SINCE Judith Curry has linked it, I suppose I should repost it:
The National Interest
A War Against Fire
A War Against Fire
By Russell Seitz
The most savage controversies are those as to which there is no good evidence either way. -Bertrand Russell
AT THE TURN of the century, a Swedish Nobel Laureate, Svante Arrhenius, laid the cornerstone of what is popularly called "the greenhouse effect"-that one of the principal gaseous products of fire, carbon dioxide, can absorb radiant warmth and trap it in the earth's atmosphere. In the hothouse environment of the popular media, this observation has blossomed into the most fiercely debated, and perhaps most widely feared, scientific phenomenon of the day.
As Science magazine observed in a March 30, 1990, editorial: "Virtually everyone, children included, is concerned about global climate change and especially about the greenhouse effect. They have learned of increases in carbon dioxide. They have been told repeatedly that temperatures will increase 9'F. Political pressure is mounting to take action regardless of cost, and to take action now."
This much is familiar to any observer within reach of the popular media. But what follows is not : "But how good is the evidence, and how likely is substantial global warming? When might it happen? Applying the customary standards of scientific inquiry, one must conclude that there has been more hype than solid facts ... Modeling of global climate is largely concentrated on examining effects of doubling the atmospheric content of greenhouse gases. As might he expected, the answers they get are functions of the models they employ. The spread is from 1. 5' to 5'C; that is, there is great uncertainty. If one examines the subject, one finds virtually unanimous agreement that the models are deficient....What have been the warming effects, if any, of anthropogenic gases? The typical answer is 0.5'C.
But the answer depends on what time interval is chosen. There was substantial increase in temperature from 1880 to 1940. However, from 1940 until the 1960s, temperatures dropped so much as to lead to predictions of a coming ice age. New, precise satellite data raise further questions about warming. From 1979 to 1988 large temperature variability was recorded, but no obvious temperature trend was noted during the 10-year period.' ...A fashionable estimate of the time when doubling of atmospheric CO, will occur is the middle of the next century. But past predictions of energy usage have been notoriously inaccurate.. What should he the national response to the above uncertainties? ... Whatever we do should he based on well-thought-out long-range goals. It should not result from a half-baked political response. '
--R.W. Spencer and J. R. Christy, "Precise Monitoring of Global Temperature Trends from Satellites , "Science 247 (March 30, 1990): 1558
Almost everything about this statement sits oddly with representations of the greenhouse effect in the popular media. Where Science speaks of conflicting studies and ambiguous results, the popularizers of the greenhouse effect deliver dire warnings with the utmost certitude. Where the one counsels a cautious political response, the other urges instant, even draconian intervention. In the name of the greenhouse effect, some environmentalists are demanding a 30 percent rollback in C02 emissions by the year 2000. They seem oblivious to the enormity of what they are demanding: a war on that most elemental of human discoveries-fire itself.
Why this enormous gap between what is known and what is urged? Why do most scientists lack conviction, where many laymen are full of passionate intensity? To answer, we might begin by way of reviewing a most important aspect of the greenhouse effect-the extent of our ignorance.
Why It's Not So Simple
THE ATMOSPHERE is among the earth's most complex dynamic systems: subtle in its chemistry, chaotic in its flow. It interacts with everything from the solar wind to the deep oceans. It is subject to insults great and small, brief and enduring, from men and meteorites, volcanoes and termites, wildfires and algal blooms-a list without end.
The scale of all this dynamism is more daunting still. Despite the burgeoning population of the earth, there's still a million tons of air per capita. That's a lot of inertia to work against, at least down here in the lower tier of the atmosphere, the troposphere (where it gets colder as you go up). But further upstairs, far above Everest, in the tenuous reaches of the stratosphere (where higher is hotter), lies only a thousandth part of that atmosphere's mass. Our individual "share" of the stratosphere weighs about as much as a ten-yard cube of water and is laced with just a bathtub full of ozone. Hence the dichotomy between concern for an ozone layer that, liquefied, would he no thicker than the ink that you're reading, and the authentic scientific confusion about our capacity rapidly to derange a lower ocean of air that's comparatively as massive as a stack of bibles, the Apocrypha included.
