Comments on the global warming controversy.

Under Construction

This page is somewhat variable, "under construction" as they say. Friends asked me to comment on the global warming controversy in 2009 and there cited my own competence to comment: As a computational physicist, even though not a specialist in climate modeling, I know quite enough to be skeptical on general principles. More than that I am reluctant to say, except that Bjorn Lomborg (cited below) struck me as one of the more sensible. With a PhD in philosophical theology, I can recognize a nature religion when I see one: in a nature religion, the way to happiness is to fit into nature naturally, not disturbing nature.

These days, the most effective rhetorical strategy for any religion that wants to sell itself in the "public square" is to pretend to be science --- as in biblical creationism (a pseudo-science), or anthropogenic global warming (merely bad science, corrupt and fraudulent). Some today who would construe human life as essentially just part of nature construe nature in the terms of the natural sciences and so invoke the authority and claims of the sciences, but their environmentalism is nevertheless a basic life orientation --- i.e., a religion. When the claimed science is dubious or fraudulent, there are serious problems.

Sharp language, but perhaps that is appropriate. From time to time, acquaintances demand that I validate their projection of their anxieties onto alleged global warming. When I decline, they take out their anger on me. Anxiety tantrums are a sad feature of too many arguments in theology, but it is embarrassing to see anxiety tantrums in the name of so-called "science."

When people who are not scientists do this to me, they claim that global warming is the majority view, unaware that in scientific disputes, until the very end, the majority is usually wrong.

One Recent Article

For a general overview of the opposition to global warming, see William Happer, The Truth About Greenhouse Gases, in First Things 214 (2011/July-August), p. 33 ff. He hits many of the main points, but there is a lot more than he can cover in his space limitations. As always with the periodical First Things, there are no citations to backup in the technical literature. Happer is actually a real physicist (at Princeton, in a highly regarded department). Not all in the global-warming business have training that solid (see Bill McKibben, below).

A few things to remember: yes, temperatures may be rising --- a little. But that would be good (see Happer's article above). There were warm periods in the heyday of Greco-Roman civilization and the high middle ages, and cool periods in the Dark Ages and the Little Ice Age, all embarrassing to the AGW thesis. Knowledgeable people tell me the principal greenhouse gas is not carbon dioxide but water-vapor, from ocean evaporation. Finding backup is non-trivial. The USAF Handbook of Geophysics? It would take both concentration of gas components and their opacities at various frequencies, as well as a model of radiative transfer between the earth and space.

Hoax, Fraud, Scam

The general public was never as exercised about global warming as the activists, and so when the chief activists were caught messing with the data, hiding data, corrupting peer review, the public has gone back to sleep. For details, google "Climate Research Unit", "University of East Anglia", or "IPCC".

James Delingpole has followed the controversy over global warming, and covers some of what came out when emails from the Climate Research Unit were leaked in 2009: "Manipulation of evidence ... doubts about whether the world really is heating up ... suppression of evidence ... Attempts to disguise the inconvenient truth of the Medieval Warm Period," as well as plain malice against climate skeptics.

Here is a summary by David Solway of the frauds committed in propagating global warming:

Which bring us to the Hadley "Climategate" scam, divulged in a cache of hacked emails, which revealed the extent of data-suppression and revisionist hijinks embraced by the movement’s proponents and leading "experts." This outrage should have put paid to the entire controversy. A second bundle of "hide the decline" email dumps, known as Climategate 2.0, has confirmed that "climate science" has been cooked. The lead researcher at the East Anglia CRU (Climate Research Unit), Phil Jones, had gone so far as to recommend deleting all incriminating emails and/or changing the wording of others. A.W. Montford's Hiding the Decline is a definitive expose of the great deception known as global warming, as is Tim Ball's The Deliberate Corruption of Climate Science, which also discloses the vast wealth-transfer scheme the lurks behind the political and "scientific" camouflage.
Hiding the Decline includes a chronology of the frauds committed in favor of global warming.

