Is Climate Change An Existential Threat?
The Parallel Between Climate Skeptics and Darwin Skeptics
by Jerry Bergman, PhD
One of the main concerns of most of the 2020 Democratic Presidential candidates is ‘Global Warming,’ now called ‘Climate Change.’ These candidates adamantly contend this problem is so serious that it is now an existential threat, meaning a threat to our very existence. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., furiously proclaimed, “The world is going to end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change.” Polls find concerns about climate change rising, mainly among Democrats, but some Republicans have also expressed clear concerns about this issue. Is it really an existential threat?
Climate Statistics and Uncertainty
When I was teaching college level geology, the climate concern topic was covered in some detail. The widely accepted data on temperature increase is this: from 1880 until the early 1940s, the Earth warmed by about 0.8 degrees (all temperature degrees in this review are in Celsius). From 1940 to 1975, the average global temperature decreased by close to 0.1 degrees, creating a concern shared at the time that the Earth faced global cooling – maybe another ice age. From 1975 to 2020, the temperature has risen about 0.6 degrees. Thus, since 1880, for the last 140 years, the average global temperature rise has been 1.3 degrees worldwide. The increase and decrease level varies. Consequently, the temperature was, on average, warmer in some areas, cooler in others.
The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates if warming continues at the current rate, global temperature levels could rise 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels by 2030. An obvious concern is, “can an average change of one or two degrees produce the catastrophic consequences predicted by the climate change cabal?” Even the experts are not sure. The cover article of the new Science News featured a picture of the Earth and in bold letters proclaimed, “Climate’s Cloudy Crystal Ball. Predictions about the future Earth get hazy as greenhouse gas levels rise.”
The Consensus and the Skeptics
The current projection, based on a number of major assumptions, is that the temperature may rise from 5 to 7 degrees in the next 80 years. The cautious approach is to assume it will be a problem and respond accordingly. What concerns me is that university professors have been terminated on the grounds that they urge caution related to the current consensus on climate change which is interpreted as climate change doubt. Name-calling, such as “Climate Change Denier,” is commonly leveled against critics – as it is against evolution doubters.
As is the case in the evolution debate, there exist fully qualified persons who question the current consensus. Regarding climate change, one such expert is Dr. William Happer, the Cyrus Fogg Brackett Professor of Physics at Princeton University. He claims that
earth’s climate has always been changing. Our present global warming is not at all unusual by the standards of geological history, and it is probably benefiting the biosphere. Indeed, there is very little correlation between the estimates of CO2 and of the earth’s temperature.
Happer is especially concerned about what he calls the current “climate crusade” that is
characterized by true believers, opportunists, cynics, money-hungry governments, manipulators of various types—even children’s crusades—all based on contested science and dubious claims.
Professor Happer believes most of the global warming “has probably been due to natural causes.” He explains his journey of involvement in this area resulted from watching the evening news. He relates he was often
outraged by the distortions about CO2 and climate that were being intoned by hapless, scientifically-illiterate newscasters . . . . I began to speak up and I have never stopped . . . most climate models do not work. The history of science shows many examples of fields that needed outside criticism. A famous example is Andrei Sakharov’s leadership of opposition to Trofim Lysenko’s politicized biology in the Soviet Union.
He added that he has
long been persuaded that more CO2 will benefit the world, mainly because it makes plants grow more efficiently and increases their resistance to drought, and because the warming from more CO2, predicted by establishment models, has been exaggerated by a factor of three or more.
Causes, Feedbacks and Solutions
One major cause of the past 0.6 degree rise in temperature is attributed to cleaner air due to efforts to reduce air pollution, especially sulfur emissions, to help reduce acid rain and respiratory illness. Air pollution forms a blanket over the areas it covers, reflecting sunlight back into space. Water clouds do the same, as anyone can attest who seeks a shade tree on hot sunny days, or observes when a cloud blocks the sunlight, the shadowed Earth below is noticeably cooler.
A climatologist friend noted that much can be done to ameliorate the Earth’s warming by individuals, such as lowering the heating level in our homes and offices. Heating buildings, especially in cities, can significantly raise the outdoor temperature because all the heat used to warm the building eventually escapes to the outside. Inexpensive materials that reflect heat from the Sun away from Earth and back into outer space can also help.
Is Carbon Dioxide All Bad?
The main source of carbon required for life is the CO2 in the air and, to live, plants must absorb carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, reducing the atmospheric CO2 levels. Professor Happer writes
Carbon is the stuff of life. Our bodies are made of carbon. A normal human exhales around 1 kg of CO2 (the simplest chemically stable molecule of carbon in the earth’s atmosphere) per day. Before the industrial period, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere was 270 ppm. At the present time, the concentration is about 390 ppm, 0.039 percent of all atmospheric molecules, less than 1 percent of that in our breath. 
The source of this CO2 is not just combustion (meaning all burning) but such sources as cement production, and respiration, the exhaling of all living animals, including humans. Professor Happer adds, “More CO2 will benefit the world. The only way to limit CO2 would be to stop using fossil fuels, which I think would be a profoundly immoral and irrational policy.”
In view of this fact, some scientists have noted the entire problem, if it exists, can be solved by planting a trillion trees worldwide. More recycling and less burning is another way. Electric cars, which will replace gasoline-powered cars in the future, is yet another proactive solution. If we all do our part, potential problems can be prevented. Happer added that some of his concerns included the use of computer models, on which the IPCC’s official position is based,
are unreliable because of the inherent difficulty of modeling the climate due to the fact that the atmosphere is a fluid-dynamic system, which, like all such systems, is subject to turbulence . . . which makes its long-term behavior very hard to predict (turbulence being a form of “sensitivity to initial conditions” or “chaos.”)