The atmospheric sciences presently lie in limbo between the Newtonian rigor of classical physics and the realm of the un decidible. It is an uncomfortable time. The range of sincere expert opinion broadens with the complexity of the subject at issue. And at the interdisciplinary extreme--global climate expertise itself dissolves in that most universal of solvents, the theory of complexity.
Just as mathematicians found Kurt Gödel's rigorous proof of the undecidibility of some formal propositions dismaying, there is presently no joy for atmospheric scientists in having to testify that the answers policy-makers seek are beyond the scope of the available data or the present limits of computational power. Nor is there consolation in the grim realization that their computerized global circulation models have but an ephemeral capacity to predict the future.
They can jump forward to model the climate of the distant future on a "what if" basis, but they can at best conjure up a coarsely realistic picture of global weather that lasts for a few weeks before beginning to disintegrate into gibberish. Even modeling the evolution of a single thunderhead's birth and death is an absolute tour de force of today's computer modeling.
By contrast, in reckoning what the whole ensemble of greenhouse gases is up to, we need to know about their transport and interaction with the atmosphere, sunlight, and each other over a range of time scales from microseconds to millennia. We need to measure reaction rates by the score and to ponder the quantitative meaning of feedbacks both positive and negative.
If there were world enough and time, individual atmospheric scientists might achieve a combination of physical and geometric intuition approaching certain knowledge of how the earth will respond in the long run to human intervention. But in practice such polymathy scarcely exists- scientists are reeling in shock at the information explosion they've touched off. Some causes are linked uncontroversially to eventual effects, but many phenomena, like the ozone hole, still get discovered, not predicted.
We have as well another major problem. While we have indeed driven carbon dioxide above the historical (hundred-thousand-year) range of its recorded natural fluctuation by about 20 percent (70 parts per million), we have a rather feeble understanding of the paramount greenhouse gas: water vapor. Its clouds fill a tenth of the sky. ts atmospheric concentration is so vastly greater than that of C02 as to obscure its effect. And in turn the rest of our significant effluvia-methane, chlorofluorocarbons (CFC's), and nitrogen oxides--are dwarfed by the concentration of C02 itself.
It is one thing to understand a "straight-forward" issue like the destruction of stratospheric ozone by chlorine atoms that, being atoms, just don't wear out. They can take decades to wander back to earth; and in the course of its prolonged residence in the stratosphere, each chlorine atom can slay a long succession of ozone molecules.
This is a scientific commonplace--given a pageful of photochemical reactions, and a few reams of hard data from the Antarctic, the conclusion that emerged was an uncontroversial one. High-flying U-2 and balloon-borne Instrumentation has already caught the culprit chlorine in flagrante reacting with some ultracold aerosols to bleach a hole in the polar sky.
So out of a growing scientific consensus, the 1987 Montreal Convention on the Reduction of Chemical Emissions was convened, and from it came an international protocol on reducing the release of chemicals that can loft long-lived chlorine into the sky. Ameliorating the problem of CFCs was relatively easy-the bill will come to only a few tens of billions of dollars, and the uncertainty factor was resolved to the point of sensible political engagement by" only' a decade of research. Had CFC emissions continued unabated into he next century, they might have grown into a global problem. The existing local one will likely last for generations. But the Greenhouse Effect is a much rougher customer.
Tracking the Invisible Man
T0 BEGIN WITH, we're wrestling with not just a dilemma, but the Invisible Man. The temperature records of the last century and a half are by no means geographically uniform and meticulous in their accuracy. Even today's dense grid of meteorological observations is generally biased toward the land and troubled by the self-heating nature of urban areas. Science cannot offer a firm consensus without uncontroversial data, and the half-degree rise of the last century is neither continuous in its course nor a subject of unquestioned belief.
