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For some years now, the President of the United States and his minions have been lying to us about the threat posed to our well-being and our security by global warming. In the next few decades, they say, the temperature will dramatically rise and the climate will change markedly for the worse. The consequences will be dire, and human activity is the cause. We must curb carbon emissions … or millions will die. They have even induced the armed forces to list combating global warming as one of their prime missions.
And the beat goes on. In a breathless report, posted yesterday on the website of Time Magazine, Noel Feeney tells us that “more than 100,000 people are taking to the streets of New York City on Sunday to take part in the People’s Climate March” and that 2,700 similar demonstrations will be taking place in 150 different countries.
The march is taking place ahead of Tuesday’s United Nations climate-change summit, which is convening to discuss an international carbon emissions agreement. Those marching hope their participation will put pressure on world leaders expected to attend, such as President Barack Obama, to take policy action to curb the climate change damage. . .
The event is believed to be the largest climate change-related demonstration in history. It may also be the loudest — demonstrators are using horns, speakers and other noise-making methods to literally sound the alarm on climate change.
“It’s going to be beautiful,” the organizer of the march reportedly told NBC News. “It’s like sounding a burglar alarm on the people who are stealing the future.”
What makes Feeney’s report especially intriguing is that neither he nor Justin Gillis and Coral Davenport, who wrote a similar report for Pravda-on-the-Hudson, nor Joe Jackson, who is reporting on the event for The Wall Street Journal, anywhere acknowledges the existence of climate scientists who doubt that the shifts taking place in temperatures across the globe are anything to be alarmed about.
Even more striking is the failure of these reporters to mention the fact that, over the last 16 years, the planet has been cooling. The left-liberal activists who pose as journalists have this in common with Barack Obama. They are disinclined to allow scientific fact to get in the way of the sacred cause they espouse.
But the facts are nonetheless there to be seen. As Matt Ridley observed earlier this month on the op-ed page of The Wall Street Journal, there is no climate emergency, and everyone with any knowledge of climate science knows it.
The U.N. no longer claims that there will be dangerous or rapid climate change in the next two decades. Last September, between the second and final draft of its fifth assessment report, the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change quietly downgraded the warming it expected in the 30 years following 1995, to about 0.5 degrees Celsius from 0.7 (or, in Fahrenheit, to about 0.9 degrees, from 1.3).
Even that is likely to be too high. The climate-research establishment has finally admitted openly what skeptic scientists have been saying for nearly a decade: Global warming has stopped since shortly before this century began.
First the climate-research establishment denied that a pause existed, noting that if there was a pause, it would invalidate their theories. Now they say there is a pause (or “hiatus”), but that it doesn’t after all invalidate their theories.
Alas, their explanations have made their predicament worse by implying that man-made climate change is so slow and tentative that it can be easily overwhelmed by natural variation in temperature—a possibility that they had previously all but ruled out.
When the climate scientist and geologist Bob Carter of James Cook University in Australia wrote an article in 2006 saying that there had been no global warming since 1998 according to the most widely used measure of average global air temperatures, there was an outcry. A year later, when David Whitehouse of the Global Warming Policy Foundation in London made the same point, the environmentalist and journalist Mark Lynas said in the New Statesman that Mr. Whitehouse was “wrong, completely wrong,” and was “deliberately, or otherwise, misleading the public.”
We know now that it was Mr. Lynas who was wrong. Two years before Mr. Whitehouse’s article, climate scientists were already admitting in emails among themselves that there had been no warming since the late 1990s. “The scientific community would come down on me in no uncertain terms if I said the world had cooled from 1998,” wrote Phil Jones of the University of East Anglia in Britain in 2005. He went on: “Okay it has but it is only seven years of data and it isn’t statistically significant.”
If the pause lasted 15 years, they conceded, then it would be so significant that it would invalidate the climate-change models upon which policy was being built. A report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) written in 2008 made this clear: “The simulations rule out (at the 95% level) zero trends for intervals of 15 yr or more.”
Well, the pause has now lasted for 16, 19 or 26 years—depending on whether you choose the surface temperature record or one of two satellite records of the lower atmosphere. That’s according to a new statistical calculation by Ross McKitrick, a professor of economics at the University of Guelph in Canada.
