AAAS’s Guide to Climate Alarmism aka ‘What We Know’

By Patrick J. Michaels and Paul C. “Chip” Knappenberger

Back in the Bush II Administration, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) nakedly tried to nudge the political process surrounding the passage of the environmentally-horrific ethanol fuel mandate.  It hung a large banner from the side of its Washington headquarters, picturing a corn stalk morphing into a gas pump, all surrounded by a beautiful, pristine, blue ocean.  They got their way, and we got the bill, along with a net increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

So it’s not surprising that AAAS is on the Washington Insider side of global warming, releasing  a report today that is the perfect 1-2-3 step-by-step how-to guide to climate change alarm.

This is how it is laid out in the counterfactually-titled AAAS report  “What We Know”:

Step 1: State that virtually all scientists agree that humans are changing the climate,

Step 2: Highlight that climate change has the potential to bring low risk but high impact outcomes, and

Step 3: Proclaim that by acting now, we can do something to avert potential catastrophe.

To make this most effective, appeal to authority, or in this case, make the case that you are the authority. From the AAAS:

We’re the largest general scientific society in the world, and therefore we believe we have an obligation to inform the public and policymakers about what science is showing about any issue in modern life, and climate is a particularly pressing one,” said Dr. Alan Leshner, CEO of AAAS. “As the voice of the scientific community, we need to share what we know and bring policymakers to the table to discuss how to deal with the issue.

But despite promising to inform us as to “what the science is showing,” the AAAS report largely sidesteps the best and latest science that points to a much lowered risk of extreme climate change, choosing instead to inflate and then highlight what meager evidence exists for potential catastrophic outcomes—evidence that in many cases has been scientifically challenged (for example here and here).

The AAAS takes us through the standard litany of scare-scenarios and tipping points. If you can imagine it, the AAAS mentions it. Rapid sea level rise? Check.  Heat waves, floods, droughts? Check.  Check. Check. Deteriorating public health? Check. National security threat? Check. Ecological collapse? Check. And the list goes on.

The AAAS’s justification for such alarm?

Below are some of the high-side projections and tail risks we incur by following the current path for CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions. Most of these projections derive from computer simulations of Earth and its climate system. These models apply the best understanding science has to offer about how our climate works and how it will change in the future. There are many such models and all of them have been validated, to varying degrees, by their ability to replicate past climate changes.

Somehow in its haste to scare us, the AAAS seems to have missed (or ignored) the two hottest topics in climate change these days—1) that climate models have done remarkably poorly in replicating the evolution of global temperature during the past several decades , and 2) that high end climate change scenarios from the models are largely unsupported by observations.

Thus, “what the science is showing” completely undermines the AAAS contentions regarding alarming climate change.

So here’s what we are left with.

As to the AAAS’s first point that human actions are causing climate change, this is largely correct, although the degree and details—the most important features—are uncertain and still being intensity studied and debated (a fact left out by the AAAS).

As to the second point, the current best science suggests that coming human-caused climate change is going to be less than expected with a much-diminished risk of abrupt changes with catastrophic outcomes (a fact left out by the AAAS).

Which means that the AAAS’s third point, that immediate action is required to reduce the risk of extreme change, is hardly applicable—especially when recognizing that no matter what action we take in the U.S. (the primary audience of the AAAS report) it will have such a small impact on the course of future climate change as to do nothing to alleviate the overblown worries of the AAAS (a fact left out by the AAAS).

Add this all up and you realize that the AAAS report is the epitome of climate alarmism—long in hype and short in fact and aimed squarely at influencing policymakers. We should expect better, but they drank the ethanol years ago.

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Global Science Report is a feature from the Center for the Study of Science, where we highlight one or two important new items in the scientific literature or the popular media. For broader and more technical perspectives, consult our monthly “Current Wisdom.”

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56 thoughts on “AAAS’s Guide to Climate Alarmism aka ‘What We Know’

  1. Alarmists are forever going on about the ‘Precautionary Principle’ to justify absurd policies such as the ethanol mandate.

    Surely, the best example of this principle is ‘Primum non nocere’ – ‘First, do no harm’ as taught to medical students.

    ‘Do nothing’ would seem to be the best advice that governments could take given the uncertainties in the science (not to mention the deleterious effects of the various proposed ‘solutions’) at present.

