Along the Tracks

Thursday, April 18, 2002

Warmer or colder, they've gotcha!

Long time no blog. Sorry about that. Anyway, back to my stated topic. Everyone has noticed the heat wave we've experienced across about half the country this week. Ohio's balmy mid-80s can't shake a stick at the mid-90s they've been getting along the east coast from DC to Boston. Of course, we now hear the automatic refrain of "global warming." You may say to me, "Paul, it is pretty unusually warm lately, to go along with an unusually warm winter." All quite true, and could very well be an objective sign that our climate is warming. But first, such assessments do not take into account the big picture - the subject is global warming, after all. Secondly, the empirical accuracy of judging global warming based on actual scientific measurements is irrelevant to much of the anti-capitalist movement which has hooked its wagon to the global warming debate. Case in point: This week, it was announced that, due to changes in North Atlantic seawater salinity, much of the United States and Europe could very well find themselves cooler, a situation similar to what is called the "Little Ice Age" experienced from around 1500 to 1800. The study indicates more fresh water melting into the North Atlantic could shut down the Gulf Stream and other ocean currents, changing the dynamic of heat transfer which keeps northeastern North America, and even more so, Europe, fairly mild even in winter time.

The study's conclusions may or may not be accurate, just as the conclusions of studies indicating a hotter, drier North America and Europe may not be born out. But it points to a couple of problems. First, the science on global warming is still pretty uncertain; it seems pretty likely the earth has warmed some, particularly since the mid-1900s, but that warming's relationship to greenhouse gases cannot be locked in. Second, the anti-capitalists who wish to hinder economic growth worldwide can point to almost any weather event or climatic anomoly and claim it is caused by global warming, including a "big chill" in the Northeast and Europe. The proper way to judge this potential problem of global warming is to weigh both likely costs and likely benefits (that's right, benefits, including increased farm production for an expanding world population, and perhaps new areas, such as Greenland and Antarctica, to explore for resources) of global warming. We should also try harder to define the connection, right now causally weak, between greenhouse gasses and warming. If we decide the costs of warming outweigh the benefits, and that human-produced greenhouse gasses are the cause, then we should look at solutions which could realistically mitigate those costs without being an even greater burden themselves.

The much-ballyhooed Kyoto Accord does none of these things. Global warming is assumed to be a bad thing and man-made without the case being proven even by a preponderance of evidence (the measure used in U.S. civil cases). The required "cure" would gouge the U.S. economy - which powers the world economy - while not even claiming to stop global warming, merely slow it down. And again, without evidence to show human-produced greenhouse gasses are the cause of global warming, any cure based on cutting emissions is specious.

Fortunately, it seems the current occupant of the White House realizes this, and despite being harried by the Left, he'll let science work out the facts before committing Americans to a course clearly not in their interest, and not in the interest of the world as a whole, either.

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