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The Sky Is Falling (And The Oceans Are Boiling, Too)?
What amazes me is the people I know who have little knowledge of science -- little knowledge at all, let alone an understanding of climatology -- who are just so sure about global warming...why it exists, and that it will necessarily be a great catastrophe.

Yes, we had French class last night, and had another discussion, led by the girl a little too close to the Hollywood left, with her simplistic view of global warming. Now, don't get me wrong, I had a hybrid well before it became the PC limousine of people with private jets, and I carry reusable bags to the grocery store so I won't unnecessarily use resources, etc., etc. Oh yeah, and then there's my campaign against SUVs...which I started around 2000. If there's an early adopter environmentalist, it's me.

That said, I haven't posted on global warming because I don't understand enough about climatology. I'm posting now to air the side not often heard -- the skeptical side about the Cassandras running around shouting that the sky is falling...without an iota of understanding of what they're talking about.

Is the sky falling? And, if so, what should be done? Here's a different sort of take on it in The Brussels Journal by Richard Rahn, who admits the world is getting warmer, says humans do better during periods of warming, and says we are unlikely to be able to do anything substantive enough to slow it or stop it:

There is a wonderful new book, “Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1,500 Years,” by distinguished climate physicist Fred Singer and award-winning environmental economist Dennis Avery. The conclusion of their book in a nutshell is that, yes, the world is getting a bit warmer, but this is just the natural cycle. They provide overwhelming evidence this warming would occur with or without mankind increasing CO2 emissions or doing anything else. The good news is that if we realize we cannot stop global warming, and concentrate on constructively dealing with the problems it causes – which are all manageable at reasonable cost – and then enjoy the benefits, mankind will do just fine.

We have already had two cycles in recorded history; the Roman warming (200 B.C. to 600 A.D.) which was a very prosperous period, and the medieval warming (900 to 1300) during which farms were created in Greenland and Iceland. The modern warming period began about 1850, well before mankind was producing massive amounts of CO2.

As an economist, I have been a bit of skeptic about the various doomsday scenarios associated with global warming. It has been well known for decades that the Earth’s temperature is in a constant flux, and there have been many periods with both lower and higher temperatures. Despite the general warming trend since 1850, we have had cooler periods, notably from 1940 to 1978, when many leading scientists were warning us we were rapidly heading for a new ice age. I can still remember those doomsday scenarios being played out on TV specials at the time.

...Mr. Gore causes the emission of several hundred times the CO2 – by flying around the world in private jets, riding in limos, etc. – than the typical person does. Hence you would think if he really believed his scaremongering he would just stay home and give his speeches, etc., through teleconferencing and other electronic media. This would show greater commitment, but it would not be as much fun.

...Responsible critics of the global warming scaremongers, such as Patrick Michaels (professor at the University of Virginia and Cato senior fellow), Bjorn Lomberg (director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center) and, of course, Messrs. Singer and Avery and many others, do not deny that global warming is occurring but only advocate that all current and historical data be examined and that there be a review as objective as possible of the costs and benefits of any expenditures to deal with climate change.

The Singer-Avery book is meticulously researched and footnoted (unlike many of the presentations from the scaremongers), and, as they note: “The 1,500-year cycle is not an unproven theory like the model-based predictions for the Greenhouse Theory. The 1,500 year climate cycle is real, based on a wide variety of physical evidence from around the globe.” (It comes from ice cores, sediment layers, isotopes, etc.)

The sun has far greater influence on climate than most people understand. The sun does not shine with a constant intensity, the Earth does not rotate around the sun in a constant orbit – during some periods it is more elliptical than others, and the Earth wobbles about its axis, all of which cause solar heating to vary. These effects swamp anything humans are likely to do to the climate.

During periods of global warming, some areas will become drier and less hospitable for agricultural, but just as many, or more, areas are likely to become wetter and more hospitable for food production (and living), such as Canada and Siberia. There is no evidence of species extinction during previous periods of global warming. Sea levels have slowly risen for hundreds of years, and the evidence is they will continue rising at the same slow and highly manageable rate. And, finally, the evidence is that severe storms are less frequent and intense during the warm than during the colder periods.

Here's a 2004 piece by Reason's Ron Bailey, who admits:

...the picture is complicated. Overall winter sea ice around Antarctica has been increasing since 1979. However, Antarctica experienced a very rapid decline in winter sea ice in the early 1970s and the area covered today is not quite as large as it was before the decline in the 1970s.