  2. To illustrate the problem posed by the AAAS and the lefty willing dupes who run it, we must examine the central thesis in Climate Alchemy, the main diagram in Trenberth et al. 2009 ‘Energy Budget’: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?rep=rep1&type=pdf&doi=10.1.1.210.2513

    They add the 333 W/m^2 mean atmospheric ‘Radiation Field’ you get from an instrument from Meteorology, the ‘Pyrgeometer’, to the 63 W/m^2 IR part of 161 W/m^2 Solar SW converted to heat at the surface. This makes the 396 W/m^2 ‘black body’ surface RF. A pyrgeometer really estimates temperature. This is put in the ‘Stefan-Boltzmann’ equation to make the RF. They wrongly assume it to be a real energy flux when it is the potential energy flux to a sink at absolute zero.

    This distinction is lost to most people. Willing dupes didn’t have a chance because radiative physics is only known properly to a few, mainly process engineers like me. Most science graduates are easily deceived. Hence Climate Alchemists push 6.3 times more IR energy into the modelled atmosphere. 2/3rds is offset by another Big Mistake at Top of Atmosphere, which hypothetically cools it. The net result is imaginary extra evaporation from the seas. They cheat again by using about 25% imaginary extra cooling by low level clouds in ‘hind-casting’.

    The resultant imaginary ‘positive feedback’ easily deceived the AAAS. it takes real experts to sort out fraud. The simple fact is that processes in the atmosphere combine to make CO2-AGW near zero and the real AGW, from polluted clouds, slowed down over a decade ago. The willing dupes who have spent a lifetime dreaming of using fake CO2-AGW to destroy capitalism are now panicking and writing apocalyptic articles.

  3. Atmosphere CO2 hasn’t changed much more than the temp. pulse.

    So, where is all the CO2? On the ground; in the Oceans, Rivers and lakes and in and on the Glaciers and Polar Ice Caps. Why? To be stored until Topography shifts need it.

    When will that occur? Not until 2040 when things start warming up again.

    The Question that remains to be seen by the inter circles of the Beltway is: are there enough Carbons in the Carbon Base cycle to support the Nitrate Cycle. Might get out of balance in the near future.

    Visit your Favorite Buffet soon.

    Paul

  4. Soarergtl says:

    “Alarmists are forever going on about the ‘Precautionary Principle’ to justify absurd policies such as the ethanol mandate.”

    No doubt true.

    As I understand it, the Precautionary Principle requires that science prove a negative…..something that it cannot do. Does that not then make the PP irrational since it demands the impossible from science? The PP sounds like something that was dreamed up by those who have an obsessive fear of risk, even the smallest ones. The sooner it gets abandoned (if ever), the better…especially when it comes to CO2 and the risk of CAGW.

  5. Sounds like the American Association for the “Advancement” of Science is actually setting science back 100 years or more, with their superstitions and suspect reasoning.

  6. “These models apply the best understanding science has to offer about how our climate works and how it will change in the future.”

    That’s “best” but wrong. Simply saying it’s “the best” is deception by omission.

    ” There are many such models and all of them have been validated, to varying degrees, by their ability to replicate past climate changes.”

    This actually says nothing, “to varying degrees” could include not validated at all – “degree” of zero.

    Again the wording is chosen to suggest something other than what is said.

    This is pure politics, yet clearly presented as being an authoritative scientific assessment.

    Just more deception by closet activists that undermines the credibility of science as a whole. This dies a huge disservice to science generally and the credibility of AAAS as a professional scientific body.

    These people should be removed from their positions at AAAS for these fundamentally unscientific and unprofessional actions.

  7. CD (@CD153) on March 19, 2014 at 1:25 am
    Soarergtl says:

    “Alarmists are forever going on about the ‘Precautionary Principle’ to justify absurd policies such as the ethanol mandate.”

    No doubt true.”…

    The PP is ridiculous. Think of all the things we should be doing to adhere to the PP. For example, there is a small but finite chance a meteor will hit New York City. Loss of life will be in the millions. Therefore, according to the precautionary principle, all inhabitants of New York City should move at once to Stockbridge MA.

  8. although dated now. the late dr, Michael critchton’s novel “The State of Fear”, rings more true today than ever. great read.

  9. For example, there is a small but finite chance a meteor will hit New York City. Loss of life will be in the millions. Therefore, according to the precautionary principle, all inhabitants of New York City should move at once to Stockbridge MA.

    OMG! – everyone in New York is going to die if a meteor hits there. Raise taxes immediately to pay for them to move to Stockbridge MA!

    later…

    OMG! – everyone in Stockbridge MA is going to die if a meteor hits there. Raise taxes immediately to pay for them to move to New York!

    So it goes…

  10. The AAAS has now sunk below the horizon of respectability into the moras of alarmist claim built upon alarmist claim.

