Global Warming and Critical Thinking

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

There is something about global warming that makes even the most credentialed academics who are on record with their devotion to critical thinking completely avoid that practice or apply it in odd ways when it comes to the alleged “greenhouse effect.” Hundreds of colleges have pledged to fight global warming and normally skeptical scholars have put their skepticism on hold when discussing the issue.

“We’ve got to solve global warming,” Dr. Lowell “Rusty” Pritchard said in a conference at the Family Research Council on May 31st. The slide show that accompanied his presentation featured the claim that “humans have caused most of the warming” “since 1950.”

Dr. Pritchard is an adjunct faculty member at Emory, where he helped to create the Environmental Studies program in 1999. Actually, a chart compiled by Harvard astrophysicist Willie Soon shows a slight warming over the past 25 years that followed a marginal cooling over the three previous decades.

Predictions of future global warming usually come from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC bases its forecasts on computer models fed with hypothetical data.

Dr. Pritchard is not deterred by the trend of forecasting based on hypothetical rather than actual data. “You can predict what my temperament is going to be next June, that I will be happy,” he said. “Between now and then I will be grumpy.”

Thus he made a comparison of his own relief at the close of the academic calendar and computerized readings of future temperatures. “Temperament is like climate; you can predict it,” he explained. “Weather you can’t predict.”

For his part, Ken Chilton of the lesser-known Lindenwood University is one of a growing army of global warming skeptics internationally who, nonetheless, may still be outnumbered in academia. “They say weather is not climate,” he noted at the FRC event. “Yes it is.”

“Climate is weather over time.” Dr. Chilton is the director of the Institute for the Study of Economics and the Environment at Lindenwood.

“How green is green enough?” he asked “How safe is safe enough?”

“We have limited resources.”

“What do you do when major costs equal marginal benefits?” he asks, claiming that the Kyoto Treaty would cost “$200 billion to one trillion dollars.”

“Environmental activists admit in their unguarded moments that it would take 30 to 40 Kyotos to reduce 60% of the emissions that it calls for.” Dr. Chilton also offered an intriguing inside insight on the rigor of academic journals, many of which have sounded the alarm on global warming.

“The editor sends out the articles to three friends of his who he knows will agree with him,” Dr. Chilton noted wryly. “That’s triple peer review.”

Drs. Pritchard and Chilton spoke at an FRC symposium that focused on the debate over global warming among evangelicals. “Millions of lives are at stake when you teach evolution in public schools but millions of physical lives are at stake with global warming,” Dr. Pritchard argues.

On the other side of the question, the Cornwall Alliance claims the guidance of “150 leaders with relevant experience, not simply well-respected Christians,” according to Dr. E. Calvin Beismer, a spokesman for the group. Conversely, “Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action” was signed off on by “eighty-six evangelical pastors, college presidents, mission heads and other leaders,” Cornwall Alliance literature proclaims.

It should be noted that not all of the 86 still endorse the “Call to Action.”

Malcolm A. Kline
is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.