Global environmental challenges
The following guest blog is by Holman Jenkins, a Wall Street Journal columnist and member of the WSJ editorial board, in response to a blog (here) by Stuart Gaffin, a climate researcher at Columbia University who is a regular contributor to these pages. Thomson Reuters is not responsible for the content — the views are the author’s alone.
By Holman Jenkins
Several of my emailers in response to my WSJ column were also perplexed what I meant when I wrote that climate science has managed to yield on the most important issue -– namely mankind’s actual impact on the climate — only a “negative finding.” In fact, clarification appears in the next sentence: Science hasn’t been able to how “an increase in the atmosphere’s component of CO2 is impacting our climate, though the most plausible indication is that the impact is too small to untangle from natural variability.”
I use “science” here to mean what most people mean by science: systematic study of the world in hopes of drawing reliable conclusions. I use “climate” the way everyone uses “climate.” Mr. Gaffin seems to read “climate” as “atmosphere” and my statement as suggesting we know nothing of any kind about how the atmosphere might behave in response to rising CO2 levels. But that’s not what I said. I’m talking about what everyone actually cares about, whether the net result is a warming climate that will continue to warm in detriment to the presumed interests of humanity.
I don’t need to rehearse how much of current claims about a human contribution to warming are based on climate models. Many scientists have pursued actual empirical results (i.e. from the world, not from computer models) to show the human contribution, but results have been maddeningly elusive or indeterminate. Speaking for myself, that’s information I would very much like to have — I would not impose large, costly adjustments on society based simply on predictions of computer simulations created by scientists eager to affirm their intuitions about climate and CO2.