posted Jul 18, 2008
in Politics

Over the past couple of years, I've been turning into a skeptic on the global warming theory, in particular the idea that mankind's actions have effectively doomed us to an uncomfortably hot planet (since the putatively required solutions are all completely unimplementable).

I will grant that my politics would seem to incline me to such skepticism, but I try to decide based on the science, not the politics. If the world truly is heading for disaster, I want to know.

It is very hard to judge a science that you have no experience in, but there is one metric that you can correctly use as an educated outsider to determine whether a scientist is on the right track or the wrong track: the accuracy of predictions. If a prediction is correctly made, it favors a theory, proportionally to the difficulty of the prediction. If the prediction is wrong, it is very solid evidence that the theory or model is wrong. This judgment can be often be made by anybody, especially when it's a question of something simple like temperature.

As you will immediately guess from that lead-in, my problem is that global warming advocates have made certain predictions based upon their theory of mankind's massive impact on the global climate. This is an appropriate thing to do when you have a model. These predictions have uniformly taken the form of a straight line towards multi-degree increases in our temperature by 2100 (the magic date everyone uses). Now, I'm aware that climate is chaotic and tends to bounce around a lot, so the "straight line" is still going to be drawn with some sort of averaging. Nevertheless, over the course of ten years I believe we can start to draw some conclusions.

And yes, the global warming predictions have been wrong. One of the reasons I post this is the release of this paper in the American Physics Society's journal, particularly this paragraph:

The models heavily relied upon by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had not projected this multidecadal stasis in “global warming”; nor (until trained ex post facto) the fall in TS from 1940-1975; nor 50 years’ cooling in Antarctica (Doran et al., 2002) and the Arctic (Soon, 2005); nor the absence of ocean warming since 2003 (Lyman et al., 2006; Gouretski&Koltermann, 2007); nor the onset, duration, or intensity of the Madden-Julian intraseasonal oscillation, the Quasi-Biennial Oscillation in the tropical stratosphere, El Nino/La Nina oscillations, the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, or the Pacific Decadal Oscillation that has recently transited from its warming to its cooling phase (oceanic oscillations which, on their own, may account for all of the observed warmings and coolings over the past half-century: Tsoniset al., 2007); nor the magnitude nor duration of multi-century events such as the Mediaeval Warm Period or the Little Ice Age; nor the cessation since 2000 of the previously-observed growth in atmospheric methane concentration (IPCC, 2007); nor the active 2004 hurricane season; nor the inactive subsequent seasons; nor the UK flooding of 2007 (the Met Office had forecast a summer of prolonged droughts only six weeks previously); nor the solar Grand Maximum of the past 70 years, during which the Sun was more active, for longer, than at almost any similar period in the past 11,400 years (Hathaway, 2004; Solankiet al., 2005); nor the consequent surface “global warming” on Mars, Jupiter, Neptune’s largest moon, and even distant Pluto; nor the eerily- continuing 2006 solar minimum; nor the consequent, precipitate decline of ~0.8 °C in TS from January 2007 to May 2008 that has canceled out almost all of the observed warming of the 20th century.

I have taken the liberty of bolding the things that I know constitute failed predictions (except the solar minimum, since global warming advocates don't think that solar variances affect global temperature and therefore have not made predictions for), and not just re-examinations of historical data (as important as those are too). This list seems to be getting longer rather quickly, too. In addition to the things I bolded, I am fairly certain that many other things on that list constitute failed predictions, either implicitly or explicitly, but I am less confident about them.

I believe that it is safe to say that objectively, any model that failed to predict the cooling trend of the past 10 years is simply wrong. And furthermore, the predictions of failed and incorrect models are not something to bet tens of trillions of dollars on.

In particular, we know the predictions are actually wrong and not just "failing to account for natural variations" because the entire foundation of the favored global-warming models is that mankind's influence is so strong that it overwhelms all natural influence. Had the models in fact correctly predicted that natural influences would overwhelm warming temporarily, but that a warming term was still present and growing in size, I wouldn't be making this post... but that's not what happened. And the value of post-facto corrections is zero. Possibly less, if you account for their ability to allow you to fool yourself into thinking that your predictions were still correct but for, you know, all the stuff you didn't know about or take into account. "Failed to account for natural variations" is just a specific form of "wrong".

Now, I don't want my position misunderstood, so the following caveats: I am not actually expressing an opinion about whether the globe is going to be hotter or colder in the next ten years, whether any given temperature change is a good thing, or whose still-future predictions are right or wrong, because I am not qualified to make any of those determinations. I am merely observing that the global warming models upon which so many decisions are being based have made fallacious predictions.

However, given the importance that has been placed on these models, that is quite an explosive statement. It really shouldn't be. I shouldn't have to file this in the "politics" category. It should be a bog-standard statement that a young science studying an immensely complicated and chaotic system (those two adverbs are not redundant) with immature tools and horrifically incomplete information could hardly be expected to make correct predictions. Stating that the climate models of the past ten years are likely to be wrong should be roughly as controversial as pointing out the biology has not learned everything it can learn. Yet, here we are, with politics and emotions abounding.


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