(Parts II and I of this discussion are posted in that order following this one.)
Part I reviewed the background of the Climate Change/Global Warming controversy, with some facts about just why it is, in fact, a very valid controversy, and one requiring open discussion despite claims to the contrary by those who endorse it as an “obvious” imminent danger to life on earth requiring immediate drastic, costly measures to try to mitigate its effects.
What likely is not well understood by many people who are sincerely concerned about the issue is that these proposed measures would bring on both cultural and economic disruption globally, but there is no valid proven estimate of the effect they might have in reducing any future climate temperature increase, if for no other reason than what is stated in the very next paragraph.
The assertions by proponents that the increasing concentration of the greenhouse gas, CO2 is the sole cause of “unprecedented” rising global temperatures, have been proven to be false. Despite this, and the objection of numerous skeptical respected climate scientists worldwide about the lack of a valid full scientific understanding of the issues, human-caused CO2 warming proponents have declared that the “science is settled”, and no further discussion of the subject is needed or to be condoned. But as Einstein, himself, said, science is never “settled”, and is always subject to additional scrutiny.
Part II took a look at the geologic history of the earth’s temperatures and atmospheric CO2 as documented by paleo scientists, a history which reveals that continuous successive natural major variations in the earth’s global climate have been the norm during the past 4.6 billion years.
This record clearly indicates that natural cyclic variations in the earth’s climate have repeatedly resulted in periods of tens of thousands of years during which temperatures were respectively substantially warmer and colder than our current climate regime, which is one that geoscientists classify as a naturally warm “interglacial period”, one which ended the last “glacial period” 11,000 years ago, having melted extensive polar and sub-polar ice sheets.
While scientists who study this geological climate record have several theories about the precise causes of these natural temperature variations, the cyclic nature of documented effects and the absence of any common global cause points principally to globally external influences, evidence that contradicts the “alarmist” claimed “fact” that the concentration of atmospheric CO2 is the sole cause of climate variations.
Part III — A Contemporary Look at the Issues
In Part III we now turn to how this controversy is playing out in today’s world. To do this, we will review a sampling of the more significant examples of just how the alleged “scientific fact” that human-caused CO2 is responsible for unprecedented “rampant” climate heating has been presented to the public by involved scientists and political bodies with the all too willing help of the faithful mainstream media.
The intent here is that, when finished, you, the reader, will have a more balanced understanding of the facts about climate change than you had with just the politically motivated information which the media and many politicians have been providing.
The principal institutional body that has been a most enthusiastic promoter of human-caused CO2 as the sole reason for global warming since it first became recognized as a “crisis” eligible for concerted international attention is the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Created in 1988, the stated objective of the IPCC is to provide governments at all levels worldwide with periodic reports containing scientific information assessing the status of current and predicted future climate change that can be used to develop and support international, national, and regional energy policies to counter the warming climate.
The contents of the IPCC reports are accepted by most world governments as indisputable fact, and are the key input into UN-sponsored international negotiations to establish agreed upon UN-monitored goals for reductions in CO2 emissions by the individual nations—as well as binding economic commitments to reimburse developing countries for the impacts of such reductions on them.
This immediately begs the question “Just how “factual” is the IPCC information?
IPCC Reports: Built on a Foundation of Bias
The IPCC does no research on its own for these periodic reports, but instead recruits volunteer international scientists from a wide variety of disciplines to review existing published climate change research and develop forecasts of future global climate temperature increase, (forecasts of decreases clearly are not permitted) and the various physical, environmental, and economic impacts of that warming on world populations.
Since many scientific journals are, unfortunately, apparently more interested in being on the correct side of politics than in promoting open scientific discussion, they tend to adhere to unofficial policies of publishing the results of research that advances the human activity-generated CO2 global warming “crisis”, while accepting few studies for publication with contrary skeptical content.
And since much of this published research has been done by the same scientists who now confirm its validity and use its conclusions for the IPCC reports, those reports have consistently been openly biased in an unsurprising direction, with few questions raised. This has made the reports controversial and open to technical criticism from “skeptical” scientists not part of the hand-picked alarmist IPCC stable.