  11. I have no idea if they are the largest scientific body in the world. But one thing is patently clear. They are not scientists. They cite a number that is a total sham, and then proceed to pontificate. They offer no science whatsoever. The AAAS is sadly nothing more than a step child of Goebbels,. and a very poor one at that.

  12. “There are many such models and all of them have been validated, to varying degrees, by their ability to replicate past climate changes.”

    Hindcasting does not validate anything. Knowing the answer to past climate allows the modeler too tweek the model using lots of variables and fudge factors to achieve his goal. This is not validation of the model but of the modelers computer coding ability.

    Validation comes in predicting the future and having the prediction be at least close to right. In this actual validation test ALL the climate models fail.

  13. Forget the numbers because they are not relevant, forget the pontification because there is no evidence whatsoever that human behaviour is changing our climate. They were waffling on about drought in America now causing a drop in the grain harvest and the pictures were visible evidence of this but they conveniently forget the dustbowl era when things were worse than today. Yes America is most likely running the aquifers dry but there is no one jot of evidence anywhere that droughts we experience now are the result of more or less Co2 in the atmosphere because every single incident happening now is replicated in the past so if it has happened before it will happen again and there is not on damn thing we can do about it so precisely what is the point of all of the pointless babble? A report yesterday said we were running out of phosphorous which if true means no more fertiliser which with 7 billion mouths to feed is a real issue. The fact remains that long before humans managed if at all to have a significant effect on our climate everything that we need to exist on it will have been consumed because of our idiotic obsession with needing forever to have more than we have today for the sake of the economy, we need growth, Japan is still in existence and they have not experienced growth for 20 years. What the obsessive beancounters fail to recognise is that for every percentage of growth means we extract more finite resources to support that growth. We have no idea how long we can continue this most bizarre form of denial but we might be a little closer to the edge than anyone really wants to comprehend and if most likely wont be oil or iron ore just phosphorous, eat whilst you can!

  14. This is example number… ummmm… I don’t know, I’ve lost count. It must be in the thousands now, that demonstrates that AGW is not and has never been about ‘the science’.
    It is pure politics played by lefties who’ve taken over much of our institutions.

    We can bang on about the science for another 20 years and still NOTHING WILL CHANGE.
    The only (slight) change that’s come about so far has been in places like here in Oz, when a groundswell of individual personal protests brought about the downfall of the then conservative opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull (who was eager to support the left in the introduction of CO2 taxes etc) and the rise of Tony Abbott who has since become prime minister and is taking baby steps to fight this AGW “crap”.

    Real change is required in the US political scene if this global cancer known as AGW is to be defeated. (IMHO)

  15. AAAS is not about science, they are about advocacy. They seek to CONTROL science, not advance it.

  16. from the LA times story: “If emissions keep climbing, temperatures could rise another four to eight degrees over the century, the report says, pushing the climate beyond the range experienced in millions of years and increasing the odds of irreversible damage.”

    They aren’t even trying to hide the naked politicking anymore – this is all about trying to scare people into voting for Democrats for November, because… Science!!!

    Sometimes a few readers here will complain that topics are too political – but those who do don’t seem to realize that there is no actual “science” left in this issue anymore, it is ALL politics. And specifically, this fight is now nothing but one political party and its supporters desperately trying to come up with scare tactics to try and avoid a wipeout that they see coming this fall.

    Same push happened in Australia as Gillard was going down in Australia. It didn’t work there, and it won’t work here, which leaves this as nothing more than scaremongering for its own sake.

  17. Ethanol is completely linked to the real impact of Middle east instability and food insecurity.
    It is also linked to government insiders enriching themselves off of human suffering.
    And their policy has done *nothing* to help the environment.
    What an execrable group of faux science hacks.

  18. Hmmm … Let’s look at who chaired the climate science panel that generated the report. A professor of chemistry and biochemistry, a professor of biology, and a professor of biological oceanography. You’d have thunk they could find a climate modeler or two to sit on this board, but instead they have folks who know nothing of these climate models themselves, who simply appropriate the output for their studies. It’s like asking the long-haul trucker that relies on weather forecasts for his work to explain how that forecast was made.
    “Biologists, the long-haul truckers of science.”

  19. And the IPCC prepares another view of the gloom and doom.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/official-prophecy-of-doom-global-warming-will-cause-widespread-conflict-displace-millions-of-people-and-devastate-the-global-economy-9198171.html

    And Scientific American counts down to the tipping point in 2036 ….. ” We plugged values of Earth’s “equilibrium climate sensitivity”—a common measure of the heating effect of greenhouse gases—into a so-called energy balance model. So you have to know it’s true.

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/mann-why-global-warming-will-cross-a-dangerous-threshold-in-2036/

    What channel is that Prepper show on?

