How to Avoid Climate Screams
The epistemology of climate science reveals a
wide gap between alarmism and empiricism
The latest IPCC report is out, and the media are stepping on each other to out-scream each other about how bad the news is. It’s a “wake-up call” for all governments to take climate change seriously,” shouts University College London. Climate scientists have reached an “‘unequivocal’ consensus on human-made warming in landmark report,” shrieks Phys.org. It’s “Code Red for humanity,” scientists at Western Washington University proclaim with a shudder. Stephanie Melchor at The Scientist shudders that “Global Temperatures to Top Paris Agreement Limit by 2060.” Nature declares with scientific authority that “Earth is warmer than it’s been in 125,000 years” – as if they were there and know how bad it was. Michael Grose at The Conversation opines that “limiting any global warming is what matters most” in the aftermath of the warning from on high. The IPCC, tasked with assimilating mountains of data into concise sound bites for media propagation, is almost never questioned by the secular media. Nevertheless, there is “No good news here,” say Marlowe Hood and Patrick Galey in a Phys.org piece replete with charts and disaster scenes likely to characterize the news cycle for the month, or summer, or year. Anticipating the coming bad news from the IPCC, Brandon Specktor at Live Science threatened that ignoring climate change “will yield untold suffering.” Meanwhile, Marlowe Hood is chagrined at the new vocabulary emerging in climate change discussions (Phys.org), e.g., solastalgia, doomism, savannification.
Epistemology of Climate Science
Before Greta Thunberg starts crying again, a look at the epistemology of climate science is in order. How do they know what they claim to know? The biosphere is a very large and complex system. Variables that affect climate are legion, and many factors are poorly constrained. What happens in any field of endeavor when “experts” input dozens or hundreds of poorly-constrained factors into models? Models are simulations of reality and not reality itself. What happens when scientists, who are not inspired prophets, use the imperfect models to predict the future decades and even centuries ahead? Basically, they can get almost any conclusion they want. Like they say of chaos theory, a butterfly flapping its wings here may cause a hurricane over there. Experts producing desired results are likely to get funding, and any “scientific consensus” speaking uniformly in a report is likely to be believed uncritically by the media. (Never forget: consensus is not science, and science is not consensus. An unexamined consensus is indistinguishable from groupthink.)
Before looking at some of the most recent scientific studies about climate inputs, consider some unquestioned points. There have been times of warmer climate in the past. The moyboy materialists, who believe that the earth is ancient and unguided, agree on that. They may argue that man is causing more rapid change than ever before, and that anthropogenic climate change is not giving ecosystems time to evolve and adapt, but the fact that earth survived warmer temperatures in the past indicates that the atmosphere and biosphere have feedback mechanisms to moderate extremes. The talk of “tipping points” beyond which there is no return has no basis in history. The earth has recovered from far worse droughts and warm periods (as well as cold periods) in the past. It doesn’t mean that a warm climate in the future would be comfortable, but even the worst case scenario is not likely to be the end of the world. Toss any proclamations you hear that the world has “ten more years” before a climate catastrophe. Al Gore said that in 2006, but President Obama last weekend held a big birthday bash on his beachfront mansion apparently unconcerned about rising sea levels.
The earth may indeed be getting warmer, but there are reasons to doubt the consensus and its prognostications. There are also reasons to question the ratio of artificial vs natural causes. Here are some recent news items that reveal profound uncertainties in the data going into the climate models.
Weaknesses in the Climate Consensus
A Multivariate Conditional Probability Ratio Framework for the Detection and Attribution of Compound Climate Extremes (Chiang et al., AGU Geophysical Research Letters 30 July 2021, https://doi.org/10.1029/2021GL094361). Six researchers from UC Irvine make an embarrassing admission about bad thinking habits of the consensus.
Most attribution studies tend to focus on the impact of anthropogenic forcing on individual variables. However, studies have already established that many climate variables are interrelated, and therefore, multidimensional changes can occur in response to climate change.
The authors still believe the consensus, but try to rectify this major shortcoming in climate attribution studies. Consider how absurd it is to look at factors in isolation. What would happen to studies of baseball if scientists only studied individual players? What would happen to ecology studies that only considered individual species but failed to take into account their interactions? Indeed, any study that tries to pick out one thing by itself is likely to overlook John Muir’s dictum that it is connected to everything in the universe.
