I’m pleased to publish our first place contest winner in the professional category,
Topic: Is there really a climate crisis?
Write the best arguments against the theory of man-made catastrophic global warming that would convince your neighbors that there is no climate crisis.
I present “The Greta Leap Forward.” Congratulations to Jim Kelly. Look for more winning essays this week, and runners-up will be published next week. -Anthony
By Jim Kelly,
I used to accept that anthropogenic global warming (AGW) posed a real threat, since that was the consensus. But nervously. Believing something because everyone else believes it can’t be a reliable guide to physical reality.
Eventually my nerves got to me, and I put my stack of physics degrees to work reading IPCC reports. I soon beheld the emperor—not as bundled-up as one expects—and changed my mind.
I don’t presume to change yours. Most people are where I was, figuring they lack the background or the mettle to check the science themselves, and therefore yielding to consensus and authority. To those satisfied with consensus as told by NPR and Hollywood, deeper wisdom may not be accessible. They must wait for Leonardo DiCaprio to find it first.
I can only tell you what changed my mind. And if you’re anxious as I was for a clearer view of the emperor, I can recommend some good vantage points.
This doesn’t read like science
I expected the IPCC’s scientific body to sound scientific. Searching for truth, not pushing an institutional narrative.
Yet Chapter 8 of the First Assessment Report (FAR), “Detection of the Greenhouse Effect in the Observations,” reverses the scientific method. With bottomless climate data, you can find some to confirm any hypothesis. We call this procedure confirmation bias.
Or consider page xxv of the FAR summary for policymakers:
Although scientists are reluctant to give a single best estimate…, it is necessary for the presentation of climate predictions for a choice of best estimate to be made.
I sense a bureaucrat peering over the scientist’s shoulder, demanding edits to his scientific findings to meet the needs of “the presentation.”
The Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) makes qualitative pronouncements more befitting a pulpit than a scientific paper. Like Bible verses, they are helpfully numbered. Here is A.1.5:
Human influence is very likely the main driver of the global retreat of glaciers since the 1990s and the decrease in Arctic sea ice area between 1979–1988 and 2010–2019…. There has been no significant trend in Antarctic sea ice area from 1979 to 2020 due to regionally opposing trends and large internal variability.
The IPCC defines very likely to mean consistent with 90%+ of the models they ran, as if the models had no systematic error. Nevertheless they hedge with oddly selective time ranges and dismiss the Antarctic’s refusal to melt with truisms. Now I sense a lawyer peering over the bureaucrat’s shoulder.
Wait, they can’t predict the climate?
The money shot of any scientific paper is the graph where the authors compare what they predicted to what they observed. I would expect predictions to be narrow enough to be useful and authors to be upfront about their model’s shortcomings.
AR5 presents such a graph in chapter 9, “Evaluation of the Models,” reproduced below because AR6 doesn’t seem to have an update. Temperatures leveled out during this 15-year period, catching the models by surprise.
There isn’t even a consensus among the researchers running these numerical simulations.
But 30 years along, the predictions span a 10x range? And still miss? This isn’t promising-start bad, this is get-out-of-my-office bad, especially given what’s riding on these models. If they can’t get the warming right, all the derivative claims about melting ice caps and fires and mass extinction are just catastrophizing, with no scientific validity. We have a word for scary causal narratives that can’t be scientifically demonstrated: superstition.
Insiders apparently understand that the global models don’t work. But AR5 downplayed the fact, and AR6 seems to hide the report card. If the IPCC were honestly reporting the state of the science, its top headline should say “Scientists cannot predict what makes the Earth warm or cool.” Policymakers and voters need facts, not whitewash, greenwash, or hogwash.
Wait, there’s no plan for fixing the climate?
In the IPCC’s WG3 report Mitigations of Climate Change I expected to read a plan for fixing the climate—a set of achievable steps that will solve the problem.
For example, “Build 3000 nuclear plants” is plan-shaped: specific, focused, feasible, and impactful. We can imagine a future day when the last plant glows to life and we cross climate change off our worry list.
