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September 29, 2006
A Response To Richard Baehr
In "Al Gore's Crusade," American Thinker's Richard Baehr provides a very thorough review of Al Gore's global warming stump speech. However, there are a few points in Mr. Baehr's analysis that call for a response.
First, near the outset of his article, Mr. Baehr boldly states:
As Mr. Baehr notes later in his piece, however, the rise in emissions of "greenhouse gases" (a term that implicitly assumes the truth of man—made global warming) is due to the rapid economic development that is occurring across the globe, especially in China and India. This is a very good thing. Industrialization is the engine of human improvement. If this means that more "greenhouse gases" are spewed into the air, so be it.
This is not even a "close call." The enormous benefits of industrialization far outweigh the purely theoretical concerns about man—made climate change. Unfortunately, Mr. Baehr's statement, which may simply have been an infelicitous turn of phrase, suggests that he thinks otherwise.
Second, Mr. Baehr uncritically accepts the "near—consensus in the scientific community on the relationship between increasing greenhouse gas emissions and rising temperatures." Why would he believe this when he rightly points out that the earth has been undergoing significant climate change throughout its history and that meteorologists cannot even predict next week's weather with certainty?
Does Mr. Baehr seriously believe that the "scientific community" does not have an ideological axe to grind in the global warming debate? Or that just because most scientists share a particular position means that the position is correct?
Why aren't the dissenters correct? Their theories and explanations are just as "scientific" and supported by just as much "data" as those of the proponents of global warming (which is to say, not very much —— the global warming debate is only a few steps up from the creationism versus Darwinism debate in terms of its susceptibility to objective analysis). Most scientists, moreover, are affiliated with university research departments, and tend to share the standard liberal world view of university life. A good deal more skepticism strikes me as a necessity in this area.
Which brings me to my last point. Mr. Baehr appears to accept the global warmers' position at face value, that is, as a legitimate concern that human behavior (i.e., greenhouse gas emissions) may very well cause catastrophic changes in the climate and geology of the earth (e.g., flooded coastal areas where most people live). Consequently, Mr. Baehr criticizes the global warmers for their "hypocritical" use of private jets and gas—guzzling vehicles, and also for their failure to agree to certain political "compromises" that Mr. Baehr appears to endorse, e.g., imposing higher mandatory fuel standards for cars in exchange for drilling in ANWAR or more nuclear power.
Yet there is no reason to believe that any individual or government—mandated measures designed to stop or retard global warming will have any effect other than to restrict individual freedom and expand government power. And also significantly lower economic growth, which any serious effort to reduce greenhouse gases would entail.
Here is the real agenda behind the global warming crusade. Global warmers like Al Gore use the specter of imminent climate and geological disasters (which, even if possible, are probably hundreds of years away, when we are likely to be living in a completely different technological environment) to scare the public into accepting more and more government control over their social and economic life. Just as "universal access to health care" is the wedge issue that leads to socialized medicine, "global warming" is the wedge issue that leads to a socialized economy. And we all know what socialism leads to.
Richard Baehr responds:
Steve: Thoughtful response. I get a lot of journals from MIT where I went for a few years,and the fight over the science of global warming is prominent in all of them. One of the leading skeptics is an atmospheric professor from MIT. His is clearly a minority view, though he accepts that warming is occurring.
I do not believe that every scientist supporting the greenhouse gas/climate change link is a shill for socialism. I do think there has been suppression of the views of dissenters, though. I liked Crichton's State of Fear, and reviewed it favorably on our site two years ago. My point, maybe not so well stated, is this: CO 2 levels are now 380 parts per million.
That is up from 280 parts per million 50 years ago. Certainly, this reflects growing industrialization and prosperity in the world. The question is: can prosperity continue without as much creation of greenhouse gases? Are all the gases we expel, the only way to create energy to fuel the continued growth?
I do not have to buy any of Gore's alarmist speculation to accept that there is a risk of doing nothing and continuing with existing energy consumption patterns.
I do not know the risk, nor do you or any other skeptics, of doing nothing. We are experiencing a global warming phenomenon the last 30 years. It is small measured in degrees, but noticeable in certain locations. Is it natural, or its it man—made, or some of both? I am not sure.
But if it is man made, which is certainly a possibility, then I think the intelligent response is to weigh the benefits versus risks of doing nothing to address the issue, and doing the same cost benefit analysis of alternatives to create energy with potentially less negative impact.
I am at least as concerned about the huge wealth transfer to the Arabs and Venezuela for the purchase of fossil fuels as I am about global warming, as I tried to point out in my article. If we are more efficient with energy use, create fewer greenhouse gases, and create more domestic supply, it seems this is a good outcome.