Sunday, May 21, 2017

On Believing Alarmist Climate Scientists - Or Not

Subtitle:  The Balance of Evidence Shows Disbelief is Justified

The alarmist climate scientists, or as referred to by me on SLB: False-Alarmists, are in the news and electronic sites quite regularly these days, with opponents (such as me) pointing out the many errors, inconsistencies, questionable practices, and even outright lies.  A friend recently sent me a link to Scott Adams' (of Dilbert cartoon fame) blog article, see link. to  "How to Convince Skeptics that Climate Change is a Problem," from March 8, 2017.   It is an excellent article, with 14 main points that are discussed below.   Many of these same points were made by me on SLB over the years. 

Before getting to the Adams points and my comments on those, a brief excursion into what (in my opinion) is, or perhaps could be, one of the motivations for false-alarmists to take and hold the positions they have taken.  This requires considering a few historic facts and myths. 

In the 1950s (or even earlier if one believes that), The End Of Oil was a common concern, even a fear among some.  Peak Oil was the term widely used, to describe the way oil fields decreased their production, while new, replacement oil fields were getting more and more scarce.   Some advocated for abandoning oil altogether and using nuclear energy for as much as possible.  They envisioned nuclear cars, trains, buses, and of course every electric grid would be powered by nuclear plants.    This of course led to roughly 450 nuclear power plants being started up globally, with 120 (approximately) of those in the US.  (note, many of them are now shut down, with 99 or so still running in the US).    It is worth mentioning that, before the 1970s oil price shocks, oil-fired power plants provided approximately 20 percent of all electricity in the US.  As oil became too expensive to burn for making electricity, nuclear plants came online and produce the same fraction of US power: 18 to 20 percent annually.   That is all the nuclear plants could achieve in market share, only what very expensive oil had produced. 

In the 1960s, pollution concerns from industry, and from common daily life became a growing concern.  A widely-read book predicted humanity's collapse under the weight of the massive pollution problem (see Limits To Growth, a widely debunked and spectacularly wrong book; but back then it had some credibility).   And, of course, Silent Spring by Rachel Carson was a must-read book for those who were oh-so-concerned with saving the planet.   That book, Silent Spring, has also been widely debunked as false science.  

The concern over widespread pollution led to environmental regulations, including of course the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and many others.  Those did a lot of good, with much cleaner air and water today compared to 50 years ago. 

However, oil did not run out.   The geologists, oil drilling exploration companies, computer scientists, all worked together to find not only new oil fields, but ways to produce more oil from existing oil fields.   Industrialization, and modernization created huge demands for electricity world-wide.  But, the justifiable concerns over nuclear plant safety (we've had 5 nuclear reactors melt down or explode, or both thus far) led to much of that electricity being produced from burning coal.  

The Limits To Growth crowd saw an opportunity: if pollution via smelly particles and fumes was already reduced, and oily, smelly, foamy substances on the waterways was gone, it would be necessary to find another way to shut down those evil oil companies that kept finding cheaper and cheaper oil.  Peak Oil refused to peak, nuclear power was way too expensive and far too dangerous so was not powering everything, so some other way had to be found to eliminate oil companies. 

Their way forward was to seize on a little-known physical truth, that carbon dioxide can be made to absorb and re-radiate heat energy.  That is an absolute fact, no doubt about it.  It is taught in universities to chemical engineers and mechanical engineers in the heat transfer course.  see link to SLB article on this, "Chemical Engineers, CO2, and Absorptive Re-Radiation; Subtitle:  Fired Furnaces Have Strong Radiating CO2; Atmosphere Does Not."  If carbon dioxide could be blamed for the Earth's apparent (some say measured) warming, and it is a fact that burning of oil and coal produces carbon dioxide, then the link could be made and evil oil exterminated forever.   

It was also convenient that the Earth was going through a natural cycle from a cold state, or at least colder than the recent past, and into a warmer state.  The cold period lasted approximately 500 years (1350 to 1850), and is known as the Little Ice Age.   (this leads to some serious contradictions for the false-alarmists, what caused the Little Ice Age, what caused it to end, and their pet theory about carbon dioxide heating up the Earth.  But, more on that in a bit.)   The few hundred years before the Little Ice Age were much warmer, according to all the evidence.   

