By Jonathan Clark
It seems like every day, reports of climate change become more apocalyptic. Few politicians express any doubt in the notion that human activity is causing the Earth’s temperature to rise. Indeed, quite the opposite is the norm.
“The world is gonna end in twelve years if we don’t address climate change,” warned newly elected Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez soon after being sworn in. Her comments were in reference to the latest United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which warned the effects of man-made emissions would be irreversible if not curtailed within twelve years. (1)
The IPCC is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change. Its stated goal is “to provide policymakers with regular scientific assessments on climate change, its implications, and potential future risks, as well as to put forward adaptation and mitigation options.”
Perhaps the most notable voice in the climate change discussion is former Vice President, Al Gore. In his documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, Mr. Gore declared that unless we took “drastic measures” to reduce greenhouse gasses, the world would reach a “point of no return” in a mere ten years. (3) At an address to the United Nations Conference of the Parties on December 14, 2008, he warned that the North Polar Icecap would be completely free of ice in five years.
More recently, Swedish activist Greta Thunberg exclaimed to a crowd of climate change protesters, “It is not fair that the older generation are handing over the responsibility to solve this crisis to us young people who have not started this crisis. It’s not fair that we have to do all this. World leaders are still trying to run away from their responsibilities, but we have to make sure they cannot do that. We will make sure that we put them against the wall, and they will have to do their job to protect our futures.” (4)
In recent years, young adults have become so worried about climate change, they are suffering from depression and many have chosen to forego childbearing. (2)
Is the situation as dire as we are led to believe?
And if it is, what, if anything can be done about it?
The search for answers to these questions has taken me on a journey through the scientific complexities of the Earth’s climate, the many factors that impact temperature and weather, and finally, to a cautionary tale of groupthink that more resembles religious theology than science.
While far from exhaustive, what follows is the result of months of research, which are not easily distilled into a too long, didn’t read synopsis. Nonetheless, I hope you follow me down this rabbit hole with an open and critical mind to the conclusion.
In the beginning…
In earth’s long history, there have been many periods when global temperatures were much warmer — and much cooler — than it is today. There have been times when much of the world was covered by tropical forests and other eras in which vast ice sheets dominated. There is sufficient data available to confidently say that the Earth’s climate is, and always has been, in a state of flux — with global temperatures warming and cooling.
Researchers tell us that the current warming trend can be traced back at least two hundred years, to the end of a very cold period in earth’s history called the Little Ice Age. In the fourteenth century, Europe experienced an icy era in which the River Thames would completely freeze. We find evidence of this bitterly cold period in old illustrations and pictures of ice fairs held on the Thames. (5) Prior to the Little Ice Age was a period of warming that occurred around one thousand years ago, which is known by examinations of ice core records.
Dr. Ian Clark is a professor of Earth Sciences at the University of Ottawa and Director, G.G. Hatch Isotope Laboratories, one of Canada’s leading analytical facilities. He is a leading Arctic paleoclimatologist who looks back into the Earth’s temperature record tens of millions of years.
If we look back a thousand years ago, we find a warm period which we call the Medieval Warm Period, which centered on a thousand years ago and lasted about 200 years. It is well documented by agricultural records; the Vikings settled in Greenland and came to Canada. There are lots of documentation and proxy records for the Medieval Warm Period. (6)
Donald J. Easterbrook is Professor Emeritus of Geology at Western Washington University. In his book, Evidence-Based Climate Science, he states that the effects of the Medieval Warm Period were evident in Europe.
Grain crops flourished, alpine tree lines rose, many new cities arose, and the population more than doubled. The Vikings took advantage of the climatic amelioration to colonize Greenland, and wine grapes were grown as far north as England where growing grapes is now not feasible and about 500 km north of present vineyards in France and Germany. (7)
This era was a time of great wealth and prosperity in Europe.
Throughout the continent, economic activity blossomed. Banking, insurance, and finance developed; a money economy became well entrenched; manufacturing of textiles expanded to levels never seen before. Farmers in medieval England launched a thriving wine industry. Good wines demand warm springs free of frosts, substantial summer warmth and sunshine without too much rain, and sunny days in the fall. Winters cannot dip below zero Fahrenheit for any significant period. The northern limit for grapes during the Middle Ages was about 300 miles above the current commercial wine areas in France and Germany. (8)
Going back in time further still, before the medieval warm period, we find more warm spells, including a very prolonged period during the Bronze Age known to geologists as the Holocene Maximum, where temperatures were significantly higher than they are now — for more than three millennia. (9)
Climate variation in the past is clearly natural, so why would we think it’s any different today?
The blame for our current climate change alarm is our modern industrial society. The burning of fossil fuels releases Carbon Dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, which is believed to be heating the Earth.
Consider that because of modern technologies, luxuries that were once exclusive to the rich have been democratized. In fact, most people living in industrialized countries enjoy a far better quality of life than the wealthiest Americans did just a hundred years ago. Ordinary people have access to travel and novel technologies that have made life easier and richer.
But has this progress changed our climate? According to the theory of man-made global warming, industrial growth has caused the temperature to rise. But has it? How does the temperature record of the last century compare with periods prior to the Industrial Revolution?
Since the end of the Little Ice Age, around the mid-nineteenth century, it is estimated the Earth’s temperature has risen by approximately a half-degree Celsius. But this warming period began long before cars and planes were even invented. In fact, most of the rise in temperature occurred prior to 1940, when industrial production was relatively insignificant.
After the Second World War, the post-war economic boom began and lasted until the world economic recession in the mid-1970s. According to the man-made warming theory, temperatures should have risen accordingly. But that didn’t happen. Temperatures fell for four decades, while CO2 levels continue to rise.
In fact, by the late-70s, climate experts were convinced the next ice age was on its way.
In January 1978, The New York Times reported, “An international team of specialists has concluded from eight indexes of climate that there is no end in sight to the cooling trend of the last 30 years, at least in the Northern Hemisphere.” Additionally, the Times noted, “The observations come, at a time when a warming trend could have been expected from the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere due to extensive fuel burning.” (10)
Time Magazine proclaimed in 1977 that, “The scientists and computers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were confidently predicting that the frigid weather would continue. The chilling pronouncement of NOAA’s senior climatologist: ‘The forecast is for no change.’” (11)
In 1974, the National Science Board announced, “During the last twenty to thirty years, world temperature has fallen, irregularly at first but more sharply over the last decade.” (12) This was the consensus of United States Government science officials and news of an impending ice age dominated media reports. (13)
Syun-Ichi Akasofu is the founding director of the International Arctic Research Center of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, serving in that position from the center’s establishment in 1998 until January 2007. Previously he had been director of the university’s Geophysical Institute from 1986. He advises against correlating the rise in CO2 to warming global temperatures.
