Rep. John Linder

20 February 2007

Rep. John Linder (R-Ga.), pictured center, has apparently read Michael Crichton's book State of Fear and now thinks that he's a expert in climatology who needs to burden us all with his opinions. To express his outrage over "alarmists," Linder recently wrote an article in the Washington Times likening those who believe the scientific consensus on global warming to eugenicists.

"Global Warming" had a precursor in capturing the hearts and minds of the world. Michael Crichton, in his novel "State of Fear," brilliantly juxtaposes the world's current political embrace of "global warming" with the popular embrace of the "science" of eugenics a century ago. For nearly 50 years, from the late 1800s through the first half of the 20th century, there grew a common political acceptance by the world's thinkers, political leaders and media elite that the "science" of eugenics was settled science. There were a few lonely voices trying to be heard in the wilderness in opposition to this bogus science, but they were ridiculed or ignored.
Basically, Linder is just trying to poison the well here by equating those who accept "settled science" with killer eugenicists. He also fails to mention what exactly this "settled science" he's referring to is.

One must ask, "How in the world did university researchers come to conclusions that defended this outrageous affront to society?" A look back at the research concluded that the researchers adjusted their outcomes to support the theory of those paying for the research. This is not unusual. It is very easy to believe that the settled science regarding climate change is just as suspicious, and indeed may be another example of pseudo-science capturing the imagination of politicians, actors and the media elite who have a desperate need to embrace some "science" which may force us to change the way we live our lives.
Um, is there any evidence of that happening here today? It seems fairly irresponsible to suggest that the world's climatologists are fudging their research like 20th century eugenicists unless you can actually back it up. Further, the form of this argument is horribly flawed. Using the same basic form, I could just as easily say: "Many women throughout history have been prostitutes. Indeed it is often referred to as the oldest profession. Therefore, it is very easy to believe that John Linder's wife is a prostitute."

While a congressional delegation was visiting the Antarctic expedition in January of 2003 we were shown the results of the Vostok ice-sheet cores where temperatures and CO2 levels were measured as far as 400,000 years ago. At that time, the level of CO2 was 280 parts per million parts of atmosphere (ppm), about what it was 20 years ago. The levels of CO2 and temperature rode up and down in consonance over 400,00 years. "Who," I asked, "was burning the fossil fuels 400,000 years ago?" I was treated as though I was rude.
First off, CO2 levels haven't been at 280 ppm since the industrial revolution. Second, nobody ever claimed that CO2 was solely caused by the burning of fossil fuels. Indeed there has been a regular carbon cycle over the past 400,000 years, due to a complex interaction of many factors, partially driven by cyclical changes in the earth's orbit. But that cycle, for the past 400,000 years has always peaked at around 280 ppm of CO2. Here's a graph of past CO2 levels:

It looks somewhat anomalous to me. But Linder writes it off by just saying that CO2 levels were at 280 ppm 400,000 years ago, they went through some cycles, and today we're pretty much where we were 400,000 years ago. No big deal, right?

We see pictures of huge blocks of ice crashing into the sea from the Antarctic Peninsula, which comprises about 2 percent of the continent. The fact that the remaining 98 percent of Antarctica is growing by 26.8 gigatons of ice per year is ignored.

Yes, the interior of Antarctica has been growing due to increased precipitation, and the edges have been melting and falling off. But to say that 98% of Antarctica is growing by gigatons is very misleading. On a whole, Antarctica has been losing mass. What's more, so has Greenland and pretty much every mountain glacier in the world. Here's a before-and-after from the north pole:

And here's a look at what's been going on with all the mountain glaciers in the world:

He goes on:
The most prevalent and efficient greenhouse gas is not CO2; it is water vapor, which accounts for about 60 percent of the heat-trapping gases while CO2 accounts for about 26 percent. So, why are we being served a daily diet of our destroying the environment with our behavior as it relates to CO2? Because our behavior has little to do with the amount of water vapor, so it is a non-starter when it comes to those whose principal goal is ruling our lives.
Actually, water vapor is a feedback, not a forcing agent. It stays in the atmosphere for about 10 days (as opposed to CO2, which stays in the atmosphere for about 100 years) and is not the primary cause of the recent warming we've seen. This hasn't just been ignored by the climate scientists of the world, and they didn't just make it up to rule our lives.