Cloud cooling effects of afforestation and reforestation at midlatitudes (Serasoli, Yin and Porporato, PNAS 17 Aug 2021, https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2026241118). These scientists say that planting trees does more for mitigating carbon release than previously thought, because earlier studies failed to take into account how cloud cover affects carbon sequestration by forest trees. Once again, climate models forgot to consider interaction of multiple factors. A clear implication seems to be that efforts at reforestation and afforestation (converting bare ground to forest) could be productive measures not as onerous to humans as some of the other mitigation efforts being considered.
Because of the large carbon sequestration potential, reforestation and afforestation (R&A) are among the most prominent natural climate solutions. However, while their effectiveness is well established for wet tropics, it is often argued that R&A are less advantageous or even detrimental at higher latitudes, where the reduction of forest albedo (the amount of reflected solar radiation by a surface) tends to nullify or even overcome the carbon benefits. Here, we carefully analyze the situation for R&A at midlatitudes, where the warming effects due to vegetation albedo are regarded to be almost balanced by the cooling effects from an increased carbon storage. Using both satellite data and atmospheric boundary-layer models, we show that by including cloud–albedo effects due to land–atmosphere interactions, the R&A cooling at midlatitudes becomes prevalent. This points to a much greater potential of R&A for wet temperate regions than previously considered.
First application of artificial neural networks to estimate 21st century Greenland ice sheet surface melt (Sellevold and Vizcaino, AGU Geophysical Research Letters 6 Aug 2021, https://doi.org/10.1029/2021GL092449). One of the few directly-observed indicators of climate change is the retreat of the Greenland ice sheet. Scientists believe it will cause substantial sea level rise. These two authors use “artificial intelligence” (AI) to simulate what might happen. Although they end up in agreement with the IPCC projections, they indicate flaws in previous models that were overlooked because the variables are too complicated. Notice the simplifications in their description. One has to wonder how much better this indirect model is: another case of GIGO (garbage in, garbage out)?
The accelerated melt of the Greenland ice sheet (GrIS) surface is currently a large contributor to sea-level rise. Most global climate models used for climate projections do not calculate GrIS melt due to limited snow physics and model resolution. Here, we use for the first time artificial intelligence to calculate GrIS melt from atmospheric variables of all global climate models contributing to the next Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report and for a representative range of greenhouse gas emission scenarios. To this end, we train artificial intelligence with one of the few global climate models that explicitly calculates GrIS melt. We find that limiting emissions is effective in restricting future GrIS surface melt increase.
Plant uptake of CO2 outpaces losses from permafrost and plant respiration on the Tibetan Plateau (Wei et al., PNAS 17 Aug 2021, https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2015283118). Ten scientists in China contradict another climate assumption. Here is an example when “negative feedback” is a good thing: plants can counteract release of carbon from permafrost—a big worry in a warming climate.
Cold regions contain vast stores of permafrost carbon. Rapid warming will cause permafrost to thaw and plant respiration to accelerate, with a resultant loss of CO2, but could also increase the fixation of CO2 by plants. A network of 32 eddy covariance sites on the Tibetan Plateau, which has the largest store of alpine permafrost carbon on Earth, shows that this region functions as a net CO2 sink. Our sensitivity analyses, experiments, and model simulations consistently showed that the fixation of CO2 by plants outpaces the loss of CO2 from permafrost and accelerates plant respiration. This indicates a plant-dominated CO2 balance on the Tibetan Plateau, which could provide a negative feedback to climate warming.
Methane-derived carbon flows into host–virus networks at different trophic levels in soil (Lee et al., PNAS 10 Aug 2021, https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2105124118). Here is another “known unknown” about climate that when becoming better known appears to mitigate the effect of carbon release in soil. Seven authors from Europe and America investigated how viruses affect soil organisms. In another case of looking how independent factors interact, they found that networking of viruses with their hosts tends to mitigate release of methane into the atmosphere. Methane (CH4) is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Notice the first sentence. How many other factors and their interactions remain largely unknown after decades of IPCC reports?
The impact of soil viruses on prokaryotic hosts and their functional processes is largely unknown. While metagenomic sequencing of soil microbial communities enables identification of linkages between viruses and hosts, this does not necessarily identify contemporary interactions. To enable a detailed analysis of active virus–host interactions between individual populations, we focused on the critical biogeochemical process of methane (CH4) oxidation and followed the transfer of carbon from hosts to their associated viruses in situ. Analysis of 13C-enriched metagenomic DNA demonstrated that CH4-derived carbon is transferred into viral biomass via both primary and secondary utilizers of CH4 and suggests viral predation is an important mechanism for releasing CH4-derived organic carbon into the soil matrix.
Fire and Climate: Is Warming to Blame for Wildfires?