As the increase in temperature since 1800–1850 is nearly linear, the trend is quite different from the increase in CO2, which has shown a near quadratic increase over the same period — rapidly increasing after 1946, after a gradual increase that began around 1900. It is at least problematic, therefore, to consider this near-linear increase in temperature during the 19th and 20th centuries as mainly due to CO2. (14)
Indeed, global temperatures rose significantly up until 1940, at a time when human production of CO2 was relatively low, but then dropped for four decades at a time when Industry really began to grow, and human production of CO2 soared. According to the theory, the rising levels of CO2 should have produced warmer global temperatures, not a forty-year cooling trend.
Which brings us to the all-important query: Why do we suppose that CO2 is responsible for our changing climate? CO2 forms only a very small part of the Earth’s atmosphere. In fact, we measure changes in the level of atmospheric CO2 in tenths of parts per million. According to Wikipedia, CO2 comprises just .04 percent of the atmosphere and if we were to remove the portion humans are contributing, which is the focus of all the concern, CO2’s portion becomes even smaller. (15)
Could there be other factors at play?
Consider that water vapor makes up ninety-five percent of what are widely considered to be greenhouse gases. Professor John Christy believes it is by far, the most important greenhouse gas. A scientist largely responsible for measuring the temperature in the Earth’s atmosphere, Dr. Christie was awarded NASA’s medal for exceptional scientific achievement in 1991 and has served as a lead author on the IPCC.
The planet, without what we call greenhouse gases, with just a transparent atmosphere of nitrogen and oxygen, would be about 32 degrees colder than today. We would have a planet that would be unlivable. It would be frozen. Thanks to one greenhouse gas, which is water vapor, our planet is about 32 degrees warmer. What water vapor does in the atmosphere is absorb the outgoing radiation. When we warm the planet with solar radiation during the day, it emits that radiation throughout the day and during the night, so the planet cools. If we trap that outgoing radiation, what we call “long wave radiation,” or “infrared radiation,” like what you see on the hot plates in fast-food restaurants, the heat is retained in the atmosphere and warms the earth’s surface. We retain a planet that is now 14 degrees above 0, and habitable. (16)
But is there a way to determine if the recent warming periods have been due to an increase in greenhouse gases? According to Dr. Richard Lindzen, we must look to a part of the sky known to scientists as the troposphere.
Dr. Lindzen is an atmospheric physicist known for his work in the dynamics of the middle atmosphere, atmospheric tides, and ozone photochemistry. He has published more than 200 scientific papers and books.
If we observe warming in the tropical upper troposphere, then the greenhouse contribution to warming at the surface should be between less than half and one third the warming seen in the upper troposphere. (17)
To better understand Dr. Lindzen’s observation, we need to begin with an understanding of how the greenhouse effect works.
The greenhouse effect is a natural process that warms the Earth’s surface. When the Sun’s energy reaches the Earth’s troposphere, some of it is reflected into space and the rest is absorbed and re-radiated by greenhouse gases. As such, Lindzen notes that the troposphere is where we should find evidence of warming if, in fact, greenhouse gases are the cause.
For their predictions of future warming scenarios, the IPCC scientist use computer models. But the climate models do not always agree with the observational data, which indicates the troposphere has not warmed as predicted.
There are various methods by which scientists record the Earth’s temperature: satellites, weather balloons, and surface stations. But Dr. Christy argues that satellites and balloons provide the most accurate method because the data is not contaminated by man-made structures and other variances. He believes that surface temperatures, like what is reported in our daily weather forecasts, do not necessarily indicate an accurate measure of global temperatures.
In 1989, Dr. Christy and Dr. Roy W. Spencer, then a NASA/Marshall scientist and now a Principal Research Scientist at the University of Alabama Huntsville (UAH), developed a global temperature data set from microwave data observed from satellites beginning in 1979. In 1996, they were selected to receive a Special Award by the American Meteorological Society “for developing a global, precise record of earth’s temperature from operational polar-orbiting satellites, fundamentally advancing our ability to monitor climate.”
As part of an ongoing joint project between UAH, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and NASA, Drs. Christy and Spencer use data gathered by advanced microwave sounding units on NOAA and NASA satellites to get accurate temperature readings for almost all regions of the Earth. This includes remote desert, ocean, and rain forest areas where reliable climate data are not otherwise available.
Using this data, Dr. Christy compared the temperatures from two very independent types of measuring systems (balloons and satellites) constructed by a variety of institutions (government, university, private) against climate models, which on average, indicate a warming of the troposphere about 2.5 times faster than the observations indicate. Dr. Christy believes that the climate models may be giving the greenhouse gases a little too much credit.
This is a significant difference that has not been explained and indicates the theory of greenhouse impact on atmospheric temperature is not sufficiently known to even reproduce what has already happened. We are not talking about 10 or 15 years here, but 37 years — well over a third of a century. Thus, the evidence here strongly suggests the theory, as embodied in models, goes much too far in forcing the atmosphere to retain heat when in reality the atmosphere has a means to relinquish that heat and thus warms at a much slower rate. (18)
Professor Fred Singer is a physicist and emeritus professor of environmental science at the University of Virginia. He trained as an atmospheric physicist and is known for his work in space research, atmospheric pollution, rocket, and satellite technology. He agrees with Dr. Christy.
Since we’re using models to predict the future — and the only way you can predict the future is to use models — the important question is: Can these models be validated by observations? And the models very clearly show that the climate right now should be warming at about the rate of one-degree Fahrenheit per decade, in the middle troposphere, that is, above the surface. But that’s not what the observations show. So, until the observations and the models agree, or until one or the other is resolved, it’s very difficult for people — and for myself, of course — to believe in the predictive power of the current models. (19)
Dr. Christy explains that a fundamental aspect of the scientific method is that if we say we understand a system (such as the climate system) then we should be able to predict its behavior. If we are unable to make accurate predictions, then at least some of the factors in the system are not well defined or perhaps even missing.
However, merely replicating the behavior of the system (i.e. reproducing “what” the climate does) does not guarantee that the fundamental physics are well-known. In other words, it is possible to obtain the right answer for the wrong reasons, i.e. getting the “what” of climate right but missing the “why”. And following the scientific method of testing claims against data, the models failed at the simple test of telling us what has already happened and would be highly questionable in predicting what may happen in the future. (Emphasis mine.)
The observational data make it abundantly clear that the recent warming of the Earth occurred in the wrong place and at the wrong time. The data show that much of the warming took place in the early part of the twentieth century (pre-industrialization) and at the surface — the very opposite of what should have happened according to the theory of man-made climate change.
A Convenient Interpretation
In 2006, former Vice President Al Gore’s emotional film An Inconvenient Truth became the popular presentation of the theory of man-made global warming. Since the film’s release, it has been credited for raising international public awareness of global warming and reenergizing the environmental movement.
The documentary has also been included in science curricula in schools around the world, which has spurred some controversy. In the film, Mr. Gore’s core argument rests on one all-important piece of evidence taken from ice core surveys — in which scientists drill deep into the ice to look back into the Earth’s climate history, hundreds of thousands of years. The first ice core survey took place in Vostok, in the Antarctic. What scientists found from it, Mr. Gore correctly points out, was a clear correlation between atmospheric levels of CO2 and the Earth’s temperature.