But the average temperatures for most of Antarctica outside of the Antarctic Peninsula have been declining since the mid-1960s. So is this evidence that the amount of warming predicted by computer climate models is wrong? Not so fast, say even some climatologists who report on the Antarctic cooling. They insist that their data do not overturn predictions of rapid global warming. Richard Lindzen, a climatologist from MIT and a global warming skeptic, points out, "the Antarctic is not warming and there is nothing in the models that distinguish the temperature trends they predict in the Arctic from those in the Antarctic." Climate is messy.

With so many researchers in the climatological community apparently convinced of the reality of dangerously rapid man-made climate change, why do I continue to rely so much on the skeptical Christy? Christy is the climatologist who has put together the highly accurate atmospheric temperature data from satellites since 1978. And confidence in his data is bolstered by the fact that they correlate nicely with temperature data from radiosondes, which are a completely independent measure of temperature. Christy's data show that since 1978 the planet is warming up at a rate of 0.08 degrees Celsius per decade. The Arctic, according to Christy's data, is indeed warming faster than the rest of the planet, at a rate of 0.39 per decade. But the Antarctic is cooling by 0.12 degrees Celsius per decade.

For the nationalistic, Christy's satellite data find that the lower 48 states of the U.S. are warming at a rate of 0.07 degrees per decade. If temperatures continue to increase by 0.08 degrees Celsius per decade, the planet will warm by 0.8 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. That compares to an increase of 0.6 degrees Celsius during the 20th century. Not much of a crisis. Richard Lindzen says he's willing to take bets that global average temperatures in 20 years will in fact be lower than they are now.

Here's Bailey's recent piece, from the 2006 UN conference on global warming in Kenya. And the piece he wrote at the end of the conference. Here's a quote from the first:

Immediate steep global reductions in the emissions of the chief greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, turn out to be a fantasy. This was made plain by a panel discussion today which featured the release of a report by the Brussels-based Centre for European Policy Studies. The panel aimed to outline the "economic case for action on climate change," but the realities of global poverty overwhelmed it.

To put a finer point on that, another quote from his piece:

"Climate change tourists" is how Kenyan Maasai leader of environmental group Practical Action Sharon Looremeta dismissed the diplomats negotiating over what to do about global warming here in Nairobi. "You come here to look at some climate impacts and some poor people suffering, and then climb on your airplanes and head home," she bitterly added. She was expressing the widespread frustration of many African representatives who were hoping that the conference would result in "new mechanisms to help sustainable development in Africa" and "more funds for adaptation." In other words, they expected cash.

Additionally, Bailey points out, the global warming debate may come down to a battle between western people who want to breathe easier and easing the day-to-day hard-scrabble existence of the developing world's poor.

Posted by aalkon at November 22, 2006 11:40 AM

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Posted by: Crid at November 22, 2006 3:57 AM

Do not fail, for any reason, to visit and explore

You will rapidly find out that popular media of all types simply fails to present the full story.

Posted by: Radwaste at November 22, 2006 5:12 AM

I like informed and thoughtful viewpoints. That you seem to thrive on sensationalism and eccentricity - helping to define a unique self ? - only confirms the benefits of independent thought as being a matter of preference and habit. Short version : what Crid said.

Posted by: opit at November 22, 2006 5:24 AM

Well, much as "The Brussels Journal" may have a scientific sounding name, it's not - it's just a blog, with an impressive sounding name to back up sensational claims. As for the book it quotes, "Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1,500 Years", the authors are not well-respected. Fred Signer (check him out on Wikipedia) has known ties to the oil and tobacco industry. He used to go around claiming that smoking didn't cause cancer, and now spend time refuting global warming. See a pattern? Most of his grants also come from Exxon, so there's little doubt about where his interests lie.

Posted by: Andrew at November 22, 2006 5:38 AM

I think it's interesting that you call those who predict the disasterous effects of global warning "Cassandras." The thing about Cassandra was that, although no one believed her, she was right every time, and her prophesies of doom unfailingly came true. These "Cassandras" might very well agree with that analogy!

Posted by: Lynley at November 22, 2006 5:56 AM

Although global warming is currently a pseudo-science ( ), it's ridiculous how little emphasis is put on environmental preservation. The idea that environmentalists are "wackos" is sad. Greenpeace was actually harmful in this respect, if you ask me.

