- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 17, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Where I live in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, we just had one of the coolest, wettest summers in memory, and we’ve already had snow this fall. I looked at the thermometer the other day, seeing it was just 10 degrees Fahrenheit, and said to my wife, “This darned global warming is going to be the death of us yet.”

Hold on, you true believers. Before you don your sheets and start burning crosses in my front yard on the grounds that I misunderstand basic concepts about climate change theory, let me say a couple of things.

One is that I know that local temperatures say next to nothing about global averages (even though warming alarmists are forever citing hot, dry local temperatures as evidence of their contentions).

I am also perfectly well aware that the stable, non-warming temperatures of the past decade and more are scarcely proof that warming is now definitively a thing of the past, especially since these 11 years have still been comparatively hot.

What this increasingly publicized fact does underline, however, is the unreliability of the computer models used to predict a warming calamity caused by human-emitted greenhouse gases, especially carbon. The models simply did not predict this stretch of years without temperature increases. And yes, I know, the defenders of the models say it’s tougher to predict the short term than the long term, that the models overall are improving despite some uncertainty and that the warming will still get us if we fail take decisive steps internationally.

But missing something as significant as what has been happening illustrates the great flaw the models suffer from: There are just too many climate variables out there and too many things we do not know for these models to give us prognostications either short or long term that you can have much faith in.

“Models solve the equations of fluid dynamics and do a very good job of describing the fluid motions of the atmosphere and oceans,” says the highly respected physicist Freeman Dyson in an Internet article I found. “They do a very poor job of describing the clouds, the dust, the chemistry and biology of fields, farms and forests. They do not begin to describe the real world that we live in. They are full of fudge factors that are fitted to the existing climate, so the models more or less agree with the observed data. But there is no reason to believe the same fudge factors would give the right behavior in a world with different chemistry, for example, in a world with increased CO2 in the atmosphere.”

In a 2008 piece in the New York Review of Books, Mr. Dyson also takes on the tough question of what to do if you assume the dire predictions of the often-cited United Nations forecasters are right. He discusses a book by the economist William Nordhaus, who has shown that the Kyoto treaty or the kind of cap-and-trade program Al Gore advocates would do far more harm than good, causing generations of impoverishment in places like China. Mr. Nordhaus favors a relatively small, gradually phased-in carbon tax with a backup technology plan including bioengineered, carbon-gobbling trees.

Mr. Dyson especially likes the tree idea. He figures it virtually inevitable we will have such trees in another 20 to 50 years, points out they will serve as an economic advantage for lands poor and rich and says they could solve any carbon-related warming problem.

Mr. Dyson, by the way, also thinks the emphasis on global warming as the greatest evil the world faces is as much an expression of a secular, environmentalist religion as it is of science, cannot understand why those who subscribe to the theory are so dogmatic and notes that skeptics are often right on science issues. Just recently, the warming skeptics scored some points.

Jay Ambrose is the former Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard.

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