Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is extremely likely (greater than 95 percent probability) to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th century and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over decades to millennia.
Earth-orbiting satellites and other technological advances have enabled scientists to see the big picture, collecting many different types of information about our planet and its climate on a global scale. This body of data, collected over many years, reveals the signals of a changing climate.
The heat-trapping nature of carbon dioxide and other gases was demonstrated in the mid-19th century. Their ability to affect the transfer of infrared energy through the atmosphere is the scientific basis of many instruments flown by NASA. There is no question that increased levels of greenhouse gases must cause the Earth to warm in response.
28 / Regulation / SUMMER 2019
Climate scientists have long pressed a cli-
mate-change narrative of self-perpetuating
and potentially irreversible global warm-
ing. If the science and economics of cli-
mate change are right, this narrative leaves
precious little hope for the adoption, in
a timely manner, of corrective emission-
abatement policies on a global scale.
Indeed, this policy trap—call it the “Climate-Change Dooms-
day Trap”—affords less hope of long-term survival for humanity
than a person chest-high in quicksand, miles from the nearest
town and without a cellphone. Moreover, just as struggling in
quicksand can worsen a person’s fate, so can climate scientists’
dire warnings of a coming environmental Armageddon make its
advent self-realizing and even more binding. The human race’s
best hope of survival is that climate science and/or the economics
of global warming have been exaggerated or are wrong in some
fundamental and unrecognized way—which could be a long shot
at best, given the binding economics of climate change.
The message for humanity hidden in the arcane details of the
climate science narrative is one largely unacknowledged by climate
scientists themselves: “Brace for doomsday.”
CLIMATE SCIENTISTS’ GLOBAL
Climate scientists start their case for abatement of greenhouse-gas
emissions by establishing the chemical tie between those emis-
sions and global warming. They then show that since the late
19th century, human-emitted greenhouse gases—mainly carbon
dioxide (CO2)—have continued on a steep upward trend. To date,
R ICHARD B. MCKENZIE is the Walter B. Gerken Professor of Enterprise and Society
in the Merage School of Business at the University of California, Irvine (emeritus).
His latest book is A Brain-Focused Foundation for Economic Science (Palgrave Macmillan,
Given human nature, claims of a looming Armageddon are likely to move
humanity closer to an environmental tipping point.
✒ BY RICHARD B. McKENZIE