Republicans vs. Climate Science?

IPCC consensus craziness

Is the Republican Party really anti-science when it comes to climate science, as some people claim, or is that claim without merit? Let’s find out.

Before diving into the actual science, take into consideration the climate scientists who feed at the government teat. In the Science & Public Policy Institute report “Climate Money“, Joanne Nova explains the effect of government grants on those who receive them.

How many experts would go out of their way to make their own expertise and training less relevant? With funding hinged on proving that carbon controls the climate and therefore that climate science itself is critically important, it’s a self-sanctioning circle of vested interests. Yes, smart climate scientists are employable in other fields. But if voters suddenly realized carbon emissions had a minor role and humans have little influence, thousands of people would have to change something about their employment, and change is painful. In any industry, it’s impossible to argue that the specialists would prefer to have half the funding and half the status. Most of them either won’t get the next pay-rise, could lose their employment, or at least some spending power. They don’t get the upgrade of equipment they want, or they just lose status, because, well, climatology is “important”, but if we can’t change the weather, we are not inviting said experts onto our committees and to as many conferences.

Toward the end of her report, Nova writes, “The point of this paper is that the process of science can be distorted (like any human endeavor) by a massive one-sided input of money.” That “one-sided input of money” that she speaks of is the government money that is given to climate scientists. Nova illustrates her point with the following cartoon.

In short, climate scientists who are funded by government grants have a financial incentive to go along with the alleged “consensus” in order to keep the government grant money flowing to them.

Australian rocket scientist David Evans was one such scientist who had the aforementioned financial incentive. Here is an excerpt from his commentary “No smoking hot spot“.

I DEVOTED six years to carbon accounting, building models for the Australian Greenhouse Office. I am the rocket scientist who wrote the carbon accounting model (FullCAM) that measures Australia’s compliance with the Kyoto Protocol, in the land use change and forestry sector.

FullCAM models carbon flows in plants, mulch, debris, soils and agricultural products, using inputs such as climate data, plant physiology and satellite data. I’ve been following the global warming debate closely for years.

When I started that job in 1999 the evidence that carbon emissions caused global warming seemed pretty good: CO2 is a greenhouse gas, the old ice core data, no other suspects.

The evidence was not conclusive, but why wait until we were certain when it appeared we needed to act quickly? Soon government and the scientific community were working together and lots of science research jobs were created. We scientists had political support, the ear of government, big budgets, and we felt fairly important and useful (well, I did anyway). It was great. We were working to save the planet.

But since 1999 new evidence has seriously weakened the case that carbon emissions are the main cause of global warming, and by 2007 the evidence was pretty conclusive that carbon played only a minor role and was not the main cause of the recent global warming. As Lord Keynes famously said, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”

There has not been a public debate about the causes of global warming and most of the public and our decision makers are not aware of the most basic salient facts:

1. The greenhouse signature is missing. We have been looking and measuring for years, and cannot find it.

Each possible cause of global warming has a different pattern of where in the planet the warming occurs first and the most. The signature of an increased greenhouse effect is a hot spot about 10km up in the atmosphere over the tropics. We have been measuring the atmosphere for decades using radiosondes: weather balloons with thermometers that radio back the temperature as the balloon ascends through the atmosphere. They show no hot spot. Whatsoever.

If there is no hot spot then an increased greenhouse effect is not the cause of global warming. So we know for sure that carbon emissions are not a significant cause of the global warming. If we had found the greenhouse signature then I would be an alarmist again.

When the signature was found to be missing in 2007 (after the latest IPCC report), alarmists objected that maybe the readings of the radiosonde thermometers might not be accurate and maybe the hot spot was there but had gone undetected. Yet hundreds of radiosondes have given the same answer, so statistically it is not possible that they missed the hot spot.

Recently the alarmists have suggested we ignore the radiosonde thermometers, but instead take the radiosonde wind measurements, apply a theory about wind shear, and run the results through their computers to estimate the temperatures. They then say that the results show that we cannot rule out the presence of a hot spot. If you believe that you’d believe anything.

2. There is no evidence to support the idea that carbon emissions cause significant global warming. None. There is plenty of evidence that global warming has occurred, and theory suggests that carbon emissions should raise temperatures (though by how much is hotly disputed) but there are no observations by anyone that implicate carbon emissions as a significant cause of the recent global warming.

Sometimes, what the general public “knows” about climate is what members of the press want the general public to know, as Dr. David Deming testified before the Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works. Here is his statement.

Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee, and distinguished guests, thank you for inviting me to testify today. I am a geologist and geophysicist. I have a bachelor’s degree in geology from Indiana University, and a Ph.D in geophysics from the University of Utah. My field of specialization in geophysics is temperature and heat flow. In recent years, I have turned my studies to the history and philosophy of science. In 1995, I published a short paper in the academic journal Science. In that study, I reviewed how borehole temperature data recorded a warming of about one degree Celsius in North America over the last 100 to 150 years. The week the article appeared, I was contacted by a reporter for National Public Radio. He offered to interview me, but only if I would state that the warming was due to human activity. When I refused to do so, he hung up on me.

I had another interesting experience around the time my paper in Science was published. I received an astonishing email from a major researcher in the area of climate change. He said, “We have to get rid of the Medieval Warm Period.”

The Medieval Warm Period (MWP) was a time of unusually warm weather that began around 1000 AD and persisted until a cold period known as the “Little Ice Age” took hold in the 14th century. Warmer climate brought a remarkable flowering of prosperity, knowledge, and art to Europe during the High Middle Ages.

The existence of the MWP had been recognized in the scientific literature for decades. But now it was a major embarrassment to those maintaining that the 20th century warming was truly anomalous. It had to be “gotten rid of.”

In 1769, Joseph Priestley warned that scientists overly attached to a favorite hypothesis would not hesitate to “warp the whole course of nature.” In 1999, Michael Mann and his colleagues published a reconstruction of past temperature in which the MWP simply vanished. This unique estimate became known as the “hockey stick,” because of the shape of the temperature graph.

Normally in science, when you have a novel result that appears to overturn previous work, you have to demonstrate why the earlier work was wrong. But the work of Mann and his colleagues was initially accepted uncritically, even though it contradicted the results of more than 100 previous studies. Other researchers have since reaffirmed that the Medieval Warm Period was both warm and global in its extent.

There is an overwhelming bias today in the media regarding the issue of global warming. In the past two years, this bias has bloomed into an irrational hysteria. Every natural disaster that occurs is now linked with global warming, no matter how tenuous or impossible the connection. As a result, the public has become vastly misinformed on this and other environmental issues.

Earth’s climate system is complex and poorly understood. But we do know that throughout human history, warmer temperatures have been associated with more stable climates and increased human health and prosperity. Colder temperatures have been correlated with climatic instability, famine, and increased human mortality.

The amount of climatic warming that has taken place in the past 150 years is poorly constrained, and its cause–human or natural–is unknown. There is no sound scientific basis for predicting future climate change with any degree of certainty. If the climate does warm, it is likely to be beneficial to humanity rather than harmful. In my opinion, it would be foolish to establish national energy policy on the basis of misinformation and irrational hysteria.

GOP politicians get attacked by anti-GOP zealots because the former don’t swallow whole the “consensus” argument made by the IPCC. Dr. Judith Curry has something to say about that alleged “consensus”. She is the co-author of the report “Climate change: no consensus on consensus” published by the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Institute of Technology. Here is an excerpt from that report.

The consensus approach used by the IPCC has received a number of criticisms. Oppenheimer et al. warn of the need to guard against overconfidence and argue that the IPCC consensus emphasizes expected outcomes, whereas it is equally important that policy makers understand the more extreme possibilities that consensus may exclude or downplay. Gruebler and Nakicenovic opine that “there is a danger that the IPCC consensus position might lead to a dismissal of uncertainty in favor of spuriously constructed expert opinion.” Curry finds that the consensus approach being used by the IPCC has failed to produce a thorough portrayal of the complexities of the problem and the associated uncertainties in our understanding.

Goodwin argues the consensus claim created opportunities to claim that the IPCC’s emphasis on consensus is distorting the science itself: “Once the consensus claim was made, scientists involved in the ongoing IPCC process had reasons not just to consider the scientific evidence, but to consider the possible effect of their statements on their ability to defend the consensus claim.”

While the IPCC’s consensus approach acknowledges uncertainties, defenders of the IPCC consensus have expended considerable efforts in the ‘boundary work’ of distinguishing those qualified to contribute to the climate change consensus from those who are not. These efforts have characterized skeptics as small in number, extreme, and scientifically suspect. These efforts create temptations to make illegitimate attacks on scientists whose views do not align with the consensus, and to dismiss any disagreement as politically motivated ‘denialism’. The use of ‘denier’ to label anyone who disagrees with the IPCC consensus on attribution leads to concerns being raised about the IPCC being enforced as dogma, which is tied to how dissent is dealt with.