The Cost of Free Speech
For expressing these ideas, a smear campaign was mounted against Happer, which he said has “included many hostile, obscene phone calls and emails with threats to me, my family, even my grandchildren.”
The Science News article, which is the focus of this review, agreed, noting that “as climate models improve, worst-case scenarios are hard to pin down,” and in response to this problem scientists have developed “middle-of-the-road scenarios . . . [because] worst case scenarios . . . are still proving hard to pin down . . . . Uncertainties remain . . . . How the planet will respond to very high levels of CO2, however, is still unclear.” This insight shames most of the common irresponsible publicity, such as the quote at the beginning of this paper by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who proclaimed, “The world is going to end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change.” The press’ focus on reporting has resulted in climate change being the 2nd most important issue among Democratic voters, below health care and above education funding.
Professors Fired Due to Their Questions about Climate Change
I have a thick file of professors terminated due to their concerns about the accuracy of climate change predictions. In answer to the question “what happens to professors who dare question climate orthodoxy,” Beisner writes, “sometimes they’re told to shut up. And if they don’t, sometimes they get fired. And after that, sometimes they get told to shut up about being fired.” This happened to
Dr. Peter Ridd, ex-professor of marine science at James Cook University in Australia. Ridd had the temerity to point out, in a chapter for the book Climate Change: The Facts 2017, that studies on which the claim that rising atmospheric CO2 concentration—blamed also for catastrophic anthropogenic global warming—was to blame for declining rates of calcification in the Great Barrier Reef were fatally flawed.
In contrast to so many of these professor termination stories, this one had a happy ending. Although James Cook University had leveled 28 charges against Professor Ridd, who was then the chair of the physics department, every one of them, including his termination, was declared unlawful by an Australian court. One finding, very appropriate to the concern in this paper, was when
third parties attempt to replicate published research, they often get different answers altogether. Since government decisions can throw people out of work, disrupt families, and destroy communities, Ridd thinks it’s a bad idea to base government policy on research that hasn’t been double-checked.
The fact is, according to Professor Richard Horton, for over two decades editor-in-chief of The Lancet, that the
case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness.
The judge in the Professor Ridd case ruled that intellectual freedom is critically important because it
allows academics to express their opinions without fear of reprisals. It allows a Charles Darwin to break free of the constraints of creationism. It allows an Albert Einstein to break free of the constraints of Newtonian physics. It allows the human race to question conventional wisdom in the never-ending search for knowledge and truth. And that, at its core, is what higher learning is about. To suggest otherwise is to ignore why universities were created and why critically focused academics remain central to all that university teaching claims to offer.
As the judge correctly pointed out, “Universities are supposed to be places of rigorous inquiry and vigorous debate. Academic tenure is supposed to prevent exactly this situation: a professor being hounded from campus for expressing unfashionable views. Clause 14 of the [university] contract is devoted to Intellectual Freedom, a concept Judge Vasta calls ‘the cornerstone upon which the University exists. If the cornerstone is removed, the building tumbles.’”
How very true. This same problem exists with those who recognize the fact that Darwinism has a lot of evidential problems.
 Letzter, Rafi. 2019. Climate Change? https://www.livescience.com/12-years-to-stop-climate-change.html.
 Letzter, 2019.
 Cover of Science News (February 29, 2020).
 William Happer. 2011. “The Truth about Greenhouse Gases: The Dubious Science of the Climate Crusaders.” First Things, June.
 Happer, 2011.
 “William Happer Interview.” 2016. The Best Schools. https://thebestschools.org/special/karoly-happer-dialogue-global-warming/william-happer-interview/.
 Happer Interview, 2016.
 Happer Interview, 2016.
 Happer, 2011.
 Happer Interview, 2016.
 Happer Interview, 2016.
 Gramling, Carolyn. 2020. “Earth’s Hot Future.” Science News 197(4): 18-19, February 29.
 Dennis, Brady. “In state after state, climate change emerges as a key issue for Democrats.” The Washington Post (February 20, 2020). https://www.washingtonpost.com.
 Beisner, Calvin. 2018. “What Happens to Professors who Dare Question Climate Orthodoxy?” Cornwall Alliance, May 24.https://cornwallalliance.org/ /what-happens-to-professors-who-dare-question-climate-orthodoxy.
 “The Splendid Peter Ridd Court Judgment.” Posted by Donna Laframboise on April 22, 2019. https://nofrakkingconsensus.com/2019/04/22/the-splendid-peter-ridd-court-judgment/
 Gyles, Carlton. 2015. “Skeptical of medical science reports?” The Canadian Veterinary Journal 56(10): 1011–1012, October. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4572812/
 Ridd_vs_JamesCook_ruling_28_separate_unlawful_actions.pdf. Line 301, p. 74. https://nofrakkingconsensus.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/
 Quoted in Beisner, 2018.
Dr. Jerry Bergman has taught biology, genetics, chemistry, biochemistry, anthropology, geology, and microbiology for over 40 years at several colleges and universities including Bowling Green State University, Medical College of Ohio where he was a research associate in experimental pathology, and The University of Toledo. He is a graduate of the Medical College of Ohio, Wayne State University in Detroit, the University of Toledo, and Bowling Green State University. He has over 1,300 publications in 12 languages and 40 books and monographs. His books and textbooks that include chapters that he authored are in over 1,500 college libraries in 27 countries. So far over 80,000 copies of the 40 books and monographs that he has authored or co-authored are in print. For more articles by Dr Bergman, see his Author Profile.