Failed Predictions of Climate Alarmists

Global Temperature over time as measured by satellites. (click for credit and source)

In 1988, the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing on the greenhouse effect and global climate change (transcript here, digitized version here). In that hearing, Dr. Michael Oppenheimer (atmospheric physicist and senior scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund) testified about the impending doom that were are all facing if we don’t immediately curtail our greenhouse gas emissions. He said, in part:

Certain gases which occur in the atmosphere in small amounts are growing rapidly in concentration due to human activities related to industry and agriculture. Primary among these is carbon dioxide, a product of coal, oil, and natural gas combustion. These “greenhouse gases” trap heat radiating from the surface of the earth which would normally escape into space, resulting in a warming of the surface. This increase in global temperature causes a concomitant rise in global sea level as ocean water expands and land ice melts. As long as the amounts of greenhouse gases increase in the atmosphere, this process will continue unabated. There will be no winners in this situation, only a globe full of losers. Today’s beneficiaries of change will be tomorrow’s victims as the changing climate rolls past them like a wave that first sweeps you up, then drops you in the trough behind it. The very concept of conservation does not exist in a world which may change so fast that ecosystems, which are slow to adjust, will wither and die. The technical findings of the Villach-Bellagio workshops include: Global mean temperature will likely rise at about 0.6 degrees Fahrenheit per decade and sea level at about 2.5 inches per decade over the next century. These rates are 3 to 6 times recent historical rates. (emphasis mine)

Well, this prediction was made 30 years ago. That’s about one-third of the timescale that he is discussing (“over the next century”). Nevertheless, we don’t see any hint that his predictions are coming true. Examine the image at the top of the post. It shows the latest satellite-measured global temperatures, which have been recorded since 1979. Is there any indication that rate at which global temperature is rising has increased since 1988? No. In fact, you could easily argue that the rate of global temperature increase was higher from 1988 to 1998 that it has been since 1998. There even seems to have been a “pause” in temperature increase from 2002 to 2015.

What of his prediction that the rate of sea level rise would increase? Well satellites have been measuring that for a while, too. Here is what they have seen since 1993:

Satellite-measured sea levels since 1993. (click for source and credit)

Notice that the rate of sea level rise is 2.8 millimeters per year (1.1 inches per decade), less than half of what Dr. Oppenheimer predicted. More importantly, notice that the rate of increase has been pretty constant, despite the fact that the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere rose significantly during that same time period.

Now, of course, these are relatively short time periods, so it’s always possible that there are some surprises ahead. However, given the fact that nearly one-third of the time that Dr. Oppenheimer was discussing has already passed, we can say that there are certainly no indications that his predictions have any chance of coming true.

Why am I sharing this with my readers? For two reasons. First, a scientific theory is judged by the success of its predictions. Right now, the theory that is guiding most climate alarmists has failed in its predictions (see here, here, and here). That should tell you something about its soundness. Second, the climate alarmists will continue to make dire predictions, regardless of what the data say. It is important for people to learn how wrong their previous predictions have been.

When Hysteria is More Important than Science

This is a picture of the Maldives cabinet meeting that took place on October 17th, 2009. (click for credit)

Sea levels have been rising since the early 1800s, and while satellites have only been measuring them since 1992, satellite measurements indicate that they have been rising at a fairly constant rate of 2.8 millimeters per year. This is concerning to many people, especially the ones who live in countries like the Republic of Maldives, which is, on average, only 1.5 meters above sea level. In fact, the country is so concerned about the rising seas that in 2009, the nation’s cabinet held a meeting underwater, where they signed a document calling on all countries to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions. After all, it is thought that rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere warm the planet, which in turn causes sea levels to rise. If sea levels rise too much, the Republic of Maldives will be lost.

Now, of course, that kind of reasoning makes sense, but anyone who studies science should understand that things which make sense are not necessarily true. A lot of Aristotle’s notions (such as the idea that objects prefer to stay at rest) made sense, but science has demonstrated them to be false. In the same way, a lot of our modern theories (like quantum mechanics and relativity) make little sense, but experiments strongly support their conclusions (see here and here, for example).

Rather than giving into the hysteria, then, it is best to see what the data indicate. Interestingly enough, the data say that while the idea that rising sea levels will destroy countries like the Republic of Maldives makes sense, it is almost certainly not true. I first wrote about this three years ago, when a group of researchers decided to study some of the islands around the Funafuti Atoll, which holds the island nation of Tuvalu. They found that contrary to the hysteria, the majority of the islands they studied have grown since 1897, leading to a net increase in the amount of land available. Well, the same research group has completed a more extensive study, which confirms their previous conclusion.

