98% climate consensus? Baloney!

By Larry Bell

Excerpted from Forbes, July 17, 2012; for the full article, go to http://www.forbes.com/sites/larrybell/2012/07/17/that-scientific-global-warming-consensus-not/

On June 19, apparently timed to warm up spirits at the Rio+20 meetings at the U.N. Conference on Sustainability that began the following day, Senator John Kerry gave a sizzling 55-minute indictment on the Senate floor of those who challenge global warming crisis claims.

Kerry referred to a “calculated campaign of disinformation”, which he said “…has steadily beaten back the consensus momentum for action on climate change and replaced it with timidity proponents in the face of millions of dollars of phony, contrived ‘talking points’, illogical and wholly unscientific propositions, and a general scorn for the truth wrapped in false threats about job loss and tax increase.”

In his speech, Kerry called for the public to be “pounding on the doors of Congress” to act, and cataloged global perils such as drought, floods, wildfires, threatened coastlines, disease risks and more, noting “the danger we face could not be more real.”

Consensus momentum regarding action on climate change?  Phony, contrived talking points, unscientific propositions, and a scorn for truth wrapped in false threats? Yes, he’s entirely correct on both accounts… but in the exact opposite direction that he, supported by representations in the “mainstream media”, has indicated….

Since 1998, more than 31,000 American scientists from diverse climate-related disciplines, including more than 9,000 with Ph.D.s, have signed a public petition announcing their belief that “…there is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate.” Included are atmospheric physicists, botanists, geologists, oceanographers, and meteorologists.

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.

Consider the National Academy of Sciences for example. In 2007, Congress appropriated $5,856,000 for NAS to complete a climate change study.  The organization subsequently sold its conclusions in three separate report sections at $44 per download. The first volume, upon which the other two sections were based titled Advancing the Science of Climate Change, presents a case that human activities are warming the planet, and that this “poses significant risks”. The second urges that a cap-and-trade taxing system be implemented to reduce so-called greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The third explores strategies for adapting to the “reality” of climate change, meaning purported “extreme weather events like heavy precipitation and heat waves.”

What scientific understanding breakthrough did that big taxpayer-financed budget buy? Namely that the Earth’s temperature has risen over the past 100 years, and that human activities have resulted in a steady atmospheric CO2 increase. This is hardly new information, and few scientists are likely to challenge either of these assertions, which essentially prove no link between the two observations. All professional scientists recognize that correlation does not establish causation.

The report then states: “Both the basic physics of the greenhouse effect and more detailed calculations dictate that increases in atmospheric GHGs [greenhouse gases] should lead to warming of Earth’s surface and lower atmosphere.”

In other words, the theory of Mankind’s increased CO2 output is responsible for warming because the theory’s model calculations say so…models which have never demonstrated the capability to correctly predict anything. And, on that basis alone, generous taxpayers should pump ever more generosity into higher prices for gasoline, electricity, food, industrial products, and of course, more funding for NAS and their dole-sharing brethren.

The National Research Council (NRC), a branch of the NAS, produced a recent report titled America’s Climate Choices, claiming that humans are responsible for causing recent climate change, posing significant risk to human welfare and the environment. Of the 23 people who served on the panel that wrote it, only five have a Ph.D. in a field closely related to climate science, and another five are staffers of environmental activist organizations. It was chaired by a nuclear engineer with no formal climate science training, and the vice chairman served for years as a top staffer for the Environmental Defense Fund.  Two other members are, or were, politicians, and one had been appointed by the Clinton-Gore administration as general counsel for EPA.  Prior to publishing the report, 19 of the 23 had made public statements claiming that global warming is a human-induced problem and/or that action is required to reduce CO2 emissions.

As Dr. Richard Lindzen, Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, observed, NAS President Ralph Cicerone is really saying that “…regardless of evidence the answer is predetermined. If government wants carbon control, that is the answer that the Academies will provide.”

Some scientific society administrations are getting serious heat from their constituents for taking positions attributing climate change threats to human influences. In 2009, eighty prominent scientists, researchers and environmental business leaders, including many physicists, asked the century-old American Physical Society (APS), the nation’s leading physics organization, to change its policy statement which contains such language as “Emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are changing the atmosphere in ways that affect the Earth’s climate”, and “The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring.”

Instead, the group of scientists and academic leaders urged APS to revise its statement to read: “While substantial concern has been expressed that [greenhouse gas] emissions may cause significant climate change, measured or reconstructed temperature records indicate that 20th[and] 21st century changes are neither exceptional or persistent, and the historical and geological records show many periods warmer than today. In addition, there is an extensive literature that examines beneficial effects of increased levels of carbon dioxide for both animals and plants.”

Then, in the aftermath of the ClimateGate e-mail scandal, 265 APS members circulated an open letter saying: “By now everyone has heard of what has come to be known as ClimateGate which was and is an international science fraud, and the worst any of us have seen…We have asked APS management to put the 2007 statement on ice until the extent to which it is tainted can be determined, but that has not been done. We have also asked that the membership be consulted on this point, but that too has not been done.”

Of the 265 letter signatories, many or most are fellows of major scientific societies, more than 20 are members of national academies, two are Nobel laureates, and a large number are authors of major scientific books and recipients of prizes and awards for scientific research….

A 2009 report issued by the Polish Academy of Sciences PAN Committee of Geological Sciences, a major scientific institution in the European Union, agrees that the purported climate consensus argument is becoming increasingly untenable. It says, in part, that: “Over the past 400 thousand years – even without human intervention – the level of CO2 in the air, based on the Antarctic ice cores, has already been similar four times, and even higher than the current value.

At the end of the last ice age, within a time [interval] of a few hundred years, the average annual temperature changed over the globe several times. In total, it has gone up by almost 10 °C in the northern hemisphere, [and] therefore the changes mentioned above were incomparably more dramatic than the changes reported today.”

The report concludes: “The PAN Committee of Geological Sciences believes it necessary to start an interdisciplinary research based on comprehensive monitoring and modeling of the impact of other factors – not just the level of CO2 – on the climate. Only this kind of approach will bring us closer to identifying the causes of climate change.”  

Finally, although any 98% climate consensus is 100% baloney, this is something all reasonable scientists should really agree about.

Dr. Larry Bell is the founder and director of the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture at the University of Houston, where he also heads the graduate program in space architecture. He is the author of Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax.

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