Daniel Botkin, emeritus professor of ecology at UC Santa Barbara, argues in the Wall Street Journal (Oct 17, page A19) that global warming will not have much impact on life on Earth. We’ll summarize some of his points and then take our turn:
Botkin: The warm climates in the past 2.5 million years did not lead to extinctions.
Response: For the past 2.5 million years the climate has oscillated between interglacials which were (at most) a little warmer than today and glacials which were considerably colder than today. There is no precedent in the past 2.5 million years for so much warming so fast. The ecosystem has had 2.5 million years to adapt to glacial-interglacial swings, but we are asking it to adapt to a completely new climate in just a few centuries. The past is not a very good analog for the future in this case. And anyway, the human species can suffer quite a bit before we start talking extinction.
Botkin: Tropical diseases are affected by other things besides temperature
Response: I’m personally more worried about dust bowls than malaria in the temperate latitudes. Droughts don’t lead to too many extinctions either, but they can destroy civilizations. It is true that tropical diseases are affected by many things besides temperature, but temperature is important, and the coming warming is certainly not going to make the fight against malaria any easier.
Botkin: Kilimanjaro again.
Response: Been there, done that. The article Botkin cites is from American Scientist, an unreviewed pop science magazine, and it is mainly a rehash of old arguments that have been discussed and disposed of elsewhere. And anyway, the issue is a red-herring. Even if it turned out that for some bizarre reason the Kilimanjaro glacier, which is thousands of years old, picked just this moment to melt purely by coincidence, it would not in any way affect the validity of our prediction of future warming. Glaciers are melting around the world, confirming the general warming trends that we measure. There are also many other confirmations of the physics behind the predictions. It’s a case of attacking the science by attacking an icon, rather than taking on the underlying scientific arguments directly.
Botkin: The medieval optimum was a good time
Response: Maybe it was, if you’re interested in Europe and don’t mind the droughts in the American Southwest. But the business-as-usual forecast for 2100 is an entirely different beast than the medieval climate. The Earth is already probably warmer than it was in medieval times. Beware the bait and switch!
Botkin argues for clear-thinking rationality in the discussion about anthropogenic climate change, against twisting the truth, as it were. We couldn’t agree more. Doctor, heal thyself.
For years the Wall Street Journal has been lying to you about the existence of global warming. It doesn’t exist, it’s a conspiracy, the satellites show it’s just urban heat islands, it’s not CO2, it’s all the sun, it’s water vapor, and on and on. Now that those arguments are losing traction, they have moved on from denying global warming’s existence to soothing you with reassurances that it ain’t gonna be such a bad thing.
Fool me once, shame on…shame on you. Fool me–you can’t get fooled again.
-George W. Bush