In recent years, three separate and significantly different scientific accounts of the same century-long record of "average" global temperatures, each peer-reviewed and each with its own set of statistical arguments in justification, have been published. They point up, down, and sideways. This is not the dismissal of a century of data, but rather a caution-the warming trend can only he proved by the data, not by a show of hands. The C02 is there, but has the atmosphere begun to notice?
Some say they are 99 percent sure they can perceive it in the data; some say those who say that are completely out of scientific bounds. Others say they see nothing, and many more that they just can't tell-both nature's static-ridden transmission and science's still-crude receivers make the message far from plain. "What bothers a lot of us is, " one modeler remarked, "telling Congress things we are reluctant to say ourselves." Wittgenstein put it better: "Whereof we do not know, thereof we cannot speak."
As a window for laymen to peer through, Global Change and Our Common Future, published in 1989 by National Academy Press, affords a startling contrast. At one end of the spectrum lies the rhetoric of uncertainty that dominates the hard sciences in the study of global change.
It is exemplified by the admission that it will take decades for a clear greenhouse signal to emerge from the noise of climatic variation-witness the dust-bowl drought of the 1930s and the abnormally high Great Lakes water levels of the 1980s-and by the confession that it will take 500 times more computer power to realistically model the course of the quarter-century to come. As one participant in the forum, which produced Global Change, J.D. Mahlman, noted, "Until such decadal-scale fluctuations are understood or are predictable, it will remain difficult to diagnose the specific signals of permanent climate change as they evolve. "
At the other end of the spectrum lies the rhetoric of extinction- life scientists confidently predicting the climate-driven disappearance of species over the next fifty years. But the objects of their acute concern are the Norwegian mugwort, the Tibetan dung beetle (Aphodius hoderi), and other struggling refugees from the last Ice Age.
By the volume's end, it is clear on which side Senator Albert Gore has enlisted: "My purpose is to sound an alarm, loudly and clearly, of imminent and grave danger, and to describe a strategy for confronting this crisis ... the horrendous prospect of an ecological collapse. " He delivered himself of this fine sermon on May Day 1989-the day before the forum started. So much for uncertainty.
No one doubts the existence of a dual trend-CO2 is surely rising. And so must its effect on the trapping and transfer of solar warmth between earth and sky. But global surface temperatures have not risen in lock-step with that rise. Given the ubiquity of water vapor, deciding this issue is rather like asking a panel of tasters to savor the difference between two big urns full of cafe au lait. One urn contains five lumps of sugar, the other six-not an easy matter, except to a diabetic.
Neither sugar's sweetness nor its palpable metabolic effect is at issue. But it's not an easy call. So too, scientific perceptions of both where the world is, and the timing of its rendezvous with climatic change, are still in part very much a matter of taste . As is the question of whether scientists from disciplines unrelated to the atmosphere should lend their authority to the promotion of policies that might not prevail on the objective strength-or empirical weakness--of the available evidence. It is a prerogative of the manifesto-writing classes to dragoon as many members as they can of the National Academy of Sciences into signing them (a task too often easier than getting them read).
But the resulting embarras de richesses can he a problem when the signatories outnumber the real experts in the field. The Union of Concerned Scientists got a majority of the membership to sign a declaration calling for a substantial reduction in global C02 emissions by the year 2000. Some members (notably MIT atmospheric physicist Richard Lindzen) were appalled and said so, but they failed to make it onto prime-time television.
Vexation and Videotape
THE MOST important arbiters of the environmental policy debate have accordingly become the public television producers whose products bear the Academy's imprimatur when the credits roll. They have tools at their disposal to amplify and mute at will the discordant voices within the Academy. In a fair fight, a satellite or a supercomputer doesn't stand a chance against the editing and special effects studios of New York and Hollywood.