If Folks won’t Pay Attention, Scare Them!
A case in point is the latest IPCC report issued in October 2018. This report contained a claim (contrary to clear existing evidence) that “there is no documented historical precedent” for the global warming that is now occurring.
And, in an even more alarming vein, it made the claim that the world nations had just 12 years (to 2030) to make massive changes to their respective energy strategies and infrastructure (i.e., basically substantially replace fossil fuels with solar and wind power) to save the world by reducing the UN-predicted average annual global temperature for 2030 by 0.5 degree Celsius. Supporting valid science-based proof of either the need for, or actual effectiveness of, this action was lacking, as was any assessment of its massive cost or even its technical feasibility.
More to the point, this sudden alarming deadline was not based on any new scientific research results proving a significant increase in the previously forecast questionably high rate of climate heating from CO2 emissions. Rather, it came solely as a result of an apparent subjective IPCC assessment of popular perceptions about how current climate warming will be getting much worse and triggering increased disasters.
For the report went on to warn (again without any supporting new science) that unless world-wide action was immediately begun to reduce carbon emissions, increasing CO2 in the atmosphere will result in faster rising sea levels, more devastating droughts, more damaging storms, more major forest fires, and higher temperatures, all of which will bring on famine, disease, economic tolls, and refugee crises as people flee climate-induced disasters.
Mind you, according to the IPCC ALL these worldwide disasters can be avoided by simply reducing average global temperatures by only one-half of a degree Celsius.
It warrants repeating that neither this new warning of alleged rapidly approaching world-wide environmental calamity from hot, violent weather, nor the alleged effectiveness of its mandated “solution’ resulted from any dramatic new scientific breakthrough validating CO2’s supposed “sole” role in precipitating a climate crisis. Rather it came from a purely subjective view that the already documented natural weather-related events of the kind listed would be made “worse” because of increasing atmospheric CO2’s supposed sole role in dramatically raising climate temperatures.
While this deliberately calculated alarming forecast of future weather calamities fits the political need to motivate the public to support the desired politically inspired agenda, valid scientific evidence to support it is weak at best, mostly lacking, and even contradicts what is actually occurring.
Chicken Little and the Falling Sky
Despite a 50% increase in atmospheric CO2 in the past half century, the current periodic frequency and magnitude of droughts and floods over time have shown little change, as have those of major storms. Tornado activity in the U.S. has actually declined in recent years, and presently is in a multi-year “lull”, with 2018 the first year since modern tornado records have been kept with no category F-4 or 5 storms experienced. The cyclic nature of U.S hurricane frequency and severity, already known to be linked to the el Niño/la Niña Pacific Ocean oscillations, has shown no unexplained change even with the doubling of CO2 over the past 50 years.
The tie alleged between every noteworthy forest fire (or, for that matter, any remotely relatable major event) and global warming is predictably generated pro forma by the media and the “wishful thinking” of other alarmist crisis promoters—regardless of obvious evidence of other known contributing factors.
And sea levels have been rising at a variable but steadily small rate (averaging around one-third inch per year) since formal measurements began in the late 1800s, with only a very slight increase noted over the past several decades, probably in response to the slight recent global warming.
But note that the ocean level has risen because of natural (non-human) causes about 400 feet since the beginning of the current Interglacial Period 11,000 years ago, an average rate of just under a half an inch a year. So the alarming claim of “rapidly rising oceans” because of a supposed increase in glacial and ice sheet melting as a result of the human-caused increase of CO2 in the atmosphere would not seem to have a credible basis.
The REAL issue behind these alarms is, since scientists are unable to understand and explain the very evident NATURAL causes that have significantly affected global climate throughout geologic history, but they DO understand that CO2 can have some effect, they apparently go with what they know and therefore blame ALL climate change on human-caused CO2. The natural causes of global climate warming which have been proven to have been active for hundreds of millions of years, apparently no longer exist.
Which brings us to our next subject.
