by E. Calvin Beisner
Okay, we give up. We’ll never persuade people like Slate.com’s Phil Plait. Not if this article, and this and this typify his thought processes. His failure to dig a little deeper, as any good journalist should (which suggests how few good journalists there are out there!), indicates a mind closed to evidence.
But for those of you who aren’t closed to evidence, how do we respond?
Plait’s most recent—the first one linked above—claims, “… deniers essentially never publish in legitimate journals.” Well, probably that’s true. Non-existent people don’t tend to publish anywhere at all–not even on blogs. And so far as I know, there are no climate change deniers. There are those who deny (1) dangerous (2) anthropogenic climate change (3) to which the only rational response is drastic reduction in CO2 emissions even if achieving it costs trillions of dollars and perpetuates poverty in the developing world. (That combination is often called CAGW–catastrophic, anthropogenic global warming.) But climate change deniers? I know of none–unless, of course, one counts those who think climate never changes naturally but only in response to human influence.
But do people who deny CAGW “essentially never publish in legitimate journals”? On the contrary, let’s take just ONE example of such a person, Cornwall Alliance Senior Fellow Dr. Roy W. Spencer, Principal Research Scientist in climatology at the University of Alabama, Huntsville, and U.S. Science Team Leader on the Advanced Microwave Remote Sensing program aboard NASA’s Aqua satellites–the only source of uncontaminated, 24/7/365, truly global atmospheric temperature data for the past 35 years.
Roy alone has authored, or co-authored, approximately 30 climate-related peer-reviewed journal papers since 1990 (and at a steady pace, no slow-down in recent years)–and that doesn’t count his many others that are weather- or satellite remote sensing-related. You–hey, even Plait–can see the list here. (For a list of 69 peer-reviewed papers by other authors published before 2007 that challenged various aspects of CAGW, click here. I recall a similar, much larger list that’s more recent, but this is more than sufficient to show that Plait either lied or was ignorant of the truth.)
Next, Plait cites a blog post at that famously objective site DeSmogBlog by James Lawrence Powell claiming that of 13,950 articles published from 1991 through 2012, only 24 “reject global warming.” Powell defined his judgment this way: “To be classified as rejecting, an article had to clearly and explicitly state that the theory of global warming is false or, as happened in a few cases, that some other process better explains the observed warming. Articles that merely claimed to have found some discrepancy, some minor flaw, some reason for doubt, I did not classify as rejecting global warming. Articles about methods, paleoclimatology, mitigation, adaptation, and effects at least implicitly accept human-caused global warming and were usually obvious from the title alone.”
Well, frankly, I do know a handful of scientists (tied to the group Principia Scientific International,) who, on thermodynamics grounds, are questioning the basic theory of global warming, but they are a tiny minority among those who deny or question CAGW. I find their arguments intriguing but, so far, not persuasive.
But Powell has stacked the deck. You have to actually “clearly and explicitly state that the theory of global warming is false or … that some other process better explains the observed warming” to be counted as “reject[ing] man-made global warming.” And if your article has “found some discrepancy, some minor flaw, some reason for doubt,” Powell doesn’t count you as among those “reject[ing] man-made global warming.” But he offers no explanation as to what he means by “discrepancy,” “minor flaw,” “reason for doubt.” Those are highly subjective terms. And if your article discusses “methods, paleoclimatology, mitigation, adaptation, and effects,” Powell counts you automatically as “implicitly accept[ing] human-caused global warming”–indeed, he thinks such is “obvious from the title alone.”
Hmmm. So if I think a natural climate cycle is bringing us into an unusually (but not unnaturally) warm period to which we’ll need to adapt in various ways, I’m counted as accepting “man-made global warming” not because I’ve said so but because anyone who writes about adaptation implicitly accepts it. Wow! Pretty difficult to swim outside that net!
Plait then cites an earlier blog post by himself that in turn cites the famous–or infamous–study by Cook, Nucitelli, et al. that concluded that 97.1% of all climate scientists agree that “global warming is happening and we are the cause.”
But that study was fatally flawed, as demonstrated by Cornwall Alliance Senior Fellow Dr. David Legates (Professor of Climatology at the University of Delaware) et al. in their article “Climate Consensus and ‘Misinformation’: A Rejoinder to Agnotology, Scientific Consensus, and the Teaching and Learning of Climate Change,” published in the journal SCIENCE & EDUCATION. They found that Cook et al.’s methodology turned things upside down. Here’s an excerpt from a post about it that summarizes, simply and quickly, the findings of Legates et al. when they re-examined the data behind Cook et al.’s paper. Legates et al.’s paper …reveals that Cook had not considered whether scientists and their published papers had said climate change was “dangerous”.
The consensus Cook considered was the standard definition: that Man had caused most post-1950 warming. Even on this weaker definition the true consensus among published scientific papers is now demonstrated to be not 97.1%, as Cook had claimed, but only 0.3%.
Only 41 out of the 11,944 published climate papers Cook examined explicitly stated that Man caused most of the warming since 1950. Cook himself had flagged just 64 papers as explicitly supporting that consensus, but 23 of the 64 had not in fact supported it.
This shock result comes scant weeks before the United Nations’ climate panel, the IPCC, issues its fifth five-yearly climate assessment, claiming “95% confidence” in the imagined – and, as the new paper shows, imaginary – consensus.
Climate Consensus and ‘Misinformation’: a Rejoinder to ‘Agnotology, Scientific Consensus, and the Teaching and Learning of Climate Change’ decisively rejects suggestions by Cook and others that those who say few scientists explicitly support the supposedly near-unanimous climate consensus are misinforming and misleading the public.
Dr Legates said:
“It is astonishing that any journal could have published a paper claiming a 97% climate consensus when on the authors’ own analysis the true consensus was well below 1%.”
For a very clear and compelling explanation, see Christopher Monckton’s discussion of it in this video beginning 48 minutes and 35 seconds along. (Monckton’s whole presentation–which begins at 31:50–is informative and demonstrates how the other side consistently misrepresents CAGW skeptics, saying we deny all kinds of things that in fact we affirm.)
But the most fundamental point to make of all this is something Willie Soon, “an astrophysicist and geoscientist at the Solar and Stellar Physics (SSP) Division of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics” (Wikipedia’s quick bio) and one of the authors of Legates et al., said: “If it’s science, it isn’t consensus; if it’s consensus, it isn’t science.”
The fact is that CAGW alarmists constantly appeal to consensus not because it’s real or even would be scientifically significant if it were (see lots of critiques of the idea here). but because they’re running scared. Observational science is torpedoing the modeling science on which they depend. None of the models predicted the cessation (whether short-term or long-term) of warming in 1997 (leaving us with no warming for at least the last 17 years and 10 months); all call for far more warming from 1980 to the present than has actually happened. That means the models are wrong, and CO2′s warming effect is considerably less than CAGW theory requires, which is why many climatologists and atmospheric scientists around the world are reassessing “climate sensitivity” (how much earth’s atmosphere will warm in response to doubled CO2 concentration, after all feedbacks are accounted for) and reaching much lower estimates than the alarmists (such as the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) have asserted.
E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D., is Founder and National Spokesman of The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.