By Jim Whiting, MD, FACR
It’s very discouraging to find, with some frequency, people with training in science who are willing to subscribe to rather unscientific statements, proposals, and predictions.
The Smithsonian, for instance.
This article notes with approval that “the World Meteorological Organization released its decadal survey,which included dire predictions: there is a 90 percent chance that one of the next five years will be the hottest on record, and a 40 percent chance that we will experience a year with a global average temperature 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels.”
There is no explanation of what might be the basis for these alarming predictions, nor how the probabilities were arrived at. In poker, you know how many cards are in the deck and how many cards are being dealt. In craps, you know how many spots are on the faces of the die.
The article quotes without comment Arizona State University climate scientist Randall Cerveny who expresses disappointment that “We had had some hopes that, with last year’s COVID scenario, perhaps the lack of travel [and] the lack of industry might act as a little bit of a brake. But what we’re seeing is, frankly, it has not.”
It does not note that during the depression years 1929-1931, when human CO2 production declined 30%, CO2 continued its languid rise, with temperatures continuing to rise till 1941 when they began a slight decline to 1972, again with no change in CO2 rise despite WWII and post-war reconstruction. Thus the “Oncoming Ice Age!” scares in the early 70s (see Time and Newsweek and ScienceNews in the early ’70s). Nor that CO2 change has never preceded any temperature reversal for the last 550 million years. Nor does it note, to supplement the WMO scare text, that humans produce less than 5% of the annual contribution to CO2 in the atmosphere.
It quotes without comment the absurd Paris Accord decision that no temperature increase beyond 2.7F over pre-industrial could be tolerated…”Otherwise, the planet will face a climate catastrophe.” It does not note that the world has spent half the last 550 million years within a few degrees, plus and minus, of 22C – that’s 72F average vs the current 59F (15C). The dinosaurs basked at 18C, in a wet world.
The choice of 2.7F over preindustrial is imaginatively arbitrary, in light of previous global temperatures in our absence. There has never been a tipping point in the last 550 million years: not at the P-T extinction warming (to at least 28°C), nor, more surprisingly, at the “snowball earth” events when glaciers reached almost to the equator and albedo increased dramatically.
In addition to history, there is theory. The exponential decline in the GHG effect of CO2 has been known since Arrhenius, and the numbers are now correct. The next doubling of CO2 to 800 ppm will increase its GHG effect by less than 2%, in theory.
So there is no justification to propose that CO2 at this time, at these levels, is in control of climate change, nor any justification to assume that we are in charge of CO2.
Climate change is a given, not a problem. Problems have solutions. The fact that “we have to do something about it” doesn’t mean that we can.
CO2 mitigation is a problem, not a solution.
These are not controversial facts. Everyone with scientific interests should know and use them.