Thursday, March 22, 2007

Dr. Gore Recommends Leeches

In his testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee yesterday (AP), narrator of an Oscar-winning slide show and nominee for the Nobel Peace prize Al Gore (who, it turns out, is also a former Vice President) exhorted Congress to fight global warming. There is no surprise in that, since Gore has been beating that increasingly sick horse for some time now. But he did add a cute analogy to the discussion that I have not heard before.
The planet has a fever. If your baby has a fever, you go to the doctor. If the doctor says you need to intervene here, you don’t say ‘I read a science fiction novel that says it’s not a problem.’ [...] You take action.

And that would be fine if we had the same knowledge about global climate as we do about the human body and the same understanding about the dangers of global warming that we do about fevers. But we don't.

Al Gore is like a "doctor" from 150 years ago, when the modern understanding of the causes of disease was first developing. You take your child to Gore and he says, "The fever is a sign your child has 'tired blood'. It's critical that we apply leeches right now." More scientifically-minded doctors hesitate to agree. They caution, "We really don't know that the fever isn't just a normal thing that comes and goes. And, while tired blood may exist, we can't at all be sure that it's really the primary cause of the fever. Finally, while we know for sure that leeches will weaken the child, there is absolutely no evidence that they will work as a cure." So, what do you do?

That's where we are right now. The science is pretty solid that that the temperature has risen over the past century and particularly over the past thirty years. We don't know that it is at any sort of peak for the few thousands of years of human history, much less for the history of life on Earth. But, as weak as that may sound, that's really the best we have right now. We don't know that human activity caused any of it, a little of it, or all of it (despite scientifically ridiculous claims that "scientists are sure 90% of the rise is due to human activity"). Just as important from a policy perspective, there is no scientific backing to the claim that political solutions like the Kyoto Protocol will solve the problem anyway.

No doubt to the chagrin of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) alarmists like Gore, even scientists who worry that AGW will turn out to be real and significant are finally coming forward to say that Gore is exaggerating the science to make AGW look worse than any science concludes it will be. Gore claims that global warming will melt Greenland's ice and cause a twenty foot rise in ocean levels over the next century when even the UN's IPCC only claims a likely rise of half a foot to a foot and a half. Meanwhile, satellite data and newer studies cast doubt that Greenland is even losing its ice at the 0.4% per century rate previously supposed.

That's the problem here. We just don't know enough about whether there is a real problem, what caused it, and what real damage will result from it. To embrace any of the "solutions" being promoted, all of which will definitely be painful, is a step just not justified by the evidence at hand. Sorry Dr. Gore, save the leeches.

1 comment:

Nick Byram said...

Several WSJ readers had interesting comments about Al Gore's drivel:

Reader Martin Shimp notes:

Clearly Gore never cared for his children while they had a fever. Fevers can be a symptom of either a bacterial or viral issue. A doctor can attempt a solution to a bacterial issue, but not a viral one. A virus has to run its course while the body fights it--and a fever is a sign of the struggle to eliminate the virus. Let's see a scientific consensus that the Earth's fever is bacteria-related.

Reader Scott Jacobson questions Gore's premise:

Some great news for Daddy Gore: Little baby Earth does not have a fever. It's been awhile since Daddy Gore had a little bundle at home so maybe he has just forgotten that an infant is not considered to have a fever until her body temperature is at or above 100.4 degrees, or 1.8 degrees above normal. In the last century, little baby Earth's temperature has only gone up "almost one degree."

Overreacting is common among parents. I remember one morning when my first child was still an infant. Imagine my horror when I discovered that her temperature had risen to 99.5 degrees, almost a whole degree in just under 12 hours. Naturally, I immediately sat down and built a computer model, which clearly projected that by age 30, her temperature was going to be a staggering 19,710 degrees!

Thankfully, with the help of a patient wife and an impatient pediatrician, I came to realize that these fluctuations were normal, and that my baby daughter would not be going supernova by the time she reached her golden years.

And Kelly Murphy puts things in perspective nicely:

So let me see if I have this right. According to Al Gore, I would have to be an idiot to decide, after reading "a science-fiction novel" (he must be referring to "State of Fear") that it's OK to go about living my life in a normal fashion. Instead, I should see one science-fiction movie (his) and run screaming out of the theater prepared to change every aspect of my life to avoid certain destruction.