Professor Ian Clark and others have indeed discovered, as Mr. Gore declares, a link between CO2 and temperature. But the link is the opposite concept of what Mr. Gore has made popular in the media.
Dr. Clark’s research into ice cores has led him to believe that CO2 in fact, lags temperature by anywhere from eight hundred to a thousand years, which he indicates is found in all ice core surveys from around the world. “CO2 clearly cannot be causing temperature changes, Clark says. ”It’s a product of temperature, it’s following temperature changes.”
Dr. Timothy Ball is a renowned environmental consultant and former climatology professor at the University of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. With a doctorate in climatology from the University of London, Queen Mary College, England, Dr. Ball’s comprehensive background in the field includes a strong focus on the reconstruction of past climates and the impact of climate change on human history and the human condition.
In their seminal paper on the Vostok Ice Core, Petit et al (1999) note that CO2 lags temperature during the onset of glaciations by several thousand years but offer no explanation. They also observe that CH4 (methane) and CO2 are not perfectly aligned with each other but offer no explanation. The significance of these observations are therefore ignored. At the onset of glaciations temperature drops to glacial values before CO2 begins to fall suggesting that CO2 has little influence on temperature modulation at these times. (20)
But how can it be that higher temperatures lead to more CO2 in the atmosphere? To understand this, we must understand that CO2 is a natural gas produced by all living things. What’s more, humans are not the main source of CO2.
Professor Clark argues that humans produce a small fraction — less than ten percent — of the CO2 that is produced in the atmosphere. Consider that CO2 originates from many places including volcanos and dying vegetation, such as falling tree leaves in the fall.
But the largest source of CO2 by far is the oceans. (21)
When the surface of the ocean is heated, CO2 is released into the atmosphere. Similarly, when oceans cool, they act as a skink, collecting CO2 from the atmosphere. And because the Earth’s oceans are so immense, it takes sometimes hundreds of years between a change in temperature and the interchange of CO2. It is what scientists refer to as a memory of temperature change. (22)
Indeed, our climate is affected by the ocean in many ways. The most prominent example is the El Niño phenomenon in the Pacific, a well-documented inter-annual climate signal.
Dr. Peter Brandt is a professor at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research. While many climatologists are focused on the atmosphere, he and a handful of other researchers are looking to the oceans for answers.
To date, when trying to explain tropical climate variations, we have always looked upwards, specifically to the atmosphere. Our new data, for the first time, direct our attention towards the depths of the ocean, thereby opening new perspectives for our scientific approach. (23)
Data collected by Dr. Brandt over the past ten to twenty years revealed previously unknown fluctuations of ocean currents and temperatures, deep, fast currents along the equator in the Atlantic Ocean. These currents eventually make it to the surface, affecting surface temperatures and are among the factors influencing rainfall fluctuations over West Africa.
How large the effect of these deep jets is, and how they are generated is still somewhat of a mystery . . . we still have a lot of work ahead of us. We are going to retrieve and redeploy our moorings along the equator, and we hope that the new data will provide new insight into the processes of the deep sea, thereby also contributing to an improved climate prediction for West Africa.
The common belief that CO2 is driving climate change is at odds with much of the available scientific data — data from weather balloons and satellites, from ice core surveys, and from the historical temperature records.
But if CO2 isn’t driving climate temperatures, what is? For the answer, we must again look up. To the big, bright ball in the sky — the Sun.
In 1991, Professor Eigil Friis-Christensen and senior scientists of the Danish Meteorological Institute began studying records of sunspots and temperature in the 20th century. What they found, was a remarkably close correlation between activity on the Sun and temperature variations on the Earth. Solar activity rose sharply until 1940, fell back for four decades until the 1970s, and then rose again after that.
When they discovered this correlation between temperature and solar activity, they thought it might just be a coincidence, so they needed a longer time series or different time series. They went further back in time and examined four hundred years of astronomical records to compare sunspot activity against temperature variation. Once again, they found that variations in solar activity were closely linked to temperature variation on the Earth.
Then in 1995, Danish physicist, Henrik Svensmark, decided to further explore the matter. Svensmark partnered with Friis-Christensen and together, they found that data on cloud cover from satellites, compared with counts of galactic cosmic rays from a ground station, suggested that an increase in cosmic rays makes the world cloudier.
In the early 20th century, scientists discovered that the Earth was constantly being bombarded by subatomic particles. Known as cosmic rays, these proton particles originate from supernovae across the universe. When these protons reach the Earth, scientists believe they can ionize volatile compounds in the atmosphere, causing condensation. It’s also believed that the Sun plays a vital role in the number of cosmic rays that reach the Earth. During periods of increased solar activity, the Sun’s magnetic field grows, shielding the Earth from cosmic rays. Conversely, when solar activity decreases, more rays reach the Earth’s atmosphere.
Despite adequate funding, Svensmark began conducting experiments in 2007 to validate his hypothesis at the Danish National Space Center. Using a particle accelerator, he was able to demonstrate that when cosmic rays collide with certain molecules in the Earth’s atmosphere, gaseous vapor does condense into cloud-forming droplets.
CERN scientist Jasper Kirkby believed Svensmark was onto something. CERN is the European Organization for Nuclear Research and operates the largest particle physics laboratory in the world. Kirkby notes that the mini ice age in northern Europe at the end of the 17th century was not caused by humans, but that perfectly matched changes in the Sun’s activity.
The theory will probably be able to account for somewhere between a half and the whole of the increase in the Earth’s temperature that we have seen in the last century. But we have yet to prove the relationship between the Sun’s cosmic radiation and the formation of clouds.
Krikby partnered with Svensmark to further prove this theory. After ten years of working to convince CERN’s leadership, they created a cloud chamber to mimic the Earth’s atmosphere in an attempt to determine whether cloud formation is influenced by solar activity.
Kirkby and his team filled a custom-built chamber with ultrapure air and chemicals believed to seed clouds: water vapor, Sulphur dioxide, ozone, and ammonia. They then bombard the chamber with protons from the same accelerator that feeds the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s most powerful particle smasher. As the synthetic cosmic rays streamed in, the group carefully sampled the artificial atmosphere to see what effect the rays were having.
As reported in the Aug. 25 issue of the journal Nature, Jasper Kirkby and his sixty-two co-authors from seventeen institutes in Europe and the U.S. announced that the Sun indeed has a significant influence on our planet’s temperature. Their Cosmics Leaving Outdoor Droplets (CLOUD) experiment proved that the Sun’s magnetic field does, in fact, act as a gateway for cosmic rays that play a large role in cloud formation. The report stated, “Ion-induced nucleation (cosmic ray action) will manifest itself as a steady production of new particles [molecular clusters] that is difficult to isolate in atmospheric observations because of other sources of variability but is nevertheless taking place and could be quite large globally over the troposphere (the lower atmosphere).”