When it comes to methane, another greenhouse gas, termites are responsible for 11 percent of the world's production from natural sources. Seventy-six percent comes from wetlands, which provide habitat conducive to bacteria, which produce 145 million metric tons of methane per year during the decomposition of organic material. It is curious that the very alarmists on climate change are alarmists on saving and increasing wetlands.
Notice the sleight of hand here. Termites are responsible for 11% of the natural methane emissions. Wetlands are responsible for 76% of the natural methane emissions. Let's look at how these stack up against anthropogenic sources:

Linder continues:
This is not the first charge against human behavior. Many of you will remember the "scientific" studies 30 years ago about the destruction of the ozone layer, particularly at the poles, that would reduce the atmosphere's ability to stop infrared rays from the sun. We would see increasing incidence of skin cancer and increasing temperatures. It was theorized that this was caused by the increased production of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that were used -- as Freon -- in refrigeration units.
When Freon was invented it was considered a miracle gas. It replaced, in refrigeration units, a combination of toxic gases that, if released, actually killed people. But the settled science concluded that human activity was a threat to the planet. We outlawed the production of CFCs and thousands of people across the world died from eating rancid food due to the loss of refrigeration.
First off, the ozone layer blocks UV radiation, not infrared radiation. Second, why is "science" in scare quotes here? It's pretty well-settled that ozone blocks UV radiation. It's fine if you want to do a cost-benefit analysis and say that the costs of limiting CFCs outweigh the benefits of decreased incidents of skin cancer, but Linder seems to be using a policy question (whether or not we should decrease our CFC output) to cast doubt on a scientific question. It's as if he'll only accept science that supports his side of an argument. Everything else is just "science."

Most have been through more than one alarmist cycle of doom. The predictions by scientists in Time magazine's "Another Ice Age?" in 1974 and Newsweek's "The Cooling World" in 1975 come to mind. The latter article stated that scientists "are almost unanimous in the view that the trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century. If the climactic change is as profound as some of the pessimists fear, the resulting famines could be catastrophic."
The Time and Newsweek articles certainly got this one wrong. There was no scientific consensus that there would be catastrophic global cooling back in the '70s. If you look at the actual science journals of the time (not popular magazines like Time and Newsweek), they painted a far more sober picture. They acknowledged that aerosols had a cooling effect, but ultimately that we didn't know enough about the climate at the time to make such predictions. Nonetheless, wiseguys like Linder love to keep this myth alive.

Today, if there is a settled science, it is adduced by climatologists who have been observing and studying the world for decades. Many are retired and not seeking government grants for research and thus not inclined to reach outcomes that are politically popular....
But wise old heads believe that we are going through normal cycles of heating and cooling that we have seen over hundreds of millions of years as the earth heats and cools when the activity of the sun changes. The earth is heated by the sun. The sun is impacted by magnetic forces creating outbursts called sunspots, which increase the heat it imparts. During the coldest period in the Little Ice Age, which ended near the end of the 19th century, sunspots almost completely disappeared for 70 years. The earth cooled. Sunspot activity has been declining for a number of years and is expected decline by 40 percent over the next decade. The world is about to enter a cooling period. Be prepared to change your lifestyle.
Wrong again. Scientists have considered sunspots, and it appears that they aren't the cause of this recent anomalous warming. I also like how Linder uses the phrase "wise old heads" instead of "people who haven't published any papers in scientific journals or done any new research in a long time," acting as if that gives their opinions more weight.

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