How the profiteers who market Thermageddon offend against the principles of formal logic
Guest post by Monckton of Brenchley
LOGIC is the heartbeat of all true learning – the soul of the Classics, the Sciences and Religion. Once everyone studied the Classics, to know that in logic there is a difference between true and false; the Sciences, to discern where it lies; and Religion, to appreciate why it matters. Today, few study all three empires of the mind. Fewer study the ordered beauty of the logic at their heart.
Is Private Fraser’s proposition that “We’re a’ doomed!” logical? I say No. G.K. Chesterton once wrote: “When men have ceased to believe in Christianity, it is not that they will believe in nothing. They will believe in anything.” The belief that Thermageddon will arise from our altering 1/3000th of the atmosphere in a century is in-your-face illogical, rooted in a dozen fallacies marked out by Aristotle as the commonest in human discourse.
“Consensus” is the New Religion’s central fallacy. Arguing blindly from consensus is the head-count fallacy, the argumentum ad populum. Al-Haytham, founder of the scientific method, wrote: “The seeker after truth does not put his faith in any mere consensus. Instead, he checks.”
Two surveys have purported to show 97% of climate scientists supporting the supposed “consensus”. In both, 97% agreed little more than that the world has warmed since 1950. So what? One involved just 79 scientists, hardly a scientific sample size. Neither was selected to eliminate bias. Neither asked whether manmade global warming was at all likely to prove catastrophic – a question expecting the answer “No.”
Claiming that the “consensus” is one of revered experts is the argumentum ad verecundiam, the fallacy of appeal to authority. T.H. Huxley said in 1860, “The improver of natural knowledge absolutely refuses to acknowledge authority, as such. For him, scepticism is the highest of duties: blind faith the one unpardonable sin.”
Believers talk of a “consensus of evidence”. Yet evidence cannot hold opinions. Besides, there has been no global warming for 18 years; sea level has risen for eight years at just 1.3 in/century; notwithstanding Sandy, hurricane activity is at its least in the 33-year satellite record; ocean heat content is rising four and a half times more slowly than predicted; global sea-ice extent has changed little; Himalayan glaciers have not lost ice; and the U.N.’s 2005 prediction of 50 million “climate refugees” by 2010 was absurd. The evidence does not support catastrophism.
Believers say: “Only if we include a strong warming effect from CO2 can we explain the past 60 years’ warming. We know of no other reason.” This is the argumentum ad ignorantiam, the fundamental fallacy of argument from ignorance. Besides, natural variability is reason enough.
They say: “Global warming is accelerating, so we are to blame.” Even if warming were accelerating, this non sequitur is an instance of the argumentum ad causam falsam, the fallacy of arguing from a false cause. They go on to say: “CO2 concentration has risen; warming has occurred; the former caused the latter.” This is the post hoc ergo propter hoc sub-species of the same fallacy.
They say: “What about the cuddly polar bears?” This is the argumentum ad misericordiam, the fallacy of needless pity. There are five times as many polar bears as there were in the 1940s – hardly, as you may think, the profile of a species at imminent threat of extinction. No need to pity the bears, and they are not cuddly.
They say: “We tell the models there will be strong CO2- driven warming. And, yes, the models predict it.” This is the fallacy of arguing in circles, the argumentum ad petitionem principii, where the premise is the conclusion.
They say: “Global warming caused extra-tropical storm Sandy.” This inappropriate argument from the general to the particular is the argumentum a dicto simpliciter ad dictum secundum quid, the fallacy of accident. Individual extreme events cannot be ascribed to global warming.
They say: “Melting Arctic sea ice is a symptom of global warming.” This unsound argument from the particular to the general is the argumentum a dicto secundum quid ad dictum simpliciter, the fallacy of converse accident. Arctic sea ice is melting, but the Antarctic has cooled for 30 years and the sea ice there is growing, so the decline in Arctic sea ice does not indicate a global problem.