The finding meant a big problem for modelers. Here’s a huge influence that hadn’t been factored into climate models.
[I]t is clear that the treatment of aerosol formation in climate models will need to be substantially revised, since all models assume that nucleation is caused by these vapours (sulphuric acid and ammonia) and water alone. (24)
Just how powerful this effect was, became clear only recently.
Professor Nir J. Shaviv is a member of the Racah Institute of Physics in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Dr. Shaviv’s research interests cover a wide range of topics in astrophysics, many of which are related to the application of fluid dynamics, radiation transfer or high energy physics to a wide range of objects — from stars and compact objects to galaxies and the early universe.
Shaviv decided to compare his own record of cloud-forming cosmic rays, with the temperature record going back six hundred million years, created by geologist Professor Jan Veizer. What they found was that when cosmic rays went up, the temperature went down; when cosmic rays went down, the temperature went up. It appeared clouds and the Earth’s climate were very closely linked.
I later joined forces with Canadian geochemist Ján Veizer who had the best geochemical reconstruction of the temperature over the past half billion years, during which multicellular life left fossils for his group to dig and measure. His original goal was to fingerprint the role of CO2 over geological time scales, but no correlation with the paleotemperature was apparent. On the other hand, his temperature reconstruction fit the cosmic ray reconstruction like a glove. When we published these results, we instantly became personae non gratae in certain communities, not because we offered a data-supported explanation to the long-term climate variations, but because we dared say that CO2 can at most have a modest effect on the global temperature. (25)
In 2007, Alexander Ruzmaikin and Joan Feynman of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., together with Dr. Yuk Yung of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif., analyzed Egyptian records of annual Nile water levels collected between 622 and 1470 A.D. at Rawdah Island in Cairo. These records were then compared to another well-documented human record from the same time period: observations of the number of auroras reported per decade in the Northern Hemisphere. Auroras are bright glows in the night sky that happens when mass is rapidly ejected from the Sun’s corona or following solar flares. They are an excellent means of tracking variations in the sun’s activity. The researchers found some clear links between the Sun’s activity and climate variations. (26)
Indeed, there is a growing research base that points to solar variation as the primary driver of climate change, not CO2. Dr. Ian Clark for example, believes too few observers have considered the possibility that we have the science backward — that temperature rise is driven by factors unrelated to human activity, and that CO2 is following in the wake.
Scientists have discovered good correlations between trends in the output of the Sun and temperature, measured using proxy data from climate indicators such as tree rings and ice cores. These data are not theoretical. They are real climate records that span many time scales. And all point to solar variation as being the primary driver of climate change. Like CO2, they fit with warming in the first half of the 20th century. However, unlike CO2, they trace the cooling trend of the 1960s and 1970s, and even the apparent warming of the past two decades. There is even a strong correlation between solar activity, temperature and cloudiness — the most direct and telling line of evidence for a heliocentric climate. However, linked with increased solar activity is an effect that was largely unknown till recently. Two decades of satellite data have revealed that when the Sun is more active, storms on its surface, manifested by sunspots, are accompanied by strong increases in “solar wind,” a continuous stream of charged particles ejected from the outermost layer of the solar atmosphere into space. (27)
While these ideas are not generally accepted throughout the scientific community, the ever-growing data is becoming more difficult to ignore. This notion that the Sun is the primary influence in the Earth’s climate is a hypothesis supported by observational data collected and verified from multiple sources over large time scales. Whereas the idea that CO2 is driving temperatures remains a theoretical and untested hypothesis — one found only in climate models.
Modeling the Future
At the center of any climate policy discussion are the IPCC assessment reports, which are based on a database of more than a thousand scenarios from thirty-one computer models. (28) These computer models are used to simulate the effects of the Earth’s climate by increasing the amount of atmospheric CO2. As the models have shown that an increase in CO2 alone has a negligible impact on the temperature of the simulated atmosphere, they assume that a rise in CO2 will increase water vapor. Only then, are the models able to indicate a rise in temperature of the simulated atmosphere.
It’s vital to understanding the assessment reports and any climate change predictions, that the only experiments performed to test the theory that CO2 as a heating force in the atmosphere have been done using climate models — computer algorithms. Indeed, at present, it is not possible to create an accurate model of the Earth’s atmosphere — with the multitude of possible factors — to truly test the CO2 theory. As such, there are at least three fatal flaws in which these models are configured.
As previously noted, the models do not consider the effect of the Sun, cosmic rays, or oceanic influences, or any other natural variability. Secondly, the models assume nature is constant.
Dr. Edwin Berry is CEO of Climate Physics, LLC, in Bigfork, Montana. He is an American Meteorological Society (AMS) Certified Consulting Meteorologist (CCM). Berry’s theoretical Ph.D. thesis is recognized in textbooks as a breakthrough in the physics of rain and in numerical modeling, and still receives several citations every year.
The IPCC climate theory assumes nature is constant. This assumption forces IPCC’s invalid claim that human emissions have caused all the increase in atmospheric CO2 above 280 ppm. IPCC’s argument to support its failed theory also fails logic because the argument itself assumes nature is constant. (29)
Lastly, the models assume economic growth at a higher rate than has been observed. Why would economic growth be considered in a global climate model? Because economic growth equates to the burning of fossil fuels, which increases CO2 emissions. Projections of future carbon dioxide emissions are a key input to the IPCC global climate models. But like nature, economies are not constant; and the IPCC has been overly optimistic when forecasting economic growth.
In most of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) scenarios, the estimated Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rates for 2010 to 2020 were in excess of real-world observations. (30) Combined with the unforeseen impact of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s highly unlikely GDP will rise enough to compensate for the modeling errors.
Furthermore, the shift in the United States to building more natural gas power plants has led to the reduction of more than 2.8 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions since 2005. (31) With so many variables for which to account, it’s unlikely that any of the models would come close to accurately matching observational data.
In fact, in nearly every instance, global climate models used by the IPCC have been unable to predict what has already occurred. Plainly put, the observational data over the past few decades does not match what the models have been telling us would occur. (32)
When Dr. John Christy compared the average model projections from 1979 through 2017 to the most reliable temperature observations — from the upper levels of the troposphere from satellites and weather balloons — the models predicted seven times as much warming than was observed. And it was the case for all other levels of the atmosphere. On average, Christy found that the models overestimated warming by three times what has been observed.
Dr. Judith Curry is the former chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She is a member of the National Research Council’s Climate Research Committee and has published over a hundred scientific papers and co-editing several major works. She agrees that global climate models do not adequately account for natural variability.