Michael Crichton also had something to say about any alleged “scientific consensus”. Although he is best known as a writer, Crichton was a graduate of the Harvard Medical School. The official Michael Crichton website states, “Medical school had a profound influence on Michael Crichton’s understanding of science, the medical industry and life in general. These early experiences and the knowledge gained while in attendance informed his sensibilities and interests for his entire career. As a backdrop for his storytelling, Michael Crichton continuously returned to his time in medical school to explore the political and moral issues posed by modern medicine, technology and scientific breakthroughs.

Here is an excerpt from Crichton’s lecture “Aliens Cause Global Warming“.

I want to pause here and talk about this notion of consensus, and the rise of what has been called consensus science. I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had.

Let’s be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus. There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period.

In addition, let me remind you that the track record of the consensus is nothing to be proud of. Let’s review a few cases.

In past centuries, the greatest killer of women was fever following childbirth . One woman in six died of this fever. In 1795, Alexander Gordon of Aberdeen suggested that the fevers were infectious processes, and he was able to cure them. The consensus said no. In 1843, Oliver Wendell Holmes claimed puerperal fever was contagious, and presented compelling evidence. The consensus said no. In 1849, Semmelweiss demonstrated that sanitary techniques virtually eliminated puerperal fever in hospitals under his management. The consensus said he was a Jew, ignored him, and dismissed him from his post. There was in fact no agreement on puerperal fever until the start of the twentieth century. Thus the consensus took one hundred and twenty five years to arrive at the right conclusion despite the efforts of the prominent “skeptics” around the world, skeptics who were demeaned and ignored. And despite the constant ongoing deaths of women.

There is no shortage of other examples. In the 1920s in America, tens of thousands of people, mostly poor, were dying of a disease called pellagra. The consensus of scientists said it was infectious, and what was necessary was to find the “pellagra germ.” The US government asked a brilliant young investigator, Dr. Joseph Goldberger, to find the cause. Goldberger concluded that diet was the crucial factor. The consensus remained wedded to the germ theory. Goldberger demonstrated that he could induce the disease through diet. He demonstrated that the disease was not infectious by injecting the blood of a pellagra patient into himself, and his assistant. They and other volunteers swabbed their noses with swabs from pellagra patients, and swallowed capsules containing scabs from pellagra rashes in what were called “Goldberger’s filth parties.” Nobody contracted pellagra. The consensus continued to disagree with him. There was, in addition, a social factor—southern States disliked the idea of poor diet as the cause, because it meant that social reform was required. They continued to deny it until the 1920s. Result—despite a twentieth century epidemic, the consensus took years to see the light.

Probably every schoolchild notices that South America and Africa seem to fit together rather snugly, and Alfred Wegener proposed, in 1912, that the continents had in fact drifted apart. The consensus sneered at continental drift for fifty years. The theory was most vigorously denied by the great names of geology—until 1961, when it began to seem as if the sea floors were spreading. The result: it took the consensus fifty years to acknowledge what any schoolchild sees.

And shall we go on? The examples can be multiplied endlessly. Jenner and smallpox, Pasteur and germ theory. Saccharine, margarine, repressed memory, fiber and colon cancer, hormone replacement therapy. The list of consensus errors goes on and on.

Finally, I would remind you to notice where the claim of consensus is invoked. Consensus is invoked only in situations where the science is not solid enough. Nobody says the consensus of scientists agrees that E=mc squared. Nobody says the consensus is that the sun is 93 million miles away. It would never occur to anyone to speak that way.

So, the next time a person claims that GOP politicians are anti-science because the latter don’t accept an alleged scientific consensus, one can be certain that it is the former who is contradicting science.

‘Since you’re a Christian, if you don't convert we’ll slit your throat with a knife’
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  • Hank_M

    Excellent article.

    I especially liked your excerpts from Michael Crichton’s lecture “Aliens Cause Global Warming“.

  • Walter_Cronanty

    The sooner we realize that adherents to CAGW are anti-democratic fascists [via Powerline, a letter to the editor of the current edition of Nature magazine by Jingzheng Ren, Michael Evan Goodsite, University of Southern Denmark; Benjamin K. Sovacool, Aarhus University, Denmark provides: “Climate change: Climate justice more vital than democracy. Decision-making based on social-justice principles could be more effective than democratic efforts against climate change.” ] who wish to crush the First Amendment rather than debate [the cites for this are too numerous to type in here], the sooner this unholy religion will relegated to the dustbin of history, where it belongs.

