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Posted by on Nov 24, 2015 in Science & Technology | 9 comments

Climate Science Isn’t Settled

Climate Alarmists

Democrat David Siegel used to be a fan of climate alarmism until he took a close look at the science data. Here is the beginning of his article What I Learned about Climate Change: The Science is not Settled.

Siegel starts the summary of his article with this statement:
“I’m still vegan. I still want to help people, animals, and the environment. I’m still a Democrat. But I now believe that Al Gore, the United Nations, and many trusted institutions are Goliath — crisscrossing the globe in private jets selling the Chicken-Little climate narrative at any cost — and the Davids are the lone scientists and bloggers who are just trying to uncover the facts.”

Meanwhile, in an article titled The con in consensus: Climate change consensus among the misinformed is not worth much, Canadian economist Ross McKitrick explains where the alleged “97%” statistic comes from and why it is bunk:

“The most highly-cited paper supposedly found 97 per cent of published scientific studies support man-made global warming. But in addition to poor survey methodology, that tabulation is often misrepresented. Most papers (66 per cent) actually took no position. Of the remaining 34 per cent, 33 per cent supported at least a weak human contribution to global warming. So divide 33 by 34 and you get 97 per cent, but this is unremarkable since the 33 per cent includes many papers that critique key elements of the IPCC position.”

In a forward to the Global Warming Policy Foundation report Carbon Dioxide: The Good News, world-renowned theoretical physicist (and Democrat) Freeman Dyson writes the following:

“There are many examples in the history of science of irrational beliefs promoted by famous thinkers and adopted by loyal disciples. Sometimes, as in the use of bleeding as a treatment for various diseases, irrational belief did harm to a large number of human victims. George Washington was one of the victims. Other irrational beliefs, such as the phlogiston theory of burning or the Aristotelian cosmology of circular celestial motions, only did harm by delaying the careful examination of nature. In all these cases, we see a community of people happily united in a false belief that brought leaders and followers together. Anyone who questioned the prevailing belief would upset the peace of the community.

Real advances in science require a different cultural tradition, with individuals who invent new tools to explore nature and are not afraid to question authority. Science driven by rebels and heretics searching for truth has made great progress in the last three centuries. But the new culture of scientific scepticism is a recent growth and has not yet penetrated deeply into our thinking. The old culture of group loyalty and dogmatic belief is still alive under the surface, guiding the thoughts of scientists as well as the opinions of ordinary citizens.”

The author of Carbon Dioxide: The Good News is Indur Goklany, “a member of the US delegation that established the IPCC and helped develop its First Assessment Report. He subsequently served as a US delegate to the IPCC, and an IPCC reviewer.” In the report, Goklany describes just how far from reality that the IPCC’s climate models are:

“… orthodox thinkers on climate, in the grip of confirmation bias, are unable or unwilling to acknowledge that, unless a climate or weather event is truly unprecedented then the default assumption – the ‘null hypothesis’ in scientific parlance – should be that it is part of normal climate variability rather than manmade global warming. Some have used the results of modelling exercises that purport to assess the future impacts, usually in the latter part of this century, and then ‘interpolated’ these results back to the present day. The first step in such an exercise relies on climate models to project the future climate. But we have seen that these models have failed the reality test with respect to globally averaged surface temperature over the past two decades or more. To compound matters, the performance of climate models relative to reality worsens as one attempts to project surface temperatures at smaller geographical scales.”

In short, the skeptics of climate alarmism have scientific data that is the basis of their skepticism.

Finally, here is an excerpt from a 2006 letter to the BBC written by Mike Hulme, Professor of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia and founding director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research:

“Why is it not just campaigners, but politicians and scientists too, who are openly confusing the language of fear, terror and disaster with the observable physical reality of climate change, actively ignoring the careful hedging which surrounds science’s predictions? . . . What has pushed the debate between climate change scientists and climate sceptics to now being between climate change scientists and climate alarmists?

I believe there are three factors now at work. First, the discourse of catastrophe is a campaigning device being mobilised in the context of failing UK and Kyoto Protocol targets to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide. . . Second, the discourse of catastrophe is a political and rhetorical device to change the frame of reference for the emerging negotiations around what happens when the Kyoto Protocol runs out after 2012. . . Third, the discourse of catastrophe allows some space for the retrenchment of science budgets. It is a short step from claiming these catastrophic risks have physical reality, saliency and are imminent, to implying that one more “big push” of funding will allow science to quantify them objectively.

We need to take a deep breath and pause. The language of catastrophe is not the language of science. . . To state that climate change will be “catastrophic” hides a cascade of value-laden assumptions which do not emerge from empirical or theoretical science. Is any amount of climate change catastrophic? Catastrophic for whom, for where, and by when? What index is being used to measure the catastrophe?

The language of fear and terror operates as an ever-weakening vehicle for effective communication or inducement for behavioural change. . . I believe climate change is real, must be faced and action taken. But the discourse of catastrophe is in danger of tipping society onto a negative, depressive and reactionary trajectory.”

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  • Slamfu

    Neither is the question of whether the earth is 6000 years old or not, for some people. So in a manner of speaking you are correct. However, in another, far more accurate manner of speaking, you’re wrong.

  • “In short, the skeptics of climate alarmism have scientific data that is the basis of their skepticism.”

    Science deniers have data which was generally accumulated by the petroleum industry for their own ends. Except we now know that even Exxon’s own scientists found that the data showed the problems of climate change decades ago:

  • The_Ohioan

    The sky is falling and it’s all those blinkin’ scientists who don’t agree with the 3%’s fault.