To further complicate climate model projections for the 21st century, the climate models focus only on manmade climate change — they make no attempt to predict natural climate variations from the Sun’s output, volcanic eruptions and long-term variations in ocean circulation patterns. We have no idea how natural climate variability will play out in the 21st century, and whether or not natural variability will dominate over manmade warming. (33)
Therein lies the rub; all models assume that man-made CO2 is the main cause of climate change, rather than the Sun or clouds. To the uninitiated, computer models are impressive and give the appearance of rigorous science. But the models are only as good as the assumption that goes into them, and there are hundreds of assumptions. All it takes is one incorrect assumption for the forecast to fail.
And because all the models assume that man-made CO2 causes warming, one obvious way to produce a more impressive forecast is to increase the amount of imagined man-made CO2 going into the atmosphere — which provides an endless source of spectacular stories for the media.
But remember, CO2 is a trace gas, which makes up less than .04 percent of the Earth’s atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is essential to life on earth, but slightly higher levels in the atmosphere alone cannot possibly override the various complex factors that impact the Earth’s climate.
Dr. Patrick Moore is considered one of the foremost environmentalists of his generation. He is co-founder of Greenpeace.
There is certainty beyond any doubt that CO2 is the building block for all life on earth and that without its presence in the global atmosphere at a sufficient concentration this would be a dead planet. Today our children and our publics are taught that CO2 is a toxic pollutant that will destroy life and bring civilization to its knees.
The contention that human (CO2) emissions are now the dominant influence on climate is simply a hypothesis, rather than a universally accepted scientific theory. It is therefore correct, indeed verging on compulsory in the scientific tradition, to be skeptical of those who express certainty that ‘the science is settled’ and ‘the debate is over’. There is no definitive scientific proof, through real-world observation, that carbon dioxide is responsible for any of the slight warming of the global climate that has occurred during the past 300 years, since the peak of the Little Ice Age. If there were such a proof through testing and replication it would have been written down for all to see. The contention that human (CO2) emissions are now the dominant influence on climate is simply a hypothesis, rather than a universally accepted scientific theory. (34)
To scientists like Clark, Kirkby, Svensmark, and many others, the conclusion is inescapable: The Sun is driving climate change and CO2 has a minor impact at best. But if this is so, why are we bombarded every day with reports of man-made global warming? Why is this theory regarded as an undisputed fact?
To answer this question, we must look back to a simpler time.
How We Got Here
In the late 1970s, most of the world was experiencing an economic recession. A global oil crisis had created supply shortages in the early part of the decade that was still reverberating throughout much of the industrialized world. There was a fear — especially in the United States — that the world was running out of oil.
At that time, climatology was a relatively small field of study. Nonetheless, the best scientific minds were convinced the world was heading towards another ice age. Then, global temperatures began to rise and political dynamics on both sides of the Atlantic coalesced at the same time.
In Great Britain, newly-elected Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher faced a strike by the nation’s coal miners. Ms. Thatcher was concerned about energy security while at the same time, didn’t trust the oil-producing countries of the Middle East. She had even less trust in the National Union of Mineworkers.
Nigel Lawson was the Secretary of State for Energy during this time and recalls Ms. Thatcher, “thought we really had to push ahead with nuclear power. And then, when the climate change global warming thing came up, she thought this is great, this is another argument because it doesn’t have any CO2 emissions — this is another argument why we should go for nuclear.”
Meanwhile, in the United States, President Jimmy Carter was also concerned. But the country’s energy woes began with Nixon-era policies implemented years before he took office. The decade was one energy crisis after another beginning with President Nixon’s unsuccessful attempts to stave off inflation in 1971 (with price controls). In addition, the U.S. had assisted Israel after a surprise attack by Egypt and Syria in the Yom Kippur War, which didn’t sit well with countries in the region. Subsequently, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) exacted their revenge with an oil embargo, which lasted six months, and drove gasoline prices up; supply was limited, and long lines were commonplace at gas stations.
When Mr. Carter was inaugurated, the nation’s energy policies were under intense scrutiny. At the time, most oil originated from countries surrounding the Persian Gulf. The Carter Administration proposed a shift from oil, to coal and nuclear energy.
Dr. Patrick Michaels is a past president of the American Association of State Climatologists and was program chair for the Committee on Applied Climatology of the American Meteorological Society. He was a research professor of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia for thirty years. Michaels was a contributing author and is a reviewer of the IPCC, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. His writing has been published in the major scientific journals, including Climate Research, Climatic Change, Geophysical Research Letters, Journal of Climate, Nature, and Science, as well as in popular serials worldwide.
It started in the late 1970s when a group of folks that I know decided that they wanted nuclear power, and they decided that Carter, who sold himself as a nuclear engineer, he was actually a technician on a submarine, that Carter was favorable to this, so that if they pushed the issue of global warming as a catastrophe, caused by the burning of fossil fuels, that could lead to the nuclearization of the country. That’s when it started, and it spun out of control because the green allies who wanted us, the fossil fuel thing gone, they didn’t want nuclear power. They’re dramatically opposed to nuclear power. So, they pushed solar energy and windmills. (35)
The energy crisis empowered advocates of renewable energy. They adopted the CO2 greenhouse effect talking points to argue for more windmills and solar panels. Advocates for nuclear energy seized the opportunity to make its case as the best alternative, subsidizing the efforts of ecology organizations hostile to oil and coal, and the narrative was born.
In 1979, surface temperatures began to rise. It was also the year that a group of climate scientists gathered at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts for the first meeting of the “Ad Hoc Group on Carbon Dioxide and Climate”. (36) It led to the preparation of what became known as the Charney Report — the first comprehensive assessment of global climate change due to carbon dioxide.
The main conclusion of the Report was its estimation of temperature warming, coinciding with a doubling of CO2, to be near 3℃ with a probable error of 1.5℃. But the data from which the Charney Report’s estimates were derived was thin — just two early climate models. (37) Nonetheless, the Charney Report is widely regarded as the genesis of the modern theory of global warming due to CO2 emissions.
Nine years later, on an unseasonably warm Washington, D.C. summer day, NASA scientist James Hansen testified to a Congressional committee that anthropogenic (man-made) global warming has been detected — he claimed a ninety-nine percent statistical certainty that greenhouse warming was happening. Later, surrounded by reporters, Hansen urged an immediate policy response, effectively launching the greenhouse warming scare in the United States.
Warming Takes Off
By the early 1990s, it seemed the notion of man-made global warming was no longer a theory. It had become akin to a full-blown political campaign, attracting a lot of media attention — and government funding.
Academics like Professor Richard Lindzen believe the increase in government funding has distorted climate science.
