“No Need to Panic about Global Warming,”
http://online.wsj.com/article /SB10001424052970204301404577171531838421366.html is gratifying but so extensive that we will limit our response to the letter of February 1, 2012 by Kevin Trenberth and 37 other signatories, and to the letter by Robert Byer, President of the American Physical Society of February 6.
We agree with Trenberth et al. that expertise is important in medical care, as it is in any matter of importance to humans or our environment. Consider then that by eliminating fossil fuels, the recipient of medical care (all of us in the world) is being asked to submit to what amounts to an economic heart transplant. According to most patient bills of rights, the patient has a strong say in the treatment decision. Natural questions from the patient are whether a heart transplant is really needed, and how successful the diagnostic team has been in the past.
In this respect, an important gauge of scientific expertise is the ability to make successful predictions. When predictions fail, we say the theory is “falsified” and we should look for the reasons for the failure. Shown in the nearby graph is the measured annual temperature of the earth since 1989, just before the first report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Also shown are the projections of the likely increase of temperature, as published in the Summaries of each of the four IPCC reports, the first in the year 1990 and the last in the year 2007. These projections were based on IPCC computer models of how increased atmospheric CO2 should warm the earth. Some of the models predict higher or lower rates of warming, but the projections shown in the graph and their extensions into the distant future are the basis of most studies of environmental effects and mitigation policy options. Year to year fluctuations and discrepancies are unimportant; longer term trends are significant.
From the graph it appears that the projections exaggerate, substantially, the response of the earth’s temperature to CO2which increased by about 11% from 1989 through 2011. Furthermore,when one examines the historical temperature record throughout the 20th century and into the 21st, the data strongly suggest a much lower CO2 effect than almost all models calculate.
Given this dubious track record of prediction, it is entirely reasonable to ask for a second opinion. We have offered ours. With apologies for any immodesty, we all have enjoyed distinguished careers in climate science or in key science and engineering disciplines (such as physics, aeronautics, geology, biology, forecasting) on which climate science is based.
Trenberth et al. tell us that the managements of major national academies of science have said that “the science is clear, the world is heating up and humans are primarily responsible.” Apparently every generation of humanity needs to relearn that Mother Nature tells us what the science is, not authoritarian academy bureaucrats or computer models. One reason to be on guard, as we explained in our OpEd, is that motives other than objective science are at work in much of the scientific establishment. All of us are members of major academies and scientific societies, but we urge readers not to depend on pompous academy pronouncements -- or on what we say -- but to follow the motto of the Royal Society of Great Britain, one of the oldest learned societies in the world: “nullius in verba” – take nobody’s word for it. As we said in our OpEd, everyone should look at certain stubborn facts that just don’t fit the theory espoused in the Trenberth letter -- for example -- the graph of surface temperature above, and similar data for the temperature of the lower atmosphere and the upper oceans.
What are we to make of the letter’s claim: “Climate experts know that the long-term warming trend has not abated in the past decade. In fact, it was the warmest decade on record.” We don’t see any warming trend after the year 2000 in the graph. It is true that the years 2000-2010 were perhaps 0.2 C warmer than the preceding 10 years. But the record indicates that long before CO2 concentrations of the atmosphere began to increase, the earth began to warm in fits and starts at the end of the Little Ice Age -- hundreds of years ago. This long term-trend is quite likely to produce several warm years in a row. The question is how much of the warming comes from CO2 and how much is due to other, both natural and anthropogenic, factors?
There have been many times in the past when there were warmer decades. It may have been warmer in Medieval times, when the Vikings settled Greenland, and when wine was exported from England. Many proxy indicators show that the Medieval Warming was global in extent. And there were even warmer periods a few thousand years ago during the Holocene Climate Optimum. The fact is that there are very powerful influences on the earth’s climate that have nothing to do with human-generated CO2. The graph strongly suggests that the IPCC has greatly underestimated the natural sources of warming (and cooling) and has greatly exaggerated the warming from CO2.
