Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Scientific Truth About Climate Change

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.

Let’s allow Richard Lindzen to shed some light on the climate change hysteria. Via Instapundit.

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. 

He concluded:

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.


euphrax said...

So many are arguing about scientific certainties. While it would be good to know, our actions will never be perfect either - even if we could reach some perfect knowledge and certainty. Imagine being out on the motorway. You see brakelights ahead. What do you do? The radical greenies are screaming "U-TURN!!! NOW!!! EMERGENCY!!!" The denialists are closing their eyes, "We've been travelling down that road for so long and haven't yet had any problems. Full speed ahead!"

euphrax said...

In the case of the future climate, it is my personal belief that the new warmer climate might on balance be better than the old one, but our endowment biases for the status quo mean that nobody is willing to express a case of enthusiasm for the future, for the unknown, for the new...

Ladies and gentlemen, free the carbon! Don't leave it all locked up and unavailable to life! Humanity is accidentally doing God's work and returning all that sequestered carbon so life can flourish. If we use the value of net biomass on earth, having all that carbon alive in plants, trees, algae, coral or animals is better than having it inert in mineral form.

Nevertheless, I still see a case for rebalancing the energy economy. Being a traditional fellow that I am, I value thrift and economy. Any system that encourages conscious conservation over waste is a good one. All that oil and coal is good stuff. It would be a shame to waste it and leave none for the next generations. Sure we could all take a nice long hot shower and bath and use up all the hot water, but it sure would be decent to leave some for the grandkids. And that's the whole point; a hot bath is a good thing, no need to think of energy consumption as a sin. Waste on the other hand is something else altogether.

So in this spirit, why are we so unwilling to accept more direct taxes on energy consumption? Taxes on labour and value-added burden people for getting out of bed in the morning and going out and contributing to the economy and society in general. You want to lower your income tax bill? Work less? Invest less? Does that make any sense? But energy taxes are something you can reduce yourself. It's a simple matter. Consume less of that valuable patrimony of natural energy resources, pay less taxes. Choose a residence closer to work. Shop closer to home. Invest in architecture more efficient for heating and cooling. Lower your tax bill.

So lighten the tax burden on income and value-added to encourage that kind of productive activity and replace that source of revenue with more taxes on energy to encourage more conscious use and conservation of all those good fossil fuels.

n.n said...

We really are getting hit on all fronts, aren't we? The true nature of so many people and organizations are being revealed for judgment.

This is an excellent outcome. The danger to prematurely terminating scientific research and understanding is the increased likelihood that we will fail to recognize and then adapt to real threats (or opportunities). Whether it is religion or politics, humanity cannot afford to corrupt scientific enterprise.

As for their agenda, it is ostensibly reflected in the state of crisis that grips Europe, America, etc. So many promises and so little collateral. That some individuals and cooperatives would also enjoy monetary benefits, well, that seems to be the rule with these kind of ambitious enterprises.

n.n said...


We don't have a "warmer climate". Even the fairly meaningless "global average" statistic demonstrates a flat or diminishing trend in temperature. What we have experienced is climate shift, both geographically and temporally. The danger there is that while humans may successfully adapt to short-term variance, the flora and fauna may not. In fact, we have already observed its negative effects on agricultural production.

We need to restore the integrity of scientific enterprises in order to construct models actually capable of capturing authentic assessments of risk in both human society and the natural environment.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

... restoring the integrity of science... now that would be real progress...

Anonymous said...

n.n said:

"In fact, we have already observed its negative effects on agricultural production."

That is not true. That is factually wrong. Satellite measurements have recorded an expanding biosphere. It is rising in lock step with rising CO2, as is agricultural productivity:

At current and projected concentrations, CO2 is harmless and beneficial to the biosphere. More is better:

No verifiable global or regional harm, per the scientific method, has been caused by human CO2 emissions. None. Therefore, CO2 is ipso facto harmless. And it is beneficial because it is verifiably greening the planet. The biosphere is thriving due to more CO2.

Every prediction of climate disaster due to rising CO2 has been debunked:

For the past fifteen years there has been no global warming, while [harmless, beneficial] CO2 keeps rising. In a world where one-third of the population subsists on $2 a day or less, the additional airborne plant food is literally a life saver. But some anti-science folks still want to demonize "carbon", which takes the place of the devil in their eco-religion.

n.n said...

Mr. Schneiderman:

"Real progress"? That would be favorable in and of itself. It is an ambiguous term and needs to be qualified. The usage of "progress" has been mostly ad hoc and inconsistent with its generally perceived connotation.

At least "conservative" is clearly defined as preserving the letter and spirit of the principles embodied by The Declaration of Independence and Constitution.


The effects have been restricted to regional and local variances. There have been irregular events; however, there has been no demonstrated link to elevated CO2 in the atmosphere, absolute temperatures, or any human inputs. The effects from human contributions tend to be localized. The remainder follows a chaotic behavior, based on cumulative effects from various inputs, including: subterranean, terrestrial, atmospheric, extraterrestrial, etc.; and features such as geographical perturbations.

