Planet Gore

Manzi, Milloy, and scientific consensus

Just catching up on the blog after a week away, and I’ve been reading the Manzi v. Milloy debate with interest. As a journalist who relies on such experts to translate the science, I don’t find their arguments mutually exclusive. One can reasonably argue that there is a scientific consensus on the theory of CO2’s role in global warming and say that there is no scientific consensus on how man is impacting climate today.

So, while conservatives should concede that CO2 has a role in climate, they can still vociferously argue the science of whether this is a problem as they rightly campaign against global warming-related legislation.

No less an authority than MIT’s Richard Lindzen, the Milton Friedman of atmospheric science, makes this point in the following excerpt from his pointedly titled “There Is No ‘Consensus’ on Global Warming” in the Wall Street Journal one year ago – an article I still find to be the most comprehensive, layman-accessible article written on GW science:

There has been no question whatsoever that carbon dioxide is an infrared absorber (i.e., a greenhouse gas — albeit a minor one), and its increase should theoretically contribute to warming. Indeed, if all else were kept equal, the increase in carbon dioxide should have led to somewhat more warming than has been observed, assuming that the small observed increase was in fact due to increasing carbon dioxide rather than a natural fluctuation in the climate system. Although no cause for alarm rests on this issue, there has been an intense effort to claim that the theoretically expected contribution from additional carbon dioxide has actually been detected.

Given that we do not understand the natural internal variability of climate change, this task is currently impossible. . . . The question of human attribution largely cannot be resolved.


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