Global warming alarmists piss on science

As surely as stink follows a garbage truck, the deadly national heat wave brought forth predictable and terrifying scenarios from global warming alarmists.

Triumphantly, the alarmists proclaimed that global warming (or climate change, or extreme weather, or whatever is their latest rendition of Earth's frightful fate) was back high on the list of everyone's worst fears.

Told-ya-sos flowed. Denunciations of global warming "skeptics" and "deniers" were renewed. The threadbare mantra — "the science is in, the debate is over" — was re-energized.

Reliably, a Washington Post story about Colorado's destructive wildfires waved away fact with speculation: "Lightning and suspected arson ignited them four weeks ago, but scientists and federal officials say the table was set by a culprit that will probably contribute to bigger and more frequent wildfires for years to come: climate change."

And thus the unconscionable corruption of real science by global warming propagandists continues unabated. It's unconscionable because they are using the loss of life and destruction of property as a prop to get you to believe that the worst is yet to come. It's unconscionable because making such predictions is not what real science does. For all the condemnation about "anti-science deniers" on the right, the truth is that actual anti-science folks are the ones on the left using bad science to try to scare the bejabbers out of us.

Science is about verifiable and transparent experimental replication, so much of which is ignored by the Catechism of Global Warming — otherwise known as "assessment reports" — foisted upon the public by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Enough holes have been poked in these reports to make any assertion of scientific consensus a joke.

Well-documented is the IPCC's conduct unbecoming scientists: secrecy, questionable data, reliance on nonscientific "studies" (including news releases), massaging research to produce a desired result, lack of objectivity and independence, heavy involvement of activist (i.e. nonscientific) groups or of people whose interests are pecuniary, and wild conclusions (e.g. the supposed disappearance of Himalayan glaciers by 2035). Their catastrophic climate predictions are based on an arrogant presumption that the multiple causations of something as complex and poorly understood as climate change can be plugged into a computer, and out pops unchallengeable results. Like the assertion — now widely discredited — that climate change was spawning a flood of killer hurricanes.

Garbage in, garbage out.

In response to many well-founded criticisms, including from scientists expert in the field of study being "assessed," the IPCC convened a supposedly independent panel that included insiders and mostly absolved itself of error. Errors that panel members could not ignore were brushed aside on the specious grounds that they didn't affect the core conclusion that man-made carbon dioxide emissions will inevitably doom us.

Is destructive man-made global warming possible? Yes. Is it likely? I don't know. Is it certain? No.

Any "science" that concludes that a future event or condition is inevitable is as suspect as a fortuneteller's prediction. Especially suspicious are predictions, like those advanced by alarmists, that are based on data that are incomplete and a theoretical construct that is difficult, if not impossible with today's technology, to verify.

The deconstruction of science by alarmists has been so thorough that now people ask each other if they "believe in global warming." As if it were a matter of faith, rather than science. More pointedly, it has become a political question, rather than a scientific one. Those "assessment reports" are political and polemical documents, far from the objective, balanced and careful discussion demanded in authentic scientific papers.

The alarmists have become more aware of the PR dangers of issuing unqualified doomsday predictions with every heat wave, hurricane or wildfire that happens along. To sound more reasonable, they now pepper their propaganda with cautions about how individual events, unusual precipitation or record temperatures do not necessarily prove the hypotheses of climate alarmists.

That's because the public is catching on. Public opinion polls might not show it — yet — but my guess is that alarmists have played the catastrophe card several times too often. Americans will increasingly disregard the alarmists' hyperventilating. Because they are bored by it. Or disgusted by the shameful use of human tragedy to make a political point.

This column also appeared in the Chicago Tribune.Check there for comments.

Comments

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  • Climate change is not a matter of faith. It doesn't depend upon an opinion poll. The scientific community overwhelmingly acknowledges its reality.

  • Doesn't matter what "the scientific community overwhelmingly acknowledges." What is the "scientific community" anyway? When does anecdotal evidence become sufficient to predict the future with certainty? How do climate scientists match their predictions with experimental results, which is the cornerstone of science? With computer models that supposedly can include every variable that affects climate? Can they be sure they have identified all the variables, when, for example, cloud formation--a variable that's so important in climate science--is poorly understood?

