Misplaced Skepticism

“I have not seen Al Gore’s movie” – Dick Cheney

Richard Muller, professor of Physics at Berkley, has a … how to put it … nice and uninteresting oped on global warming over at the Wall Street Journal: The Case against Global-Warming Skepticism. It’s not a bad read. Professor Muller is sincere and hits all the appropriate notes.

The title and thrust of the piece, however, have a mildly connotatively misleading framing. Mr. Muller claims that the data suggest there IS global warming – and perhaps there is. He then goes on to say that there is no more reason to doubt, and that skepticism is misplaced. I suggest that this misses the point – a point that he himself makes.

The skeptics, as they’re called, are far more skeptical about the cause of global warming than the existence. Mr. Muller does nothing to refute this skepticism. He actually acknowledges it and offers no countervailing theories. Yet, to read the title (or, perhaps the subtitle) one would believe the article to imply a repudiation of “the skeptics” … it does no such thing. (Nor does it appear that Mr. Muller meant to repudiate skepticism about the causes of global warmfulness.)

As for me, I am a skeptic. I have serious doubts about the causation of global warming. Or, more to the point, I have serious doubts about the impact of human activity on the temperature of the planet.

An oped to put to rest “data skeptics” is, well, uninteresting. An oped that attempts to put to rest “theory skeptics” now that would be interesting. And, I suspect, it would not work. The sides of this debate are fairly entrenched.

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