I haven’t posted anything regarding the topic of climate change, but I did want to highlight what I thought was a very good article by John Derbyshire in Taki’s Magazine under the title “Al Gore’s Dream of Power”, which touches on some recent comments by former Vice President Al Gore comparing global warming skeptics with racists during the civil rights era. While many liberals upon hearing the title of the article and that the author is a conservative would assume that this was another piece aimed at discrediting scientific consensus by attacking Al Gore, Derbyshire states that science tells us that:
The Earth’s climate is variable. It is currently varying on an overall (several-year moving average) warming trend. Some part of this current trend is due to human activity.
Indeed, while many elements of the political Right have hewn to a line that anthropogenic global warming is a hoax, the fact is that the great majority of climate scientists accept some form of anthropogenic global warming and the evidence against it is currently pretty weak. What really is at issue is the normative aspect of this fact and the politics surrounding it. Conservatives have done themselves some damage by choosing to dispute the science itself, though open dispute is healthy for science, rather than asking whether the effects of an average temperature rise were truly dire events and discussing the power, or lack thereof, that political actors have in shaping our climatic future.
Those two issues are ones of great uncertainty, but in both cases, the evidence is stacked against those seeking radical political approaches to climatic issues. Contrary to the claims of Bill Nye, there is nothing that suggests that Irene was “caused” by climate change. It was, in fact, a rather mundane hurricane whose most noteworthy feature was that its path led to America’s largest city and media center, New York. The repeated conflation of periodic weather events with rising global temperatures is an area with regard to climate that those on the political Left are frequently grasping at straws with regard to evidence.
Further, while higher average temperatures may be detrimental to some regions, it is hard to argue that expanded temperate zones and longer growing seasons in higher latitudes as well as the opening of new sea lanes during summer months, all of which are likely consequences of an upward creep in average global temperature, are bad events. The extent to which this would be a dominant trend relative to predictions of sea level rise that threatens low-lying populations such as Bangladesh is outside the scope of reliable climate modeling.
Finally, the constellation of interests around the globe make it unlikely that any major global political action will succeed at preventing a significant amount of fossil fuel usage, which is suspected of being man’s largest contribution to the current climate trend. Furthermore, given fossil fuels’ status as the most commons sources of energy, stemming from their reliability, versatility, and prices, combined with their finite availability, any cuts in short term usage are likely to be nearly balanced out by greater future usage as easily accessed deposits would simply be depleted more slowly, barring civilizational collapse, an outcome far worse than what all but the most dire predictions regarding Earth’s climate countenance.
In any event, I would recommend John Derbyshire’s piece, as I think it is an accurate assessment of the landscape we face in terms of the science, the politics, and the uncertainty, and advocates a sound approach to thinking about the topic, one that has been eschewed both by most on the Left and the Right.