Ask yourself this question. Have you suddenly noticed an upsurge in news stories and articles about the supposed pending doom of climate change? If you have then you are pretty observant. A Google search for articles and video’s on climate change in October yielded 6.6 million hits. That same search in November yielded 57 million hits. Why would that be? It certainly has nothing to do with science or data. There have been no significant developments in climatology in the past six or eight weeks. One reason is the current United Nations Conference on Climate Change currently taking place in Quatar. This is yet another attempt to push the US to sign a economically devastating treaty on carbon limitations. There is a second reason however, that there has been near saturation coverage of climate change this month. We had a Presidential election. And with the reelection of Barack Obama, the climate alarmist crowd sees opportunity.
The discussion of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW) became more political than scientific, more ideological than data driven even before Al Gore’s fraudulent film, “An Inconvenient Truth”. Now with this surge in coverage (even at the local level) of the topic following the election, the politicization ratchets up yet another level.
Before we proceed, allow me to review some fundamentals about CAGW theory and where I stand. I am not a climatologist, but unlike most of you that will read this column, I have been blessed with some unique opportunities. These came from the release of my novel Going Green: For Some It Has Nothing To Do With The Environment. It turns out that some climatologists like good fiction too especially when the story involves their field of study. As a result I have had several occasions where I was invited to have coffee with or to share a meal with, some of the top climatologists in the world. These scientists included both those who were skeptical of CAGW theory (and there are thousands of these not just the handful that media portrays) and those who largely agree with the IPCC. The IPCC is the UN body that produces most of the documentation regarding CAGW. The public only sees a fraction of what this body publishes. Many of the skeptics are IPCC members themselves.
One thing I learned in these sessions, where I kept my mouth shut and my ears open, is that there is no consensus on ANYTHING. Skeptics disagreed with other skeptics on what aspects of the theory they were skeptical of. Proponents disagreed with other proponents about aspects of the theory. The reason for this is not that climatologists are inherently disagreeable. The disagreement stems from the scientific fact that the climate is incredibly complex. And when one considers that level of complexity, there is relatively little data upon which to draw conclusions.
Please understand, there is no debate as to whether or not the climate changes. There is no debate as to whether or not some warming has occurred over some timescales. The debate is primarily about climate sensitivity. Say for the sake of argument that all climate scientists agree that increased CO2 will result in a corresponding increase in Global Average Temperature (GAT). There is no such agreement but for the sake of discussion let’s say there is. In that case, even the most ardent global warming alarmists (NASA’s James Hansen who compared coal trains to trains headed into Auschwitz comes to mind) agree that a doubling of C02 in the atmosphere will only result in a 1 degree Fahrenheit increase in surface temperature. We are still very far away from such a doubling.
What the skeptics say is not that this warming is impossible or that it will not occur, instead they say that other atmospheric factors will compensate for the warming to off-set the increase. One example of such a factor would be an increase in cloud formation. Skeptics also point to the proxy data that is available that says that temperatures where much warmer than they are today during the medieval period. In addition to proxy data, we now have archeological evidence of a thriving farm community on Greenland which dates to the 1200’s. These farms could only have prospered on that continent if the temperatures during that time were warm enough to melt the mile thick sheet of ice which currently resides there.
The other core disagreement between skeptics and the Al Gore’s of the world is a fundamental disagreement between cause and effect. Certainly some warming occurred in the 20th century (though despite alarmist claims none has occurred in the last 16 years) skeptics say, but we simply do not have near enough data to draw the conclusion that man created CO2 caused the warming as opposed to some other natural cause.
This column is in no way intended to be a comprehensive discussion of all the disagreements within the climate science community. That would require a book and several good one’s have been written. The Great Global Warming Blunder by Dr. Roy W. Spencer is one I recommend and it was a bestseller. The larger point I want to make is the ridiculous assertion that the debate is over. The debate has barely begun. There has only been a fraction of research dollars invested to find other potential causes of climate change. Almost all research dollars have gone to the CAGW proponents.
Recently the media is trying to bludgeon us all into submission with near saturation coverage of the topic. Since there has been no warming as the theory predicted, the media has shifted the focus to storms which they claim are unprecedented. The fact is, that we are years away from being able to draw multi-billion dollar conclusions about our fossil fuel economy based on the current state of this theory. Again, no warming has occurred for the past 14 years while CO2 has continued to increase…why not? Questions like these must be answered before we ridicule skeptics and before we create yet another fiscal cliff for ourselves by abandoning safe, reliable fossil fuels.
Chris Skates is the author of the novel, Going Green: For Some It Has Nothing To Do With The Environment. He has been published in dozens of national magazines and has authored multiple technical articles in his field of Chemistry. You can follow his blog at www.chrisskates.com