06/23/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Take the Academics out of Climate Change

When it comes to Climate Change (C2), I am bipolar. There are data that ecological change is occurring, but the emphasis on mathematical models to predict the future is at this point counterproductive. Deservedly, academics, by stifling debate and ignoring any semblance of academic behavior, have become (see WSJ 4/22/2010 Lindzen: Climate Science In Denial) the target for those against C2. Opponents of C2 use the imprecision of these models and poor academic behavior to attack C2 in the same way advocates of smoking belittled the science of cigarette smoke.

Historically, environmental costs were hidden taxes on consumers for benefits voters could identify in their own lives (e.g., smog, water pollution, children's health). C2 costs are pocket book issues (e.g., higher electricity prices and total automobile costs). Voters don't like increased costs for issues they do not feel affect them. Healthcare certainly proved this point!

It is time to change the debate to issues that affect voters. Here are five reasons to support either C2 or controls that will ultimately benefit C2:
  1. We hurt US Industry when we ignore C2. US-based global companies must operate in a world where C2 is part of the license to produce.
  2. C2 is important to our foreign policy. C2 is a global issue, not a next door problem. The world is watching what we do and judging our behavior as a global citizen. (see Thomas Friedman's article Everybody Loves a Winner).
  3. Stop the coming water wars. There is a world water shortage associated with shrunken glaciers, droughts, and heat (see "Water" National Geographic). Countries will go to war for water and unfortunately, we are the Google of War. Google knows they are financially involved in 60% of whatever happens on the web. The US is in the same position for world conflicts.
  4. Reduce coal emissions. All carbons are not created equal. The simple fact is that coal is dangerous to mine, pollutes our air and streams with particulates and other pollutants including mercury. Every state, except Alaska and Hawaii has mercury stream advisories. In addition, the Harvard School of Public Health has decades of materials on the health and economic impact from coal-fired electric generation (e.g., increased asthma rates, emergency room visits).
  5. Stop our dependence on foreign oil. The300B per year we spend on imported oil ( helps make us a debtor nation. Look at the hidden costs to our citizens in money and lives to protect our foreign sources of oil around the world. Produce oil in the US and sell it to the world.
Academics can run their models, but I know that these five items are true. If these are not enough, I embrace the cornerstone of environmental actions, the Precautionary Principle: Better safe than sorry (or can we afford to wait if the models are right!). I feel comfortable in this decision by looking at the anecdotal evidence for C2: (1) seed packs now let me grow plants in DC that 20 years ago could only grow in Atlanta; (2) Icebergs are melting and potentially raising ocean levels; (3) glaciers are melting; and (4) Lake Mead is going away.