‘Lukewarmer’ Matt Ridley on How to Debate Climate Change

by Marlo Lewis on January 22, 2015

in Blog

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Award-winning science writer Matt Ridley this week published an essay full of uncommon common sense titled “My life as a climate lukewarmer.”

In general, I would describe a ‘lukewarmer’ as someone who:

As moral philosopher Alex Epstein recently put it, fossil energy companies did not take a safe climate and make it dangerous. They took a dangerous climate and made it vastly safer.

For too long many in the GOP have been hoodwinked by folks like Al Gore, Greenpeace, and the UN climate glitterati into believing the key issue is whether climate change is “real.” Gore et al. would have us believe that if we accept the reality of climate change, we must also agree that global warming “threatens the survival of civilization and the habitability of the Earth,” hence that our only moral choice is to embrace their agenda of coercive de-carbonization via centralized eco-energy planning.

Consequently, many GOP politicians and activists assume that to defend the economy and oppose regulatory excess, they must deny, or at least question whether, there is any evidence linking the long-term rise of greenhouse gas concentrations with the (moderate and non-alarming) increase in global temperatures since the 1880s.

That, alas, is exactly what the warming movement wants its opponents to say, not only because it makes them look “anti-science,” but also because it tacitly affirms the alarm narrative. As if all we have to do is assent to the virtual tautology that rising greenhouse gas concentrations have a greenhouse (warming) effect, and we are compelled to concede every important scientific, economic, and moral point in a very complex debate.

Ridley’s essay sketches a coherent alternative to the alarm narrative of the left. In so doing, it also outlines an alternative to the muddled thinking on the right that makes GOP politicians cringe and flail when confronted with a silly sense of Congress resolution like that sponsored by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) in the Keystone XL Pipeline debate.




Neil Gundel January 25, 2015 at 12:04 pm

Once you acknowledge that CO2 is now causing global warming and that it will cause more as we emit more of the stuff, you need to be honest about the implications.

Fortunately for science, the Earth has had temperature excursions in the past, so there is some history that can be studied. That history suggests that mass extinctions can be expected with a 4C excursion such as the one that will ensue if we keep burning fossil fuels at the rate the author seems to be lobbying for.

The last time CO2 levels were 400 ppm (we are already there and rising),
– Temperature was 3-4C warmer than today
– Sea level was 16 feet to 130 feet higher than today
– The Arctic was ice-free

So history suggests we should not be complacent about this trend.
Maybe this is why so many republicans would rather insist that CO2 has nothing to do with it.

Maurizio Morabito January 29, 2015 at 3:39 am

Neil – am not sure you know what you’re talking about. Are you a ware of what happened at the end of the last glacial period? Do you know when was that? Can you list how many mass extinctions have been seen say during the last million years with ice and warm ages following each other?

fletch92131 February 8, 2015 at 1:21 pm

Neil, you are you aware of how little each 20 PPM of CO2 affects climate, it’s logarithmic in nature, meaning that the 1st 20 PPM, has a greater effect than the entire next 400 PPM, http://bit.ly/1tGuFPA .

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