As for the rest of your comment, you have misunderstood my position on this matter. I believe their models are based on an incompletely and, evidently, insufficiently characterized system. That their evidence, especially proxy, is limited and circumstantial. That the observable evidence does not support their hypothesis. Furthermore, that due to the complexity, features and elements, of the system, we are unable to claim the knowledge they have, that our forecast skills are limited for the foreseeable future, and any predictions should be carefully qualified.

n.n said...

re: integrity of science

They need to distinguish between science and philosophy, especially when they are used to influence or determine policy. The former is by definition and necessarily constrained to a limited frame of reference. While it may be desirable to do risk assessments through inference, it should be clearly and explicitly identified for the public and policy makers, with a separate and independent risk assessment from the main problem.

Science should remain as objective as humanly possible. Any derivative works need to distinguish between scientific research and inference gleaned through other channels.

This is not about religion or "deniers". This is about competing interests exploiting the best tool available to people that can be used to elevate the material standing of humanity usurped to further special interests and thereby undermining its legitimacy and value in the process.

Dennis said...

There has always been a significant political part of "science." Whether that be royalty, the Church, governments, arrogance, et al. Integrity gets side lined when money, prestige and power are involved.
What one should strive for is a population that has enough science in their education so that they can spend sometime doing their own research into what passes as science. If freedom and liberty need voters who are knowledgeable then science needs the same awareness as well.
The sad part is that anyone who had the slightest inkling of what an aphelion/perihelion, the variation of the axis of Earth, various solar cycles, et al AGW would have been laughed out of existence. CO2 is life.

The Ghost said...

The Skeptics Case

The skeptics are certainly not "deniers" ...

n.n said...


I should qualify the effects of climate variances is circumstantial; neither universally negative nor positive. And the variances while expected, are largely unpredictable, because neither causes nor relationships have been sufficiently characterized.

Guest Post By Madhav Khandekar – “Record Grain Yield Estimated By Indian PM For 2011/12″

However, the originally expressed concern remains legitimate. Since the effects are regional, and even national, it's important to correctly assess risk in order to prepare for water, agricultural, etc. shortages. One of the problems we encounter in this context are policies or natural effects which motivate converged migration or immigration; and the undeveloped or underused resources which follow with population shifts.

When the conditions are favorable, the risks are inherently diminished.

Ares Olympus said...

Stuart, you seem like a thoughtful person, but I think you've picked a poor hero in Richard Lindzen. He's a proud contrarian to be sure, but that doesn't make him right, and it doesn't make him honest. Just consider what motivates contrarians to gain attention, and once that attention starts really flowing, what prevents his own gradiosity from overstepping his knowledge? I mean he's got a captive audience of deniers, so why not give them the best show they pay for? That's not science either!

Stuart Schneiderman said...

A poor hero? Lindzen is a professor at MIT, he's an important and serious scientist... as are many of the other scientists who agree with him.

To say that the case for AGW has been proven decisively and scientifically is simply nonsense... too many major figures in the field disagree.

Ares Olympus said...

Stuart, if truth comes from finding who agrees with what you wish to be true, then you've found your destination. As best I can tell Lindzen's agenda is as much as not about gradiosity, putting on a show, pleasure from that annoying feeling you get when your peers ignore you (for ignoring them, etc), but you can get revegence in popularity among people who don't have the ability to question your work. Anyway, so I judge your quoting only his work as "scientific truth" shows your false confidence, masking something ugly you don't want to admit.

Here's one response article to his presentation, if you're interested in separating fact from speculation from deception:

My own thought is that "I don't know is a valid" position on predicting the future, and science can make attempts at predicting, but scientists are not in a position to dictate policy based on probabilities with large error bars. So it takes leaders who can look at the bigger picture, considering climate change as one issue of many, and see we're collectively on an unsustainable course on many levels, and sooner or later we're going to pay prices. Using less fossil fuels is a reasonable political goal from the bigger picture, but how do we get there, and how long do we have? Carbon taxes would seem an effective economic approach, to make more renewable alternatives more price competitive, and better we transition slowly, knowing higher prices are here to stay, than boom&bust cycles of economic expansion and energy price spikes into economic contraction. Businesses, if they know what future to expect, can plan for it, and we'll all be better off. The trouble for me is "energy taxes" divide the rich from poor more, so the rich can keep using more at any price, and the lower class will be off the market if prices go up and stay up, and this is inside wealthy countries, and also the wider world. So in a world of contracting resources wealth disparity must be faced as a part of facing our future. (And if this attempt to "manage" the future is an elitist conspiracy, I'd rather have that than chaos and revolution if we let big business dictator our future!)

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thank you, again, for the comments. Lindzen is certainly not alone... there are the scientists who wrote a famous letter to the Wall Street Journal warning against taking climate change science as settled science.

See this post from January:

One issue her is whether or not we should accept the science as absolute fact or truth. Since there is a considerable difference of opinion among people who really do know what science is about, it does not seem to be a good idea to institute policies that themselves will have highly negative effects on everyone's way of life in the name of a theory.

The Wall Street Journal letter suggested that the cost of instituting carbon taxes and alternative energy sources would hurt far too many people to be a viable alternative.

As you know, the only really cost effective new source of energy is nuclear, and the people who hate coal will do everything in their power to stop nuclear plants from being built.

So, start thinking of a world without very much electricity, with rolling blackouts, with shutdown factories and industries.

Anonymous said...

I bet you feel silly now that the Arctic has melted.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

No more than I feel silly that the Antarctic is colder and has more ice.

True, the Atlantic Ocean is warmer, but the Pacific is cooler.