A Reader’s Response

A friend sent this response to my question about inviting Dr. Ball to UCC:

1) It’s not a question of libertarianism. Eg at Columbia : Columbiacould have invited any one of almost 200 heads of state to speak …but there aren’t that many school days in term. School time is a scarce resource, there’s no obligation to extend it to everyone, and Ihope that UCC won’t feel obliged to eg invite the boycott Israel people because after all they have a point of view too. Schools have educational missions, and invitations should be based on that mission.

2) In this case, however, we are close to the core of the school’s mission. Here is an important public policy debate that rests on technical knowledge, not only scientific but also economic, that students cannot possibly begin to comprehend all by themselves. It’s actually MIS-educating them to deny them the range of information they need.

3) It’s especially destructive to suggest that there are only 2 points of view: “for” and “against.” In fact there are many different points of view about this issue, including those who say

a- we don’t know whether the climate is warming or not;

b- yes the climate is warming, but we don’t know why

c- yes the climate is warming, and greenhouse gases are the cause, butwe don’t know whether the increase in greenhouse gases is man -made. (Remember the most abundant of the greenhouse gases is water vapor, which is not man-made.)

d- yes the climate is warming, and yes it’s because of man, but it’s not a super-serious problem. (this is probably closest to my view.) A degree or two warmer might well turn out to be a good thing, we cant say, so we should not pay a very big price to avert it.

e- yes we’re warming, yes because of man, yes it’s a serious problem, but not SO serious as to justify the even more serious costs involved in immediate action. Better to spend the money fighting malaria and water pollution.

4) Of the arguments on the con side, there’s one good one: that the speaker is paid by oil & gas interests. I dont want to overstate this. If a credentialed scientist earns money by consulting, that does not bother me. But somebody who earned the larger part of his living from a particular industry probably should not be speaking to school  assemblies on topics of concern to that industry.

Climate change remains a lively and real debate.

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