So in terms of political clout, the real centers of power have moved from the locales of computer climate modeling, to the public television stations of Pittsburgh and Boston. We are being shown the planet's future by design, in color and in stereo. Yet the production designers seldom condescend to listen to scientists arguing, calculating, and changing their minds. Intelligibility, not content, is the criterion the producers value most. Their goal is to fossilize a script on videotape, not to question the agenda it may compel, when it is reiterated like a commercial on good gray public television.
I have yet to see a computer climate model whose screen is framed by a proscenium, with a data display set to Vivaldi's Four Seasons and an explanatory voice-over worthy of a network anchor. Yet in watching some of the most bizarre examples of video hype on climate change (e.g., "The Atmosphere in Crisis" episode of PBS' The Infinite Voyage), even as my mind is repelled by what is being said, the hair on my head rises together with the rest of the audience's when the clouds part and the music blares. This is semantic aggression run riot-sucking the audience into an hallucinatory Charybdis of swirling images of Gaia profaned.
Mere facts cannot prevail over the raw semiotic power of so excellent a medium, even when its masters may be leading us into a future that may be beyond economic repair-a future in which facts don't count and perceptions of scientific authority can take precedence over mere evidence. I often find myself exhorting atmospheric scientists to concern themselves with this phenomenal mastery, horn of nature television of National Geographic caliber mated with prose worthy of Jonathan Schell. But they just smile ruefully-once was enough-they've seen the genre. In it, computer animated conceptions of Venus's infernal surface vie with stark visions of all-but-airless Mars as alien stand-ins for earthly greenhouse warming and ozone depiction.
Television has little room for doubting scientists. They accordingly know the score. Who, for the sake of skepticism or the honor of the scientific profession, wants to go down in flames like Ceaucescu-locked in the sights of a hostile videocam? The TV crew has got the Maxim gun, and we do not.
So, riding on a wave of videotape, the usage "global warming" is entering the vernacular in the present tense as a mock synonym for "climate change." If only the public read and knew more, and heard and saw less; if only more scientists (and fewer organizations purporting to represent them) endeavored to inform the electorate's considerable curiosity-then we might face better odds in protecting objectivity from the heat of the greenhouse debate.
A DISTURBING reality confronts us: A the deliberate creation of a double standard, with one set of facts for internal scientific discourse and another for public consumption. Many who have contributed to it justify their actions by referring to their past diffidence which may have delayed action on ozone depiction. And agonized by the possibility of history repeating itself On C02, some have cast objectivity aside and openly made common cause with the eco-politicians. But this pathology of the sociology of science is not without a remedy. For the power of television to project unchallengeable images of environmental quality, real or imagined, is utterly undone when the public achieves even a minimal level of quantitative understanding; numeracy and skepticism go hand in hand.
In the absence of numbers candidly conveyed, it is all too easy to transmute supposedly quantitative scientific "facts" about the present into a qualitative legal fiction about the future. Popular coverage of the atmospheric sciences tends to neglect the enormous range of concentration (or dilution) of the various gases involved. That concentration ranges from almost 1 percent by volume in the case of water vapor, to hundreds of parts per million carbon dioxide, to 1 part per million methane, to parts per billion-total chlorine. And, finally, down to hundreds of parts per trillion-the individual CFCs.
This eight-order-of-magnitude range lends itself to rhetorical abuse on both sides of the debate. So beware equally of headlines proclaiming a fourfold increase in stratospheric chlorine (it has-from 1 part per billion in 1960 to nearly 4 parts per billion in 1990) or dismissing carbon dioxide with a blasé "Greenhouse a Humbug-C02 up by less than 1/100th of 1 percent!"
This, like "Stratosphere in Crisis--Chlorine Quadruples," may respectively amuse energy lobbyists and substitute refrigerant salesmen, but it profoundly misrepresents the central problem posed by the interaction of climate and technical civilization.
