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February 21, 2012

Dueling Climate Scientists

About a month ago sixteen scientists signed a letter published in the Wall Street Journal, No Need to Panic About Global Warming.

In September, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Ivar Giaever, a supporter of President Obama in the last election, publicly resigned from the American Physical Society (APS) with a letter that begins: "I did not renew [my membership] because I cannot live with the [APS policy] statement: 'The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring. If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth's physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now.' In the APS it is OK to discuss whether the mass of the proton changes over time and how a multi-universe behaves, but the evidence of global warming is incontrovertible?"

In spite of a multidecade international campaign to enforce the message that increasing amounts of the "pollutant" carbon dioxide will destroy civilization, large numbers of scientists, many very prominent, share the opinions of Dr. Giaever. And the number of scientific "heretics" is growing with each passing year. The reason is a collection of stubborn scientific facts.

Perhaps the most inconvenient fact is the lack of global warming for well over 10 years now. This is known to the warming establishment, as one can see from the 2009 "Climategate" email of climate scientist Kevin Trenberth: "The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can't." But the warming is only missing if one believes computer models where so-called feedbacks involving water vapor and clouds greatly amplify the small effect of CO2.

The lack of warming for more than a decade—indeed, the smaller-than-predicted warming over the 22 years since the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) began issuing projections—suggests that computer models have greatly exaggerated how much warming additional CO2 can cause. Faced with this embarrassment, those promoting alarm have shifted their drumbeat from warming to weather extremes, to enable anything unusual that happens in our chaotic climate to be ascribed to CO2.

It was quite an obvious tactical maneuver by the Climate Change establishment, and amusing too.  Global Warming became Climate Change.  Be that as it may the establishment struck back.  Kevin Trenberth, Sc.D, Distinguished Senior Scientist, Climate Analysis Section, National Center for Atmospheric Research headed a long list of climate scientists who signed a letter of objection which said in part,

Climate experts know that the long-term warming trend has not abated in the past decade. In fact, it was the warmest decade on record. Observations show unequivocally that our planet is getting hotter. And computer models have recently shown that during periods when there is a smaller increase of surface temperatures, warming is occurring elsewhere in the climate system, typically in the deep ocean.

They're around here somewhere, those warmer temperatures, but down in the deep ocean?   Our sixteen concerned scientists remained skeptical, and today they replied.

The ARGO system of diving buoys is providing increasingly reliable data on the temperature of the upper layers of the ocean, where much of any heat from global warming must reside. But much like the surface temperature shown in the graph, the heat content of the upper layers of the world's oceans is not increasing nearly as fast as IPCC models predict, perhaps not increasing at all. Why should we now believe exaggerating IPCC models that tell us of "missing heat" hiding in the one place where it cannot yet be reliably measured—the deep ocean?

Given this dubious track record of prediction, it is entirely reasonable to ask for a second opinion. We have offered ours. With apologies for any immodesty, we all have enjoyed distinguished careers in climate science or in key science and engineering disciplines (such as physics, aeronautics, geology, biology, forecasting) on which climate science is based.

In the meantime Robert L. Byer, Ph. D. and president of the American Physical Society jumped in with his objections to the original letter.

The APS statement is unequivocal. It notes that "global warming is occurring." And the commentary states that "while there are factors driving the natural variability of climate (e.g., volcanoes, solar variability, oceanic oscillations), no known natural mechanisms have been proposed that explain all of the observed warming in the past century." The statement does not declare, as the authors of the op-ed suggest, that the human contribution to climate change is incontrovertible.

Concerned scientists suspect that Robert Byer is splitting hairs over what exactly is incontrovertible.

Turning to the letter of the president of the American Physical Society (APS), Robert Byer, we read, "The statement [on climate] does not declare, as the signatories of the letter [our op-ed] suggest, that the human contribution to climate change is incontrovertible." This seems to suggest that APS does not in fact consider the science on this key question to be settled.

Yet here is the critical paragraph from the statement that caused the resignation of Nobel laureate Ivar Giaever and many other long-time members of the APS: "The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring. If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth's physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now." No reasonable person can read this and avoid the conclusion that APS is declaring the human impact "incontrovertible." Otherwise there would be no logical link from "global warming" to the shrill call for mitigation.

The concerned scientists go on to argue that CO2 is not a pollutant, its warming effect greatly exaggerated, and that it is time to rethink the "frenzied pursuit of decarbonization."

...scientific facts come from observations, experiments and careful analysis, not from the near-unanimous vote of some group of people.

I'm on board with that.  Like almost every other policy aim of this latest incarnation of the progressive movement, Climate Change seems to have been contrived as a plausible excuse for giving progressives dictatorial political control.  Like the rest of them it becomes more implausible with the passage of time.

Posted by Tom Bowler at 06:34 AM | Permalink


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