So, there is the situation in a nutshell: a burning desire to end oil companies, build nuclear plants for all, led to dubious (some say fraudulent) manipulations of science to create a false-alarm over man-made global warming.  

Now, to Scott Adams' 14 points.   (The Adams article is an excellent essay, highly recommend reading it). 


  1. Stop telling me the “models” (plural) are good.
  2. Stop telling me the climate models are excellent at hindcasting, meaning they work when you look at history.
  3. Tell me what percentage of warming is caused by humans versus natural causes. If humans are 10% of the cause, I am not so worried. If we are 90%, you have my attention.
  4. Stop attacking some of the messengers for believing that our reality holds evidence of Intelligent Design.
  5. Skeptics produce charts of the earth’s temperature going up and down for ages before humans were industrialized. If you can’t explain-away that chart, I can’t hear anything else you say.
  6. Stop telling me the arctic ice on one pole is decreasing if you are ignoring the increase on the other pole. 
  7. When skeptics point out that the Earth has not warmed as predicted, don’t change the subject to sea levels.
  8. If the rate of change of temperature is key, stop telling me about record high temperatures as if they are proof of something.
  9. Stop pointing to record warmth in one place when we’re also having record cold in others.
  10. Don’t tell me how well your models predict the past. Tell me how many climate models have ever been created, since we started doing this sort of thing, and tell me how many have now been discarded because they didn’t predict correctly. 
  11. When you claim the oceans have risen dramatically, you need to explain why insurance companies are ignoring this risk and why my local beaches look exactly the same to me. 
  12. If you want me to believe warmer temperatures are bad, you need to produce a chart telling me how humankind thrived during various warmer and colder eras.You also need to convince me that economic models are accurate. 
  13. Stop conflating the basic science and the measurements with the models. Each has its own credibility. -- (the basic science is badly corrupted, as shown on SLB)
  14. If skeptics make you retreat to Pascal’s Wager as your main argument for aggressively responding [to] climate change, please understand that you lost the debate. The world is full of risks that might happen. 
Sowell commentary on the 14 points. 

