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Global Warming: The Real Consensus

It was highlighted on the main site on Sunday, but people should make sure to read the op-ed by MIT professor of atmospheric science Richard Lindzen in the Wall Street Journal.

In it, Lindzen goes to great lengths to sort out the true scientific consensus on global warming from the exaggerations of Al "ManBearPig" Gore.


* "Most of the climate community has agreed since 1988 that global mean temperatures have increased on the order of one degree Fahrenheit over the past century, having risen significantly from about 1919 to 1940, decreased between 1940 and the early '70s, increased again until the '90s, and remaining essentially flat since 1998."

* "There is also little disagreement that levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have risen from about 280 parts per million by volume in the 19th century to about 387 ppmv today."

* "Finally, there has been no question whatever that carbon dioxide is an infrared absorber (i.e., a greenhouse gas--albeit a minor one), and its increase should theoretically contribute to warming."

However, figuring out just how much warming can be attributed to carbon dioxide, and how much to natural climate fluctuations that we simply don't understand, is "currently impossible."

Andrew Sullivan says he finds the piece highly persuasive, but thinks we should basically follow a "one percent doctrine" that says that even if the probability of humans setting off a global climate catastrophe is tiny, the consequences are so dire that we must take the threat seriously. He's also itching -- as ever -- to make Americans suffer for the sin of driving cars and living well. (People who ride bikes shouldn't call for gas-tax increases, especially when they're so big on "shared sacrifice.")

But what if the conservative concern is right, and the consequences of most anti-global-warming political initiatives would be economically ruinous? And, perhaps more importantly, what if even these economically ruinous policies would be completely futile, given the sharp increases in greenhouse gasses coming from the developing world?

The cure still seems worse than the not-yet-reliably-diagnosed disease.