Climate change alarmists ignore scientific methods

Walter Cunningham, Houston Chronicle, 8/15/2010

(When You Don’t Have the Facts, Appeal to Public Opinion)


When it comes to global warming, the public at large doesn't know what to believe anymore. Global warming alarmists have been hammering at us for years; the media is made up mostly of "true believers"; and politicians, who, in the absence of understanding and knowledge about climate science have put themselves out on a limb from which it is difficult to retreat. Given the economic interests and the political powers involved, this dilemma will not go away quietly.

Alarmists are appealing to so-called “consensus science” and trying to scare the world into throwing away hundreds of billions of dollars in a fruitless effort to control the temperature of the Earth. In the absence of supporting facts, they have moved the issue into the court of public opinion where politics, media and money play important roles.

The question of human caused global warming should not be resolved on the publicized opinions of influential journalists, but in the court of scientific inquiry, based on the scientific data. The interested public can easily find legitimate and easily understood empirical data online. None of it supports the alarmists’ belief in human caused global warming!

It makes good sense to look at the history of climate science.

Empirical data, collected over several centuries, led to a provisional “theory” of climate change. Scientists have long known that the sun, oceans and variations in the Earth's orbit are the principal drivers of climate change. Although we don’t fully understand all of the mechanisms or interactions involved, this theory has stood the test of time. In the process, it became the de facto “theory” of climate change.

It is the job of science to develop the theories that explain our natural world. Scientific, theories, even those that evolved over centuries, are subject to challenge and change—when supported by the appropriate scientific data. This enables new hypotheses to modify, or even replace currently accepted “theories.”

About 20 years ago, a small group of scientists became concerned that temperatures around the Earth were unreasonably high and a threat to humanity. In their infinite wisdom, they decided that 1) CO2 (carbon dioxide) levels were abnormally high, 2)  that higher levels of CO2 were bad for humanity, 3) that warmer temperatures would be worse for the world, and 4) that we are capable of overriding natural forces to control the Earth’s temperature.

Not one of these presumptions (opinions) has proven to be valid!

The group decided to challenge the accepted “theory” of climate change when they hypothesized that human generated CO2 was responsible for global warming. They have been trying to generate support for their beliefs ever since. Their new hypothesis of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) gained immediate traction with environmentalists and the “green movement,” the media and, eventually, politicians. It has gained little acceptance among legitimate scientists.

For a new hypothesis to be accepted by the scientific community, it must be confirmed by considerable evidence and must survive all attempts to disprove it. The hypothesis claiming that human-generated carbon dioxide is a principal driver of the earth’s temperature has not satisfied either of these criteria.

AGW alarmists could have made their case quite simply by 1) collecting and making available solid evidence to support their hypothesis, and 2) by defending it in the court of scientific inquiry, not in the court of public opinion. Instead, they refused to release their data that would permit other scientists to replicate their results--if possible.

The only thing alarmists are able to cite in support of their simplified hypothesis are mathematical models which they have developed to make their case. The earth’s atmosphere is currently impossible to model well, so it is no surprise that their models have been unable to use past data to correctly predict today’s temperatures. In any event, models are not data!

When alarmists could produce none of the required confirmation for their hypothesis, scientific principles were put on the back burner in favor of interpretation and opinion. They invented something called “consensus science”, switched from “global warming” to “climate change” and appealed to fear with: “What if CO2 is responsible and we do nothing?”

The media, in general, has lost some enthusiasm for “consensus science”. While journalists cannot be expected to understand the science without specialized training, that doesn’t keep individual Journalists from aggressively pushing AGW and influencing a great many readers.

Take Paul Krugman, a nationally syndicated columnist and Nobel Prize winner in economics, but with no understanding of the science of climate change. He whines about the $23 million that Exxon Mobil spent over 10 years trying to support objective climate research, while ignoring the $30 billion selected scientists have received from the federal government in the last 20 years to support an alarmist global warming hypothesis. (Krugman, Greed, cowardice killed climate bill, 7/26/2010)

Thirty billion dollars may influence scientists and public opinion, but it has not added a lot to understanding climate change.

Krugman further claims, “Every piece of valid evidence - long-term temperature averages that smooth out year-to-year fluctuations, Arctic sea ice volume, melting of glaciers, the ratio of record highs to record lows - points to a continuing, and quite possibly accelerating, rise in global temperatures.” He is obviously not familiar with the empirical data.

Saying a tax on carbon will have little or no impact on our economy is ridiculous, especially for an economist. He is presupposing that it would save the world from a global warming disaster while ignoring the fact that man-made CO2 represents only 0.0002% of the atmosphere and 0.12% of our greenhouse gases. Eliminating the human contribution of CO2 completely would not mitigate any ongoing global warming.

Most readers will listen to Paul Krugman without ever realizing how far climate science is removed from his specialty—as it is with virtually all journalists.

The “greed” referred to in Krugman's column is the greed for money and control by the Washington power elite. The “cowardice” is what is displayed by those afraid of letting the question of global climate change be answered by the science, not by opinions, or the politics.

Most alarmists refuse to accept the current flood of evidence disproving AGW. True believers in global warming are loathe to admit how little control we have over nature. That’s why AGW is frequently referred to as a religion with them.

But global warming is not something that you have to take on faith. It is your prerogative to reject what has been learned about climate change over several centuries and to embrace the unproven hypothesis of humans being responsible for global temperature changes.

Objective science is slowly making inroads with politicians and the public. That is why prospects for a bill to tax and restrict CO2 emissions is losing support. A growing percentage of the public is coming to their senses on the limits of what humans can do to influence the Earth's temperature.

But climate change is a scientific question, and you should look at the empirical data that is made available by objective scientists. Empirical data speaks for itself. The last place you want to look for objective data is the United Nations IPCC.

Individuals should look at the evidence/data, and then judge for themselves whether the evidence supports the alarmists’ hypothesis. I have, and it does not.

Human caused global warming is simply not a threat to be concerned about. It is nature, not human activity that rules the climate. Humans have adjusted to temperature changes for the last 100,000 years, and they will certainly do so in the future.

Twenty years ago, the alarmists were talking about the science. Now, without the facts on their side, they are reduced to talking about other justifications, like “consensus science.” Those of us who never bought into AGW, talk about empirical data and the science involved. After years of looking, I have not found one piece of empirical evidence that man-made CO2 has a significant impact on global climate.

Walter Cunningham, geophysicist, fighter pilot and Apollo 7 astronaut



Cunningham flew the first test flight of the Apollo Program, Apollo 7, and is the author of “The All-American Boys.”