On this the day of release of Pope Francis’ Encyclical it is worth remembering the basis for making environmental decisions. My book, Enironmentalism Gone Mad, (available from the book website) argues for the use of science, economics, and law. As discussed in the book, the economics is clear: Reducing emissions of CO2 has net costs as long as global temperature change is modest (there has been no change in average temperatures over the last 17 or more years). The US law is clear: Despite the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, the Clean Air Act was never intended to regulate CO2, which is not a pollutant to begin with. That leaves the science.
The climate alarmists, whom I refer to as the Climate-Industrial Complex (CIC) in my book, have essentially built a fantasy world in which small increases in a very minor but vital atmospheric gas, carbon dioxide, somehow controls climate and now extreme weather. They do this in order to sell renewable sources of energy and justify placing constraints on the the use of fossil fuels. Why they favor the latter is less clear; one possibility is that they hope to place the economy in a straitjacket by constraining fossil fuel use.
Their campaign depends on maintaining their fantasy world, which they do by defending their catastrophic anthropocentric global warming (CAGW) hypothesis, claiming that failure to reduce CO2 emissions will result in various climate/extreme weather catastrophes. When questioned, they demonize their critics, particularly former believers, usually by using ad hominem attacks or claims that critics are being funded by “evil” fossil fuel interests.
Attempts to bring them back to reality have focused on pointing out the many ways in which the CIC science fantasy world is inconsistent with observed reality and how CO2 stimulates the growth of plants. This plant approach seems to have some resonance with many people since it seems easy to understand that less CO2, essential for photosynthesis, means less plant growth and thus less food for animals including humans. Numerous attempts (such as the very carefully researched NIPCC reports) to point out the inconsistencies between the CIC fantasy science world and the real world have not always convinced the alarmists, however, perhaps because the public finds the technical discussion of the many areas of science involved too difficult. And when one CIC-promoted scare campaign fails, they can and do start another one, involving different but still obscure science.
The Scientific Method Approach
Another approach, which I have championed since my days at the USEPA, is to show why the CAGW hypothesis fails the application of the scientific method and thus is scientifically invalid. I, with considerable scientific support from the work of MIT Prof. Richard Lindzen, am one of the strongest supporters of this approach. It is true that the scientific backup for this argument also involves some scientific explanation but it is much less wide ranging and the scientific method is taught in many US high schools so may be a familiar concept to many Americans and hopefully others. One advantage of the scientific method approach is that if it is negative that should result in the demise of the CAGW hypothesis and thus the climate debate as a whole. As I have long argued, it is negative.