Building a Forecast Model? Understanding the Process Being Modelled Might Help its Ability to Reflect Reality
The reliability of any forecast model is dependent on the concurrent reliability of the underlying information on which it is based. And that reliability, in turn, requires a full understanding by the model designer of the natural process that the model is intended to replicate. And therein lies a major issue with respect to the predicted “alarming” rise in global temperatures.
When the potential for a future global warming crisis caused by a documented steady increase in atmospheric CO2 became apparent back in the early 1970s, there was a rush by scientists to develop computer models that would be able to forecast the rate and magnitude of that rise in the average global climate temperature. The fact that the complex science of the earth’s “Energy Budget”, which is what largely determines the Earth’s climate in any region, was not well understood was apparently not a deterrent to these model development efforts.
The Earth’s Heat Energy Budget Sets the Climate
The Earth’s heat energy budget accounts for the balance between the heat energy Earth receives from the Sun, and the heat energy Earth loses (radiates back into outer space) after having been distributed throughout the five components of Earth’s climate system and powered the so-called Earth’s heat engine. This system is made up of earth’s water, ice, atmospheric constituents, rocky crust, and diverse biological elements. The qualitative and quantitative heat flux relationships among components are complex are not all that well understood.
Accurately modeling even the generalized heat flow complexities of the energy budget is further confounded by potential variable heat flow “feedbacks” such as by clouds, variable in their nature, amount, and distribution over time, which can block incoming solar radiation and/or atmospheric heat loss into space. The science of how to validly account for these feedbacks that dynamically affect climate temperatures is not well understood. To either ignore or misrepresent them obviously introduces significant errors in the model output.
These models, based on what is now being referred to by politicians, the media, and alarmist scientists as “settled science”, have produced an array of forecasts of climate temperature increases from the starting 1970s temperature out to the year 2050., The resulting array of forecast temperatures by the individual models, while in some disagreement in the amount of the forecast temperature rise, were all consistent in forecasting a “dangerous” climate temperature increase through the 70 year period, predictions that were quickly used to support the global warming “crisis” by politicians and the media.
So, How Reliable Are Modelled Forecasts?
Which raises the essential question: how well are climate scientists able to accurately simulate the complex processes that are required to accurately model and forecast the Earth’s climate temperature for many decades into the future? Can we be confident about what they tell us? Figure 1 provides a significant answer.
This graphic, which allows the initial 35 years of the average annual global climate temperature data as forecast by 102 computer models to be compared with similar data as recorded from observations by ground-launched balloons and by satellite remote sensing, respectively for the period 1979 – 2014. The heavy red line displays the average annual temperature variations from the 1979 temperature as forecast by 102 climate models, the green boxes and blue circles are the observed average annual data as computed from global observations by balloon (blue) and satellite (green).
(NOTE: The data from the 102 computer models’ runs are combined into 32 groupings of similar output, and the individual group averages plotted for display clarity (thin lines).)
Figure 1: Graph of Modelled Forecast vs Observed variations in average global atmospheric temperatures for the periods shown. Model forecast average (bold red line) represents outputs from 102 individual computer models run in 32 groups of similar output and individual group data points averaged.(thin lines) Individual model group IDs are listed in the box. (Source: Univ. of Ala.)
The critical point to note is that the model forecasts for 35 years from their starting point (which was the actual global average climate temperature), and only half way to the forecast 2050 target, were already averaging a 300% error when compared to the temperatures actually observed by both ground weather balloon and satellite monitoring. And the trend for the modeled forecasts indicates a steadily increasing divergence from the observed slower rising actual observed temperatures, suggesting a larger yet forecast error for future years.
It must be emphasized that, while more recent climate forecast models than these early ones are becoming available, published research on the earth’s Energy Budget and climate modeling shows no “breakthrough” in better understanding the complexities of how to validly include all the factors that affect climate temperature over time.
One example is the dynamic causes and effects of natural change, which, while known to exist, continue to be ignored because they are not understood. Computer climate models’ forecasts, therefore, logically must be interpreted accordingly when considering alternatives to “solve” global warming.
Should We be Using Forecasts of Questionable Accuracy to Make Major Unreversible and Costly Program Decisions?