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A Climate Skeptic’s Story

A polar bear on drift ice. (click for credit)

I was recently sent this article, which was written by a student. It’s about how she became a “climate skeptic.” It is definitely worth reading in its entirety, because it demonstrates how critical thinking can overcome indoctrination. In addition, it shows you what this critical thinking can cost, especially at the university level.

Rather than encouraging her to investigate and think for herself, her university “science” classes simply try to indoctrinate her. As she says near the end of the article:

I am disappointed by the quality of the “science” taught at University though — when theory is presented as fact, and computer models are regarded as gospel despite their infamous unreliability, it’s not actual science.

It’s propaganda—dogmatic as any religion.

Unfortunately, I have to agree with her. Even back when I was a university student, I could see examples of my “science” professors pushing propaganda on me. As a university professor, however, I have seen it become worse and worse.

But why did the student first decide to question the propaganda that was being pushed on her in the guise of science? Because of what she was being taught in middle school about global warming drowning polar bears. She was an animal “fanatic,” so she started reading about polar bears to learn more about them. In her reading, she found that they are able to swim 60 miles at a time. She asked her teacher how ice loss could harm polar bears that could swim so far. Her teacher simply told her that polar bears can’t swim that far (even though they routinely do) and then repeated the propaganda.

This caused her to start questioning what her teachers were telling her, and so she started investigating the issue of climate change for herself. As a result, she became a skeptic. Now I am sure that her middle school teacher wouldn’t want to hear this, but I think the teacher did a great service to this one student. Of course, the teacher has probably committed educational malpractice on many more students, but in the case of this one student, by simply denying the science and restating the propaganda, she taught the student to question the pronouncements that come from the high priests of science.

That’s probably the most valuable thing the student learned in middle school!

Sometimes, It’s the “Deniers” Who Are Right!

Nobel Laureate Dr. Daniel Shechtman
(click for credit)
Nearly six years ago, I wrote about Dr. Daniel Shechtman. He had recently won the Nobel Prize in chemistry, and I wanted to highlight him because had the term been popular in his day, he would have been called a chemistry denier. His own research demonstrated the existence of quasicrystals, despite the fact that the science of the day said (quite conclusively) that they couldn’t possibly exist. He faced a lot of opposition from his fellow scientists, even though all he was doing was following the data.

Although the term “denier” wasn’t fashionable at the time, two-time Nobel Laureate Dr. Linus Pauling famously said:

There is no such thing as quasicrystals, only quasi-scientists.

Despite the fact that the head of his own research group asked him to leave because of “bringing disgrace” to the team, Dr. Shechtman persevered, and he was eventually vindicated. Even though science conclusively said that quasicrystals don’t exist, Dr. Schechtman showed that they did.

I recently learned from one of my chemistry colleagues that the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences wrote an article about Dr. Schechtman’s story. It is called Crystals of Golden Proportion, and if you have any interest in chemistry, you might find it worth the read. I certainly did.

The article discusses the ridicule Dr. Schechtman received from his fellow scientists, and then it makes this statement:

Dan Shechtman’s story is by no means unique. Over and over again in the history of science, researchers have been forced to do battle with established “truths”, which in hindsight have proven to be no more than mere assumptions…Keeping an open mind and daring to question established knowledge may in fact be a scientist’s most important character trait.

I have said the same things many times. Unfortunately, this obvious truth is lost on most people, including most scientists. If a scientist dares to question established truth, he or she is immediately labeled a “denier.” If you point out the uncertainty in our understanding of global climate, you are a “climate change denier.” If you question the “accepted” age of the earth, or flagellate-to-philosopher evolution, you are a “science denier.” As the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences admits, however, the “deniers” are right in many cases, and established scientific “truths” are sometimes just incorrect assumptions.

Science would be better served if more people (including more scientists) understood this.

One of the Most Important Aspects of Global Climate Is Still Completely Undetermined

Proxy temperature record (blue) and this study’s projection (orange) for the Northern Hemisphere.

One of the least understood things about global warming (aka “climate change”) is how much of it can be caused by people. Several studies have attempted to answer this question, and they produce radically different results. Some indicate that human industry is one of the most important factors in how global temperatures are changing. Other studies conclude that human industry has a very small effect on global temperatures. Who is right? I don’t know, and I honestly don’t think anyone does.

How can I say that? Because I read the scientific literature and use the information I find there to draw my conclusions. The information in the scientific literature has little relationship to the nonsense that is peddled in the media and most of today’s institutions of education. The fact is that no one understands some of the very basic aspects of climate, and a recent study highlighted this in an enlightening way.

