Written by Kirk Myers
Martin Rees, president of The Royal Society, and Ralph J. Cicerone, president of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, penned a letter last week to the Financial Post in which they regurgitated many of the favorite bromides of the global warming movement, blaming mankind for rising global temperatures and warning of a coming climate catastrophe unless there is a radical reduction in human CO2 emissions.
Most of their assertions are either unproven or demonstrably false. Neither author was inventive enough to concoct any new anthropogenic global warming (AGW) fictions for public consumption. Everything was straight from the man-is-destroying-the-planet AGW template.
Let's analyze several of the myths rehashed by these heavyweights of science.
Myth: ". . . neither recent controversies [Climategate e-mails], nor the recent cold weather, negate the consensus among scientists: something unprecedented is now happening. The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is rising and climate change is occurring, both due to human actions."
Fact: First, there is no so-called "consensus among scientists." More than 31,400 American scientists, 9,029 with PhD degrees and 3,803 with specific training in atmospheric, earth and environmental sciences, have signed a petition urging the United States government to reject any cap-and-trade agreement placing limits on greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the petition, "The proposed limits on greenhouse gases would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind.
"There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth."
Moreover, scientific inquiry is not based on "consensus." If it were, science still would be wedded to Ptolemy's theory placing the earth at the center of the universe, with the sun, moon, planets, and stars revolving about it in circular orbits. His theory was the consensus belief of the time.
Real science is driven by investigation, not consensus. Scientists develop a hypothesis, which is subjected to rigorous testing. Eventually it may evolve into a formal theory, which is exposed to further testing and experimentation by scientists determined to challenge or disprove it.
Unlike their "consensus" brethren, scientists worthy of the label carefully search for data that might actually contradict their theory so they can test it further or refine it. The "science is settled" soothsayers, on the other hand, select only data that tends to support their theory, while steadfastly ignoring any data that disagrees with it. The AGW-consensus-bound scientists are not practicing science; they are pushing advocacy.
Myth: "The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is rising and climate change is occurring, both due to human actions."
Fact: Although human activity has contributed to rising levels of CO2, there is no empirical or physical evidence to support the contention that man-caused CO2 has caused the planet to warm. The estimated 0.7 Celsius increase in average global temperature during the past century can be just as easily explained by changes in albedo and ocean currents such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, El Nino-Southern Oscillation and Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation.
As former Navy Meteorologist Dr. Martin Hertzberg observes:
"It is shown that modest changes of at most one to two percent in the Earth's albedo brought about by modest changes in cloud cover, are sufficient to account for the observed average temperature changes of the last century . . . It is implausible to expect that small changes in the concentration of any minor atmospheric constituent such as carbon dioxide can significantly influence that radiative equilibrium."
Moreover, during the last eight years, from 2001 to 2009, the temperature trend shows a decrease of 0.52 degrees Celsius per century, despite rising CO2 levels, falsifying the IPPC model projections of continued warming triggered by human activity.
Increases in solar activity also have affected temperatures, and not just on our planet. As Earth warmed during the last century, astronomers also saw evidence of rising temperatures on Jupiter, Mars, Saturn, Neptune and Pluto in the form of shrinking of CO2 ice caps, moons changing from solid ice to liquid, and frozen nitrogen turning to gas.
During the same time period, CO2 percolated out of the warming ocean on Earth (just as it foams out of a warming glass of carbonated beverage) and increased the amount of atmospheric CO2. So it is just as reasonable to conclude - without resorting to jerry-rigged models - that an active sun, not mankind, was the source of both the increase in global temperature and atmospheric CO2.
By the way, 33 U.S. states reported record high temperatures from the 1880s to 1930s, during a period when far less CO2 was expelled into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels than has been released during the past 50 or 60 years.
Along with the recent eight-year temperature decline, 20th-century temperature records undermine the theory that the warming of the Earth since 1900 has been driven solely by man-made greenhouse gas emissions and will continue as long as carbon dioxide levels rise.
As engineer Dan Pangburn observes, "Average global temperatures for over a century have trended down, then up, then down, then up, then down, while average annual atmospheric CO2 levels have always risen since 1800. Lack of correlation demonstrates lack of causation."
But such facts have not deterred climate-model-addicted scientists whose careers and funding depend on the existence of AGW. In order to coax higher temperatures from what amounts to a tiny increase in CO2-induced warming, scientists have managed to discover an amplification effect, called "feedback," which they say multiplies the impact of carbon dioxide emissions. One of the gospels of the global warming religion, the theory of positive feedback states that a small temperature increase from rising carbon dioxide levels is amplified by the increase in water vapor caused by the temperature rise. The eventual result is runaway global warming.
Fortunately, the theory of CO2-generated runaway warming is falsified by geological records. During the late Ordovician period, the planet plunged into the Andean-Saharan ice age, while atmospheric carbon dioxide soared to 4,400 parts per million (ppm), nearly 10 times today's level. Where was the runaway greenhouse effect? Obviously, there must be other influences besides atmospheric carbon dioxide that affect global temperatures.
Ice core records
Antarctica's Vostok ice core samples clearly show CO2 levels lagging temperature increases by 800 years, plus or a minus 200 years. Apparently, as temperatures increased, the oceans "out-gassed" CO2 as they, too, warmed. Some climatologists claim the CO2 out-gassing then "amplified" the warming. But the amplifier effect is based on unproven assumptions (enter the climate models, again) about the strength of the CO2-induced warming.
