If I believed the Earth was slowly turning into cheddar cheese, I could invoke this theory to explain a lot of things. Why is the rat population in our major cities growing so quickly? Earth cheesification is providing more rat food. Why have there been so many earthquakes lately? The cheesification of the tectonic plates has made them less resistant to sudden shifts. Why are glaciers melting? The freezing point of cheddar cheese is lower than that of water; as the Earth at the poles undergoes cheesification, the unfrozen cheese is causing a slight warming of the ice sheets from below, resulting in unusual levels of melting.
I could go on like this for a long time, I suppose. At some point, however, you would confront me with some natural fact that I could not logically account for by means of my cheese theory. In other words, even the greatest faith in this underlying assumption could never withstand all possible evidence.
If, however, we could devise a theory that might literally be able to repel absolutely any possible counterevidence, then we would have accomplished something truly diabolical: an unfalsifiable theory. If we could indeed devise such a theory, then we could run wild explaining anything and everything, and absorb absolutely any eventuality, without ever needing to question our faith in the underlying hypothesis.
Then we would be at liberty to publish headlines such as this
: “Research suggests warmer summers could be causing colder winters.” This conjecture, brought to you via the magical theory of global climate change, is reported as though it is the most plausible explanation of the peculiar fact that Canadian winters do not appear to be getting any warmer.
Question you aren’t supposed to ask: Why is the non-warming of recent winters a peculiar fact in need of an explanation? After all, did anyone in the past harbor any presumption that winters ought to be getting warmer? Why should they? The difference, of course, is that in the age of global warming, everyone is supposed to know, beyond any doubt, that the Earth is indeed getting significantly warmer. Thus, every time someone casually observes that the weather is pretty chilly, or that there has been a lot of snow, all hearers in the room look at their hands awkwardly, smirk bemusedly, or display some other symptom of that feeling familiar to anyone who has had to face doubts about a deeply held religious belief: “But this just can’t be true, because if it is, then my world is about to crumble.”
The world of anthropogenic global climate change crumbled a long time ago
The world of anthropogenic global climate change crumbled a long time ago. That, in fact, is why we have a theory called “anthropogenic global climate change” in the first place. Thirty-five years ago, it was called global cooling. When the temperature records made minced meat of that “theory,” it was put on ice for a few years, as it were. Finally, on the principle that if you can’t beat Mother Nature, you must join her, the wizards who brought us global cooling conveniently revised their models to prove beyond any doubt that the newly discovered global warming trend was a man-made phenomenon. Then, around 1998, the temperature records began to flat-line. Carbon dioxide, the Enemy, was reaching ever-higher levels in the atmosphere; and yet it was no longer having the desired – er, I mean “anticipated” – effect of warming the planet as it should (oops, I mean “as the models predicted”).
For several years, the global crusaders against carbon dioxide mocked, ridiculed, and/or ignored anyone who dared to ask why, if rising CO2 levels cause global warming, temperatures were not rising at accelerating rates, as CO2 levels continued to rise exponentially. Oh, but temperatures are indeed rising, the faithful said. In fact, each year, they produced annual temperature record analyses, garnered through the official scientific records center, the UN, showing that that year had been the warmest ever recorded. Then, a little later, some fine print would appear somewhere explaining how the report had slightly overestimated the warming for the year in question.
Hedging their bets, the global warmers began offering arguments to account for the stalled warming trend, even while they continued to deny that the trend had stalled – a method equivalent to saying, “I didn’t kill my wife, but if I did, it was in self-defense.” Their main argument was a condescending appeal to the big picture that the skeptics were allegedly too narrow-minded to see: Global temperature change, they said, is a process that develops over a very long period of time. Therefore, they harrumphed, claiming that a broader trend has ceased because temperatures have not changed for a few years shows an unscientific short-sightedness.
Of course, if one were to accept this bet-hedging argument, one could turn it back on the global warmers: Eighty years can hardly be called a “big picture,” in planetary terms. The Earth is believed to be more than four billion years old. If five years without warming is too short a period to call a trend, then why is eighty years of net warming a long enough period to call a trend? From the point of view of four billion years, eighty looks an awful lot like five, does it not? (To be precise, as a percentage of four billion, 5 is 0.000000125%, while 80 is 0.000002%.) So how sure can we be that the period during which this unnatural warming is alleged to have happened is a long enough period to indicate a “long-term trend”? Will they be forced back to frightening us about global cooling again in twenty years?
Perhaps dimly recognizing this little problem, the global warming advocates – um, I mean “researchers” – finally hit upon the perfect modification of their theory, namely to say that it doesn’t matter what happens to the temperature; the cause, in any case, is man. Thus, along about the middle of this century’s first decade, we suddenly had John Kerry and Hillary Clinton exiting a Senate hearing and taking to the microphones to discuss “global climate change.” No one officially announced this name change, of course. It just sort of happened. And with it came the lovely new premise that what our CO2 emissions are causing is neither warming nor cooling, per se, but rather “change.” “What kind of change?” you ask. Invalid question. Just “change.” Change from what? From some previous year’s “climate”? From some objective standard of what would have happened “naturally,” had we icky humans not spewed the by-product of so much life-sustaining productivity into Gaia’s aura? It makes little difference; no need to fuss about what exactly the “changers” are claiming is changing, since the particular changes that might occur from here on out are of no consequence to the theory. Any change will do – including no change at all, which can also be interpreted as a change, if you tilt your head a bit to one side.
