Debate Over Need To Panic About Global Warming

Last month, the opinion pages of The Wall Street Journal feature a column signed by 16 scientists—a group of distinguished physicists and engineers—which challenged the conventional wisdom of an impending climate catastrophe. Its authors made the case that there are no compelling scientific arguments support the calls made by activists and politicians for drastic action to decarbonize the world’s economy. They did not, however, recommend taking no action at all.

Not surprisingly, guardians of the climate catastrophe orthodoxy overreacted with a vengeance by taking pot shots at the signers themselves rather than the argument. (More on that to follow.) What did these scientists who wrote the opinion piece say that produced such a backlash? They highlighted that the models used to forecast future climates and justify proposed policy prescriptions have consistently failed to predict temperatures:

The lack of warming for more than a decade—indeed, the smaller-than-predicted warming over the 22 years since the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) began issuing projections—suggests that computer models have greatly exaggerated how much warming additional CO2 can cause. Faced with this embarrassment, those promoting alarm have shifted their drumbeat from warming to weather extremes, to enable anything unusual that happens in our chaotic climate to be ascribed to CO2 …

Speaking for many scientists and engineers who have looked carefully and independently at the science of climate, we have a message to any candidate for public office: There is no compelling scientific argument for drastic action to “decarbonizes” the world’s economy. Even if one accepts the inflated climate forecasts of the IPCC, aggressive greenhouse-gas control policies are not justified economically.

They also pointed out that alarmism over climate provides is rewarded with financial benefits (research grants, subsidies, etc.):

Why is there so much passion about global warming, and why has the issue become so vexing that the American Physical Society, from which Dr. Giaever resigned a few months ago, refused the seemingly reasonable request by many of its members to remove the word “incontrovertible” from its description of a scientific issue? There are several reasons, but a good place to start is the old question “cui bono?” Or the modern update, “Follow the money.”

Alarmism over climate is of great benefit to many, providing government funding for academic research and a reason for government bureaucracies to grow. Alarmism also offers an excuse for governments to raise taxes, taxpayer-funded subsidies for businesses that understand how to work the political system, and a lure for big donations to charitable foundations promising to save the planet.

By repeatedly invoking claims of so-called “climate experts,” writers of the rebuttal attempt to undermine those 16 scientists with an appeal to authority: an age old tactic used by religions to protect their own self interests and lay the foundation for sanctioning those who question the prevailing orthodoxy. Martin Luther had his 95 theses nailed to a cathedral door and was excommunicated for identifying error. This rhetorical technique is often used, as it appears to be in this case, to mask substantial weaknesses in an argument.

The rebuttal’s lead author, Kevin Trenberth (a climate scientist who rose to infamy when the 2009 Climategate scandal made public his email which acknowledged “the fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.”), asserts that periods of small increases in surface temperatures are consistent with the understanding of how the climate system works, asserting that “the long term warming trend has not abated in the past decade.” Yet, his source for this knowledge, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, admits that our understanding of critical climate variables—clouds, water vapor, aerosols, oceans, and solar effects—is low. Moreover, global data from the UK’s Hadley Centre and the NASA satellite data from the University of Alabama at Huntsville show no real increase over the past 10 years—hardly a trend.

Yes, it is warmer than it was 50 years, even 100 years ago. And yes, humans do influence the climate system primarily through land use changes. However, no there is no compelling evidence that the world is about to experience levels of warming greater than any time in the history of the earth. Predictions to the contrary come from computer models that have consistently overstated the extent of warming by a factor of two.

While apocalyptics, like Trenberth, continue to claim that the use of fossil energy is leading to a climate catastrophe, a growing number of scientists are expressing doubt. Indeed, a number of scientists are now concerned about a prolonged period of cooling because a drop in solar activity that has not been observed since the Little Ice Age.

The original Journal piece called for investing in research to better understand the climate system and human influence on it. The rebuttal asserted that in spite of important uncertainties, climate science experts have sufficient knowledge to predict climate futures and restructure the globes energy system. It is more than interesting that the Trenberth gang criticizes the assessments of other scientists because they are not climate experts but feel free to offer advice on energy technologies and investments where clearly they are not experts.