They say: “Monckton says he’s a member of the House of Lords, but the Clerk says he isn’t, so he’s not credible.” This is the argumentum ad hominem, a shoddy sub- species of ignoratio elenchi, the fundamental red-herring fallacy of ignorance of how a true argument is conducted.
They say: “We don’t care what the truth is. We want more power, tax and regulation. Global warming is our pretext. If you disagree, we will haul you before the International Climate Court.” This is the nastiest of all logical fallacies: the argumentum ad baculum, the argument of force.
These numerous in-your-face illogicalities provoke four questions: Has the Earth warmed as predicted? If not, why not? What if I am wrong? And what if I am right?
Q1. Has the Earth warmed as predicted? In 1990 the IPCC predicted that the world would now be warming at 0.3 Cº/decade, and that by now more than 0.6 Cº warming would have occurred. The outturn was less than half that: just 0.14 Cº/decade and 0.3 Cº in all.
In 2008 leading modellers wrote:
“The simulations rule out (at the 95% level) zero trends for intervals of 15 years or more, suggesting that an absence of warming of this duration is needed to create a discrepancy with the observed warming rate.”
Yet the linear trend on the Hadley/CRU monthly global temperature anomalies for the 18 years 1995-2012 shows no statistically-significant warming, even though the partial pressure of CO2 rose by about a tenth in that time.
The modellers’ own explicit criterion proves their scary predictions exaggerated. Their vaunted “consensus” was wrong. Global warming that was predicted for tomorrow but has not occurred for 18 years until today cannot have caused Sandy or Bopha yesterday, now, can it?
Q2: Why was the “consensus” wrong? Why do the models exaggerate? The climate-sensitivity equation says warming is the product of a forcing and a sensitivity parameter. Three problems: the modellers’ definition of forcing is illogical; their assumptions about the sensitivity parameter are not falsifiable; and their claims that their long-term predictions of doom are reliable are not only empirically disproven but theoretically insupportable.
Modellers define forcing as the net down-minus-up flux of radiation at the tropopause, with surface temperature fixed. Yet forcings change surface temperature. So the definition offends against the fundamental postulate of logic that a proposition and its converse cannot coexist. No surprise, then, that since 1995 the IPCC has had to cut its estimate of the CO2 forcing by 15%. The “consensus” disagrees with itself. Note in passing that the CO2 forcing function is logarithmic: each further molecule causes less warming than those before it. Diminishing returns apply.
Direct warming is little more than 1 Cº per CO2 doubling, well within natural variability. It is not a crisis. So the modellers introduce amplifying or “positive” temperature feedbacks, which, they hope, triple the direct warming from CO2. Yet this dubious hypothesis is not Popper- falsifiable, so it is not logic and not science. Not one of the imagined feedbacks is either empirically measurable or theoretically determinable by any reliable method. As an expert reviewer for the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report, I have justifiably excoriated its net-positive feedbacks as guesswork – uneducated guesswork at that.
For there is a very powerful theoretical reason why the modellers’ guess that feedbacks triple direct warming is erroneous. The closed-loop feedback gain implicit in the IPCC’s climate-sensitivity interval 3.3[2.0, 4.5] Cº per CO2 doubling falls on the interval 0.62[0.42, 0.74]. However, process engineers building electronic circuits, who invented feedback mathematics, tell us any loop gain much above zero is far too near the singularity – at a loop gain of 1 – in the feedback-amplification function.
At high gain, the geological record would show violent oscillations between extremes of warming and cooling. Yet for 64 million years the Earth’s surface temperature has fluctuated by only 3%, or 8 Cº, either side of the long- run mean. These fluctuations can give us an ice-planet at one moment and a hothouse Earth the next, but they are altogether inconsistent with a loop gain anywhere near as close to the singularity as modellers’ estimates imply.
