I have tried to read everything that I can find the time to digest on the subject of global warming. I saw Al Gore’s award-winning documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" and even had some nice things to say about it. I have always been put off by the use of terms like "environmental whackos" and "earthist nut balls" from the political right. There is, in my humble opinion, little doubt that the earth is getting warmer. What is in great doubt is almost everything else. How warm will the earth become and how soon? Why is it really warming? What can we do about this problem now? How fast should we respond? And will radical responses, the kind that Al Gore argued for yesterday in the House hearing room on Capitol Hill, make a real difference? Bottom line: Will these alarmist responses help or harm the overall state of things on the earth? I am presently a skeptic when it comes to proving most of the claims being made by the alarmists. Something inside of me wants to agree with the climatologists who have deep concerns, if for no other reason than to avoid association with the right wing craziness and the radical left.

But make no mistake about it, this issue is politicized in every possible way. Anyone who argues otherwise is asleep. Both sides have a horse in this race. And alarmism does sell right now. Just think about the conspiracy theories that run rampant throughout modern life. Al Gore spoke of the planet "having a fever and if your baby has a fever, you go to the doctor. If the doctor says you need to intervene here, you don’t say, ‘Well, I read a science-fiction novel that tells me it’s not a problem.’ If the crib’s on fire, you don’t speculate that the blanket is flame retardant, you take action." That is about as alarmist as you can get it, so it seems to me. I am not sure if Gore is referring to Michael Crichton’s novel State of Fear, when he refers to a science-fiction novel, but it is a best-seller that has had immense impact on many, including me. Before you blow it off please read it. Be sure to read the forty-plus pages of annotated notes and bibliography of books that Crichton read in order to write this book. It is a fun book, but it makes a serious point that I think Gore and his friends miss. (I actually wonder if the book makes them angry because it is so good.)

The press reports say that Al Gore was at his "most passionate" when describing global warming as a "moral imperative." Dennis Hastert (R.IL) offered agreement with Gore saying that human activity is to blame for the rise in temperature, as did some other Republicans. This crusade has taken on the tones of a moral crusade with many people becoming more and more alarmed. This includes a number of evangelicals who have signed unwise and misleading statements on the climate. I, for one, take the words "moral imperative"  very seriously. I think these words are being pressed into service in troubling ways that border on becoming vacuous if we are not truly careful.

In a column published today by Hoover Institute scholar Thomas Sowell he says that we should not expect a lot of fair and open debate about climate change in the near future. Why? National Public Radio (NPR) recently did a debate in which people were polled before and after the debate. After hearing the debate a good number of people who previously believed global warming was primarily caused by human carbon emissions changed their minds. Sowell suggests that this spells the end of such open debate in the near future. That would be a real shame. If this is really a "moral imperative" then those who are convinced that it is should not fear the debate but rather enter it and show people like me why they are right. I am open to facts and would change my mind if I saw the right reasons to do so. Attacking the motives of the non-alarmists is not convincing at all. In fact, it makes me loathe to accept the Gore thesis more than ever. After all, isn’t this the same politician who invented the Internet?

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  1. Adam March 22, 2007 at 1:15 pm

    I think you are asking a lot of the right questions. And these comments need to be applied not only to the global warming people, but the people that keep claiming there is no global warming, that it is a vast left-wing conspiracy to drive the US into bankruptcy, etc. There is some real science. And most of the science says that this is pretty serious. There are some who disagree, and I hope that they are right. I agree with the basic point that where we need to focus science is what will make a difference. But right now Bush’s White House is doing what it can to eliminate real science. If we want real debate the science needs to be open and not controlled by politics.