Despite the readily available published information shown by this graph that climate models seriously over-predict the temperature of the future global climate, forecasts such as these based on “imperfect ‘settled’ science” continue to be the basis for the predictions of a climate calamity (and draconian mandatory “solutions”!), including the recent UN IPCC prediction of irreversible climate disaster by 2030 if climate warming is not stopped.
Given the models’ average 300% over-estimate of future temperature vs the observed values for 2015, the half degree C temperature reduction “required” by 2030 based on the UN’s temperature prediction would seem to already be a reality.
But more important, with this demonstrated inability to forecast future climate temperatures with any accuracy, is it reasonable to demand that the world’s developed nations embark upon a massive new energy strategy, based solely on a clearly unscientific, knowingly flawed estimate of expected temperature, when that strategy has a high probability of devastating economies and cultures, ?
NOAA/GISS “Fixed” US Temperature History
The whole case for blaming human-caused Global Warming for our current climate rests on the valid premise that (1) CO2 is a greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, that is, it “traps” some of the earth’s heat by inhibiting its free radiation out into space, causing the atmosphere to warm; (2) Burning fossil fuels emit significant amounts of CO2; (3) As human use of fossil fuels increased over time, more CO2 was emitted into the atmosphere; and (4) As more heat was trapped, the earth’s climate got increasingly get warmer.
Therefore, the expectation was that as fossil fuel use had increased significantly during the twentieth century in the U.S. and elsewhere, the records of observed temperatures from the network of official weather monitoring stations (maintained by NOAA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in the Historic Climate Network (HCN) database) in the country would show a clear trend of increasing average annual temperatures through the period from 1900 into the 21st century.
But a check of that original, observed data (the BLUE line in Figure 2) showed something quite different and presented two problems for climate alarmists (which, as we shall see, actively includes NOAA) in that (1) annual data showed years in the earlier 1900s that were much warmer than more recent years when the century of steadily increasing CO2 was supposed to be causing higher temperatures according to the global warming narrative, and (2) the warming that does show for the graphed period does not conform to the expected upward temperature trend in response to the known increasing CO2 content of the atmosphere.
Figure 2. The graph is a plot of the official average annual temperatures (5-year means) from the US Historic Climate Network database 1895-2017. The BLUE line (“Raw” data) displays average temperatures as originally observed; The RED line displays the final official (adjusted) values. (See text for explanation.)
But not to worry, alarmists! NOAA was able to get the train back on the track with adjustments to account for a change in the original max-min thermometers in the late 1980s that were determined to have been reading 0.3 of a degree C too warm since 1895, to more accurate electronic ones. That, plus filling in computer-generated estimated temperatures for missing station observations–about 10% of the data in the 1970s, but as much as 40% in recent years.
The result of these ‘adjustments’ which progressively lowered (cooled) pre-2000 temperatures, and warmed those after that, as shown by the RED graphed line in the above figure 2.
The 1895 to ~1910 observed annual temperatures have been lowered by a degree (F.) or more, and years from there to 2000 progressively lowered from 1 degree F. up to “no change”. Years from 2000 to the present are–for no apparent scientific reason–progressively “warmed” ending with a 1 degree F. increase for 2018.
While a degree or so may not seem like a”big deal”. in Climate Change perspectives these are very significant adjustments which dramatically alter the observed historical record.
And the positive political benefits of these ‘behind the scenes’ adjustments become very apparent when you read headlines in the papers like the one that just appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Feb 7, 2019) “Scientists Call Last Five Years Warmest Since 1880.” Without the adjustments, alarmists lose their ability to use today’s less alarming observed warming as the reason we have “only 12 years” to reduce CO2 by imposing restrictive energy regulations.
It also needs to be noted that, with the temperature adjustments, the trend of NOAA’s adjusted temperatures (Red line) now closely approximates that of the CO2 increase in the atmosphere over that period. Remarkable coincidence.
To Err is Human; To Err on the Side of Global Warming is Science
In October 2018, a team of scientists from the University of California Scripps Oceanographic Institute and Princeton University published the results of a comprehensive study that utilized a new technique they had developed to more accurately determine the rate that the world’s oceans were being heated by the climate warming from increased CO2 emissions from human activity.