    • JSpencer


  • rudi

    To compound matters, the performance of climate
    models relative to reality worsens as one attempts to project surface
    temperatures at smaller geographical scales.”

    Total BS, models work better with larger datasets.

    What I Learned about Climate Change: The Science is not Settled.

    Here is a reasoned response to DS BS.

    The phrase “the science is settled” is associated almost 100% with contrarian comments on climate and is usually a paraphrase of what ‘some scientists’ are supposed to have said. The reality is that it depends very much on what you are talking about and I have never heard any scientist say this in any general context – at a recent meeting I was at, someone claimed that this had been said by the participants and he was roundly shouted down by the assembled experts.

    The reason why no scientist has said this is because they know full well that knowledge about science is not binary – science isn’t either settled or not settled. This is a false and misleading dichotomy. Instead, we know things with varying degrees of confidence – for instance, conservation of energy is pretty well accepted, as is the theory of gravity (despite continuing interest in what happens at very small scales or very high energies) , while the exact nature of dark matter is still unclear. The forced binary distinction implicit in the phrase is designed to misleadingly relegate anything about which there is still uncertainty to the category of completely unknown. i.e. that since we don’t know everything, we know nothing.

    In the climate field, there are a number of issues which are no longer subject to fundamental debate in the community. The existence of the greenhouse effect, the increase in CO2 (and other GHGs) over the last hundred years and its human cause, and the fact the planet warmed significantly over the 20th Century are not much in doubt. IPCC described these factors as ‘virtually certain’ or ‘unequivocal’. The attribution of the warming over the last 50 years to human activity is also pretty well established – that is ‘highly likely’ and the anticipation that further warming will continue as CO2 levels continue to rise is a well supported conclusion. To the extent that anyone has said that the scientific debate is over, this is what they are referring to. In answer to colloquial questions like “Is anthropogenic warming real?”, the answer is yes with high confidence.

    But no scientists would be scientists if they thought there was nothing left to find out. Think of the science as a large building, with foundations reaching back to the 19th Century and a whole edifice of knowledge built upon them. The community spends most of its time trying to add a brick here or a brick there and slowly adding to the construction. The idea that the ‘science is settled’ is equivalent to stating that the building is complete and that nothing further can be added. Obviously that is false – new bricks (and windows and decoration and interior designs) are being added and argued about all the time. However, while the science may not be settled, we can still tell what kind of building we have and what the overall picture looks like. Arguments over whether a single brick should be blue or yellow don’t change the building from a skyscraper to a mud hut.

  • rudi

    The author of Carbon Dioxide: The Good News
    is Indur Goklany, “a member of the US delegation that established the
    IPCC and helped develop its First Assessment Report. He subsequently
    served as a US delegate to the IPCC, and an IPCC reviewer.” In the
    report, Goklany describes just how far from reality that the IPCC’s
    climate models are:

    The author isn’t nuetral, he recieves funding from the Heartland Institute and Cato.

    The anti-climate policy ‘fact blurring’ advocacy group Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) recently published a report on ‘the good news’ about rising carbon dioxide, written by Indur Goklany. Goklany has a background in electrical engineering and has been a US delegate to the IPCC. He has also in the pastreceived $1,000 per month from the Heartland Institute and had two books published by the Cato Institute, among other affiliations with fossil fuel-funded think tanks.

    Goklany’s affiliation with and funding from these think tanks is relevant due to the nature of the GWPF report, which essentially argues that carbon pollution is the best thing since sliced bread.

    • Sal Monela

      In Robertson’s world, the only scientists that are biased are those that receive government grants to study the climate. All those who work for or are subsidized by the fossil fuel industry or conservative think tanks are totally objective and only interested in the benefit of mankind. And of course that industry has no conflict of interest in this research, despite the billions of dollars in profits that are at risk if governments take real action on the climate.

  • JSpencer

    My first reaction to seeing another post devoted to denialism was, who cares? Climate change doesn’t care what denialists think, so why should I? It isn’t like fallacious arguments are ever going to run out of fans, after all, entire industries are based on them and they never seem to run out of marks.

    But some people do take the purveyors of bad information seriously enough to respond, and I suppose it’s a good thing, otherwise we end up with more victims of bad information and it’s hard to put a positive spin on that.
    So here’s a comprehensive response to the denialist screeds in general, and the Seigel position in particular. I hope Mr. Robertson reads it:

    People often believe whatever they like, regardless of whether it’s supportable or not, it’s human nature to some extent, but climate change is important enough to insure that unfounded beliefs are kept to a minimum. I’m glad most of the people inhabiting my favorite blog (TMV) realize this, and are willing to take on advocates (wittingly or otherwise) for dark age belief systems. To them I extend my gratitude.

  • Out of some 12,000 papers published in peer-reviewed technical journals in the field of climate science from 1991 to 2011, approximately 4,000 reported on experiments or studies that tested the theory of global warming. 40 of them gave ambiguous results and 78 contradicted the theory; the remaining 3,896 supported the theory.

    To put it in more qualitative terms, the great, even overwhelming preponderance of the evidence affirms that global warming is happening and is caused by the actions of humanity.

    A number of people reject the theory; several of them are mentioned or quoted in the article above. However, I have yet to see a single one of these people report on an experiment or study that they have done that supports their position.

    Science is done by experiment and observation, not by picking at the details of the experiments and observations done by others. When we have seen a large number of peer-reviewed, published papers that call the GW theory into question, we’ll be obliged to take the Deniers seriously. As of now, they haven’t even started to do the work.

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