The Bizarre World of Radical Climate Science

The Bizarre World of Radical Climate Science

By Norman
Rogers

Imagine that you are a climate scientist and the Earth
is threatened with a climate disaster.  You need to warn the people of Earth and
lobby Earth’s governments.  If you are tired of poring over boring computer
printouts, you may be only too ready to accept this mission of transcendent
importance.

On the other hand, maybe you have lost touch with
reality.  Maybe you have become a true believer fighting a dubious battle.
Maybe you are Dr. James Hansen, high civil servant, recipient of cash awards
from left-wing foundations, and director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space
Studies.  Hansen was arrested in front of the White House, dressed up to look
like J. Robert Oppenheimer, the 1950s scientific martyr.  Hansen wants CEOs of
energy companies to be prosecuted for
“crimes against humanity.”

When scientists are fanatical believers in a cause,
the authority and credibility that attach to science are turned into political
capital to be spent in pursuit of that cause.

The late Stephen Schneider, Stanford climate
scientist, explained how this works:

To capture the public imagination, we have to offer up
some scary scenarios, make simplified dramatic statements and little mention of
any doubts one might have.  Each of us has to decide the right balance between
being effective, and being honest.

Global warming catastrophism is convenient for climate
science.  It is simplistic to claim that climate scientists are making up the
global warming scare in order to promote research funding.  But global warming
catastrophism clearly does promote research funding.  So there is a convenient
congruence between catastrophism and the bureaucratic ambitions of
research establishments.

Climate science deals with the energy balance of the
Earth and the behavior of the atmosphere.  This is a very complicated system
involving convection, evaporation, precipitation, clouds, ocean heat storage,
reflection, and emission of radiation, and more.  Although scientific
understanding of the system has advanced, especially with the advent of
computers and satellites, the system is still quite mysterious in important
respects.  It’s not at all clear that climate science will ever advance to a
point where long-range predictions can be trusted, or, as they say, demonstrate
skill.

Burning fossil fuels adds CO2 to the
atmosphere faster than natural processes can remove it.  As a result,
CO2 has been slowly increasing.  Increasing the proportion of
CO2 in the atmosphere will probably exert a warming influence because
CO2 has an inhibiting effect on the outgoing infrared (heat)
radiation that cools the Earth.  Nearly everyone, skeptic or believer, agrees
with these basic facts.  Another basic fact that the purveyors of global warming
like to keep quiet about is that more CO2 in the atmosphere makes
plants grow much
better
with less water.  That’s because plants in general
struggle to extract the scant CO2 in the air.

What is controversial is how much warming can be
expected and whether the warming will create practical problems.  The evidence
supporting substantial warming (i.e., 3 degrees C) is output from bad computer
models.  It’s said that dogs come to resemble their masters.  Computer models
tend to reflect the aspirations of their creators.

The global warming promoters try to hang all kinds of
supplementary disasters on
their proposed 3-degree warming over a century.  This is even more dubious than
the warming itself.  Some of their claims are absurd, such as the suggestion
that the oceans are going to rise substantially, a claim for which there is zero
credible evidence.
The data has been running against the theories of global warming.  The
atmosphere has failed to warm
since 1998, and, more importantly, the upper ocean has failed to warm
since 2003.

The idea that we are on the verge of a climate
disaster caused by modern civilization is a romantic idea that appeals to people
who have lost traditional religion.  It’s another iteration of the
environmentalist dogma that civilization is ruining the earth.  It’s a Garden of
Eden story.   Anyone can see that the landscape of areas where industry and
technology dominate nature, like Germany or New Jersey, is in far better
condition than the landscape is in most third-world countries — countries that
lack evil industry and that practice the precious local small-scale agriculture
so loved by the ideologues who want remake the economy to prevent global
warming.  The idea that the Earth would be a paradise without civilization is
contradicted by the wild climate swings that we know have taken place in recent
geological time.  Ice sheets a mile thick retreated from much of North America
10,000 years ago.

The reports of the International Panel on Climate
Change (the IPCC) are often taken as the authoritative last word on climate
change.  These reports are are disorganized and unfocused.  As a result, most
people go no further than the introductory Summary for Policy Makers.  If you
dig deep into the reports, solid scientific support for the claims of impending
catastrophe is not there.  Computer models are the shaky foundation of global
warming.  Models from different modeling groups disagree with each other by wide
margins.  As the IPCC admits, the models have serious deficiencies.  The IPCC
uses misleading graphical illustrations to
make it appear that the models can accurately mimic the Earth’s
climate.

The CO2 reduction proposals of the global
warming gang are relentlessly ideological and impractical.  CO2-free
nuclear power supplies 80% of France’s electricity and 20% of the electricity in
the U.S.  Nuclear fuel is very cheap, and vast supplies are available.  The real
problem with nuclear is that environmentalist groups have run a hysterical
anti-nuclear campaign for the last 50 years.  A reversal now would be a severe
blow to their credibility.  So, instead of nuclear, the global warming gang
proposes that we use solar power and wind power, technologies that can cost 10
times more
per kilowatt-hour
.
They don’t seem to understand that solar doesn’t work when a cloud blocks the
sun or at night, and wind doesn’t work when the wind isn’t blowing.  As a
consequence, solar and wind need to be backed up by fossil fuel or hydro plants
with spinning generators ready to quickly assume the load of the grid.  People
who are ignorant concerning engineering or science may accept the notion that
wind and solar are realistic sources of electricity.  It is more difficult to
explain why the government is dumping billions of dollars
into these technologies, both in the form of cash and in the form of mandates
that shift the cost to electricity users.

Many scientists may have a predilection for green
fashion — for example, backyard compost heaps, organic food, bicycles, solar
panels, or giant wind turbines.  Nobody cares.  But it is wrong to misuse the
authority and credibility of science to scare the rest of us into embracing the
green lifestyle.

Norman Rogers is a physicist and a
Senior Policy Advisor at the
Heartland
Institute
.  He maintains a website:
www.climateviews.com.

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