A new report published today by Nature will surely provide more ammunition for proponents of the view that human beings are causing the world to warm up with significant negative consequences for life on the planet. A headline by Agence-France Press is an apt example: “New study amplifies warning on climate change.”
But those who doubt that global warming is a significant problem will find little in the new report to convince them. Nor should they. The report, produced by numerous researchers from 10 different scientific institutions, is merely a cataloging and mapping of the findings of 30,000 studies dating back to the 1970s showing how global warming impacts various natural eco-systems. As reported by the Telegraph, the impacts found include:
the earlier appearance of leaves on trees and plants; the movement of animals and birds to more northerly latitudes and to higher altitudes in the northern hemisphere; rapid advances in flowering time and earlier egg-laying in Britain; and changes in bird migrations in Europe, North America and Australia.
All this horror supposedly warrants the headline: “Mankind is the ‘Earth’s Biggest Threat’.”
Lead author Cynthia Rosenzweig of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies is quoted: “Humans are influencing climate through increasing greenhouse gas emissions. … The warming world is causing impacts on physical and biological systems attributable at the global scale.”
OK, so what? It is relatively uncontroversial—even among so-called climate change skeptics—that there has been a 1 degree Fahrenheit rise in average surface temperatures over the past century. And it shouldn’t be surprising that an increase in temperature causes other changes in natural systems. This report still doesn’t answer the most basic criticisms that various scientists have leveled at the alarmist view of global warming. Problems remain:
• Scientists don’t know whether greenhouse gas emissions are the primary cause of recent warming. Earth’s temperatures have fluctuated significantly in the past. We know, for example, that today’s melting glaciers are revealing traces of past forests. If greenhouse gases cause global warming, then why did the earth actually cool between 1940 and 1970 as the world industrialized? Why has the warming trend halted in recent years? Other explanations for the warming have not been ruled out. Christopher Horner describes the problem:
The climate is always changing. Different parts of the planet are always getting colder or warmer, wetter or drier. Many things can cause this climate change. The sun has cycles, sometimes producing more energy, and sometimes producing less. The Earth’s wobble and eccentric orbit mean that different parts of the planet will be exposed to varying amounts of heat over different periods. If more snow or land is exposed, more heat might be reflected. If more water is exposed, more heat will be absorbed. If the sky gets darkened by dust—caused by a volcano, a meteor, or pollution—it can make the planet colder. Land-use changes, Manmade or otherwise, greatly impact local climate.
• If greenhouse gases are the culprit, will reducing the human contribution really make a difference? Burning fossil fuels is responsible for only 2 percent of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere varies naturally.
• We don’t know whether global warming is on balance bad or good for life on the planet. But, we do know that human beings generally prefer a warmer climate.
• Science cannot tell us what we should do about global warming. Given current technologies, most plans to curb greenhouse gas emissions will cause significant economic sacrifice. The Heritage Foundation recently studied a “cap and trade” plan that reduces carbon-dioxide emissions to 33 percent below the 2005 level by 2030. Heritage found that the cost of the plan to the U.S. economy would be at least $1.7 trillion (2006 dollars) cumulatively by 2030. Losses may be as high as $4.8 trillion, and annual job losses could approach 1 million. That’s just the impact in the United States.
One other point: We are not scientists here at InsiderOnline, but we understand a little bit about science. We know, for example, that looking for evidence to support a conclusion is not science. In setting out to catalog all the research showing that a warming climate has impacted natural ecosystems, it sure seems like the research team is doing little more than selecting data.
For more information, see Global Warming: A Guide to the Hype by Christopher Horner, The Insider, Spring 2007; and Nature, not Human Activity, Rules the Climate, by S. Fred Singer, © 2008 by the Science and Environmental Policy Project.
News to Note
• IN SPITE OF THE FACT that the Polar Bear is not particularly threatened, the Department of the Interior has listed the polar bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act—all on the theory that Polar Bears can’t live without sea ice that is melting because of global warming. The justification for the lower designation of “threatened” as opposed to “endangered” is that the Department isn’t actually sure that Polar Bears need sea ice.
• CONGRESS OVERWHELMINGLY PASSED a farm bill that does little to reform or limit subsidy programs at a time when food prices are soaring.
• THE CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT is expected to deliver a decision today on whether gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to get married.
• CHICAGO HAS LIFTED its two-year-old ban on serving foie gras in restarants.
• CHOICES IN GEORGIA: Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue signed a law allowing guns to be carried in restaurants, parks, and public transportation. Meanwhile, about 10,000 low-income Georgia children will be able to choose their own private school, thanks to another law signed by Gov. Perdue. The law gives tax credits for individuals and corporations to donate to organizations providing scholarships to childen.