Thursday, May 24, 2018

Thoughts on Climate Change -- part 6: Let Me Count the Ways

This post is going to be very simple, but also, I'm afraid, rather devastating. What follows is a list of some of the most serious problems with the mainstream "climate change" paradigm and some of the many attempts to shore it up. I won't attempt to argue any of these points in any detail, as they have already been argued at length either on this blog or elsewhere, but simply present them in as succinct a manner as possible.

  1. Contrary to the oft-cited claim, there has been no long term correlation between global temperatures and CO2 emissions over the last 115 years or so. Temperatures rose dramatically during the first 40 years of the 20th century, at a time when, according to most climate scientists, CO2 emissions were too modest to have had much of an influence. From 1940 through ca. 1979, temperatures either cooled or remained neutral while CO2 levels began to soar. From 1998 through ca. 2015, temperatures either cooled or rose slightly (depending on whose data you consult), while CO2 levels continued to soar. The only period when CO2 and temperature rose together at comparable rates was the last 20 years of the previous century. Since a cause-effect relation requires, at the very least, a clear correlation between the elements under consideration, lack of correlation in itself constitutes strong evidence of falsification.
  2. Similarly, there has also been no long-term correlation between CO2 emissions and sea level rise. (See parts 3 & 4 in this series.) (See also this recent essay. )
  3. The notion that the cooling/leveling of temperatures from 1940-1979 can be explained by the cooling effects of industrial aerosol emissions has been thoroughly debunked. For details, see parts 1 and 2 of this series, as posted above.
  4. Al Gore's notorious attempt to demonstrate a high degree of correlation between CO2 and global temperatures based on a graph derived from Antarctic ice-core data turned out to be an embarrassment, since he failed to mention that the CO2 levels depicted on his graph followed the temperatures by literally hundreds of years, demonstrating that, in all likelihood, the warming produced higher levels of CO2 rather than the other way 'round. The many attempts by AGW proponents to reverse the clear cause-and-effect relationship depicted on the graph are, for me, prime examples of the sort of "saving hypotheses" discussed earlier on this blog. In any other field, such antics would have been rejected as absurd, but in the upside down, Orwellian world in which we now live, "climate change" has become everyone's sacred cow and  can never be questioned.
  5. The oft-quoted bit about all those years of the 21st century characterized by "record breaking" temperatures means little, since such records are to be expected once temperatures have reached a plateau, as they have since the turn of the century. With the exception of the period 2016-17, where temperatures rose dramatically during an unusually powerful El Nino, the "record-breaking" years broke previous records by the slimmest of margins, if at all.
  6. In the spirit of Orwell's classic, where "war is peace," "ignorance is strength," "freedom is slavery," not to mention the equally notorious "greed is good," promoters of the AGW paradigm have attempted to convince us that "cold is warm," and "dry is wet" -- i.e., a long series of record cold temperatures coupled with record levels of ice and snow are all due to the warming of the polar regions, and droughts are produced by the  same process that produces heavy rains and flooding. In other words, all forms of extreme weather now have the same cause: "climate change." As though extreme weather began with the industrial revolution.
  7. The so-called "consensus" where 97% of scientists supposedly support the climate change orthodoxy is based on a totally fraudulent paper concocted specifically to produce a pre-determined result. Actually only about 36% of the publications studied endorsed some sort of link, but the rest were tossed out because the authors failed to express an opinion in their abstracts. And the link the others endorsed was little more than some sort of agreement that CO2 was having a warming effect -- far from the extreme view favored by the promoters of the 97% figure. (For a definitive refutation of this paper, see Climate Consensus and ‘Misinformation’: A Rejoinder to Agnotology, Scientific Consensus, and the Teaching and Learning of Climate Change, by Legates et al.) More recently, a petition has been circulated among individuals with scientific training, signed so far by over 31,000 who remain unconvinced. While this has been discounted in the expected fashion by the usual climate change zealots because most of these people are not bona-fide climatologists, it's hard to ignore the view of 31,000 people with scientific backgrounds. 
  8. Contrary to all the media hype we see on a day in day out basis, there is little to no evidence that extreme weather events have become more common than in the past. (See my previous post on this blog for details.) And the tendency on the part  of so many "experts" to take for granted that extreme events allegedly produced by warming can be attributed to the nefarious influence of CO2 is not supported by any evidence whatsoever. No one on either side of this issue disputes the fact that temperatures are now, on average, higher than at any time in the last 100 years, so if you want to blame temperature blame temperature. What's central to the debate is not temperature rise per se (and  its alleged effects) but what is causing it.
  9. When push comes to shove, and certain self appointed "experts" find themselves with their backs to the wall, a common response is to fall back on "the physics," which apparently proves that 1. CO2 is a greenhouse gas and 2. that the relatively low level of this gas in the atmosphere as a whole is compensated for by certain "feedbacks" that amplify its influence to the point that it has become a major "control knob" of global temperatures. The nature of these feedbacks has always been a bit of a mystery and the details can get very complicated very quickly, as illustrated in an especially thorough and clear analysis, presented in the essay Feedbacks, Timescales, and Seeing Red, by Gerard Roe:  "When the net feedbacks are substantially negative, the system response to a forcing can be well characterized even though the individual feedbacks may be quite uncertain. However, when the net feedbacks are substantially positive, a high degree of uncertainty in the system response is inevitable as a fundamental and inescapable consequence of the amplification by the system dynamics . . . Unfortunately, it is often the positive feedback systems (i.e., a large response for a small forcing) that are of most interest both scientifically and societally. In these cases, the most important implication is that, rather than trying to solve for the specific system response to a given forcing, it may be that characterizing the feedbacks and their uncertainties is the better and more tractable scientific goal."
  10. [continued on 5-24] There have, of course, been a great many attempts to explain away most of the issues I've raised here by calling upon various "scientific" formulae of varying degrees of sophistication, but no amount of explanation as to why some expected correlation or other result is not corroborated by the raw data will not in itself produce the desired evidence. Thus none of the many attempts to explain the 40 year cooling/leveling of global temperatures during the previous century, or the more recent "hiatus" of the present, is actually capable of establishing the desired correlation. To establish a correlation one needs evidence of a correlation, not just an excuse for why an alleged correlation is not reflected in the data.
  11. The especially frightening notion that the West Antarctic ice sheet could suddenly collapse due to the warming effects of "climate change" has been drummed into the public mind from a variety of sources, ranging from the  most naive to the most "scientific" (e.g., the many youtube lectures presented by Richard Alley). In fact, the instability of this ice sheet was first identified by glaciologist John Mercer back in 1968, at a time when many scientists were worrying about a coming Ice Age. "In his 1968 paper, Mercer called the West Antarctic Ice Sheet a 'uniquely vulnerable and unstable body of ice.' Mercer based his statement on geologic evidence that West Antarctica’s ice had changed considerably many, many millennia ago at times when the ice sheets of East Antarctica and Greenland had not." (from  The "Unstable" West Antarctic Ice Sheet: A Primer, as published on the NASA website.) According to more recent research, it looks as though the source  of the problem is the presence of a considerable amount  of geothermal (i.e., volcanic) activity undermining the ice from below. (see Researchers find major West Antarctic glacier melting from geothermal sources.) Permit me to add that no one other than a "climate change" fanatic seriously believes that this enormous sheet of ice is likely to collapse any time soon -- i.e., any time prior to thousands of years in the future.

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