This article is in answer to Ross Douthat’s, a.k.a. Lt Keefer’s, column “Neither Hot Nor Cold on Climate” in which he impugned as “anti-intellectual” those are who reflexively against the journalist-politician-activist-bien pensant (but unfortunately not scientist) Consensus that the world is doomed because of global warming.
First, Douthat, a “lukewarmer” who confesses an increasing fear about global warming, mistakenly calls global warming “climate change”, a curious error to make while lecturing on the subject. (The climate is and has and will always change.)
Second, he says this:
…in actual right-wing politics no serious assessment of the science and the risks is taking place to begin with. Instead there’s just a mix of business-class and blue-collar self-interest and a trollish, “If liberals are for it, we’re against it” anti-intellectualism. So while lukewarmers may fancy ourselves serious interlocutors for liberals, we’re actually just running interference on behalf of know-nothing and do-nothingism, attacking flawed policies on behalf of a Republican Party that will never, ever advance any policies of its own.
Here are two misapprehensions. It is false that there are no serious assessments of climate science from non-progressives. And far from being anti-intellectual, doing nothing is a rational and reasonable response when the threat is small.
To prove both of these contentions, let me tell you a story. Couple years back in a well-regarded, peer-reviewed journal1 some colleagues and I wrote that a doubling of pre-industrial levels of carbon dioxide would result in about one degree Celsius of temperature increase (about 2 degrees F).
We also estimated that “combustion of all recoverable fossil fuels” would cause less than 2.2 degrees Celsius warming (about 4 degrees F).
The first estimate is about half of what the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change guessed, and our second estimate is well under their worst-cast predictions.
It should be, but was not and probably still is not, obvious that our statements are premised on admitting that adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere will cause measurable warming. This is, or was, the “lukewarmer” position.
And yet it’s puzzling. Here we were offering to the world what was potentially great news. The world would not warm dangerously! Temperature increases would max out. That’s something to celebrate!
Only our message wasn’t taken that way. It was as if we were betrayers, traitors, scalawags. Used car salesmen—lawyers, even!—were held in higher esteem.
Get on over to the Stream—before it’s too late!
1The paper is January 2015’s “Why models run hot: results from an irreducibly simple climate model” by Christopher Monckton, Willie W. H. Soon, David R. Legates, and William M. Briggs in Science Bulletin. This was followed in August of 2015 by “Keeping it simple: the value of an irreducibly simple climate model” by the same authors and journal. On the so-called Consensus, see the peer-reviewed paper “Climate Consensus and ‘Misinformation’: A Rejoinder to Agnotology, Scientific Consensus, and the Teaching and Learning of Climate Change” by the same authors in Science & Education.