Inhofe tries to strike again

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Try as he might, Senator Inhofe (R-OK) won't change the overwhelming scientific consensus that global climate change is real and that human activities are contributing to it. To quote (again) from the fourth assessment1 of the Intergovermnetal Panel on Climate Change (IPCC):

  • Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level
  • Most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.

So what's Inhofe up to this time around?

On Thursday his office released a report claiming that

Over 400 prominent scientists from more than two dozen countries recently voiced significant objections to major aspects of the so-called “consensus” on man-made global warming. These scientists, many of whom are current and former participants in the UN IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), criticized the climate claims made by the UN IPCC and former Vice President Al Gore.

400 scientists may sound like an impressive number, but “More than 2.500 scientific expert reviewers were involved in the two-stage scientific and technical review process of the AR4” (IPCC information). Consensus is not the same thing as unanimity, and I'd say that a 6:1 ratio represents a pretty strong consensus.

Joseph Romm is a little unfair when he criticizes the large number of economists on Inhofe's list.2 Andy Revkin has it right when he points out that

[T]here is a wider debate over what to do, or not do, about climate change, with peoples' preferences (a carbon tax, a technology push, building dikes or parasols in space) not so much a function of science as values. And values are shaped by all manner of things, including how you were raised and where you live.

The debate over climate change is partly about science, and partly about what kind of world we want to live in. The science is definitive. Quoting Andy Revkin again:

On the basics, the trajectory of understanding is clear and has been building for more than 100 years: more carbon dioxide (and other heat-trapping gases) = warmer world = less ice = higher seas (and lots of shifting climate patterns). A solid review can be found in the online hypertext edition of “The Discovery of Global Warming,” a book by Spencer Weart of the American Institute of Physics.

It's past time to argue about whether human activities are changing the global climate. They are. We need to focus on how to respond, not whether to respond


1The IPCC moved the PDF of the Summary for Policy Makers. The copy here was downloaded from the IPCC site a little after 9:00am EST, 23 December 2007.

2For instance, since when have economists, who are pervasive on this list, become scientists, and why should we care what they think about climate science?

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