Philosophical Basis for Challenging the IPCC: In an interesting opinion piece in The New York Times entitled “On Experts and Global Warming,” Gary Gutting, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, argues that the non-experts must accept the findings of the expert authorities in climate science. Though not named, no doubt the expert climate authorities are the members of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changes (IPCC), particularly as expressed in the Summary for Policymakers (SPM) of the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4).
Unfortunately, the good professor fails to recognize the tremendous change in thinking that came about through the development of natural philosophy – scientific philosophy. Under scientific philosophy, the pronouncements of climate authorities are not as important as how and why they acquired their claimed knowledge. Did they adhere to the principles of acquiring scientific knowledge? If the climate authorities did not, then anyone familiar with scientific principles is perfectly capable of challenging these experts, even though the challenger is not, necessarily, an expert in climate science.
There are many glaring scientific defects in AR4, particularly in the SPM. Among these defects are the following:
Ignoring scientific data that is contrary to the central conclusions.
Failure to rigorously test hypotheses using physical observations.
Assuming results are evidence of cause.
Assuming a poor correlation is evidence of cause.
Assuming a thorough knowledge of the climate system.
Assuming that calculations involving variables with a low level of understanding can produce results embodying a high level of understanding.
Assuming projections from unverified models are scientific knowledge.
The SPM focuses only on the past fifty years – not carefully defined. Thus, it ignores a vast body of scientific evidence that prior warm periods equal to or greater than the current period existed and that the historical warm periods are unrelated to atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). The main body of the AR4 explains these omissions by claiming the past warm periods were not global. Yet, according to the most comprehensive, reliable data available, satellite data, the current warm period is not global. It is concentrated in the northern part of the Northern Hemisphere, above 35 deg N.
CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and laboratory experiments show that a doubling of CO2, absent of feedbacks, will increase temperatures by about 1.2 deg C. The SPM assumes positive feedbacks amplify this small warming. Yet, nowhere in AR4 are these positive feedbacks tested against physical observations as required by the critical step of hypothesis testing. Tests by others demonstrate that the assumptions fail when tested against the proper alternative hypothesis – the null hypothesis. Such testing is the foundation of scientific knowledge.
There is little question warming occurred in the 20th century and the results of warming can be observed. However, these results do not establish cause.
During the 20th century, both CO2 and temperatures increased, but not necessarily together. The correlation is poor. For several multi-decadal periods during the 20th century temperatures fell while CO2 increased.
In the SPM, only one natural variation is considered – solar irradiation. Other influences of the sun and the influence of ocean oscillations are ignored.
An appendix to the main body of the AR4 gives the levels of understanding for sixteen variables considered to influence temperatures (many important variables are not considered.) The levels of understanding for five of these influences are rated as very low. The levels of understanding for ten for the remaining eleven are rated as low to medium. Yet the SPM states a high level of confidence in results of its work. One cannot have high confidence in the results, when starting with a poor understanding of critical variables.
The models have never been verified, thus are interesting artifacts, not knowledge.
Contrary to the statements of Professor Gutting, anyone understanding the principles establishing physical sciences has a solid philosophical basis for challenging the work of the experts of the IPCC. Please see the referenced articles under “Challenging the Orthodoxy” and “Defenders of the Orthodoxy.”
Amplifications and Corrections: EPA numbers. Last week’s TWTW questioned EPA’s claim that the new, intensified regulations of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions will prevent 34,000 premature deaths, 15,000 non-lethal heart attacks, and 400,000 cases of asthma per year starting in 2014. The regulations would reduce SO2 emissions by 73% and NOx emissions by 54% below 2005 levels. TWTW termed the claims as not creditable (assignable as the term bankable in finance). Alert readers informed SEPP the correct term is not credible (believable).
Why EPA used 2005 as its base year for its calculations of SO2 and NOx calculations prompted further investigation.
A check of the EPA web site showed that under existing regulations, from 1980 to 2010, SO2 emissions have declined by about 12,490,000 from 17,260,730 tons to 5,119,700 tons. NOx emissions have fallen by about 3,963,000 from a high of 6,026,524 tons in 1997 to 2,061,098 tons in 2010, or about 66%. Obviously, by 2010, major reductions in emissions of these gases have been achieved under existing regulations – 71% for sulfur dioxide since 1980 and 66% for NOx since the high in 1997. (The web site also gives 2005 emissions of SO2 of 10,221,000 tons and NOx of 3,632,000 tons.)
Using the numbers games favored by the EPA and the claimed health benefits of the incremental reduction from the new regulations, one can calculate that the reduction in these pollutants prior to 2011 is already resulting in a prevention of 185,000 premature deaths, 81,000 non-lethal heart attacks, and 2,173,000 cases of asthma each year. As stated last week, during this period of regulations, according to the National Center of Health Statistics, prevalence of asthma has increased from 3.1% of the US population in 1980 to 8.2% in 2009. As with many EPA numbers, these new EPA numbers are neither believable nor bankable. Please see articles referenced under “EPA and Other Regulators…”
Acid Rain: TWTW reader Robert Cihak reminded us of a 1990s, article on acid rain that was posted by SPPI. (Prior to the conversion of the web site, SEPP had a number of articles on acid rain, and other topics, which will be restored onto the new web site.) A search of the EPA web site failed to produce references to rigorous, scientific measurements of the acidity in rain, which has a normal pH of 5.6 — the lower the number below 7, the more intense the acidity. EPA commentary did state that rain has been measured as low as a pH of 4.3 but did not reference the study, location, or time.
