July 21, 2022 | David F. Coppedge

Politicians Overplay Climate Science

With hype exploding around the internet, there has never been
a bigger need to understand the limitations of science

 

After President Biden’s speech yesterday, in which he called climate change a “crisis” and an “emergency” and threatened to use his executive power to bypass Congressional inaction to make unilateral decisions, opinions have been flying all over the internet. Big Science and Big Media, as expected, fall in line with the “crisis” talk, some thinking Biden didn’t go far enough. Conservative commentators laugh at the doomsday “cult” and say that its real aim is to give global leftists and socialists more control for redistribution of wealth. In a sparse middle ground are a few scientists and reporters who think climate change is real but not the catastrophe that is usually described.

Climate crisis talk is dividing the country, but to the general public, the subject ranks low on their list of concerns (e.g., BBC News, 29 June). Polls show top concerns are about inflation and the cost of living: food, gas, and everything else.

The key to informed opinion about climate is to understand the limitations of science. Every week, new findings come to light that question the models used to characterize climate trends. To those reckless reporters shouting “science denier!” at anyone failing to kowtow obediently to the consensus and its doomsday alarmism, we remind readers that uninformed opinion is the definition of prejudice. One cannot be informed by reading only one side of a controversial issue.

Keep in mind several principles of reason known to philosophers and historians of science:

  • Correlation is not causation.
  • Climate is different than weather. There have always been weather extremes.
  • Models are only simplifications of reality, not reality itself.
  • Model reliability is inversely proportional to the number of inputs and unknowns.
  • Predictions made from models cannot exceed the reliability of the models (see Extrapolation).
  • Predictions of what might happen after the forecaster is dead should be viewed with suspicion.
  • Man’s role in changing climate is a separate question from climate change itself.
  • Proposed solutions can be worse than the problem.
  • To avoid being hoodwinked, follow the money.

There has never been a more important time to think clearly than now, when reporters are jumping to conclusions based on simplistic claims made with emotional rhetoric. In the interest of replacing heat with light, we offer the following data and interpretations made in recent scientific papers and research projects. But first, a lesson from history. This newspaper clipping that has been circling social media shows what the UN was saying in 1989 (compare with the “Population Bomb” prediction; see 26 April 2019).

 

 

Calming Thoughts

Why is climate ‘doomism’ going viral – and who’s fighting it? (BBC News, 23 May 2022). The BBC is strongly in support of the climate consensus and of all the policy changes that global experts claim are necessary. But Marco Silva, the BBC’s “climate disinformation specialist,” explains why climate doomism is wrong and dangerous. “Climate doomism is the idea that we are past the point of being able to do anything at all about global warming – and that mankind is highly likely to become extinct,” he writes. “That’s wrong, scientists say, but the argument is picking up steam online.” So from here on out, let’s stay calm and rational.

Global warming may not be as bad for animal reproduction as thought, study suggests (University of Aberdeen, 11 July 2022). Most scientists realize that the earth has experienced warm periods before, but an often-voiced concern is that global warming is happening so fast that animals can’t evolve fast enough to adapt. This article suggests otherwise. “Our results suggest that climate change may not have as detrimental an effect on animal reproduction as we might assume,” the authors say, pointing to flaws in previous studies’ methods. “Contrary to what we expected, our main finding is that animals are more likely to mate with each other at higher temperatures.” So bring on the global warming?

Off topic of the above article is a well-known fact that carbon dioxide is good for plants, increasing their growth and productivity. Productive plants give off more oxygen—which in turn is what animals need. Feedbacks are abundant in natural cycles. The hard thing to model is how they interact. Scientists at the University of Western Australia (see Phys.org, 10 June) claim that plants don’t absorb all the CO2 that textbooks think. But who is right? Who knows? Did they measure every plant on the globe in every weather condition? Would anyone like to look into the biases of the UWA scientists, their funding, and their motivations? They conclude, “current discussions around carbon net zero and the role that crops, forests and grasslands can play, should also include conversations on what happens inside plants, alongside global financial decisions.

