March 2007

Editorial Comment

Global warming extremes

Vol. 228 No. 3  


Global warming extremes. My doctor, Doc Strangeglove, says that I need to lose 25 pounds, because I’m looking like the global warming debate—diametrically opposed. He snapped, “Your chances of losing weight on your own are slim. You should get whole-body liposuction, together with strong amphetamines to curb your appetite.”

“Gee Doc, that sounds a bit extreme, eh?” I asked.

I’ve been in Europe for the past two weeks where, in the wake of the IPCC’s Summary of its Fourth Assessment Report, the news coverage was incessant.

I was eating dinner in Aberdeen at the Marcliffe at Pitfodels, with a very conservative Republican friend of mine—the son of many a Republican before him. The McIntosh Donald steaks were succulent, and the Oban Scotch smooth. Tongues began to wag. Like any good football fan, my friend is nothing if not loyal to his team and president. He was telling me how proud he was of Bush, for having the honesty to tell Europe the utter futility of greenhouse gas management.

I replied, “Since when does honesty have anything to do with diplomacy? There’s a whole generation of Europeans who believe that global warming is a high-risk problem, and the world should do something to mitigate that risk. Tell me, Xerxes II, how does flying over Europe in Air Force One, with a big finger painted on the bottom of it, help us keep friends?”

“I still say at least it was honest,” Xerxes repeated, ignoring the question. “Besides, any adherence to the Kyoto Protocol would destroy the global economy.”

Destroy the global economy? Sounds a bit extreme, eh? Do you know my doctor, Doc Strangeglove?”

At that point, we were joined by our friend, the Merciless Batu, grandson of Khan. He chimed in to add, “It’s already been established that most European countries are not going to meet their Kyoto Protocol targets.”

“True enough, oh Merciless one,” I replied. “But if some countries only achieve 50%, 70% or whatever, then it’s been a worthless endeavor?”

“But there’s no proof that global warming even exists!” Merciless exclaimed, avoiding the question.

“Proof!?” I retorted, “This is not the domain of proof. It’s about risk and mitigation of risk—things our industry is quite skilled at. If proof were required, we’d never drill another exploration well.”

We settled nothing, of course, got over it and ordered another round of Oban.

Scientists generally don’t like to elevate anything to the status of fact or proof. Most things, no matter how well established, are still called theories. In other words, they still acknowledge the possibility that they could be wrong. Even gravity is just a theory. Just maybe, Newton’s apple fell because the sky repels—or the Earth sucks! Scientists like their precious uncertainty. The rest of humanity doesn’t understand this, and does not well tolerate uncertainty. Or, often, even scientists.

Millions of folks (Gallup poll: 6% of the US) believe that the Apollo moon landings were fake, and millions more believe that professional wrestling is real. The moon landings were indeed fake, because I saw the evidence on a FOX TV special that aired back in 2001.

So, now we have a new conspiracy, one that involves 12 National Academies of Sciences of the world’s largest countries (including the US), the IPCC and most climate scientists. They are all in a wink-and-nod conspiracy of gross insincerity, supposedly for the purpose of “sticking it to” the US. I suppose that you could try to make the case that the editors at The Wall Street Journal, a retired Canadian mining engineer, Lord Monckton of Brenchley, and virtually everyone who voted for or supports George W. Bush are correct, and the IPCC and all those National Academies and scientists are sincere but simply incompetent; but that strains all plausibility. If that’s my choice, I’d prefer to think that those fuzzy-brained climate scientists, in fact, generally know what they are doing with their lives, and are engaged in The Grand Leftist Conspiracy to usurp America’s greatness.

The Fourth Assessment makes a big deal out of human causation, just as the anti-global warmers do. This is not paramount, since both sides agree that the Earth has been much colder and much warmer in geologic time. The better questions are: “Is there something about, say, the Carboniferous Period—an age of great swamps—that you like?” And, “Is there anything that we can do to mitigate the risks posed by a dynamic Earth?”

We humans are a part of nature. We manage fish, deer, bear and numerous other animal populations. We’ve brought various whales, birds and plants back from the verge of extinction. We manage forests. We hold back the mighty Mississippi, the Amazon and many other rivers. We keep the sea at bay in the Netherlands and elsewhere. We manage the air over our cities. It’s only logical that we will eventually take the next step and manage our atmosphere. We have the necessary arrogance (responsibility?) to think that we can affect these natural systems.

Most of the time, I feel like the only centrist in the world on global warming. For the anti-global warming crowd, the data always results in a “Call for Inaction,” evidence of a position that is rooted in politics, not science. In fact, there are many things that we can do to lower the risk, without damaging economies; we can make money doing it.

I’ve often written that CO2 flooding for greater oil recovery is endorsed by the IPCC. More than a year ago, the Permian basin (an area rich with CO2) celebrated its billionth barrel of oil recovered with CO2. But outside the Permian, there are only a handful of CO2 enhanced recovery projects—you’d think that they would number in the hundreds. There’s no shortage of CO2 sources. And a boost in energy efficiency—how does that harm economies?

Besides making money, we can form better relationships between nations, aim toward greater energy self-sufficiency and enhance security. But we have to ignore the politicos, sit down at a table—and not just to occupy a seat—and sincerely agree to find reasonable measures to accomplish common goals.

Oh yea, about those 25 pounds. Sure, I’ll follow my doctor’s advice and try to lose weight. But I won’t be doing the whole-body liposuction, nor taking amphetamines. They’ll surely work, but they might kill me. Instead, I’ll take a less radical approach. And if I only lose 15 pounds, well, it’s still the right thing to do. I’ll exercise more, and eat more fish, fruits and vegetables. But once or twice a year, I’ll still savor one of those McIntosh Donald steaks.

A man has to be reasonable. WO

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