The above referenced article suggests that lakes in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York are naturally acidic, but had the pH raised (made less acid) by the slash and burn land clearing methods used by colonial settlers. According to the article, after the passage of a state law in the early 20th century forbidding logging, the lakes are returning to their natural acidity. Please see referenced article under “Acidic Waters.”
Acid Waters: Searching for the pH of other well-known acidic waters produced interesting results. The Great Dismal Swamp in southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina has a measured pH seasonally ranging from 4.0 to 3.5. Its waters have been known as highly acidic since colonial times, long before the burning of coal became wide spread. A wide variety of wildlife thrives there including major mammals, migratory and non-migratory birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish. However, a search failed to reveal a study of the pH published in recognized journals or scientific proceedings.
The Okefenokee Swamp includes peat bogs, forests, and wetland grasses stretching from southeast Georgia into northeast Florida. It is not downwind of the coal fired power plants in the Midwest that are blamed for acid rain. The swamp is about 20 miles wide and 40 miles long and the waters have been noted as highly acidic since colonial times. According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service a wide variety of wildlife thrives in and around these waters including major mammals, migratory and non-migratory birds, reptiles including alligators, amphibians including frogs, and fish. The detailed list includes popular game fish such as largemouth bass and eastern chain pickerel, a member of the pike family.
Other species listed in scientific studies include invertebrates such as odonates, amphipods and crayfish. The latter two are crustaceans. Apparently, none of the many species are unique to the swamp. . [Note: one study showed that in the presence of aluminum, young large-mouth bass did not thrive with a pH below 3.5, but it was not clear if the results were due the combination of aluminum and acidity or to acidity alone.]
Number of the Week: According to published scientific studies, Okefenokee Swamp has measured pH ranging from 4.4 to 3.1 – vinegar. The estimated average pH is 3.7.
The above illustrates that one cannot conclude that acidic waters are necessarily the result of burning of coal. Acidic waters are natural and provide a habitat for a wide variety of wildlife. It is incumbent on the EPA, and other organizations, to produce the scientific verifying the claims that burning coal causes acid rain and lakes to become acidic. Please see referenced articles under “Acidic Waters.”
Ocean Acidification: The fact that highly acidic swamps provide important habitats for numerous species not specifically adapted to highly acidic waters falsifies many of the claims of EPA and NOAA concerning what they call ocean acidification. The term itself is a marketing gimmick. A more scientifically correct phrase, such as a marginal reduction of the alkalinity of the surface waters of the oceans, would not have the same sales appeal.
Last November, during hearings before the House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, it was apparent that some of the Subcommittee members were taken in by false claims that “ocean acidification” would cause the shells of shellfish and crustaceans to dissolve and eggs become hard boiled as if soaked in vinegar for several days. Yet, crustaceans and amphibians eggs not only survive in highly acidic waters, but are an important part of food web and ecosystem of the Okefenokee Swamp. These facts falsify the claims that slightly less alkaline surface waters of the oceans will cause shells of crustaceans to dissolve and eggs to become hard boiled. Please see Nov 20, 2010 TWTW at
Ian Plimer: Over the past several months an email has been circulating falsely claiming that the volcano in Iceland is emitting more CO2 in four days as the human race has ever emitted. Some of the emails attribute the assertions to the noted Australian geologist Ian Plimer. Prompted by TWTW reader Joe Falcon, SEPP queried Plimer who disavowed any association with the email. Plimer pointed out some of the spelling is American English, not Australian English. It is reprehensible if the emails are a tactic to discredit Plimer.
In his book <>heaven+earth, Plimer discusses the disastrous effects of super volcanoes, the last such eruption was Toba in Sumatra about 74,000 years ago. Plimer also discusses the effects of volcanoes on the ocean floor and the failure to systematically study them. Under sea volcanoes and vents emit enormous amounts of carbon dioxide and other gases such as sulfur dioxide. A comment in an article in Oceanus, stated that the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute has a device that measured the pH at one such vent at 0.9 – battery acid. A search of the web site failed to produce any systematic studies of such a low pH at undersea vents.
Hal Lewis: Anthony Watts informed SEPP that Hal Lewis died in May. A distinguished physicist, Lewis was a quiet man who did not draw attention to himself except last year when he publically withdrew his membership from the American Physical Society, outraged by its endorsement of the reports by the IPCC. Please see reference under “Other News …”
The complete TWTW, including the articles, can be downloaded in an easily printable
form at the SEPP web site: www.sepp.org.