Do you want to save the planet?
Uh, sure, I guess so.
Do you want a clean environment for everyone in the future?
Of course. Doesn’t everyone?
Or are you a “science denier” who’s out of touch with realty and is in bed with Big Oil?
Of course not. I’m a smart person and I love science. So tell me what I’m supposed to believe!
That’s roughly how the debate on climate change plays out today from those who argue what has become the orthodox position — that human activity is causing the planet to get a warmer and that the increased warmth will cause catastrophic effects.
If you look at the evidence and come to any other conclusion — or if you’re even skeptical about the political solutions presented — you are labeled a “denier,” in a very dishonest attempt to link climate skepticism with Holocaust denial.
It doesn’t help that certain loud and obnoxious people on the other side of the debate are idiots who are full of conspiracy theories and who insist that climate change is a “hoax.” When you frame the debate this way, it’s easy to choose “the science side” instead of “the conspiracy loons.”
But what if there is a reasoned argument for suggesting that the climate change orthodoxy is wrong? If everybody on the “anti” side has been defined as an idiot or a denier of science, who is left to point out that the emperor might not be wearing clothes?
I can’t say for certain what the future holds for Earth’s climate and I can’t say with any certainty whether human activity is making the world any warmer, but I can say that I see plenty of evidence that there are other explanations — and I see even more evidence that the political solutions that have been given to us would be devastating to our quality of life.
The general policies being pushed to stop alleged climate change are suspiciously the same as the policies pushed by the environmental movement back in the 1970s as an answer to allegations that the world was overpopulated and that hundreds of millions of people were about to die because the planet couldn’t grow enough food to feed them.
In college, I took a class about this alleged population problem and the “religious text” for the class was a book called “The Population Bomb,” by scientist Paul Ehrlich. The opening lines of the book warned that hundreds of millions of people would die in the ’70s from starvation brought on by overpopulation — and Ehrlich warned darkly that it was too late to stop these deaths.
I thought the book seemed alarmist and I was the only one in my class of about 15 who said so. The others agreed with the two professors running the seminar-style class that population control should be forced on everyone by government. (I did good work in the class but I made a B. I can’t prove it, but I’ll always believe it was because I didn’t agree with the line the professors preached.)
Ehrlich turned out to be wrong.
Even though later editions of his book kept modifying his predictions, those predictions still haven’t come true. He was simply wrong. Even though he was a scientist — a biologist, to be specific — he misunderstood the complex interplay of science and economics that would determine the future of humanity.
I suspect the same is true in the debate over alleged climate change. I believe a lot of good people have been fooled into supporting bad political prescriptions by their faith in predictions that can’t be tested. That doesn’t mean their theories are a hoax. It simply means they might very well be wrong.
It’s often argued that even if the climate change theory is wrong, adopting political programs to combat it will create a cleaner planet, but that ignores the very real consequences of what the Paris Agreement would do. It would be devastating to the lifestyles of those of us who live in the West — while it would allow people in developing countries to go right on producing even more pollution for decades.
If you have a sincere desire to find out whether you should question the orthodox consensus on climate change, I ask you to take the time to carefully consider the cases made by some bright people who are just as sincere as the allegedly “pro science” side of the argument. I’m not going to discuss the arguments involved in each — because this is very complex and they can make their arguments better than I can — but if you are sincere in your desire to know the truth, please take the time to consider some of the following.
First, read the actual text of the Paris Agreement for yourself.
Next, read this nice summary from the Foundation for Economic Education of the reasons to consider that there are other legitimate considerations in this debate. This is a complicated article that covers a lot of ground. It’s not just rhetoric, so pay attention to the specifics.
Listen to this 20-minute podcast from Reason magazine last week of an interview with environmentalist Bjørn Lomborg, who believes humans are causing some warming but that the orthodox approach is wrong-headed. Lomborg is an orthodox statist who believes in spending billions or trillions in tax money to fix the world’s problems, but he explains why the current approach is wrong even if you believe in coercive taxation.
One of the most consistently level-headed people on the idea of climate change has been English writer Matt Ridley. In this hour-long episode of EconTalk from two years ago, he argues that human activity is indeed causing a slight increase in global temperatures, but he says the effects won’t be what alarmists are predicting. He calls himself a “lukewarmer.”
Finally, consider that the climate system is more complex than scientists currently understand. Some scientists who study the sun believe that changes in solar activity mean we are looking at a mini ice age starting around 2030. These scientists think the global climate is more complicated than what their colleagues in other fields believe — and they think solar activity controls far more than current orthodox climate science understands.
I believe the weight of the evidence strongly suggests that we don’t yet understand enough about how climate operates to be tinkering with changing it — and I believe the evidence is even stronger that the political changes proposed wouldn’t cure the alleged problem and would also be devastating to our modern lifestyles.
If someone tells you “the science is settled” and that you are a “denier” if you question a broad political agenda that would change our world for centuries to come, you might want to consider that the person might have a deeper agenda. And even if he were completely sincere in his beliefs, he might very well be wrong.
Paul Ehrlich was wrong in his alarmist predictions in the ’70s about hundreds of millions of deaths from overpopulation, but he still won’t admit he was wrong. That’s what happens when your political agenda trumps your training as a scientist.
Believe what the evidence leads you to believe. Reasonable people can obviously disagree. But it’s completely dishonest to pretend that anyone who questions the orthodox view is a “science denier.” There is serious, legitimate justification — based in science and reason — to believe the priests of the Church of Global Warming are simply wrong.
Don’t let social engineers intimidate you into accepting their political agenda without investigating the facts for yourself.