Why is there so much preoccupation with atmospheric CO2 concentrations and reducing anthropogenic CO2 emissions when it is well documented in the peer-reviewed scientific literature that the CO2 contribution to the overall greenhouse effect is so weak that it can be easily supplanted by small changes in clouds and water vapor, or natural climate-changing constituents?


Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Climate Dogma lets Faith Trump Facts at the NCSE

What a mess the National Center of Science Education (NCSE) has gotten into.  They abandoned their own stated objectives of encouraging good science in schools when they jumped on the Carbon Dioxide Crisis bandwagon.  They hired Peter Gleick, just weeks before his demented alarmism and fantasies about the opposition to it drove him to crime, and they had to 'let him go'.  Now they seem to have hired another polemicist in his place, a Mark McCaffrey politely described by Patrick Frank as 'not particularly trained in climate science itself, but distinctly trained to promulgate his views about it.'  Last year,  they published an article in an in-house journal which is remarkable only for its intellectual depravity.  It is by an astronomer called David Morrison, apparently quite a distinguished one.  (We have had one of those in the UK heading up the Royal Society, and what an unhinged mess of neuroses and alarmism he provided us with, - see this report about Sir Martin Rees' views  'The human race has only a 50/50 chance of surviving another century').

WUWT has a letter by Patrick Frank which he tried but failed to get published in the NCSE journal.  The WUWT guest spot also provides the background leading up to this publication.  Please see the whole post there for more details.  I think it is instructive to compare and contrast the styles and the contents of the article by Morrison (pdf) and the letter by Frank.  I reproduce some extracts from the letter here - where all the emboldening is by me:

'When is Purported Science not Science?
by Patrick Frank

In his excellent book, “Galileo,” [1] Stillman Drake points out Galileo’s very modern understanding of science praxis, writing, “In his book on Hydrostatics, Galileo remarked that the authority of Archimedes was worth no more than the authority of Aristotle; Archimedes was right, he said, only because his propositions agreed with experiments.”

 In a recent NCSE Reports, Dr. David Morrison wrote an essay [4] about “Science Denialism,” which was one long effort to equate evolution deniers with AGW skeptics (Anthropogenic Global Warming).  There was very little science in Dr. Morrison’s essay.  Here’s most of it: “Climate models are indeed complex, and they do not always agree on details such as the timing of future warming. However, the evidence for warming is empirical, and its future trends are anchored in basic physics, such as the greenhouse effect and the heat capacity of the oceans.”

Those cognizant of meaning in science will immediately see the weakness of Dr. Morrison’s position: he grants causal meaning to climate warming while admitting the absence of a climate theory. The evidence for warming is certifiably empirical. But the meaning of that warming can come only from a falsifiable theory that makes unique predictions about climate. Is the warming due to the extra atmospheric CO2, or not? No amount of empirical data shuffling can answer that question.


Let’s take a short look at climate models. They do much less than, “do not always agree on [the] details” of future climate. They do not ever agree with the realities of past climate. For example, Demetris Koutsoyiannis and his group evaluated the advanced general circulation climate models (GCMs) used in the 2007 Fourth Assessment Report issued by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). [5, 6] The IPCC used these GCMs to “retrodict” 100 years of 20th century climate, at all the points on a global grid. The reproduced trend in global average temperature looked great. As it should do because GCM climate models are adjusted to reproduce the known global average temperature. [7]
But the Koutsoyiannis group used the IPCC’s gridded 20th century global climate to reconstruct what these climate models said about the 20th century temperature record of the continental US. The GCM climate models got it very wrong. They also used the GCM retrodiction to reconstruct the 20th century temperature and precipitation records at 58 locations around the world. The reconstructions failed badly on comparison with the real data. This is a basic test of GCM reliability of that no one thought to carry out during 20 years of climate alarm; climate alarm ostensibly made credible by those very GCMs. Climate models cannot reproduce the known climate. Why should anyone believe they can reliably predict an unknown climate?

Dr. Morrison mentioned that climate models do not get clouds right, and then quickly dismissed this problem as irrelevant. But tropical and subtropical clouds strongly affect the amount of energy retained by the atmosphere. [8] Clouds have a net cooling effect on Earth. [9, 10] I evaluated the GCM cloud error as reported by the scientists of the “Coupled Model Intercomparison Project,” and found that the GCM cloud error, averaged over the globe, was at least ±10.1 %. [11]

This cloud error translated into a GCM error of at least ±2.8 Watts/m2 in energy. That ±2.8 Watts/m2 error equals all the extra forcing by all the extra greenhouse gases liberated into the atmosphere during the entire 20th century. That is, GCM cloud error alone equals ±100% of the increased “greenhouse effect.” It doesn’t take a very astute person to realize that when the error is as large as the effect, the effect itself becomes undetectable.

