science commentary


An autopsy of the late global warming movement

by T.J. Nelson

science commentary

T he warmers are in hot water, and a few, just a handful so far, are starting to realize it.

In an article in the online The Guardian, executive opinion editor Johnathan Freedland says the global warming movement is floundering because only the Left is concerned about it. He writes: “In all those sci-fi horror stories foretelling the end of the world, the imagined reaction was never boredom.” The solution? Become even more emotional: “It has to address our hearts, not our heads.” Loss aversion and optimism bias, he says, explain why almost no one cares about the warmers' apocalyptic predictions of, as he puts it, “a world rendered uninhabitable to human beings.”

Pink Clouds

The Left failed to see that they were the problem. They could not conceive of the possibility that the reason people didn't believe them was that their hysteria (as the skeptics saw it) was exaggerated; the only failure they could see was that they failed to stampede us into granting their demands.

As a result, they poisoned what should have been a calm scientific debate, and in so doing they created an opposition determined to resist them. As their goal started slipping away, the warmers' hatred of climate skeptics became white-hot: we morphed from ‘global warming deniers’ to ‘climate deniers.’ Now we are ‘science deniers.’ Deprived in childhood by never having read Dale Carnegie, the warmers missed the part where he said calling someone a Nazi poopy-head is not good way to win friends and influence people. Thus, what is most remarkable about Freedland's article is that not once does he call them deniers. This is new—or maybe he just forgot—but it is probably too late.

In fact, the two sides were never far apart. The so-called deniers believed doubling CO2 could increase temperatures by one degree or a bit less; the warmers believed doubling it would increase it by two or three, though some still clung to the discredited IPCC predictions of 8 or 9. Both sides generally agreed that reducing carbon emissions would have little or no effect on temperatures, and that it would merely be a meaningless gesture intended to show our good will, with little chance of effecting a meaningful change. And both sides agreed that abandoning fossil fuels would probably create a global economic catastrophe. When knowledge increases, we have science. When it decreases, we have antiscience: we now know less than we did before.

Where they differed was in their goals. The warmers seemed unconcerned about the economic consequences. They convinced themselves that making a useless gesture was worth the crippling cost; for some, damaging the West was the goal. To them, victims are always noble, ergo victors are always evil; the West must make itself a victim to prove it is noble, as penance for being successful. Yet the big corporations they so despise were their main supporters: they saw new climate regulations as a way of reducing competition and raising profits.

Climate seemed to love the irony. It royally screwed the warmers by failing to cooperate. The most likely cause of El Pause is a reduction in solar output, but irregardless it was not predicted by the models, and their credibility has been destroyed. The general circulation models proved themselves unreliable, and tweaking them is now pointless. Even if the temperatures should start inching up again, the warmers failed to convince us that they can predict anything.

As I showed here, the annual change in temperature, even with a delay included, does not even correlate with the annual change in CO2, as it should do if there were a causal connection. This cannot be attributed to noise, as statistical correlations are robust even with large amounts of randomly distributed noise. This means the primary cause of warming, if it is indeed occurring, must be something else, perhaps changes in solar output or residual effects of the Little Ice Age, which ended about 150 years ago.

The skeptics are therefore justified in their suspicion that climate change was a pretext for taxing wealthy countries and distributing their wealth to poorer countries (with the warmers taking a cut for themselves). This was precisely how they convinced Russia to sign the now-defunct Kyoto treaty. The poorer countries have their hands firmly out, demanding their share. If they resort to terrorism to get it, it will be the warmers who have ironically caused the climate terrorism they insisted global warming would cause.

The science of climatology took a serious blow to its credibility by attaching itself to this political movement: not only are skeptics called nasty names, they are attacked with lawsuits, their jobs are threatened, and they are blocked from publishing results that conflict with the warmers' dogma. These attacks are not intended to get at the truth, but to silence dissent, and they are a perversion of science.

Then there were the contradictory, unfalsifiable predictions, and the endless tales of falsified data, most recently in the emerging “recalibrationgate” scandal, where original data were changed, sometimes years after having been collected, to “correct” for differences in procedure. That these changes were deemed necessary show, at a bare minimum, a certain carelessness in the data collection. In every other field of science, when you discover that your data had been collected improperly, you don't go back and add a correction factor. As painful as it may be, you have to throw the data out. If the warmers want the skeptics on board, they will have to start over from scratch—this time using more acceptable procedures.

Thermometers are pretty simple devices. If climatologists were doing this with their temperature readings, they were not doing science properly. If they fed data like this into their computer models, the results are invalid. In any other field, a scientist who goes back and changes the original data, no matter what the reason, would be accused of scientific fraud.

The scandals showed a branch of science that is in deep trouble. After the computer models were discredited, the single thread holding together the narrative of warming was the raw data. Now this is in dispute, and we are faced with the realization that we now cannot even be sure the temperature has increased.

As time goes on, we seem to know less and less about what the climate is really doing. When knowledge increases, we have science. When it decreases, as it's doing now, we have antiscience: we now know less than we did before.

If the warmers want us on board, they need to convince us by collecting valid data from properly situated and calibrated instruments, and by being honest about the models and their goals. Oh, and if they could stop fiddling with the data, that would be nice, too.

See also:

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