Invitation to a Rebuttal

Reefsavior at Reefsavior at
Wed Jun 27 15:42:03 EDT 2001

Coral listers,
Last Sunday’s paper contained the following syndicated column about Global 
Warming by Thomas Sowell, "senior fellow at the Hoover Institute, Stanford 
University."  Just when it seemed the scientific community has reached enough 
consensus to put the reality of global warming beyond debate and allow 
intelligent policy decisions to be considered in light of scientific fact, 
this kind of obfuscation and chauvinistic, industry-friendly dismissal 
appears in the paper and attempts to undermine any responsible efforts to 
deal with the problem by confusing the average, voting citizen.
I am drafting a rebuttal to this article.  Obviously, nothing is going to 
change Mr. Sowell’s mind, considering the tone of his piece.  As an 
arch-conservative African American, he and his motives are unfathomable to 
me.  But I think it is important to counter such articles in the media as 
soon as possible.  Before I submit my response, I wanted to invite the 
comments of those of you on the coral list.  Since sea surface temperatures 
are among the first signs of climate shifts and coral reefs seem to function 
as the canary in the mine shaft of global warming, the members of this list 
would be among the best informed to debate this issue.  How would you refute 
the claims made by Mr. Sowell?  
Here is his article:

Global Warming Report is Nothing but Hot Air

A new political dogma is being spun by the media.  "Science," they say, has 
now "proved" that global warming is a real danger and that human beings are 
responsible fort it, so that we need to take drastic steps to reduce 
greenhouse gases.  This had been the widespread response to a recent 
publication by the National Academy of Sciences, which many in the media have 
taken as proof that we need to follow the drastic requirements of the Kyoto 
accords, in order to reduce the threat of global warming.
The stampede toward draconian changes in our economy and in the whole 
American way of life required by the Kyoto accords is all too congenial to 
the mindset of the intelligentsia in general and the liberal media in 
particular.  Anything that requires their superior wisdom and virtue to be 
imposed by government on the benighted masses has a favorable reception 
waiting in those quarters.  
Back in the 1970s, the hysteria was about global cooling and the prospect of 
a new ice age.  A National Academy of Science report back then led Science 
magazine to conclude in its March 1, 1975 issue that a long "ice age is a 
real possibility."  According to the April 28, 1975 issue of Newsweek, "the 
earth’s climate seems to be cooling down."  A note of urgency was part of 
global cooling hysteria then as much as it is part of today’s global warming 
hysteria.  According to the February 1973 issue of Science digest, "Once the 
freeze starts, it will be too late."
Nothing is easier than to come up with mathematical models and doomsday 
scenarios.  Politicians and government bureaucrats have been trying for well 
over a decade to sell a doomsday scenario of global warming, which would 
enhance the powers of -- you guessed it -- politicians and bureaucrats.
Among scientists specializing in the study of weather and climate, there are 
many differences of opinion, reflecting the complex and uncertain data.  
Among the prominent scientists who do not go along with the global warming 
hysteria are Richard S. Lindzen, who is professor of meteorology at MIT, and 
Dr. S. Fred Singer, who created the American weather satellite system and 
whose book "Hot Talk, Cold Science" is must reading for those who want 
scientific facts rather than a political stampede.
Although Lindzen is one of the big names listed in the National Academy of 
Science report, he disagrees with the global warming hysteria.  As Lindzen 
notes, "the climate is always changing." Innumerable factors go into 
temperature changes and many of those factors, such as changing amounts of 
heat put out by the sun during different eras, are beyond the control human 
Certain gasses, such as carbon dioxide, have the potential to affect 
temperature, but that is very different from saying that a particular rise in 
temperature during a particular era is necessarily due to "greenhouse 
gasses."  A major part of the rising temperature over the past century took 
place before World War II - which was also before the large increases in 
carbon dioxide emissions in our time.
The National Academy of Sciences report itself tiptoes around the fact that 
the timing of temperature increases does not coincide with the timing of 
increases in greenhouse gasses.  As the NAS report puts it: "The cause of 
these irregularities and the disparities in timing are not completely 
Even if we were to cripple our economy by carrying out the radical steps 
proposed by the Kyoto accords, this "would not result in a substantial 
reduction in global warming," according to Lindzen.  He laments the use of 
science "as a source of authority with which to bludgeon political opponents 
and propagandize uninformed citizens."  Unfortunately, many of these 
uninformed citizens are in the media.
Thomas Sowell

So, there you have it.  I will resist the temptation to include my own 
stinging rebuke until the coral list has had a crack at it.  Thanks!
S.E. Thompson
Research Associate, Oregon State University 
Director, Tropical Marine Biodiversity Trust

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