I think more effort needs to put on slowing down oceanic pollution...,0,7842752.special
There's about 3 million tons of plastic and other debris currently caught in the North Pacific Gyre

And ride a bicycle dammit...

Posted by: Hasan at November 22, 2006 6:58 AM

I agree with you on environmental preservation, and on helping developing countries with that.

Whether the predictors are "Cassandras" -- whose prophecies of doom will come true, whether Rahn erroneously called Singer well-respected, I don't think anybody here can say with certitude, as so many people are what, exactly, global warming means to us...and I'm always stunned when people, such as the woman in my French class, who believes in astrology and tarot card readings, are so dead-certain on the issue.

What I'd like to see is a science writer like Gary Taubes (who's currently slaving away on a book that I believe will change the American diet) take on global see whether all those models of the atmosphere, etc., are accurate (there's dispute on many angles of this -- it just isn't reported).

In subjects related to science and data I do know about, I see myriad errors and exaggerations -- probably because most reporters don't have the resources or the concern to give adequate brain time to an issue. And I'm not even talking complex issues like climatology, but, for example, the recent spate of articles on red wine.

For my column this week, I translated Martie Haselton and David Buss' Error Management Theory for the general public. I took me days to do it -- and I read four studies by Antonia Abbey and three by Martie Haselton, in addition to rereading the original EMT study by Buss and Haselton, and then took days to craft that paragraph just right. I'd be richer if I were a hack. I guess that's how it works for other people.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 22, 2006 7:22 AM

Right, red wine now prevents heart attacks, strokes and heart disease, boosts athletic performance, fights obesity, prolongs lifespan, reduces weight, protects you from diabetes, relieves pain and prevents Alzheimer's. If they could just prevent it from giving us those killer hangovers it would be the miracle drink.

Posted by: Hasan at November 22, 2006 7:55 AM

> I translated Martie Haselton and David Buss' Error Management Theory for the general public.

Did you see "">this?

If you're all clued up on this stuff, you might expand the article a bit if you have any time.

Posted by: Stu "El Inglés" Harris at November 22, 2006 10:04 AM

Wish I had time!

I really wish somebody would correct my Wikipedia page which suggests I fear and hate all Arabs and Muslims, which would be irrational, first of all, and which isn't the case. I simply think those who want to kill us or who support others who want to kill us because we don't believe in Allah and follow the dictates of their primitivism have no place in our country or free societies.

As I've said before, if you want to believe in dumb, unproven crap -- like belief in god or astrology -- go right ahead; just don't legislate based on the moon being in Aquarius or because "god" said so in the bible, thanks.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 22, 2006 11:12 AM

Yeah, that insert was added by a non-logged-in user from (resolves to Verizon Internet Svcs, Reston VA), so you can't query him/her.

Posted by: Stu "El Inglés" Harris at November 22, 2006 11:20 AM

Thanks for looking that up. Reston, VA is probably AOL.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 22, 2006 11:25 AM

And not surprisingly, that IP address resolves to three comments on my blog. Two were posted by, the e-mail sig says, FrogInLA, who used to post here, and then concluded that I was a racist. I'd guess the other was posted by her husband.

I'd really appreciate if somebody could correct that. It's simply not true.

I dislike anybody who wants other people dead in the name of religion. It just so happens most of the people who advocate murder in the name of religion these days happen to be Muslim. And all Muslims are not Arabs, by the way.

And P.S. I have a good friend who's Persian who'd laugh if you told him I hate Arabs. Maybe he'll make the edit.

But, please, somebody do it.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 22, 2006 11:32 AM

I’m trying to make my contribution by staying under the blanket more while turning down the heat and by not farting. Timing is crucial in this effort.

Posted by: Roger at November 22, 2006 11:35 AM

Stu, thank you so much for doing the sleuth work on that. Here's the e-mail I sent FrogInLA:

It's untrue that I hate Arabs or Muslims or "campaign against anything Arab or Muslim." I am simply fiercely opposed to anyone who wants to kill people in the name of their religion, and have friends who are of Arab extraction who understand this. Please edit out the untruth, which resolved to an IP address on comments with your e-mail address (and one, I imagine, that came from your husband) on my blog. -Amy Alkon

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 22, 2006 11:38 AM

Amy, I deleted the Arab/Muslim reference there. Can I add some mention of Mel Gibsob and/or sugartits?;)

Posted by: Hasan at November 22, 2006 12:03 PM

Thanks so much.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 22, 2006 2:09 PM

One more time:

Do not fail to look here: .

