A FALSE CONSENSUS ON GLOBAL WARMING

March 21, 2005

Do all the world's climate scientists agree that humanity is causing dangerous global warming? University of California Professor Naomi Oreskes says scientific consensus on global warming is unanimous. Last December, she published an essay in Science claiming that not one of 928 research papers containing the key words "climate change" published between 1993 and 2003 contradicted (her words) the consensus position on global warming.

Yet, it appears as if Oreskes has answered a question no one is asking, says David Deming, an adjunct scholar with the National Center for Policy Analysis. Oreskes' definition of the "consensus position" on global warming essentially amounts to affirming the validity of the greenhouse effect itself, and through a disingenuous process of semantic transformation, this conclusion becomes an excuse for reforming our entire civilization.

Oreskes and other supporters fail to ask the interesting and significant questions, says Deming:

  • What will be the magnitude of any future warming?
  • If it occurs, will global warming be detrimental or beneficial?
  • If the effects of global warming are detrimental, will the cost of mitigation be greater than any possible benefits?

These are the questions that must be addressed before any rational policy decisions can be made, explains Deming.

Yet, the most astonishing aspect of this entire affair, says Deming, is that Oreskes herself is a historian of science who has written a book about the rejection of continental drift theory. Global warming predictions depend largely on computer models. But according to Oreskes, such models can never be validated or verified.

It is perplexing that the lessons of history seem to be lost on a historian, he says, but perhaps there is another lesson that can be learned. As University of California Berkeley law professor Phillip Johnson observed, "whenever science is enlisted in a political cause, the result is always that the scientists themselves become fanatics."

Source: David Deming, "How 'Consensus' On Global Warming Is Used To Justify Draconian Reform," Investor's Business Daily, March 18, 2005; and Dennis T. Avery, "A False Consensus on Global Warming?" Center for Global Food Issues, January 10, 2005.

 

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