    Good science usually states a degree of probability if it ventures into modeling future events or phenomenon. Have you ever seen degrees of probability attached to those all-too-confident predictions that manmade greenhouse gases will lead to the predicted outcome? Is it 100 percent? 98 percent? 75 percent? 50 percent?

  • In reply to Dennis Byrne:

    I'm not a scientist. But I have weighed and considered both sides of the debate, and have concluded that there is sufficient reason to accept the hypothesis that there is disturbing climate change and that it is largely caused by human activities.

    I'm bothered that the deniers or skeptics seem so absolutely certain about their opinions which fly in the face of the informed opinion of the scientists who are the experts on the subject.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    No, what the skeptics are arguing is exactly your point. They are skeptical of the "absolute certainty" of global warming, as postulated by too many ideologues of the left.

  • In reply to Dennis Byrne:

    Hi all,

    I'm a scientist, a biologist, not an expert in climate.
    There are a lot of interesting issues brought up in this article and the replies--too many to address very deeply. If anyone is tuning in and is interested, I'll add my opinions over the next few days, but I can't do it all right away. Let me know whether or not you find what I am writing worthwhile and I will continue to do it.
    I'll start with Byrne's statement above "Good science usually states a degree of probability". Actually, it is often good science to avoid using numbers to indicate degrees of probability and instead to use words such as "very likely". Numbers often can give people the false impression of precision. If I say there is a 82.4% probability of something, people might think that I know more than if I say "there is around a four in five possibility". Even if I use an algorithm based on an excellent forecasting model to calculate the number 82.4%, it is intellectually more honest to avoid giving percentages. The right thing to do is to avoid false precision, which seems to be what the IPCC is doing.
    The basis of your criticism seems to be confusing two things, evaluating a hypothesis and evaluating a theory. Scientists do calculate exact probabilities when evaluating a hypothesis, but we don't when evaluating theories.
    In sum, in this case I think that you were overconfident in your ability to distinguish between good and bad science, and that this particular criticism is not merited.
    I can quibble with lots of things in this article. It would be helpful to figure out what the most important statement in the article is.

  • In reply to unicyclegeek:

    Please continue to post; it's interesting and informative. I would comment that saying something is "very likely" expresses a probability, albeit not a precise one. My point, if I might rephrase it, is that we are expected to believe that manmade global warming (or climate change, if you prefer) is certain. That there's no room for disagreement any more. No more debate. That attitude does not do science much good. (See the comments on the Tribune website following my article to get a sampling of such certitude. It's at: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/ct-oped-0710-byrne-20120710,0,3576782.column)

  • The scientific community includes any scientist not mentioned in this Wiki entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_scientists_opposing_the_mainstream_scientific_assessment_of_global_warming.

    Aquinas, I challenge you to go back and read the National Academies of Science statement on this topic with an open mind. http://nationalacademies.org/onpi/06072005.pdf. Ask yourself is what they are saying fact or just a prediction? Does the National Academies have a crystal ball into the future or is what they are saying simply a theory?

    To continue, their prediction is based upon CO2 levels over thousands of years from ice cores and temperature data from just 150 years. Keep in mind the earth is 3.8 billion years old. We have historical data for only a small sliver of the planet's history. Are you saying based upon that incomplete data, we are able to accurately predict the future with certanity?

    The "conclusion of the scientific community" makes the assumption that humans are the result of an increase in CO2. How are you drawing that conclusion? Just the fact that CO2 levels have increased over time says nothing about what's causing it. You do realize that one of the theories regarding the end of the ice age during the Cryogenian period was the result in an increase in greenhouse gases? It ended 630 million years ago, well before we walked the earth. If this theory is correct, it would mean that there are other factors that go into the rise and fall of CO2 levels. But again, this is just a theory.

    Rather than arguing about your belief that this is "settled science" I'd rather have an argument about the evidence that supports your belief. Unfortunately we can't because one side continues to disregard any attempt to delve into the research. It's a broken record, "The science is settled and that's that". Let's discuss the science not our interpretations of data, or lack there of. Maybe if the "scientific community" did a better job of supporting their conclusions with facts there would be a greater support for your belief.

