Global Warming, Consensus and Models

This is the first of four articles on climate change because… well, Barack Obama believes it is the top national security concern facing the United States.  Besides, I haven’t written on the subject in a while.  Part of the problem is simply misinformation regurgitated by our Misinformant-in-Chief himself.  How many times have we heard the Left (Obama included) say that the discussion is over, that the scientific community has spoken, that 97% of the experts believe climate change created by greenhouse gases which are produced by humans is a scientific fact?

Most would be surprised to find out that the actual research that yielded that statistic is based on a review of over 4,000 studies on climate change which found that over 97% of those studies assumed humans played a role.  This study was actually done by climate change skeptics.  The findings made their way into the mass media as “97% of all scientists believe in man-made climate change.”  Organizing for America, Obama’s mouthpiece, released a video citing this statistic with the innuendo that to disbelieve was the equivalent of being stupid.  This is bolstered by polls showing that 89% of Democrats, 79% of independents and 70% of Republicans accept climate change as a done deal.

Unfortunately, technically there is or should be no consensus in science of any kind.  It defies the very notion of scientific inquiry.  Additionally, on many occasions in the past there was a consensus on a variety of issues among scientists.  There was at one time consensus that the sun revolved around the earth.  There was consensus at one time that the earth was 6,000 years old.  Today, this “consensus” is the subject of laughter.  Regardless, that 97% figure comes from a study of other studies.  What about the actual people who do these studies?

Well, there have been surveys of meteorologists and geophysicists and 97% of them believe that the earth has gotten warmer in the past century and it has.  Of this, 84% believe humans have contributed to some degree.  Yet only 29% of the total have a great degree of confidence that the evidence is absolutely conclusive while only 5% consider the study of climate change “mature.”  In short, climate change science is a relatively new, evolving field of study and we know the growing pains any emerging science must go through to reach “maturity.”

So we are left with a false assertion of consensus in an evolving science that most of those scientists concede is not mature enough to make these assertions in the first place.  One need only look at the evolution of the definition of homosexuality in the field of psychology.  At one time, a group of psychologists- the APA- listed it as a mental disease with an assigned code and everything.  Nothing changed in the intervening years regarding homosexuality to the point when they changed it- by consensus vote- to “ego dystonic homosexuality” which means its a mental disease worthy of a diagnostic code only if the homosexuality is uncomfortable to the homosexual.  Again, nothing changed in the years between this definition and the point when it was totally stripped of its diagnostic code.  From point A to the present, however, two homosexuals cannot reproduce children.

Consensus is great in politics, but not so much in science.  Because a group of scientists say something is so does not necessarily make it really so.  Of course, there is always the IPCC consensus that is also trotted out.  This is a panel of 77 scientists from around the world who studied the results of the many studies conducted over the years and then released a report.  In fact, 75 of the 77 scientists signed off on the report claiming that global warming was real and that humans were the major cause of it.  These 77 scientists were not actually out there working in the field armed with thermometers.  These were scientists studying the research of other scientists.

Science should have some predictive value against which to test the theories.  Unfortunately for climate change scientists, one cannot effect climate change in the laboratory.  You cannot run the climate through a maze in the hopes it will learn the way to the cheese, or bombard the climate in a particle accelerator.  It does not lend itself to scientific experimentation in the real world.  Instead, we are left with computer models to predict the effects of climate change.  However, these models are only as good as the information put into them.  One example is illustrative here.

These models predict that the world’s ice fields will recede and the model seemingly predicted that Mt. Kilamanjaro in Africa would lose its snow cap.  Even Al Gore used this as proof that the models were correct because lo and behold!  It happened.  Left out of that hysteria was the fact that climate change had nothing to do with it although human activity did.  That human activity was the deforestation at the base of the mountain which decreased the amount of water vapor in the area which decreased the amount of precipitation which decreased the amount of snowfall at the summit.  It had nothing to do with the temperature at the summit of the mountain.

The problem with models is that they are only as good as the information fed into the model.  If you feed the same data into the model time after time after time, of course one could replicate a result, which is a requirement for “good science.”  But what if you omit certain information, or if you tweak some inputted data?  Then, again obviously, results should change.  For example, if you change cloud density to the effect of allowing just 1% more sunlight into the atmosphere, it could have a great effect on global temperatures. Unfortunately, no one has any reliable information on cloud density over time.  As a result, cloud density changes which have nothing to do with human activity could be a natural reason for changes in the atmosphere.  In this case, since cloud density is best measured by satellites, we have a very short period of study- not enough to feed into any model.

We have heard the oft-repeated FACT that the earth has shown no warming over the past 18 years.  The reason one can accurately state such is because the basis for the statement is satellite observations.  Satellites do not move or change over time. Land-based temperature gauging stations, on the the other hand, do change from year to year.  A perfect example was the closure of several such stations in the former Soviet Union- especially in Siberia, a particularly cold area.  Remove these temperatures from the overall equation, replace them with stations in less cold areas and the average global temperature “rises.”

Also, the oceans comprise 70% of the earth’s surface which would make them a rather important consideration in any discussion of climate change.  However, several studies have shown that many of these models cannot predict oceanic activity as a whole, by latitude, or by ocean basin.  The reason is simple: the interaction between the oceans and the atmosphere is too complicated.  The solution?  The models ignore natural oceanic phenomena like El Nino or the Atlantic Oscillation which have occurred for eons before greenhouse gases created by man and will continue even if we ban carbon dioxide levels 100%.

The main problem with these models is that it treats overall climate as a linear phenomena.  Nothing can be further from the truth.  If anything, weather and climate are chaotic phenomena where “prediction” is almost impossible.  This likely explains why many of the horrible events predicted to have happened by now have NOT happened.  Where they “happened,” however, there are alternate explanations.

Thus, the environmentalists have adjusted their arguments and now claim that climate change models do not necessarily predict discrete events, but trends over time.  In other words, their “proof” is not provable at all and we are left to take their word for it based on admittedly faulty models and their alleged consensus.