It’s clear now that global warming as a unique cosmic/catastrophic threat to civilization is, well… not true. Hyperbolic claims backed by failed models, falsified data, and squashing of dissent. An abuse, a politicization, of science. Global warming as a risk or problem that may need to be managed is, well… a possibility. How much suffering shall we inflict on the poor of the world in order to perhaps reduce future temperatures by half a degree? For some the answer seems to “as much as necessary to give us the power to grow government.”
Steven F. Hayward asks: has the global warming crusade has reached its Waterloo?
The climate change crusaders, who have been at it for a quarter-century, appear to be going clinically mad. Start with the rhetorical monotony and worship of authority (“97 percent of all scientists agree!”), add the Salem witch trial-style intimidation and persecution of dissenters, and the categorical demand that debate about science or policy is over because the matter is settled, and you have the profile of a cult-like sectarianism that has descended into paranoia and reflexive bullying. Never mind the scattered and not fully suppressed findings of climate scientists that the narrative of catastrophic global warming is overstated, like nearly every previous predicted environmental apocalypse. It matters not. The recent crescendo of scary government climate reports and dutiful media alarm has paved the way for the Obama administration to throw its weight around in ways that would make Woodrow Wilson blush.
Set aside the calls to abandon democracy and what is the true, scientifically-based, policy imperative?
If you strip away all of the noise from smaller scientific controversies that clutter the debate—arctic ice, extreme weather events, droughts, and so forth—the central issue is climate sensitivity: How much will average global temperature increase from adding a given level of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere? The most recent “official” estimate of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), given a doubling of greenhouse gases, is a planet 1.1 to 4.8 degrees Celsius warmer a century from now. On the low end of this range—up to as much as 2 degrees—warming would be no big deal, and possibly a net benefit. Warming on the high end of this range would present significant problems, requiring a number of responses. Narrowing the range of outcomes is therefore the most pressing climate science question. Everything else is a sideshow.
And what of the faulty computer models and cover-ups? Piltdown Man!
It may well be that it can’t be done. Right now the IPCC can’t settle on a best-guess estimate within the 1.1‑4.8 degree range, though a number of scenarios for the year 2100 cluster around 2 degrees of warming. This is nearly the same range and best guess as the previous four reports of the IPCC stretching back to 1990. More astonishing, this range differs little from that proposed by Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius in 1896. It was Arrhenius, winner of the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1903, who first supplied the basic equation that forms the basis for modern climate models. Working without a computer, he estimated a range of climate sensitivity from a doubling of greenhouse gases of 1.6 to about 5 degrees Celsius, with a best guess of about 2.1 degrees.
In other words, despite billions spent on climate research and the development of enormously complex computer models, we are no closer to predictive precision than we were 110 years ago. The computer models are still too crude and limited, especially about the crucial question of water vapor “feedbacks” (clouds in ordinary language), to spit out the answers we’re looking for. We can fiddle with the models all we want, and perhaps end up with one that might produce a correct prediction, but we can never be sure so long as our understanding of water vapor behavior remains sketchy.
While climate skeptics are denounced for mentioning “uncertainty,” the terms “uncertain” and “uncertainty” appear 173 times, while “error” and “errors” appear 192 times, in the 218-page chapter on climate models in the latest IPCC report released last September. As the IPCC admits, “there remain significant errors in the model simulation of clouds. It is very likely that these errors contribute significantly to the uncertainties in estimates of cloud feedbacks and consequently in the climate change projections.” The IPCC’s latest report rates the confidence of our understanding of clouds and aerosols as “low,” and allows that it is possible that clouds could cancel out most of the warming effect of greenhouse gases. If anything, our uncertainty about future climate change has increased with each new IPCC report…
The 17-years-and-counting plateau in global average temperature, following two decades of a nearly 0.4 degree increase in temperature that boosted the warming narrative for a time, is the biggest embarrassment for a supposed scientific “consensus” since Piltdown Man. The basic theory says we’re supposed to continue warming at about 0.2 degrees Celsius per decade, but since the late 1990s we’ve stopped. In one of the infamous emails revealed in the East Anglia “climategate” scandal of 2009, Kevin Trenberth, a prominent climate scientist, called it a “travesty” that scientists couldn’t give a good reason for the pause. They’ve been scrambling ever since, offering a variety of explanations, but none of them can minimize the fact that nearly all of the models failed to predict a “pause” of this length, and if the “pause” continues for another 5 to 10 years, all of the models will be falsified…
The temperature plateau and the persistent limitations and errors of the computer models strongly suggest the kind of “anomalies” that Thomas Kuhn famously explained should constitute a crisis for dominant scientific theories. What’s more, several papers recently published in the peer-reviewed literature conclude climate sensitivity is much lower than previously thought, making the problem of climate change much less likely to be catastrophic and more likely to be easily managed. But with the notable exceptions of the Economist and straight-shooting New York Times science blogger Andrew Revkin, these heterodox findings, which have steadily eroded the catastrophic climate change narrative, have received almost no media attention.
