predictions came true. If there are not enough data in the past,
we need to wait to see if future results bear out their pessimism.
And what about water vapor (clouds and humidity), which the
models all seem to ignore as a forcing factor? This is by far the
largest greenhouse gas but remains largely not understood.
Also, we need to better document the negative consequences
of warming. Some warming might have beneficial results on the
colder climates, e.g., more food production from longer growing
seasons. Warming is also intuitively more appealing than the
ice age alternative.
The 2007 IPCC report predicts rising sea levels over the next
100 years in the 11- to 17-inch range. Why spend trillions of dollars to prevent that, when we can very likely adapt over that
long a time? Even the worst-case scenario from the IPCC report
bears some reflection. Outlier possibilities in the models show
the earth might warm so much that Greenland’s glaciers could
totally melt—thus raising ocean levels some 20 feet. Of course,
the panel concedes that it would take thousands of years for that
to happen. Don’t we have enough time to adapt to even a 20-foot
rise over several thousand years?
And finally, if the mainstream news media continue to use
emotional arguments to support their alarmist views, they
should at least give the other side of the story. Don’t just show a
lone polar bear stranded on a floating ice sheet. Report also that
the number of polar bears has actually increased 400 percent
since 1950. Also, postponing the inevitable next ice age may, in
fact, be a good thing.
is There a hidden agenda?
If the zeal of the alarmists turns out to be an overreach on the needed reforms, what could explain their pushing for radical economic
changes when there could well be more pressing problems that the
world needs to address, e.g., AIDs, malaria, water pollution, terrorism? Some skeptics have volunteered alternative motivations
behind the U.N.’s agenda. A more benign one is suggested by author
Michael Crichton in his best-selling novel State of Fear (which rebuts, in novel form, many of the arguments for global warming).
After citing and summarizing some 160 books and articles he read,
Crichton articulates his belief that access to government research
funding is behind the alarmism. If the consequences are so dire,
governments need to fund massive studies of causes and consequences. According to Crichton, the end of the Cold War’s risk of
nuclear devastation has created a vacuum in world concerns that
is neatly replaced by this global-warming Armageddon.
Others are more cynical. Christopher Horner (in the
Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism) attributes the motivation to Europe’s global government
aspirers. What better way to create a world government than
an impending crisis that can only be prevented by draconian
governmental actions to curtail economic activity? French
politician Jacques Chirac called Kyoto “the first component of
an authentic global governance.” And if the result is to make
Europe more competitive again by stifling the U.S.’s economic
might and deterring the Asian tigers, all the better for the liberal European countries that can’t see themselves competing
worldwide against those more dynamic economic entities.
Realistically, there is probably a green component to the U.N.
panel’s motivation—less industry means cleaner air. But isn’t it
better to be upfront about it, rather than trying to transform the
industrial world by scare tactics?
MICHAEL A. WALTERS is a former president of the Casualty
Actuarial Society and a former vice president of the Academy.
He has expertise in hurricane risk analysis, personal lines
ratemaking, and risk classification.
Crichton, Michael, State of Fear, New York: Harper Collins, 2004.
Dessler, Andrew E., and Parson, Edward A., The Science and Politics
of Global Climate Change: A Guide to the Debate, Cambridge, U.K.:
Cambridge University Press, 2006.
Horner, Christopher, Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming
and Environmentalism, Washington: Regnery Publishing, 2007.
IPCC, 2007: Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis, Contribution
of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, [Solomon, S., D. Qin, M. Manning,
Z. Chen, M. Marquis, K.B. Averyt, M. Tignor, H.L. Miller (eds.)],
Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 996 pp.
Singer, S. Fred, and Avery, Dennis, Unstoppable Global Warming:
Every 1,500 Years, Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006.
This article is solely the opinion of its author. It does not express the official policy
of the American Academy of Actuaries; nor does it necessariy reflect the opinions
of the Academy’s individual officers, members, or staff.
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