  1. The “models” (plural) are good.  Adams correctly points out that having multiple models for climate simulations is just begging for zero credibility.  Here on SLB, it has been pointed out many times that settled science, credible science, is based on a single model that has been proven over and over.   Things like gravity, electromagnetism, heat transfer, chemical reactions, and many others.   False-alarmists have more than 20 models (depending on what source one cites), and there are many different outcomes.    The idea that the models are "good" is also false, as many writers have pointed out repeatedly.  As just one instance, recently Dr. John Christy (University of Alabama at Huntsville) testified before Congress that there is complete disagreement between the climate models' results of great warming, and measured data that show there is no warming in the atmosphere.                                                     
  2. Climate models are excellent at hindcasting.  Adams points out that hindcasting is good, but not sufficient for believing a future forecast.   This is an important point in complex system modeling; we have a very great amount of experience in modeling oil refineries and chemical plants.   There are essentially two types of models: the first is based on first principles; the second is based on empirical data.   The only one that can ever be used for a forecast is based on first principles.  An empirically-based model is only as good as the narrow region or range of the data.   In climate science, the future is necessarily out of the range of empirical data.   It is also quite true that the climate models have far too much parameterization, or empirical modeling.   It is no surprise to the chemical engineers (such as me) with process modeling experience that the climate models fail, and fail miserably.   There are many other reasons for the climate models' failure, though, including false attribution of causation (blaming Carbon Dioxide, for example).                                                                                                   
  3. Percentage of warming caused by humans versus natural causes.  This point is very good; if humans are responsible for 10 percent of the recent warming, nobody need be concerned, but if it's 90 percent, there is cause for alarm.   As written just above, the Earth is climbing out of a natural, 500-year cold period.  Of course the Earth is warming.   The fact that climate scientists choose to believe that Carbon Dioxide has something to do with the warming is more than a bit suspect.   The fact is, the measured rate of warming (and glacier shrinkage) is the same today as it was in 1850-1900.  Yet, even the false-alarmists admit that no change in carbon dioxide occurred back then.  A further temporary warming occurred from about 1910 to 1940, then temperatures actually decreased a bit for 30 years.   All that time, 1910-1970, carbon dioxide was increasing.    False-alarmists simply gloss over this point.   To the detriment of their credibility, though.                                                                                      
  4. Attacking some of the messengers for believing [in] Intelligent Design.  There is a broader point here.  Scientists throughout history had various beliefs, some in God or gods, some agnostic, some atheistic.   This is entirely beside the point.   The question is, had the scientist that discovered a life-saving thing e.g. Pasteur and making milk safe by heating it for a short interval, or Dr. Salk with the polio vaccine, held religious views, would it be wise to discard their discoveries?   The entire scientific foundation would be discarded if modern science had to discard every discovery by every researcher that held a religious view.    For false-alarmists to resort to this tactic suggests they don't have any faith in their science.   (no kidding...)                            
  5. Charts of the earth’s temperature going up and down for ages before humans were industrialized.   This is, again, the point in a different way of a natural warming period before the Little Ice Age.  However, charts of much longer history also point out the natural descent into glacial periods (100,000 years roughly), followed by natural warming into inter-glacial periods (15-20,000 years roughly).   Clearly, humans had zero to do with those events.                                                                                             
  6. Ice on one pole is decreasing [while] increas[ing] on the other pole.  The Arctic ice is (perhaps) decreasing, and the Antarctic ice is certainly increasing.  Yet, the false-alarmists downplay the increasing ice.  They also trumpet the Antarctic ice that breaks away.  What is seldom mentioned - especially in the press releases - is the Antarctic ice that breaks away is all from the same spot, which is located above an active volcanic area.   What is also not mentioned is the pattern of ice decrease in the Arctic: a very small decline for several years, followed by a substantial decline of a few years, then a steady period over the past few years with no additional decline.  That is certainly not consistent with the steady increase in Carbon Dioxide.   However, that ice trend is consistent with the dark soot particles deposited on the ice from over-the-pole jet aircraft, and the soot from Asian coal-burning power plants.   False-alarmists need to be honest about the causation of the measured phenomena such as polar ice extent.                                                                                                                                       
  7. The Earth has not warmed as predicted, so don’t change the subject to sea levels.  Another excellent point, with false-alarmists unable to answer the obvious flaw in their argument so they switch to another topic.   The problem is, false-alarmists resort to various tactics that make them sound like they are hiding something.  They talk about global warming in one breath, showing the temperature trends over the land   By their measurements, there has been a warming.   But, when the entire globe is including - meaning the oceans also - there is almost no warming.  They love to show a graph of the Arctic ice extent, but stop their graph at the lowest point recently.  That gives a false impression that the ice is still shrinking, when it certainly is not.  Changing the subject is a favorite tactic.                                                                               
  8.  If the rate of change of temperature is key, stop telling me about record high temperatures as if they are proof of something.  Again, with the switch in topics.   It is also very important to know that these supposed record high temperatures are only true after the false-alarmists made multiple, repeated, adjustments to their temperature databases.   Adams does not mention that one, but I will discuss it more in a bit.                                                                                                                                    