  20. David L. says:
    March 19, 2014 at 3:00 am
    CD (@CD153) on March 19, 2014 at 1:25 am
    Soarergtl says:

    “Alarmists are forever going on about the ‘Precautionary Principle’ to justify absurd policies such as the ethanol mandate.”

    No doubt true.”…

    The PP is ridiculous. Think of all the things we should be doing to adhere to the PP. For example, there is a small but finite chance a meteor will hit New York City. Loss of life will be in the millions. Therefore, according to the precautionary principle, all inhabitants of New York City should move at once to Stockbridge MA.

    __________________
    Now now, be fair — the meteor is just as likely to hit Stockbridge as New York city. The **correct** application of the PP would be to disperse all large concentrations of human beings anywhere (ie abolish all cities, towns, etc.) and forcing everyone to live evenly dispersed over the earth’s surface both land and ocean. One way of knowing that this is the correct solution is that it would be even more expensive than putting all New Yorkers in Stockbridge.

    /s

  21. “As to the AAAS’s first point that human actions are causing climate change, this is largely correct, although the degree and details—the most important features—are uncertain and still being intensity studied and debated (a fact left out by the AAAS).”

    That also does kinda miss out on the fact that natural variability has, probably unfairly, been discounted as being any significant part of what has been observed to date.

  22. Wait, an organization dedicated to the “Advancement of Science” puts out a report that does not use proper science in an effort to alter public opinion?

  23. “As to the AAAS’s first point that human actions are causing climate change, this is largely correct, although the degree and details—the most important features—are uncertain and still being intensity studied and debated (a fact left out by the AAAS).”

    Uh, are we causing climate change or, in my opinion, more likely contributing to it, although the degree and details are uncertain and still being intensely studied and debated?

    I don’t see how we can be causing something to happen when it hasn’t happened in about 17 years.

  24. David L. says: March 19, 2014 at 3:00 am

    Well there might be time to join the Alice’s Restaurant Anti-Massacree Movement before the meteor struck Stockbridge MA.

  25. “I don’t see how we can be causing something to happen when it hasn’t happened in about 17 years.”

    But that proves that it IS changing! See, before it was changing, and now it stopped changing, but that is still a change. See, it’s changing the change in a changy kind of way.

    and now I must conclude my “reductio ad absurdum” with a quote from that unchallenged Authority, David Bowie: “Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes!!!”

  26. I doubt that the AAAS is a proper scientific organization. Note that they call themselves a “general scientific society.” Isn’t it simply the people who produce Science Magazine and the subscribers?

  27. The Precautionary Principle is total nonsense, as many have pointed out here. It should be renamed the Paranoid Principle. It was created so that politicians could skip the important step of performing a cost-benefit analysis.

  28. “We’re the largest general scientific society in the world, and therefore we believe we have an obligation to inform the public and policymakers about what science is showing about any issue in modern life, and ‘GEOCENTRICISM’ is a particularly pressing one,” said Dr. Alan Leshner, CEO of AAAS. “As the voice of the scientific community, we need to share what we know and bring policymakers to the table to discuss how to deal with the issue.”

    Or insert “flat earth” or “weight of a duck” if you please. Appeal to authority indeed. I thought we left the Dark Ages in the past.

  29. Proof of the reason for the timing of this announcement, as if any were needed:

    “The White House is launching an initiative Wednesday that aims to expand the use of climate data nationwide, to help communities cope with the impacts of global warming.”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2014/03/19/wh-launches-new-climate-data-initiative-wednesday/?wprss=rss_politics&clsrd

    I will guarantee you that this announcement by the AAAS was organized and coordinated by and through White House counselor John D. Podesta and the president’s science adviser, John P. Holdren. And if you wonder how all these things are related, John D. Podesta is the founder of the “Center for American Progress”, whose prime outlet on the web is the blog ‘Think Progress”, of which a significant part is the “Climate Progress” page run by our old friend, Joe.J. Romm.

    John D. Podesta is STILL the Chairman of the Board of The Center for American Progress.

    So there you have it – one of the President’s top counselors is Joe J. Romm’s boss, and his prime financial backer. And just to bring us round the full circle, in 2008, Joe Romm was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for “distinguished service toward a sustainable energy future and for persuasive discourse on why citizens, corporations, and governments should adopt sustainable technologies”

    If there is any doubt as to why the AAAS announcement sounds as though it was written by Joe J. Romm, wonder no longer. It probably WAS written by good ol’ Joe.

