Discussions of global warming almost always include some allusion to “scientific consensus” – the idea that many / most / almost all scientists agree that the warming is real, is caused by humans, and/or will have catastrophic effects on the planet.
There have always been two problems with this:
Yesterday The Hudson Institute issued a press release counting 500 peer-reviewed scientific papers disputing some aspect of the global warming hypothesis. According to the report,
More than 300 of the scientists found evidence that 1) a natural moderate 1,500-year climate cycle has produced more than a dozen global warmings similar to ours since the last Ice Age and/or that 2) our Modern Warming is linked strongly to variations in the sun's irradiance. … Other researchers found evidence that 3) sea levels are failing to rise importantly; 4) that our storms and droughts are becoming fewer and milder with this warming as they did during previous global warmings; 5) that human deaths will be reduced with warming because cold kills twice as many people as heat; and 6) that corals, trees, birds, mammals, and butterflies are adapting well to the routine reality of changing climate.
What is The Hudson Institute?
Let’s not mince words: The Hudson Institute is not a scientific organization. It is a political think-tank; it supports conservative policies; and it receives funding from some major corporations. It is easy to imagine they simply reviewed thousands of published reports and simply picked the ones that happened to fit their world-view.
(Of course, Al Gore is not a scientist either; he has a liberal political agenda; and he gets money from political contributions. What’s more, the Clinton-Gore administration funded many of the reports he now uses to support his global warming hypotheses.)
None of that matters, though. The Hudson Institute isn’t claiming to have done any original scientific research. They are simply pointing to research that has already been done by other scientists which dispute some aspects of global warming, and thus undermine claims to “consensus.”
So, where do we go from here?
Danish scientist Bjorn Lomborg has a new book out called Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming He has recently been interviewed by both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Lomborg believes that global warming is indeed caused by human activity. But he argues that the dangers have been over-hyped, and that “Anti-warming policies (like those of the Kyoto Protocol) that require energy taxes or other checks on economic dynamism are inefficient and even harmful.” For example:
Mr. Lomborg cites studies showing that by implementing Kyoto--at a cost of trillions of dollars--we might be able to achieve a 3% reduction in fluvial and coastal flooding damages. If we instead adopted smart flood policies--e.g., an end to public subsidies that encourage people to settle in flood plains, a shrewder use of levees--we could achieve a 91% reduction in damages at a fraction of the Kyoto cost.
So, if global warming demands a response, it must be a clear-headed one – both scientifically (using all the information at our disposal, and not creating an artificial “consensus”) and socially (making rational decisions based on costs and benefits). As the Journal article notes, “[r]ather than governments imposing costly energy taxes to little benefit, Mr. Lomborg argues, they should fund research programs aimed at finding breakthrough technologies.”
* Tip of the hat to Douglas Adams
The title of this YouTube video may be a little demeaning toward the French in general, but when I watched this, I couldn't believe it. It really shows a disturbing lack of regard for science and science education in the world. Are we destined for another Dark Ages?
I like science, but I'm not a fan of "The Simpsons." But this story shares how a researcher has found scientific principles being shared and explained in episodes of the popular cartoon show.
Believe it or not, US regulators are very concerned that everybody get a chance to participate in science research. Often, when applying for a grant, scientists have to give information about what populations will be included.
The government should then like the recent explosion of Web-based experiments. Experiments on the Internet are available to anyone with an Internet connection, which is already the considerable majority of Americans of a wide range of ethnicities.
I recently started a new web-based research lab, the Cognition and Language Laboratory. The experiments typically run about 5 minutes. Right now there are experiments on mother-child speech, language processing, visual cognition and birth order effects on personality. I really appreciate your participation.
I listened to astronaut Sally Ride on the radio this morning talking about the importance of science, and science in education, particularly for girls. You can find information about it on her website Sally Ride Science.
The site has links to science festivals, books, science camps and toys for young people, along with information for educators. It also includes a blog with teacher Barbara Morgan, the 1st Educator Astronaut, who launched into space on the space shuttle Endeavour just two days ago on August 8.
Threadless T's joined up with Seed Magazine to sponsor a "Science and Culture" T-shirt design contest. The bummer is that the contest ends today. But the good news is you can check out all the designs folks submitted, rate them, and maybe buy a few.
A popular science blogger from U of MN, Morris, PZ Myers, has started a discussion to answer: "What is science?"
President Bush has been criticized for appointing scientists who agree with his policy positions to important committees. Now comes word from Oregon that Democratic Governor Ted Kulongoski wants to replace the state climatologist, George Taylor, because Taylor doesn't support the Governor's position on global warming.
Some scientists are alarmed by this. They argue that science is the process of searching for the truth -- regardless of whether or not anybody likes the answer. Also, having doubters and skeptics ask questions is necessary to keep scientists honest.
On the other hand, politicians are not scientists. Their job is to implement laws and policies which they feel are in the best interests of the people. And it's difficult to do that if key personnel openly disagree with you.
What do you think? What's the proper balance between science and public policy? Leave us a comment.
Well, 2006 is nearing its end and that means it's time for those always fun end of year lists. So what science discoveries, news stories, scandals, or events were the most important of 2006. Post your ideas as a comment and we will turn the list into a poll where people can vote which ones were the most groundbreaking. I 'heart' community created lists.
I'll add my suggestions as a comment, you should to.