This column by ACRU General Counsel and Senior Fellow for the Carleson Center for Public Policy (CCPP) Peter Ferrara was published March 1, 2012 on Forbes.com.
About every four years, the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) produces a voluminous Assessment Report (AR) on the state of global warming science, such as it is. Two years after each AR, the IPCC produces an updating Interim Report.
In 2008, The Heartland Institute, headquartered in Chicago, began organizing international conferences of scientists from across the globe who want to raise and discuss intellectually troubling questions and doubts regarding the theory that human activity is causing ultimately catastrophic global warming. Six conferences have taken place to date, attracting more than 3,000 scientists, journalists, and interested citizens from all over the world.
(Full disclosure: As indicated by my nearby bio, I am a Heartland Senior Fellow, one of several affiliations I have with free-market think tanks and advocacy groups.)
In 2009, Heartland published Climate Change Reconsidered: The Report of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC). That 860-page careful, dispassionate, thoroughly scientific volume, produced in conjunction with the Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP) and the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, explored the full range of alternative views to the UN’s IPCC. Two years later, Heartland published the 418 page Climate Change Reconsidered: The 2011 Interim Report of the NIPCC, which updated the research regarding global warming and “climate change” since the 2009 volume.
Through these activities and more like them, Heartland has become the international headquarters of the scientific alternative to the UN’s IPCC, now providing full scale rebuttals to the UN’s own massive reports. Any speaker, any authority, any journalist or bureaucrat asserting the catastrophic danger of supposed man-caused global warming needs to be asked for their response to Climate Change Reconsidered. If they have none, then they are not qualified to address the subject.
This is the essential background to understanding “Fakegate,” the strange and still being written story of the decline and fall of political activist Peter Gleick, who had successfully engineered a long career posing as an objective climate scientist. Gleick, who has announced he is taking a “temporary, short-term leave of absence” as president of the Pacific Institute, also served until recently as chairman of the science integrity task force of the American Geophysical Union.
Gleick has publicly confessed that he contacted The Heartland Institute fraudulently pretending to be a member of the Board of Directors. Emails released by The Heartland Institute show that he created an email address similar to that of a board member and used it to convince a staff member to send him confidential board materials. Gleick then forwarded the documents to 15 global warming alarmist advocacy organizations and sympathetic journalists, who immediately posted them online and blogged and wrote about them.
Their expectation apparently was that the documents would be as embarrassing and damaging to the global warming skeptics as were the emails revealed in the “Climategate” scandal to the alarmist side. The Climategate revelations showed scientific leaders of the UN’s IPCC and global warming alarmist movement plotting to falsify climate data and exclude those raising doubts about their theories from scientific publications, while coordinating their message with supposedly objective mainstream journalists.
But the stolen Heartland documents exonerated, rather than embarrassed, the skeptic movement. They demonstrate only an interest at Heartland in getting the truth out on the actual objective science. They revealed little funding from oil companies and other self interested commercial enterprises, who actually contribute heavily to global warming alarmists as protection money instead. The documents also show how poorly funded the global warming skeptics at Heartland are, managing on a shoestring to raise a shockingly successful global challenge to the heavily overfunded UN and politicized government science.
As the Wall Street Journal observed on Feb. 21, while Heartland’s budget for the NIPCC this year totals $388,000, that compares to $6.5 million for the UN’s IPCC, and $2.5 billion that President Obama’s budget commits for research into “the global changes that have resulted primarily from global over-dependence on fossil fuels.” That demonstrates how an ounce of truth can overcome a tidal wave of falsehood.
Maybe that is why Gleick or one of his coconspirators felt compelled to go farther and composed a fake memo titled “Confidential Memo: 2012 Heartland Climate Strategy.” Whoever did it understood that a document composed on his computer and distributed online would contain markings demonstrating its source and confirming the forgery, so they printed it out and scanned it to hide its digital trail. The scanned document itself, however, contained evidence that allowed even amateur sleuths to trace it back to the Pacific Institute’s offices, as explained in an article by Megan McCardle, a senior editor for The Atlantic. (McCardle, incidentally, is highly sympathetic to global warming alarmism.)
The forged cover memo, not the actual stolen document, contains language mirroring Climategate. It discussed fabricated projects that are not activities of Heartland, and references a $200,000 Koch Foundation contribution for climate change activities that doesn’t exist. The Koch Foundation confirms that it gave Heartland only $25,000 in 2011, earmarked for health care policy projects and not climate change, an amount equal to only 0.5% of Heartland’s 2011 budget. By contrast, as the Journal also observed, the budget last year for the Natural Resources Defense Council was $95.4 million, and for the World Wildlife Fund $238.5 million.
Heartland President Joe Bast said in a statement on the episode, “The stolen documents were obtained by [a then] unknown person who fraudulently assumed the identity of a Heartland board member….Identity theft and computer fraud are criminal offenses subject to imprisonment. We intend to find this person and see him or her put in prison for these crimes.”
While I am not a scientist, and write primarily on economics, tax policy and budget issues, I have been fascinated over the years by Heartland’s work on climate change. I’ve attended the Heartland global warming conferences and read through the organization’s publications on the issue. What has fascinated me is how the objective, dispassionate scientific presentations so thoroughly demolish the intellectual case for catastrophic man-caused global warming. In contrast, as the comments to this article will no doubt show, the case for catastrophic global warming is no more than appeals to authority (“the United Nations says it’s true!”) or ad hominem attacks.
