Editor note: A 2008 exchange at Rossputin.com included these comments from (then) Cato Institute senior fellow Jerry Taylor and his brother James Taylor. Their arguments continue to stand today, defying Jerry’s peculiar conversion to climate alarmism/forced energy transformation.
“… let me note that there are very good reasons for people (not just libertarians) to be skeptical of expert scientific consensus regarding environmental doom given the track record of that community.”
“Consensus from [the alarmist] community once told us that industrial chemicals were the cause of a modern cancer epidemic; that population growth would outpace food production and usher in a Malthusian apocalypse; that mineral scarcity would soon turn off the industrial engines of the Western world; ad infinitum.”
” … while no one I know doubts that externalities are real in the modern world, many of us doubt our ability to quantify them with any certainty or to remedy them through the political process in an efficiency-enhancing manner.”
“One recent survey of the literature, for example, found that estimates regarding the externalities imposed by a [metric] ton of carbon emissions range from $9-200. If politicians were ever inclined to internalize those externalities through some set of public policies, the figure they would settle on would undoubtedly be driven more by politics than hard science or economics, which introduces the very real threat that they would make the economy more – not less – [inefficient] as a consequence.”
James Taylor at Rossputin.com
Dr. [Yoram] Bauman’s post makes clear that he either misunderstands the nature of the skeptical position or he is deliberately setting up a straw man argument that does not reflect the best arguments that the sky is not falling. His initial assertion is inaccurate.
While some “skeptical” scientists believe humans are incapable of altering global climate, the consensus opinion among skeptics is that humans are capable of altering global climate, but current levels of carbon dioxide emissions are not causing a global warming crisis.
Some skeptical scientists assert the sun and other natural factors are responsible for all or nearly all of the warming of the 20th century. Other skeptics believe that humans may be responsible for much of the moderate warming of the latter half of the 20th century, but the current pace of warming (0.6 degrees Celsius for the entire 20th century, and no warming at all during the past decade) does not constitute any cause for alarm.
For most skeptical scientists, the key issue in the debate is not whether the planet is warming or whether humans may have had some role in the very modest 20th century warming, but rather whether humans are causing a global warming crisis.
Bauman claims that IPCC is “the consensus statement of almost all the world’s best scientists.” Such an assertion is simply not true. IPCC is a branch of the United Nations. UN governments choose the participants. Not all participants are scientists, and those that are scientists are not selected according to any kind of objective merit system. They are selected by political entities, with predictable results.
Nor does the IPCC final report represent the opinion of all the IPCC “scientists,” let alone “almost all the world’s best scientists.” Among IPCC’s 2,600 participants, many are not even scientists. Many are NGO advocates and other non-scientist activists.
Among the relative handful of lead authors that have sole discretion over the final document are staff members of Greenpeace and Environmental Defense. To assert that Greenpeace and Environmental Defense are the objective voice of the world’s best scientists is little different than if I were to cite a report, claiming that global warming is a myth, in which the lead authors were the staff of ExxonMobil and the National Coal Association. Can you imagine how the alarmists would react to that one?
Here is another example of how flawed the United Nations IPCC process is. Dr. William Gray is the world’s foremost hurricane expert, who for years has been authoring seasonal hurricane forecasts so reliable that the insurance industry has relied on it for setting insurance rates. The Weather Channel for years made him the face of its hurricane coverage. And the U.S. government funded his work as a means of better understanding hurricanes. IPCC, however, did not invite Dr. Gray to participate in its hurricane research because he is on record as stating that global warming is not a human induced crisis. Instead, far inferior scientists and non-scientists comprise IPCC’s hurricane research participants. Such blatant political selection processes are rampant throughout the UN selection process. This is “the consensus opinion of almost all the world’s best scientists?”
Moreover, the final IPCC document is not even the opinion of the biased IPCC participants, let alone “almost all the world’s best scientists.” In 2007, for the first time, IPCC released the comments and critiques by the 2,600 IPCC participants. There were literally thousands of critical comments from participating scientists that were rejected or simply ignored.