The scientists who use GCM projections to predict future climate do not take cloud error into account. Competent scientists would propagate that error into their predictions. But climate modelers do not. Neither does the IPCC. Propagating the cloud error would show that the growth of error quickly makes climate predictions no better than a random guess. [11]  GCMs can’t predict the global temperature even one year ahead, much less 10 years or 100 years. But Dr. Morrison tells us that’s irrelevant, because rising CO2 is enough all by itself to certify a catastrophically disrupted climate.

Remember the criterion of science? Only falsifiable predictions yield the meaning of observations. Climate models do not give falsifiable predictions, especially not at the resolution of CO2-forcing. Therefore, they can give no causal meaning to increased atmospheric CO2. They cannot explain the warming climate. They can not predict the future climate. The observation of rising atmospheric CO2, alone, is not enough to certify anything except a rising level of atmospheric CO2. Knowing causality and predicting outcomes requires a falsifiable theory. Dr. Morrison hasn’t one, and neither does anyone else. Those who predict torrid climate futures literally do not know what they’re talking about. But that hasn’t stopped them from talking about it anyway. Dr. Morrison’s position on climate is indistinguishable from an intuitive alarm grounded in subjective certainties.

Like the wages of sin among the believers.

(See the original, linked to above,  for the complete version (well worth reading in its entirety) and for references.)

This brings me back to our very own Martin Rees, and the report (link above) on his doom-mongering which includes this:

'The Book of Revelation presents its own, hair-raising, account of the end of the world: "And, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth." 

His fellow knight and fellow alarmist, Sir John Houghton would have loved that.  More on his Evangelical Climate Initiative here and here and here.  The last reference includes this :
'But he thought little about climate change until 2002, when he attended a conference on the subject and heard a leading British climate scientist, Sir James Houghton, who was also a prominent evangelical. “You could only call the process a conversion,” Cizik said. “I reluctantly went to the conference, saying ‘I’ll go, but don’t expect me to be signing on to any statements.’ Then, for three days in Oxford, England, Houghton walked us through the science and our biblical responsibility. He talked about droughts, shrinking ice caps, increasing hurricane intensity, temperatures tracked for millennia through ice-core data. He made clear that you could believe in the science and remain a faithful biblical Christian. All I can say is that my heart was changed. For years I’d thought, ‘Well, one side says this, the other side says that. There’s no reason to get involved.’ 

But the science has become too compelling. I could no longer sit on the sidelines I didn’t want to be like the evangelicals who avoided getting involved during the civil rights movement and in the process discredited the gospel and themselves.”

One day during the conference, Houghton took Cizik on a walk in the gardens of Blenheim Palace, Winston Churchill’s ancestral home. It was a lovely day, sunny and bright. Houghton said, “Richard, if God has convinced you of the reality of the science and the Scriptures on the subject then you must speak out.” 

The science of alarm about CO2 is, of course, far from compelling.  But my goodness, treating it as if it were sure does suit a lot of influential people. Patrick Frank's letter is another small step on the way to exposing that faith as not only ill-founded, but in practice extremely damaging to society.  If teachers continue to push it, then it may well be left to their pupils, as they gain in wisdom and skills for critical review, to react against the conditioning they have endured for year after year after year.  Christianity has much to commend it as a religion of compassion, but it too will be damaged in the backlash over the deceptions and the sufferings imposed by those who claim to be acting in its name, and by those on the left for whom it has been a decidedly secular opportunity (e.g. see here and here), and by those more extreme still for whom it has been an ideal vehicle for their inhumanity (e.g. see here or here).

Note added later on 27 March 2012.  I just came across this comment on a blog post by 'klem', whichsupports the notion of a backlash led by children:
'This is typical of teachers, they are major contributors to ACC alarmism. They don’t realize that it is backfiring. I know a lot of children in their early teens and pre-teen age that completely reject ACC. They accept climate change but not the anthropogenic version. You might think that they have been indoctrinated perhaps at school, but nope, you’d be wrong. All of them go to liberal public schools which have been showing “An Inconvenient Truth’ over and over with no opposing films or opinions, the teachers openly blame humans for climate change, they ridicule any opposing views from their students, as a result most of the students have had enough and reject it all. I have been an environmentalist since 1970, and I have never seen anything like this. I have been saying for years, ACC will kill the environmental movement in the end. And now I’m seeing how. There is a whole new generation of kids who will not fill the ranks of the green movement in the future. They reject environmentalism. This is a disaster in the making. And teachers are going to take the blame.'

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