Commentary

Care advocated to distinguish natural and human-induced global warming

No issue in the world today is more fundamentally misunderstood or more permeated by political demagoguery than “global warming.”

Misunderstanding of this hot topic (no pun intended) is primarily the result of an irresponsible mass media’s relentless determination to treat three separate subjects — environmentalism, natural global warming, and human-induced global warming — as one single issue. This convenient “Trinitarian” approach, regrettably, leads to unwarranted alarmism.

Environmentalism is a universally-accepted human concern for the maintenance and beautification of the planet’s natural environment. Other than perhaps the means of addressing this vital concern, there is no public debate.

Natural global warming acknowledges that throughout our planet’s history, periods of increased warming in climactic temperatures rotate regularly with corresponding periods of increased cooling. For example, the Medieval Warm Period (circa 800-1300 A.D.) was followed soon after by the Little Ice Age (circa 1500-1800 A.D.). Not surprisingly, therefore, we are now experiencing a return to a period of global warming. Again, all interested parties are in agreement.

It is the theory of human-induced global warming, however, that deeply divides leading climatologists. When compared with the awesome power and unfathomable energy of our sun in directing earth’s weather habits, skeptics like me are simply incredulous to believe that all of humanity’s collective polluting efforts could make even the slightest minuscule difference in climatic temperatures. Moreover, remember the hysteria in the 1970s over the threat of “global cooling”? Many of those same doomsday activists are today’s human-induced global warming proponents.

However, beyond the scientific question, what deeply troubles skeptics even more is their opponents’ blatant political agenda. As economist Thomas Sowell notes, “[T]here has been a fullcourt press to convince the public that ‘everybody knows’ that a catastrophic warming looms over us, that human beings are the cause of it, and that the only solution is to turn more money and power over to the government to stop us from our dangerous ways of living” (Townhall.com, February 13, 2007).

And government, even with the best of solution intentions, too often compounds the problem. For example, global warming advocates are vocally critical of the United States’ failure to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. But, as Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, notes, “Compliance with Kyoto would reduce global warming by an amount too small to measure. But the cost of compliance just to the United States would be higher than the cost of providing the entire world with clean drinking water and sanitation, which would prevent two million deaths…a year and prevent half a billion people from becoming seriously ill each year.”

What ever happened to open, rational debate? It seems that Western Civilization has digressed back to the Middle Ages when “majority opinion” was the determinate factor in arriving at “truth.” Ironically, today’s Galileos are persecuted not by an autocratic church of years gone by, but rather a modern-day worldwide star chamber of secular humanists.

For the sake of all humankind, let us open up this highly controversial, politically charged subject to honest public scrutiny and objective academic debate.

Tim Utter is an admissions counselor at Concordia University, St. Paul.