Propagandizing the climate debate

Some Americans, principally on the Left, are understating the threat of terrorism while overstating the hyperbolized threat of man-made global warming Editor: I'm pleased to introduce a new contributor, our youngest, to the Backbone blog.  Jimmy Sengenberger of Centennial, Colorado, is a senior at Grandview High School, active in local Republican politics, and a columnist for The Villager, a suburban weekly, from which this piece is reprinted.  Apropos his comments about skewed treatment of climate issues in the schools, Heartland Institute's environmental newspaper this month has several stories about educational malpractice in that regard by California middle schools.  See the lead article and three others at this link.  Now here's the Sengenberger column in full.

Global Warming Debate Hotter than It Looks

Since the founding of this nation, we have been faced with numerous tests of time. Islamic terrorism is the gravest threat facing this nation since the Soviet Union, and yet, as the War on Terror rages on, some Americans, principally on the Left, are understating the threat of terrorism while overstating the hyperbolized threat of man-made global warming, or what they’re now calling “global climate change,” as if the concept were something new.

The inconvenient truth for Al Gore, who claims that climate change is the “most dangerous challenge we’ve ever faced,” and other global warming alarmists is that there is substantial scientific evidence that at the very least establishes a stronger correlation between natural factors, principally water vapor and the variations in solar flares and sun spots, and increases in global temperature.

Yet those who are skeptical of global warming and express that skepticism are often attacked, belittled and marginalized. No longer can there be serious debate about the issue in the public sphere because politicians, environmentalists and educators have made up their minds. Disagree with global warming? You’re denying fact, what is already “settled science.” You are, in the words of an otherwise phenomenal teacher of mine, a “moron.”

The basic premise of global warming revolves around the greenhouse effect, which is the rise in the Earth’s temperature as the result of certain gases in the atmosphere, called “greenhouse gases,” which trap energy from the sun. The temperature has generally risen over the last century and a half, and so have carbon dioxide levels.

We are indeed in the midst of a warming period following the Little Ice Age, which lasted from the 1500s to about 1850, and it is true that over the last three decades the rate of warming has increased. Greenhouse theory advocates look at the correlation between the rise in CO2 emissions and the rising temperature and conclude that the former causes the latter. Most scientists will tell you, however, that correlation does not prove causation.

There are several problems with the man-made theory that are easily overlooked by global warming alarmists. Unfortunately at this point I cannot elaborate on these problems due to length, but in my next column I will address both flaws in the greenhouse theory, which include holes in the theory relating to the collision of CO2 and other molecules in the atmosphere and the inaccuracy of computer climate models used to predict climate change, and alternative explanations for our planet’s warming over the last century, such as the evidence of natural phenomena that have been occurring for at least a million years. For now, however, I will address two points: the concept of a “scientific consensus” and education in schools.

Man-made theory advocates often bring up the argument that there is a “scientific consensus” that man is the cause of global warming. This is, at the very least, disingenuous, as a growing number of climatologists, geologists, paleontologists, and other scientists are raising questions about the science as more evidence shows up. These scientists, who simply do not get enough publicity because their ideas are not in line with the media elite, bring up such issues as the 1500-year climate cycle going back one million years; the substantial correlation between the sun and global climate throughout history; the notion that, while carbon emissions increased, global cooling occurred between 1940 and 1980; and the fact that the climate models used to predict climate trends are inaccurate (pointing out, for instance, that they can’t even predict past climate conditions) and there is an alternative, scientific way to test the models.

However, even if there were an actual scientific consensus, it would mean little. In the past the world believed the earth was flat and at the center of the universe. Men like Galileo challenged and, in doing so, changed the conventional wisdom, and others like Albert Einstein challenged the majoritarian view and were proven successful as well. Pointing to a “consensus” in science is counterproductive; what we need to look at is the actual science, not the number of scientists who are saying one thing or another.

A student at a local high school told me that he had been shown Al Gore’s propaganda film, "An Inconvenient Truth" during two days of class time. Following the movie, which lasted over an hour and a half, they read an article lasting a page and a half that showed a global warming skeptic’s view and had to write a summary about it.

Education is about the presentation of different ideas on varying issues to form a balanced and complete opinion, yet when it comes to global warming, fairness goes out the door and it becomes “indisputable.” Considering the contradictory evidence about global warming, shouldn’t teachers be teaching students the complete picture? Shouldn’t the media give global warming skeptics a fair shake? Shouldn’t our elected leaders keep their minds open before changing policy when the science isn’t concrete?

Given the legitimate questions raised about the science of global warming and recent evidence disputing the concept of man-made warming, serious debate on the public policy behind the issue needs to take place; the issue must return outside of politics, where it belongs. Yet how can that happen when the science is in dispute, and those who dispute the science are marginalized?

This is not an issue where we can rush to judgment and rashly determine that government intervention is necessary.