That problem is deep time--deep not on a geological scale, but relative to the time-scale of politics. It has taken humanity ten generations to push C02 up by a bare 70 parts per million. The previous million years of using fire failed to budge it from its ambient range of fluctuation. The fossil record speaks plainly; as deep as we can drill into ancient ice, there is a clear (but how causal?) linkage of C02 and global climate. What wildfires failed to accomplish in the eons before human evolution, the Industrial Revolution has delivered-the acceleration of the history of our interaction with the very air-a bona fide change in the second most important greenhouse gas. And equally disturbing, it has delivered that fearsome engine of change, the chainsaw.
The drying effect of not-so-rapid deforestation on the climate of islands was noted by Columbus half a millennium ago. So there is nothing subtle or uncertain about regional climate change in Brazil-strip the land of a rainforest that literally makes rain, and suffer sunstroke in the dust .I wish C02-induced climate change were as simple. Clearly, a sharp-toothed carnivore is on the prowl. But we've yet to see a full-grown specimen. Are we dealing with Snoopy or Cerberus?
It's hard to tell- it's only just a foundling pup, and the question of its diet remains to he wrestled with-it might grow into either. But grow it will-slowly, and for a long while undetectably. One of these centuries, we're going to have a real dog in our front yard. But what kind? And when? An interdisciplinary consensus on the magnitude of the "greenhouse effect" and its impact on sea levels in the next century won't come cheap-or soon.
Nobody knows if the synergy of all the ill-defined feedbacks will coincide with high-side outcomes of the many inputs that global systems models require. So some will invoke the presumed prudence of assuming the worst. For others, there is Murphy's Second Law: if everything must go wrong, don't bet on it.
Changing the weather on a local scale is categorically a different matter than transforming the climate of the globe. The vast reservoir of CO, locked up in limestone dwarfs the atmosphere's burden by many, many thousandfold. The geological unleashing of a fraction of it in the days of the dinosaurs created an atmosphere far richer in C02 (and some 5 C warmer) than that of today. The tricky question-how much fossil fuel must be burned to do likewise--has a brief answer: all of it.
The immensity of the world's reservoirs of coal (like limestone) teaches the disparity of scale between what humanity can do in a single generation and what goes on in the course of geological time. We are but builders of pyramids and hewers of wood, not architects of mountains or choreographers of continental drift. For all the leverage our technology affords us, we are a species that fits into a single cubic kilometer,
with room to spare. In light of the minimalism its editors advocate, the motto of the Whole Earth Catalogue-
with room to spare. In light of the minimalism its editors advocate, the motto of the Whole Earth Catalogue-
"We are as gods, so we'd better get good at it!"-
is stunningly hubristic. But what of the lamentations of those who decry what mischief we can and do see?
Turning Up the Heat
THEREIN LIES the political paradox: what we can perceive, we can endeavor to put right. That scar on the Soviet landscape, the vanishing Aral Sea, bears witness to the deranged power of central planning like the mark of Cain. Yet, the diverted rivers that caused it can he swiftly returned to their courses. But the action of the invisible hand of energy economics upon the world is imperceptibly slow.
Bear in mind the beaver. Without benefit of godhood, its mindless industry acting over eons has transformed the Canadian landscape into a wilderness of lakes. Likewise ,creating a brave new world with an atmosphere transformed by the total depiction of fossil fuel is a labor of generations yet unborn.
We cannot govern the actions of posterity, but we can teach by our example. We can plant trees and stay the hand of mindless deforestation. We can value the richness of biological diversity and recognize the intellectual poverty of sullen indifference to the majesty of nature. But any pretension to oracular foreknowledge of how, over the next quarter century, the earth will respond to our presence lies in the realm not of science but of intuition.
And just as surely, any denial that unrestrained C02 injection can transform the world within five generations lies beyond the pale of both-especially if China's vast coal reserves are exploited at a per capita rate approaching that of the U. S. today.
Politically, I counsel constant vigilance. The salvation of the world affords an enchanting pretext for those predisposed to societal intervention . They have already raised the abolitionist banner, pointing to the prospect of Bangladesh awash and water skiing down the Mall to the Capitol-a prospect no more likely in my lifetime than nothing happening.
