Some 375 political activists attached to the National Academy of Sciences, supporting the totalitarian view on the climate question, have recently issued an open letter saying we “caused most of the historical increase in atmospheric levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.”
In fact, the extent of our influence on climate is not “settled science.” Only 0.3% of twelve thousand papers published in learned journals claimed that recent warming was mostly manmade. The 375 activists are entitled to their opinion, but the scientific community’s peer-reviewed results overwhelmingly fail to endorse their narrow view that recent warming was predominately manmade.
True, we influence climate, by returning to the air some of the carbon dioxide that was there before. But so do termites, by emitting more methane than all the world’s farm animals combined. So do plants, by taking carbon dioxide; storing the carbon in leaves, stems, and trunks; and returning the oxygen to the air. So does the Sun, by supplying nearly all the Earth’s radiant energy. So do volcanoes, by emitting hot rocks that warm the air and ejecta that shade the Earth from the Sun and cause cooling. So do the oceans, by helping to keep the Earth’s temperature within a few degrees either side of the period mean for more than 800,000 years.
The activists say we are warming the oceans. But in the first 11 full years of the least ill-resolved dataset we have, the 3500+ Argo bathythermograph buoys, the upper mile and a quarter of the world’s oceans warmed at a rate equivalent to just 1 Celsius degree every 430 years, and the warming rate, negligible at the surface, rises faster the deeper the measurements are taken. The oceans are warming not from above, which they would if we were warming the air and the air was warming the oceans, but from below.
The activists say we are warming the lower atmosphere. Yet on all datasets, the atmosphere is warming at less than half the rate originally predicted by their fellow-activists at the error-prone Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — who have a vested interest in overstating the supposed extent of our influence on climate. For, otherwise, the Panel would be – as it should now be – abolished. The Panel is political, but science is not science unless it is scientific, and unless it is free, in particular, from the political totalitarianism that sullenly insists that only one opinion – the Party Line – may be uttered.
The activists say the oceans are “acidifying.” The truth is that, aside from a few transects and a few local studies, science has no idea whether or at what rate the oceans are “acidifying.” What is known, however, is that the oceans are not acid (as rainwater is): they are pronouncedly alkaline. It is also known that, under anything like modern conditions, they are so powerfully buffered that alkaline they must remain.
The activists say our influence on climate is evident in “altered rainfall patterns,” but in this they are at odds with their fellow-activists at the ill-fated Intergovernmental Panel, whose special report on extreme weather (2012) and whose fifth and most recent (2013) Assessment Report on the climate question find little or no evidence of a link between our industries and enterprises on the one hand and global rainfall patterns on the other.
The activists say we are to blame for retreating Arctic sea ice. But Arctic sea ice variations, if objectively quantified with proper error estimates, are fully within the large natural range of changes that have no need of any unique explanation by rising atmospheric carbon dioxide. In addition, Antarctic sea ice, which they somehow do not mention, has largely offset the loss of Arctic ice.
True scientists, like any other citizens, are entitled and even encouraged to take part in the political process, and to state their opinions. This applies to non-USA-citizens, which many of the 375 are. What true scientists must not do, however, is pretend, as the activists did, that their totalitarian point of view is unchallengeable. In all material respects, unfolding events have proven their extremist viewpoint prodigiously exaggerated at best, plain wrong at worst.
Specifically, the activists complain that, during the presidential primary campaign, “claims were made that the Earth is not warming.” Yet early in the primary campaign it was correct to say the Earth had not been warming for almost 19 years. More recently there has been a naturally-occurring El Niño event, which has raised the trend a little, but it remains true that the early predictions of medium-term warming were badly exaggerated.
The activists declare their faith in the doctrine “that the problem of human-caused climate change is real, serious and immediate, and that this problem poses significant risks” to everything from national security via health and agriculture to biodiversity. But this statement is based wholly on faith and is unsupported by reality. We know this because of the serially failed predictions made by alarmists.
The activists say, “We know that the climate system has tipping points.” Yet, revealingly, “Tipping point” is not a scientific but a political term. The activists say that “rapid warming of the planet increases the risk of crossing climatic points of no return,” but there is no evidence for rapid warming of the planet today. At the end of the Maunder Minimum, the Earth’s atmosphere warmed more rapidly in response to the naturally-occurring recovery of solar activity from 1695-1735 than it has warmed in any subsequent 40-year period. There is nothing unprecedented either about today’s global temperatures or about the rate at which those temperatures have been changing.
The activists say warmer weather will “possibly” set in motion “large-scale ocean circulation changes.” The scientific truth is that, while the wind blows, the Earth rotates and its land-masses are approximately where they are, the ocean circulation must remain much as it is now. To suggest otherwise is mere rodomontade.
The activists say warmer weather will cause “the loss of major ice sheets.” But if the great ice sheet that covered most of North America to a depth of two miles had not melted owing to naturally-occurring global warming 10,000 years ago, where would the United States be today? Antarctic snowfall accumulation has not exhibited a massive meltdown over the past 40 to 60 years, and there has been no change to speak of in northern-hemisphere snow cover. There is little evidence that the tiny global warming that has occurred is at all likely to have major effects, whether on the cryosphere or on anything else, and still less evidence that those effects would be deleterious, and still less that, even if they were deleterious, the proposed measures to prevent them would make any detectable difference, and still less that, even if proposed measures might work, the imagined benefits would exceed the extravagant cost of their implementation.
The activists are also wrong in their assertion that any appreciable human influence on the climate will be detectable for many thousands of years. Their fellow activists on the Panel say that very nearly all of the feedbacks from the small warming that may be caused by our enriching the atmosphere with plant food act over timescales of hours to – at most – decades.
The activists are wrong to state that “it is of great concern that the Republican nominee for President has advocated U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Accord.” On the scientific evidence to date, it is abundantly clear that the original predictions made by the totalitarians were extreme exaggerations; that, though the world may warm a little, it will not warm a lot; that adding CO2 to the air will be of benefit to plants in reducing their need for water, which is why the world’s desert regions are beginning to green; and that the cost of futilely playing Canute with the climate is 10-100 times greater than the cost of any realistically foreseeable net disbenefit from warmer weather.
It would, therefore, be entirely proper for a presidential candidate to argue that the United States should withdraw from the Paris climate treaty, except for one inconvenient truth. The United States has not ratified the treaty. Any such ratification requires a two-thirds majority of the Senate, and the collapse of the totalitarians’ scientific case for “climate action” now renders any such two-thirds majority impossible to achieve.
Though the activists have attempted – falsely and improperly – to convey the impression that it is somehow illegal, immoral or damaging to the planet to vote for the Republican party’s candidate in the forthcoming presidential election because he disagrees with the totalitarian position on the climate question that they espouse with such religious fervor and such disregard for science, in truth it is not the business of scientists to abuse the authority of their white lab-coats by collectively suggesting that “Science” demands the voters should or should not cast their vote in any particular direction.