Editor’s Note: What follows is the reaction of Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute to New York Times reporter Justin Gillis’s attempts to discredit scientists who are skeptical of the theory of manmade global warming:
Justin Gillis of the New York Times has written a long article that criticizes Dick Lindzen of MIT by quoting several scientists who disagree with him. But Mr. Gillis overlooks historical evidence that strongly supports Lindzen’s position that the climate has negative feedbacks that will limit human-caused global warming.
If the feedbacks from higher carbon dioxide levels are strongly positive, then in past geological eras when CO2 levels were much higher than today there should have occurred the “runaway climate” that James Hansen fantasizes about. If Hansen and many other alarmists were correct, then logically the Earth’s climate should have become as inhospitable as that of Venus hundreds of millions of years ago. The fact that life is still flourishing on Earth is compelling evidence that the feedbacks from higher levels of CO2 are weakly positive at most and more likely negative, as Lindzen argues.
The climate models used by the alarmists predict rapid warming in the near future only because they assume strong positive feedbacks. Mr. Gillis is also simply wrong when he writes that scientific opponents of global warming alarmism have been reduced to one argument—namely, that negative feedbacks from clouds will save us from catastrophic warming.
For example, he ignores recent temperature data that show no increase in the global mean temperature for the past fifteen years. And he ignores major research in solar cycles, cosmic rays, oceanography, and paleoclimatology. While Mr. Gillis clearly wants to announce that the scientific debate is settled, he has failed to make his case.
The conclusion I draw from my (admittedly incomplete) review of the scientific literature is that the scientific case against alarmism, while always strong, has gotten much stronger over the past ten years. That is to say, despite what the alarmist establishment claims and Mr. Gillis repeats, the scientific debate between alarmists and skeptics is close to done and the alarmists have lost.