  30. “What we Know”:
    1. There has been no global warming for 17 years and 6 months.
    2. There has been no noticeable increase in floods or droughts in the recent past.
    3. Sea level rise based on trends is no more than 6 – 8 inches per century.
    4. There have been no noticeable increase in size or frequency of hurricanes or typhoons.
    5. Global sea ice reduction, when you include the north and south poles is not alarming.
    6. There is no tropical hot spot.
    7. Global temperature increase follow CO2 increase by an average of an 800 yr. lag.
    8. Etc.
    (I’m sure this list could be refined, improved or added to with some increased research – this was just from the top of my head from reading WUWT and other sites)

  31. I always (naively) thought that one of the arms of the Precautionary Principle was that the identified danger was tempered by a rational assessment of the likelihood of the risk. The image of a modern-day religious “prophet” wearing a sandwich board proclaiming, “Repent! The World Will End Tomorrow!,” comes to mind.
    Oh well, color me stupid [blush]

  32. I stopped reading the AAAS screed when I got to the tired “97% of climate scientists agree!” bit. Good grief. A sad blot on the history of a proud organization, to which I uses to belong.

    Thanks for the analysis.

  33. Monckton and/or Ridley said something that should be repeated: Anything we do that is affordable will be ineffective; anything we do that is effective will be unaffordable (and unenforceable outside the West).

  34. The following actually appears in the AAAS report:

    “Greenhouse gases have supercharged the climate just as steroids supercharged hitting in Major League Baseball.”

    Pielke Snr is correct. What an embarrassment.

  35. To become a AAAS member all you need is a credit card. You can probably enroll your dog, as our host has done with the Union of Concerned Scientivists. A dog subscription costs $310 per year.

  36. Step 3: Proclaim that by acting now, we can do something to avert potential catastrophe.

    To bad they have not included an overall cost estimate for their potential catastrophe. Willis did and reported in http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/03/13/how-much-would-you-buy/ , based on EPA estimates of the time.

    However, the cost per degree will not change based on the number of countries involved. It’s still almost two quadrillion ($1,900,000,000,000,000) bucks per degree. So that explanation won’t wash. And although the US economy might be able to take the hit, poorer countries like China and India won’t do well. Finally, those are EPA estimates, the cost may well be higher. Government estimates of the costs of their own programs are notoriously way below what they actually turn out costing.

    In any case, my question is, given that the EPA says that cooling costs two quadrillion dollars per degree … how much cooling would you suggest we buy at that price?

  37. I always worry when I hear or see scientists stating “What we know” ……it’s quite often a harbinger of a concoction of hubris, assumption and PC statements ……

  38. The AAAS takes us through the standard litany of scare-scenarios and tipping points. If you can imagine it, the AAAS mentions it. Rapid sea level rise? Check. Heat waves, floods, droughts? Check. Check. Check. Deteriorating public health? Check. National security threat? Check. Ecological collapse?

    They forgot “Dogs and cats living together”

  39. Interestingly enough, I received an email from AAAS, this morning. Something about career opportunities. I didn’t read very closely before deleting it. Tried to use their ‘Unsubscribe’ function … it didn’t work. Tried 3 different ways. I have no idea how they got my email address … only way I can think of is from a list of email communications with my Congresscritters.

  40. Have western science associations become so corrupt that perhaps we need to start creating brand new scientific institutions as the only way to get rid of existing unethical governing councils that have corrupted the bodies they represent?

  41. Humans are changing the climate? Prove it. Find any evidence and show it. Imaginary effects don’t count.

  42. Guess it comes to a matter of trust. Should I trust politicians, ideologies, and arm-chair scientist for being informed on science? Or trust the scientific community, peer-reviewed studies, etc.? Overwhelmingly, the leading science is saying climate change is real, but clearly not fully understood. Fine. That is the best information available at present. I buy it.

  43. Scientists to Americans: We’re Not Divided on Climate Change

    The largest general scientific organisation in the US—and the world—usually stays out of policy debate, but there’s one issue they’ve decided they just can’t stay quiet on any more. Yup, it’s that overwhelmingly evident yet somehow still controversial scientific observation: human-caused climate change is a thing.

    The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) today launched a campaign with the aim of effectively shaking Americans awake to the reality that climate change exists, and that the country needs to act swiftly to avoid potential disaster in the not-so-distant future. Ahead of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) next week, they’ve published a report, released a bunch of videos from climate experts, and kicked off outreach efforts under the title “What We Know,” to shout the message as loud as they can.

    http://motherboard.vice.com/read/scientists-to-americans-were-not-divided-on-climate-change

  44. I’m skeptical of the anecdote of AAAS corn ethanol activism. Google isn’t helping me verify it. Do any of the skeptics here have a primary source?

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