Climate Cassandras say the facts are clear and the case is closed. (Sen. Barbara Boxer: "We're not going to take a lot of time debating this anymore.") The consensus catechism about global warming has six tenets: 1. Global warming is happening. 2. It is our (humanity's, but especially America's) fault. 3. It will continue unless we mend our ways. 4. If it continues we are in grave danger. 5. We know how to slow or even reverse the warming. 6. The benefits from doing that will far exceed the costs.Read it here.
Only the first tenet is clearly true, and only in the sense that the Earth warmed about 0.7 degrees Celsius in the 20th century. We do not know the extent to which human activity caused this. The activity is economic growth, the wealth-creation that makes possible improved well-being—better nutrition, medicine, education, etc. How much reduction of such social goods are we willing to accept by slowing economic activity in order to (try to) regulate the planet's climate?
I once read that the essential difference between liberals and conservatives is that liberals like to propose "solutions" to problems, while conservatives remind us that there are always trade-offs. As Will points out it is not clear at this point whether or not global warming is a bad thing; nor is it clear that even our most strenuous efforts will make much difference. What is clear, however, is that proposed solutions like Kyoto can be achieved only at tremendous cost to our lives, our economy, and the environment.
Check out Lorrie Goldstein's response to the political cynicism and mass hysteria that has characterized the environmental movement to date [here].