The following Q&A with The Heritage Foundation’s Ben Lieberman is cross-posted from The Washington Post’s Planet Panel:
Q: As the controversy swirling around the IPCC deepens at the same time some are questioning the significance of global warming now that large portions of the U.S. are buried under record-breaking snow, what kind of information do policymakers need to make decisions about climate change?
Any risks of global warming need to be weighed against the risks of global warming policies. Policymakers must have accurate information on both sides of the equation in order to avoid measures that do more harm than good. Most of the recent proposals — the Senate’s Boxer-Kerry cap-and-trade bill, a new UN treaty, EPA’s regulatory scheme — fail to accurately weigh the risks because they are based on the false premise that climate change is a dire threat.
Simply put, global warming is not a crisis and should not be addressed as one. The recent wave of climate science scandals — climategate, glaciergate, hurricanegate, amazongate, others — have exposed a number of efforts initially crafted to hype the issue into something far scarier than the underlying science actually shows. Climategate — the release of internal emails from scientists with key roles in the UN’s 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report — largely centered around the strained attempt to portray temperatures in recent decades as unprecedented throughout recorded history. The researchers had to go to extreme lengths to create this impression — grafting one data set onto another to manufacture the desired “hockey stick” effect, using computer programs that add warming to the underlying temperature data and then destroying that data before others could see it — which speaks volumes about the weakness of their case.
To his credit, Phil Jones, the head of the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit who had to step down pending the climategate investigation, recently conceded that temperatures have been statistically flat since 1995 and that the Medieval Warm Period may have been as warm as modern times. Slowly but surely, the hype and false certainty is being replaced by a more accurate picture of what the science really tells us about the earth’s temperature history.
Similarly, most of the IPCC Report’s apocalyptic claims about the consequences of global warming – that Himalayan glaciers would completely melt by 2035, that damage from hurricanes and other extreme weather events has increased, that African agricultural production is poised to plummet, and that the Amazon rainforest is under grave threat – have been shown to be far-fetched speculation devoid of scientific support. Yvo de Boer, the UN’s top climate official, has just announced his resignation, in part due to the fact that so much so much alarmist junk made its way into the IPCC Report.
There is a reason proponents of costly measures to address global warming have so exaggerated the risks – they essentially had to for there to be any chance the public would accept the high price tag for action to ratchet down carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. Once the gloom and doom is replaced by a more accurate assessment of the risk, such measures as the Senate’s Boxer-Kerry bill, a new UN treaty, or EPA regulations look like an especially bad deal.