Citing anyone else first is merely wasting everyone's time. I'm not being more specific, because there is quite a lot to learn about the issue and the methods by which real information is collected. This can be observed at the NOAA site.

Posted by: Radwaste at November 22, 2006 2:34 PM

Thanks, Rad...started reading there this morning, but I'm on double deadline, so I'm trying to stick to column work. But, I will read there when I'm "off duty."

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 22, 2006 2:43 PM

To me, the most accessible writing on this topic was by Elizabeth Kolbert (the Kolbert Report?) for NEW YORKER. A kinda-sorta summary is here.

Santa Monica may be underwater at some point. You cool with that?

Posted by: Stu "El Inglés" Harris at November 22, 2006 3:52 PM

> a good friend who's Persian who'd laugh
> if you told him I hate Arabs.

OK, but Persians aren't Arabs.

> Santa Monica may be underwater at
> some point. You cool with that?

Yes, Stu. For 2 reasons. 1.) As a ocean-facing WLA homeowner, it's neat to dream of owning oceanfront property if I just wait it out. 2.) Waiting the hundreds of thousands of years required for this to happen makes a lie of your snark. Hasan's right about ocean pollution... But the stupidest, most infantile word in the whole environmental movement is "sustainable." Economics, like life itself, is a moving target. It's the dream of children that Mom & Dad can makes things perfect once and for all.

Posted by: Crid at November 22, 2006 5:35 PM

He's Iranian. Like a kid I grew up with in Detroit named Farzad, he calls himself Persian rather than Iranian. I dunno. The point is, I find people of other cultures interesting...that's why I live in LA, and why I live in the neighborhood I do.

I find people of other cultures who want to kill us or others who don't share their beliefs reprehensible...whether they're Arabs, Christians, Jews, or astrologers.

As for Santa Monica being underwater, as Crid notes, perhaps I should be looking at property in West LA. Luckily for the very rich along the beach, if the laws (welfare for the rich) are still the same, the public pays when their property gets washed away. David Geffen has nothing to worry about. It's the wee people renting apartments who are fucked!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 22, 2006 6:10 PM

"The wall is high
The black barn
The babe in my arms
In her swaddling clothes
And I know soon
That the sky will split
And the planets will shift
Balls of jade will drop
And existence will stop.
Little sister, the sky is falling
I don't mind, I don't mind
Little sister, the Fates are calling
On you."

Patricia Lee Smith

Posted by: Lena at November 22, 2006 6:12 PM

Hey, a comment on that Wiki page says "Miss Alkon is said to be patient with blog commenters." How cool is that?

Posted by: Crid at November 22, 2006 8:07 PM

Well, I'm patient with free speech, I suppose.

Actually, the nut who wrote DeNiro to tell him he had the idea first posted a lie below that that we said we'd read the piece in The New Yorker. We didn't. Moreover, I couldn't afford the New Yorker in those days, or much of anything else, as I was paying my entire salary for rent, rollerskating 50 blocks to work to save a dollar on the subway, and eating out of conference rooms so I wouldn't starve to death.

What's the policy on letting Wikipedia know something is libelous?

Actually -- I figured it out, logged in, and left comments below the guy's remark. Jeez, The Advice Ladies fell apart over 10 years ago. Poor thing, all he has to cling to is the idea that somebody stole his work. As I pointed out there, no, it wasn't an original idea. See Lucy from Peanuts. She charged 5 cents for advice. We undercut her by 5 cents -- mostly because we never thought anybody would pay us even that much for anything we had to say.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 22, 2006 8:44 PM

Thanks, Lena. Apropos and lovely all at once.

Posted by: Kimberly at November 22, 2006 9:39 PM

> We undercut her by 5 cents -

So you're saying the advice industry *wasn't* created in 1987, or whatever that guy said?

Don't get too upset about it, it's only WIkipedia, and you probably noticed that he's been locked out from making further contributions.

Posted by: Crid at November 22, 2006 11:31 PM

I hadn't noticed that. How do people get locked out?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 23, 2006 12:08 AM

Jeez, at least you HAVE a Wikipedia page.

Posted by: LYT at November 23, 2006 1:09 AM

Actually the sky is jumping not falling. PV=nRT and all that.

Posted by: Eli Rabett at November 25, 2006 10:24 AM

Thanks for the bad memories, Eli.

Posted by: Lena at November 26, 2006 1:34 AM

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