Mr Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement provoked a strong, if entirely predictable reacton from the global elites, the media and millions of ordinary folks who presumably believe, with all sincerity, that his actions are going to lead to environmental Armageddon. They have also seen a resurgence in those dread insults, “denial” and “denier” – words once used almost exclusively to describe those who deny an actual historical fact, namely Adolf Hitler’s policy of exterminating Jews and others his regime considered subhuman.
As an aside, I note with interest that many who are making the loudest noises about “our future” and the “future of the planet” tend to be representatives of countries that have fertility rates below 2, not to mention those that eliminate thousands of their own future citizens in a process that they call choice. So much for choosing the future.
There is little point in dwelling on the Paris Agreement itself. Suffice it to say that firstly it commits governments to absolutely nothing, and secondly if anyone thinks that the likes of the Chinese are actually going to impede their economic growth for the sake of appeasing the Western environmental movement, they are seriously deluded.
But what of the charges of being a “climate change denier”? Well, if questioning the claims of “man-made climate change” (MMCC) makes one a denier, then I’m very happy to wear the badge. But what is it I am actually denying?
What I am not necessarily doing is denying that man’s activities are causing changes to the global climate. I do not know that, I cannot know that, and nor can anyone else. What I am doing is denying that it has been scientifically proven, or that it even can be scientifically proven. Why so?
Acceptance of the theory of MMCC rests squarely on accepting a number propositions and deductions, which together form one enormous logical fallacy. Behind all the jargon, and the mass of data, these are the propositions and deductions it rests upon:
Proposition A: Man is pumping more CO2 into the atmosphere than ever before Proposition B: Global temperatures are rising
Which leads to:
Deduction A: Man’s release of CO2 is responsible for the rise in global temperatures; and
Deduction B: Man can slow/halt/reverse the rise in global temperatures, by reducing emissions of CO2 in particular.
Now, which of those statements is scientific? I mean, which of them can be demonstrated scientifically to be true?
The only statement that comes close to being a scientific provable fact is Proposition A. I say comes close to, rather than is, simply because there are no records of CO2 emissions down the centuries from which to prove or disprove its accuracy. There is no way of knowing how much CO2 was released into the atmosphere in the times of the Romans or the Vikings or the Reformation, for instance. Nevertheless, since it is surely inconceivable that a pre-industrialisation world, with a much lower population as well, could have emitted more CO2 than today, I am happy to treat it as an obvious fact.
Proposition B, on the other hand, is far from being a scientific fact, and is very much open to challenge. Firstly, there is the fact that again we simply do not have records going back far enough that could give us an accurate picture. There is, however, abundant anecdotal evidence to show that there have been periods that have been generally cooler, and periods that have been generally warmer than today.
Secondly, although the data does appear to support the idea that there has been a rise of surface and lower atmospheric temperatures in the latter half of the 20th century, this was then followed by a slight drop in temperatures from 1998 onwards. It is interesting that MMCC proponents themselves accepted that this was the case, yet rather than allow it to challenge their hypothesis, which is what scientists are supposed to do when data contradicting their hypothesis comes along, instead they put it down to a “pause” or “hiatus” (see here for instance).
The hiatus itself was then disputed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in a report that was conveniently timed to coincide with the UN Climate Conference in Paris in 2015. However, earlier this year, one of NOAA’s top scientists, Dr John Bates, revealed that the NOAA report was based on “unverified” data. Dr Bates accused the lead author of the paper, Thomas Karl, of:
“Insisting on decisions and scientific choices that maximised warming and minimised documentation… in an effort to discredit the notion of a global warming pause, rushed so that he could time publication to influence national and international deliberations on climate policy.”
His claims were brushed aside by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), which publishes the journal Science in which the Karl study first appeared. So far as I can tell, they’ve never bothered to engage with his very serious criticisms, but have instead basically ignored them and characterised them as an “internal dispute between two factions [within NOAA]”. What this incident shows is not necessarily the rightness or wrongness of one side or the other, but that the MMCC hypothesis is driven not by a commitment to truth and science, but by politics and ideology. If it were simple science, Dr Bates’s claims could have and would have been refuted by irrefutable facts. But they weren’t.
MMCC scientists then make a huge leap of faith to reach Deduction A — that Man’s release of CO2 is responsible for the rise in global temperatures — which is a long way from science and fact. Even if we were to assume that both Proposition A and Proposition B are irrefutably true, there is still absolutely no way whatsoever that this could lead one to embrace Deduction A from a scientific point of view. In fact, this deduction can logically never make it outside the realm of hypothesis to theory, let alone scientific fact.
Before explaining why, it’s necessary to remind ourselves of the differences between these three concepts. A hypothesis is a suggested explanation for an observable phenomenon, or a reasoned prediction of a possible causal correlation among multiple phenomena. A theory is a tested, well-substantiated, unifying explanation for a set of verified, proven factors. A scientific fact is an observation that has been repeatedly confirmed and for all practical purposes is accepted as “true.”
There are a number of reasons that MMCC can never be anything other than a hypothesis. For instance, once again the fact that we do not have records of global temperatures going very far back means is that it is simply impossible to say whether the rise in temperature in the latter part of the 20th Century was an anomaly, or actually part of a long term, cyclical trend. In other words, we have no testable way of identifying whether it was a “natural” warming or an “unnatural” one.
We also have no idea whether pumping more CO2 into the atmosphere does actually cause warming. MMCC scientists believe with sincerity that it does, but this is a belief based squarely on the assumption that we know how the Earth will react to increase in CO2. But do we? No, is the simple answer to that. At a conference in London back in 2013, a group of scientists gathered together to try to provide an explanation for why the effects of MMCC had apparently stalled (the hiatus mentioned earlier). Although there were many suggestions made to explain it, all the speakers mentioned one key factor:
“That whatever solar energy is making it through to the surface, much is being absorbed by the hidden depths of the oceans… readings from satellites since 2000 show how much energy is arriving at the planet, and how much is leaving, so if the energy left behind is not manifesting itself in rising surface temperatures, then it must be going somewhere – and the deep ocean is the most plausible explanation.”
In other words, what they were essentially proposing was that the Earth itself may well include a mechanism (or perhaps mechanisms) to be able to cope with rising levels of CO2.
But perhaps the main reason why MMCC will always remain a hypothesis and never a proper theory or fact is that there is simply no mechanism for properly testing it. We don’t actually have other Earths with the same conditions which we can run experiments on. Together with the fact that we neither have long-term climate records, nor a complete picture of whether and how our planet has been designed to cope with more CO2, this means that the claim that man’s release of CO2 is responsible for the rise in global temperatures is just a hypothesis — nothing more, nothing less.
Given all that, it is safe to say that Deduction B – Man can slow/halt/reverse the rise in global temperatures, by reducing the emissions of CO2 in particular – is not even in the same ballpark as proper science. I would struggle to even label it a hypothesis, properly speaking, since it is ultimately based on layer upon layer of challengeable assumptions.
Now I don’t care one iota if people wish to believe in these hypotheses and assumptions. They are free to do so. But to state that they are facts – when they are not – and to shriek at those who challenge them as being “deniers” is one of the more ludicrous spectacles that modernity seems to be belching out. For this has none of the hallmarks of the proper scientific process, but an awful lot of the hallmarks of a religious cult. It has a dogma (MMCC); a priesthood (the scientific consensus); an eschatology (we’re all going to die if we don’t do such and such); those labelled heretics (deniers); and punishment for heresy (“deniers” are portrayed as beyond the pale, dangerous or even downright evil).
Oh well. Call me a denier then.