  9. Stop pointing to record warmth in one place when we’re also having record cold in others.  This is a favorite technique of false-alarmists: trumpeting the data that supports their argument while ignoring all the contrary data.   That's not science; that's advocacy.  It also is a slap at the intelligence of the audience, who presumably cannot determine that contrary data exists.                                                                                  
  10. Don’t tell me how well your models predict the past. Tell me how many climate models have ever been created, since we started doing this sort of thing, and tell me how many have now been discarded because they didn’t predict correctly.   The false-alarmists really have a problem with their multiple climate models and the wide range of results from them.   Instead of identifying those that best match the actual, measured data (that shows almost zero warming), and discarding those models that are clearly way off, they simply average together all the model results.   In what universe does that produce an acceptable result?   This is not science; it is a mockery of science.                                                                                                        
  11. Claim[ing] the oceans have risen dramatically, [requires that] you . .  explain why insurance companies are ignoring this risk and why . . . local beaches look exactly the same. . .. The false-alarmists employ two very devious tactics in their claims of sealevel rise.  The first is false attribution of causation, the second is smearing the data by averaging a few data points with all the rest. The ocean surface measurements clearly show that most of the oceans are not rising very much, if any.   Those areas that show an increase are typically influenced, even heavily influenced, by land subsidence.   The subsidence is both natural, and man-made from pumping groundwater.   The false-alarmists then take these few areas of false sealevel increase, then average that with the great majority of the ocean that has no increase, to produce an average increase of about 8 inches per century.  Then, the false-alarmists have the nerve to say the rate of increase is increasing, so the next century will have a rise of 20 to 40 inches.   Yet, there is zero increase in the rate, the oceans - even by their false measurements - are rising at the same slow, steady rate as 100 or even 200 years ago.                                                                                                                 
  12. [If] warmer temperatures are bad, . . . produce a chart [comparing] how humankind thrived during various warmer and colder eras.  You also need to convince me that economic models are accurate.   This is one of the best, in my view.  Adams hits to the heart here, as it is certainly true that human death rates are much higher in periods of prolonged cold than periods of warmth.   The second part of the point is the predictions of economic harm in future warmer decades.  The fact is, almost every economic prediction model is woefully wrong.  Econometrics is rightfully known as the dismal science.                                                                                                                                         
  13. Stop conflating the basic science and the measurements with the models. Each has its own credibility. This one is also like Adams' first point above, and Dr. Christy's testimony to Congress.  The model predictions, or projections as the false-alarmists call them, are not the science.  Those are simply the results of computer models.  Those model results can be, and have been, compared to an average of air temperatures from around the globe.  It must be stated, and widely recognized, that  the basic science has data that is badly corrupted, as shown on SLB.   The credibility that Adams mentions does not exist, in my view.  There is, of course, the irrefutable fact that carbon dioxide can actually absorb heat radiation and re-emit those photons, but only in a very limited wavelength.  The radiant heat science requires that high altitude, low pressure, very cold, and very low concentration carbon dioxide absorbs and re-emits only a tiny, tiny, miniscule amount of heat.   Every heat transfer design engineer knows this.  The credibility of the temperature data is absolutely zero, due to the way that the data is collected and manipulated, then adjusted over and over to achieve the desired result.  The credibility of the climate models has been addressed above, and is also zero.                                                                                                                          
  14. If skeptics make you retreat to Pascal’s Wager as your main argument for aggressively responding [to] climate change, please understand that you lost the debate. The world is full of risks that might happen.   This last one refers to the false-alarmists' demands that every industrialized society reduce or eliminate their fossil fuel use to prevent the globe from overheating and unleashing an entire litany of horrible results.   The list is familiar, and very long: extended droughts, severe heat waves, spread of heat-tolerant tropical diseases, Biblical floods, sealevel increases and shorelines disappeared, with many millions of people flooded out of their homes, crop failures and starvation, ice caps disappeared, stronger and more frequent hurricanes and tornadoes, snow reduced or not occurring at all, low level islands disappeared, oceans absorbing more carbon dioxide and sea creatures permanently and badly affected, coral reefs bleached and dead, crustaceans unable to form protective shells, just to name a few.  Adams is correct that using global warming as a scare tactic to spend un-told trillions in an attempt to prevent an uncertain outcome is a sure sign that the false-alarmists have no valid arguments.  The "You need this, because what if we are right?" argument is an excellent reason to purchase home owners' insurance, when the insurance salesman provides the actual statistics on disasters than have done and still do impact homes.   However, dire predictions that have zero basis in science are no reason to waste trillions and trillions of dollars (or Euros or Yuan, for that matter).     There are, as Adams states, a great number of pressing issues that most certainly will detrimentally impact the future.  The world will need great effort and money to combat those issues.  Others have studied and compiled lists of pressing needs, such as fresh water, reliable electricity, disease preventions and cures, crop blights, pollution reduction, increased nutrition for billions more population, recycling of truly scarce minerals, a much more resilient electricity grid to withstand a massive solar flare, and many others.  
The Adams post is very good, in my view.    I would add a few more reasons for skeptics to be quite skeptical of the false-alarmists' statements.   Much of this has already been discussed in various articles on SLB. 

