Sunday, March 10, 2013

That "Scientific Consensus" About Global Warming?; It Doesn't Exist

Over at Sheila Kennedy's blog she posts again on global warming and chides anyone who doesn't believe the "scientific consensus" that man is causing dangerous global warming is embracing "ignorance" and engaging in a "[r]ejection of reality."

At the outset, I have to applaud her for not trying to recast the issue as "climate change."  The climate on this planet has been changing since it first came into being some 4.5 billion years ago and it will be changing for the next 4.5 billion years.  Using "climate change" as the barometer of whether there is the need for drastic remedial action is more than a little disingenuous.

Kennedy's post starts out with a quote from Noam Chomsky:

"There is indeed a controversy: on one side, the overwhelming majority of  scientists, all of the world’s major National Academies of Science, the professional  science journals, the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) : all agree that global warming is taking place, that there is a substantial human  component, and that the situation is serious and perhaps dire, and that very soon,  maybe within decades, the world might reach a tipping point where the process  will escalate sharply and will be irreversible, with very severe effects on the   possibility of decent human survival.

It is rare to find such consensus on complex  scientific issues."

First of all, Noam Chomsky is a professor in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at MIT.  He has written books on war, politics, the mass media, and, of course, linguistics which is where Chomsky's true expertise.  But Chomsky's background is not in the hard sciences. His statement above isn't about expressing a scientific view, it's about expressing a political agenda.  Dressing up political comments as scientific truth does not advance the intellectual ball.

What's more, Chomskey is flat out wrong about the "scientific consensus" on global warming.  Forbes Magazine recently reported on a survey of scientists on the subject of global warming:
It is becoming clear that not only do many scientists dispute the asserted global warming crisis, but these skeptical scientists may indeed form a scientific consensus.
Don’t look now, but maybe a scientific consensus exists concerning global warming after all. Only 36 percent of geoscientists and engineers believe that humans are creating a global warming crisis, according to a survey reported in the peer-reviewed Organization Studies. By contrast, a strong majority of the 1,077 respondents believe that nature is the primary cause of recent global warming and/or that future global warming will not be a very serious problem.

The survey results show geoscientists (also known as earth scientists) and engineers hold similar views as meteorologists. Two recent surveys of meteorologists (summarized here and here) revealed similar skepticism of alarmist global warming claims.

According to the newly published survey of geoscientists and engineers, merely 36 percent of respondents fit the “Comply with Kyoto” model. The scientists in this group “express the strong belief that climate change is happening, that it is not a normal cycle of nature, and humans are the main or central cause.”
The article proceeds to, in detail, break down the various categories of scientists in terms of what they believe.  Again, only 36% of scientists, who unlike Chomsky, have an expertise in the hard sciences, think that humans are creating a global warming crisis.  The article also links to two surveys of meterologists - an often overlooked group of scientists with pertient knowledge of the subject of global warming - who don't buy the man is causing dangerous global warming theory.

The American Meteorologists Society survey of television weather forecasters who are also meteorologists found that:
  • Only 24 percent of the survey respondents agree with United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assertion, “Most of the warming since 1950 is very likely human-induced.”
  • Only 19 percent agree with the claim, “Global climate models are reliable in their projection for a warming of the planet.”
  • Only 19 percent agree with the assertion, “Global climate models are reliable in their projections for precipitation and drought.”
  • Only 45 percent disagree with Weather Channel cofounder John Coleman’s strongly worded statement, “Global warming is a scam.”
They origin of the myth of the "scientific consensus" behind man-made, dangerous global warming is explained in a 2012 Forbes article:
So where did that famous “consensus” claim that “98% of all scientists believe in global warming” come from? It originated from an endlessly reported 2009 American Geophysical Union (AGU) survey consisting of an intentionally brief two-minute, two question online survey sent to 10,257 earth scientists by two researchers at the University of Illinois. Of the about 3.000 who responded, 82% answered “yes” to the second question, which like the first, most people I know would also have agreed with.

Then of those, only a small subset, just 77 who had been successful in getting more than half of their papers recently accepted by peer-reviewed climate science journals, were considered in their survey statistic. That “98% all scientists” referred to a laughably puny number of 75 of those 77 who answered “yes”.

That anything-but-scientific survey asked two questions. The first: “When compared with pre-1800s levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant?”  Few would be expected to dispute this…the planet began thawing out of the “Little Ice Age” in the middle 19th century, predating the Industrial Revolution. (That was the coldest period since the last real Ice Age ended roughly 10,000 years ago.)

The second question asked: “Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?” So what constitutes “significant”? Does “changing” include both cooling and warming… and for both “better” and “worse”? And which contributions…does this include land use changes, such as agriculture and deforestation?

No one has ever been able to measure human contributions to climate. Don’t even think about buying a used car from anyone who claims they can.As Senator James Inhofe, Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works has observed: “The notion of a ‘consensus’ is carefully manufactured for political and ideological purposes. Its proponents never explain what ‘consensus’ they are referring to. Is it a ‘consensus’ that future computer models will turn out correct? Is it a ‘consensus’ that the Earth has warmed? Proving that parts of the Earth have warmed does not prove that humans are responsible.”

Senator Inhofe also points out, “While it may appear to the casual observer that scientists promoting climate fears are in the majority, the evidence continues to reveal that this is an illusion. Climate skeptics…receive much smaller shares of university research funds, foundation funds and government grants and they are not plugged into the well-heeled environmental special interest lobby.” Accordingly, those who do receive support typically get more time free of teaching responsibilities, providing more time available for publishing activities.
Sheila Kennedy's claim that the science is "settled" simply isn't true.   It never was. The whole notion of a "scientific consensus" is simply a political tool to attempt to cut off debate.  Academics, especially scientists who are honest about their craft, do not try to cut off debate. They welcome challenge to their conclusions.   As I have long said, the politicization of our science is a tragedy.

1 comment:

RhondaLeeBaby69 said...

It's disingenuous to misappropriate the use of the term "climate change". No one is arguing that the earth's climate changes over billions of years during to natural cycles. The "change" to which scientists are referring is that which is not attributable to the normal cyclical variation. And, yes, the climate is changing in a (wholly avoidable) way that would lead to the displacement of millions of coastal residents.