare you in to thinking that the planet is doomed if we don’t do something about climate change, and soon.

As alarmists flood the media with scare stories, however, they are distracting the public from the economic and practical realities that will determine planetary health. And they are doing so just as some less heralded news reports demonstrate that the alarmists’ prescription for our ailing planet is failing badly.

But first, the alarm bells. Consider:

This week Time magazine has a “special report” on global warming with the cover blaring “Be Worried. Be Very Worried.”

Australian alarmist Tim Flannery has a new doomsday book out “The Weather Makers: How Man Is Changing the Climate and What I t Means for Life on Earth.”

The Washington Post recently featured a front page article about melting ice in Antarctica.

ABCNews recently attacked skeptic scientists such as the University of Virginia’s Pat Michaels.

A cover story in the New Republic this month attacked the popular writer Michael Crichton for his skeptical views on catastrophic anthropogenic climate change.

The New Yorker’s Elizabeth Kolbert recently published a book with the telling title “Field Notes From a Catastrophe.”

And the Advertising Council and Environmental Defense have just launched the first “public awareness” campaign on global warming.

Phew. That’s considerable output in just a few weeks. And later this year Al Gore has an alarmist documentary he has produced coming out called An Inconvenient Truth so expect the bells to keep tolling.

According to Time, “the global climate seems to be crashing around us,” and that “this is precisely what [scientists] have been warning would happen if we continued pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, trapping the heat that flows from the sun and raising global temperatures.” Time points to heat waves, floods, storms fires and glacial melts as evidence that we’ve reached a “tipping point” and says “scientists have been calling this shot for decades.”

Time is right about scientists issuing warnings for decades. It just hasn’t always been about global warming. Three decades ago, as Rich Karlgaard of Forbes reminds us this week, Newsweek magazine was warning not about global warming, but about global cooling. And the rhetoric was just as alarmist then. According to Newsweek at the time, “There are ominous signs that the Earth’s weather patterns have begun to change dramatically…with serious political implications for just about every nation on Earth.”

The flip-flop on global cooling/global warming or “climate change” as it’s now called, to straddle all contingencies, is something that George Will explores in his latest column:

While worrying about Montana’s receding glaciers, [Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer], who is 50, should also worry about the fact that when he was 20 he was told to be worried, very worried, about global cooling. Science magazine (Dec. 10, 1976) warned of “extensive Northern Hemisphere glaciation.” Science Digest (February 1973) reported that “the world’s climatologists are agreed” that we must “prepare for the next ice age.” The Christian Science Monitor (“Warning: Earth’s Climate is Changing Faster Than Even Experts Expect,” Aug. 27, 1974) reported that glaciers “have begun to advance,” “growing seasons in England and Scandinavia are getting shorter” and “the North Atlantic is cooling down about as fast as an ocean can cool.” Newsweek agreed (“The Cooling World,” April 28, 1975) that meteorologists “are almost unanimous” that catastrophic famines might result from the global cooling that the New York Times (Sept. 14, 1975) said “may mark the return to another ice age.” The Times (May 21, 1975) also said “a major cooling of the climate is widely considered inevitable” now that it is “well established” that the Northern Hemisphere’s climate “has been getting cooler since about 1950.”

In fact, the Earth is always experiencing either warming or cooling. But suppose the scientists and their journalistic conduits, who today say they were so spectacularly wrong so recently, are now correct. Suppose the Earth is warming and suppose the warming is caused by human activity. Are we sure there will be proportionate benefits from whatever climate change can be purchased at the cost of slowing economic growth and spending trillions? Are we sure the consequences of climate change