    CAGW’s leftist proponents are fond of quoting President Eisenhower’s remarks on the dangers of the military-industrial complex. They’re not so fond of this quote from the same speech, which, if we didn’t have an irresponsible, leftist MSM, would be on the lips of protesters everywhere:

    “Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.

    In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.

    Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

    The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present

    – and is gravely to be regarded.

    Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientifictechnological elite.”

    • Constitution First

      For every 999 times the first part of Ike’s speech is echoed, you might, might hear a snippet of context.
      Good post.

  • jim_m

    This is an excellent and well supported article David. It does a great job of addressing the 3 issues that cloud the AGW issue: 1) government funding, people’s dependency upon it and how that directs their actions. 2) the lack of real scientific evidence to support AGW and 3) the fiction of consensus as a meaningful component of scientific investigation.

    • If the models don’t reflect reality, it’s reality that’s wrong.

      And since reality isn’t with the program, it only makes sense to behave (and spend) as if reality doesn’t matter and the models are right and we’re about to see the seas boiling.

      Because they might, if we don’t, right? So… 😉

  • Constitution First

    Great article. Anything I was about to say, was clearly and better said.

    I think that fact that the environmental fascists final response in this issue is “shut up!”, while the real debate continues, says everything you need to know about the subject.

  • Scalia

    Excellent post, David.

  • Walter_Cronanty

    “How a liberal vegan environmentalist made the switch from climate proponent to climate skeptic”

    “…More than thirty years ago, I became vegan because I believed it was healthier (it’s not), and I’ve stayed vegan because I believe it’s better for the environment (it is). I haven’t owned a car in ten years. I love animals; I’ll gladly fly halfway around the world to take photos of them in their natural habitats. I’m a Democrat: I think governments play a key role in preserving our environment for the future in the most cost-effective way possible.Over the years, I built a set of assumptions: that Al Gore was right about global warming, that he was the David going up against the industrial Goliath. In 1993, I even wrote a book about it….

    …I did my homework and wrote a 9,000-word essay aimed at liberals who have a voice, who have access to media, and who might take 30 minutes to educate themselves.

    I submitted my piece to every liberal publication, from the LA Times to the Atlantic Monthly to National Geographic to Huffington Post and many more. They all turned it down. Now I’m launching it myself and hope you will read it and help spread the word….

    I now think there probably is no climate crisis and that the focus on CO2 takes funding and attention from critical environmental problems. I’ll start by making ten short statements that should challenge your assumptions and then back them up with an essay.

    1 Weather is not climate. There are no studies showing a conclusive link between global warming and increased frequency or intensity of storms, droughts, floods, cold or heat waves.

    2 Natural variation in weather and climate is tremendous. Most of what people call “global warming” is natural.

    3 There is tremendous uncertainty as to how the climate really works. Climate models are not yet skillful; predictions are unresolved.

    4 New research shows that fluctuations in energy from the sun correlate very strongly with changes in earth’s temperature, at both long and short time scales.

    5 CO2 has very little to do with it. All the decarbonization we can do isn’t going to change the climate much.

    6 There is no such thing as “carbon pollution.” Carbon dioxide is coming out of your nose right now; it is not a poisonous gas. CO2 concentrations in previous eras have been many times higher than they are today.

    7 Sea level will probably continue to rise, naturally and slowly. Researchers have found no link between CO2 and sea level.

    8 The Arctic experiences natural variation as well, with some years warmer earlier than others. Polar bear numbers are up, not down. They have more to do with hunting permits than CO2*.

    9 No one has shown any damage to reef or marine systems. Additional man-made CO2 will not likely harm oceans, reef systems, or marine life. Fish are mostly threatened by people who eat them.

    10 The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and others are pursuing a political agenda and a PR campaign, not scientific inquiry. There’s a tremendous amount of trickery going on under the surface*.

    Could this possibly be right? Is it heresy, or critical thinking — or both? If I’ve upset or confused you, let me guide you through my journey

    You’ll find it at:

  • Walter_Cronanty

    And then there’s the founder of Greenpeace:

    “Greenpeace founder delivers powerful annual lecture, praises carbon dioxide”

    • Hank_M

      Interesting, as I recently read that the co-founder of IPCC, Indur Goklany, has just published a book that also praises Carbon Dioxide.
      I’m not a long read and well worth looking at.

      • Walter_Cronanty

        Thanks for the cite. People [even scientists!] are finally waking up to the fact that CO2 is not a pollutant, but a necessary element for life.