Denying the Climate Change Deniers

The April 9, New York Times runs a profile of a leading opponent of climate change legislation and a vocal denier of global warming. Marc Morano formerly worked as spokesman for Oklahoma Republican Senator James Inhofe, and earlier, as a reporter for Rush Limbaugh, according the NYT article, so you have a fair idea where Mr Morano is coming from. Now, he’s introducing a new site to further his particular view of the climate change debate. 

Whether you agree with the anti climate change crowd or not – and the vast majority of scientific work emphatically does not – the global warming / climate change question is one worth thinking long and hard about. Potential disruptions of our economy, our heath and national safety, and indeed, the stable patterns of life on earth itself demand a serious and open-minded discussion.

The question of climate change / global warming is so complex that breaking it down into smaller, logical steps is vital.  There are, it seems to me, five key subsidiary questions that any honest analysis of climate change has to tackle.  None of them, despite the heated, partisan rhetoric, have quick or clear-cut answers.

1. Is the climate really changing? Dozens of lines of credible evidence seem to give a resounding ‘Yes!’ but the time scale of the evidence is pitifully short compared to geologic or even anthropological calendars. Even if we accept that receding glaciers and arctic ice, lengthening growing seasons, and earlier seasonal wildlife migrations all point to global warming, does the evidence point to a dramatic geologically long term trend or just to a temporary blip?

2. What is the human role in this evident climate change? Again, the circumstantial evidence seems to make an awfully strong case for human guilt. Steadily rising concentrations of greenhouse gases correlate well with the rise of industrial economies and, to some eyes at least, with rising global temperatures. But there is undeniable geologic evidence, as well, for purely natural climate variations on a vast and catastrophic scale. Winters are cold today in Detroit, but nothing compared to 20,000 years ago, when the ice was a mile deep year round.

3. If global warming is, to a significant extent, caused by humans, what, in scientific terms, CAN we do about it? Can we come up with solutions to the mess we’ve caused? Or have we already put into motion a series of mysterious natural processes that are larger than our ability to control?

4. What SHOULD we do? Actions have consequences – actions to improve our environment and mitigate global warming will exact a degree of pain elsewhere. Dollars (and rubles and rupees and yen) won’t flow as readily toward education, food or medical research; and international spats over pieces of a shrinking global pie may become more common and more violent. At some point, intelligent, thoughtful people will have to make tough decisions trading off the good and bad consequences of doing vs not doing.

5. What actions will the global community tolerate, embrace and support? Will we have the resources, the patience and the political will to do what it takes, sacrifice what it takes, for as long as it takes to get the global climate back on track?

Each of these 5 questions is obviously complex and problematic. Each deserves (and surely has already received) at least a PhD dissertation’s worth of attention. Recognizing that, I plan to fearlessly plunge into blog-scale explorations in coming posts.

Ref: “Dissenter on Warming Expands His Campaign”
New York Times: April 9, 2009


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One Response to “Denying the Climate Change Deniers”

  1. dbrot81 Says:

    I say follow the money trail it’s interesting to see who exactly is denying the climate scientists

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