This column by ACRU General Counsel and Senior Fellow for the Carleson Center for Public Policy (CCPP) Peter Ferrara was published September 7, 2011 on The American Spectator website.
The theory that human activity is causing potentially catastrophic global warming is not science. It is politics, driven by special interests with ideological, political and economic stakes in the theory.
For environmentalists, global warming corresponds with the authoritarian goal at the core of their movement: repeal of the industrial revolution (which President Obama’s EPA has begun to implement). For governments, it presents an opportunity to vastly expand their power and control through taxes, regulation and bureaucracy.
The theory also presents an opportunity for the United Nations to vastly expand its power and control. As an organization of world governments who would also gain enormously from acceptance of the theory, the UN is doubly corrupted as an honest broker on the issue. Yet, perversely, governments across the globe have delegated authoritative inquiry on the issue to the UN through its Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Wily environmentalists have also successfully weaved economic stakes in the theory for some in the business community, starting with tens of billions — growing into hundreds of billions — of government subsidies for businesses that will pose as potential producers of the “green energy of tomorrow.” This enables wily politicians to attempt to snooker voters with promises of “green jobs.” Of course, those jobs would only become available if self-supporting producers of abundant low cost energy are replaced with an entire “green” industry that can survive on corporate welfare while producing unreliable high cost energy for the economy (resulting in job loss and a decline in America’s standard of living).
What is so shocking is the way formerly objective, reliable Western science has been seduced by all these interests into intellectual corruption in service of the global warming fraud (less shocking when you consider the tens of billions in “research” funding provided by the above special interests). But don’t forget that scientists live and breathe in the far left environment of the academic world. Thus, many of them have social and ideological interests in advancing the global warming charade.
The confluence of all these special interests and their money has now corrupted the broader scientific community. Formerly venerable, objective, respected scientific bodies such as the National Academy of Sciences have been taken over by politicians in scientific drag. Formerly independent scientific journals and publications have gone the same route rather than suffer the social and financial opprobrium that service to the truth will entail.
This growing intellectual corruption is greatly magnified by our thoroughly politicized Old Media, which operates today only in service of politically correct causes. Consequently, so much of the public discussion on global warming that we see is actually “play acting,” with supposed scientists, journalists, media commentators, politicians and others posing as if objective science actually demonstrates the danger of human caused global warming. One day Al Gore will receive an Oscar for his role in posing as savior of the planet, which actually reflects delusional mental illness in the man who almost became our president.
But the politicization of Western science means the decline of Western science as well. That in turn augurs the decline of Western civilization, as objective science was a foundation of the rise of the West for centuries.
Climate Change Reconsidered
But real, objective science continues to flourish at little noticed work stations, offices, and independent institutes and foundations across the globe. The budding international headquarters of this worldwide counterrevolution has now flowered at the Chicago based Heartland Institute, which bravely soldiered on in devotion to real climate science when even compatriots told them objectivity on this issue was a lost cause.
In 2009, Heartland published the 858-page Climate Change Reconsidered, a comprehensive, dispassionate, thoroughly scientific refutation of the theory that human activity is causing global warming. That served as the first answer to the quadrennial Assessment Reports of the UN’s IPCC. No one is knowledgeable about the true scientific debate over global warming until they have read and analyzed this thorough publication. Play acting commentators should be challenged for their response to this report, and publicly dismissed if they have none.
On August 29, Heartland released a 400-page follow up report titled Climate Change Reconsidered, reflecting the same thorough, objective, dispassionate analysis of the theory of global warming, and updating the science and developments. Heartland will continue the pattern of presenting full scientific alternatives to the UN’s IPCC Assessment Reports (AR), planning to produce another full report in 2013 when the next IPCC AR is expected. Heartland has also sponsored annual international scientific conferences on climate change, several of which I have attended.
Hundreds of scientists from across the planet are now speaking out in opposition to the corruption of climate science. Among them are Fred Singer, Professor Emeritus of Environmental Science at the University of Virginia, and the founder and first Director of the National Weather Satellite Service; Richard Lindzen, Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Roy Spencer, Principal Research Scientist at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, and U.S. Science Team Leader for the AMSR-E instrument flying on NASA’s Aqua satellite; William Happer, Cyrus Fogg Brackett Professor of Physics at Princeton University; Syun-ichi Akasofu, Professor of Physics and former director of the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska; Patrick Michaels, Research Professor of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia, and past President of the American Association of State Climatologists; and David Douglass, Professor of Physics at the University of Rochester. Physics icon Freeman Dyson expressed similar skepticism in the New York Times. These scientists are as good and as credentialed as any working on the UN’s IPCC Assessment reports.
The just released Interim Report concludes that “natural causes are very likely to be the dominant cause of the climate change that took place in the twentieth and the start of the twenty-first centuries. We are not saying that anthropogenic greenhouse gases (GHG) cannot produce some warming or have not in the past. Our conclusion is that the evidence shows they are not playing a substantial role.”
The authors add, “the net effect of continued warming and rising carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere is most likely to be beneficial to humans, plants, and wildlife.”
The Evidence Shows
The theory of global warming holds that carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases produced by human civilization collect in the atmosphere. They let radiation from the sun in, but like a greenhouse they prevent the radiation from escaping back out, leading temperatures to increase, potentially to catastrophic levels. Humans cause CO2 emissions primarily by burning fossil fuels like oil, coal, natural gas, and wood, which was the foundation of the industrial revolution.
