At the risk of losing my tongue-in-cheek position as Rush Limbaugh’s “Official EIB Climatologist,” I’m going to weigh in on his argument against Jim Geraghty’s view that the Republicans’ chances in the next presidential election are being hurt by those of us not willing to give in to the scientific “consensus” on global warming.
First, the science. After many years in this line of work, I’ve come to the firm conclusion that global warming is one of those research areas where scientists think they know much more than they really do. In many ways, putting a man on the Moon was far easier than understanding the climate system. Yes, carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas — a minor one. And, yes, humans burning fossil fuels produces carbon dioxide: one molecule of CO2 for every 100,000 molecules of atmosphere, every five years.
But is this a recipe for a global warming Armageddon? I’m betting my reputation on: “No.” Recent research has made me more convinced of this than ever.
So, why would a minority of scientists like me dare to disagree with a 56-percent majority? (That is how many of the 530 climate scientists polled agreed that global warming is mostly caused by humans,)
While there are several answers to this question, here I’ll mention only one. Compared to the carbon dioxide that humans produce, Mother Nature routinely transfers 40 times as much CO2, and 24,000 times as much water vapor (Earth’s primary greenhouse gas), back and forth between the atmosphere and the Earth’s surface, every day.
Scientists have simply assumed that these natural processes have been in balance for centuries. But, what if there have always been some small — but natural — imbalances in those large up-and-down flows that slowly change over time? In that case, our measured increases in greenhouse gases and global temperatures might well turn out to be more natural than manmade, lost in the noise of natural variability.
Can I prove any of this? No — not yet, anyway. But neither have any scientists produced one single scientific paper showing that Mother Nature isn’t the dominant source of what we are seeing. Mankind is one possible explanation, and our measurements of natural variability in the climate system on time scales of decades to centuries are simply not good enough to find out how many natural sources of variability are also out there.
On the political side, all of this talk of a supposed scientific consensus puts politicians between a rock and a hard place. Long-range scientific predictions of environmental gloom and doom have had a terrible track record, historically, and yet for some reason we are always willing to accept the next one that comes along. Maybe it’s their entertainment value.
So, what is a politician to do? Go with the currently popular flow, or ignore what most of the experts, pundits, and media are saying and just stick with their gut instincts? Certainly, politicians who want a better chance of winning an election should go for the popularity contest.
But in the case of global warming, Rush Limbaugh has decided to go with his gut instinct. Scientists can be (and have been) spectacularly wrong when pontificating on natural systems as complex as the Earth’s climate — or the human body. This instinct has served Rush well over the years, and in the case of global warming, I agree with him.
This position is also consistent with Rush’s recent emphasis on conservative principles over specific politicians. He frequently reminds listeners that America’s success has not come from its politicians, but from its people. Not from soaring (yet ambiguous) speeches, but from enduring ideals, creativity, hard work, and most of all — freedom.
But what if sticking to one’s guns on such an issue is just enough for the Republicans to lose the White House? Well, what is more important for the future of America: the party affiliation of the next president, or the decision to let government control how much energy people and business can use from now on?
Once the government gains control over energy decisions, do we really think they will relinquish it after manmade global warming is realized to be a false alarm? It has been said that whoever controls energy, controls life. Right now, the free market (which means you) controls those decisions.
Do we need to remind ourselves how well things went in the former Soviet Union when the bureaucrats made the economic decisions, rather than letting the collective will of the people, expressed though a free market, govern the economy?
I can certainly appreciate Jim Geraghty’s concern over the short-term political risks of doubting the paradigm of manmade global warming. But the long-terms risks of giving in to it are far greater.
How much easier this would all be if it was only as simple as buying hybrid cars, compact fluorescent light bulbs, and building more energy efficient homes. But the public needs to know that all of these meager efforts will have no measurable effect on global temperatures, no matter how much warming you think there will be in the future.
This is the one subject for which I believe “hoax” is an entirely appropriate label when it comes to people’s motives for advancing such solutions. Either “hoax,” or “stunning stupidity.” Rush is right — mankind depends mostly on petroleum and coal for its energy, and nothing is going to change that until human creativity, fueled by the extra wealth created by free markets, leads to new energy technology breakthroughs.
Are we “addicted to oil”? Sure, just like we are addicted to food. Try quitting.
What will people do when they realize that going along with the 56-percent scientific majority has resulted in them giving up much of their personal freedom in the process? I wouldn’t trade that freedom for any presidential candidate.