At The Detroit News op-ed page we allow for debate more than you’ll see at a lot of opinion pages. You don’t have to agree with us and we don’t have to agree with you. You just have to argue your side to the best of your ability.
Over the last two weeks we’ve run two columns on climate change, one by Detroit News columnist and WJR radio host (and voice of U-M football) Frank Beckmann, taking the skeptical position; the other by University of Michigan professors Donald Scavia and Knute Nadelhoffer, argues that yeah, climate change is real and we should be talking about how to resolve it, not debating its very existence.
The pieces intersect at the climate change debate, but go their own separate ways from there.
Beckmann is more worried, in my opinion, about preventing the man-made and government-proffered solutions to climate change than in whether climate change is a man-made phenomenon. Beckmann is a skeptic on most attempts to give the government a bigger role in our lives.
And I think that’s the real debate we’re having here: Even if climate change is real, and even if man caused it, do you want higher energy bills to pay for the solution? Do you want energy companies writing energy policy (to the extent they don’t already)? Do we have any reason to believe that government-proposed and mandated solutions will actually fix the problem? Or will they just enrich a few companies and cost the rest of us money better spent buying homes, paying back student loans and paying already-too-high utility bills?
There may be no such thing as enough “evidence” to convince Beckmann, myself or a good many people who may even believe in climate change that the costs of addressing it via public policy are worth it. However true it is or isn’t.
The world’s climate is not responsible for “raging fires,” there has not been a unique “crippling drought” — ever heard of the dust bowl, Mr. President? — and we have not witnessed “more powerful storms.”
While Obama’s traditional media sycophants heralded 2012 as the “warmest year on record” in the United States (ignoring that environmentalists at NASA unilaterally reduced warmer temperature readings from the 1930s), hundreds of deaths are being reported because of the arctic cold weather being experienced in Asia, Europe and the United States.
The recent northeast hurricane, known as Superstorm Sandy, sadly claimed 125 lives, but that number was far lower than the death tolls from New England hurricanes in 1938, 1944, 1955 and 1960.
But severe winter weather, which can’t be blamed on man-made global warming, has been even more deadly.
More than 100 have died because of the cold in Poland, 190 have lost their lives in Russia, dozens more have lost their lives from the frigid weather in Belarus and the Ukraine, 17 have died in Afghan refugee camps, while other deaths have been reported in the U.K., Spain, Portugal and France (including three soldiers bound for Mali).
Additionally, six have died in the Chicago area while other deaths have been blamed on the cold weather in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Scavia and Nadelhoffer:
Historical global warming is incontrovertible and the rate of warming in the Midwest has, in fact, accelerated in recent decades. Between 1900 and 2010, the average Midwest air temperature increased by more than 1 degree Fahrenheit. But it increased twice as fast between 1950 and 2010 and three times as fast between 1980 and 2010. The length of time that ice covers our lakes is decreasing. Winter snow-cover seasons are shorter and interrupted by thaw events.
Midwestern temperatures are projected to increase by 3.8 degrees by the middle of the century for a scenario with substantial emissions reductions and by 4.9 degrees for the current high-emissions scenario. By the end of the century, they are projected to increase by 5.6 degrees for the low-emissions scenario and by 8.5 degrees for the high-emissions scenario. In other words, our climate will continue to warm, and much more than we have already experienced.
Past that, extreme rainfall, floods and heat waves have become more common over the last century. Those trends are expected to continue, causing erosion and degrading air and water quality, with negative impacts on transportation, agriculture, human health and infrastructure. Longer growing seasons and rising carbon dioxide levels could increase some crop yields in the short term, though those gains will be increasingly offset by more frequent heat waves, droughts and floods.
A warming climate will likely worsen existing problems in the Great Lakes, including changes in fish species, more invasive species, declining beach health and more frequent harmful algae blooms. Denying evidence for human-caused climate change and casting belief in human-caused climate change as a partisan issue, as practiced by some uninformed voices, does us all a disservice.
Sticking to the debate on whether climate change is real, which side did you find more convincing? Do you find yourself more skeptical or less?
And if you do believe climate change is real, how much are you willing to pay to fix it?
Compare them side by side. And decide.
Frank Beckmann: With Obama, it’s four more years of climate change hysteria
Scavia and Nadelhoffer: The evidence for climate change is overwhelming