The true mark of a theory is without doubt its ability to predict phenomena. --Baron Cuvier, 1822
Do not knowingly mislead, or allow others to be misled, about scientific matters. Present and review scientific evidence, theory or interpretation honestly and accurately.
--Proposed scientific code of ethics
For one giddy, almost magical moment, I thought the “consensus” climate science community, or at least a small portion of it, had finally come to its senses. I should have known better.
The almost-magical moment came on reading a headline in the U.K. Guardian online. It read: “Scientists must rein in misleading climate change claims: Overplaying natural variations in the weather diverts attention from the real issues.” The article was by Dr. Vicky Pope of the British Meteorological (Hadley) Centre, one of the four major centres monitoring climate.
Finally! I thought. The consensus climate scientists who believe, passionately but with almost no scientific evidence beyond computer models, that the planet is warming, that it’s all humanity’s fault, and that we’re heading for oblivion, are willing to admit they’ve been wildly exaggerating the threat of warming to places like the Arctic.
Pope even seemed to agree, noting:
Recent headlines have proclaimed that Arctic summer sea ice has decreased so much in the past few years that it has reached a tipping point and will disappear very quickly. The truth is that there is little evidence to support this. Indeed, the record-breaking losses in the past couple of years could easily be due to natural fluctuations in the weather, with summer sea ice increasing again over the next few years.
Figure 1: IPCC computer predictions of warming versus real-world temperature data (blue and green lines)
But the giddiness quickly passed. The rest of Pope’s article is just another consensus attempt to explain away its deplorable track record in predicting a great deal of warming when there is either very little or no warming at all (see Figure 1 and Is the Planet Still Warming?).
At best, Pope will only admit that “in the past 10 years the temperature rise has slowed,” when in truth temperature rise hasn’t “slowed” (see How the Hadley Centre Spins the Data on Non-Warming), it’s stopped. The climate may even tip into cooling for the next decade or two or longer. But why quibble over facts?
Pope’s target isn’t global warming believers
Of course, Pope isn’t criticizing those who believe the planet is inexorably warming due to human causes and use extreme warm weather events as proof. That’s been OK with her up to now.
At least, I don’t recall seeing an article from Pope complaining about, say, Eugene Linden’s 2006 book The Winds of Change: Climate, Weather, and the Destruction of Civilizations, which ends with a chapter documenting extremely warm weather over the past few decades as evidence of human-caused global warming. For example, Linden writes on 2003: “Heat and drought in Europe so reduce the flow to the Rhine that shipping is interrupted” (p. 299). (In January 2009, by contrast, Europe experienced record cold weather that trapped ships in ice.)
Where was her attack on Ross Gelbspan’s The Heat is On (1997), with its catalogue of extreme weather stories in the Introduction and first chapter? Or Lydia Dotto’s 2000 book Storm Warming: Gambling with the Future of Our Planet? Its publisher, Random House, promotes the book with the following litany of weather events:
The Ice Storm of 1998. The flooding of Manitoba of 1997. Wherever you live, it’s likely you’ve experienced some extreme weather lately. A recent report from the Red Cross stated that natural catastrophes in 1998 has wreaked the most havoc on record, and warned that a series of “super-disasters” could be imminent. What’s behind all this stormy weather?
What’s behind this stormy weather? Why, human-caused global warming, silly.
Global warming even blamed for Aussie plant growth
Perhaps Pope will write to chide Tim Flannery’s latest alarmist diatribe, this one blaming global warming for Australia’s disastrous fires ("A deadly reminder that we must tackle climate change,” Sydney Morning Herald, Feb. 12, 2009). Indeed, an Australian reporter even suggested that “years of global warming and increased CO2 emissions have caused these trees to grow at an unprecedented rate, providing more fuel for these fires.” Oh, evil global warming and carbon emissions that allow more vegetation to flourish.
Or, last but not least, when is Pope going to tackle Al Gore’s wildly exaggerated accusation, from An Inconvenient Truth, that global warming is causing more hurricanes, including Katrina, and extreme weather in general? (Unfortunately for Gore, the people who actually track hurricanes say the number is, if anything, below average in the past decade. But, again, why quibble over facts?)
No, Pope’s target isn’t the anthropogenic global warming believers. Her target is, of course, those evil skeptics, makers of mischief who, perversely, play the same game as Gelbspan and Dotto and Gore. If the AGW believers can point to extreme warm weather as evidence of global warming, why can’t skeptics point to the recent cooling weather as evidence of global cooling?
If warmers can cite extreme weather, why can’t skeptics?
Pope only wants to rein in the consensus climate extremists because, in their claims that extreme warming weather equals a warmer (human-created) climate, they legitimize skeptical claims that perhaps today’s cooling weather equals a cooling climate. If the planet is cooling, even temporarily, then human carbon emissions can’t be a key factor, and we don’t want people thinking that, do we?
Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, after all. For warming believers, when it’s warming that’s climate, when it’s cooling that’s weather. Another version of this: If it’s warming, that’s human-caused; if it’s cooling, that’s natural variation. Why can’t skeptics play the same game in reverse?
Figure 2: IPCC models show the planet cooling (blue line) without human carbon emissions.
The AGW believers have a logically untenable position, as Pope clearly realizes, hence her suggestion that they cool their rhetoric to take the wind out of the skeptics’ sails.
However, there’s no danger of Pope admitting that the AGW hypothesis might be flawed even though, according to the hypothesis, the current cooling should not be happening (to avoid looking completely ridiculous, AGW believers now refer to “climate change” rather than “global warming"). Or, at least, none of the consensus climate models predicted this cooling although, ironically, the consensus models do predict cooling if human influence is removed (see Figure 2).
Maybe climate change is natural
Humans are continuing to put carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, yet the planet is not warming and may even be cooling. If this is so, then logic suggests that perhaps humans aren’t to blame for warming (or cooling) after all.
Maybe the planet just naturally warms and cools, as it has for hundreds of millions of years, as it has for the past two centuries when the climate was cool (the Little Ice Age) up to 1850 or so, then warmed up to 1940, then cooled until the mid-1970’s, then warmed until about 2000. Now it appears to be cooling again—something that shouldn’t happen if the consensus climate models are to be believed, but something that might happen if the earth’s climate warms and cools regardless of what humans do.
And, lest we forget, the planet has been in an Ice Age for the past two and a half million years. Our current warmth is a relatively brief, perhaps 15,000-year, interlude between bouts of 80,000 years of glaciation. We’re past the 12,000-year mark; the ice will return eventually. Indeed, the planet is, overall, the coldest it’s been in 250 million years. Why consensus climate scientists regard warming as a danger under these adverse geological circumstances is yet another mystery to skeptics.
At the very least, the decade’s non-warming (or cooling) should make consensus climate scientists question their theories, as real scientists do when the empirical evidence doesn’t support those theories.
Defending the dogma
But we won’t hear that kind of questioning from Pope. Instead, at the end of her article, she issues a ringing endorsement of the dogma of human-caused warming, which (like all dogmas) does not believe it is dogma but God’s truth. She writes:
When climate scientists like me explain to people what we do for a living we are increasingly asked whether we ‘believe in climate change’. Quite simply it is not a matter of belief. Our concerns about climate change arise from the scientific evidence that humanity’s activities are leading to changes in our climate. The scientific evidence is overwhelming.
Dr. Pope is, of course, entitled to her views, as we all are (or should be, even skeptics). But her claim that the scientific evidence for human-caused warming is “overwhelming” begs the question: If the evidence is so overwhelming, why do so many consensus scientists and their supporters feel compelled to exaggerate the evidence? Why not let the facts speak for themselves?
Even after 150 years and a mountain of supporting evidence, Darwin’s theory of evolution is still a theory, open to re-evaluation based on new data. But after only 20 years of serious climate research, human-caused global warming is regarded by consensus climate science not as a theory but incontrovertible fact. Really, this arrogance is another example of the consensus exaggeration that Pope claims to deplore.
In truth, the scientific evidence is anything but overwhelming, if the past decade of non-warming is any indication, and anthropogenic warming is still an hypothesis, not a proven scientific fact as Pope would like us to believe. But, then, no consensus climate scientist wants to admit even the teeniest, tiniest possibility that he/she could be wrong. Do that and, even worse than global warming, the research funding and jobs might dry up.
To review: At first sight, Pope’s article appears to be a refreshing call for intellectual honesty from the consensus climate-science camp: “Hey, why don’t we try telling the public the truth, for a change, instead of all this exaggerated alarmism?” After all, as anyone who studies the climate issue with an open mind knows, the Arctic example is only one of hundreds of perfectly natural phenomena that consensus climate science blames on human-caused global warming.
Alas, on further reading, Pope’s article is revealed not as a plea for honesty but yet another consensus scientist’s attempt to keep the public from hearing any views on climate but her own.
Oh, well. I suppose a glimmer of hope for consensus climate honesty is better than none....
Paul MacRae is a former editorial writer and columnist with the Victoria Times Colonist who now teaches professional writing at the University of Victoria and University Canada West. He is completing a book on global warming alarmism provisionally entitled False Alarm: Why Most of What We’ve Been Told About Global Warming is Misleading, Exaggerated, or Plain Wrong. His website is paulmacrae.com
. Paul Can be reached at: Letters@canadafreepress.com