Paul Jacob

It's not cool to express skepticism about global warming. This doesn't worry me much; I gave up "cool" a long time ago. Still, the uncool must be ever so much more circumspect.

Last year, while wondering about the science and the evidence as well as worrying about the ideologies implied, I hazarded that, if people really believed in the scenarios of Al Gore and others, they'd be abandoning beachfront for hill property, right and left.

Now, Gregg Easterbrook has devoted an essay in The Atlantic to just that: who wins and who loses, economically, in a warming climate. It's the cover story in the April issue, and it's a fun read. Easterbrook explores what a warmer world might look like. His major conclusion: Russia, Greenland, Canada, and Canada's native populations (recently given quite a bit of autonomy in previously unwanted territory) will reap the biggest gains, as interesting times and warming climes bring a spring to the once-frosty North.

Whether it makes real sense about the weather . . . well, I don't know. Most of it is speculation. And is presented as such. One thing I come away with is this: Climate science is less exact than the "science" on the nightly news weather program.

So, it's like economics. Prediction isn't the name of the game, exactly. Explanation and warning are. Unfortunately, we plan by predictions. Sort of.

A number of researchers and pundits still fuss about the evidence for global warming, but, whatever else is said, melting glaciers and ice caps seem to be pretty good evidence for a warming trend. It doesn't really take an expertise in climatology to recognize that. Laying blame (for, really, the blame game is where this is all at, eh? otherwise, none of this would be "cool") is harder. What percentage is caused by human industry and automobiles, what percentage by livestock flatulence, and what by . . . the sun's radiation itself?

Scientists will likely argue about this for a long time.

Meanwhile, before buying a hilltop in Alaska (where warming might make moguls) or investing in a greenhouse-gas offset tree farm in the tropics (to plant, as Easterbrook suggests, the most oxygen-rejuvenating trees), we might want to think through the rationales for government action that are becoming popular.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.