I am writing to express my disappointment with Thomas Sieger Derr's "Strange Science" (November 2004). While I agree with Professor Derr that the science on global warming is uncertain, the conclusions he draws from the data are irresponsible. Prof. Derr argues that America was right to opt out of the Kyoto protocol because it would have harmed the economy without improving the environment. While that position is defensible, Prof. Derr's failure to say anything more is not. As Christians we are supposed to be stewards of the earth. Prof. Derr proposes no meaningful alternative to Kyoto and no vision of what a Christian environmentalism might mean. Prof. Derr seems to think that there is no reason to be alarmed about the volume of pollutants we are emitting, and he blames arrogant academics, the UN, and the media for exaggerating our environmental problems. Even if one accepts his arguments, I think it reasonable to say that the excesses of our consumerist society are harming us both spiritually and environmentally and that something about our lifestyles needs to change.
Thomas Sieger Derr has pricked a festering blister within the academic and political communities. I suspect that the reaction will be harsh from those scientists whose reputations have been built upon doomsday predictions. The weight of the evidence, however, is entirely on the side of Professor Derr and his argument.
The "greenhouse effect" is a model for explaining climate change. Like all models, it makes testable predictions. One prediction is that the planet will warm in proportion to an increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide and water vapor in the atmosphere. As Prof. Derr observes, the evidence only superficially supports this prediction. He does not add, as he could have, that the margin of error involved in measuring temperature change is larger than the observed change, a fact that casts doubt upon the reality of any observed increase or decrease in temperature.
Another prediction of the greenhouse model is that temperature increases will be greatest at elevations closest to sea level and will diminish at higher elevations. This prediction is based upon the greater density of the atmosphere, as well as the higher concentration of carbon dioxide and water vapor, at lower elevations. But no such correlation has been observed.
Scarce public resources should be devoted to solving problems that the evidence suggests are real. The...