Instead, WG3 approaches it from the opposite direction. It catalogs the global economy—power generation, housing, etc.—and proposes how governments might intervene in each sector. Although it frames its analysis around the UN’s 1.5°C target, it doesn’t recommend particular interventions sufficient to meet it, nor describe any done state when we can declare the crisis over.
In other words, WG3’s report invites maximal disruption in every aspect of life—for parties unnamed to re-engineer where we live, what we eat, how much energy we use, etc., on an ongoing basis. A roadmap for everything but fixing the climate.
In 1958, in the original Great Leap Forward, Mao Zedong shut down China’s privately-owned farms to spur development of industrialized farming collectives. Millions shortly starved. Governments are now shutting down power plants, precipitating energy crises and freezes and blackouts. People die when it gets cold. Is that part of the plan? If the IPCC isn’t defining the plan, who is, and may we see it please?
No trillion-dollar problem is ever solved
In trying to make sense of the reports, it helped me to notice the IPCC’s mission. Not scientific understanding of the climate, but to inform climate interventions:
The objective of the IPCC is to provide governments at all levels with scientific information that they can use to develop climate policies.
The IPCC’s 1988 founding resolution took AGW as fact demanding government action. It was tasked not with figuring out whether that was true, but with studying greenhouse gases and recommending lockdowns governments could impose to slow the spread.
Since then climate alarm has snowballed and threatens far more disruption than rising seas ever did. Governments have launched the biggest corporate welfare program ever, so every tin cup has come banging. Industrialists want subsidies for their solar panel companies, and cheap, reliable fossil-fuel competitors shut down. Anticapitalists see their chance to expropriate the industrialists. SJWs see a lever for more wealth distribution. And they all want normal political processes preempted because Science.
Less disruptive proposals for cooling the Earth are quietly ignored. Climate optimists are squelched and suspected of financial motivations, if you can imagine. Despite the failure of CO2 models, the IPCC doesn’t look for other climate drivers. That’s odd behavior if the powerful are genuinely worried about Earth, but perfectly sensible if they’re counting on the robust growth of climate alarm. Could it be that the only thing in Davos scarier than climate change is climate stability?
FISA court science
If the IPCC leaves out the key graph that would validate (or indict) AGW and instead dials up the “unequivocal” language, they know how equivocal their results are.
Pushing an institutional narrative, denying dissenting views oxygen, even denying the existence of dissenters, is not how science works. It didn’t used to be how journalism works, or NASA, or Twitter. The West is in the throes of a proper Maoist cultural revolution, purging the pluralism and tolerance that liberal societies have long valued.
I understand the reasoning, sort of, behind trying to silence dissenters. If people hear climate change isn’t a problem, it might be harder to solve the problem of climate change. We have a word for circular justifications: theology.
Sooner or later karma catches up to dogma. If we abandon public debate and other adversarial processes for discerning truth, we’ll get more fake news, gratuitous wars, nonsensical public health policies, power shortages—and increasing pressure to pretend not to notice. At a societal level that’s cruel, at a personal level deranging.
Freedom from the cataclysm catechism
I’m happy to be called a denier if that frees me to think for myself. I’m in good company with atmospheric physicists, Nobel laureates, geologists, geophysicists, and other heretics preaching optimism and tolerance.
And in any case, I can’t unsee the emperor’s bare kneecaps. Either scientists understand the climate, or they’re continually finding “it’s even worse than we thought,” but they can’t do both. If you have deniers, you don’t have a consensus. Either you believe climate change threatens humanity’s survival, or you prioritize it with subsidized broadband.
I can’t accept the contradictions any more than Greta Thunberg can. The Man terrorizes her with climate catastrophe without an immediate green leap forward, yet refuses to leap. I share her anger if not her conclusion. We don’t need more action, we need less terrorism. And a leap backward to practical rather than ideological electricity, to institutions that inform rather than manipulate, and to the liberalism that powered the West for centuries.