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The Title Says it All
on March 4, 2010
In one of the more delightful innovations in book publishing, Encounter books is now presenting a series of "broadsides," pamphlets with the look and feel of 18th century political tracts but addressing modern issues. As someone who spent a considerable portion of his life reading 18th century tracts, I appreciate the effort. Eighteenth century title pages differ from modern ones in that they tend to lay out the contents of the whole book, and this Encounter piece is no different. Prominent research scientist and climate expert Roy Spencer essentially divides this book into two parts; one dealing with the bad policy of climate "science" and the other dealing with the "science" itself.
Spencer rightly, in my mind, devotes more time to the policy side of the debate. The "science" portion has already been pretty much completely discredited by the release of the East Anglia CRU emails and code. Nonetheless, Spencer does sift through some of the "conclusions" found in the IPCC reports for lay readers who may still think that these documents actually are mere summaries of the current research. He notes (correctly) that the editors of the IPCC reports are for the most part politicians, bureaucrats and a few activist scientists who tend to "extrapolate well beyond what the science can actually support."(p.19) He also dissects the claim that carbon dioxide is the only "known" source of the recent warming by noting that, for the most part, other solutions to warming and cooling episodes simply have not been studied, most notably cloud cover. In part, this is due to the lack of resources, until recently, to make such a study. The bottom line is that the science is far more equivocable than most politicans imply when they discuss the need to control climate change.
And it is the solutions these politicians support that truly merits critical attention. Spencer examines both the cap and trade proposals and the carbon tax proposal and finds each wanting, though he correctly notes that the former is far more destructive to the economy than the latter. He brings up a point seldom recognized by those who pretend we can legislate technological advances into existance. One of the first things that companies cut when they face difficult economic times is research and development. So carbon caps, far from promoting technological change, will likely hinder it. And of course in some areas, significant change is unlikely in any event. Solar power tries to capture the diffuse energy from the sun, as opposed to using the concentrated solar energy found in fossil fuels. But solar energy as such simply cannot provide the power we need. Nuclear power can, but here the problem is government regulations, not free markets, that are hindering the development of a relatively carbon free power source. The Obama administration is doing little to change this situation.
In the final analysis, this little book does what any broadside should do. It summarizes the issues quickly and accurately for a lay audience. Those who want to learn more about the subject should look to Spencer's more detailed book, Climate Confusion but in this pamphlet you will find far more useful information than you are likely to get in a year's worth of articles in the NY or LA Times. A very worthwhile read.