Does any of this lead the “climateers” to consider that perhaps “opinions or strategies could bear some modification”?
The environmental community is so deeply invested in looming catastrophe that it’s difficult to envision a scientific result that would alter their cult-like bearing. Rather than reflect, they deflect, blaming the Koch brothers, the fossil fuel industry, and Republican “climate deniers” for their lack of political progress. Yet organized opposition to climate change fanaticism is tiny compared with the swollen staffs and huge marketing budgets of the major environmental organizations, not to mention the government agencies around the world that have thrown in with them on the issue…
Instead of confronting the fact that their cause has foundered mostly of its own dead weight—and the sheer fantasy of proposals for near-term replacement of hydrocarbon energy—the climate campaigners have steadily ratcheted up their bad-faith arguments and grasping authoritarianism… (that implies) scientists should strive for unanimity and link arms in full support of the environmentalists’ carbon-suppression agenda…
A bit of confirmation bias may be on the way:
If the El Niño (warmer than average surface temperatures in the Pacific) predicted for this coming year is as big as some current data suggest, we may well see a global temperature spike commensurate with the El Niño-related spike of 1998. The specific effects of high El Niño years are hard to predict, but if there is an El Niño-related spike next year, you can be sure the climate campaigners will loudly proclaim that “the pause is over!” But this would obfuscate rather than clarify the reasons for the pause…
The problem is over-hyped, and the proposed solutions range from futile to cripplingly expensive to ridiculous.
(A) human role in climate change is acknowledged by every single prominent climate skeptic including Pat Michaels, Roy Spencer, John Christy, Freeman Dyson, Judith Curry, and Richard Lindzen. Studies like Cook’s seek to establish something that virtually no one is arguing. The real argument is over how much future warming is reasonable to expect. Lindzen, Michaels, and others think that we’ve seen most of the temperature increase we’re likely to see, even with further increases in greenhouse gas levels. The climate establishment refuses to argue the matter. Instead, it has stepped up its vilification and intimidation of any scientist who expresses the slightest deviation from their increasingly narrow orthodoxy…
After all the sound and fury of the last few months, where does the issue of climate change stand? The cruel irony for the climateers is that the more they hype the apocalypse of future climate change, the more farcically inadequate are their proposed remedies. Global primary energy demand is going to double over the next generation, and there is no one who thinks hydrocarbons—especially coal—aren’t going to play a large role in providing this energy, especially in developing nations. While the EPA tries to shut down most or all of our more than 500 remaining coal plants, there are currently more than 1,000 coal plants under construction elsewhere in the world. If catastrophic climate change is somewhere in our future, the only serious remedy is to deploy new sources of affordable and abundant non- or low-carbon energy. The EPA plan does little in service of a serious energy transition; to the contrary, to the extent that it props up the inferior current renewable technologies such as wind, solar, and biomass, it will retard serious efforts to develop breakthrough energy sources.
Why the hype and intransigence? To obtain grants? To atone for a different version of original sin?
The real “deniers” today are the climateers who refuse to consider that their case for catastrophe has weakened even as they promote unserious solutions that do little or nothing to stimulate the genuine energy transition they say they want. Their default position continues to be simpleminded exaggeration or distortion of every possible angle for political gain.
The best opinion polls from Pew and Gallup show that the public doesn’t buy it and is suffering from a case of “apocalypse fatigue.” The rank politicization of the issue and the relentless demonization of any critics within the scientific community are a catastrophe for science and debilitating for serious deliberation about policy. But the left is so far gone into climate madness, and the Democratic party so beholden to its green faction, that they are likely to persist in their inordinate fear of the Keystone pipeline, natural gas fracking, and the extraordinary revival of American oil production, all of which, in a relatively unmolested market, would tend to displace coal. Absent an unusual level of political resolve from Congress, the climate campaign may yet succeed in hobbling the electric power sector in America. That would be a high price to pay for indulging a fanatical movement that in every other respect must be reckoned a pernicious failure.