Sunday, September 24, 2006

Global warming and a man of science and integrity...

As some of you know, I have long been a fan of Ron Bailey, chief science correspondent for Reason magazine. Reason is a libertarian publication, and I find the libertarian approach to many issues both logical and fair.

A while back, he changed his mind about man-assisted global warming. In fact, his change of heart triggered my own. Nonetheless, many saw all manner of motive behind his new stance. Bailey has written a typically straightforward and eloquent answer to those critics and in the process shown us , I believe how people of conscience and science confront a challenge.

So if corporate shilling doesn't explain my stubborn skepticism about global warming, what does? Looking back over my reporting on the issue, I would argue the consistent theme is my reliance on temperature datasets as a way to either validate or invalidate the projections of computer climate models. Up until the last year or so, the satellite data and weather balloon data pointed to relatively modest global warming much below the trends predicted by most climate models. If those trends were correct then there was no imminent "planetary emergency." When the trends were shown to be incorrect last year, I "converted" into a global warmer. In the past year, a great deal of new evidence-reductions in arctic ice cover, growing Siberian lakes and so forth--has also tended to confirm the conclusion in my mind that man-made global warming may become a problem. Because of this accumulating evidence I am much less certain than Christy and Spencer are that the future warming is unlikely to be a significant problem.

And then there is also the matter of my intellectual commitments. We all have them. Since I work for a self-described libertarian magazine that should indicate to even the dimmest reader that I tend to have a healthy skepticism of government "solutions" to problems, including government solutions to environmental problems. I have long argued that the evidence shows that most environmental problems occur in open access commons-that is, people pollute air, rivers, overfish, cut rainforests, and so forth because no one owns them and therefore no one has an interest in protecting them. One can solve environmental problems caused by open access situations by either privatizing the commons or regulating it. It will not surprise anyone that I generally favor privatization. That's because I believe that the overwhelming balance of the evidence shows that centralized top-down regulation tends to be costly, slow, often ineffective, and highly politicized. As a skeptic of government action, I had hoped that the scientific evidence would lead to the conclusion that global warming would not be much of a problem, so that humanity could avoid the messy and highly politicized process of deciding what to do about it. Unhappily, I now believe that balance of evidence shows that global warming could well be a significant problem. Since it doesn't seem pertinent to the purpose of this column, I will leave the policy discussion of how to handle man-made climate change to another time. [More]

The essay is more than worth reading, it is uplifting.

I would pay real money to be able to write (and think) like him.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I would suggest you read some material from Patrick Michaels a climatologist with the Cato Institute. The rate of increase is basically at a low level and not man made according to him. In the end the big HooHa on global warming is a matter of follow the money. His material is extremely detailed but easy to read for a mind that has a scientific bent. He explains in detail the fallacies of essentially all the research being done and the balancing effects that explain the changes being reported.