I do not agree with Mr Gingrich’s comments.
I will take the second part of his comments
first – “the most you can argue for, I think, is more research.”
Although there are certainly
aspects of the climate system that we don’t understand fully, and which probably do merit
additional research, we have a very sound understanding of the fundamental science of
climate change at this point, such that “more research” is really not what we need at this
point, in my opinion.
We already know that the planet is warming; we already know with
pretty good precision how much it has warmed in the past 100–150 years; and the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) wrote in 2007 that “most of the
observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20
to the observed increase in anthropogenic GHG concentrations.”
It is true that we are not yet
certain what the
of global warming will be (e.g., how much warmer will it get by
2100, how much will the sea level rise, how strong will hurricanes get, how will food supply
be affected), so I suppose one could plausibly argue that we oughtn’t take action against
global warming until we are more certain that the likely effects are severe enough to warrant
Hence, one could possibly agree with Mr Gingrich that more research is called for until
we are more certain that action is warranted. However, I disagree with this advice, and I
would not advise delaying action until we obtain such certainty, because delaying until we
are certain is most likely the same as delaying until it is too late.
If we are going to limit
future warming to, say, 2 °C or 3 °C, then we must act immediately to drastically reduce our
emissions of greenhouse gases.
Therefore – getting back to the first part of Mr Gingrich’s quote – I would say that there
evidence to justify a large government centralized response, and quickly.
For sure there is
evidence (surface thermometer record, glacier record, arctic sea ice record) that shows the
planet is warming; the question is, does this evidence argue for centralized government
I would say yes.
The IPCC noted (2007, p 48) that “overall it is expected that
benefits will be outweighed by the negative health effects of rising temperatures,” which
suggests that climate change is, on the whole, bad for us.
But does that mean we should act
to stop it?
Again, I would say yes.
The National Research Council recommended (2011, p
59) that “In order to minimize the risks of climate change and its adverse impacts, the nation
should reduce greenhouse gas emissions substantially over the coming decades…it is the
committee’s judgment that the most effective strategy is to begin ramping down emissions as
soon as possible.”
Dessler and Parson also noted (2010, p 120) that “Relying on adaptation
while doing nothing to slow or stop climate change would mean putting no limits on how
much change we must adapt to – gambling that we can effectively, and at acceptable cost,