It has been roughly two decades since there was a trend in temperature significantly different from zero. The burst of warming that preceded the millennium lasted about 20 years and was preceded by 30 years of slight cooling after 1940.
Ridley does not doubt that carbon emissions produce warming and that human activity has an effect on the climate. His point is simply that it appears to be far less influential than the changes produced by mother nature, which are considerable.
Nor is Ridley alone in his skepticism. On the cover of the review section in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, you will find an article by Steven E. Koonin — who was once professor of theoretical physics and provost at Cal Tech and who served as undersecretary for science in the Energy Department during President Barack Obama’s first term (and who is now director of the Center for Urban Science and Progress at New York University) — in which we are told the following:
The crucial scientific question for policy isn’t whether the climate is changing. That is a settled matter: The climate has always changed and always will. Geological and historical records show the occurrence of major climate shifts, sometimes over only a few decades. We know, for instance, that during the 20th century the Earth’s global average surface temperature rose 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
Nor is the crucial question whether humans are influencing the climate. That is no hoax: There is little doubt in the scientific community that continually growing amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, due largely to carbon-dioxide emissions from the conventional use of fossil fuels, are influencing the climate. There is also little doubt that the carbon dioxide will persist in the atmosphere for several centuries. The impact today of human activity appears to be comparable to the intrinsic, natural variability of the climate system itself.
Rather, the crucial, unsettled scientific question for policy is, “How will the climate change over the next century under both natural and human influences?” Answers to that question at the global and regional levels, as well as to equally complex questions of how ecosystems and human activities will be affected, should inform our choices about energy and infrastructure.
But—here’s the catch—those questions are the hardest ones to answer. They challenge, in a fundamental way, what science can tell us about future climates.
Beyond [observational challenges regarding how best to estimate human contribution to global warming, our vast ignorance of the oceans, and the way various factors feedback on each other] are those posed by the complex computer models used to project future climate. These massive programs attempt to describe the dynamics and interactions of the various components of the Earth system—the atmosphere, the oceans, the land, the ice and the biosphere of living things. While some parts of the models rely on well-tested physical laws, other parts involve technically informed estimation. Computer modeling of complex systems is as much an art as a science.
For instance, global climate models describe the Earth on a grid that is currently limited by computer capabilities to a resolution of no finer than 60 miles. (The distance from New York City to Washington, D.C., is thus covered by only four grid cells.) But processes such as cloud formation, turbulence and rain all happen on much smaller scales. These critical processes then appear in the model only through adjustable assumptions that specify, for example, how the average cloud cover depends on a grid box’s average temperature and humidity. In a given model, dozens of such assumptions must be adjusted (“tuned,” in the jargon of modelers) to reproduce both current observations and imperfectly known historical records.
We often hear that there is a “scientific consensus” about climate change. But as far as the computer models go, there isn’t a useful consensus at the level of detail relevant to assessing human influences.
While the past two decades have seen progress in climate science, the field is not yet mature enough to usefully answer the difficult and important questions being asked of it. This decidedly unsettled state highlights what should be obvious: Understanding climate, at the level of detail relevant to human influences, is a very, very difficult problem. . . . [B]ecause the natural climate changes over decades, it will take many years to get the data needed to confidently isolate and quantify the effects of human influences. Policy makers and the public may wish for the comfort of certainty in their climate science. But I fear that rigidly promulgating the idea that climate science is ‘settled’ (or is a ‘hoax’) demeans and chills the scientific enterprise, retarding its progress in these important matters.
In short, though there is such a thing as climate science, its practitioners are not currently in a position to do more than guess at future trends and won’t be for a good long time. Climate science may not be a hoax, but the claim that the science is settled is demonstrably false — and the administration in which Professor Koonin once served is trying, with the help of a great many dishonest climate scientists, to put one over on us.
Somehow, I doubt that Al Gore, Bill de Blasio, Harry Reid, or anyone else at the march is going to tell the crowd anything even remotely resembling the truth. Nor do I think that we will soon hear a mea culpa from Michael Mann.