Ocean warming is a critical component of the earth’s Energy Budget discussed earlier, for the heat that they absorb (and store as latent heat) is a major factor in understanding the on-going global heat flux and in predicting future climate temperatures.
The published report was a literal “Bombshell”, for it revealed that ocean warming was actually SIXTY times greater than previously thought. As a result of the new data, forecasts of future climate warming based on previous science significantly understated future warming and its alarming consequences.
The media, as usual, were quick to make “front page” news out of the results of a study that significantly advanced the global warming cause, especially when conducted by scientists from two prestigious Institutions.
About a week or so later, an independent individual scientist, with no connection to the study but having an interest in Climate Change, started reading the details of the study in the scientific journal Nature, in which it was published, and “something didn’t look quite right”. So he started through the numerous calculations by which the authors had derived their “explosive” results and saw a very clear mathematical ERROR in one part, an error that when corrected completely invalidated the study conclusion about the amount of ocean heating.
He called this to the attention of the lead author, who promptly concurred and issued a public acknowledgment.
.The point in including this anecdote is twofold. First, the media, while very quick to report the original alarming news that advanced the Global Warming “threat”, has been silent about the fact that it was not true, after all. This, unfortunately, is typical of the wide-spread media policy to not report any information that does not support the human-caused global warming narrative.
Second—and more disturbing—is that this study involved a number of credible scientists from two prestigious institutions of higher learning who all “signed off” as to its scientific validity. Also, in order for it to be published in an equally prestigious scientific journal such as Nature, an independent review concurring with its scientific validity is [supposedly] required to be done by at least two journal-selected scientifically qualified peers.
That NONE of these scientists apparently bothered to actually review and check all the study details (including the math calculations) before publication, and thereby allowed this mathematical error to go uncorrected in a research study that reached a well-publicized very major conclusion affecting Climate Change, immediately raises the question about how much other published global warming “junk science” has been similarly allowed to become fact without detailed verification simply because reviewers agreed that it reached the “right” conclusion?
Five Big Questions that Need to be Asked & Answered
Dr. Roy Spencer, an eminent climate scientist formerly with NASA, where he developed and ran the program for satellite monitoring temperatures of the global atmosphere, and is now continuing his climate research at the University of Alabama, has proposed five questions that MUST be considered and ALL answered in the unequivocal affirmative in order for Global Warming to be a problem serious enough to be addressed by making changes in energy policy that will result in disruptions in existing global energy sources, economies, and cultures. If any answer is not a definitive “Yes”, that is the weak link and the “justification chain” for an energy policy change is broken.
The requirement for all to be answered “yes” with certainty is predicated on the reality that, given the facts that, rationally, any policy changes must be effective against the actual cause(s) of climate change, so before taking any action we must be certain that we know what the cause(s) and the extent of what their future effect(s) on climate and the environment is/are.
We also need to be certain that we understand the direct and indirect effects (economic, environmental, and cultural) that the proposed energy policy will have on humanity.
The content of Dr. Spencer’s questions, slightly reworded here for emphasis is:
- Do we know that atmospheric warming and associated Climate Change is predominantly human-caused?
- Is the human-caused portion of warming and associated Climate Change large enough to be significantly damaging? (Positive Benefit/Cost)
- Have the climate models that we use to develop proposed energy policy demonstrated they accurately predict changes in global climates?
- Do we know that the proposed changes in energy policy would substantially reduce future Climate Change and its resulting damages?
- Would the effect of the policy changes do more good than harm to humanity?
Given what we both do and don’t know about the historic and current scientific facts of the complex issues that affect Global Warming/Climate Change as covered in the three Parts of this discussion of the issues, in my humble opinion FIVE honest “YES” answers are not possible.
Therefore, embarking on a mitigation program of both great cost and cultural disruption, and, moreover, at the same time one of questionable technical feasibility and effectiveness, is very unwise.
But, it’s up to YOU to decide where YOU stand.
Thanks for your interest!