The Trenberth letter states: “Research shows that more than 97% of scientists actively publishing in the field agree that climate change is real and human caused.” However, the claim of 97% support is deceptive. The surveys contained trivial polling questions that even we would agree with. Thus, these surveys find that large majorities agree that temperatures have increased since 1800 and that human activities have some impact. But what is being disputed is the size and nature of the human contribution to global warming. To claim, as the Trenberth letter apparently does, that disputing this constitutes “extreme views that are out of step with nearly every other climate expert,” is peculiar indeed.
One might infer from the Trenberth letter that scientific facts are determined by majority vote. Some postmodern philosophers have made such claims. But scientific facts come from observations, experiments, and careful analysis, not from the near-unanimous vote of some group of people.
The continued efforts of the climate establishment to eliminate “extreme views” can acquire a seriously threatening nature when efforts are directed at silencing scientific opposition. In our OpEd we mentioned the campaign to have journal editor de Freitas removed not only from his editorial position but from his university job as well. Much of that campaign is documented in Climategate e-mails, where one of the signatories of the Trenberth et al. letter writes: “I believe that a boycott against publishing, reviewing for, or even citing articles from Climate Research [the scientific journal edited by de Freitas] is certainly warranted, but perhaps the minimum action that should be taken.” Or consider the resignation last year of Wolfgang Wagner, Editor in-Chief of the journal “RemoteSensing.” In a fulsome resignation editorial eerily reminiscent of past recantations by political and religious heretics, Wagner confessed to his “sin” of publishing a properly peer-reviewed paper by University of Alabama scientists Roy Spencer and William Braswell, containing the finding that IPCC models exaggerate the warming caused by increasing CO2.
And as we pointed out in our OpEd, it is unlikely that there will be any environmental benefit from the reduced CO2 emissions associated with green technologies, which are based on the demonization of CO2.
Turning to letter of the President of the American Physical Society (APS), Robert Byer, we read , “The statement [on climate] does not declare, as the signatories of the letter [our OpEd] suggest, that the human contribution to climate change is incontrovertible.” This seems to suggest that APS does not in fact consider the science on this key question to be settled. Yet, here is the critical paragraph from the statement that caused the resignation of Nobel Laureate Ivar Giaever and many other long-time members of the APS: “The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring. If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth's physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now.”
Non reasonable person can read this and avoid the conclusion that APS is declaring the human impact “incontrovertible.”
Otherwise there would be no logical link from “global warming” to the shrill call for mitigation.
The APS response to the concerns of its membership was better than that of any other scientific society, but it was not democratic. The management of APS took months to review the statement quoted above, and it eventually declared that not a word needed to be changed, though some 750 words were added to try to explain what the original 157 words really meant. APS members were permitted to send in comments but the comments were never made public.
In spite of the obstinacy of some in APS management, APS members of good will are supporting the establishment of a politics-free, climate physics study group within the Society. If successful, it will facilitate much needed discussion, debate, and independent research in the physics of climate.
Since CO2 is not a pollutant but a substantial benefit to agriculture, and since its warming potential has been greatly exaggerated, it is time for the world to rethink its frenzied pursuit of decarbonization at any cost.
Claude Allegre, former director of the Institute for the Study of the Earth, University of Paris; J. Scott Armstrong, cofounder of the Journal of Forecasting and the International Journal of Forecasting; Jan Breslow, head of the Laboratory of Biochemical Genetics and Metabolism, Rockefeller University; Roger Cohen, fellow, American Physical Society; Edward David, member, National Academy of Engineering and National Academy of Sciences; William Happer, professor of physics, Princeton; Michael Kelly, professor of technology, University of Cambridge, U.K.; William Kininmonth, former head of climate research at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology; Richard Lindzen, professor of atmospheric sciences, MIT; James McGrath, professor of chemistry, Virginia Technical University; Rodney Nichols, former president and CEO of the New York Academy of Sciences; Burt Rutan, aerospace engineer, designer of Voyager and SpaceShipOne; Harrison H. Schmitt, Apollo 17 astronaut and former U.S. senator; Nir Shaviv, professor of astrophysics, Hebrew University, Jerusalem; Henk Tennekes, former director, Royal Dutch Meteorological Service; Antoninio Zichichi, president of the World Federation of Scientists, Geneva.