The Climate Change Bug

It’s all too customary for those analyzing the crises humanity faces to associate climate change, aka global warming, with whatever proximate cause they postulate for our imminent demise. John Tirman, for instance, in his book 100 Ways America Is Screwing Up the World lists as the first way “Altering the Earth’s Climate”. Richard Heinberg of the Post Carbon Institute includes Climate along with Energy and Debt as the three problem areas which threaten our future. Nafez Mossadeq Ahmed, author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilization, integrates climate change with the other crises he believes civilization faces: the financial meltdown, dwindling oil reserves, terrorism and food shortages. This linking of concrete, demonstrable societal ills with the less grounded, more debatable theory of global warming is an ill-considered, strategic mistake, I think, as I believe critics of the global warming theory, the so-called “deniers”, are going to win the debate, at least for the near future. It would be a tragedy if valid, much-needed warnings about the dangers haunting our future were to be discredited because of their being tied to discredited fears about climate change.

Here’s why I think this is likely to happen. The warming trend which the earth experienced in the thirty years before the turn of this century has virtually stopped. This “hiatus”, as it is called, has been going on for over a decade and is likely to continue for another two. Check out this graph from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:

meantemp_DV

What do you see? I see a 60-year cycle in which a 30-year cooling period alternates with a 30-year warming period; to wit, from about 1880 to 1910 the mean global temperature went down, then from 1910 to 1940 the earth warmed up, then from 1940 to 1970, the earth cooled slightly, followed by the 30-year period from 1970 to 2000 when the earth warmed dramatically, and finally the dozen years from the turn of the century till now during which the mean temperature hasn’t risen (the hiatus). Given that the concept of a mean global temperature is an artificial construct subject to error and manipulation, just looking at this graph what would you predict for the near future? Wouldn’t you bet that for the next 20 years or so the earth is not going to get warmer, may even cool a bit?

If this does come to pass, what will be the consequence for the theory of global warming? Won’t it be viewed with increasing skepticism by the pubic at large, at least until the next warming demi-cycle commences 20 years from now? Won’t the discrediting of the global warming theory extend to theories which have been linked to it? Are you willing to wait 20 years for your forewarnings of impending doom to be taken seriously?

Unless you have been following the issue as I have, you are probably not aware that the debate over the theory of global warming has been heating up (pardon the pun) of late, largely because of the prolonged global tepidness.1 If you believe the science is settled, consider that the “settled” science has generated a multiplicity of climate models which have done a terrible job of forecasting, invariably predicting warmer temperatures than what has actually occurred.2 If the science is so settled, why have global warming adherents only recently postulated that heat from the warming of the atmosphere is being absorbed by the oceans, their explanation for the hiatus? The models did not foresee this.3

What about that august body of climate scientists who comprise the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), you ask. Just recently the IPCC certified once again — with 95% certainty (whatever that means4 ) — that human activities are causing global warming? We are told that 1800 scientists arrived at this conclusion; but, if you look into it, you will find the majority of the scientists on the panel are not climatologists and some not scientists at all. One scientist who served on the IPCC’s review committee called global warming fears the “worst scientific scandal in the history”, predicting “When people come to know what the truth is, they will feel deceived by science and scientists.”5

For one side in a debate to label the opposition “deniers” is a sleazy rhetorical gambit usually employed by the name-callers when they are losing the debate (equally true in the case of another group of iconoclasts routinely labeled “deniers”, but that’s a story for another day). Consider who some of these so-called “deniers” are:

  • Richard Lindzen, Professor of Meteorology at MIT
  • Fred Singer, Professor emeritus of environmental science at the University of Virginia
  • Roy Spencer, former NASA Senior Scientist for Climate Studies
  • Judith Curry, chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech
  • Pat Michaels, past president of the American Association of State Climatologists

Do you really believe such people deny science?

Perhaps you believe such credentialed skeptics are in the pay of Big Oil. It’s true that the global warming theory was once opposed by powerful interests who dominated the debate; but, when a former Vice President of the United States can win both an Academy Award and a Noble Prize for a highly tendentious film full of hyperbole and misinformation, you know there are powerful interests behind the global warming scare, too. If Big Oil has bought off the media, why is it that so many people are aware that sea ice in the Arctic shrank to its smallest extent in modern times last year but not that sea ice in the Antarctic was expanding at the same time or that ice in the Arctic made its largest rebound ever this year, approaching the average for the last thirty years? Why is every extreme weather event — even blizzards6 — attributed to global warming when, in fact, extreme events like hurricanes, forest fires, tornados and even record high temperatures are less prevalent today than in the past?7

I’m not a climatologist, so I’m neither inclined nor competent to expound on the science of global warming, but I do hope to have convinced you that the science surrounding global warming is far from settled and consequently to hitch your wagon to that fading star is not a good idea. Please, at least listen to what the skeptics have to say — for instance, by consulting the websites cited in the footnotes — before you link the fate of your own doleful prophecies to that of climate change.

  1. The Climate Science Isn’t Settled.” []
  2. Maybe That IPCC 95% Certainty Was Correct After All.” []
  3. Ocean Temperature And Heat Content.” []
  4. Uncertain future of climate uncertainty.” []
  5. UN Scientists Who Have Turned on the UN IPCC.” []
  6. Blizzards in May. Wild fires. Is this global warming?” []
  7. Most US States Had Their Hottest Year Prior To 1970“; “No Hurricanes And The Fewest Tornadoes On Record“; “Lowest Five Year Count Of US Hurricanes On Record.” []

Ken Meyercord is the author of The Ethic of Zero Growth. He is a retiree who lives in the Washington, DC area where he heads up The Iconoclast's Book Club. He can be reached at: kiaskfm@verizon.net. Read other articles by Ken.