  2. mark March 22, 2007 at 1:32 pm

    John, I appreciate your willingness to be careful on this issue. However, I have to admit that I am a lot more skeptical and simply cynical about what is going on. This has been fueled by some recent research into the Carter Reagan era and the revisiting of some of Carter’s speeches to the nation about energy and inflation.
    Quite frankly, I am arriving at the opinion that there is no falsehood that won’t be promoted by politicians and academicians and journalists as long as it involves more government contol, higher taxes, and a chance to moralistically preach to the American people. Carter confidently told us that inflation could not be solved except by price and wage limitations and that the energy crisis was with us forever because it was about running out of non-renewable resources. None of that was remotely true, but Carter was backed overwhelmingly by mainstream economists and pundits.
    When Reagan ran for office economists assured us his plan would destroy the economy and Carter called him “dangerous.”
    Reading Carter’s confident assertions now, it looks like a bad scifi movie. But it wasn’t taken that way. It was taken with absolute seriousness. And he, no doubt, believed it all and has a whole host of rationalizations developed to explain why the Reagan years just happened to be prosperous.
    We don’t need to get into motives. I simply want to observe that the track record for these sorts of statements about the environment and the need for drastic intervention is overwhelmingly bad. The very fact they are willing to moralize as if they have credibility tells me they are counting on short memories.

  3. Steve Scott March 22, 2007 at 9:22 pm

    Say, whatever happened to that hole in the ozone layer anyway? Out with the hoola hoop, my guess. Toxic shock syndrome? Infrastructure? Landfill crisis? All that garbage floating around on barges in the oceans? Spotted Owl?

  4. Kevin J March 23, 2007 at 2:36 pm

    There has been many natural global warmings over the eons. Wasn’t 2/3 of Illinois covered in a huge sheet of ice not just 10,000 years ago? But I like the effects that this is havng on our use of fossils fuels. We are going to enter into some real discussions on switching to renewable energy. Real change is on the horizon. I like what the Canary Islands have done by totally switching to renewable energy. After the final analysis God is control. Maybe he is trying to teach us that even with all of our technology we still can not create utopia, but rather ruin our environment. I shutter to think what kind of pollution East Asia will be mired in in the next few decades, so that everyone in china can drive cars and so that we can have our tossaway plastic toys. We need God. We need to think in spiritual terms in managing his world in order to be true stewards. Whether global warming is true or not, (can we ever know for sure?) we are changing and maybe this is what it takes.

  5. Mike Clawson March 25, 2007 at 10:21 pm

    Let’s put aside all the debate by politicians, journalists, novelists and corporate hacks (what do they know anyway?)… What do the scientists say? Is there any significant debate among the people who really are qualified to speak to the issue? And if there is some disagreement (as there always will be with any scientific theory) is it significant enough to warrant a total moratorium on the issue? How many scientists need to agree before we are convinced? As I understand it (from my scientist friends, not from Al Gore) something like 99% of scientists are in agreement that global warming is humanly caused. Do we really have to wait until the last few dozen dissenting voices finally come to agree with the thousands that are already in consensus?
    Again, forget the politics, what does the science say?
    BTW, if you really want to get a qualified evangelical scientist’s perspective on all this, I recommend that you have lunch with Dr. Jeff Greenberg over at Wheaton College. He’s a geologist there and can give you an honest account of the whole issue apart from the politics. I’d be happy to put you in touch with him if you’re interested.

  6. John H. Armstrong March 28, 2007 at 7:56 am

    Mike I agree we should forget the politics but that is not possible at this point given how the issue is being presented. It is, all can see, a “highly political” issue, for good and/or bad. I agree we should listen to the scientists but they are clearly not anywhere near one mind on the issue as wide reading will demonstrate. This is precisely part of the problem.
    With all due respect a geologist is not a climatologist, which means we need more than a friendly visit with a convinced geologist at Wheaton College to really “listen” carefully on this important issue.
    Even climatology is a very inexact science at the moment and employing computer models is debatable as well. My appeal is to engage the issue less politically and more openly without the “dogmas” that cloud it presently.

  7. Adam March 30, 2007 at 11:53 am

    A wide reading in fact does show that there is large agreement from the scientific community. The problem is that it is being reported that there is not by the politicians, journalists, etc. Geologists can show a lot about climate change because this is the way that we understand historical climates which gives a lot of understanding to current climate change.

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