21 Comments

  1. This article sounds like oil company rhetoric to me.

    #1
  2. El Foley

    To the readers of Mr. O’Keefe,

    Please follow the links below to get the rebuttal to the WSJ opinion piece.

    As for Mr. O’Keefe’s reason for muddying the water “a good place to start is the old question “cui bono?” Or the modern update, “Follow the money.”

    http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2012/01/29/413961/panic-attack-murdoch-wall-street-journal-finds-16-scientists-long-debunked-climate-lies/

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/pics/SkepticsvRealistsv3.gif

    #2
  3. RedHerring

    John – Author is a shill. Just run through the list of his latest articles…
    http://fuelfix.com/blog/author/williamokeefe/

    #3
  4. Dollar

    Here’s what Red Herrring, John Pool, El Foley are saying …

    ” Hey , this guy is a shill, don’t listen to him, here … go read what my shill has to say.

    My shill is right and your shill is wrong ”

    Yeah, OK ….

    Waste of good time, all the way around.

    #4
  5. RedHerring

    Dollar, actually what Foley is saying “My climate scientist is right and your shill is wrong.” If I wanted to know what the scientific consensus about climate change was I would go read articles and studies written by, oh I don’t know, climate scientists. 97 odd percent of which happen to agree on anthropogenic climate change. This theory pushed by actual shills (like Mr. O’Keefe here) that there is some world-wide conspiracy promulgated by scientists for the purpose of securing grants, subsidies, and ostensibly fame and fortune defies credulity. If I were a climate scientist who was in it for the money, I’d be saying the exact opposite. No doubt some titan of the fossil fuel industry would subsidize the hell out of THAT study eh?

    #5
  6. Hayek

    Folks, you might want to read this – http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,813814,00.html

    RedHerring – the claim about 97%… totally untrue. It never painted the whole truth about it – http://climatequotes.com/2011/02/10/study-claiming-97-of-climate-scientists-agree-is-flawed/

    Foley – Skeptical Science is not very reliable and very biased. They got caught editing others’ messages and also deleting some messages.

    From Wattsupwiththat’s website –

    Unreliable*
    Skeptical Science – John Cook
    * Due to (1) deletion, extension and amending of user comments, and (2) undated post-publication revisions of article contents after significant user commenting. http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/02/03/monckton-responds-to-skeptical-science/

    #6
  7. Hayek

    http://www.petitionproject.org/

    31,487 American scientists have signed this petition,
    including 9,029 with PhDs in support of those 16 scientists…

    #7
  8. El Foley

    Good grief Hayek, I went to Anthony Watts site and the first thing that pops up is “Lord Monckton” who is neither a Lord nor a scientist but he is a well known fraud. And watts up with Watts and the BEST study.

    Hayek, I would not try to convince you of anything. You just go on believing in expansionary austerity and confidence fairies and ten or fifteen years down the road you can look back in pride on how damn obstinate you were in the face of overwhelming evidence.

    #8
  9. RedHerring

    Hayek-
    The first link is an interview with an electric utility executive who is peddling a book. Not sure why you think that is at all relevant.

    The second link is nit-picking about the statistics of the study that number comes from, but the fact remains that whatever that number is it is clear that the vast majority of scientists that study the climate do in fact agree.

    The third link… Monckton? Seriously?

    #9
  10. Dollar

    Yeah, first its 80% of climate scientists.

    Then its 90%.

    Then it goes to 95% .

    And now they are up to 97% .

    And of course, they are all sincere altruistic souls who only want what is best for the Earth.

    Yeah right.

    There are all types of shills, some shill for money, some shill for political power, not a lot of difference.

    #10
  11. Dollar

    And why have the Chinese not bought into these global warming theories ?

    If there’s any country on earth, that does not need a political consensus to act on global warming, its the Chinese.

    And they are a far cry from being dumb people.

    They are not the least concerned about CO2 emissions.

    #11
  12. RedHerring

    Dollar, does it really matter whether it’s 80 or 97%? Either way the fact is that a huge majority of scientists who actually study the climate agree. I don’t know why you have such a negative view of scientists, my guess is that their factually based conclusions don’t fit your world view. Your insinuation that somehow the majority of them are somehow inherently evil or have some ulterior motive is laughable. How many climate scientists are famous? How many are rich? How many wield political power?

