Climate Change: Where is the Science?

cartoon climate change causes everythingIs it twice as likely that the Earth is cooling than that it is warming? That humans and fossil fuels have nothing, or everything to do with it, or somewhere in between? Or is it over 99% certain that anthropogenic carbon burning-induced warming is sweeping us to the apocalypse, with all other possibilities combined being less than one percent probable?

The only way to find out is through the most rigorous and critical application of the scientific method, from laboratory practice to public discourse. Anything less than that increases the risk that the ‘solution’ could be more catastrophic to humans than the results of climate change itself.

Let us examine what the climate change alarm community has done and how they have done it, and see if it qualifies as the rigorous and unimpeachable science that its proponents claim it is. We’ll walk it back from results to first principles.

First, results. Nothing defines science so well in the popular mind than the predictive power of scientific theory. “If the conditions, materials and/or forces A, B, C, and D come together in such-and-such a way, then the outcome WILL BE 6.7294874X. If variables P, Q, and R are substituted for A, C, and D, then the outcome will be 2.1 milligrams of tetrahydrocannabinol in combustion.” Awesome.

So, how is that predictive power working out so far? And more to the point, what effect have those results had on the public’s confidence in the supposedly infallible science and scientists? In 1999 they said that warming would wipe out the Great Barrier Reef. In 2000 they said that Britain would no longer see snow during winter. In 2001 they predicted starvation from failing grain crops in India. From 2003 to 2005 they concluded that the drought then occurring in Australia would be permanent and Sydney dwellers would have nothing to drink. In 2006 they predicted unprecedented severe cyclones and hurricanes. In 2008 they said that by 2013 there would be no more arctic ice cap; that we would be swimming with the otters at the North Pole.

None of these predictions have come to pass. The Reef is still there, as is the arctic ice. Children make more snowmen than ever in Britain and the rains returned to Australia with a vengeance. Thanks to the instantaneous and ubiquitous communications made possible by our smartphones and social networking, there is much greater awareness of the severe weather events that do occur than there was before, but in absolute terms, such events are neither more frequent nor more severe than they have always been.

The climate computer models have demonstrated themselves to have no reliable predictive power. The mother of all predictions, that global warming was inexorable, has been debunked by the past seventeen years of actual measurement, sending the climate change community into a mad scramble to explain it, deny it, ‘correct’ the earlier data, explain why it doesn’t disprove their theories, or explain it away.

Even so, none of this proves that global warming isn’t happening or won’t happen, or that excess carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning won’t send us over the brink, right? Of course not — how do you prove a negative? But the persistence of politicians with a vested interest insisting that Climate Change is a greater threat to humanity than ISIS, Iran, North Korea, unemployment, burning American cities and negative economic growth combined, in spite of the failures of any of the predictions to come true, suggests that something is wrong at a deeper level with the way we are practicing and discussing science.

Scientists, strictly defined, should have no agenda whatsoever other than the discovery of truth; truth of which no human being is the ultimate arbiter, but only Nature. Albert Einstein famously did not want his theory of Relativity accepted until its predictive power had been proven. Scientists who have come to believe that a certain theory is closer to the truth than any known alternatives have the right, indeed the duty, to defend that theory against any and all challenges. But the true scientist must always, without exception, maintain intellectual honesty and be prepared to abandon a theory if its predictive power cannot explain empirical data that does not fit and/or when a rival theory that seems to do a better job of explaining the subject phenomena (often in simpler terms) arises. Skepticism and openness to change and to challenge is the fundamentalist creed of the true scientist.

A theory that does not contain within it the terms of its own falsification is not a valid theory. If the planet Mercury’s orbit did not vary by the number of degrees that Einstein’s theory said it would, then Relativity would be unproven and Albert would have had to admit failure, as he indicated he would be willing to do. A weasel-word term like Climate Change, where any drought and any flood, any heat wave or cold wave, any storm or any clear sky, any melting or freezing, anywhere at any time, can be cited as evidence of industrial humans’ culpability, and there is no defined criteria that would exculpate us, is not a valid theory; it is meaningless Catch-22 Heads-I-Win-Tails-You-Lose political propaganda.

The climate change alarm scientists have lost credibility because too many of them have behaved not as scientists but as politicians. They will regain the trust of the people when they rediscover their principles and comport themselves accordingly, to wit:

  • They debate each other honestly and respectfully, including the skeptics and ‘deniers’, with no recourse to ad hominem attacks or defamation lawsuits.
  • Instead of firing, defunding and/or persecuting scientists with whom they disagree, they advocate for funding for research into alternate theories by those same rival scientists on a comparable scale as their own results-oriented research.
  • They express their honest scientific opinions in terms of relative probabilities. ‘100% certainty’ in a matter as complex as the entire Earth’s climate for the next hundred years should be looked upon with the utmost suspicion.
  • They rebuke any and all meteorologists or news readers who ascribe any significance whatsoever to transient local weather events as proof, or even evidence, of anthropomorphic climate change.
  • They discontinue all scare tactics and sensationalism, and stick to objective reporting of measurement and rational hypotheses.
  • They discontinue hiding behind consensus or authority, and instead demonstrate the courage of their facts, logic, and the track record of their predictions over the long term.
  • They stop papering over the differences of opinion within the alarm community in order to present a unified public front; keep the discussion transparent.
  • They publicly disclaim any among them who make anti-scientific claims such as that “the debate is over” or “the science is settled”. Yes, that means Al Gore and anyone else. Anyone asserting such a preposterous thing should take the statement to its logical conclusion by resigning his or her position and/or returning any unspent research grant money and forswearing any continuance of the same. If the world is round not flat, we don’t need to fund research and deploy hardware to ascertain the shape of the earth. If the debate is over, then go home.

In short, we will restore to them the trust and respect to which science and scientists aspire when they demonstrate that they are worthy of it.

Lay persons are easily intimidated from taking on scientists on their turf. But when supposed scientists behave anti-scientifically and demand that we surrender our civil liberties, our private property rights and our prosperity, that’s our turf. Giving up the cheapest and most plentiful energy sources available (fossil fuels and nuclear, the latter which does not contribute to greenhouse gasses) can cause a great deal of poverty, hunger and death by exposure to the hostile elements of a poorly understood climate.

It doesn’t take a PhD to know what science is and isn’t; climate science as practiced by the IPCC, Al Gore and their fellow travelers does not qualify.