November 20, 2007

Speaker makes controversial climate claims

James M. Taylor, the senior fellow for environmental policy at the Heartland Institute and managing editor of its publication, Environment & Climate News, thinks about climate change all the time.

The difference between Taylor and a veteran Greenpeace activist is that when it comes to global warming, he insists that “the science does not support the theory”—that is, that global warming is not, in fact, taking place.

Last Thursday, in a speech sponsored by the Young Republicans, Taylor made his case against the view that the Earth is warming. On the planet, Taylor argued, “there is no normal temperature; there never has been.” Outlining the “sound science” that he believes pulls the rug out from under global warming’s contentions, Taylor claimed that the Earth’s temperature rises and falls cyclically. Periodic increases in temperature have no correlation to carbon dioxide emissions, and since 1998, Earth’s temperatures have not increased, Taylor said.

According to Taylor, a substantial number of scientists agree with these claims. He cited the Oregon Petition, created by Frederick Seitz, former president of the National Academy of Science and president emeritus of Rockefeller University, as proof that skepticism about global warming exists within the scientific community.

According to the Oregon Petition’s website, its signatories ascribe to the view that “there is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate.”

More than 19,000 scientists have signed the petition and vetted the report on which it was based. Taylor argued that the prominence of the petition’s creator, the number of scientists who support his conclusions, and the report itself are all robust arguments against global warming.

By contrast, he scorned the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC is a task force created by the United Nations and the World Meteorological Organization; its stated goal is “to provide the decision makers and others interested in climate change with an objective source of information about climate change.”

The IPCC was the co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, along with former vice president Al Gore, for its work in advancing people’s understanding of global warming. Taylor challenged the veracity of the IPCC’s reports, saying that it censors them by not publishing “tens of thousands” of criticisms of its contention that climate change is occurring. In his opinion, the IPCC’s omissions of critique render its claims irrelevant.

Nonetheless, whether it is because of the IPCC’s reports or Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth, acceptance of global warming as a fact has spread, particularly in the mainstream media.

In Taylor’s view, the reason climate change has gotten to be such a hot story is simple: global warming sells. When comparing the “media’s unsupported assertions” with the body of evidence he marshaled, he concluded that these stories may sell, but they’re a bunch of hot air.