In my post immediately below asking some questions to Dr. Steven Novella, I quote from a Wall Street Journal op-ed written by Dr. Steve Koonin, a former Obama administration official. His piece has caused more than a little consternation on the left and several people have authored responses.

I want to focus in particular on the second linked piece, authored by Raymond T. Pierrehumbert, the Louis Block professor in geophysical sciences at the University of Chicago. He argues that while the science may not be completely settled, it is “settled enough.”
After a long look at what he considers to be the failures in Dr. Koonin’s reasoning, he arrives at this:
The conclusion that climate science is settled enough proceeds from two well-established properties ofthe climate system: No.1, most climate damages rise withthe rise in global mean temperature, though the regional distributions of the damages are uncertain and vary from model to model; and No. 2, the peak global mean warming is approximately proportional to the total amount of carbon dioxide emitted up to thetime such emissions cease completely. Given current rates of emissionsgrowth, about 2.5 percent annually, we will exceed a threshold corresponding to 2degrees Celsius of warming in a matter of a few decades, if climate sensitivity turns out to be in the middle of the uncertainty range.

Couple of things struck me about his reasoning. The link to support his first claim goes to a work entitled “Climate Stabilization Targets: Emissions, Concentrations, and Impacts of Decades to Millenia,” published by the National Research Council. The fifth chapter in this book, “Impacts in the Next Few Decades and Coming Centuries,” begins by detailing food production and prices under increased CO2 and temperature regimes.

The graphs all point to global warming having a negative impact on crop production, but then there’s this little nugget on page 162: “Adaptation responses by growers are also poorly understood and could, in contrast, reduce yield losses. For example, temperate growers are likely to shift to earlier planting and longer maturing varieties as climate warms, and models suggest this could entirely offset losses in certain situations…Very few studies have considered the evidence for ongoing adaptations to existing climate trends and qualified the benefits of these adaptations.”
This passage struck a chord with me for several reasons. I’d just finished listening to an EconTalk podcast featuring Terry Anderson, Distinguished Fellow at the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC). Mr. Anderson was in turn quoting a colleague, Daniel Botkin, author of Discordant Harmonies (at 49:31 of the podcast):
In some of [Dan’s] writings he says, “If you ask the average ecologist, is the environment dynamic?” They’ll say yes. And then if you ask them, what policy would they put in place, it’s a static balance-of-nature kind of policy.

Why has the population bomb never exploded? Paul Ehrlich wrote in early editions of his book that “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate…”

The environment and the climate are complex systems which are highly unpredictable and cannot be effectively managed in a linear, balance-of-nature fashion. Are food growers going to maintain the same strategy in the face of a changing growing environment? Of course not. Quarterbacks call an audible when they see a blitz.
Additionally, the evidence to date for climate change having already increased the number and scope of extreme weather events is quite thin.
I want to focus on one other point Dr. Pierrehumbert brings up, the rate of emissions growth which he pegs at 2.5% annually. Who is responsible for the high rate of emissions growth? Not the US or Europe.
Since 2006, China has been the world leader in CO2 emissions, and the total CO2 emissions from US and the EU have been declining slowly but steadily for quite some time. Government didn’t do this, in the case of the US anyway. Fracking did. Natural gas contains half the carbon of coal and is more efficient.
A few things should follow from this logic – progressive environmentalists should be championing both natural gas and nuclear power if climate change is indeed a clear and present danger to the earth. And their efforts stem the growth of CO2 emissions should be targeted at the large developing economies of China and India. Every other country on this chart has seen declining CO2 emissions – even in Russia the trend is downward.
Finally, go back to Governor Jindal’s answer to the climate change question. Dr. Novella characterized this as the “ultimate denialist position.” Here’s the end of his answer. Full answer begins at 42:17.
The political, the policy perspective should be that weshould address [climate change] in concert with our international competitors andtrading partners. China now emits…more CO2 than America and all other countries in the Western Hemisphere combined. The growth is coming from developed countries. How in the world does it make sense for us tosimply export more jobs [to those countries], that’s not going to doanything to help the environment. If anything it’s going to make the environment worse.

Sounds to me like Jindal is following the science, not denying it.

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