But the established temperature record from the official sources is not consistent with this theory. Throughout the 20th century and into the 21st, CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions continually increased, yet temperatures did not steadily increase. Surface temperatures in the U.S. were warmer in the 1930s than they are today. From 1940 to the late 1970s, U.S. surface temperatures declined, despite all the increased burning of fossil fuels during that period, leaving no significant difference at that point from 1900. This decline actually prompted speculation at the time that a new ice age was coming. Surface temperatures then increased until the unrelated El Nino weather phenomenon in 1998, sponsoring the global warming hysteria. Since 1998, surface temperatures have actually declined again.
More reliable and relevant is the satellite data on global atmospheric temperatures, which is not distorted by the location, coverage, and surrounding activities of land based weather stations (highly unreliable outside the U.S. and Europe), and covers the whole planet. The satellite data starts in 1979, and shows no increase in global temperature trends until 1998, when El Nino caused a sharp temperature spike. Since then the satellite data again shows that global atmospheric temperatures have declined.
If supposed greenhouse gas emissions were causing global warming, then we should have seen a far more steady increase in temperatures. What the objective scientists are now saying is that this up and down pattern of temperature is far more consistent with natural causes. The temperature variation patterns follow variations in solar activity (like sunspots) and major ocean current temperature trends. For example, a major influence on global temperatures is what is known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), which turns from warm to cold and back every 20 to 30 years, as cold water from deep in the ocean cycles up and is warmed by the sun. This PDO variation seems to follow closely with the actual temperature variation trends.
Global temperatures were also warmer than today during the Medieval Warm Period?, a period of several hundred years around 1000 A.D, when now icy Greenland was named and actually farmed by settlers (who long since fled as the cold and ice advanced). Even higher temperatures prevailed during a period known as the Holocene Climate Optimum, which ran roughly from 6000 B.C. to 3000 B.C. In fact, temperatures were higher than today during most of the period from 9000 B.C. to the birth of Christ. Yet, there was no significant human burning of fossil fuels during these periods.
CO2 is a naturally occurring substance in the Earth’s atmosphere essential to life. Plants need to take in CO2 to live, and emit oxygen, which is essential to animal life. Animals breathe in oxygen and emit CO2. Proxy records scientists use to reconstruct the past show that atmospheric concentrations of CO2 were much higher in the past than today. For hundreds of millions of years prior to 400 million years ago, atmospheric CO2 concentrations were well over 30 times greater than today. But CO2 concentrations have actually been in sharp decline since then. From roughly 50 million back to 350 million years ago, fluctuating CO2 concentrations were generally 3 to 15 times their current levels. Princeton’s Happer argues that we have been suffering a CO2 famine that has harmed plant life and agriculture.
CO2 concentrations have begun rising again, due primarily to the industrial revolution and increased burning of fossil fuels, up 44 percent from 150 years ago. And this is already causing more rapid growth of plant life. But CO2 still accounts for only 0.039 percent of all atmospheric molecules, less than 1 percent of the concentration in human breath.
Moreover, humans and their activities currently account for only 3 percent of CO2 emissions each year. And less than half of the CO2 emitted by fossil fuel burning remains in the atmosphere; the rest is absorbed by the ocean or incorporated by the terrestrial biosphere. This is why policies to reduce human CO2 emissions such as the Kyoto treaty, even if fully implemented, would have negligible effects on future temperatures, reducing the temperatures that would otherwise result by 0.02 degrees C by 2050 for Kyoto, as conceded by even global warming alarmists.
Marching Science Proves the Special Interests Wrong
Real science continues to march on, despite the politicians and media flacks. Right now, scientific proofs are developing and being published that disprove the global warming theory.
Published, peer reviewed papers by MIT’s Lindzen find that a doubling of (CO2) in the atmosphere would increase temperatures by 0.7 degrees, less than half the estimate of the theoretical climate models relied on by the UN’s IPCC. Another published paper by NASA’s Spencer shows, using atmospheric temperature data from NASA’s Terra satellite, that much more heat escapes back out to space than is assumed captured in the atmosphere by greenhouse effects under the UN’s theoretical climate models. This explains why the warming temperature changes predicted by the UN’s global warming models over the past 20 years have been so much greater than the actual measured temperature changes.
Last month came the results of another major experiment by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), involving 63 scientists from 17 European and U.S. institutes. The results show that the sun’s cosmic rays resulting from sunspots have a much greater effect on Earth’s temperatures through their effect on cloud cover than the UN’s IPCC has been assuming. More cosmic rays mean more cloud cover, which cools temperatures. Less cosmic rays mean less cloud cover, raising temperatures. This again shows what the NIPCC and Heartland have been saying, that natural causes have the dominant effect on Earth’s temperatures, not greenhouse gases.
Finally, the UN’s own climate models project that if man’s greenhouse gas emissions were causing global warming, there would be a particular pattern of temperature distribution in the atmosphere, which scientists call “the fingerprint.” Temperatures in the troposphere portion of the atmosphere above the tropics would increase with altitude producing a “hotspot” near the top of the troposphere, about six miles above the earth’s surface. Above that, in the stratosphere, there would be cooling. But higher quality temperature data from weather balloons and satellites now show just the opposite: no increasing warming with altitude in the tropical troposphere, but rather a slight cooling, with no hotspot and no fingerprint. QED.