Surface temperature changes little, for homoeostatic conditions prevail. The atmosphere’s lower bound, the ocean, is a vast heat-sink 1100 times denser than the air: one reason why 3000 bathythermographs deployed in 2006 have detected no significant ocean warming. The atmosphere’s upper bound is outer space, to which any excess heat radiates harmlessly away. Homoeostasis, then, is what we should expect, and it is what we get. Thus the climatic loop gain cannot much exceed zero, so the warming at CO2 doubling will be a harmless 1 Cº.
Yet the overriding difficulty in trying to model the climate is that it behaves as a chaotic object. We can never measure the values of its millions of defining parameters at any chosen moment to a sufficient precision to permit reliable projection of the bifurcations, or Sandy-like departures from an apparently steady state, that are inherent in the evolution of all objects that behave chaotically. Therefore, reliable, very-long-term modelling of future climate states is unattainable a priori.
The IPCC tries to overcome this actually insuperable Lorenz constraint on modelling by estimating climate sensitivity via a probability-density function. Yet PDFs require more, not less, information than simple estimates flanked by error-whiskers, and are still less likely to be reliable. The modellers are guessing. Their guesses have been proven wrong. Yet they continue to demand our acquiescence in an imagined (and imaginary) consensus.
Q3: What if I am wrong? If so, we must travel from physics to economics. Pretend, ad argumentum, that the IPCC’s central estimate of 2.8 Cº warming by 2100 is true, and that Stern was right to say that the cost of failing to prevent warming of that order this century will be about 1.5% of GDP. Then, at the minimum 5% market inter-temporal discount rate, the cost of trying to abate this decade’s predicted warming of 0.15 Cº by typical CO2-mitigation schemes as cost-ineffective as Australia’s carbon tax would be 48 times greater than the cost of later adaptation. At a zero discount rate, the cost of acting now exceeds that of adapting in the future 36 times over.
How so? Australia emits just 1.2% of Man’s CO2, of which Ms. Gillard aims to cut 5% this decade, abating 0.06% of global emissions by 2020. Then CO2 concentration will fall from a predicted 410 μatm to 409.988 μatm. In turn predicted temperature will fall by 0.00006 Cº. But the cost will be $130 billion ($2 quadrillion/Cº). Abating the
0.15 Cº warming predicted for this decade would thus cost $317 trillion, or $45,000/head worldwide, or 59% of global GDP. Mitigation measures inexpensive enough to be affordable will thus be ineffective: measures expensive enough to be effective will be unaffordable. Since the premium vastly exceeds the cost of the risk, don’t insure. That is a precautionary principle worthy of the name.
Q4: What if I am right? When I am proven right, the Climate Change Department will be swept away; Britain’s annual deficit will fall by a fifth; the bat-blatting, bird- blending windmills that scar our green and pleasant land will go; the world will refocus on real environmental problems like deforestation on land, overfishing at sea and pollution of the air; the U.N.’s ambition to turn itself into a grim, global dictatorship with overriding powers of taxation and economic and environmental intervention will be thwarted; and the aim of science to supplant true religion as the world’s new, dismal, cheerless credo will be deservedly, decisively, definitively defeated.
Any who say “I believe” are not scientists, for true scientists say “I wonder”. We require – nay, we demand – more awe and greater curiosity from our scientists, and less political “correctness” and co-ordinated credulity.
To the global classe politique, the placemen, bureaucrats, academics, scientists, journalists and enviros who have profiteered at our expense by peddling Thermageddon, I say this. The science is in; the truth is out; Al Gore is through; the game is up; and the scare is over.
To those scientists who aim to end the Age of Reason and Enlightenment, I say this. Logic stands implacable in your path. We will never let you have your new Dark Age.
To men of goodwill, lovers of logic, I say this. It is our faculty of reason, the greatest of the soul’s three powers, that marks us out from the beasts and brings us closest in likeness to our Creator, the Lord of Life and Light. We will never let the light of Reason be snuffed out.
Do not go gentle to that last goodnight – Rage, rage against the dying of the light!