As CO2 Science observes, "There is no way to objectively determine the strength of the proposed amplification from the ice core data." Moreover, during most of the past decade, temperatures have declined while CO2 levels have risen. There has been no runaway greenhouse effect.
The weakness of a CO2-warming correlation confirms the research of Dr. Sherwood Idso, president of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change. He concluded that "changes in CO2 concentration cannot be claimed to be the cause of changes in air temperature, for the appropriate sequence of events (temperature change following CO2 change) is not only never present, it is actually violated in [at least] half of the record." That is, CO2 levels have been extremely high during ice ages and and periods of relatively cool temperatures, another fact that undermines the global warming alarmists' pet CO2-causes-warming theory.
Global warming alarmists also ignore the fact that, during the last 600 million years, only the Carboniferous Period and our current age, the Quaternary Period, have experienced CO2 levels less than 400 ppm. Compared to those periods, today's atmosphere is CO2-impoverished.
So why has there been no runaway warming, even when our atmosphere's CO2 content was 10 times current levels? One of the answers lies in CO2's self-limiting absorption characteristic, which follows a logarithmic curve as levels increase. As carbon dioxide doubles, the increase in temperature is the same as the previous increase.
As the research paper "Cold Facts on Global Warming" observes:
"[The logarithmic effect] would be analogous to closing more and more shades over the windows of your house on a sunny day - it soon reaches the point where doubling the number of shades can't make it any darker."
Even if the concentration of atmospheric CO2 were four to five times current levels, it would produce only a small, incremental rise in the amount of infrared absorption. The large CO2-induced temperature increases predicted by computer models are not supported by results obtained by basic mathematical measurements.
Computer models have become a crutch. William Gray, professor of Atmospheric Sciences at Colorado State University, says the models are incapable of accurately replicating atmospheric conditions - in particular, the effects of cloud cover and precipitation - and therefore, cannot be trusted.
"Most of the rise in temperature from the '70s to the '90s was natural," he says. "Very little was down to CO2 - in my view, as little as five to ten per cent."
Distorted temperature data
Because surface-station temperature data is so poor, we can't even be certain of the accuracy of the often-cited 0.7-degree Celsius global temperature increase that is supposed to have occurred during the last century. Based on Climategate e-mails and other evidence made public, there is a very real possibility that surface-station data has been manipulated to give the appearance of a warming trend.
Satellite temperature measurements (available since 1979) have been steadily diverging from surface station readings, indicating a warm bias in the surface temperature record, according to a research paper published this week by Intellicast chief meteorologist Joe D'Aleo and former TV meteorologist Anthony Watts, founder of the award-winning WattsUpWithThat science blog.
The authors conclude that the warming trend through the late 1990s was caused not by greenhouse gases, but instead by urbanization and land-use changes. And the warming bias was magnified by the use of improvised and inaccurate data adjustments, along with a huge reduction in the number of Global Historical Climatology Network (GHCN) reporting stations, many of them eliminated from high-latitude or high-elevation locations.
"Since these surface changes [urbanization and land use] are not fully adjusted for, trends from the surface networks are not reliable . . . and can no longer be trusted for reliable climate trend assessment," the authors warn.
Even with the warming bias included, recent temperatures have been declining. But global warming alarmists have found a convenient way to create their fictional "warming trend" by using only the last 30 years of temperature data, writes Panburg.
"It is often quoted that all (or most) of the highest temperatures on record occurred in the last decade and also that the temperature trend is up. Both of these assertions can be shown to be true, but are misleading. The 'record' started with the advent of comparatively accurate and extensive direct measurements and near the lowest temperature of the Little Ice Age. Saying that the latest temperatures are among the highest on record is about as profound as saying that I drove 10,000 miles last year, and the last 10 days were among the greatest distance traveled since the beginning of the year."
Pangburn continues: "[Climatologists] conclude that agt [average global temperature] is rising because the linearized slope for the last 30 years is positive. But this is an artifact of the 30-year assumption. The agt rose sharply for the first 20 of the 30 years, but has been flat or declining since . . . A rising temperature trend is going to be the conclusion if our knowledge is limited to statistical analysis and the 30-year period. However, if the record had started with best estimates of agt during the Medieval Warm Period the linearized trend would be down."
Model projections are not evidence
Contrary to the easily refuted assertions of Rees and Cicerone, there is no evidence that carbon dioxide emissions are the main cause of recent global warming. The warming and cooling cycles of the past are natural and are caused primarily by changes in solar input, oscillating ocean currents, and the chaotic formation of clouds and precipitation - not by CO2-enhanced greenhouse effects.
The only evidence that humans cause global warming" comes from computer models. The creators of models can make them show whatever they want by simply manipulating parameters. They can be useful, but their results are not evidence of anything, writes Willis Eschenbach.
"Evidence is observable and measurable data about the real world. Climate model results are nothing more than the beliefs and prejudices of the programmers made tangible. While the results of climate models can be interesting and informative, they are not evidence."
The late, great newspaperman and critic H.L. Mencken would have thoroughly enjoyed debunking and attacking the silly ravings of today's global warming alarmists. The following quote, vintage Mencken, describes perfectly the forces at work behind the AGW scare campaign.
"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed and hence clamorous to be led to safety by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."
Today's great hobgoblin appears in the shape of a molecule known as CO2