My personal expectation-and I reserve the right to change my mind if the evidence does-runs more to centimeter-per-year rises in sea level and a lot more climatic variability than actual temperature rise in that lifetime.
There is a precedent of sorts, at the periphery of human history, of a temperature change fully as large (5 to 6'C) as even the most pessimistic estimates for the century to come. It happened an eon ago, and its onset was so sudden as to raise the contemporary question of climate responding in an abruptly nonlinear way to humanity's growth. Yet mankind muddled through the last Ice Age's death throes and has done rather well since, despite a 100-meter rise in sea levels!
But unlike the regression of the glaciers, a reversal of the course of the Industrial Revolution is not to be meekly borne. An examination of the history of energy policy over the last two decades reveals some unexpected and paradoxical trends in the relationship between environmental awareness and actual emissions of the greenhouse gases.
In the aftermath of the Arab oil shock of the early 1970s, computer models not of climate, but of resource depiction and energy costs, played a major role in determining energy policies. The most egregious projections, immortalized in textbooks by neo-Malthusians like Paul Ehrlich, had the United States running out of natural gas in 1989. Yet they inspired the National Academy of Sciences to commission a massive study with conclusions (promote energy efficiencies and develop coal and oil shale resources) reflecting a belief in continuous energy cost inflation.
At the turn of the century, a coal-fired electrical station that was 8 percent efficient was a state-of-the-art wonder. A solid half-century of progress followed, at a rate of better than a half-percent a year. By the 1960s, such facilities had achieved new-plant efficiencies of over 40 percent. Back then, coal was literally dirt-cheap. But with the coming of the 1974 oil shock, it was assumed that as energy costs soared into the 1980s, market forces would compel heroic efforts to raise the thermodynamic efficiency of such plants to the limits of high technology-a process fuel cost savings would amply justify.
But the cost projections were wrong, and we got the Oil Glut instead. And, courtesy of Earth Day and its aftermath, a draconian regime of sulfur emission control. The enforcement of that regime did two things quite unrelated to acid rain. Installing the control systems reduced the efficiency of existing plants by five whole percentage points, and defunded the development of the next generation of more efficient combustion technology and power-generation systems.
So we are entering the 1990s about 15 % worse off in terms of C02 emission per kilowatt-hour than we were a generation ago. This is pretty close to a worst-case scenario whatever one's view on the near-term effect of greenhouse emissions: the largest single term in America's fuel equation-coal-fired electricity-has been running retrograde to progress in materials science and combustion technology for twenty years. Yet both here and in Japan, science has lately begun to deliver the Right Stuff for raising its efficiency-materials able to withstand higher temperatures and stresses for longer times. But they are being applied more to aircraft engines than to power stations.
Together with the realization that energy costs do show a shallow but steady inflationary trend, this suggests that we need not he idle while awaiting newer and more elegant generations of climate models and nuclear technology-or that Holy Grail of applied physics, hot fusion that truly emulates the power of the sun.
So there may indeed be a solution to the profound uncertainty that engenders reluctance when we are offered insurance against C02 bracket creep-at a trillion-dollar premium. Consider a double Scots Verdict: even if the verdict on global warming is not proven, we could still save a bundle of hard cash if a canny enough energy policy can be found.
Rather than mandating reduced consumption of fuel and its Luddite consequences here and in the growing industrial sector of the Third World, let us consider getting more Kilowatt-hours by literally turning up the heat. A policy that promotes raising the minimum thermodynamic efficiency of hotter-running fuel-burning power stations by say 8 percent (to around 44 percent) by the year 2000 might be paid for by the very fuel it saves. Neither we nor our posterity can object to saving ourselves some cash-thrift has as few enemies as prodigality in fuel consumption has friends outside OPEC. And should the presently hung scientific jury reach a Scots Verdict in the interminable trial of Earth v. The Greenhouse Gases, little macro-economic mischief will have been done.