The unanimous, settled scientists and their masters, the unanimous, settled proponents of global governance, have continued to act as though they still want you to accept that temperatures are rising every year, ice caps are shrinking, polar bears are drowning, and so on. “Global climate change” is, for most practical purposes, still “global warming.” This is necessary, since global regulation requires global panic, and it would be much more difficult to stir panic over the idea – which is, officially, the theory of the moment – that “temperatures, and their effects, may or may not change in one way or another over any given period of time.”
Global warming is indispensable as a political tool, even if it can only be preserved through a fuzzy bait-and-switch operation with global climate change
Global warming is indispensable as a political tool, even if it can only be preserved through a fuzzy bait-and-switch operation with global climate change. Nevertheless, the name change provided good backside protection. “Global climate change” takes a perfectly good bit of crackpot neo-religiosity and elevates it to the level of unfalsifiable pseudo-theory – unfalsifiable, as in nothing you could possibly present to the nutters by way of facts can ever be evidence to the contrary. Why not? Because there is no contrary.
If cooling, warming, and stasis are all evidence of anthropogenic global climate change, then science has finally followed the rest of the modern world into that realm of inescapable self-incrimination dubbed the Kafkaesque. We are guilty of global climate change. There is no proof. There is not even anyone to talk to by way of defending ourselves. Having been inexplicably accused, we will simply be sent on a dreamlike quest through a never-ending maze of inhuman obfuscation until, gradually, we come to accept that the accusation against us must be true, or else it would not have been made. At this point, we must desire our own demise, as the only “just” resolution, given the undefined crimes of which we have convicted ourselves.
At last, as the fight to defend global warming reached fever pitch over some e-mails seeming to discuss evidence-alteration – remember, this defense of warming took place years after the official line was that it didn’t matter whether the temperature was rising or not – one of the main players in the scandal, and one of the most prominent and respected defenders of the cause-without-any-definable-effect, stepped forward
to concede that there has been no warming since 1995. When asked whether he thought natural causes could account for the warming from 1975-1998, and if so, to what extent, he answered, “This area is slightly outside my area of expertise. When considering changes over this period we need to consider all possible factors (so human and natural influences as well as natural internal variability of the climate system).”
So let’s get this straight: Dr. Phil Jones, one of the world’s foremost authorities on global climate change, says that the question of the possibility and degree of natural climate influences is outside of his area of expertise. Translation: I don’t do climate change; I do man-made climate change. His expertise is in trying to show the existence of an influence on climate that no one prior to 1970 thought was possible, and he thinks that looking at other influences which everyone has always known were real is outside of his area. In other words, looking at known facts of nature would get in the way of his career-advancing conjectures, so, as a matter of professional policy, he doesn’t look at them.
Notice that when Jones lists “all possible factors” of warming from 1975-1998, he lists “human influences” first, as though this were the obvious first place to look for an explanation of a variation in global temperatures over a 23-year period – as though no 23-year period has ever shown a variation in temperatures before. His default assumption is the furthest one from common sense, namely that humans did it.
Likewise, in our latest contribution to unfalsifiability, in which cold winters have been interpreted as a symptom of global warming – in spite of the fact that until recently, the party line was to deny that winters are still cold at all – the research project undertaken to reach this conclusion is described this way: “Cohen and his co-authors began by asking themselves why winter temperatures in the northern hemisphere aren’t going up as quickly as in the spring, summer and fall.” Once again, the default assumption is anthropogenic global warming. The task the researchers set for themselves was to explain away falsifying evidence. For example, why were they not trying to explain how the cold winters might be causing warmer summers? Because the paradigm they are working in demands that all apparent exceptions to global warming be explained away. Thirty-five years ago, they would indeed have been making the opposite argument, in order to salvage global cooling.
Recently, a former Korean student of mine made a typical unquestioning reference to global warming. Constitutionally averse to letting smart people say stupid things, I briefly offered some of the usual arguments against anthropogenic climate change. My student answered, diplomatically, that the issue seemed to be a “mystery,” but that as she was unable to verify my facts in her first language, and as so many intelligent people were working on this issue at the UN, she was obliged to stick to her position. In other words, she was assuming, as we are all meant to do, that the burden of proof is on the “denier.”
I asked her this question: If I went to the police and told them you were a murderer, should they arrest you? Why not? Because we put the burden of proof on the accuser, which is to say, on the person proposing something that falls outside of normal assumptions. Why do we do the opposite with man-made global climate change?
Daren Jonescu has a Ph.D. in Philosophy from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. He currently teaches English language and philosophy at Changwon National University in South Korea. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.