On the global warming debate

by Wm. Robert Johnston
5 July 2013

Before discussing the global warming debate, let’s clarify what it is not: there is not a scientific debate about whether mankind is increasing the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and that this makes the Earth warmer than it would otherwise be. The “scientific consensus” stops here. Scientists agree about this much, but what they profoundly disagree on is how much of an effect there is, how much influence there is from factors other than carbon dioxide, whether there will be disastrous results, and most importantly what if anything to do about it. The global warming activists intentionally mix up these issues when they talk about “consensus”—when they’re not fabricating consensus numbers altogether.

So the crux of the debate is the claim that unnatural warming is occurring due to our activities, and that it will get far worse with terrible consequences unless we enact the activists’ agenda. As to unnatural warming, this claim is particularly based on averaging the measured temperatures worldwide and matching these results to computer models that predict higher temperatures within a century. Despite the considerable scientific effort put into these models, they still have serious flaws well known by those scientists outside the modeling “clique”. The models still cannot accurately capture many of the processes in the complex climate system; they still ignore some of the inconvenient processes, like solar influences; and the supposed agreement in the models comes from adjusting all these unknown factors to match each other. Considerable evidence suggests that the predictions are about a factor of three too high. So then why do the models match the 20th century warming so well? For one thing, the global averaging has likely exaggerated the actual warming by a factor of two or three—the biases introduced by the averaging processes are also well documented. Second, those physical processes not understood in the models—smoke, clouds, water vapor, for example—are “tuned” in the models to get a match. If the next century doesn’t have the same mix of these factors (which it won’t), then the reality won’t match the models, simple as that.

Now the claims go further: these flawed predictions for the next century are used to claim every bad consequence you could dream up. Sadly, is it somewhat true in science as well as journalism that if it bleeds, it leads. Studies predict a variety of effects of warming: some good, some bad, some neutral. The bad ones get more billing, unsurprisingly, and more funding (thank you, loyal taxpayers). Global warming is being blamed for floods and for droughts, for heat waves and for snow storms. This is blatantly unscientific: a key definition of a scientific claim is that in principle it could be disproven. If contradictory evidence can be cited as proof, we no longer have science, we have a faith-based position. We simple do not have the knowledge to take changes we observe today and say whether they are natural or not, because the nature of climate is to change, and this natural change has been enough to raise and destroy many civilizations in human history. Much of what we see changing in the ice caps, for example, is continuing change from the end of the last ice age ten thousand years ago and the end of the “Little Ice Age” two hundred years ago.

In any case, whatever validity the science has is lost when it is passed over to the politicians and other activists. The solution to global warming being forced on us is to take oil and coal use and regulate it, micromanage it, and price it out of reach. This will cause economic suffering for many of us; for those in the developing world it will mean sickness and death, because access to plentiful energy is the key to raising the standard of living above that where survival is in question. We have the technology in the West to safely and cleanly replace most of our emission-producing energy use: nuclear power. But such solutions are rejected by the activists in favor of ones too dilute to make a difference (and their own studies prove this)—solar and wind. In reality, despite the fact that there are many possible ways to reduce supposed warming, and despite the fact that the same climate models predict that proposed government policies will have little effect, there is exactly one solution currently being pushed: and this is the same anti-energy, anti-freedom solution that was promoted by environmental activists before global warming was the excuse.

The activists point out the unintended consequences of technology, but never acknowledge the unintended consequences of their solutions. Most of us know the past use of DDT to kill insects had negative impacts on bird populations, but fewer know that the environmentalist bans on DDT stopped the global effort to eradicate malaria, bringing us up to now a million malaria deaths a year. The same government that forced you to replace your children’s light bulbs with more expensive ones containing toxic chemicals is also forcing ethanol fuel into your cars. Mandated ethanol use wastes energy, results in more total carbon dioxide emissions, produces smog that is likely more dangerous, takes money from struggling households, and takes food from the global marketplace resulting in hunger overseas. This is the same caliber of solution we are receiving for global warming.

© 2013 by Wm. Robert Johnston.
Last modified 5 July 2013.
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