Reporter's Notebook: Global Warming: The Debate Continues

Editor's note: Tune in Sunday, May 21st at 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. ET for the FOX News Channel special "Global Warming: The Debate Continues."

David Asman

The story is certainly hot. Dire warnings about global warming scream out from the cover of Time Magazine, HBO features a special about it, and later this month, Al Gore's global warming film — perhaps tied to his political comeback — will open at your neighborhood theater.

But months before all this, FOX News was there first with a one-hour special on global warming, hosted by my good friend Rick Folbaum. Last November's documentary on global warming gave a platform to those who believe that the effects of global warming are catastrophic and the causes largely man-made.

Now, FOX is again ahead of the curve, presenting another side to the issue with "Global Warming: The Debate Continues." Our first special featured folks who fear the worst from global warming. But global warming is far too complex an issue to be viewed from just one side. This time, we speak with scientists who are skeptical of what they view as alarmist fears about climate change.

It's not that anyone doubts there has been global warming. Even skeptics of the worst predictions agree that the earth has been warming — about one degree Fahrenheit in the last 100 years. The question is: Is that enough to push us close to a catastrophic "tipping point," where all hell breaks loose? Also, how much of the warming is due to man? And if man-made pollutants are to blame, what should we do to change our habits? These are issues about which there is far more controversy among scientists than you might think.

There's nothing new about such controversy. Debates about climate change actually go back to the founding years of our Republic. These debates were spelled out in the personal documents of one of the first and most notable meteorologist in the United States: Thomas Jefferson. Around the time of the Revolution, the world was emerging from a mini-ice age that had lasted for several centuries. Colonialists, unaware of this fact, were concerned that the warming trend was due to the clear-cutting of trees in the Northeast. Jefferson was determined to find out if the climate was really changing as much as some people thought. He purchased the best meteorological equipment then available, and for the rest of his life took daily notes on weather patterns in his beloved Monticello, in Charlottesville, Virginia, and wherever he traveled. We traveled to Monticello to find out exactly what Jefferson discovered and how he did so.

Of course the equipment meteorologists use today is far more complex than that used by Jefferson. But the questions raised are no less complex and the conclusions reached are no less controversial. For example, is the current global warming caused only by what goes on here on Earth? Two of the scientists we interview say that activity on the sun may be a major factor overlooked in the global warming debate. Other scientists point out that research on the role clouds play in global warming has only just begun. That, and other natural phenomenon must be explored in far more depth until we can conclusively blame or discount man's role in global warming.

It's also become fashionable to say that global warming fuels both the frequency and intensity of catastrophic weather — particularly hurricanes. A graphic from Al Gore's website on global warming shows a hurricane emerging from a smokestack. After the devastating effects of the 2005 hurricane season, it's easy to see why this idea has become conventional wisdom. But several climatologists interviewed for our special strongly disagree with this premise, saying that the global warming is insufficient to have been a major factor in altering the intensity of hurricanes. These climatologists say that global warming will account for no more than 5 percent of the intensity of hurricanes in the next 100 years.

Even the best climatologists, however, admit that forecast models are highly unreliable. Despite all our supercomputers and forecast models, we still have trouble predicting whether it'll rain or shine on our parade next weekend. So, imagine forecasts that look years and decades into the future! There are millions of variables that play into such forecasts, and all it takes is just a small change in one of those variables to upset the entire forecast. That's why you're well advised to be skeptical of anybody who says they absolutely, positively know beyond a shadow of a doubt what's going to happen to our weather because of global warming.

So how do we formulate national and international policies with forecast models that are at best educated guesses? That's another question that we examine in our special. Drastic policies that force cutbacks of greenhouse gas emissions, such as those outlined in the Kyoto accord, are often put forth as measures necessary to stop global warming. Forgetting for the moment that many of the signatories of Kyoto have failed to keep up with the deadlines of the accord, how helpful are the Kyoto mandates? According to some of those we interviewed, Kyoto could end up doing more harm than good, by slowing up technological progress that could lead us out of our addiction to fossil fuels. Getting locked into an accord like Kyoto could drive up the costs of innovation, which thrives in a less regulated environment. In fact, the current hike in oil prices might actually prove more effective in forcing us off of fossil fuels than any international accord ever could.

The problem with all these issues is that they must be examined without the pressures of political conformity that too often get wrapped up in discussions about the environment. Science must rise above politics if it is to remain an effective tool that can solve our most pressing problems.

FOX News is attempting to rise above politics on the global warming debate. We believe that global warming is a serious issue that needs to be thoroughly investigated from all sides. Despite differences in opinion on the cause and severity of global warming, there is nothing to lose, and everything to be gained, by sharing evidence and information on the subject. We see it as a very hopeful sign that the world is doing just that. Mandates aside, efforts to find alternatives to fuels that produce greenhouse gasses and other pollutants are proceeding at a fast and exciting pace. The more information exchanged about these and other innovations, the better for everybody. We're proud to be a part of that process.

FOX News will continue to report all sides of the global warming issue (and all issues, for that matter), and let you come to your own conclusions about it. We hope you watch and enjoy our special, "Global Warming: The Debate Continues." Then, e-mail us and let us know what you think!

David Asman joined FOX News Channel (FNC) in 1997 and currently serves as host of "Forbes on FOX," a weekend half-hour program that offers an informative look at the business week (Saturday from 11:00-11:30 AM/ET). Asman is also an anchor on FOX Business Network, where he co-hosts "After the Bell" (4-5 PM/ET) with anchor Melissa Francis.