Guest essay by Andy May
This is an open letter to Lauren Carroll regarding her Politifact.com article on December 17, 2014.
I have sent a very similar letter to her asking for her comments, but no reply yet. I’m always annoyed at the media “bait and switch” tactic of picking the most outlandish statements of the “other side” and shooting them down thoughtlessly as if the statement represented the whole of the argument. This is just one case, but it is on a web site that portrays itself as a media and political watchdog that reaches for understanding over ideological rhetoric. It is also a web site that should not take sides, but usually does. I thought it might be useful to discuss the points from a scientific perspective. I doubt I will change Ms. Carroll’s somewhat biased perspective on climate change, but others may find this discussion useful.
Dear Ms. Carroll
I’d like to discuss the points you make in your article and point out some problems from a scientist’s perspective. I’m a petrophysicist (a type of Earth Scientist) with 40 years of experience and I’ve followed the issue of Global Warming or Climate Change with much interest for about 15 years. The issue is much more complex than the media generally portray it. I do not want to get into the debate over the claim that “Climate Change is a hoax.” This is a discussion of the meat of the subject, not straw men. I believe your web site generally tries to get beyond silly claims or statements and seeks to illuminate and inform. This email is an attempt to help in this regard.
Actually, I’m more annoyed at the claim, referred to in Ms. Carroll’s article, that Marco Rubio’s statement that human activity is not “causing these dramatic changes to our climate” is false. Rubio’s full statement (http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2014/may/13/marco-rubio/marco-rubio-says-humans-are-not-causing-climate-ch/ ) is carefully worded and very reasonable. In my opinion, Rubio is correct. The Kliegman article does not address what Rubio actually said, but changes his statement to “Rubio said human activity isn’t causing changes to the environment…” A statement that is false, but not what he said. This is another straw man logical fallacy, just like Carroll’s.
You have stated that there is a consensus of scientific organizations that agree on three issues. The three are: 1) Manmade greenhouse gases warm (or affect) the atmosphere, 2) the IPCC reports are a good summary of climate science and 3) the increase in greenhouse gases is likely more than half of the cause of warming over the last 50 years. The notorious and widely discredited Cook, et. al. 2013 paper is also cited in the accompanying article by Kliegman on Rubio’s statement. Even the authors of the papers “classified” by Cook, et. al. say they were wrong (http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/05/21/cooks-97-consensus-study-falsely-classifies-scientists-papers-according-to-the-scientists-that-published-them/ and http://judithcurry.com/2013/07/26/the-97-consensus/ )
As a skeptic of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming, I agree with all three statements. My agreement on the third point should be qualified a bit. “Over the last 50 years” is an important condition. The Earth appears to be adapting to the additional CO2, future additional CO2 may not contribute half of any warming. This is because each additional bit of CO2 adds less and less of an effect since CO2 only traps a small range of infra-red frequencies and perhaps there are some natural adaptations that we do not understand very well yet (http://eaps.mit.edu/faculty/lindzen/139rmg~1.pdf ). Any qualified Earth scientist would agree with the first two statements, they are obvious. Most of us agree with the last one as stated. The IPCC reports are a good summary of the state of climate science, but the executive summaries often misstate the actual report and there are errors, of course (http://judithcurry.com/2011/07/09/ipccs-new-protocol-for-addressing-possible-errors/ )
Our problem is not with the points above. Our issue is with the assumption that increasing CO2 and warming is a problem that we urgently need to deal with. We also object to the federal money (over $100B according to http://www.forbes.com/sites/larrybell/2011/08/23/the-alarming-cost-of-climate-change-hysteria/ ) being spent on researching or mitigating climate change.
Case in point. It is widely known that there has been no warming since 1998 ( google “No Warming since 1998” or go to Matt Ridley’s excellent article in the WSJ, Sept 4, 2014). So, for 16 of the 50 years in question there has been no warming. Doesn’t this suggest that natural forces are stopping the warming caused by manmade CO2? After all CO2 has continued to rise over the last 16 years at a steady pace, correct? If natural forces can stop the CO2 caused warming doesn’t that imply they are as strong a forcing as the CO2?
Increasing CO2 to 1100 ppm (our atmosphere now has 400 ppm) causes plants to grow more than 50% faster and use less water per pound of growth ( http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/facts/00-077.htm ). This is huge for our food supply, especially in most of the third world where food is hard to come by (http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v466/n7306/full/466531a.html ). Higher temperatures help plant growth also. The Earth has been very cool for the last three million years; generally the Earth has been much warmer in the past and with more CO2 than today (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paleoclimatology ).
As for other scientists who are skeptical of an impending climate catastrophe caused by manmade greenhouse gases, I refer you to the following partial list. “Consensus” is meaningless in science, it is a political term. This is an interesting area of research, but it has been screwed up and obscured by the politicians and the media.
These eminently qualified climate skeptics doubt an impending climate catastrophe and believe we should do nothing drastic now.
Professor Richard Lindzen
Professor S. Fred Singer
Professor Judith Curry
Professor Bjorn Lomborg
Professor Roger Pielke
Professor Roger Pielke Jr.
Professor Richard Tol (The Cook, et. al. survey included 10 of his 122 eligible papers. 5/10 were rated incorrectly. 4/5 were rated as endorse rather than neutral.)
And many, many more ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_scientists_opposing_the_mainstream_scientific_assessment_of_global_warming and http://www.petitionproject.org/ ). Obviously, as we saw with Galileo, it only takes one good scientist to shoot down conventional wisdom.
I hope this clarifies the skeptic case somewhat. You are not the only media person to miss the point of the argument.
The “hoax,” if you want to use that term, is the speculative jump from simply “global warming” to an “impending climate catastrophe.” It is true that the globe is warming; it has been doing that for the last 18,000 years. It is not established that warming is a bad thing or will lead to catastrophe, that conclusion is pure speculation. Generally, the warmer periods in the past have been good for mankind and the cooler periods problematic (http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/11/17/climate-and-human-civilization-over-the-last-18000-years/ ).
The alarmists argue that global warming is real and they can back that up. True enough, I have no argument with that. Then they deftly switch, without any supporting data to “global warming is bad.” They are very skilled at this.