Andrew Revkin Makes Clear His Skepticism of Global-Warming Skeptics

Science reporter Andrew Revkin attended a conference in Manhattan of global warming skeptics and made his own skepticism of their motives clear in Tuesday's "Cool View Of Science At Meeting On Warming."

Several hundred people sat in a fifth-floor ballroom at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Times Square on Monday eating pasta and trying hard to prove that they had unraveled the established science showing that humans are warming the world in potentially disruptive ways. One challenge they faced was that even within their own ranks, the group - among them government and university scientists, antiregulatory campaigners and Congressional staff members - displayed a dizzying range of ideas on what was, or was not, influencing climate.

Didn't know that eating pasta was a sign of moral turpitude, but there you go.

On Sunday night, the dinner speaker was Patrick J. Michaels, a climatologist with a paid position at the antiregulatory Cato Institute who says humans are warming the climate - he projects a three-degree Fahrenheit warming by 2100 - but disputes the value of cutting emissions of heat-trapping gases.

At lunch on Monday, the message from S. Fred Singer, a physicist who runs a group challenging climate orthodoxy, was that climate change was mainly driven by vagaries in the sun.

When asked whether he disagreed with Dr. Michaels's prediction for 21st-century human-driven warming, Dr. Singer said, "I don't make predictions."

The two-day gathering, which concludes Tuesday, was organized by the Heartland Institute, a Chicago group whose antiregulatory philosophy has long been embraced by, and financially supported by, various industries and conservative donors.

Is it only "antiregulatory" scientists who have their opinionsdismissed because of where they get their funding? Are scientists on government payrolls immune to vested interests, such as keeping up a drumbeat of climate emergency?

Riley E. Dunlap, a sociologist at Oklahoma State University who has studied the influence of conservative policy institutes, said in an e-mail message that such events were designed to foster the impression of "little Davids battling the Goliath of the environmental establishment."

But Dr. Dunlap said such activities were well financed and, "When you have the full support of some of the wealthiest and most powerful political actors in the nation, you can hardly be considered to be underdogs."

Revkin doesn't fully identify Dunlap, who at least used to be an environmental author (he wrote a book called "Environmental Sociology" in 1993. Neither does he identify the "powerful political actors" funding the global warming skeptics - probably dwarfed by the amount of government money going to scientists who think humans are causing harmful climate change.

On Sunday, Revkin dealt with the sudden onset of colder temperatures in Sunday's "Skeptics on Human Climate Impact Seize on Cold Spell." Weather is back to being just weather, not a possible sign of catastrophic climate change.

The world has seen some extraordinary winter conditions in both hemispheres over the past year: snow in Johannesburg last June and in Baghdad in January, Arctic sea ice returning with a vengeance after a record retreat last summer, paralyzing blizzards in China, and a sharp drop in the globe's average temperature.

It is no wonder that some scientists, opinion writers, political operatives and other people who challenge warnings about dangerous human-caused global warming have jumped on this as a teachable moment.

"Earth's 'Fever' Breaks: Global COOLING Currently Under Way," read a blog post and news release on Wednesday from Marc Morano, the communications director for the Republican minority on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

So what is happening?

According to a host of climate experts, including some who question the extent and risks of global warming, it is mostly good old-fashioned weather, along with a cold kick from the tropical Pacific Ocean, which is in its La Niña phase for a few more months, a year after it was in the opposite warm El Niño pattern. If anything else is afoot - like some cooling related to sunspot cycles or slow shifts in ocean and atmospheric patterns that can influence temperatures - an array of scientists who have staked out differing positions on the overall threat from global warming agree that there is no way to pinpoint whether such a new force is at work.