  • In reply to DonB:

    If it's a theory, it's pretty well=confirmed, a la the theory of relativity. I'm not a scientist, but I think it is reasonable to assent to the informed opinion of the scientists ---the oceanographers, meteorologists, climatologists, geophysicists---who have studied the evidence.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    It sounds like you are comparing the theory of relativity to the global warming "theory"? Last I looked there were MANY well respected scientists that disagree with your position on global warming (see the link I posted above). Are you telling me that the number of anti-relativists (those scientists that disagree with the theory of relativity) are equal to those in this list? And even the theory of relativity is just that, a theory.

    Again, I challenge you go beyond the regurgitated statement (which comes in many different flavors) that this is settled science. Read the Wikipedia entry on the definition of Scientific consensus. "Scientific consensus is the collective judgment, position, and opinion of the community of scientists in a particular field of study. Consensus implies general agreement, though not necessarily unanimity. Scientific consensus is not by itself a scientific argument, and it is not part of the scientific method. Nevertheless, consensus may be based on both scientific arguments and the scientific method." Note the statement, "Scientific consensus is not by itself a scientific argument". You, the rest of the media, and politicians are using what you perceive as scientific consensus as a scientific argument. Which gets me to my next point that there is no quantitative threshold whereby consensus is achieved. The proponents of the global warming argument continue to insist that consensus has been achieved. To Dennis' point above, how have we come to that conclusion? What about all the other well respected scientists that disagree with the global warming argument? Do their opinions not factor into whether something achieves scientific consensus?

  • The earth is approximately 4.5 Billion years old. It has either been heating or cooling over those many years before man ever walked on this planet. Ice Ages have come and gone many times lasting millions of years. Man is not capable of destroying this planet. The dinosaurs were wiped out and man had nothing to do with it. I am glad they are gone. A volcanic eruption emits more dangerous gases into the atmosphere that man has since the beginning of the Industrial Age.

  • In reply to fvallen:

    Dinosaurs are not all gone. They still survive in Congress.

  • Hi all,

    If "very likely" or something like that is satisfactory for you, Dennis, then I think the IPCC is actually providing what you want and your criticism is unwarranted.

    I think that focusing too much on the language is a side issue. What matters most is which prediction for the future is the best one. Nobody can give us certainty, but that does not mean that we shouldn't try to distinguish between better and worse predictions. We all live our lives based on making uncertain predictions. It is important to use our judgement, rather than throwing our hands up and saying "it's too hard" or "nobody can know", because there are important consequences for acting to halt global warming if in fact it is not going to happen or not doing anything to halt global warming if it is in fact going to get even hotter. So we have a responsibility to try to choose the best predictions.

    I think it is deceptive to make the default hypothesis that there is going to be no change in temperatures, as intuitively appealing as that idea is. Nobody would say that the default hypothesis for the Dow Jones would be that it will not change over the long term; nobody would say that the default hypothesis for the human population would be that it will stay the same.

    Instead, the debate should focus on two important things:
    1) which trends are the most predictive of the near future--the trend of the last ten years? the trend of the last twenty years? the trend of the last one hundred years? the trend of the last 500 years? This is a difficult question, but the people I trust the most to answer it are the people who know the most about climate science. They are doing their best with a difficult but not impossible task.
    2) What have the trends been over the last ten years, the last twenty years, the last 100, the last 500? This is a matter of data and interpreting data. Again, the people I trust the most to answer these questions are the people who know the most about climate science.

    The other matter is--who do you trust? I trust the people who have studied this the most--the mainstream opinion. This is partly as a scientist, I understand how difficult it is to become an expert. For any scientific theory, there will be evidence that seems to be contradictory; this does not necessarily invalidate the theory. And often seemingly contradictory evidence turns out to be weak--it is an overi-nterpretation of some experimental result, the statistical analysis was poor, the methods were poor, or some other defect that it is hard for non-experts to detect. That is why I trust experts--experts are trained to detect these flaws.

    In fact, if you give me your favorite single piece of evidence that global warming is not happening--just one--I bet i can find one of these flaws in it. It can't be too big--I've got classes to prepare for--so I'll let you know if your request is too difficult.

