By Kathleen Hartnett White
Before the oppressive heat of a hot Texas summer impairs objectivity, consider a basic fact. Global warming has ceased for 16 years. This inescapable fact contradicts the official science of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is the foundation of global warming alarmism.
From 1997 to 2012, global mean temperatures have flat-lined while emissions of carbon dioxide — the majority of which now derives from China and India — have surged at an unprecedented rate. National bodies like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency, Britain’s Meteorological Office, and even climate change panel scientists have publicly recognized that temperature trends are either static or actually cooling. For the first time in decades, a large swath of the climate science community has begun to question whether natural forces such as cyclical oceanic and solar activity could indeed trump the greenhouse effects of increasing emissions of man-made carbon dioxide.
European officialdom and media have more fully absorbed the implications of global cooling than their counterparts in the United States. Germany and England, where aggressive decarbonization schemes already have driven energy prices 40% to 70% higher, now consider reeling back their plans. In the U.S., global warming alarmists and some politicians dismiss the cooling as a minor pause in apocalyptic warming. The major media follow their cue and that of President Barack Obama, who recently claimed that the speed of global warming is accelerating faster than the science predicted. He might check with NOAA about the matter.
Those clinging to dogmatic belief in man-made global warming now turn to “extreme weather events” as proof that the destructive impacts of carbon-rich energy are right here, now, and wreaking havoc. Whether cold, heat, snow, drought, hurricanes, tornadoes or wildfires, the warmists attribute the cause to increasing atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide. But even the International Panel on Climate Change, NOAA and the World Meteorological Organization have historical data which handily debunks these conflations of weather and climate. NOAA concludes there is no connection between tornadoes and global warming and that since the 1950s there have been fewer strong (F3 to F5) tornadoes. What has increased is the detection of weak tornadoes.
NOAA also concludes that hurricanes have been declining in the U.S. since the early 19th century. And the worst decade for major hurricanes in the U.S. was the 1940s. Contrary to the president’s remarks, the fury of Hurricane Sandy was not the result of global warming but of the coincidental alignment of a tropical storm with a land-based storm.
Blaming fossil fuel-based energy for horrific natural disasters is akin to ancient cultures blaming extreme weather on the wrath of the gods. However more sophisticated and educated modern people may be, the human tribe is apparently still susceptible to “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds,” as Charles MacRay documented in a not-so-modern book of the mid-19th century.
The fact that global mean temperatures have not risen in conjunction with higher CO2 levels over the past 16 years is not a minor fissure in the credibility of the International Panel on Climate Change’s official science. Recall that this panel’s science is the justification for Green policies to jettison the fossil fuel-based energy systems that underlie the prosperity and extended life spans in developed countries.
While the flat temperature record, however, does not prove the panel wrong, it does reveal the inherent uncertainty in the panel’s science. This temperature record derived from empirical measurement by satellite demonstrates that the panel’s science is not so certain as to be labeled “incontrovertible” and “beyond all dispute.” And it has been in those dogmatic terms that climate science has been proffered as a policy dictate for forced transformation of economies worldwide.
The question has never been whether carbon dioxide is a gas that traps heat in the atmosphere. Of course it is. The scientific question has always been to what extent increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide will dominate the natural forces of climate such as solar activity, cyclical oceanic oscillation, water vapor, aerosols and clouds. The enshrined science of man-made warming is built on sophisticated models, all of which assign high temperature-forcing strength to carbon dioxide. But those assumptions in the models have not been validated by physical measurement. The fact of no warming for 16 years raises conflicts with these central tenets of the panel’s science.
The growing divergence between actual temperatures and the climate models of the panel show that the science is not — as is so stridently asserted — “settled.” Let sound science admit the uncertainty, answer the questions and not vilify the questioner.
Kathleen Hartnett White is the distinguished senior fellow in residence and director for the Armstrong Center for Energy and Environment at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. This article first appeared in the Austin American-Statesman (June 10, 2013).