Conservation of Earth’s biodiversity is embedded in Indigenous fire stewardship (Hoffman et al., PNAS 10 Aug 2021, https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2105073118). The warmist alarmists in the media love to portray individual catastrophes and blame them on climate change. Wildfires, like California’s record Dixie fire that is going on now, gives reporters attention-getting graphics to emphasize the narrative. Actually, these ten researchers in Canada say, native Americans burned forests routinely long before SUVs consumed fossil fuels, and kept wildfires in check. That was good practice, they conclude; we should return to it if we wish to eliminate risks of wildfires.
Large and severe wildfires are becoming increasingly common worldwide and are having extraordinary impacts on people and the species and ecosystems on which they depend. Indigenous peoples comprise only 5% of the world’s population but protect approximately 85% of the world’s biodiversity through stewardship of Indigenous-managed lands. Much of this is attributed to long-term and widespread relationships with and dependence on fire, which has been applied as a tool for managing landscapes for millennia. Fortunately, the revitalization of Indigenous fire stewardship is demonstrating the value of routinely applying controlled fire to adapt to changing environments while promoting desired landscapes, habitats, and species and supporting subsistence practices and livelihoods.
How wildfire restored a Yosemite watershed (Kara Manke, UC Berkeley News). Here’s a specific example of the value of forest management with a “let-burn” policy that views natural fires as beneficial. Manke shows how wildfires have long been a source of terror and concern for Californians. Conservationists overreacted to forest loss by trying to eliminate all forest fires.
For millennia, wildfires sparked by lightning, or lit by Native American tribes, regularly shaped the landscape of the western U.S., not only causing destruction, but also triggering necessary cycles of rebirth and regeneration. However, the arrival of European colonists in the late 1800s, followed by formation of the U.S. Forest Service in 1905, ushered in an era in which fire was viewed as the enemy of humans and forests alike, and the vast majority of wildfires were quickly extinguished.
That turns out to have been a big mistake, argues Scott Stephens, a professor of environmental science, policy and management at UCB. He argues that wildfires, though destructive, are necessary for forest regeneration. In the 1930s and 40s, Aldo Leopold began to change the paradigm, which led to the National Park Service policy of letting lightning-sparked fires burn. Naturally-started fires improve ecosystem biodiversity, water conservation, forest health and human safety. What does he think about global warming’s contribution to wildfires?
“I think climate change is no more than 20 to 25% responsible for our current fire problems in the state, and most of it is due to the way our forests are,” Stephens said. “Illilouette Basin is one of the few places in the state that actually provides that information, because there is no evidence of changes in fire size or in the severity of fires that burn in the area. So, even though the ecosystem is being impacted by climate change, its feedbacks are so profound that it’s not changing the fire regime at all.”
If he and his colleague Brandon Collins are right, then the rampant wildfires in California could be reduced 75% to 80% by letting lightning-caused fires burn. In this he agrees with John Kobylt in this video at Prager U, who blames wildfires on bad government policies. Lightning-sparked fires tend to occur at times of high humidity, so are less likely to erupt into devastating canopy fires like those sparked by power lines and arsonists on very hot, dry summer days. Think how much carbon one out-of-control wildfire releases! Smoke from the Dixie Fire is reaching the eastern seaboard. What is the fossil fuel equivalent of that, and of all the other devastating fires going on?
Defending Climate Models
Let the pro-IPCC folks have their say about this. At The Conversation, nine climate experts from “Australia’s Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes” defend climate models, saying, “Yes, a few climate models give unexpected predictions – but the technology remains a powerful tool.”
Note: The Conversation website ought to be called “The Consensus,” because it almost never hosts a real “conversation” about anything. Its purpose is to assert consensus views and tell the peasants what they are expected to believe.
Here are some of the arguments from this group. Do any of them guarantee reliability?
- “Climate models are one of many tools scientists use to understand how the climate changed in the past and what it will do in future.” That does not speak to their reliability; only to their utility. It doesn’t guarantee “understanding.” It only indicates busy work.
- One recent climate model failed miserably, but some models are known to “run hot” and therefore lack reliability, they point out. “So should we be using climate models? … we believe the answer is a firm yes.” Finding an error in some climate models “doesn’t mean the science has failed – in fact, it means our understanding of the climate system has advanced.” But philosophically speaking, when investigating the unknown, how does an unbiased investigator know research is advancing instead of retreating or going sideways? How does one differentiate between advancing to a consensus and advancing toward the truth?
- “Climate models comprise millions of lines of computer code representing the physics and chemistry of the processes that make up our climate system. The models run on powerful supercomputers….” Comment: GIGO.
