You Ought to Have a Look: Lukewarming the News


Scientific American, which is quite reliably alarmed by the prospects of climate change, showed signs of moderation this week in an articlehighlighting the work of the ecomodernists. The ecomodernists acknowledge that man-made climate change is occurring, but believe humans are already (and will continue) decoupling their well-being from environmental destruction—meaning every day that passes, human flourishing requires less pollution and resources. Though not libertarians, they are spot-on in regards to climate change being a minor overlay in a world increasingly insulated from the vagaries of nature due to market forces. The piece, titled Should We Chill Out about Global Warming?, is answered with an unqualified YES! from those of us at the Center for the Study of Science.

One of their ecomodernist peers, journalist Will Boisvert, recently pondered in a piece, “How bad will climate change be?” He has a voluminous response that’s worth a read, which he quickly summarizes as “Not very.” He went on to note what many of us have been saying for years—as long as there has been capital for innovation and civil order, we’ve been adapting to climate change, and will continue to do so. Boisvert neatly skewers horseman after horseman of the apocalypse—drought, hunger and heat, and notes our increasingly clean and efficient energy technology.

In a similar vein, Nature Communications published an article by Yousuke Sato (and coauthors) from Nagoya University, showing the controversial “indirect cooling effect” of particulates that often go in the air along with carbon dioxide is much smaller than what’s in the climate models. The models are generally tuned with these aerosols to match the climate history of the 20th century, where a large warming occurs before much carbon dioxide is emitted, followed by a slight cooling for several decades as emissions ramped up. Because the aerosol cooling is large, the warming they counter must be huge—which is why in recent decades the models predict so much more warming in the lower atmosphere than is being observed.

The largest projections of future warming are driven by an emissions scenario we recently debunked, known as RCP 8.5. We noted that researchers at the University of British Columbia recently found there is simply not enough coal (recoverable or otherwise) to make these outcomes physically possible. In the Wall Street Journal, the Manhattan Institute’s Oren Cass takes a similar look at the failure of worst-case scenarios to account for human ingenuity and adaptation—calling them “laughably bad economics.” It’s based on a detailed report you can download here.

With these recent developments in science, economics, and popular perception of climate outcomes, we’re hoping the Trump Administration will take the reins of the Fourth National Climate Assessment—which was largely written in the last administration—and steer it back onto a realistic course. It’s getting ready for publication, and we submitted extensive suggestions on how to make it more accurately represent the best and newest science.

Used with permission. Cato Institute / CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

Patrick J. Michaels is the director of the Center for the Study of Science at the Cato Institute. Michaels is a past president of the American Association of State Climatologists and was program chair for the Committee on Applied Climatology of the American Meteorological Society. He was a research professor of Environmental Sciences at University of Virginia for 30 years. Michaels was a contributing author and is a reviewer of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. His writing has been published in the major scientific journals, including Climate ResearchClimatic Change,Geophysical Research LettersJournal of ClimateNature, and Science, as well as in popular serials worldwide. He is the author or editor of six books on climate and its impact, and he was an author of the climate “paper of the year” awarded by the Association of American Geographers in 2004. He has appeared on most of the worldwide major media. Michaels holds AB and SM degrees in biological sciences and plant ecology from the University of Chicago, and he received a PhD in ecological climatology from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1979.