February 17, 2009

out in the cold

Blowing hot and cold:

There needs to be some sort of Godwin's Law variant for conservatives who try to argue against global warming because they remember that Newsweek dipped into pop-science in the mid-70s and touted "global cooling." Call it Will's Law, after George Will, the supposedly cerebral conservative who brings this up every time he doesn't have a better column idea.

For a good summary on the global cooling myth -- an idea that took root in the popular press but never in the scientific literature -- go sit in on the free lecture provided by the folks at Real Climate. Will makes a lot of the 1975 Newsweek cover on the subject, but the more telling document is a National Academy of Sciences report from the same year. The report argued that climate change is the product of many potential forces and the state of the science wasn't yet advanced enough to discern which would prove decisive. To put it in the NAS's own words, "we do not have a good quantitative understanding of our climate machine and what determines its course. Without the fundamental understanding, it does not seem possible to predict climate." As such, they recommended "a major new program of research designed to increase our understanding of climatic change and to lay the foundation for its prediction."

-Ezra Klein

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