But scientists are specialists. They cannot possibly inform global financial decisions. Like any other people (and scientists are only people), they can lend their bits of data to feed into the complexities of climate science before a consensus congeals. But consensus is not science, and scientists are the least qualified to be policy makers (10 Feb 2022). Heads of state have to weigh multiple competing factors to come to good decisions. Sometimes that may require going against a scientific consensus over more pressing concerns. Climate science is one of today’s most corrupted fields when it comes to collusion with politics (see 25 Jan 2022). Bear that in mind when reading any scientific paper on climate; few are the scientists courageous enough to stand on the evidence when it collides with a strong consensus.

History

When hippos roamed, past temperatures were much higher – expert comment (University of Oxford, 19 July 2022). Reasoning properly about future climate must include knowledge of the past. Historical records show wild swings in climate long before the industrial revolution and fossil fuel use. “Although Oxford’s meteorological records go back 250 years, to before the French Revolution and even the American war of independence, scientists have gone back thousands of years to discover that our world has been much hotter and, more often, much colder than today’s records.

Hidden carbon layer may have sparked ancient bout of global warming (Science Magazine, 23 June 2022). This article claims that a bout of global warming much worse than the current scare happened 56 million years ago, when Greenland rifted away from Europe. The scientists say that today’s global warming is happening too fast. Still, this article has to admit that major climate change can be driven by geological forces having nothing to do with fossil fuels. Somehow the Earth got by in the inferred period that lasted 3,000 to 5,000 years in their calculations by Herbert et al. in the same issue of Science. In a perspective article in the same issue, Anna S. Van der Heydt notes that past climate surges are inferred by proxy measurements, which are dogged with “considerable uncertainty.”

Climate and Conflict (UC Santa Barbara, 19 July 2022). This press release from UCSB considers it probable that past climate change destroyed the Mayan civilization—560 years ago. It’s doubtful that the Mayans were driving gas guzzling cars back then. The lead author illustrates the principle stated above: solutions can be worse than the problem. He is worried about anthropogenic climate change but is more worried about politics responding badly to it.

Indeed the authors argue that “long-term, climate-caused hardships provoked restive tensions that were fanned by political actors whose actions ultimately culminated in political violence more than once at Mayapan.”

Yet significantly, a network of small Maya states also proved to be resilient after the collapse at Mayapan, in part by migrating across the region to towns that were still thriving. Despite decentralization, trade impacts, political upheaval and other challenges, the paper notes, they adapted and persisted into the early 16th century. It all points to the complexity of human responses drought on the Yucatan Peninsula at that time — an important consideration for the future as well as the past.

Another well-known case involves the cliff dwellers of the American southwest. Most of their elaborate dwellings were abandoned, historians believe, because of long periods of drought. This had nothing to do with anthropogenic climate change, because they were abandoned centuries before the industrial revolution. The earth has seen long droughts and freezing periods for millennia. Indeed, there are evidences of thriving ecosystems under the sands of the Sahara. Climate changes; people and animals adapt. They always have.

Poorly Constrained Variables

Wildfire Smoke Demonstrates Significant and Predictable Black Carbon Light Absorption Enhancements (Geophysical Research Letters, 19 July 2022). Here is a major factor for climate modeling that these scientists say is poorly constrained. “Black carbon (BC) is estimated to have the second largest anthropogenic radiative forcing in earth-systems models (ESMs), but there is significant uncertainty in its impact due to complex mixing with organics.” Interested readers may wish to consider the uncertainties discussed in this paper, and ask whether increased wildfire smoke might cause feedback in the form of increased precipitation and cloud cover. The authors say, “BC radiative forcing is also quite sensitive to heterogeneity of BC and BC coatings due to the ability of aged BC to act as cloud condensation nuclei and the coatings effect on BC atmospheric lifetime.

How well have CMIP3, CMIP5 and CMIP6 future climate projections portrayed the recently observed warming (Nature Scientific Reports, 14 July 2022). These authors are optimistic that the current climate models do a good job of making predictions about warming. If anything, the models have erred on the cool side. That’s the good news for consensus followers. The bad news follows, though, at the end of the Abstract: “However, given the short future periods here analyzed, inferences about warming at longer timescales cannot be done with confidence, since the models internal variability can play a relevant role on timescales of 20 years and less.” So give the model 50 years and they can have more confidence. Whoops; that will take too long.