Only a relative handful of biased participants, some on the staff of Greenpeace and Environmental Defense, produced the final document, while thousands of critical comments from participating scientists were ignored. And yet the IPCC document is the “consensus statement of almost all the world’s best scientists?”
Bauman’s third point is a veritable journey into the looking glass, where black is white and white is black. One of the defining characteristics of the alarmist camp is their adamant refusal to in any way engage in the critical inquiry which is so essential to science and the scientific method. Bauman asserts that skeptics want “no serious scientific engagement.” Such an assertion makes me laugh out loud.
Want an example [of ducking debate]? In late February  the Professional Engineers of Colorado (PEC) held their annual meeting Denver. Facing a Climate Action Plan from the governor’s office that would significantly affect their trade, they sought to devote one day of their conference to global warming science.
Susan Solomon, a vocal proponent of alarmist global warming theory who was selected as science co-chair of IPCC despite having authored no peer-reviewed papers on climate science, at first indicated a willingness to speak at the event. When she was later informed that the panel would be scientifically balanced, including such highly qualified skeptics as the aforementioned Dr. William Gray, she refused to participate, claiming that such a forum was not a proper forum for the discussion of science.
When asked if she could recommend any of her colleagues to speak at the event, she refused to recommend any, and further said she would advise them NOT to participate. For two weeks PEC searched high and low for any scientist to come give the IPCC side of the equation, but nobody would participate after learning that scientists such as Dr. Gray would be allowed to present contradictory evidence.
I can report from first-hand experience that such comedy is repeated all the time, with IPCC apologists routinely looking for the nearest chair to hide under whenever they are invited to debate the science against learned skeptics. Why do you suppose the alarmists are so afraid of fair and open debate?
Consider the following. In March 2007 the prestigious New York City debating society Intelligence Squared held a public debate, broadcast on national radio, among six of the world’s leading global warming experts. Three alarmists and three skeptics were given a lengthy amount of time to present the best available scientific evidence. Before the debate, a poll of the attending audience indicated that by a 2-to-1 margin (57 percent to 29 percent), the audience believed that global warming is a crisis. After hearing the best science from experts on both sides of the issue, the audience voted by a 46-percent to 42-percent margin that global warming is NOT a crisis.
No wonder the alarmists become more scarce than vegans at a Texas cattle roast when skeptics seek to engage them in serious scientific engagement. Bauman’s final, curious assertion is that the merit of the two positions should be determined by real-world predictions and results. The assertion itself is not necessarily curious, but the fact that it is coming from an alarmist is. Skeptics have long predicted that 21st century warming will be no more than half, at most, of IPCC predictions.
Some skeptics, such as Dr. Gray, have for years been predicting that temperatures will cool during the first quarter of the 21st century. The alarmists used to publicly laugh at that, but nobody would take Dr. Gray up on his public offer to make a sizeable wager on the proposition. IPCC has predicted that temperatures will rise 3.0 degrees Celsius during the 21st century, and at least 0.2 degrees Celsius during each of the first few decades of the 21st century.
However, temperatures have not risen at all since 2000, and even IPCC scientists now report (in a recent Nature study) that temperatures will likely cool for at least the next decade.
The empirical evidence fully supports the skeptics and is making a mockery of alarmist predictions that temperatures during the 21st century will warm 5 times faster than temperatures warmed during the 20th century.
Bauman says “you should either put up or shut up.” He needs to follow his own advice or switch sides while he can still save face in doing so. Should Bauman be too stubborn to see the writing on the wall, I will wager this: global warming (as measured by objective satellite measurements rather than subjective James Hansen adjustments of the ground temperature data) during the first half of the 21st century will be closer to 0.3 degrees Celsius than to the 1.5 degree Celsius halfway point of IPCC’s projected 21st century warming. Any takers on this bet?