Monday, March 30, 2009

Are Cato’s tootsies cold?

The Cato Institute, Dear Gentle Reader(s), has published an ad in many major newspapers which takes issue with President Obama’s November 19, 2008, statement, “Few challenges facing America and the world are more urgent than combating climate change. The science is beyond dispute and the facts are clear.”

Cato’s ad contains this response:

We, the undersigned scientists, maintain that the case for alarm regarding climate change is grossly overstated.  Surface temperature changes over the past century have been episodic and modest and there has been no net global warming for over a decade now.1,2 After controlling for population growth and property values, there has been no increase in damages from severe weather-related events.3 The computer models forecasting rapid temperature change abjectly fail to explain recent climate behavior.4 Mr. President, your characterization of the scientific facts regarding climate change and the degree of certainty informing the scientific debate is simply incorrect.*

115 names are appended to the statement in the full page ad.

The Cato Institute advertises itself as non-partisan, but there is a distinct right of center ambiance in its publications which should always give at least slight pause.

In particular, one wonders about the Institute’s position on oil.  How worried should we be?  A recent, 2007, paper on oil is entitled “Energy Alarmism: The Myths That Make Americans Worry about Oil.”

Let’s see.  1) Is the world’s oil reserve finite?  Yes.  There just aren’t enough dinosaurs to go around forever.  2) Is it more important for goods to be transported than for freeways to be clogged with oil burning individual automobiles?  Yes.  3)  In case of a state or national emergency, is it more important for us to have the ability to mobilize the national guard and the military than for us to be able to transport a little league baseball team in a private SUV?  Yes.

Perhaps our worry about oil is a bit alarmist, but we have good reason should we look beyond the immediate sport season.

The Cato Institute’s ad about the climate may be correct.  Too, it might not be.

Trust, but verify.

*1. Swanson, K.L., and A. A. Tsonis. Geophysical Research Letters, in press: DOI:10.1029/2008GL037022.
2. Brohan, P., et al. Journal of Geophysical Research, 2006: DOI: 10.1029/2005JD006548. Updates at
3. Pielke, R. A. Jr., et al. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 2005: DOI: 10.1175/BAMS-86-10-1481.
4. Douglass, D. H., et al. International Journal of Climatology, 2007: DOI: 10.1002/joc.1651.

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