Since this issue fully emerged in public almost 30 years ago (and was instantly incorporated into the catechism of political correctness), there has been a huge increase in government funding of the area, and the funding has been predicated on the premise of climate catastrophism. By now, most of the people working in this area have entered in response to this funding. Note that governments have essentially a monopoly over the funding in this area. I would expect that the recipients of this funding would feel obligated to support the seriousness of the problem. Certainly, opposition to this would be a suicidal career move for a young academic. (38)
According to a recent report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, “Federal funding for climate change research, technology, international assistance, and adaptation has increased from $2.4 billion in 1993 to $11.6 billion in 2014, with an additional $26.1 billion for climate change programs and activities provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009.” (39) It’s estimated that $150 billion was spent on climate change and green energy subsidies from 2009 to 2015 alone. (40)
Worldwide, the figures are beyond large. In 2019, the Climate Policy Initiative (CPI) issued a study which found that “annual tracked climate finance in 2017 and 2018 crossed the USD half-trillion mark for the first time.” (41)
And yet, this seems to be insufficient for the CPI, who decried that, “While climate finance has reached record levels, action still falls far short of what is needed under a 1.5 ˚C scenario. Estimates of the investment required to achieve the low-carbon transition range from USD 1.6 trillion to USD 3.8 trillion annually between 2016 and 2050.”
For perspective, we could end world hunger with a fraction of that amount and have plenty left over to fight malaria and cancer. (42)
With such a gargantuan amount of money available, many researchers believe it perverts science in ways that may not be readily apparent. Consider that climate science was a relatively small field just forty years ago. Every day, new, young researchers are entering the ranks of those studying climate change. How many are willing to risk their career opportunities by publishing research that suggests there is no crisis?
Climate change research relating to man-made global warming is now one of the best-funded areas of science and according to Dr. Roy Spencer, scientists who speak out against man-made global warming risk losing funding.
Virtually all climate research now simply assumes climate change is almost entirely human-caused, and if a scientist has a theory about it being even partly naturally caused, he or she can forget about getting that research funded.
Moreover, he is concerned about the way the global warming debate is framed by the media.
The debate is typically described with two extremes: “real” scientists warning us of an inevitable climate catastrophe, versus “deniers” who won’t accept scientific truth and [who] spread disinformation as part of a heavily funded campaign by Big Oil. This narrative only exists in people’s imaginations. No skeptical scientist I’m aware of is funded by Big Oil. No skeptical scientist I know of denies either climate change or that humans probably have some influence on climate. (43)
“Man-made Global Warming crusaders don’t tolerate dissent. There’s billions of dollars at stake,” says Dr. Timothy Ball, who has received death threats for questioning man-made global warming. In 2014, seven bullets were shot into the walls of the University of Alabama at Huntsville offices where Drs. Roy Spencer and John Christy work. Police determined the seven, tight-pattern bullet holes were the result of a “random shooting.”
For scientists like those referenced in this essay, who continue research in their respective fields, publishing work that discredits the theory of man-made warming means the risk of being ostracized and listed as a skeptic on one — or all — of the many websites devoted to silencing debate on the subject.
After Dr. Patrick Moore began criticizing the climate change movement, Moore’s bio information was removed from the Greenpeace website and credit for co-founding the organization mysteriously disappeared from Google’s search database. (44)
The true believers use the word skeptic as a slur, as in “unbelievers,” as if it is unacceptable to question their beliefs. Then there are the “climate deniers,” or “denialists,” terms invented by the true believers, and characterized by skeptics as associating them with Holocaust deniers. Much of this is just name-calling, but it is useful in the sense that it defines the battleground. (45)
“There are so many uncertainties, but the policy people say the target is fixed. And if you question this, you will be slagged off as a denier,” says Dr. Judith Curry, whose says her stance has cost her. After the 2009 “Climategate” scandal, she advocated for scientists to be held more accountable and began engaging with skeptical bloggers in a hope to calm the waters.
Instead I was tossed out of the tribe. There’s no way I would have done this if I hadn’t been a tenured professor, fairly near the end of my career. If I were seeking a new job in the US academy, I’d be pretty much unemployable. (46)
As Alistair Sutton, communications director for Future Earth, recently wrote: “For scientists, how to be skeptical about campaigns and policies without being labeled a ‘climate sceptic’ (sic) may be one of the next challenges.” (47)
It seems more than ironic that in all other fields of study, scientific research is based on skepticism, on the constant reconsideration of accepted ideas.
It has become a common practice for the media to lay the blame for every storm, hurricane, and forest fire on climate change. But is there any scientific basis for this?
For the answer, we can look to Meteorology, which tells us that the main source of weather disturbances are temperature differences, or variability, between the tropics and the poles. As such, in a warmer world, this difference should be less and the result should be less extreme weather events, not more.
Dr. Timothy Ball advises that the reduced temperature difference between the poles and lower latitude regions would reduce extreme weather events, not intensify them. He notes that weather and extreme weather events are driven by the temperature gradient between latitudes. A warming Arctic would result in less intense cold outbreaks and a lesser intrusion of cold arctic air colliding with warm moist air in warmer regions. (48)
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, many observers claimed that global warming was causing more devastating hurricanes and we should expect more storms like Katrina in our future. But what we have observed is the opposite. Since then, hurricane incidence has dropped considerably. Indeed, by one measure, global accumulated cyclone energy has decreased to its lowest levels since the late 1970s. Moreover, there’s little evidence to suggest that man-made global warming is causing any changes in hurricane activity.
In an October 2019 paper published in the Bulletin of American Meteorological Society, the authors (of which there are ten) note that the trend signal in hurricane activity has not yet had time to rise above the background variability of natural processes. They note that man-made climate change may have caused changes in hurricane activity that are not yet detectable due to the small magnitude of these changes compared to estimated natural variability, or due to observational limitations. (Emphasis mine.) The authors of this report include some former members of the expert team for the World Meteorological Organization 2010 on Tropical Cyclones and Climate Change. (49)
More recently, reports of more frequent, and more intense forest fires have dominated news coverage. In August 2018, the writers at The Economist proclaimed, “the Earth is smouldering.”
From Seattle to Siberia this summer, flames have consumed swathes of the northern hemisphere. Such calamities, once considered freakish, are now commonplace. Scientists have long cautioned that, as the planet warms — it is roughly 1°C hotter today than before the industrial age’s first furnaces were lit — weather patterns will go berserk. (50)
Again, this claim is based on anecdotal evidence — not scientific data. Historical data and peer-reviewed studies agree that fires in the United States and elsewhere have been declining, not increasing, for many years.
These wildly held perceptions by those in media were rebuked in a June 2016 paper published by The Royal Society. Swansea University Professors Stefan Doerr and Cristina Santín found that important exceptions aside, the quantitative evidence available does not support these perceived overall trends. Instead, the global area burned appears to have declined over the past decades, and there is increasing evidence that there is less fire in the global landscape today than centuries ago. (51)
If this is in fact the case, what accounts for our perception of increased forest fires? The simple answer is that like any weather-related catastrophe, reports of large forest fires attract viewers. The old idiom holds true today: If it bleeds, it leads.
Those claiming that global warming is negatively impacting the severity of forest fires do so either out of ignorance or their desire to use the issue for personal gain. And for politicians, the claim that big wildfires are the result of global warming provides a convenient excuse to ignore the real problems.
