Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Is Global Warming a Swindle?

Arnold Kling recommends watching The Great Global Warming Swindle, a movie that sets its sights on debunking the CO2 theory of global warming. Kling's right in saying that we should consider alternate opinions. He's also correct that anyone can make a propaganda film. (I'd much prefer a Power-Point presentation.)

I watched it. Took a few notes. And read some background afterwards. I'll summarize my notes so far.

First, an aside. EconLog is one of the many economic blogs I read regularly on the Internet, and also one of the few sites on the internet from which I have been banned from commenting. I'm always interested in what libertarians have to say (Bryan Caplan is an anarchist libertarian and Arnold Kling what I'd call a right-wing libertarian). Perhaps my comments were often adversarial. But I was often put-off by the (a) high and mighty attitude of "we are economists and everyone else is confused" argument that seems to underly their view of economics and (b) their ideological bias.

If you don't think point (a) is valid, consider Bryan Caplan's book "The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies" in which he argues--I jest a bit--that only economists should be allowed to vote (he's a big fan of IQ, and apparently libertarian economists have the biggest of them all).

And regarding my concerns about their ideological bias, I commented once that Arnold Kling would make statements like the "The Angry Left, because it is closed-minded, is in no condition to govern. Barring a catastrophe at home or abroad, I doubt that it will be given the opportunity to do so" while in a separate article he states "But my opinion is that in the absence of recognized boundaries and without healthy anger, Israel is existentially threatened." In particular, my point was not to get caught up in left-right food-fights, nor in arguments about Israel, but just to point out that anger seems to be good when it's something Kling likes and bad when it's something he doesn't like. He often discounts those on the left as "angry." For a blog that espouses logic, it seemed--illogical, or specious.

Anyway, they said I should create my own blog, and they're probably right. So back to the movie. I watched it. Here's what the movie says. I'm not saying this is true or false, it's just what they say:

  • Climate always changes. (1) Little ice age. (2) Medieval warm period, which was a great time for growing wine and building enormous churches. So what's not to like about warming? (3) Bronze age Holocene 8,000 years ago for 3,000 years. Polar bears survived. It was warmer than now.
  • CO2 lags warming, not vice-versa. CO2 produced by warming ocean which has a memory of almost 10,000 years. Therefore CO2 has nothing to do with warming.
  • One-half degree temperature rise this century, mostly before 1940, which is before heavy industrialization. Then temperature dropped after WWII. Then increased with recession in 1970. Therefore not related to human CO2.
  • CO2 is natural. What's not to like? Without it we'd be dead.
  • There are other large sources of CO2. CO2 a minor part of atmosphere and minor greenhouse gas.
  • Sun spots and temperatures correlate. Sun spots affect cosmic rays and in turn clouds.
  • Warmer earth-temperature means less temperature gradient between tropics and poles, so less storms
  • Temperature will increase in troposphere, not on surface. But it's increasing on surface.
  • Greenland has been warmer in the past. 7,000 years ago. The ice didn't disappear.
  • Malaria can happen in cold weather below 16-18 degrees. IPCC got that wrong.
  • Computer models have lots of assumption. In the old days, people were more modest about making predictions (Aside: Gee, maybe they had less powerful computers?).
  • Scientists warned about the big freeze in the 1970s. Got that wrong.
  • The IPCC has a political process following the scientific one. And some of the scientists wants their names off the report. IPCC removed some sentences that critics of global warming think should be put back into the report.
  • Global warming is an industry of scientists, journalists, former Marxists, and environmental crazies who hate industry and modern society. They all have hidden agendas. And don't forget Margaret Thatcher.
  • Thatcher got global warming started with her desire to push nuclear power.
  • Critics of Global Warming are feeling shamed. And critics of global warming aren't collceting big bucks from oil companies, as suggested by their detractors.
  • Global Warming proponents treat the people in the developing world like scum. And how dare those attending a UN meeting in Nairobi shop and stay in nice hotels while poor people are breathing smoke nearby.

And here's a further (economized) version of those notes:

  • Causes of global warming: Sunspots, not CO2.
  • Implications of global warming: (1) CO2 is natural. (2) The medieval warming produced lots of wine and churches. Call it the "party and pray" argument. (3) Greenland ice and polar bears survived warming 7,000 years ago. Peat bogs have also been warm. (4) Mosquitoes like cold as much as warm--hence disease argument won't be a problem. (5) Weather will be less extreme because of tropic/pole temperature delta.
  • Implication of doing anything about CO2: Developing countries will suffer.
  • Motivational/Social aspects: (1) IPCC has a political process as well as technical. Political processes are always bad. (2) Hidden agendas: (a) science wants funding (b) Marxists need a new anti-capitalist hook on which to hang their collectivist hats (c) Environmentalists hate modern industrial society--except maybe rock concerts and their iPods. (d) Margaret Thatcher loves nuclear (and can pronounce it properly--thought with a British accent) and hates (i) Arab oil and (ii) British collectivist miners. (e) Critics of global warming are feeling shamed and picked on. Nobody wants to play with them.

And as far as their analysis of CO2 science, here's what they have to say:

  • CO2 lags warming (i.e. CO2 increases after warming of oceans and oceans have a long memory, e.g. 10,000 years).
  • Computer models are complicated.
  • Scientists got it wrong before--the big freeze in the 1970s.

In a subsequent post, I'll consider each of these issues in more detail. In the mean time, Wikipedia has a page up on this topic. And in particular, consider the case of Carl Wunsch, who says he was completely misrepresened in this movie.

That's enough for now.