Why do CMIP6 models fail to simulate snow depth in terms of temporal change and high mountain snow of China skillfully? (Geophysical Research Letters, 18 July 2022). The latest climate model named CMIP6 did a bad job predicting snow in China. This illustrates a common flaw in models: there will always be anomalies and failures that require secondary hypotheses to explain. This quote in the Abstract basically says that models are not accurate:

We first show that all CMIP6 models have much lower accuracy in simulating hotspots of snow depth change than the reanalysis data. Then, the accumulated errors of precipitation and temperature of prior months are found to be crucial for explaining why CMIP6 models failed to capture interannual changes of snow depth. Our study highlights that priority should be given to improving the accuracy of precipitation and temperature simulations for future snow depth predictions, especially in the high mountain Tibetan Plateau.

4 ways to understand why Australia is so cold right now despite global warming (The Conversation, 22 June 2022). In a similar damage-control situation, climate scientist Michael Grose feels compelled to explain why Australians are freezing despite global warming. A common joke down under, he begins, is “can we get a bit more of that global warming right about now?” He argues four points to help Australians distrust their lying eyes so that they don’t lose faith in the climate consensus. Why, the freeze is exactly what they should expect, he says! “This is exactly what you expect from weather variability in a warming climate – variations day to day and place to place, but a consistently warmer climate when you take the wide view.” And yet many other doomsday reporters point to a hot spell here or there as proof of a global warming emergency. How wide a view is wide enough?

Uncertainty in near-term temperature evolution must not obscure assessments of climate mitigation benefits (Nature Communications, 14 July 2022). Here is a debate: a case of “matters arising” between scientists: i.e., a disagreement. The public is often oblivious to these kinds of disputes. One group calls into question the conclusions of another, and they respond. For those wishing to delve into this particular dispute, look for how confident they are about whether short-term trends correlate with long-term trends, and how uncertainty about long-term trends should be communicated to the public via “messaging.” A taste:

This serves as an illustration of how much methodological choices affect the outcome of such studies and how they require very careful communication and explanation. Policy makers or the general public may not understand the implications of different approaches. This is even more relevant as messaging around these issues relates to one of the core challenges of addressing climate change as a collective action problem: that the biggest benefits of rapid mitigation action in terms of avoided climate impacts lie in the future.

They both seem to agree that communicating short-term benefits of mitigation will help assuage public doubt about long-term predictions. But is that being fully honest and transparent about what scientists really know?

Previously Unconsidered Variables

The Maxwell Effect and the Material Transport by Transient Eddies (Geophysical Research Letters, 13 July 2022). Climate modelers should have studied James Clerk Maxwell‘s physics of fluid dynamics sooner. An effect he wrote about a century and a half ago concerning eddies in turbulent fluids seems to improve climate models when taken into account, these authors say. What does that say about models before now? The “Plain Language Summary” of this paper will make your eyes pop out when you consider all the hype in the popular press with its presumptive certainty about climate knowledge.

The Effect of Ocean Salinity on Climate and Its Implications for Earth’s Habitability (Geophysical Research Letters, 24 May 2022). Whoops; climate modelers didn’t think about the effects of salt in the oceans. This paper should be taken with a grain of salt, but it illustrates another factor not taken into account in climate models.

We use a climate model to show that the composition of the ocean can also have a major impact on surface temperature and ice cover. We focus specifically on the amount of salt dissolved in seawater, and we find that saltier oceans tend to result in warmer climates. These effects are modest today, but salt may be a key ingredient for early Earth habitability in the distant past when the Sun was less bright.

That’s odd; there should have been less salt at that far end of the Deep Time scheme. And the oceans in modern times have not grown significantly in salt concentration, before all the climate doomsday talkers went on the warpath.

Biogas and biomethane supply chains contribute much to global methane emissions (Imperial College London, 17 June 2022). Another “Whoops!” moment came when scientists at Imperial College found that “biogas and biomethane, while more climate friendly, leak up to twice as much methane as previously thought.” Chalk this one up to the principle that a solution can be worse than the problem. Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide: at least 25 times more potent. But Science Magazine (23 June) didn’t even mention methane when scientists touted biofuels from food waste as replacements for “climate killers” (fossil jet fuels). Meanwhile, conservatives like to poke fun at climate czar John Kerry and other climate prophets flying all over the world to climate conferences in their private jets, making a bigger carbon footprint in a year than most people will in their lifetimes.