Emotion, rather than reason

On the other side, we occasionally see tracts like Bill McKibben's recent opinion piece in the Washington Post, "A link between climate change and Joplin tornadoes? Never!" It is all sarcasm and post-hoc-propter-hoc, without a single number, without citation to any technical backup, without the hint of a model that could link tornadoes to global warming. This sort of writing passes for responsible journalism, but one could not pass a remedial critical thinking course with sarcasm in place of actual arguments. He is credited with being a scholar in residence at Middlebury, but there is no evidence that he has any scientific training; he's not in a science department there. He may be a competent scientist, but no evidence of that turns up quickly in google; in particular, no CV, no educational background. Is McKibben capable of numerical solution of partial differential equations, for example? Does he know how fragile such computations are? We don't know.

It is possible to find one's way around in science without having credentials; Lord Monckton is an example. The issue is not whether someone has a faculty position but whether he can do calculations; some without credentials still calculate accurately. Some with credentials and ability are nevertheless quite biased.

Global Warming as a Religion

2011-05-28 ff.
Some have joked that environmentalism in general and global warming in particular are for their enthusiasts a religion, and this was meant in a pejorative and ironic sense.

But those who know a little of the history of religions will recognize environmentalism and global warming instantly as a revival of the aboriginal religion of nature everywhere: In nature religions, your job is to fit into nature naturallly, disturbing nature as little as possible. Nature religion offers remedies and rituals to restore the balance of nature when it is disturbed. History and historical religions don't work that way. There are other possible basic life orientations than just toward nature and history, but philosophy of religion is off-topic here. My point is merely that global warming has all the marks of a religion pretending to be science.

For some technical backup, consult Mircea Eliade, Cosmos and History; or the Myth of the Eternal Return, (Princeton University Press, 1959, 2005), and Merold Westphal, God, Guilt, and Death: An Existential Phenomenology of Religion, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984) Westphal's last three chapters are the place to look, especially chapter ten, about "mimetic" religions, religions based on nature. His examples are from the ancient world, but readers can find modern analogs easily enough. Global Warming is one.

Some Web Sites

Watts Up With That collects a lot of skeptical criticism of AGW.

See also . Several sets of satellite data do not show any global warming for the last 17+ years. Apparently they do diverge wildly from popular alarmist climate models' predictions, which should cast some doubt on those models.

Some More Books

Alan Moran, Climate Change: The Facts . This is a collection of articles by various authors.

The next one stung, and has gotten some notoriety. No comment here on its virtues or vices. I tend to agree with its author, Mark Steyn, but many will not. It is about the "Hockey Stick", which, it turns out, was a fabrication generated by suppressing the Medieval warm period and the Greco-Roman warm period: A Disgrace to the Profession

Christopher C. Horner, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism, Washington: Regnery,2007.

Patrick J. Michaels, ed., Shattered Consensus: The True State of Global Warming, Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005.

S. Fred Singer and Dennis T. Avery, Unstoppable Global Warming every 1500 years, Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2007.

Bjorn Lomborg, The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World, Cambridge University Press, 2001. Kevin Shapiro reviewed the book in Commentary 112#4 (2001/November) 60. My recollection is that Lomborg is himself a well-established environmentalist, and he enraged fellow-environmentalists with his skepticism of global warming. Shapiro notes that Julian Simon disprove many environmetalist claims, and then asks, moving to Lomborg's book,

But was Simon mistaken? In 1997, the Danish statistician Bjorn Lomborg, a self-described "old left-wing Greenpeace member," set out to disprove Simon's disproofs and confirm the claims of environmental alarmists. But he failed spectacularly---and, what is much more unusual, in The Skeptical Environmentalist he says so. In 25 chapters supplemented and supported by almost 3,000 footnotes, Lomborg takes a fresh look at the data, using the newest publicly available evidence to examine long­term trends in human welfare and the quality of the environment. What he shows is that not only are things not getting worse, they are getting better.

Bjorn Lomborg, Cool It: The Skeptic Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming, NY: AA Knopf, 2007.