Chinks in the Climate Science Data
Consensus can be more robust than the data it rests on. That’s true in Darwinism, and appears to be true in climate science, according to some published doubts.
A guru can lie down on a bed of nails, provided all the nails are even and solid. If the guru lies down on a bed of spaghetti, something else must be holding him up, and it’s not the nails. Let the nails represent data points of solid empirical science. How solid are the data points under climate science?
In an episode of Tucker Carlson Tonight on Fox News August 8, filmmaker Josh Fox, a fast-talking environmental activist, wouldn’t allow Carlson to get a word in edgewise, which is quite a feat, knowing Carlson’s ability to hold his own in a debate. The guest hammered Carlson with the question, “Do you understand what the science is telling us about climate change?” Over and over he pounded away on that question, but the question presupposes that the science is solid and incontrovertible. Let’s examine some things that appeared recently in the pro-warmist science journals and news media. Readers can decide if these uncertainties are trivial or indicate a systemic, underlying problem with the consensus.
‘Dodgy’ greenhouse gas data threatens Paris accord (BBC News). “Potent, climate-warming gases are being emitted into the atmosphere but are not being recorded in official inventories, a BBC investigation has found.” That’s a startling admission from a news source heavily in favor of the warmist consensus. “Levels of some emissions from India and China are so uncertain that experts say their records are plus or minus 100%,” writes Matt McGrath, environment correspondent for the BBC. To show how serious this is, look what he reports next: “These flaws posed a bigger threat to the Paris climate agreement than US President Donald Trump’s intention to withdraw, researchers told BBC Radio 4’s Counting Carbon programme.”
These flaws posed a bigger threat to the Paris climate agreement than US President Donald Trump’s intention to withdraw.
Sea level is a surprisingly variable parameter (Phys.org). Sea level is zero, right? This article shows how complicated it is, even since the 1990s, to come up with a “reference model” for sea level. Remember this when the media give dire warnings about cities sinking under the ocean due to climate change:
The protracted debate about a common zero level has been eclipsed by the analysis of historical changes. Satellite data from the last 20 years show that sea levels vary greatly from region to region. Consequently, the focus is once again placed on regional levels. The first reliable data do not define a long-term average but rather a new zero point for research.
Decomposing leaves are a surprising source of greenhouse gases (Phys.org). Nitrous oxide (N2O) is more potent a greenhouse gas than the carbon dioxide (CO2) that everyone worries about. A new “culprit” for emissions of nitrous oxide has been found, and it’s not man or coal plants. It’s “Tiny bits of decomposing leaves in soil.” How potent is nitrous oxide? “Nitrous oxide’s global warming potential is 300 times greater than carbon dioxide, and emissions are largely driven by agricultural practices,” the article says. While the article only addresses farming practices, it would seem that natural leaf litter in forests cannot be ignored. Even so, measures of N2O emissions are “traditionally are about 50 percent accurate, at best,” the article notes.
Overlooked water loss in plants could throw off climate models (Nature News). The caption under a lovely photo of red tulips swaying in the breeze says, “In dry conditions, leaves might lose more water through their outer surfaces than scientists suspected.” As a consequence,
Errors in how scientists account for water loss from leaves may be skewing estimates of how much energy plants make through photosynthesis, according to the latest research. This in turn could jeopardize models of how individual leaves function and even of the global climate. The errors are particularly pronounced when a plant’s water supply is limited — a condition of increasing interest as plant breeders and climate scientists grapple with the effects of global warming.
Methane-eating microbes may reduce release of gases as Antarctic ice sheets melt (Phys.org). Worries about retreating ice sheets releasing methane may be mitigated by lowly bacteria that eat the gas, this article says. Nobody really looked at these remote locations before. “These tiny microorganisms may have a big impact on a warming world by preventing methane from seeping into the atmosphere when ice sheets melt, said Brent Christner, a University of Florida microbiologist and co-author on the study.” Like N2O, methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2, in particular 30 times as potent.
Improved representation of solar variability in climate models (Phys.org). The sun’s contribution to warming needs to be weighed against man’s contribution. This article talks about improved data sets about how the solar cycle forces climate change, which is important, since it counteracts anthropogenic forcing. Solar forcing is found to have a bigger influence than thought. The scientists believe it “will not have a significant influence on the development of global average surface temperatures.” Nevertheless, “regional effects should not be negligible.”
Casting light on the dark ages—Anglo-Saxon fenland is re-imagined (Phys.org). This article investigates a time long before coal plants, smokestacks and SUVs: the so-called “dark ages” from about 400 to 1000 AD, better called the ‘early Medieval’ period. Guess what; they survived global warming. “Fen dwellers made incremental adjustments to the ways in which they collectively exploited and safeguarded the fenland’s natural resources, adapting to water levels that slowly rose as a result of climate change.”
Campaigning on climate science consensus may backfire, warn scholars (Phys.org). Aware that a large segment of the public still does not accept the consensus on climate change, six authors advocated a less-pushy approach. They took particular issue with the popular rhetoric that “97% of scientists agree that human-caused climate change is happening.” For one thing, there is still intense debate about how to quantify a consensus. Secondly, the 97% slogan is not accepted by all climate scientists; the numbers “have been published by a relatively small group of affiliated researchers and challenged by other social scientists,” the advisors say. Thirdly, the public can accept scientific findings without the “consensus” argument. Fourthly, the narrow 97% value obscures wider issues with conflicting policy options. Finally, the advisors think that the 97% slogan strategy is self-defeating, sounding like overreach. Even if the value is defensible, it cannot apply to all areas of climate science. “This approach also makes the implausible assumption that publics will follow the correct policy path once given the relevant scientific information, and that acceptance of scientific consensus is needed to support specific solutions.”
Non-scientists tend to be intimidated by consensus. Tucker Carlson on that TV interview had to concede that he was a reporter, not a scientist. Given these uncertainties we’ve listed above, he should have asked the guest, “Do the scientists know what the science is telling us about climate change?” – and he should not have accepted the “all scientists agree” excuse. Then he could read our report and shout, “It’s fake science!”