Politics Outweigh Science in Global Warming Debate

Published June 5, 2010

[Editor’s note: This is the final installment in a series by scientist and NASA astronaut Walter Cunningham, pilot of the Apollo 7 space mission and holder of a master’s degree in physics. Cunningham has served on the Advisory Board for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.]

Global Political Agenda
No matter what the latest science or temperature readings tell us about the true causes and consequences of global warming, anthroprogenic global warming alarmists continue to embrace more regulation, greater government spending, and higher taxes in a futile attempt to control what is beyond our control: the Earth’s temperature. One of their political objectives, unstated of course, is the transfer of wealth from rich nations to poor nations or, as the social engineers put it, from the North to the South.

At the Bali Conference on Climate Change in December 2007, the poor nations insisted the cost of technology to limit emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change on their countries ought to be paid for by rich nations. Most anticipated a windfall of money flowing into their countries to develop technology or purchase carbon credits. In that scenario, selling allotments for CO2 emissions would provide a temporary boost to their cash flow while severely limiting the economic development of countries forced to purchase the carbon credits.

The December 2009 Copenhagen Conference was an attempt to formalize just such a transfer of wealth, one that would be an economic disaster for the developed nations of the world. The real economic costs of this income redistribution in the United States would be huge. Various studies have forecast that the United States would lose between three and four million jobs and the average U.S. family would lose $4,000-7,000 a year in income.

Racing Against the Facts
Without the science to back up their wild forecasts and claims, and in the face of overwhelming evidence for natural temperature variation, proponents of AGW alarmism resort to the precautionary argument: “We must do something just in case we are responsible, because the consequences are too terrible if we are to blame and do nothing.” They hope to stampede governments into committing huge amounts of taxpayers’ money before their fraud is completely exposed—before science and truth save the day.

Too many politicians are going along with this scheme, some because they have deluded themselves into thinking they can eventually reverse global warming by stabilizing CO2 emissions, others more cynically to curry favor with the media or political contributors.

There is certainly no scientific justification for a self-imposed and indeed cockamamie scheme of cap-and-trade that would raise energy costs, reward middlemen, and result in massive fraud. For a tiny fraction of the trillions of dollars such a system would eventually cost the United States, we could pay for development of clean coal, oil-shale recovery systems, and nuclear power, and have enough left over to maintain and upgrade our essential system of temperature-monitoring satellites.

Real Science Is Key
Understanding global warming and what, if anything, humans can do to affect it are scientific questions that can be answered only by science and scientific data. Yet global warming alarmists invariably try to make their case by resorting to rhetoric, dogma, opinion, and emotion. The closest thing to scientific data in their articles is the occasional chart claiming a poorly understood correlation between atmospheric CO2 and the Earth’s temperature.

Correlation is not causation. For five years, Michael J. Economides, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of Houston, has had a standing offer of $10,000 for a single peer-reviewed paper showing causality between CO2 and increased temperature. None exists!

On the other hand, scientists who understand the factors affecting the Earth’s temperature—as much as they can be understood—rebut the alarmists with papers replete with facts, science, charts, and data tables.

With so many uninformed and misguided politicians ignoring the available science, however, our nation’s priorities will drift away from hard science and toward decadence. The politicization of science is tantamount to killing it. It is our collective responsibility to champion the use of responsible science to inform politicians.

There are hopeful signs some once-true believers are beginning to harbor doubts about anthropogenic global warming. We can only hope the focus of the discussion returns to scientific evidence before we perpetrate an economic disaster on ourselves and generations to come.

Walter Cunningham ([email protected]) maintains the waltercunningham.com Web site.