Climate change is one of the hottest topics, literally, in state and national public policy. Alarmism over human-induced climate change is one of many examples of the extreme environmental movement. Because astonishing news sells, media coverage on climate change is focused entirely on exaggerated claims of future catastrophe caused by carbon dioxide emitted from human activities. Unfortunately, misleading media reporting is making it difficult for citizens to discern fact from fiction.
Although current climate science has shown that the world has warmed approximately 0.6° Celsius (1.1° Fahrenheit) during the past century, half of this warming occurred before human carbon dioxide emissions could have been responsible. Humankind undoubtedly has some influence on the planet; however, the magnitude of that influence is certainly up for debate. Alarmists have unjustifiably asserted that human-produced carbon dioxide is the main cause for current global warming; yet carbon dioxide is not the most influential greenhouse gas, and humans only contribute a mere 3.2% of overall carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere.
The ill-informed hysteria over climate change is truly fueled by climate models of dubious quality that attempt to replicate all of the complex processes of Earth into a simple mathematical model. These models do not capture the complexities of feedbacks such as cloud formation and aerosols, and they should not be solely used to guide public policy that drastically alters our current way of life.
The truth is that the science of climate change is far from settled and there exists no consensus on the causes, effects, or future of climate change.
Despite the uncertainties, alarmists feel that we must act now in order to "save" the planet. However, there are three important questions to consider before implementing drastic public policy to "combat" climate change:
- Is the current warming atypical of Earth's history?
- How much influence does human emitted carbon dioxide have on global temperatures?
- Will global warming be a net benefit or a net cost?
If the current warming is not out of the norm, then alarmism fears and drastic action are unnecessary and may cause more harm than good. If human influence is negligible, then our attempts to "adjust" the global thermostat will be futile and undoubtedly very costly. If slightly higher temperatures would be a net benefit for humankind, then an attempt to reverse global warming would be an unwise objective.
Even if a significant hazard exists, there is no telling if public policies will be effective in altering global temperatures or if the costs of these policies outweigh the projected benefits.