The bottom line is that the temperature records are not consistent with the theory that human “greenhouse” gas emissions are the primary cause of global warming. Those records do not show temperatures rising in conjunction with such ever rising emissions as the globe increasingly industrializes. Instead, the temperature record shows an up and down pattern that follows the pattern of natural influences on global temperatures, such as cyclical sunspots and solar flares, and cycles of ocean churning from warmer to colder temperatures and back, such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO).
Moreover, the incorruptible and objective satellite temperature records show only modest warming starting in the late 1970s, which stopped roughly 10 years ago, with more recent declines. That is consistent with temperature proxy records found in nature, such as tree rings and ice cores. But that diverges significantly from the corruptible and subjectively compiled land based records, the repeated manipulation of which has prompted several prominent climate scientists to call for an investigation. Perhaps Gleick’s skills in falsification can be found more broadly among his colleagues.
In addition, the work of the UN’s IPCC is based on numerous climate models that attempt to project temperatures decades into the future. Those models are all based on the circular assumption that the theory of man caused global warming is true. As 16 world leading climate scientists recently reported in a letter to the Wall Street Journal,
“[A]n important gauge of scientific expertise is the ability to make successful predictions. When predictions fail, we say that the theory is ‘falsified’ and we should look for the reasons for the failure. Shown in the nearby graph is the measured annual temperature of the earth since 1989, just before the first report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Also shown are the projections of the likely increase of temperature, as published in the Summaries of each of the four IPCC reports, the first in the year 1990 and the last in the year 2007.
“From the graph it appears that the projections [of the models] exaggerate, substantially, the response of the earth’s temperature to CO2 which increased by about 11% from 1989 through 2011. Furthermore, when one examines the historical temperature record throughout the 20th century and into the 21st, the data strongly suggest a much lower CO2 effect than almost all models calculate.”
Seems like the models have been falsified.
The likely reason for that failure is that while the models recognize that increased CO2 itself will not produce a big, catastrophic increase in global temperatures, the models assume that the very small amount of warming caused by increased CO2 will result in much larger temperature increases caused by positive feedbacks. The real, emerging science, as the Heartland publications indicate, is that the feedbacks are more likely to be offset by negative feedbacks, resulting in a much smaller net temperature change. Scientists have pointed out that much higher CO2 concentrations deep in the earth’s history, as shown by proxy records, did not result in catastrophic temperature increases, a very powerful rebuttal to the idea today’s relatively low CO2 levels could trigger catastrophic global warming.
The results of the latest, most advanced data collection also suggest that CO2 is not responsible for the modest global warming of the late 20th century. The UN models agree with established science that if human greenhouse gas emissions were causing global warming, there should be a hot spot of higher temperatures in the troposphere above the tropics, where collected concentrations would have the greatest effect, and the warming would show up first. This is known in the literature on climate science as “the fingerprint” for man caused global warming. But data from global weather satellites and more comprehensive weather balloons show no hotspot, and no fingerprint, which means no serious global warming due to human greenhouse gas emissions. QED.
Moreover, satellites also have been measuring the energy entering the earth’s atmosphere from the sun, and the energy escaping back out to space. If the theory of man caused global warming is correct, then the energy escaping back out should be less than the energy entering, as the greenhouse gases capture some of the energy in the atmosphere. But the satellite data show negligible difference.
The real cutting edge in climate science was publicly exposed recently in a book by one of the long time leaders of the German environmental movement, Fritz Vahrenholt, in his new book, The Cold Sun. The book expresses the growing concern among more careful real climate scientists, rather than political scientists, that trends in solar activity portend a return to the cold, limited agricultural output, and widespread disease of the Little Ice Age, or even a more full blown, overdue by historical standards, real ice age.
The consolation is that those threatening developments are still centuries away. In an interview with Spiegel magazine, titled “I Feel Duped on Climate Change,” Vahrenholt tells readers that the UN’s forecasts on the severity of climate change are exaggerated and supported by weak science. The American version would be Al Gore producing a movie with the title, “The Most Inconvenient Truth:I Was Wrong.”
The root of the global warming confusion is that the UN is not a disinterested party that can be trusted to compile and interpret the climate science on which the world’s policymakers can rely. The UN sees the theory of man caused catastrophic global warming as a tremendous opportunity for gaining the regulatory and taxation powers of a world government.
It is at least as self-interested on the subject as oil and gas companies. It has used its role as grand overseer of climate science to advance its own agenda. The result has been a great disservice to the scientific community and to policymakers. It fueled a global panic and mass delusion that has cost hundreds of billions or even trillions of dollars, and is likely to cost trillions more before it finally runs its course.
That is why Gleick’s Fakegate memo is actually a perfect metaphor for the entire fabrication of global warming. It and the entire Fakegate scandal provide a window, much like Climategate did, into the global warming movement, and what we see is ugly indeed. Peter Gleick’s misconduct is repeated a hundred times every day, in the same dishonest, cynical, and corrosive way, by global warming advocates around the world.
Fakegate is another reason why the U.S. should withdraw all funding and participation in the UN’s IPCC, and establish its own panel of scientists representing the full spectrum of views to study whether there is any real potential threat from man caused global warming. I nominate as the Chairman for that panel Richard Lindzen, the retiring Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at MIT.