Call it an “inconvenient oops.”
As it turns out, the sky is not falling, after all — at least not as quickly as global warming alarmists assured us it would.
As The Times of London recently reported, for the first 15 years of the 21st century, global temperatures did not rise as rapidly as climate scientists had predicted. The culprits: computer models, which overstated the impact of carbon emissions, on the “hot side,” compared to actual weather data.
The study, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, is a welcome (if rare) “course correction” in the speculative world of climate change, where activists and politicians weaponize evolving scientific observations in order to push a specific agenda. (“Carbon bad.”)
The process of scientific inquiry is not simple, especially when it comes to an incredibly complex subject such as the world’s future climate.
Zeal undaunted, environmentalists are already spinning the findings to conclude it still is possible for governments to reach the arbitrary goal, set out in the 2015 Paris climate agreement, of limiting global warming to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial averages.
Back then, Michael Grubb, professor of international energy and climate change at University College London, said achieving that goal would require cutting carbon emissions so rapidly and drastically as to make the goal “incompatible with democracy.”
This week, he told The Times he was wrong, saying: “When the facts change, I change my mind, as [John Maynard] Keynes said.”
We don’t often find ourselves agreeing with preeminent demand-side economist Mr. Keynes, but his quotation serves to remind us that the difference between “facts” and “beliefs” is the difference between “science” and “religion.”
Although scientists generally agree that our climate is changing, historical data and myriad contributing factors make it difficult to determine exactly how much of that change is affected by human activity, or to predict how (or if) it will affect human populations.
Try telling the above to an ardent group of climate change theory adherents, and chances are you’ll face a rising sea of protest signs and torches. (Thankfully, unlit — we mustn’t forget about minimizing carbon emissions.)
As we regularly see with hurricane models, even the most sophisticated scientific predictions have their limits — with potential margins of error spiking into “Who knows?” territory over a matter of days … much less years or decades or centuries. Nevertheless, one of the most popular nonscientific pastimes on the internet right now is for social media users to state as fact that there is a direct link between climate change and the devastation or formation of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and now Maria. (“It’s global warming, stupid!”)
That of course does not mean that science is “junk” — but it does call for skepticism whenever an interested group tries to parlay a sympathetic theory into public policy. Unfortunately, environmentalists, some politicians and other climate alarmists have turned “skeptic” into a dirty word, comparing anyone who would consume (limited) climate predictions with a grain of salt to “flat-earthers” who deny the globularity of the globe.
Attempts to demonize dissenters and quash debate are not without consequence. The solutions proffered by the rectors of the climate change congregation oftentimes border on the extreme (“incompatible with democracy”) and have severe practical and economic consequences.
Here’s the deal: Almost everyone wants to protect the environment — it’s our home. However, considerations of conservation and climate change cannot be the cornerstone of public policy or personal behavior.
In the Cayman Islands (population 65,000), we would be far wiser to devote our energies to hurricane preparation than to theoretical hurricane mitigation.
Compared to the planet’s population centers such as the United States, China, India, etc., the contributions to the world’s carbon output by Cayman is for all practical purposes, zero. And that’s exactly how much thought our officials should give it when formulating plans for the country.
Our territory may play an outsize role in global finance, but we don’t play any role in global warming.