Consider that between 1952 and 1987, western Oregon experienced just one major fire in excess of ten thousand acres. The Silver Complex Fire of 1987 burned more than 100,000 acres in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness area, an area the federal government set aside, an area that has burned several more times since.
Bob Zybach, an experienced forester with a Ph.D. in environmental science says that “while bad fires still happen on state and private lands, most of the massive blazes happen on or around lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service and other federal agencies.” (52)
Since the introduction of the Clinton Administration’s plan to protect old-growth trees by strictly limiting logging on federal lands, timber production, particularly in the American Northwest, has declined. And with it, the land management practices such as thinning and controlled burns that helped to keep forest growth in check. Furthermore, experts point to an increase in the population near wildfire-prone areas than in the past, which increases the risk of destruction and loss of life due to wildfires.
And misguided public policies help explain why Australia burned for much of 2019. According to Brian Williams, captain of Kurrajong Heights fire brigade, Australia has been burning less than one percent of its bushfire-prone land for the past 20 years. “That means every year the fuel load continues to build.” (53)
Worse, attempts to minimize fuel load are penalized — controlled burns by private citizens on their properties have resulted in large fines. Liam Sheahan was fined $50,000 by his local council for illegally clearing trees, but he was vindicated when his house remained after the Black Saturday fires in 2009. Every other home at Strath Creek, in central Victoria, was destroyed in the blaze.
Environmental activists’ intense opposition to controlled burns in Australia is borne out of a belief that it causes problems for biodiversity and has little impact in reducing bushfires. But bushfire research scientist Neil Burrows disagrees. He argues that low intensity prescribed burns are less harmful to biodiversity than the intense bushfires they prevent.
Bushfires get their severity, or their intensity, or their killing power from how much fuel they burn. Prescribed burning removes some of that (fuel). We’ve been prescribed burning for 60 years and on analysing (sic) the data we can see a very strong trend between how much prescribed burning we do and how much bushfire there is. (54)
While victims of sweltering heat waves, droughts, floods, and other extreme weather events may believe climate change is causing ever more drastic weather extremes, the data says otherwise.
In 2014, then-president Barack Obama remarked publicly that, “Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree climate change is real, man-made and dangerous.” John Kerry, then-Secretary of State, piggy-backed on Obama’s remarks saying, “When 97 percent of scientists agree on anything, we need to listen, and we need to respond. Well, 97 percent of climate scientists have confirmed that climate change is happening and that human activity is responsible.” (55)
NASA, like many other science-based organizations, agrees, although somewhat more cautiously, saying on its website that, “Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities.” (56)
Indeed, there are many voices telling us that there is a strong scientific consensus that the Earth is warming and that this warming is mainly caused by human activities. We are assured this consensus is supported by various studies of scientists’ opinions and by position statements of scientific organizations.
But like most every other aspect of the climate change discussion, the devil, as is often said, is in the details.
The ninety-seven percent claim referenced so often originated in a study paper by John Cook, who was a Climate Communications Fellow for the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland, and his colleagues. The study was published in the journal Environmental Research Letters in May 2013.
Richard S. J. Tol is a professor of economics at the University of Sussex. He is also a professor of the economics of climate change at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. He believes that although there are large areas of substantive agreement, climate science is far from settled.
In their paper, Cook and colleagues argue that 97% of the relevant academic literature endorses that humans have contributed to observed climate change. This is unremarkable. It follows immediately from the 19th century research by Fourier, Tyndall and Arrhenius. In popular discourse, however, Cook’s finding is often misrepresented. The 97% refers to the number of papers, rather than the number of scientists. The alleged consensus is about any human role in climate change, rather than a dominant role, and it is about climate change rather than the dangers it might pose. (57)
Which is to say that Dr. Cook’s focus was not scientists — although that’s how his work has been interpreted and reported — but scientific papers. Cook’s researchers analyzed approximately 12,000 papers in which everything from the impact of a carbon tax; the impact of climate change on the Red Panda; and the amount of television coverage devoted to climate change; was taken as evidence that humans were causing the Earth’s temperature to rise.
Tol’s analysis of the work indicates that Cook’s reported results are inconsistent and biased, that the sample was not representative, and it contains many irrelevant papers. Moreover, the validation test shows that the data are invalid and the data disclosure was incomplete so that key results could not be reproduced or tested. (58)
And Tol is not the only one to call out Cook’s research. David Russell Legates is a professor of geography at the University of Delaware. He is the former Director of the Center for Climatic Research at the same university and a former Delaware State Climatologist.
A study by Legate published in Science & Education found that “only 41 papers — 0.3 percent of all 11,944 abstracts or 1.0 percent of the 4,014 expressing an opinion, and not 97.1 percent — had been found to endorse the standard or quantitative hypothesis.” (59)
Dr. Judith Curry lays much of the blame for the consensus mindset at the steps of the IPCC, which was introduced in Foreword to the IPCC First Assessment Report. (60)
Although, as in any developing scientific topic, there is a minority of opinions which we have not been able to accommodate, the peer review has helped to ensure a high degree of consensus among authors and reviewers regarding the results presented. Thus the Assessment is an authoritative statement of the views of the international scientific community at this time…. (61)
Subsequently, the consensus became codified in the IPCC’s procedures: “in taking decisions, drawing conclusions, and adopting reports, the IPCC Plenary and Working Groups shall use all best endeavours to reach consensus.” (62)
And the IPCC consensus findings have been echoed by many scientific organizations that explicitly use the word “consensus” in their statements. These include the American Association for the Advancement of Science, U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Joint Science Academies, and American Meteorological Society. (63, 64, 65, 67)
Dr. John Christy served as an IPCC lead author in 2001. He notes that climate science has seen the move toward “consensus” science where “agreement” between people and groups is elevated above determined, objective investigation.
The term “consensus science” will often be appealed to regarding arguments about climate change to bolster an assertion. This is a form of “argument from authority.” Consensus, however, is a political notion, not a scientific notion. The sad progression of events has even led to congressional investigations designed to silence (with some success) those whose voices, including my own, have challenged the politically-correct views on climate. (68)
Christy has rejected the UN approach that produces “a document designed for uniformity and consensus.” He presented his views at a UN meeting in 2009.
The IPCC needs an alternative view section written by well-credentialed climate scientists is needed. If not, why not? What is there to fear? In a scientific area as uncertain as climate, the opinions of all are required. The reception to my comments was especially cold. (69)
The idea of a scientific consensus regarding climate change is rejected by Curry, Christie, and many others referenced in this essay. But most notably, by the Nongovernmental Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), an international panel of nongovernment scientists and scholars who have come together to present a comprehensive, authoritative, and realistic assessment of the science and economics of global warming.
NIPCC has produced fourteen reports to date, including Climate Change Reconsidered (Idso and Singer, 2009, 2011), which argues that the IPCC fails to consider important scientific issues, several of which would upset its major conclusion — that “most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations. (Emphasis in the original.)
