When the fog of emotion lifts the light of reason can shine through and allow us to see the facts.
It's now happening in the debate over climate change. Efforts to stiffly discussion are failing. Threats and intimidation against “skeptics” are finally proving futile.
A great intellectual con job is unraveling. At some point in the near future many people are going to look back in shame because they bought into climate change hysteria on the word of a “crazed sex poodle” named Al Gore.
The dogma of anthropogenic global warming was sold to the public as “settled science.” Led by real scientists pushing a political agenda the media made it seem that all the smart people believed in it while all the dumb people didn’t.
The propaganda campaign was so successful that governments started implementing policies that would protect us against a threat that wasn’t really a threat. An army of tree-hugging reactionaries had finally found a way to induce us to take steps toward repealing the Industrial Revolution.
Worse yet, global warming hysteria threatened our faith in our rational faculties. Many people were induced to abandon reason in favor of emotion and superstition. Thinking that they were engaged in the most advance scientific thinking they allowed themselves to be blinded by a fog of emotion. They closed their eyes and put their rational faculties to sleep.
Prophecies about the state of the climate a century from now were taken to be scientific facts.
As happens with many radical political ideas—you know which ones they are— liberal intellectuals are trying their damnedest to convince you to overcome reason in the name of emotion, to cease to examine the evidence for fear of hurting someone’s feelings, and to bow down to dogma lest you be banned from polite society.
MIT Professor Lindzen is a leading authority on atmospheric physics. The London Telegraph describes him as: “…one of the world's greatest atmospheric physicists: perhaps the greatest. What he doesn't know about the science behind climate change probably isn't worth knowing.”
Last week Lindzen gave a talk at the British House of Commons.
He opened by summarizing his argument:
Stated briefly, I will simply try to clarify what the debate over climate change is really about. It most certainly is not about whether climate is changing: it always is. It is not about whether CO2 is increasing: it clearly is. It is not about whether the increase in CO2 , by itself, will lead to some warming: it should. The debate is simply over the matter of how much warming the increase in CO2 can lead to, and the connection of such warming to the innumerable claimed catastrophes. The evidence is that the increase in CO2 will lead to very little warming, and that the connection of this minimal warming (or even significant warming) to the purported catastrophes is also minimal. The arguments on which the catastrophic claims are made are extremely weak – and commonly acknowledged as such. They are sometimes overtly dishonest.
But, what if you are not a climate scientist? How could you have known that the claims for global warming were hysterical and overwrought? How could you come to a judgment without relying on the authority of Al Gore?
Long time readers of this blog know that I and many others have debunked the so-called reasoning that has produced the global warming hysteria. For my part I have wanted to offer set of guidelines that would allow a more rational and objective appraisal of the evidence.
Lindzen was speaking to politicians so he offered the non-scientist his own guidelines:
Quite apart from the science itself, there are numerous reasons why an intelligent observer should be suspicious of the presentation of alarm.
1. The claim of ‘incontrovertibility.’ Science is never incontrovertible.
2. Arguing from ‘authority’ in lieu of scientific reasoning and data or even elementary logic.
3. Use of term ‘global warming’ without either definition or quantification.
4. Identification of complex phenomena with multiple causes with global warming and even as ‘proof’ of global warming.
5. Conflation of existence of climate change with anthropogenic climate change.
Lindzen then elaborated on the errors involved in the arguments for man-made climate change.
1. Virtually by definition, nothing in science is ‘incontrovertible’ – especially in a primitive and complex field as climate. Incontrovertibility’ belongs to religion where it is referred to as dogma.
2. As noted, the value of ‘authority’ in a primitive and politicized field like climate is of dubious value – it is essential to deal with the science itself. This may present less challenge to the layman than is commonly supposed.
3. ‘Global Warming’ refers to an obscure statistical quantity, globally averaged temperature anomaly, the small residue of far larger and mostly uncorrelated local anomalies. This quantity is highly uncertain, but may be on the order of 0.7C over the past 150 years. This quantity is always varying at this level and there have been periods of both warming and cooling on virtually all time scales. On the time scale of from 1 year to 100 years, there is no need for any externally specified forcing. The climate system is never in equilibrium because, among other things, the ocean transports heat between the surface and the depths. To be sure, however, there are other sources of internal variability as well. Because the quantity we are speaking of is so small, and the error bars are so large, the quantity is easy to abuse in a variety of ways.
4. The claims that the earth has been warming, that there is a greenhouse effect, and that man’s activities have contributed to warming, are trivially true and essentially meaningless in terms of alarm.
Given that this has become a quasi-religious issue, it is hard to tell. However, my personal hope is that we will return to normative science, and try to understand how the climate actually behaves. Our present approach of dealing with climate as completely specified by a single number, globally averaged surface temperature anomaly, that is forced by another single number, atmospheric CO2levels, for example, clearly limits real understanding; so does the replacement of theory by model simulation. In point of fact, there has been progress along these lines and none of it demonstrates a prominent role for CO2. It has been possible to account for the cycle of ice ages simply with orbital variations (as was thought to be the case before global warming mania); tests of sensitivity independent of the assumption that warming is due to CO2 (a circular assumption) show sensitivities lower than models show; the resolution of the early faint sun paradox which could not be resolved by greenhouse gases, is readily resolved by clouds acting as negative feedbacks.
Current intellectual practice tells us that anyone who does not accept the environmentalist dogma should be denounces as a "skeptic.” Lindzen offered a sharp rejoinder and a prediction:
Perhaps we should stop accepting the term, ‘skeptic.’ Skepticism implies doubts about a plausible proposition. Current global warming alarm hardly represents a plausible proposition. Twenty years of repetition and escalation of claims does not make it more plausible. Quite the contrary, the failure to improve the case over 20 years makes the case even less plausible as does the evidence from climategate and other instances of overt cheating.
In the meantime, while I avoid making forecasts for tenths of a degree change in globally averaged temperature anomaly, I am quite willing to state that unprecedented climate catastrophes are not on the horizon though in several thousand years we may return to an ice age.