The claim that recent warming must be due to carbon dioxide increases in the atmosphere, because the scientists simply cannot think of any other cause.   There are many other known causes of an air temperature increasing over time.  

The fact that scientists keep adjusting the temperature data over and over and over yet again, each time stating (with great solemnity) that they have it right this time.   How many times will the public (and especially, politicians) fall for that scam?   

The many and widespread attempts by the false-alarmist community to ostracize and silence other scientists that hold dissenting views.  In the same Congressional testimony referenced above with Dr. Christy, another prominent scientist, Dr. Roger Pielke, Jr. related his horrible treatment by the false-alarmist community.   All Dr. Pielke, Jr. did was point out in scientific publications that there are no increases in severe weather events.  

The fact that false-alarmists resort to a very old, and very inappropriate, device to create alarm where none is justified: creating an average of a few outlier data points (example, apparent sealevel rise in coastal areas with known subsidence) with the vast majority of data points that show very little or even zero increase, then declare that all the world's oceans are rising and every shore will be inundated.   This trick is pulled over and over again, e.g. Antarctic continental temperatures smeared with a few warming data points from the volcanically-active peninsula, and others.   

The fact that climate scientists (the good ones, and there are many of them) agreed that the climate temperature data was not very good, then installed excellent temperature measuring equipment in more than 100 pristine locations throughout the US.  This network of climate monitoring stations is known as the United States Climate Reference Network, USCRN, and has been collecting data for the past 12 years, approximately.   SLB has several articles on this, and the trends taken from that data.  There is no warming, certainly none from man-made carbon dioxide. 

UPDATE 5/26/2017:  In addition to the USCRN project for land-based temperatures in the US, climate scientists in the year 2000 began a systematic data-collection project for ocean temperatures.  The ARGO system collects temperatures from the upper 2000 meters (6,600 feet or about 1.2 miles) of the ocean.  Scientists recognized that all the ocean temperature data before the year 2000 was completely useless, had data quality issues, and was taken from a very small part of the oceans: usually where commercial shipping occurred.  It is a complete indictment of the false-alarmists that any data on global ocean temperatures is presented, because they know the data is horribly wrong and implemented the modern ARGO measuring system.  From the UCSD site (University of California at San Diego), "Argo is a global array of 3,800 free-drifting profiling floats that measures the temperature and salinity of the upper 2000 m of the ocean.  This allows, for the first time, continuous monitoring of the temperature, salinity, and velocity of the upper ocean, with all data being relayed and made publicly available within hours after collection." 

The fact that, for almost every single long-term temperature station, a steady increase in temperature is easily seen, but scientists emphatically agree that no warming from carbon dioxide could possibly have occurred before about 1960.  Yet, the long-term temperature records go back to the year 1900 and even earlier.   It is indeed odd that those temperature trends, which do show a steady increase over time, correspond almost exactly to population increases in those cities.  SLB has more than 70 charts of US cities and their temperature records that clearly show this, taken from the climate false-alarmists' own data, the Hadley Climate Research Unit.   Something caused the cities to warm from 1900 to 1960, but it clearly was not carbon dioxide.   

See e.g. the three charts below of Boston, MA (1.99 deg C per century warming, steady rise); New York City, NY, and San Francisco, CA (both show 1.49 deg C per century warming, a steady rise).   see link to SLB article from February, 2010, with the 80-plus US cities. 





And finally, skeptics should be aware that none, repeat, none, of the dire predictions of false-alarmists have ever proven true, and especially cannot be attributed to the tiny increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere over the past 60 years.  



Roger E. Sowell, Esq.

Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2017 by Roger Sowell - all rights reserved


Topics and general links:

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Climate Change................here  and here
Fresh Water......................here
Engineering......................here  and here
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2 comments:

Greg Behrens said...

Once again Roger - excellent. Citing Dilbert again (actually Dogbert) "You put in some assumptions, run the model, and get the NPV. But without the correct discount factor it is worthless".

Roger Sowell said...

Thanks, Greg! For those who may not know Greg Behrens, or know of him, I can say without fear of contradiction that Greg is (by far) the smartest of all the chemical engineers I have ever worked with or met, over a career that now spans more than 40 years. And a heck of a great guy, too.

If there was any chance of man-made global warming being a reason for alarm, Greg would point that out. He is not alone, either. Here in Southern California, a group of chemical engineers meets regularly as part of the AIChE (American Institute of Chemical Engineers) to discuss all sorts of issues. It is quite obvious to all of us in that group that man-made global warming is completely false-alarmism.

- Roger