The study is interesting in its own right, because it attempted to use artificial neural networks (ANNs) to “learn” about how climate changes naturally. I have no idea how reasonable their method is, but it did produce some interesting results. More importantly, the paper presented a table that shows exactly how little we currently understand about the way carbon dioxide affects global temperatures.

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The Current Hurricane Activity is Not Unusual From a Scientific Perspective

NOAA’s GOES satellite image on Sept. 8, 2017. It shows Hurricane Irma (Caribbean Sea), Tropical Storm Jose (Atlantic Ocean), and Tropical Storm Katia (Gulf of Mexico).

Hurricane Harvey devastated Texas, and hurricane Irma is currently pummeling Florida. In Texas, the death toll is at least 70, and so far, Irma has killed five people. In addition, two other tropical storms are brewing, one in the Atlantic ocean and one in the Gulf of Mexico. Reading social media and the less-responsible news outlets, you would think that this kind of weather is unprecedented. You would also think that it is all the result of carbon dioxide emissions causing global warming, aka “climate change.” While the human devastation is real and cannot be ignored, science tells us that these events are not unusual, and they are probably not related to human activity in any way.

Let’s start with hurricane Irma. Unlike you may have been told, it is not the most powerful hurricane that has been observed. In fact, that distinction belongs to hurricanes Patricia (2015) and Nancy (1961), which each occurred in the Pacific ocean. Their winds of 215 miles per hour are the highest ever recorded. Of course, Pacific hurricanes do tend to be pretty strong, but Irma isn’t even the most powerful Atlantic hurricane. Allen in 1980 had the highest wind speeds of any Atlantic hurricane (190 mph). Currently, Irma (with wind speeds of 185 mph) is tied for second, along with Wilma in 2005, Gilbert in 1988, and the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935.

But what about three hurricanes in the Atlantic at one time. Surely that’s unprecedented! Nope. In 1998, there were four Atlantic hurricanes at once. Indeed, three hurricanes at once is something that happens roughly every 10 years. Why haven’t you heard that? One reason is that all three rarely make landfall in populated areas. The other reason is that it doesn’t help with the “global warming is going to kill us all” narrative.

But surely global warming is contributing to these hurricanes in some way. Well, if it is, there is certainly no way you could tell that from the data.

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Knowing Science Doesn’t Mean Following the Scientific Consensus

The study being discussed indicates that people with a strong knowledge of science don’t necessarily follow the scientific consensus. (click for credit)

Some people get distressed over the fact that there are those of us who don’t blindly follow whatever is advertised as the “scientific consensus.” The distress becomes so great that such people often have to come up with some kind of explanation for this non-sheep-like behavior. For example, in response to a 2014 poll that indicated Americans are skeptical about human-caused global warming, evolution, and the Big Bang, Nobel Laureate Dr. Randy Schekman said:

Science ignorance is pervasive in our society, and these attitudes are reinforced when some of our leaders are openly antagonistic to established facts.

I read and hear this idea a lot. If you don’t automatically accept what the High Priests of Science say, you obviously don’t know or don’t understand science. While such an idea might be comforting to those who don’t wish to think for themselves when it comes to scientific issues, it doesn’t have any basis in reality. Indeed, some of the most intelligent, well-educated people I know do not believe in evolution (in the flagellate-to-philosopher sense), do not think the earth is billions of years old, and do not think that humans are causing significant global warming.

Of course, the people I know don’t necessarily make up a representative sample of the population as a whole. As a result, I was very interested to read a study that was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. The authors of the study analyzed the 2006 and 2010 results of the General Social Survey, which attempts to determine the views of the American people on a wide variety of issues. At the same time, it tries to get a general sense of each individual’s level of education on those issues. The results of their study seemed very surprising to the authors, but they weren’t at all surprising to me.

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Politics Poison Science

In 2015, the NOAA published a "scientific" paper for what appear to have been political reasons.  We now know the data used are false and should have never been published.
In 2015, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) published a “scientific” paper for what appear to have been political reasons. We now know the data used are false and should never have been submitted for publication.

From the days I started doing scientific research, I have seen that politics play far too great a role in science. Some of this stems from the fact that most basic research is funded by the federal government, and since politicians control the money, they inevitably exert influence on what kind of scientific research is done. Over the years, however, I have observed a nasty, growing trend of scientists’ own political views influencing the way they handle data and communicate their results. In some fields, the political influence is worse than it is in others, and climate science might be the most politicized field of them all. A story posted on Dr. Judith Curry’s blog is the latest in a series of revelations that show us just how bad this has become.

