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The Climate Science Isn’t Settled

In a December 1, 2009 opinion piece in the online Wall Street Journal titled “The Climate Science Isn’t Settled“, MIT professor Richard Lindzen points out that the climate science is far from settled.

Is there a reason to be alarmed by the prospect of global warming? Consider that the measurement used, the globally averaged temperature anomaly (GATA), is always changing. Sometimes it goes up, sometimes down, and occasionally—such as for the last dozen years or so—it does little that can be discerned.

Claims that climate change is accelerating are bizarre. There is general support for the assertion that GATA has increased about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since the middle of the 19th century. The quality of the data is poor, though, and because the changes are small, it is easy to nudge such data a few tenths of a degree in any direction. Several of the emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit (CRU) that have caused such a public ruckus dealt with how to do this so as to maximize apparent changes.

The general support for warming is based not so much on the quality of the data, but rather on the fact that there was a little ice age from about the 15th to the 19th century. Thus it is not surprising that temperatures should increase as we emerged from this episode. At the same time that we were emerging from the little ice age, the industrial era began, and this was accompanied by increasing emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2, methane and nitrous oxide. CO2 is the most prominent of these, and it is again generally accepted that it has increased by about 30%.

Although these facts are known by many scientists, as well as people who have actually studied the various papers and books on the subject of climate change, these are facts that are not commonly known by the general public. This is partially due to the lack of interest in science by the general public, as well as the almost total lack of scientific literacy in the United States. It is also partially due to the fact that the  global warmingistas have an almost total lock on both the media and government money. (I have to laugh when someone says that some article was published by some think tank that is supported by an evil corporation and is therefor invalid propaganda. The fact is that for every million dollars a corporation may spend on anti global warming research, the governments of the world spend billions of dollars on “global warming” research.) And, as has been pointed out in the leaked e-mails, the warmingistas also basically control what gets “peer reviewed” and what gets included in documents such as the IPCC Assessment documents. Dissenting views, no matter how well documented or reasonable, are not allowed.

He later points out that:

The main statement publicized after the last IPCC Scientific Assessment two years ago was that it was likely that most of the warming since 1957 (a point of anomalous cold) was due to man. This claim was based on the weak argument that the current models used by the IPCC couldn’t reproduce the warming from about 1978 to 1998 without some forcing, and that the only forcing that they could think of was man. Even this argument assumes that these models adequately deal with natural internal variability—that is, such naturally occurring cycles as El Nino, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, etc.

Yet articles from major modeling centers acknowledged that the failure of these models to anticipate the absence of warming for the past dozen years was due to the failure of these models to account for this natural internal variability. Thus even the basis for the weak IPCC argument for anthropogenic climate change was shown to be false.

Next he points out that people are falsely lead to believe that occasional, perfectly natural things, like floods, droughts, and no ice at the North Pole, are due to “global warming”. These things have happened throughout the history of the world, and they will continue to happen. There is no relationship between them and man-made CO2.

The notion that complex climate “catastrophes” are simply a matter of the response of a single number, GATA, to a single forcing, CO2 (or solar forcing for that matter), represents a gigantic step backward in the science of climate. Many disasters associated with warming are simply normal occurrences whose existence is falsely claimed to be evidence of warming. And all these examples involve phenomena that are dependent on the confluence of many factors.

Our perceptions of nature are similarly dragged back centuries so that the normal occasional occurrences of open water in summer over the North Pole, droughts, floods, hurricanes, sea-level variations, etc. are all taken as omens, portending doom due to our sinful ways (as epitomized by our carbon footprint). All of these phenomena depend on the confluence of multiple factors as well.

It’s a great read, and an important read, given what is currently going on in Copenhagen and with the EPA in the United States about to declare CO2 a dangerous pollutant. Read it all.

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