An objective review of facts and fictions
Part I: The Issues
“Global Warming”, rechristened as “Climate Change” after 19 months of unexplainable atmospheric temperature stability, with many months of global cooling, was observed around the recent turn of the century, has become an almost daily cause célèbre for the last 40 years for politicians and the mainstream media both in the U.S. and Europe.
The period of the mid-1960s through the ’70s had been marked by a frenzy over a scientifically promoted major global cooling scare replete with warnings of imminent worldwide food shortages as agriculture succumbed to a predicted frigid climate. But by the early 1980s, these forecasts of a potential frigid future disappeared, to be replaced by new scientific predictions as some scientists now forecast as front page news a long period of alleged unprecedented, and inevitably devastating, global warming.
It is perhaps ironic that these new warnings of a complete reversal in future world-wide climate temperatures were by many of the same scientists who had just been forecasting the certainty of significant global cooling that would devastate most of the world’s population.
The reason for this apparent 180-degree switch in the long-range forecast for the world’s climate temperature appears to have been triggered solely by the fact that global climate temperatures had abruptly switched from cool to warm, rather than by any sudden new scientifically generated revelation.
In their search for an explanation for this new warning of global warming, scientists turned to one that had been first proposed back in 1896 by a Swedish scientist, Svante Arrhenius. What Arrhenius had postulated was that there was a direct relationship between the percentage of the “greenhouse” gas carbon dioxide (CO2,), in the atmosphere and the atmospheric temperature. Given this relationship, he suggested that the continuing burning of fossil fuels (coal at the time), of which carbon dioxide is a chief byproduct, would result in eventually warming the world’s climate, but made no forecast of calamity.
But to add importance to their new “discovery” a block of scientists added their own caveat to Arrhenius’ hypothesis: If the current level of the burning of fossil fuels is allowed to continue unabated, the further increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will soon cause it to warm to the irreversible point of no return where environmental damage from the heated climate will peril human existence.
Many scientists, most world governments, and the United Nations each saw the opportunities that could accrue for them by raising this possible warming of the climate to a level of a global crisis, and quickly embraced the wisdom of Winston Churchill’s observation that one should “never let a good crisis go to waste”. The lure of opportunities for governments to impose new regulations and taxes, and for lucrative research grants for scientists beckoned.
Also, in order to add a clear targetable focus to both warming predictions and any proposed mitigation, these scientists unilaterally declared carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to be the sole cause of climate warming. Protests from numerous climate scientists around the world who disagreed, asserting contrary scientific theory and evidence mandated that the science was not at all clear and the subject required more research, were summarily dismissed with the pronouncement that “the science was settled”.
A principal issue is what is the scientific proof that atmospheric CO2 is the sole (or dominant) regulator of the global climate, and that increases in its concentration are responsible for an alleged long-term irreversible and dangerous increase in climate warming that was presently being claimed?
And if increasing CO2 is the cause of global warming as alleged, then what is the scientific explanation for the apparently abrupt change about 1980 from a decade of global atmospheric cooling to a condition now of now proclaimed alarming warming; a change which occurred without any concurrent change in either the atmospheric concentration or the rate of emissions of CO2 from human or other sources? Or the 19 months of no warming and some cooling at the turn of the century?
This begs the corollary question: Is there precedent in either recorded or scientifically determined geologic history for apparent longer-term changes (warming or cooling) in the earth’s climate that appear to have occurred “naturally”, i.e., where there is no indication that a change in atmospheric CO2 was the likely responsible factor?
In summary, do we really understand the science behind what is causing the earth’s climate to warm and cool?
To embark upon a global program, one with huge cultural and economic impacts to the world population, to significantly reduce carbon emissions from human activities will be an ineffective fool’s errand if natural forces other than atmospheric CO2 are involved in our ever-changing global climate. Dismissing that very real possibility without further investigation—as is currently the case—is irrational and irresponsible.
(A possible response to the above is that to do nothing in the face of impending disaster also can be foolish. True, but prudence still requires a rational reason for whatever it is that you do. Otherwise, you merely replicate Brownian motion in (often vain) hope just doing “something” is better than nothing. The wise course is to first spend some effort into analyzing alternatives, and not to discard anything “out of hand”.)
The Problems confronting a solution
Finding answers (even if it’s just “we cannot determine”—which in itself is important to realize) to the above essential questions is common sense. Science has available both the established procedures and the ability to address them.
But for reasons too personal, political, and not entirely rational enough to dissect here, two ‘camps’ each composed mainly of scientists and politicians, but diametrically opposed in their approach to global warming issues and in their responses to the above questions, quickly emerged.
To easily identify the two, the larger group is called “Alarmists” by the other, which in turn has been labeled “Deniers” by their opponents.
The “Alarmists” are those who dogmatically maintain that:
(a) significant global warming is real and ongoing;
(b) the warming is caused solely by steadily increasing CO2 in both the atmosphere and the oceans as a result of uncontrolled use of fossil fuels; and
(c) if strict measures to substantially reduce CO2 emissions are not immediately imposed by all developed nations, irreversible environmental consequences detrimental to human existence will soon occur worldwide.
