International Climate Conference Proves “Skeptics” Champion Vibrant Discussion

Published June 13, 2010

Global warming is not a human-induced crisis, reported more than 70 speakers in three days of sessions at The Heartland Institute’s Fourth International Conference on Climate Change, May 16-18 in Chicago. Bringing together scientists, economists, and public policy experts from 23 countries, the conference proved not only that global warming is not a crisis, but also that “skeptics” can argue about the finer points of climate science without losing track of professional courtesy and civility.

Grilling Message, Not Messenger
Researcher Steve McIntyre presented the important events of the Climategate scandal for a rapt audience in the opening plenary. But at the conclusion of his 30-minute detailing of events before roughly 700 dinner guests, the Canadian scientist shunned audience pressure to proclaim a fraud or demand punishment for the scientists who in McIntyre’s estimation “offended” scientists and the public.

Citing a particularly controversial email in the Climategate emails that referred to hiding an unexpected but inconveniently inexplicable decline in global temperatures, McIntyre concluded, “To the extent that things like the ‘trick’ were common practice, the practices need to be disavowed. The scientists do not need to be drummed out, but there has to be some commitment to avoiding these sorts of practices in the future.”

But the audience as a whole was less forgiving than McIntyre, and questioner after questioner pressed him to acknowledge legal, if not moral, culpability.

“I don’t even think in those terms,” McIntyre insisted.

Global Cooling Forecast
Attendees hoping to stock up on ammunition to battle global warming alarmists got locked and loaded during the second day of the conference. But few expected the literal cold slap by climate change geologist Don Easterbrook.

“Global warming is over at least for a few decades,” Easterbrook told a breakout section. “However, the bad news is that global cooling is even more harmful to humans than global warming, and a cause for even greater concern.”

Easterbrook, an emeritus professor at Western Washington University, documented geologic evidence for sudden climate fluctuations of warming and cooling, all of which occurred before 1945 when carbon dioxide began to rise sharply.

Ten abrupt changes occurred during the past 15,000 years, and another 60 smaller climate changes occurred in the past 5,000 years, he told attendees.

“Expect global cooling for the next two to three decades that will be far more damaging than global warming would have been,” he said, noting twice as many people are killed by extreme cold as by extreme heat, and global food production will suffer because of shorter, cooler growing seasons.

Human Influence Trivial
Richard Lindzen, Ph.D., a professor of atmospheric sciences at MIT, reiterated a theme echoed throughout the dozens of breakout sessions and keynote speeches. He declared manmade global warming “is trivially true and essentially meaningless.”

Lindzen accused scientists who warn of crisis-level warming of trying “to support the data [they have created] and not to test the hypothesis.” He noted computer models of climate change “cannot be tested by comparing models to models.”

Lindzen led the audience through a detailed review of current data on global warming and concluded skeptical scientists “should stop accepting the word ‘skeptic'” as a characterization. He said the alarms raised about the threat of global warming don’t “represent a plausible proposition…. Unprecedented climate catastrophes are not about to happen, though in several thousand years we may have another ice age.”

Call for New Journal
Patrick Michaels, Ph.D., a distinguished senior fellow at George Mason University, called for the creation of a new peer-reviewed journal to run online.

Michaels, who has appeared in peer-reviewed journals countless times over his long career, cited the Climategate scandal as evidence the peer-review process for climatologists “has gotten worse” in the past few years. He referred to Climategate emails from the Climatic Research Unit at East Anglia University in which influential scientists threatened to end the careers of scientific journal editors and publishers who accepted articles from Michaels and other skeptical climatologists.

Former Virginia governor and U.S. senator George Allen, head of the American Energy Freedom Center, asked the audience to rephrase a common complaint about dependence on foreign oil: “Say that Americans are addicted to freedom and prosperity.”

No Denying the Costs
Economist Ben Lieberman, a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, warned against the Kerry-Lieberman carbon-tax bill, successor to the moribund Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill.

“If there is one overall theme to the economics of cap and trade or other proposed global warming abatement measures,” he said, “it is that there is absolutely no cheap way to curtail carbon dioxide from fossil fuels and other greenhouse gases…. Inflicting economic pain is not some unintended consequence. It is how any system works that is designed to reduce carbon emissions.”

Hope for Cooperation
The conference concluded with gracious words from Colorado State University climate scientist Scott Denning, who expressed far more concern about global warming than most of the speakers at the conference. Denning expressed disappointment that people expressing his point of view are called “alarmists,” but said the Heartland Institute and his fellow speakers treated him courteously and professionally during the conference.

Denning said the conference can play an important role bringing together scientists from all points of view, and he promised he would encourage scientists who believe humans are causing substantial global warming to accept invitations to speak at the Heartland Institute’s Fifth International Conference on Climate Change.

Dan Miller ([email protected]) is executive vice president and publisher for the Heartland Institute.