Global warming got dosed with extra kilowatts of heat and light when a national-policy analyst and an atmospheric scientist faced off this week in a debate sponsored by the Centennial Institute (www.CentennialCCU.org
), the think tank based at Colorado Christian University.
"Does the scientific evidence justify our turning over the issue to policy makers?" asked James Taylor, a senior fellow at The Heartland Institute. Taylor answered no, contending that the scientific data doesn't justify a radical global-warming policy that would force massive and expensive changes in America's way of life.
"Climate change is not just for scientists -- we'll all have a role to play in defining solutions," countered Dr. Scott Denning, Monfort Professor of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University, who argued that, while the global warming crisis is slow and incremental, it's real and there's no time to waste.
The debate, "Global Climate Change: Real or Not? What to Do?" was part of CCU's two-day symposium on "Faith, Family, and Freedom." The University's 900-plus undergraduate students, as well as faculty and staff, broke off classes to hear nationally regarded experts discuss the most controversial issues of the day, including encroaching government intervention, threats to religious freedom, and the future of America's free-market system. CCU President Bill Armstrong opened the global-warming debate by praising the healthy clash of ideas and reminding the audience that the mission of the University is to encourage "seekers of truth."
Though the debaters butted heads on the interpretation of global-warming data, for the most part the evening was a gentlemanly war of graphs and grids. At one point, Denning observed to Taylor, "I agree with almost everything you said. I think where we'll disagree is on the interpretation." John Andrews, director of the Centennial Institute, prefaced the evening by telling the crowd that the goal was to present "not a cable-TV-style shouting match, but a debate based on fact and reasoned argument."
The debaters complied and kept their sparring amiable. Taylor argued that "context is everything" and said that today's temperatures are only "warming" compared to data from an ice age. He cited a petition signed by 31,000 scientists who stated they didn't believe there was a crisis.
"It doesn't really matter what happened in the past," argued Denning, who noted that, while climate temperatures fluctuate, the real change should be measured from the start of the Industrial Revolution when heavy carbon emissions began, which would suggest "quite a profound effect." "No matter what James says or I say, [carbon emissions] will not go away," Denning stated.
Yet massive costs won't go away either, Taylor explained, adding that an average middle-class family could expect to spend about $1,400 more each year on energy if forced to use expensive wind and solar power.
Both debaters agreed, however, on the power of the global-warming issue to change economies and the future of countries for centuries to come: "More than any election or any bill in Congress," Denning said, "this will be the story for the ages."