Planet Gore

Arguing the Science

More Manzi mail, this from reader Eamonn Roche:

I am puzzled by Jim Manzi’s impulse in writing “The Right Formula.” Sure, he’s been singled out by Rush Limbaugh as a traitor to the cause. Is it simply payback time?

I can appreciate that, among his MIT confreres who understand how CO2 interacts with radiation in a laboratory setting, that he might be a little embarrassed about some of the nonscientific company he keeps. But this piece goes beyond the argument that CO2 is a greenhouse gas.
There’s no political imperative here, either. Sure, Cambridge and Silicon Valley physicists and engineers, and maybe his fellow CEOs, might scoff at some of the talk among climate-change skeptics that “global warming is a hoax,” but those elites only get one vote, just like the rest of us. I don’t see people lining up to buy what Al Gore and Lieberman-Warner are selling, however scientifically respectable their views on CO2.
And breaking with the climate-hoax herd doesn’t promise to win Manzi any points on the Gore side of this debate, establishing his role as a reasonable interlocutor. Look at how painstakingly inattentive those people are to the work of Bjorn Lomborg, who likewise accepts the IPCC consensus on CO2, and like Manzi, argues that whatever we choose to do about it will do very little good at enormously wasteful expense.
I appreciate the argument that Patrick Michaels and others make: that we need to grant all the facts that exist on the AGW side of the debate, because someday — and it looks like that someday will come later rather than sooner — the Sun will be active again, and people won’t be skiing Aspen in June. But right now, they are skiing Aspen in June.
True, that doesn’t mean that CO2 doesn’t absorb and re-emit solar radiation. But it does mean that there are other factors involved, not all of them anthropogenic. As a Planet Gore reader noted yesterday, neither side has the capacity to rigorously test its hypotheses on this subject. We can’t, Canute-like, order the Sun to run through a series of irradiance and magnetism trials.
Since there is so much we don’t know, I don’t see why it is necessary to give so much leeway to the “CO2 is pollution” crowd. Their non-scientific rhetorical excesses promise to do far more lasting damage than Rush Limbaugh’s.

And this from reader Ken Burke:

The other party in the AGW argument is a beauty-pageant contestant who says ‘I love cute puppies and rainbows and I don’t like war or global warming.” 
How do you reason against that? Parsing the scientific findings is a failed approach. The beauty-pageant contestant is not interested in facts, cannot comprehend a scientific study, and does not want to be wrong.
And she has a microphone.

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