POLITICS

Michael Barone: The Economist's Emily Litella moment on global warming

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Michael Barone

Emily Litella was the Saturday Night Live character who would spin out lengthy theories based on her misunderstanding of a word or phrase and, when her error was pointed out, would respond crisply, “Never mind.”

The Economist, which I read and revere and for which I have on occasion written (they assign reviews of books by Economist writers to outsiders), has long been convinced that we on earth face a crisis caused by man-made global warming. Now the newspaper (as it refers to itself) seems to have reached an Emily Litella moment.

“Global warming slows down,” reads a line on the cover. It references a long story in the science and technology section headlined, “A sensitive matter.”

The writer begins by noting something global warming “skeptics” and “deniers” have been pointing to for some time: “Over the past 15 years air temperatures at the Earth’s surface have been flat while greenhouse-gas emissions have continued to soar.”

In other words, the regnant global warming alarmist theory has not accurately predicted the last 15 years of climate.

The Economist thinks that there is still reason to be worried about global warming, but a whole lot less worried than it used to think. I have been arguing that we just don’t know nearly as much as we need to know to have the confidence in predictions justifying measures that drastically reduce economic growth – and that a lot of people in the global warming industry have been hyping the dangers.

In its penultimate sentence the Economist writer seems to agree with the first of these propositions: “Despite all the work on climate sensitivity, no one really knows how the climate would react if temperatures rose by as much as 4 degrees Celsius.”

That’s at least reminiscent of Emily Litella.

 

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