- These models “have simulated and predicted global warming with remarkable accuracy.” The cute little video shows the models confirming predictions. But the predictions and the models are based on the same foundational belief in anthropogenic warming. They are not independently verifiable. The warming, furthermore, to the extent it is real, cannot differentiate between anthropogenic causes and natural causes.
- “Models also show the intensity of many recent extreme weather events around the world would be essentially impossible without this human influence.” Other scientists disagree with the ability of linking extreme weather events to climate trends. There have always been extreme weather events. Some have been far more devastating than today’s, but happened before the Industrial Revolution.
- “Scientists do not use climate models in isolation, or without considering their limitations.” Oh yes they do! Read the abstracts from the papers above. Models that converge on a consensus are not necessarily converging on truth. With such funding money involved and global pressure to reaffirm the consensus, it is too tempting for the IPCC to cherry pick the models that give the results they want.
- They mention some known biases. “Researchers are beginning to understand these biases, building our understanding of the climate system and how to further improve models in [the] future.” They do not know the unknown unknowns. We have reported often on those, and this article shows new ones. Moreover, Chiang et al. said (above) that most models fail to take into account interactions between factors. Will models ever improve to the point of contradicting current beliefs? They would never accept such models. Too much money and political prestige are at stake. Most likely they would dismiss such models as “unreliable.” Modeling can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
- “With all this in mind, scientists use climate models cautiously, giving more weight to projections from climate models that are consistent with other scientific evidence.” Same comment as above. Sometimes the truth is found in the outliers and anomalies. One should never dismiss those.
- “The following graph shows how most models are within the expected climate sensitivity range – and having some running a bit hot or cold doesn’t change the overall picture of future warming.” Same comment applies. They judge the comments based on their expectations, not based on objective reality.
- “And when we compare model results with the warming we’ve already observed over Australia, there’s no indication the models are over-cooking things.” The graph shows a rise from 1950 to 2021, but it might be an oscillation. Extrapolation is a vexed exercise bordering on a logical fallacy.
- “The pathways range from low-emission scenarios that also require considerable atmospheric CO₂ removal – giving the world a reasonable chance of meeting the Paris Agreement targets – to high-emission scenarios where temperature goals are far exceeded.” The use of graphs and statistics about “scenarios” are guaranteed to scare people who don’t know how climate sausage is made.
- The models might be pessimistic, they say. But they could be overly optimistic! Even if the truth is in the middle of the model ranges, the news is bad! Do something! “But the future depends on our choices, and we shouldn’t dismiss any pathway as implausible.” OK, start with insisting that the experts swim to Paris instead of flying there on private jets. If they want to talk morality, isn’t acting consistent with one’s convictions something that they “shouldn’t dismiss”? If cutting back on gasoline is something for the peasants, let the elitists lead by example.
- “An enormous global effort – both scientifically and in computing resources – is needed to ensure climate models can provide even better information.” Keep the funding flowing. The climate alarm industry needs it.
And so, based on this house of cards, “Climate models will continue to be an important tool for the IPCC, policymakers and society as we attempt to manage the unavoidable risks ahead.” Trust the consensus.
Lest someone from the consensus accuse us of “science denialism” or worse, we actually respect science more than the consensus does. The warmists respect the consensus, not the science. They believe that the consensus and science are one and the same, a Big Lie that ignores the history, sociology, philosophy, and rhetoric of science. Remember, this is the same consensus that believes, with few exceptions, that
- 96% of the universe is made up of stuff that scientists cannot detect and know nothing about.
- Men can become pregnant (transgender “men” that is), and biological men should be able to compete against women.
- Your skin color determines your character as an oppressor or oppressed person. (22 May 2021)
- Math is racist.
- Life emerged by chance. All that is needed is water.
- Space aliens are trying to reach us.
- The human mind is a product of unguided natural processes.
- Consciousness is a product of natural selection. (2 Aug 2021)
- Nothing banged and became everything.
- Darwinism explains rapid change and extreme stasis. (29 July 2021)
- Millions of years cures every evolutionary problem.
- DNA decays rapidly, but dinosaur DNA and soft tissue is 80 million years old.
- “It evolved” is a sufficient explanation for anything, even the “emergence” of eyes.
- Lying is justifiable for a good cause, like science.
- Killing babies in the womb is OK if we can use the body parts for science.
- Making human-animal hybrids could be useful.
- Life has no purpose
- Free will is an illusion.
- Religion evolved but materialism did not.
- Justice is an evolutionary game, a social convention.
- There is no absolute truth or morality, but people should fight global warming!
- Marxism is good.
Now consider that these are the people that want to run the global economy by scaring them about the climate.