This year’s climate news has been enough to give the even the most fanatical warmist a bad case of heartburn. The primary setback to their cause is the revelation that the earth hasn’t warmed at all in the last fifteen years despite ever increasing levels of greenhouse gases.
Hypotheses abound to explain away the lack of warming. Is it a weak La Niña? Fluctuations in the solar cycle? Is more heat being captured in the depths of the ocean? Scientists aren’t sure and their uncertainty speaks volumes.
Contentious public debates are nearly always won by those who hammer home the most easily repeatable catchphrases. The public isn’t particularly informed about the question of climate change but it thinks it “knows” two things—the science is settled and scientists are in broad agreement.
Neither of these statements is true by any objective measure, and yet plenty of people who consider themselves eminently reasonable believe both of them. How then can these same people process the recent revelations coming from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that there hasn’t been a lick of warming since Eagle-Eye Cherry topped the charts? We can now see that the science is not settled because the expected upward trend did not continue, just as easily as we can see that there is no consensus as to why.
To say that the science is settled is shorthand for saying that the many diverse forces at play in the earth’s climate system are well understood. Tweak a little here or there and scientists can accurately predict the result because it’s all been boiled down to, well…an exact science.
Then, from out of left field, comes an unexpected “pause” in warming and all bets are off.
Let it be known that the best minds in science didn’t see this one coming. A recent German study found that all 65 computer models that the United Nations depends on to predict the future of the earth’s climate failed to foresee a fifteen year lull in warming. It’s a good thing we didn’t reduce ourselves to bronze age tools and churning our own butter as a result of their predictions. Obviously, the assumptions upon which these models operated were flawed in some meaningful way.
Why then does so much of the public believe that the science is settled? I would argue that it’s because scientists have largely kept whatever doubts they have to themselves, presumably to preserve the consensus, or illusion thereof. We know from the Climategate emails that the world’s foremost experts on the subject chattered back and forth about the thermal flatline. “The fact is,” wrote lead IPCC author Dr. Kevin Trenberth, “that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.” If only we could hear these uncertainties spoken out loud rather than whispered between the smart people we pay to give us the naked truth without fear or favoritism.
Therein lies the true outrage in this entire climate change kerfuffle. One side really is accorded an absurd degree of favoritism. So many of our scientists, governmental officials and journalists are worried that the public might get the “wrong idea” about global warming. But what if the “wrong idea” is the in fact the right idea?
Take, for example, the UN emails recently leaked to the Associated Press concerning how the IPCC should address the fifteen year lull in its upcoming fifth report. Yes, non-scientists employed by nation states of all stripes review IPCC assessment reports—and alter them—before they are released to the public.
Several countries expressed their alarm that the IPCC would actually mention the net zero warming that has taken place since 1998. One must wonder why various world governments made their gripes known only in secret. Is it because they knew that they were essentially asking for the conclusions to be massaged to their liking?
Belgium voiced concerns that using the hottest year on record—1998—as the baseline would be misleading. Actually, when the hottest year on record was fifteen years ago, it’s not misleading at all. It’s kind of the point. The Belgians suggested using 1999 or 2000 instead because that would produce of an upward trend. And at the end of the day, ensuring that the chart displays an upward trend is really the goal, isn’t it?
Germany wanted to delete all references to the lull supposedly because the time scale of ten to fifteen years was too short. Again, would it have been too short if had supported the sacred cause? Hungary worried that any mention of the lull would only be used as ammunition by skeptics. Did it ever occur to them that the skeptics might be right? The United States wanted any mention of the lull to be tempered with a caveat—that excess heat is being trapped in the oceans, a position for which there is in fact no “consensus.”
Why must the powers that be always rig the game? The theory of global warming is like an only child whose doting mother is too scared to let him play outside because he might get hurt. Why can’t we get the straight scoop and then decide for ourselves what it all means? Sadly, we live in an age in which science is political. The message must be managed so as not to be “misunderstood.”