Steve Forbes on Global Warming

Steve Forbes, the editor-in-chief of Forbes and former presidential candidate has a loud voice and a large pulpit to speak from: the magazine that bears the names of his ancestors. In his lead column, Fact & Comment, he routinely touts the benefits of market economies, conservative policies, and the capitalist system. With his access to world-class economists and scholars on the subject, I am no match myself to argue with him on the details of economic policy. I simply do not have the training or detailed background to evaluate his arguments. Most of the time they sound convincing.

However, in the May 7, 2012 issue of Forbes, on page 12 of Fact & Comment, in the section Bearable Truths, he speaks with the same authority and confidence and makes an implied argument that global warming is not man-made or man-influenced. This topic, however, is not economics, and just reading it with a mildly critical eye exposes severe logical fallacies and clearly shows that Steve Forbes does not respect us enough to appreciate that we can think on our own.  By doing this he puts himself on the same level as all the loud knuckleheads that are trying to put “creation science” into our public school classrooms and want to impede scientific progress in our country by forcing their medieval religious value systems on the rest of us.

This single article of Forbes has me now doubting his authority and intellectual capacity on every other subject he has written about so eloquently. Does Forbes know what he is doing, or is he just feeding sound bites to his ideological followers and hoping they are dumb enough to lap them up?

Here is Forbes’ column, Bearable Truths:

A couple of new studies have blown yet another hole in the notion of man-made global warming. Remember those stories a few years ago about how global warming was melting the ice caps, thereby putting polar bears on the road to extinction? Well, a new survey from the government of Nunavut, a Canadian territory, has found that the number of polar bears in northern Canada is flourishing and may be the highest it’s ever been.  That census confirms other findings that polar bears are thriving.

Another inconvenient study, from a group of Syracuse University scientists, has come out showing that during medieval times other parts of the Earth – not just Europe – heated up and then cooled down naturally for what turned out to be a mini ice age (1350 – 1800). Obviously, the world of 1,000 years ago didn’t have SUVs and coal-fired power plants to account for the warm weather.

So what is wrong with this?

Environmentalists are obviously contributing to the global warming debate by exposing the plight of flora and fauna resulting from global warming. Polar bears may or may not be immediately challenged by global warming. There are many studies that the melting of the northern polar caps would wipe out the habitat of the polar bears. This new “survey” by Nunavut shows that polar bears are flourishing in Nunavut now. That does not mean that the disappearance of the northern ice caps one, two or three decades from now would not still extinct the polar bears.

Polar bears thriving or not, polar bears being threatened or not, studies showing polar bears flourishing or not, none of it has anything at all to do with the notion that global warming right now is man-made. The two issues are unconnected and connecting them to make this argument is intellectually insulting.

The entire controversy of global warming, man-made or not, has  deep implications on our society, and making it sound like it’s about the survival of polar bears as a species is patronizing.

Scientists at Syracuse University showed that in medieval times other parts of the Earth heated up. What’s this “not just Europe” about? Did somebody argue just Europe heated up?

Just because the world cooled down from 1350 to 1800, and there was a mini ice age during those centuries, does not have anything to do with whether the current global warming trend is man-made. There were obviously external factors that caused the world to warm up before 1350, and then cool down again. The Earth has warmed up massively and cooled down massively over the eons and that will not stop. Eventually, global warming of the non-man-made kind will evaporate all the oceans, kill all life and burn the Earth to a cinder ball. There are natural cycles of warm and cold. Forbes’ implied argument that just because Syracuse University scientists have studied medieval temperatures and showing a global warming without the benefit of SUVs and coal-burning does not prove or even indicate anything about the origin of today’s global warming. The two facts are unrelated and this argument is intellectually insulting.

Forbes says nothing about the number of studies showing evidence of the current global warming trends being man-made, versus the number of studies showing the opposite.

Forbes references “scientists” and “government surveys” in Nunavut, but he does not provide any sources that would enable us to actually check his facts further.

These new studies have not blown a hole in the notion of man-made global warming. They have not even made a pinprick. These studies say not a word about whether global warming is man-made.


3 thoughts on “Steve Forbes on Global Warming

  1. klem

    “Forbes says nothing about the number of studies showing evidence of the current global warming trends being man-made…”

    However none of the studies rule out natural global warming, they simply can’t.

    1. Of course, they can’t.

      Interestingly, the most powerful argument for natural global warming is the contribution of water vapor, which is actually some 90% (plus or minus a few) of all greenhouse gases, and water vapor is completely outside our ability to affect in any way. So the 10% that is left after water vapor is the only thing humans do have impact on.

      As you might surmise, I am not a firebreather favoring man-made global warming.

      However, I am a firebreather about being condescended to – like in the Forbes article, no matter what side the argument is on.

  2. Nemo

    Why no hole in your conviction? Perhaps because you don’t want to see that there IS another side and you may be wrong? By the way, articles seldom come with footnotes the way you put in your term paper. Where are yours?

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