Intolerance mars climate change debate


NEW DELHI — What’s up with journalists in the mainstream media? In most cases, they tend to be unconditional supporters of free expression and strive to report on controversial views.

However, reporting on issues relating to global warming has become strikingly one-sided. With no need to persuade using rational argument, a new conventional wisdom is being formulated that is beyond challenge by “sensible” people.

Creating group-think and mass behavior should be anathema to honest journalists. Otherwise, reporters become opinion makers rather than neutral observers.

Along these lines, there are signs of a growing intolerance in the debate on global climate change. Climate-change denial has become a taboo that invites a sense of moral repugnance toward deniers.

An article in the respected weekly Newsweek (“The Truth About Denial” Aug. 13) equated global-warming skeptics to Holocaust deniers. At the same time, reputable scientists were accused of being paid to create confusion in the face of consensus.

Those skeptical about the projected impacts of climate change are either accused of crimes against humanity or treated as cranks or “flat-earthers of the 21st century.” Worse, climate-change skeptics are often deemed to be lackeys of industrialists or oil companies.

As it turns out, most “skeptics” are simply those that raise doubts about the certainty of computer models of the future that predict climate doom.

For their part, nondeniers readily accept long-term projections for climate change that rely upon computer models.

Citing computer model forecasts to justify scientific consensus about climate change beggars logic and denies real-world experience. As it is, weather forecasters and economists using similarly elaborate computer models are legendarily inept in making short-term predictions.

Demonizing or ridiculing those that doubt the extent and cause of climate change has a chilling effect on free speech that makes open, rational debate almost impossible. For example, Britain’s Royal Society asked ExxonMobil to cease funding groups that “misrepresented the science of climate change by outright denial of the evidence.”

It is disturbing that such an august body would claim that any scientific inquiry be treated as though it reveals untouchable, cast-iron facts.

As such, the Royal Society reinforced an image that current assessments of climate change are based on an infallible scientific model. As such, no theoretical counterproposals merit consideration.

When scientific data are presented as “facts,” disagreement and inquiry are discouraged. But honest scientific investigation requires the assumption of falsifiability whereby no issue or conclusion is considered settled or beyond continuous investigation and experimentation.

Indeed, even the “facts” are far from being upheld by the so-called scientific consensus. Climatologists admit that the complexity of the microphysics of clouds means that their models include highly arbitrary parameters.

Consequently, most models provide imperfect representations of the real atmosphere since they do not reliably represent clouds or account for the effects of water vapor. As such, the United Nations has admitted that its climate-change models account for only half of estimated climate variability. As such, their projections have to be considered unreliable.

An interesting event that escaped public notice is that NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies recently changed historical climate data. These changes dispute the claims made by Al Gore and many others that have repeatedly asserted that nine of the 10 hottest years in U.S. history occurred since 1995.

Yet GISS made no official announcement of this change in the data, nor did newspapers provide front-page coverage.

The revised data show that while 8 percent of man-made CO2 emissions occurred after 1940, four of the 10 hottest years recorded in the United States were in the 1930s (1934, 1931, 1938 and 1939). This is not surprising since this was the infamous Dust Bowl period that is so much a part of U.S. lore.

Only three of the top-10 warmest years in American history were recorded over the last 10 years (1998, 2006 and 1999). Another adjustment is that the peak in the five-year mean around 2000 is only 0.25 degree F higher than that recorded in the early 1930s.

Instead of attacking researchers that seek to challenge the status quo view on global warming, journalists should investigate the motives of the global-warming alarmists.

Consider scientists that follow the “scientific consensus” line. They have a strong incentive to do so to gain access to billions of dollars of public funds for studies into global warming.

Meanwhile, politicians use “fear” to soften up citizens so that they willingly give up more hard-earned income to pay carbon taxes. For example, the assault on gas-guzzling SUVs is evidence of this opportunism since industrial production produces far more carbon emissions than all automobile usage.

Forcing up carbon costs though taxes, tolls, or charges can have unintended regressive effects by imposing a heavy burden on the poor. Lowering emissions of man-made greenhouse gases requires dramatic cuts in manufacturing with fewer jobs in rich countries and lower economic growth in poor ones.

Since climate is always warming or cooling, and ice is either melting or accumulating, warming trends are not unusual. Climate change is as certain as continental drift or the growth and decay of mountains.

Melting glaciers and ice sheets, a rising ocean level, severe storms or floods and droughts may indicate warming, but these phenomena say nothing about the causes of warming.

It turns out that asserting scientific consensus concerning the extent of anthropogenic (human-caused) warming is false. Whatever the extent of warming, it is impossible to discern whether it, or how much, is due to human influences or natural fluctuations.

The relentless influences of the sun or volcanic activity on climate imply that human contributions to current climate warming are unlikely to be appreciable. These natural influences have much greater impact on climate than greenhouse gases emitted by all of mankind over history.

Christopher Lingle is research scholar at the Center for Civil Society in New Delhi and professor of economics at Universidad Francisco Marroquin in Guatemala.