December 11, 2019 | David F. Coppedge

Climate Hysteria Goes Far Beyond the Science

The behavior of scientists, the media, and individuals who follow them like groupies tells a lot about the nature of science.

Have you noticed an uptick in climate alarmism in the media lately? Part of that is due to the latest climate conference going on in Madrid, which gives the media something to talk about. If the media were fair in their reporting, they would ask questions about the science and the interpretations of the data. If they were especially probing, they might investigate the political views of the ones making the most noise about climate change (the current buzzword for anthropogenic global warming). They might also look into the effectiveness of proposed solutions, and potential unforeseen consequences.

Instead, there has been a steady drumbeat to the tune of The Sky Is Falling. “The science is settled,” we are told, and we’re all going to die unless the world takes drastic measures, and individuals give up driving and using plastic straws. If you don’t agree with the consensus, by implication, you are part of the problem and you are evil. With the fervor of the ill-fated Children’s Crusade, young people have become leaders of a movement to shame the adults who caused the sky to fall.

Young people take to the streets for climate: Who are they? (Phys.org)

The Fridays for Future student strike movement began last year with a lone 15-year old girl, Greta Thunberg, protesting on the steps of the Swedish parliament. Today millions of young people worldwide have joined in.

Last year a 15-year old girl in pigtails decided to walk out of her classroom and sit on the steps of Sweden’s parliament every Friday with a homemade sign: “School Strike For Climate”.

Since then, the Fridays for Future movement sparked by Greta Thunberg, now 16, has gone global.

Knowing that science is never settled by consensus, and that mass hysteria is not a new thing in the history of science, CEH seeks to evaluate the scientific evidence itself from primary sources. What becomes apparent in the journals is that many factors in climate are poorly constrained or not understood. It is very challenging to connect any given phenomenon to causation of long-term climate change. Some things are easily visible: e.g., receding glaciers, Antarctic ice loss, and temperature trends at a given location. But are these really due to human activity? There have been large climate swings in the past, many scientists realize, long before fossil fuels were used by man. The Sahara had lush wetlands and human communities not many thousands of years ago. Greenland used to have far less ice than it does now, even though it is receding rapidly again. “Climate change” is as old as the Earth.

As CEH scans the scientific literature, it finds frequent instances of surprise at new factors affecting the climate that were overlooked in the consensus climate models on which the IPCC and government leaders rely for their information.

Animated GIF by NASA. Earth’s atmosphere is affected by numerous factors that are incompletely understood.

Surprises in the Data

Evaluating the performance of past climate model projections (Geophysical Research Letters). This paper gives a rah-rah to climate models from the 1970s to the present, finding that they were “generally quite accurate” in predicting global warming after publication. “This research should help resolve public confusion around the performance of past climate modeling efforts, and increases our confidence that models are accurately projecting global warming,” the four authors say. They only based their conclusions, however, on two measurable factors: temperature and CO2. The Abstract does not indicate whether the factors were anthropogenic: i.e., whether the trends measured would have happened anyway without human activity. For these reasons, it could be accused of affirming the consequent, a logical fallacy: i.e., “after, therefore because of” (see Non-Sequitur).

One-third of recent global methane increase comes from tropical Africa (European Geoscience Union). Ask someone about greenhouse gas, and you are likely to hear “carbon dioxide.” Methane, however, is 28 times more potent than CO2. Researchers from the EGU found that a third of it comes naturally from one place on the globe: tropical Africa. And it comes from wetlands – those other locales that environmentalists are keen to protect from human activity. Why is this being reported now? Basically, scientists weren’t looking for methane there. They were looking farther south, where it is easier to gather measurements. For all they know, the methane emissions are growing naturally. What other unknowns are not included in current climate models?

Remarkable Capacity for Anaerobic Oxidation of Methane at High Methane Concentration (Geophysical Research Letters). The deep sea emits methane, but has a “remarkable” way to oxidize it. How? Microbes! When methane increases, they become more active.

At the high pressures that typify deep ocean sediment environments (approximately 10‐bar hydrostatic pressure for every 100 m in water depth), greater amounts of methane, and other gases, are dissolved in seawater and in sedimentary pore water compared to concentrations observed at sea level. Microbially mediated reactions that are influenced by methane concentration are thus quite sensitive to the methane concentration utilized in an experimental design. When deep sea sediments were subjected to more realistic methane concentration during high‐pressure incubations, rates of microbial processes that cycle carbon, particularly methane oxidation, increased. These patterns were not discovered previously because incubations at pressure were not performed routinely. The data reshape our understanding of methane dynamics in marine sediments.

No Cookie for climate change (Geophysical Research Letters). In this paper, Volgt and Albert investigate whether models of radiative forcing by clouds are reliable. The “locking” method, they say, is reliable, but the “Cookie” method is not. “Our results caution the use of the Cookie method in the context of climate change, and advocate for a wider use of the locking method,” they conclude. Yet they say the less-accurate Cookie method has been the “method of choice” for modelers because it is easier to use and less computation intensive. Other questions pop up from this paper (open-access in PDF form): Do other modelers agree, or have counter-arguments? How much has the Cookie method been used by scientists at the Madrid conference? Are inaccuracies cooked into the alarmist conclusions? Is Greta Thunberg about to lose her Cookies?

Improving the accuracy of climate model projections with emergent constraints (Chinese Academy of Sciences, via Phys.org). Readers should perk up at the thought of “improving the accuracy” with the question, “How accurate have they been before now?” And since the research comes from China, which stands to benefit or suffer from climate policies they agree to, political motivations cannot be entirely excluded from the conclusions. Will the world take the advice of Dr Florent Brient, who believes that modelers need to take into account “emergent constraints” when comparing models to determine which ones are reliable? How reliable is any model, given these concluding thoughts?

