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.