Friday, February 02, 2007

Climate Change

Good Morning America woke me up with story about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Fourth Assessment Report. Great was the scaremongering and gnashing of well-crowned teeth. Hell of a thing to wake up to by the way. Now after doing a little research, I find out that things are nowhere near as bad as they seem.

First, what came out today was not the full report. Today's release was the Summary Report for Policymakers. The full report isn't due for months. Which means by the time people can actually find out what the real report says and the rationale behind why it is saying it, the story will have been off the front pages for months. Wonderful. Why didn't they issue them together? Well if they did that then people would actually be able to analyze and respond to their conclusions. Right now they can back their conclusions with the panels authority (but no data) and there is no way to effectively rebut them.

The funny thing about the scaremongering is that the conclusions of the current summary report are actually milder than the last report in 2001. Predictions of the temperature increases and increase in sea level are both smaller. Do you know what is worse? Statements like this:
The panel is to release a report on Friday in Paris forecasting global temperatures rising by 2 to 4.5 Celsius (3.6 to 8.1 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels by 2100, with a “best estimate” of a 3C (5.4 F) rise.
What is the problem with statements like "pre-industrial levels"? From the about the 14th century until approximately 1850, the earth was in a climatic period called the Little Ice Age. Global temperatures were actually way below normal. 1815 was called the year without a summer. It actually snowed during the summer months in New England. A good part of that temperature change from "pre-industrial" levels is actually bringing us back closer to historical temperature averages. But you never hear that, do you?

UPDATE:I'd like to echo Hube's opinion of George Will's comments:
We do not know how much we must change our economic activity to produce a particular reduction of warming. And we do not know whether warming is necessarily dangerous. Over the millennia, the planet has warmed and cooled for reasons that are unclear but clearly were unrelated to SUVs. Was life better when ice a mile thick covered Chicago? Was it worse when Greenland was so warm that Vikings farmed there? Are we sure the climate at this particular moment is exactly right, and that it must be preserved, no matter the cost?
I really don't understand the environmentalist's mind. We have a group of people who embrace evolution and current scientific theory, yet they don't seem to understand that by this definition the world has always been changing and will always be changing. Species fail to adapt and die, new species rise to fill the gaps, the earth keeps turning. If they were creationists I could understand it, they at least have somewhat static conception of the universe. But I just don't get the environmentalists. Maybe they just don't put that much thought into things, which is entirely possible.

The important part is, as conservatives often note, that the world changes properly. That we don't lose the important things as the world moves on. Large scale climatic shifts really aren't anything new. The important part is to assess the consequences of these shifts and adapt to them. Steer society in a good direction. But we're talking about steering, you can't just grab modern society by the reins and yell "Whoa!"

No comments: