The true believers of global warming got some bad news recently. Namely, things are not so bad. Here’s the story.
They had predicted, often and repeatedly, that global warming would melt the ice in Antarctica. Melting Antarctic ice would be a disaster because it would flow into the oceans, making them rise like water in a bathtub with the faucet left on.
The skeptics were skeptical. For expressing their scientific skepticism, the believers name-called them “deniers,” took away their professorships and denied them government grants for their work.
The local “green guy” with the ski company in Aspen, which makes money by burning fossil fuels to drag people up a hill so that they can amuse themselves by sliding back down, purchased additional fossil fuel indulgences from the high priests by announcing that people who don’t chant the global warming mantra cannot be elected to public office anymore.
It turns out, however, that the skeptics were right and the priests were wrong. Surveys of the Antarctic ice pack show that it hasn’t melted away. At all. In fact, it’s growing, and is now bigger than it’s been since record-keeping began.
So the apocalypse didn’t arrive. The prophesizing priests don’t know why, and they’re embarrassed. Embarrassment has predictably transformed into anger, and anger into retribution.
Here’s their retribution. They are considering criminal actions against oil companies for allegedly misleading people about global warming. In other words, they want to criminalize opposing scientific points of view even when — or especially when — the opposing points of view turn out to be correct.
This is no surprise. Believers have previously demanded that “deniers” be put to death — by burning them at the stake, presumably, as is the custom with heretics. (Yes, the fires will contribute to global warming. But they’re for a noble cause, sort of like Leonardo DiCaprio’s carbon-spewing private jet that he takes to global warming worship services.)
In fact, a recent poll shows that 27 percent of Democrats think the government should criminally prosecute people who disagree with the Dem position on global warming.
Maybe this should be a two-way street. While Dems burn the skeptics who were proved right, maybe they should toss in a few non-skeptics who were proved wrong. Such as:
• Al Gore, who wrongly predicted in 2007 that the Arctic would be ice-free within five years.
• Kenneth Watt, the California ecology professor who wrongly predicted in 1970 that the earth would be in an ice age by the year 2000.
• The United Nations, which predicted in 2005 that there would be 50 million “climate refugees” by 2010.
• James Hansen, the Columbia professor who predicted in 1988 that parts of New York City would be under the sea by 2008.
• Michael Oppenheimer, the Environmental Defense Fund scientist who predicted in 1990 that global warming would dry up the Platte River by 1996.
• President Obama, who warned in 2013 that, “Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and powerful storms.”
Wrong, Mr. President. The National Academy of Sciences says that wildfires are down 15 percent since 1950. The respected scientific journal Nature says there has been little change in droughts over the last 60 years. And the frequency of land-fall hurricanes is near a record low.
All this good news is terribly disappointing to people who’ve predicted bad news. As between being proved right and the planet surviving, you see, they prefer the former.
So do all these wrong predictions prove that global warming is a hoax? Of course not. It is a fact that the earth is a degree or two warmer now than it was 100 or 200 years ago (and is cooler by several degrees than it was in many periods before then). Some of that warming is probably human-caused.
But what these erroneous predictions do prove is that there’s a lot we don’t understand. We don’t understand how much of this slight warming is human-caused and how much is part of the common natural climate fluctuations. We don’t understand the mechanism of the warming very well, what areas will be affected, and which forms of life will be suffer and which will benefit.
We don’t understand how to stop it in a cost-effective manner. We don’t even know whether it’s a bad thing or a good thing, and we’re not even sure how to define the subjective terms “bad” and “good.”
The science is not settled.
I do think, however, that we should take it seriously. Even if the future predictions prove as wrong as some of the past ones, it’s right that we conserve the planet’s resources. Waste is as bad for the waster as it is for the wasted. And besides, this time the predictions might be right.
But as we go about this serious business, it’s good to stay humble and avoid religious zealotry. Mother Nature has a way of making our predictions about her look foolish.
Published Nov. 20, 2015 in the Glenwood Post-Independent at http://www.postindependent.com/opinion/19175288-113/that-darned-antarctic-ice