    Your “point” about the Chinese is a non sequitur, in addition to being patently false. China not only has the largest currently installed base of renewable energy, they are also manufacturing and installing new wind and solar at a faster clip than any other country. While their emissions have necessarily increased during the current period of massive industrialization, they do have policies in place to decrease carbon intensity in the long term. My thought is that the main motivating factor for this is economic rather than environmental, but the result is the same.

    http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-Pacific/2009/0923/p06s05-woap.html
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renewable_energy_in_the_People's_Republic_of_China

    #12
  13. Hayek

    Typical brainwashed frothy eco-fascists.

    http://www.spunk.org/texts/places/germany/sp001630/peter.html

    Nice try idiots.

    #13
  14. Hayek
    #14
  15. HighPlainsDrifter

    Ed Foley sez: “You just go on believing in expansionary austerity and confidence fairies and ten or fifteen years down the road you can look back in pride on how damn obstinate you were in the face of overwhelming evidence.”

    That’s what they were saying ten years ago. Where did that 1 meter rise in sea level go, anyway? Obama did say he would stop the rise of the oceans. I guess that’s one thing he didn’t lie about.

    #15
  16. Dollar

    Some really good stuff from the Der Spiegel piece , like this

    ………………………………………….

    SPIEGEL: You are an electric utility executive by profession. What prompted you to get involved in climatology?

    Vahrenholt: In my experience as an energy expert, I learned that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is more of a political than a scientific body. As a rapporteur on renewable energy, I witnessed how thin the factual basis is for predictions that are made at the IPCC. In one case, a Greenpeace activist’s absurd claim that 80 percent of the world’s energy supply could soon be coming from renewable sources was assumed without scrutiny. This prompted me to examine the IPCC report more carefully.

    #16
  17. Kb

    “Alarmism over climate is of great benefit to many, providing government funding for academic research and a reason for government bureaucracies to grow. Alarmism also offers an excuse for governments to raise taxes, taxpayer-funded subsidies for businesses that understand how to work the political system, and a lure for big donations to charitable foundations promising to save the planet.”
    ——————-
    And that’s exactly what it is…the truth.

    #17
  18. Dollar

    OK , one more time , Red Herring, Foley , and his comrades, owe Mr O’Keefe an apology.

    Read about Fritz Vahrenholt here and why has not our mainstream media picked upon this development ?

    http://www.energytribune.com/articles.cfm/9784/Germanys-Godfather-of-Green-Turns-Skeptic

    #18
  19. Hayek

    http://notrickszone.com/2012/02/11/ipcc-ignored-an-entire-field-of-science-die-welt-reports-slams-intergovernmental-panel-on-co2/

    It pretty much summed it up for warmists – “Climate science is the new replacement religion”

    #19
  20. Hayek

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/harold-ambler/mr-gore-apology-accepted_b_154982.html

    2. Mr. Gore has gone so far to discourage debate on climate as to refer to those who question his simplistic view of the atmosphere as “flat-Earthers.” This, too, is right on target, except for one tiny detail. It is exactly the opposite of the truth.

    Indeed, it is Mr. Gore and his brethren who are flat-Earthers. Mr. Gore states, ad nauseum, that carbon dioxide rules climate in frightening and unpredictable, and new, ways. When he shows the hockey stick graph of temperature and plots it against reconstructed C02 levels in An Inconvenient Truth, he says that the two clearly have an obvious correlation. “Their relationship is actually very complicated,” he says, “but there is one relationship that is far more powerful than all the others, and it is this: When there is more carbon dioxide, the temperature gets warmer.” The word “complicated” here is among the most significant Mr. Gore has uttered on the subject of climate and is, at best, a deliberate act of obfuscation. Why? Because it turns out that there is an 800-year lag between temperature and carbon dioxide, unlike the sense conveyed by Mr. Gore’s graph.

    #20
  21. Dollar

    Right Hayek, they are condescending to anyone who disagrees with them, I guess Fritz Vahrenholt is a ” flat earther ” .

    Not by a long shot.

    #21