But should nature follow art, and oblige the environmental televangelists with an unambiguously toasty third millennium -- when I have spoken of uncertainty in this essay, I have meant what I said-- the retrospective imposition of such a policy regime will he a source of some satisfaction to all, save hardened libertarians. But how will stewardship be redefined in the longer term-the century or so it would take to double C02 at the present pace?
OPTIONS DO exist. Given alternatives to power derived from fossil fuels, the whole fuel cycle can he redefined, with hydrogen replacing carbon. There is another major (and revolutionary) technical fix: we can liquefy air and burn fuels in pure oxygen, and condense the resulting C02 with the frigid liquid nitrogen that is the by-product of that liquefaction. But both hydrogen fuels and systems that recaptureCO2 are (like solar and wind power) dauntingly expensive.
So even today, in the midst of climatic ambiguity, even the most chlorophyllic environmentalists are having stirrings of conscience about their adamant refusal to acknowledge an unambiguous fact of physics.
As surely as C02 can absorb the warming infrared, the strong nuclear force is millions of times stronger than the chemical bonds that are burst in unleashing heat from coal. Rather than embarking down the soft energy path that leads back beyond the Industrial Revolution's roots into a future dark age, the Greens should pause to consider the effect on the environment of renewing and perfecting our mastery of the atom's pale fire.
The prospect of nuclear power's second coming presents environmental millenarians with a real source of cognitive dissonance: it is they who are the problem. It is their delaying tactics that wasted years and squandered billions at Seabrook and elsewhere. And it is their past indifference to the environmental consequences of the fossil fuel that the reactor might have saved that makes a mockery of their present rhetoric.
The sooner their paranoia about nuclear waste disposal is laid to rest alongside that waste itself-deep in the and badlands, well secured, and as soon as the criminal mischief of Chernobyl is buried under the foundations of a reactor both safe and sanely contained, the sooner will civilization cease to he obliged to make a chemical waste repository of the sky.
So let all summon the courage to be kind to our environment. For if the bulk of the arsenals of Armageddon are indeed fading into historical irrelevancy, what better fate for them than to disappear as smokeless fuel into newer and more tractable nuclear furnaces? Better they light the world for a generation than heat it for a baleful instant.
And better too that cooler heads than those that dominate the hot media prevail in informing the Congress and the electorate. For this much is certain: science needs to see the illumination of today's hot-tempered environmental policy debates. If light is to prevail over heat, many will have to simmer down and reflect they have lately been doing or counseling.
If candor prevails, climate professionals will realize once again that laymen too can recognize cant when they hear it and cartoons when they see them. Scientists would do well to recall that insight's inevitable corollary-the neutrality of scientific institutions must first exist if it is to he respected.
For as the thaw continues in the Eastern bloc, we see emerging from beneath the glacial recent facade of science in the Soviet Union grim evidence of what happened when science was last subordinated to the true believer's agendas for changing the world.
Whether the trial of Galileo or the tyranny of Lysenko, at all times and in all polities, science politicized is science betrayed.
Russell Seitz, from 1985 to 1989, was a visiting scholar and associate of Harvard University's Center for International Affairs. His writings have appeared in Science, Nature, and Technology Review as well as the Economist, Foreign Affairs, the New York Times, and The National Interest
'Professor Alan Robock, University of Maryland, quoted in Science 244 June 2, 1989): 1041-43.]
'To add to the confusion, the CFCs are roughly 1000 times more efficient than carbon dioxide as absorbers of infrared, making them significant greenhouse gases and major agents of stratospheric cooling: some scientists fear the Invisible Man might he hiding in his Doppelganger's shadow! While stratospheric cooling is perhaps the least controversial of the effects at issue, it is conspicuously unpublicized.
'I am indebted for both Columbus's observation about Caribbean deforestation and the opening quote to a speech delivered by Presidential Science Adviser D. Allan Bromley before the National Press Club in April 1990.