June 17, 2017 | David F. Coppedge

More Reasons to Doubt Consensus

Recent scientific papers cast doubt on the ability of researchers to understand systems as complex as climate.

From time to time, we point out papers from within the mainstream journals that deflate some of the certainty about global warming – not that it has something to do with creation or evolution, but because climate shares a familiar trait with Darwinism: strong consensus. If scientists cannot be so certain about something observable today, how can they be so certain about what happened hundreds of millions of years ago?

Volcanic ‘geoengineering’ may have caused a climate catastrophe that killed most animal species (Phys.org). Obviously humans didn’t cause a global catastrophe 443 million years ago, because there weren’t any humans around in the evolutionary picture of the Oligocene. This article reveals some of the uncertainty about volcanic effects on climate. Then it gives reasons to doubt today’s certainty about climate:

Because the ancient atmospheres and oceans have long since been altered beyond recognition, scientists have to work from proxies, such as variations in oxygen isotopes in ancient rock, to learn about climates long past. The trouble with most proxies, said [David] Fike [of Washington University in St. Louis], who specializes in interpreting the chemical signatures of biological and geological activity in the rock record, is that most elements in rock participate in so many chemical reactions that a signal can often be interpreted in more than one way.

A signal can often be interpreted in more than one way.

Much of modern climate modeling also works with proxies. If researchers were not aware of the impact of volcanoes on prehistoric mass extinctions, how certain can they be about volcanic effects today? How certain are they that coal burning is responsible for the warming they blame on humans?

The take-home, said Fike, is that the different factors that affect Earth’s climate can interact in unanticipated ways and it is possible that events that might not seem extreme in themselves can put the climate system into a precarious state where additional perturbations have catastrophic consequences.

The article warns that geo-engineering (e.g., taking action to mitigate global warming) could lead to unforeseen catastrophes. But a corollary seems reasonable: scientists cannot tease out the effects of human activity from natural causes of climate change. If earth climate is indeed so precarious, non-extreme natural events can interact in unanticipated ways in the present.

Weathering of rocks a poor regulator of global temperatures (Phys.org). This article ends by speculating that planetary warming may get worse than expected. The subtext, though, is more important: an assumption about climate has been shown to be wrong. Weathering of rock, one of the proxies of climate change, “does not depend on Earth’s temperature in the way that geologists had believed.” Researchers cannot assume that weathering provides “a sort of long-term thermostat that protects the Earth from getting too warm or too cold.”

“We found that to be able to explain all the data—temperature, CO2, ocean chemistry, everything—the dependence of chemical weathering on temperature has to be a lot weaker than was commonly assumed,” Krissansen-Totton said. “You also need to have something else changing weathering rates that has nothing to do with temperature.”

If that is true, several consequences follow: (1) an assumption that informed climate models is wrong; (2) large changes in past climate were due to other causes, that might also be causing current climate trends apart from human activity, and (3) there could be other undiscovered influences on climate that are stronger or weaker than human activity. The effects of these consequences on consensus certainty become obvious.

Research in Russia challenges widely held understanding of past climate history (Phys.org). While these articles deal with reconstruction of prehistoric climate, they bear on current political debates because mistakes about past climate can undermine the confidence scientists have about causes of modern climate change. Watch this admission:

Things are heating up in Russia. UNLV Geoscience Ph.D. student Jonathan Baker has found evidence that shows nearly continuous warming from the end of the last Ice Age to the present in the Ural Mountains in central Russia.

The research, which was published today in top geoscience journal Nature Geoscience, shows continual warming over the past 11,000 years, contradicting the current belief that northern hemisphere temperatures peaked 6,000 to 8,000 years ago and cooled until the pre-Industrial period.

While the conclusions seem to support worries that the climate is warming, they actually undermine the main political message of the global warming consensus. Anthropogenic effects on climate only began in the Industrial Revolution within the past two centuries. If this report is correct, the climate has been warming steadily for 11,000 years, and it wasn’t humans’ fault. Here is another report that is “contradicting the current belief” about climate change.

Hiatus-like decades in the absence of equatorial Pacific cooling and accelerated global ocean heat uptake (Geophysical Research Letters). The abstract of this paper is sufficient to cause serious doubts about the ability of the consensus to be cocky about what they think they know:

Our finding challenges the view of the equatorial Pacific being the sole pacemaker for generating internal stochastic variability-driven global warming hiatus decades and suggests that past and future surface temperature patterns during hiatus decades may be distinct. In addition, the global ocean heat uptake tends to slow down during hiatus decades implying a fundamentally different global climate feedback factor on decadal timescales than on centennial timescales and calling for caution inferring climate sensitivity from decadal-scale variability.

Adding this admission to the previous admissions should convince an unbiased observer that climate science is a vexed enterprise. Climate models depend on far too many assumptions to allow accurate predictions of what fraction of a percent rise will occur in a century. The error bars are too large, the assumptions are dubious, and the difficulties of linking causes and effects are beyond the capabilities of scientists. Taken together, these four reports could reasonably suggest that human activity has nothing to do with climate change.

Citizens should take note that these four reports come from within consensus journals. They do not come from “denialist” websites or conspiracy theorists. The same holds with our reports about Darwinism: despite the air of superiority and certainty about evolution emanating from the academic halls of consensus, and despite the political power of their unified voices against their critics, we continue to show ample doubts about that certainty from their own organs of propaganda. We let them shoot their own feet. It seems Darwin’s worst enemies are his own defenders.




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