Friday, March 16, 2007

What's wrong with Megan McArdle?

Writing over at Instapundit, Megan McArdle writes something truly mind-boggling:
ON GLOBAL WARMING Let me clarify a little my position. I think there are a lot of questions about global warming: how much, and what, should be done. However, I regard two questions as basically no longer worth debating, at least by people with my level of science education:

1) Is AGW happening?
2) Should we do something about it?

The first is a technical question that seems to be largely settled

My understanding is that Megan doesn't have much science education. Why that removes the subject from debate is completely beyond me.

Richard Lindzen is Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT. He says global warming is a politically motivated fraud. See e.g.
this column in the Wall Street Journal:
how can a barely discernible, one-degree increase in the recorded global mean temperature since the late 19th century possibly gain public acceptance as the source of recent weather catastrophes? And how can it translate into unlikely claims about future catastrophes?

The answer has much to do with misunderstanding the science of climate, plus a willingness to debase climate science into a triangle of alarmism. Ambiguous scientific statements about climate are hyped by those with a vested interest in alarm, thus raising the political stakes for policy makers who provide funds for more science research to feed more alarm to increase the political stakes. After all, who puts money into science--whether for AIDS, or space, or climate--where there is nothing really alarming? Indeed, the success of climate alarmism can be counted in the increased federal spending on climate research from a few hundred million dollars pre-1990 to $1.7 billion today. It can also be seen in heightened spending on solar, wind, hydrogen, ethanol and clean coal technologies, as well as on other energy-investment decisions.

But there is a more sinister side to this feeding frenzy. Scientists who dissent from the alarmism have seen their grant funds disappear, their work derided, and themselves libeled as industry stooges, scientific hacks or worse. Consequently, lies about climate change gain credence even when they fly in the face of the science that supposedly is their basis.

To understand the misconceptions perpetuated about climate science and the climate of intimidation, one needs to grasp some of the complex underlying scientific issues. First, let's start where there is agreement. The public, press and policy makers have been repeatedly told that three claims have widespread scientific support: Global temperature has risen about a degree since the late 19th century; levels of CO2 in the atmosphere have increased by about 30% over the same period; and CO2 should contribute to future warming. These claims are true. However, what the public fails to grasp is that the claims neither constitute support for alarm nor establish man's responsibility for the small amount of warming that has occurred. In fact, those who make the most outlandish claims of alarm are actually demonstrating skepticism of the very science they say supports them. It isn't just that the alarmists are trumpeting model results that we know must be wrong. It is that they are trumpeting catastrophes that couldn't happen even if the models were right as justifying costly policies to try to prevent global warming.

Why Megan seems unable or unwilling to understand what Professor Lindzen writes is beyond me. And why his position isn't appropriate to add to the debate is even farther beyond me reach.


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