Climate debate is far from settled

Tue, 02/06/2007 - 5:07pm
By: The Citizen

By James M. Taylor

It is very difficult to read a news article or watch a newscast regarding global warming without encountering an assertion that “the debate is over” — that all, or virtually all, scientists agree humans are causing a dramatic and harmful change in the Earth’s climate.

Quite notably, no hard data are ever cited to support such a conclusion. A survey conducted by the National Registry of Environmental Professionals (NREP), released two months ago, shows why: The debate is still very much alive in the professional community.

Survey Says ...

More than 12,000 environmental scientists and practitioners participated in the survey, which found:

• 34 percent 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,”

• 71 percent disagree that recent hurricane activity is significantly attributable to human activity,

• 33 percent disagree that the U.S. government is not doing enough to address global warming, and

• 47 percent disagree that international agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol provide a solid framework for combating global climate change.

The poll results certainly demonstrate global warming is an important issue to many and that human activity is generally assigned some responsibility.

But the results also demonstrate that many scientists believe climate variance is not a terribly pressing issue and that recent warming trends are no more alarming than many other naturally occurring warming trends in our recent past.

This, of course, contradicts claims by environmental propagandists that the debate is over and that virtually all scientists agree humans are causing substantial and ominous global warming.

Real-World Observations

Obviously, the global warming debate is not going anywhere anytime soon. But some have blamed the persistence of the debate on “big oil” and other vested interests they claim are obscuring the “real” science. If anything, this poll shows the exact opposite is the case: Real environmental experts are themselves divided on the issue, and for good reason.

For one, global temperatures are currently rising at only 0.12 to 0.17 (depending on whether one believes satellite measurements or ground station measurements) degree Celsius per decade. This translates to only 1.2 to 1.7 degrees warming over the entire next century, even if no intervening cooling periods occur.

Moreover, we are currently in a recurring cycle of approximately 100,000 years of advancing glaciers followed by 10,000 years of interglacial warming. Our current interglacial is roughly 10,000 years old, and by historic standards we are overdue for another ice age. In the preceding four interglacials, temperatures reached an average of 3 degrees Celsius warmer than they are today.

In other words, we would need another two centuries of current warming trends merely to reach typical interglacial temperatures.

“Worst-case” temperature projections are constantly being lowered as we learn more about the science of climate variance. In its upcoming Fourth Assessment, for example, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is reducing its worst-case temperature projections by more than 20 percent from what it projected just five years ago.

The IPCC is also lowering its estimate of sea level change to a mere 1 foot over the coming century. By comparison, sea level has risen 370 feet (an average of 3.7 feet per century) since our current interglacial began 10,000 years ago.

What ‘consensus’?

Invoking “consensus” to avoid debating the very real complexities of climate variance is at best a mistake, and at worst a purposeful distortion of the truth.

Pretending that all resistance to catastrophic predictions is based on a confusion of science does not make the facts keeping the debate alive go away.

And, as the NREP poll confirms, the debate over global warming is most certainly not “over.”

James M. Taylor ( is a senior fellow at The Heartland Institute and managing editor of Environment & Climate News.

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Basmati's picture
Submitted by Basmati on Thu, 02/08/2007 - 5:09pm.

When does 893 equal 12,000?

When it's right wing propaganda time, that's when!

The NREP mailed out 12,000 global warming questionnaires and got back a whopping 893 responses. That won't stop Sweet Baby James from claiming "12,000 participated". Propaganda at it's finest, folks!

The augustly name "Heartland Institute" is little more than a shill for industry. It is primarily funded by Phillip Morris tobacco and a host of right wing hate organizations, and has spent the last two years trying to convince Americans that smoking ain't as bad as it seems, on behalf of the National Association of Tobacco Outlets.

Then, in 2006, they get a $15,000 grant from ExxonMobil, and voila! we get a press release decrying global warming that cherry picks certain details from a questionable organization's (NREP) dubious poll.

This is certainly the most intellectually dishonest piece to be printed in The Citizen this year, and that's saying something, given that the Citizen publishes the likes of Michelle Malkin, Terry Gorelock and Trey Hoffman.

Even our lame duck President has come to the realization that global warming is real!

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