How Much Should We Worry About Global Warming?

Here is James Delingpole, writing in The Telegraph:

Professor Richard Lindzen is one of the world’s greatest atmospheric physicists: perhaps the greatest. What he doesn’t know about the science behind climate change probably isn’t worth knowing. But even if you weren’t aware of all this, even if you’d come to the talk he gave in the House of Commons this week without prejudice or expectation, I can pretty much guarantee you would have been blown away by his elegant dismissal of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming theory.

Here is David Friedman’s summary:

1. The direct effect of a doubling of atmospheric CO2 should be about a one degree C increase in global temperatures. The substantially larger effect projected in the IPCC reports depends on positive feedbacks in their models.

2. The atmosphere is a sufficiently complicated system so that predicting feedback effects on the basis of theory is difficult or impossible. Insofar as the feedbacks can be estimated empirically, they appear to be negative, not positive.

3. The historical evidence shows about a one degree increase from the past doubling. In order to make that consistent with the models it is necessary to include in the models additional features to explain a lower increase than would otherwise be predicted.

My own economist’s approach to the issue: In a Brief Analysis for the National Center for Policy Analysis, David Henderson makes a very powerful case for watchful waiting, as opposed to immediate action, based on an analysis by Kevin Murphy of the University of Chicago.

Lindzen’s power point slides. An earlier piece describing Lindzen’s views on Al Gore and the eco-activists. Most interesting chart: there has been no global warming in the past 15 years.

Comments (7)

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  1. Greg says:

    I’ve always liked Lindzen. One of the few sensible people on this subject.

  2. Buster says:

    The atmosphere is a sufficiently complicated system so that predicting feedback effects on the basis of theory is difficult or impossible…

    I find it interesting that scientists worried about global warming cannot say whether it will become warmer or colder. One theory posits that Europe may become colder due to the change in salinity of the North Atlantic diminishing the conveyor effect that distributes Tropical heat to the Trade Winds that heat Europe.

    That said… by most accounts the Earth is warming. But from what I’ve read, there is little evidence humans are the primary cause of it; even less evidence humans can slow it; even less evidence that Western governments can do anything to force Eastern governments to care sufficiently enough to assist.

  3. Ken says:

    Good post. Lindzen is very good.

  4. Sterling says:

    Lindzen has been making these same strong points for years. In the popular press, before legislators here and abroad, on broadcast media and in professional journals. Its sad that his views haven’t made more of an impression on opinion makers and those in power. Unfortunately, after his years of speaking out, I’m afraid that the chances of a breakthrough this time are similar to that described at the end of Don McLean’s classic song Vincent:
    “They would not listen, the’re not listening still, perhaps the never will.”
    I hope I’m wrong.

  5. Brian says:

    I agree that watchful waiting is what needs to happen.
    There will be climate change in the near future, but the question of how much of it is due to anthropegenic global warming has not been any where decisively answered.

  6. Brian says:

    Good points, Buster. One thing I would add is that temperatures might go up in the next century overall/on average, but they may down in the areas that more heavily populated and/or produce more food.
    So it’s hard to determine what the net effect will be until climate change actually plays out.

  7. Chris says:

    You don’t need to be a physicist to know that the only constant about the Earth’s climate the last billion years is that it has always been changing, and we haven’t been driving SUVs for that long in the grand scheme of things.