It’s important to note that the NIPCC report Appendix lists more than 30,000 scientists who do not support the IPCC consensus. While unknown to most of the general public, the NIPCC reports are supported by a list of signers which includes 9,029 persons who hold Ph.D.s, 7,153 who hold an MS, 2,585 who hold MDs or DVMs, and 12,711 who hold a BS or equivalent academic degrees. And all have formal educations in fields of specialization that suitably qualify them to evaluate the research data. Many of whom currently work in climatological, meteorological, atmospheric, environmental, geophysical, astronomical, and biological fields directly involved in the climate change issue.
Notwithstanding the merits of the IPCC and the NIPCC reports, the fact that the NIPCC exists and that it is supported by 30,000 scientists should call into question the legitimacy of any consensus regarding the issue of climate change, especially given the level of disagreement highlighted in this essay alone.
Indeed, the number of studies that run contrary to the IPCC reports is vast. Popular Technology has cataloged a bibliographic resource of over 1,300 peer-reviewed, published papers that question the theory of man-made climate change. (70)
“I’ve often stated that climate science is a murky science,” Christy remarked in a 2016 testimony before Congress. “We do not have laboratory methods of testing our hypotheses as many other sciences do. As a result, what passes for science includes opinion, arguments-from-authority, dramatic press releases, and fuzzy notions of consensus generated by preselected groups. This is not science.” (71)
There is no doubt the Earth’s climate is changing — and that global temperatures have risen over the past 150 or so years. Where scientists disagree is the cause of the change — and warming. There is an abundance of evidence to support the idea that natural variability plays a large role. In addition, the effects of human activity are easily observed, although not necessarily on a global scale.
To the alarmists, like Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, Ms. Thunberg, and Mr. Gore, blame for the rise in global temperatures is easily attributed to humanity’s excessive reliance on fossil fuels. To many members of this movement, our only hope is to reduce our dependence on sources such as coal and oil and replace them with power from renewable sources such as solar and wind.
But such a simplistic view ignores the complex nature of the world’s economic ecosystem — a notion based on a static world view. But the world is anything but static. Also lost in the rush to replace fossil fuels is a basic understanding of its impact on the world. Consider that prior to the Industrial Revolution, grinding poverty was the norm for most of humanity. Indeed, most people lived on farms and spent their days engaged in back-breaking manual labor; life in a city wasn’t much better. Few people ever traveled far from their birthplace.
According to the most recent estimates, in 2015, ten percent of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty, or less than US$1.90 a day. That’s down from nearly thirty-six percent in 1990. According to the Brookings Institute, “For the first time since agriculture-based civilization began 10,000 years ago, the majority of humankind is no longer poor or vulnerable to falling into poverty.” Indeed, more than half the world is now middle class or richer. (72, 73)
More energy equals less poverty. (74)
Even with all of mankind’s progress, many people in the developing world still have no access to electricity, so they rely on burning wood and manure for energy. And the world’s population is expected to increase by two billion persons by the year 2050. This will require a lot of additional energy. (75) The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects that world energy consumption will grow by nearly fifty percent by 2050. (76)
The physics and technical obstacles of resource-intensive and land-intensive renewable energy sources like wind and solar make it highly unlikely that the future energy demands could be met sans fossil fuels. (77)
But that’s okay.
Firstly, as nations become more developed, their energy solutions become cleaner. The farmers in a developing country who are today burning wood for energy will be burning coal tomorrow, then natural gas and one day, the majority of their energy may come from nuclear power. In developed countries, especially the United States, energy-related CO2 emissions continue to fall, even though energy demand increases. (78)
Secondly, the world is literally becoming greener — perhaps because of climate change. Satellite data indicates that worldwide green vegetation has increased each year over the past thirty years, for a total increase of approximately fourteen percent. This is according to a 2016 paper (Zhu et al., 2016), published by an international team of thirty-two authors from twenty-four institutions, which attributed the increase to the extra CO2 in the atmosphere. For perspective, the increase in the amount of green vegetation is equivalent to adding a new continent twice the size of the mainland United States. (79)
This is good news because it means more food for wildlife and higher yields for farmland, which means less land is required for food production for humans. It should come as no surprise given what we understand about CO2 — it’s plant food! And this greening of the Earth is expected to continue because as countries like China, Chile, and India continue to develop their resources, forest areas are increasing as well.
According to a 2018 study, “as nations over time become wealthier and better organized, objectives and practices of land management change profoundly. Highly developed countries apply modern agricultural methods on good farmlands and abandon marginal lands, which become available for forest expansion. Developed countries invest in sustainable programs of forest management and nature protection.” (80)
Over the last two centuries, previously unimaginable improvements in standards of living have been realized; economic growth has lifted billions of people out of poverty. But given the never-ending voices of pessimism and doom, one might think the world is getting worse, not better.
Nonetheless, there are optimistic voices to be found.
Kevin Kelly is the founding executive editor of Wired magazine and a former editor/publisher of the Whole Earth Review. In his book, The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future, he observed that “Ever since the Enlightenment and the invention of Science, we’ve managed to create a tiny bit more than we’ve destroyed each year. But that few percent positive difference is compounded over decades into what we might call civilization.”
Matt Ridley is a science writer and a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and of the Academy of Medical Sciences, and a foreign honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
“In my own adult lifetime,” writes Ridley in The Rational Optimist, “I have listened to the implacable predictions of growing poverty, coming famines, expanding deserts, imminent plagues, impending water wars, inevitable oil exhaustion, mineral shortages, falling sperm counts, thinning ozone, acidifying rain, nuclear winters, mad-cow epidemics, Y2K computer bugs, killer bees, sex-change fish, global warming, ocean acidification and even asteroid impacts that would presently bring this happy interlude to a terrible end. I cannot recall a time when one or other of these scares was not solemnly espoused by sober, distinguished and serious elites and hysterically echoed by the media. I cannot recall a time when I was not being urged by somebody that the world could only survive if it abandoned the foolish goal of economic growth. The fashionable reason for pessimism changed, but the pessimism was constant. In the 1960s the population explosion and global famine were top of the charts, in the 1970s the exhaustion of resources, in the 1980s acid rain, in the 1990s pandemics, in the 2000s global warming. One by one these scares came and (all but the last) went.”
This is not to say that the alarmists are wrong. They could be correct. It is to say that given the amount of disagreement we find within the scientific community regarding climate change, perhaps we should be cautious about how it colors our lives and perspectives — there is an abundance of real worries in this life that warrant our attention.
Mankind is incredibly adaptable. Should the seas rise so that our coasts are eroded, or the seasons become erratic or unbearable, I have no doubt that we will solve those challenges, just as we have in the past.
(61) IPCC Foreword
(62) IPCC Purpose
This article appeared on the Medium.com website at https://medium.com/@jonathanusa/why-i-dont-fear-climate-change-and-you-shouldn-t-either-b893f16569f6