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Grappling with ‘a wicked orthodoxy’

By Tom Jackson
Published: May 5, 2014

Nigel Lawson, once the United Kingdom’s version of Secretary of the Treasury and a published climate-change apostate, notes with a mix of alarm and dismay the “personal hostility, vituperation, and vilification” he and other public dissenters have received for challenging the orthodoxy “on global warming and global-warming policies.”

Writing for the UK publication “Standpoint” and helpfully reposted at National Review Online, Lawson notes the eliminationist rhetoric applied to skeptics by the warmist community, the least scandalous of which includes describing them as “wilfully ignorant” (UK climate change secretary Ed Davey) and “headless chickens” (Charles Windsor, the prince of Wales).

Of course, there’s always the helpful “climate-change denier,” designed evoke “Holocaust denier” — “as if questioning present policies and forecasts of the future is equivalent to casting malign doubt about a historical fact.”

But, writes Lawson, there is enough in conflict about the claims of anthropogenic global warming — for openers, concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide have surged in the last decade, but global temperatures haven’t budged in since 2000 — that “Climate-change alarmism” must be recognized as “a belief system, and needs to be evaluated as such.”

This is not to dispute the greenhouse effect, which he accepts as solid scientific theory. But what descends from it, for good or ill, is a discussion reasonable humans ought to be able to have without being excommunicated from the society of rational thinkers.

The chief questions, beyond whether climate models have been fudged to produce results desired by the modelers, Lawson says, are twofold:

“[E]ven if the earth were to warm ... does it matter? It would, after all, be surprising if the planet were on a happy but precarious temperature knife-edge, from which any change in either direction would be a major disaster.” Indeed, economists can see a slight warming producing benefits that far outweigh downsides.

“And, to the extent that there is a problem, what should we, calmly and rationally, do about it?”

Now we’re getting somewhere. Even as climate scientists claim infallibility on the subject — “the very claim that was once the province of the church” — the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report has begun to hedge its predecessors’ alarmism, conceding moderate warming may be beneficial, “and moderate climate change is all that it expects to see for the rest of this century.”

If only it took similar pains to concede “the unequivocally adverse economic impact of the decarbonization policy it continues to advocate, which (if implemented) would be far worse than any adverse impact from global warming.” Bjorn Lomborg estimates the hit to the global economy by 2100 could reach 30 times the impact of simply adapting.

It’s this cost-benefit analysis Lawson, Lomborg and, finally, even the foot-dragging IPCC say is at least an important ingredient for discussion.

What should we do? “The answer is — or should be — a no-brainer: Adapt. I mentioned earlier that a resumption of global warming, should it occur (and of course it might) would bring both benefits and costs. The sensible course is clearly to pocket the benefits while seeking to minimize the costs. And that is all the more so since the costs, should they arise, will not be anything new: They will merely be the slight exacerbation of problems that have always afflicted mankind.”

Genuine Believers don’t want any part of this, considering it an unimportant sidebar to what is the central truth of the AGW catechism: The poles are melting (well, maybe one of them a little bit)and the seas are rising (although satellites say otherwise), it’s all the fault of Big Oil and we need to return to the days when wind and sun and running streams were our only sources (besides livestock and human backsides) of energy, and our royal betters advised us on our rights.

This is an invitation to mass poverty, malnutrition and disease, and we’re not buying it. Not when we, the entrenched skeptics, know that Westernized economies are far superior about striking a balance between creating wealth, health and long lives while maintaining the cleanest possible environment.

Developing countries have begun to latch on to the Western model with some success, even as “hundreds of millions of people in these countries [remain] in dire poverty, suffering all the ills that this brings, in terms of malnutrition, preventable disease, and premature death. Asking these countries to abandon the cheapest available sources of energy is, at the very least, asking them to delay the conquest of malnutrition, to perpetuate the incidence of preventable disease, and to increase the numbers of premature deaths.

“Global-warming orthodoxy is not merely irrational. It is wicked.”