Ethics and Global Climate Change: A Rebuttal

As I mentioned on Facebook, my race to get this to my professor in time for drill weekend led me to fudge some page numbers in the citations. I’ve never had the time since to adequately fix them, so I’ve simply removed the offending citations. The remainder of my paper is below:

Stephen Gardiner, “Ethics and Global Climate Change”
A Rebuttal

Jason C. Diederich
Philosophy 401
Professor Ho
01 October 2010

A Rebuttal to Stephen Gardiner’s “Ethics and Global Climate Change”

Should wealthier nations pay more than poorer nations in addressing the cost of global climate change? Stephen Gardiner believes that they should. Gardiner makes essentially two arguments in support of this view, one scientific (to demonstrate that human-caused carbon dioxide emissions constitute a significant ecological threat) and one economic (to prove that it is just that wealthier nations pay for “adaptation” to climate change). This paper will demonstrate that the first argument is without value, and that the second is not an ethical position, but the motivating agenda behind Gardiner’s essay.

In making his “scientific” argument, Gardiner spends much time on two particular topics: First, he touts the IPCC’s use of computer models to demonstrate the potential for climate change devastation (Gardiner, 365-367). It should be noted that these models have been thoroughly debunked; these are the same models which commercial meteorologists use, obviously barely adequate to predict the weather five days in advance, let alone five centuries. He then spends a lot of time “discrediting” skeptic’s claims of scientific uncertainty in the realm of climatology—of course, this is a straw man to put opponents on the defensive; there is ample evidence to support a rebuttal of the IPCC reports without resorting to mere “scientific uncertainty.” Since these two claims are without merit, they will be dismissed in favor of treating actual claims of the IPCC quoted by Gardiner.

1. “The global average surface temperature has increased over the 20th century by about 0.6 C.

It has been demonstrated that the data utilized by the IPCC in creating this figure is highly corrupted (McKitrick, 8). This figure was arrived at using only the thermometers in the Automated Surface Observation System—all of which are on land, and almost all of which are centered around cities. Cities being made of concrete and steel, and full of large mammals and internal combustion engines, this produces an overwhelming heat-trap effect, even if we allow for the probability of nearby heat and light sources for the convenience of temperature-readers. The IPCC completely ignores the satellite temperature record in their reports, even though it has proven (in contrast to the ASOS) to be both complete and perfectly accurate—because the satellite data does not support global warming. It should also be noted that subsequent temperature data in a 2008 study has shown temperature dropping at the rate of approximately 1° C/century from 2001-2008 (Monckton, 6). Along those lines, the IPCC (and Gardiner) relies almost entirely upon the production of carbon dioxide in their estimates of global warming impact—yet carbon dioxide comprises less than .003 of the atmosphere, and its effect on radiative absorption is negligible (Kiehl, 13).

2. “Globally, it is very likely that the 1990’s was the warmest decade and 1998 the warmest year in the instrumental record, since 1861.

The above statement is entirely fraudulent. Subsequent independent investigation into NASA databases discovered that the 1930’s was actually the warmest decade on record (despite human-caused CO2 emissions still being marginal), with several record high temperatures in the U.S. which remain unbroken (McIntyre). It should also be noted that the global temperature fell ≈ .1° C from 1940-1970, despite significant increases in carbon dioxide levels and output (Sussman, 55).

3. “The increase in temperature in the 20th century is likely to have been the largest of any century in the past 1,000 years.

The original graph published by the IPCC on this topic shows that temperatures were significantly warmer 500 years ago than they are today, and that current warming is consistent with the trend observable in the transition into the Medieval Warm Period (≈1000-1400 AD), then Maunder Minimum (≈1400-1900 AD) and back out. Note that Michael Mann’s “hockey stick graph” in the third IPCC report actually deletes those natural periods of significant temperature fluctuation in order to make the current trend (measured without benefit of satellite data) appear unprecedented.

Economically, Gardiner’s entire argument can be summed up in a single-sentence quotation:
The third proposal I wish to consider offers a different justification for departing from the per capita principle: namely, that such a departure might maximally (or at least disproportionately) benefit the least well-off.” (Gardiner, 378)

The astute reader will notice that Gardiner has just announced that it is okay for developing countries to continue to increase carbon dioxide production, but that wealthy countries must reduce carbon dioxide production. Why would this be okay if carbon dioxide has such a potentially destructive effect? The statement “maximally benefit the least well-off” is the key: it is almost a direct quote from John Rawls’ collectivist work, Political Liberalism (Rawls, 60). Note that if it is acceptable for some groups to increase their carbon dioxide output, carbon dioxide output can’t be the real problem Gardiner is trying to solve. Gardiner’s true issue is economic: he wants to punish developed countries (inevitably the most free) and force them to subsidize the less-developed countries (usually the most totalitarian). He is using global warming to sell Marxist economics, with “gradual adaptation” to make it easier to swallow (Gardiner, 372).

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Gardiner’s paper is his discussion of a “right to subsistence emissions.” By “emissions,” as previously noted, Gardiner intends “carbon dioxide emissions”—and we, as a species, inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. The author has no doubt that the controversy surrounding climate change will continue for as long as there are carbon credits to be sold—but one must ponder the sentiments of a man who considers humanity’s right to exhale to be a debatable point.


Gardiner, Stephen. (2004) “Ethics and Global Climate Change” In Morton E. Winston & Ralph Edelbach (Eds) Society, Ethics and Technology (pp. 317-329) Belmont, California: Cengage Publishers

Kiehl, J., & Trenberth, K. E. (1997). Earth’s Annual Global Mean Energy Budget. Retrieved October 01, 2010 from CiteSeerX:

McIntyre, S. (2007). A New Leaderboard at the U. S. Open. Retrieved October 01, 2010 from Climate Audit:

McKitrick, R. R., and P. J. Michaels (2007), Quantifying the influence of anthropogenic surface processes and inhomogeneities on gridded global climate data, J. Geophys. Res., 112, D24S09, doi:10.1029/2007JD008465.

Monckton, C., of Brenchley. (2008). Temperature Change and CO2 Change: A Scientific Briefing. Retrieved October 01, 2010 from Science and Public Policy: .

Rawles, J. (1971). Political Liberalism. Chinchester, West Sussex, New York: Columbia University Press.

Sussman, B. (2010). Climategate. Washington, D.C.: WorldNetDaily.


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