Friday, November 27, 2009

Considering "Climategate"

I'm opposed to the Waxman-Markey bill. Not because I don't "believe" that human actions can cause changes in the climate, but because I think the W-M bill makes way too many assumptions about exactly how much humans impact the climate and in our ability to reverse that impact. My skepticism is rooted in the work of Bjorn Lomborg and his more conservative outlook on climate change and on the importance of resilience versus assuming we can turn some huge dial and make global temperatures go in the directions we wish.

So now that I've found out that there are numerous questions about the validity of current climate change models I am less than surprised:

The emails seem to describe a model which frequently breaks, and being constantly "tweaked" with manual interventions of dubious quality in order to make them fit the historical data.  These stories suggest that the model, and the past manual interventions, are so poorly documented that CRU cannot now replicate its own past findings.

That is a big problem.  The IPCC report, which is the most widely relied upon in policy circles, uses this model to estimate the costs of global warming.  If those costs are unreliable, then any cost-benefit analysis is totally worthless.
Again, none of this means that "global warming" isn't "real" or "true". All this means is that our ability to gather and interpret data is hamstrung by human frailty. We are - all of us - eternally dealing with scarce resources, be it time, money or knowledge. To me, that is a reason to take a measured, cautious approach to constructing public policies which we intend to affect extremely complex issues. In the case of climate change, this is a good reason not to pass either a so-called "cap and trade" system or even a carbon tax, because we simply do not have enough data to construct a sensible policy response to this situation.    

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