President Obama recently returned from the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris and declared, “Today the American people can be proud because this historic agreement is a tribute to American leadership. This agreement represents the best chance we have to save the one planet that we’ve got.”
The progressive politicians and intelligentsia have declared human-generated CO2 causation of climate change to be “settled science.” They warn that unless governments take radical action to decrease CO2 emissions, the earth and humanity will suffer dire consequences in the centuries to come. Their proclamations on climate change are so unyielding and absolute that they are reflexively and uncritically accepted as irrefutable truth by many.
Yet, true science is never settled but rather, by definition, open to modification as new discoveries and data come to light. The scientific method, on which all post-enlightenment scientific understanding rests, has the following essential structure: Firstly, asking a question about the physical world. Secondly, proposing a hypothesis that answers the question.
Thirdly, performing an experiment or making observations regarding the phenomenon of the original question. Finally, analyzing the data generated by the experiment and concluding whether or not the data validates the proposed hypothesis. If the data does not support the hypothesis then that hypothesis must be rejected or modified. If the data supports the hypothesis, it does not become immutable truth but rather deemed reasonable and provisionally true until new data indicates otherwise.
The “settled science of climate change” is the product of the International Panel of Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC was established in 1988 by the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organization. Its membership is composed of governments, not scientists. Politicians and bureaucrats, not scientists, craft and direct the IPCC agenda. The IPCC was not founded asking a question in the tradition of the scientific method (for example, “What are the human and natural causes that affect climate?”) but rather was given a mandate to look for and report on human influence on climate.
The IPCC started with a hypothesis: Human-generated CO2 does and will continue to affect climate, and those effects will catastrophically impact the earth and humanity. The IPCC’s scientists subsequently collected temperature data and created models looking to support that hypothesis. For now, we will skip over the data and go right to the conclusions made by the IPCC. From the most recent IPCC Assessment Report (AR5): “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia…. Human influence on the climate system is clear…. Human influence has been detected in warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, … in changes in some climate extremes. It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-twentieth century. … Most aspects of climate change will persist for many centuries even if emissions of CO2 are stopped.”
Now returning to the data that in the scientific method is utilized to test the hypothesis: I should add that none of the following statements in the next two paragraphs are disputed by any on either side of the climate change debate. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas whose accumulation can increase the temperature of the lower atmosphere. This greenhouse temperature effect decreases with progressively increasing levels of CO2. Climate is changing. It always has and always will. Geologic ice core studies indicate that CO2 levels were far higher than they are today at the initiation of all six great ice ages and that periods of global warming preceded CO2 level increases by hundreds of thousands of years. Despite the impression given by the 24-hour sensationalized weather news channels, contemporary climate event studies indicate that there has been no perceptible increase in extreme weather events. The most recent IPCC report clearly acknowledges the same.
The 2001 IPCC assessment estimated global temperatures to have risen as much as 0.7˚ C in the 20th century. In the same report, IPCC CO2 climate change modeling projected a 1.4 to 5.8˚ C warming to occur between 1990 and 2100. A later unpublished IPCC study, only released in the 2009 “Climategate” documents, critically examined one month of the temperature data used to estimate the aforementioned 0.7˚ C increase. That study found that sampling and accuracy errors in the collection of the data likely resulted in a margin of error of +/- 1-5˚ C. Further, in the 15 years following the IPCC warming projection between 1990 and 2100, there has been 0 degrees of warming despite estimated CO2 atmospheric emissions of 100 billion tons between 2000 and 2010. It was that absence of temperature increase that led climate change proponents to rename “global warming” to “climate change.” In the latest IPCC report, the nonscientist panel chairman opined, discounting the IPCC modeling projecting greater temperature increases, that global warming is occurring at the rate of 0.05˚ C per decade with a margin of error of +/- .1 ̊C. So for both of these IPCC temperature pronouncements, the margin of error is greater than the claimed likely temperature change.
So is the intelligentsia’s climate change dogma science? It isn’t science if it is declared settled rather than being open to question or new data. It isn’t science when government funds only one side of the debate. It isn’t science when emails circulate among climate scientists discussing how to “hide the decline” in temperature, as happened in the 2009 Climategegate scandal at East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit. It isn’t science when progressive politicians want to strip academics of their teaching positions because they question the validity of or hold opposing views on climate change. It isn’t science when the climate change orthodoxy calls reasonable people who reject the climate change catastrophe scenario “climate-change deniers,” trying to invoke the same disgust deserved by Holocaust deniers. It isn’t science if their hypothesis is non-falsifiable – that is, if the hypothesis is never rejected but constantly modified in an attempt to accommodate the data.
Finally, a few words on the value of “consensus opinion.” We have been told time and time again that human-generated climate change is the “consensus opinion” of the scientific community. First of all, it is skepticism that drives elaboration of science and of truth, not the comfortable inaction of consensus. Secondly, in fact, many respected scientists reject the alarmist climate change hypothesis. The summary of the 2014 Report of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), whose membership is composed of scientists, and not governments, states: “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.” Thirty-five contributors from 14 countries authored the report, and the appendix includes the signatures of 31,478 American scientists who reviewed the data and concurred with the report’s conclusions.
Climate change is not about science. It is about power and politics. It is about growing government. It is about the statists taking more of our money and making their friends in “alternative energy” rich. It is about giving the UN the authority to redistribute trillions of dollars to developing countries.
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