According to Brient, two questions remain to be solved. Firstly, “what are the connections between the different predictors used for narrowing projections a given climate change? A better understanding of the links between circulation and clouds would help make progress in this regard,” said Brient. And secondly, “how can the spread in climate projections be reliably narrowed if emergent constraints disagree with each other? This suggests that some emergent constraints are more trustworthy than others, but this remains to be investigated.”

In short, they don’t even know how to investigate whether models are trustworthy!

Natural ecosystems protect against climate change (Göttingen University). This team found that mangrove ecosystems act as natural carbon sinks, reducing the impact of greenhouse gases. Analyzing sediment cores, they found climate fluctuations going back 400 years. They conclude that protecting these natural carbon sinks is equally important to reducing carbon emissions.

Carbon cycle (NASA Earth Observatory). Can science quantify each factor accurately and reliably model the complex interrelationships?

How Much Can Science Know?

One paper deserves special focus regarding the climate change issue. In PNAS, Tim Palmer and Bjorn Stevens discuss, “The scientific challenge of understanding and estimating climate change.” That is the issue, isn’t it?

Given the slow unfolding of what may become catastrophic changes to Earth’s climate, many are understandably distraught by failures of public policy to rise to the magnitude of the challenge. Few in the science community would think to question the scientific response to the unfolding changes. However, is the science community continuing to do its part to the best of its ability? In the domains where we can have the greatest influence, is the scientific community articulating a vision commensurate with the challenges posed by climate change? We think not.

In short, Palmer and Stevens don’t like the bravado of climate scientists, who keep standing up and declaring that “the science is settled” without revealing the messiness of the practice of real science. Unless they engage in more “critical self-reflection,” showing themselves willing and able to be fallible and to “expect surprises,” they will be unlikely to convince lay people to take part in the policy changes they say are required to deal with climate change.  The two are not climate skeptics; they believe the “blurry outlines” of global warming are evident, despite the inadequacies of models.

Unfortunately, many in the community—notably those in charge of science funding—have no idea how significant and widespread these inadequacies are. This has arisen in part because of a justified desire to communicate, with as much clarity as possible, the aspects of our science that are well settled. While we are certainly not claiming that model inadequacies cast doubt on these well-settled issues, we are claiming that, by deemphasizing what our models fail to do, we inadvertently contribute to complacency with the state of modeling. This leaves the scientific consensus on climate change vulnerable to specious arguments that prey on obvious model deficiencies; gives rise to the impression that defending the fidelity of our most comprehensive models is akin to defending the fidelity of the science; and most importantly, fails to communicate the need and importance of doing better.

Scientists, too prideful of their work and eager to get the public on board with the consensus, fail to communicate the “extraordinary challenge it is to provide a sharper and more physically well-grounded picture of climate change,” they say. This is “an ethical issue” that is leading to complacency with the status quo among scientists.

As our nonlinear world moves into uncharted territory, we should expect surprises. Some of these may take the form of natural hazards, the scale and nature of which are beyond our present comprehension. The sooner we depart from the present strategy, which overstates an ability to both extract useful information from and incrementally improve a class of models that are structurally ill suited to the challenge, the sooner we will be on the way to anticipating surprises, quantifying risks, and addressing the very real challenge that climate change poses for science. Unless we step up our game, something that begins with critical self-reflection, climate science risks failing to communicate and hence realize its relevance for societies grappling to respond to global warming.

Does Greta Thunberg realize that her passion rests on models that are “structurally ill suited to the challenge” of even comprehending all the factors involved in prognosticating climate? Is she launching from a springboard made of sawdust?

In the New York Post, climate realist Bjorn Lomborg, who believes the climate is changing but doubts the degree of human causation and questions the proposed solutions, asks time out for a reality check. The “Drive for rapid ‘net zero’ emissions” is “a guaranteed loser,” he argues. “Climate change is a real problem. It is man-made, and it will have negative consequences,” he believes. “But trying to stop emitting CO₂ by 2050 or sooner is a very expensive way to do almost no good.” And that’s the issue: “enormous costs and small benefits.” His solution is to focus on innovation rather than draconian cuts.

Today, Time Magazine made ignorant crybaby Greta Thunberg the “Person of the Year” for her accusatory rant that set off a movement of other ignorant youth in joining feel-good, worthless activities. Her greatest achievement was skipping school, WND says. Erik, a 15-year-old in the Netherlands, decided not to eat meat or fly airplanes any more, a personal sacrifice that is but a drop in the ocean of what climate activists say must be done to reverse global warming. But he flew to Madrid, undoing all his carbon fasting in the process, in order to show solidarity with the Thunbergites. Nicole flew all the way from Argentina to Madrid to do the same. It may take years for these protestors to atone for their climate sins of flying across the world to tell scientists who don’t know everything that they stand with Greta, and are as ignorant and ungrateful as she is. Why ignorant? They have been taught one side of the issue all their lives, and know squat about philosophy of science. Why ungrateful? Because God gave them a beautiful world, and bodies and minds that should make them filled with joy and praise for everything they have received from His gracious hand, and repentant over their disobedience to His priorities.

If they really want to have an effect on climate, let them fight totalitarianism, and promote individual liberty that leads to innovation: cheaper, more economical cars, cleaner fuels, and more bountiful yields of food. Let them promote Biblical godliness that leads to responsible stewardship of God’s world. Those things would do far more than griping at public gatherings of elitists and getting their crying faces into Time magazine. Let us all weep instead over our sins, then trust and obey the Lord of the Earth who cares far more for His creation than we could ever do. He knows the way to the promised land.

Recommended reading: II Peter 3.

God’s beautiful world: care for it wisely. Art by M. Guthrie in the Kincaid style.

 

 

 

 

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