  • In reply to unicyclegeek:

    "The other matter is--who do you trust? I trust the people who have studied this the most--the mainstream opinion."

    >> What about the other scientists who do not agree with the "mainstream opinion"? Can you explain why the opinions of non-global warming scientists don't matter (void of the typical political talking points please)? The only response that anyone has ever provided is that, "this argument isn't worth arguing because the science is settled". If it's settled, why are scientists still debating this?

    Even if I were to concede consensus, does that mean we can/should act? To what degree and at what cost? Why don't we just take the social security trust fund and invest it in the stock market? Can't we all agree that the market will eventually go up over time? There is greater consensus that an asteroid will strike the earth at some point in our future and wipe out civilization. Why is working a solution to this (and there are many that are being considered) not as important as stopping "global warming"? If public policy is to be shaped by the consensus, why are we in massive debt? Why are state and local governments running massive deficits? We all know that your debt increases when you spend more than you take in. Doesn't get more certain than that. Point is that just achieving consensus on something isn't equal to a political mandate. Supporters are declaring consensus and a political mandate. What global warming supporters would have you believe is that the science is settled. Because it is settled, and because we know with absolute certainty the future, we must act. And by acting, we must take specific actions and make specific investments. If, and only if, we make the dictated investments and do exactly as we are told, then we will be saved. There is no questioning anything from the data supporting the predictions to the remediations.

    "What matters most is which prediction for the future is the best one. Nobody can give us certainty, but that does not mean that we shouldn't try to distinguish between better and worse predictions."
    >>I disagree. The degree of how much better one prediction is vs. another is not what's most important. Both predictions could be garbage if they are based upon incomplete data or garbage science. What's most important is that massive changes to public policy should be based on sound predictions that have true consensus from the scientific community. And perhaps there are three opinions 1) global warming is happening 2) it isn't happening or 3) inconclusive. Of course having the opinion of inconclusive is just as bad as having the opinion that global warming isn't happening.

  • In reply to unicyclegeek:

    "I think it is deceptive to make the default hypothesis that there is going to be no change in temperatures,"

    Where did you hear anyone making this argument? What would be really surprising would be a climate that is static. But no one is arguing that. The argument is whether mankind is causing climate change. The IPCC will have to do better than it has if it wants to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that mankind has done so.

    Obviously you have not examined both sides of the issue if you have not checked out the references mentioned by DonB

  • In reply to Dennis Byrne:

    First of all, thanks for paying attention.

    Dennis, you are right that the main issue is whether or not global warming is anthropogenic. I am hoping that you understood that I was restricting myself to temperatures (and not "climate", as you characterized my argument) and that by no change, I mean a trend of relatively constant temperatures rather than identical temperatures from year to year.

    Actually, I do think those who argue that there has been no real global warming by implication are arguing that the temperatures are more or less going to stay at the same level. So I have heard people making this argument.

    I think "beyond a reasonable doubt" is the wrong criterion for evaluating whether we need to take the anthropogenic warming hypothesis seriously or not. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that it is true. (I know that this is hard). If we wait until the evidence is unambiguous, then it will be too late to try to ameliorate many of its effects.

    All scenarios about the future climate are predictions. We need to figure out which is the best. All predictions are not equally valid. And there aren't just two, or three--there's a continuum.

    And I know that you two accept that some predictions are worse than others. Neither of you would argue that we should give equal consideration to the hypotheses that the temperature is going to increase two degrees per year over the next forty years, or that it is going to decrease three degrees per year over the next decade. It would be foolish to spend money preparing for the probability that the earth is going to cool down significantly as if it was an equally serious hypothesis.

    It seems like you two think there are only two types of predictions "valid" and "not valid". Predictions are hard to make. But they aren't just snatched out of thin air (we can debate about the temperature of this thin air later).

    So I'll stand by my statement that we should be thinking about which predictions are best among a set of flawed but still useful theories.

    Don, you are creating a false dichotomy regarding addressing problems. People do have the ability to focus on many problems at once. I think the other problems that you mention are important also, but that does not mean that we need to drop consideration of the issue of global warming to address them.

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