Starting in the late 2000’s, those who had been studying worldwide temperatures noticed that the average temperature of the earth was not increasing. This was troubling for those who believed in human-produced global warming, since the models upon which they base most of their conclusions suggest that the earth’s average temperature should be increasing with increasing levels of carbon dioxide. As time went on, this lack of warming became more and more difficult to understand under the human-produced global warming paradigm, and critics of the paradigm started calling it “The Pause.”

In 2015, however, scientists from the the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) produced a report that was published in Science, one of the world’s most prestigious scientific journals. According to this report, “The Pause” was an artifact of the way earlier temperature analyses were done. When those analyses were “corrected,” there was no “Pause.” As shown in the NOAA-generated graph above, the trend of global warming had remained constant since the early 1950s. While slower than predicted by the models, it had not slowed down in recent years at all. As a result of its conclusion, this paper became known as the “Pausebuster” paper.

Interestingly enough, the Pausebuster paper was published about six months before the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, France. Critics of the paper noted this timing and argued with the conclusions. In fact, another prestigious scientific journal, Nature, published a paper in 2016 (after the Paris conference) that strongly argued against the conclusions of the Pausebuster paper. We now know for certain that this 2016 paper is correct, and that the scientists who produced the Pausebuster paper disregarded the NOAA’s protocols in the process of producing their paper. How do we know this? Because the scientist who wrote some of those protocols has finally spoken out.

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Climate Scientist Resigns Because of the “Craziness” of the Field

Climate Scientist Dr. Judith Curry (click for source)
Climate Scientist Dr. Judith Curry
(click for source)
Dr. Judith Curry holds an earned Ph.D. in geophysical sciences from The University of Chicago. For the past 14 years, she has been on the faculty at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and for the majority of that time, she was the chairperson of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. She has authored 186 peer-reviewed scientific papers and has two books to her credit. By any objective measure, she is a giant in the field of climate science.

I wrote about Dr. Curry more than six years ago, when Scientific American branded her a heretic. What was Curry’s heinous crime against science? She didn’t toe the party line when it came to global warming. She didn’t claim that global warming wasn’t occurring, and she didn’t claim that people aren’t responsible. Instead, she simply started stressing the real uncertainties involved in climate science. That, of course, is an unpardonable sin, and as a result, she is routinely demonized by those who know significantly less than she does about climate.

Why has she decided to resign, even though she has not reached traditional retirement age? She discusses this on her blog, and I encourage you to read the entire article. Like most of the entries on her blog, it is thoughtful and revealing. She mentions several factors that have contributed to her resignation, and then she says this:

A deciding factor was that I no longer know what to say to students and postdocs regarding how to navigate the CRAZINESS in the field of climate science. Research and other professional activities are professionally rewarded only if they are channeled in certain directions approved by a politicized academic establishment — funding, ease of getting your papers published, getting hired in prestigious positions, appointments to prestigious committees and boards, professional recognition, etc.

How young scientists are to navigate all this is beyond me, and it often becomes a battle of scientific integrity versus career suicide… [emphasis mine]

The sad fact is that her observations are 100% accurate, and they can be applied to at least one other field of scientific inquiry – the investigation of origins.

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Antarctic Ice Still a Mystery

A German ship (The Gauss) in Antarctic Ice, in Antarctic Ice, as seen from a balloon in 1901. (credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Department of Commerce)
A German ship (The Gauss) in Antarctic Ice, as seen from a balloon in 1901.
(credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Department of Commerce)

Ice in the Arctic has been on a shaky-but-steady decline for the past 25 years, perhaps even longer. Many point to this decline as evidence for global warming. If that were the case, however, ice in the Antarctic should be declining as well, but it isn’t. A recent scientific paper that attempts to put Antarctic sea ice in historical context states this problem succinctly:

In stark contrast to the sharp decline in Arctic sea ice, there has been a steady increase in ice extent around Antarctica during the last three decades, especially in the Weddell and Ross seas. In general, climate models do not to capture this trend and a lack of information about sea ice coverage in the pre-satellite period limits our ability to quantify the sensitivity of sea ice to climate change and robustly validate climate models.

In other words, the computer models that are based on our understanding of global climate predict that global warming should be causing a decline in both Arctic and Antarctic sea ice. However, that’s not what’s happening, at least according to the satellite record, which has been around for a little over 35 years. As a result, the authors of this paper decided to do something innovative: attempt to find out how much ice was in the Antarctic roughly 100 years ago.

How did they do it? They examined the logbooks of explorers who attempted to reach the South Pole during the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration, which took place from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. Using those logbooks, the authors were able to produce what seems to be a fairly accurate map of the edge of Antarctic sea ice during that time period. However, these data don’t help to resolve the conflict between the Arctic ice record and the Antarctic ice record. In fact, they seem to amplify the problem.

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