The mainstream media quickly adopted a policy of solid support of this group and its warnings, giving prominent positive publicity to its every press release and public declaration.
On the other side is a group of world scientists and some politicians that the “Alarmists” label as “Deniers”, although this group actually does not deny that some warming of the global climate is real. This group basically maintains that:
(a) Global atmospheric warming and cooling has occurred throughout the earth’s history, and is provably a natural phenomenon that has occurred with no dependent connection to CO2, and
(b) CO2, while a known “greenhouse gas”, is no more than a “trace” gas constituting less than 0.04% (four hundredths of one percent) of the atmosphere, and has not scientifically proven to be a dominant (let alone, the sole) cause of the present apparent climate warming temperature trend; but, on the other hand,
(c) Water vapor, a variable greenhouse gas,, which can constitute a percentage of the atmospheric gases 100 times greater than CO2, has been confirmed by recent satellite monitoring of humidity in the lower atmosphere to have a major effect on its temperature, and is a major player in our changing climate through both humidity and clouds. Therefore:
(d) regulatory controls imposed to reduce CO2 emissions will have little effect in stopping a warming climate, while, the other hand, the ineffective mandated reductions in the use of fossil fuels will have a substantial adverse consequence for the world’s economy and standard of living. In addition, developing nations will be unnecessarily denied the opportunity to rise out of their ‘third world’ status and “catch up” with the more developed nations of the world.
The Next Step?
Undertaking the research needed to get answers to the questions posed in the “Question” section above is, unfortunately, severely constrained, if not totally prevented, by the dogmatic position taken by the “Alarmist” scientists.
Further complicating the chance of needed research being done before acting, is that the Alarmist scientists’ position has been adopted as “fact” by their political allies and the compliant media. The “official” position is now essentially: The singular or dominating cause of Climate Change is carbon dioxide, which has been increasing steadily in our atmosphere for well over a century as a result of increasing industrial and public use of fossil fuels. If immediate action is not taken by world governments to drastically reduce this use, the climate will warm over the next decades to the point where human existence is threatened. Period. End of discussion.
And–worse yet–they further maintain that the science behind that position is “settled”, and no further research or discussion is needed.
In summary, the Alarmist’s singular solution to the Climate Change problem is simple: Reduce carbon emissions through regulatory and economically motivated restrictions on the use of fossil fuels, such use to be replaced by solar and wind “green energy” electricity wherever possible, without particular regard for the economics of the switch. Those who continue to use fossil fuels will be subject to penalizing energy taxes.
In support of their position on CO2 as the singular cause of the rapidly warming climate, and that no further research is required, the “Alarmist” scientists maintain that a “consensus” of 97% of the world’s scientists agree with it. This alleged “fact” is quoted at every opportunity by the media and politicians and has become anchored in the minds of much of the public as a cast-in-concrete truth.
We will discuss the principal science-related issues in a following post, but there is a major problem with the two of the concepts state just above that are of immediate concern because they present major stumbling blocks to obtaining a factual basis for resolving the global warming issue.
First, by science’s own “rules”, no scientific finding is ever “settled”, for one never knows if the results of the next related experiment will be the results that prove previous conclusions to have been based on an error. As Albert Einstein said in regard to the issue of settled science: “No amount of experimentation can prove me right; [but] a single experiment can prove me wrong.” Valid science must always be “open” to father testing and confirmation.
Second, again by science’s own rules, a scientific theory is never developed, proven, or affirmed by group “consensus”. Rather, a theory must be the result of an independently formulated understanding of the problem and the phenomena involved; Based on this, subsequent independent peer review and experimentation is required to confirm the validity of the initial experimentation and results.
No legitimate scientific fact can be claimed as a result of an individual or group just “agreeing” with a conclusion (consensus) because it meets their expectations. Confirmation requires independent verification through the scientific process that a conclusion is valid.
This has never been done by the alleged 97% of scientists who are allegedly in “consensus”
Third, and of prime importance, through all this each scientist is mandated by professional scientific standards to always have an open mind, ready to, without bias, acknowledge and act on (reject or confirm through scientific methodology) new information, especially if it conflicts with previous concepts, research results or beliefs.
And, fourth, with regard to the alleged “97% of all scientist worldwide” who are alleged to agree with the “Alarmist” position, there never has been any formal or informal survey of “the world’s scientists” to record their individual positions with respect to the existence or cause(s) of global warming /climate change. The all too readily quoted “97% consensus figure is, in fact, a bogus, fictional number. It was created by a purely self-serving subjective process that lacks any statistical or sampling merit and has no legitimate basis. It is pure “Alarmist” propaganda.
The tragedy is, these bogus claims of “settled science” and near world-wide scientist agreement (“consensus”) are accepted as gospel proof of the validity of the “Alarmist” argument by the media, and most politicians. This has cut off any possibility of open, honest discussion by scientists from both “sides” to mutually review the complex scientific issues involved.
In Part II we will explore some of the facts (real and alleged) that bear on the Climate Change issue and its resolution.
NOTE: Constructive comments (pro or con) that add to the discussion, and questions are welcomed.