Media Doomism Continues In Spite of the Error Bars

We have too many new doomsday articles to share, but all of them must be interpreted in light of the empirical evidence and levels of uncertainty given above and in previous articles listed below in the green commentary. Some of the doomsday predictions get silly. Here’s a taste:

  • “Study [prepare to be hoodwinked] finds environmental injustice is key to decoding climate change debate” (University of Miami). Yes, the leftists must bring in racism somehow.
  • “How do we teach young people about climate change? We can start with this comic” (The Conversation). When facts don’t work, nudge the peasants with the funny papers.
  • “Climate change is white colonisation of the atmosphere. It’s time to tackle this entrenched racism” (The Conversation). See the linkage between climate change and Leftist politics? You didn’t realize that the climate is racist, did you?
  • “How to talk about climate change: Highlight harms — not benefits — to alter behaviour” (The Conversation). By all means do NOT let anyone read this article! The nudgers, oddly, never want to be nudged back.
  • “Vulnerable Pacific islands call for ‘urgent, immediate’ action on climate” (Phys.org). When all that leaders hear from the press is doomsday, of course they get worried. They should be more worried about what the globalists will do to their economies (see mention of Ghana, Sri Lanka below).
  • “Bonn climate conference: World is ‘cooked’ if we carry on with coal, US says” (BBC News). Images of missionaries in a cannibal’s pot come to mind. Matt McGrath, go back and read your colleague Mario Silva’s article mentioned above.
  • “Climate warming could deepen environmental injustice in urban areas” (Phys.org). Funny that they never mention countries like Sri Lanka, Ghana, South Africa and the Netherlands and Germany—countries all with high ESG scores whose leaders have pledged allegiance to Green New Deal policies of their own—whose economies are collapsing and falling into social chaos and massive protests. (ESG=”Environmental, Social, and Governance,” a measure of commitment to the goals of the UN to stop global warming.) Guess which people are suffering the most environmental injustice in those countries? Hint: it is not the global elitists.
  • Rich nations caused climate harm to poorer ones, study [prepare to be hoodwinked] says” (Phys.org). Ditto. The globalists who pressure these countries to self-destruct are never held accountable and never have to apologize for the harm they cause, which can include mass poverty, social unrest and starvation.
  • “How climate storytelling helps people navigate complexity and find solutions” (The Conversation). Here we don’t tell stories. We share facts. We respect our readers’ intelligence.

Many more links like this have crossed our desk since last time we reported on climate science (see 11 June 2022, 2 May 2022, 15 March 2022, 18 Feb 2022, 19 Feb 2022). If you get the main gist—that scientists know a lot less about the future than the doomsday prophets assume—you will be much, much wiser than the average consumer of news.

One particular conservative news commentator would love to put a certain video clip on continuous loop. It shows a smiling reporter cheerfully boasting of an electric car’s climate-friendly features. Someone asks, “Where do you plug it in?” She responds, “Well, into the building.” The questioner asks the building engineer where the electricity comes from. He admits it comes from a coal-fired power plant.

The commentator doesn’t end there. He points out that the aluminum, cobalt and rare earth elements in the car’s battery have to be mined abroad by heavy diesel-burning equipment. And so despite the electric car owner’s virtue signaling for having spent some $20,000 more on her electric car than a gas-powered car, the facts show it is actually responsible for more global warming than an old Chevy! Moreover, a lot of the raw ingredients for the battery come from China, the world’s leading violator of human rights. Here’s another worry for those who trust in “green energy” solutions. How will millions of windmill blades be recycled? (see this article). In the meantime, how many more bats and eagles must die? How many people will freeze or die of heat stroke when the wind doesn’t blow to provide power for their homes?

This is why we must not fall for simplistic answers to complex questions. Know the limitations of science. Learn about history. Know the bias of reporters. Get wisdom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Visited 398 times, 1 visits today)

Leave a Reply