When someone wants to really insult you in a scientific discussion, he or she often compares you to someone who believes that the earth is flat. Not long ago, for example, President Obama wanted to level an insult at those who question the idea that human activities are warming the earth. In a speech at Georgetown University, he said that he has no patience for people who deny that human-produced global warming is real. He added:
We don’t have time for a meeting of the flat-Earth society…Sticking your head in the sand might make you feel safer, but it’s not going to protect you from the coming storm.
Of course, creationists are often given the same label. Wray Herbert, for example, is a journalist who focuses on human behavior and health. For a while, he was the psychology editor at Science News, an indispensable resources for keeping up with the most recent scientific discoveries. He wrote:
The last Flat Earther supposedly was spotted in California, near Los Angeles, some years ago. But the term endures in our cultural idiom, where it has come to mean any dogmatic, rigidly anti-scientific thinker: Creationists, holocaust-deniers, indeed anyone who insists on an irrational belief, all meaningful evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.
Wray is wrong about a couple of things in those two sentences, including the fact that the last Flat Earther was spotted in LA some years ago. In fact, belief in a flat earth is alive and well today, and one of its major spokesmen has a rather interesting mix of views.
It is well known in the scientific literature that the computer models being used by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have done a miserable job in predicting the change that has occurred in global temperature over the past two decades. You can see that for yourself by looking at the graph shown above. The various lines that have no circles or squares on them are the results of the climate models used by the IPCC. Notice that no model comes close to lining up with the actual data (the squares and circles). Indeed, the later the date, the worse the models become when compared to the data.
A group of retired NASA scientists and engineers led by Dr. Harold H. Doiron, a mechanical engineer who is best known for his work on eliminating unstable vibrations in liquid propellant rockets, has decided that these models simply can’t be used to make rational decisions about earth’s future climate. As this group says:
We have concluded that the IPCC climate models are seriously flawed because they don’t agree very closely with measured empirical data. After a 35 year simulation the models over-predicted actual measured temperatures by factors of 200% to 750%. One could hardly expect them to predict with better accuracy 300 years into the future required for use in regulatory decisions.
So what are we to do? If we can’t properly model how the earth will respond to increased carbon dioxide concentrations, how can we estimate what the consequences will be if we do nothing to curb the activities that are filling earth’s atmosphere with excess carbon dioxide?
In this research team’s mind, the answer is to look at the actual data and develop an empirical estimate. After all, we have about 100 years of measured data when it comes to global temperature, and we have a few thousand years of data that can help us estimate how the earth’s temperature has changed over that timeframe. In addition, we have measurements and estimates for how the amount of carbon dioxide in earth’s atmosphere has changed over time. If we look at past correlations between carbon dioxide and temperature, perhaps they can tell us what future correlations will be.
I have to admit that I am surprised no one has used this approach before. Sure, climate scientists have studied the correlations between past global temperatures and past atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, but this is the first time of which I am aware that scientists (and engineers) have tried to use those correlations to make definitive predictions about the future.
More than a year ago, Bill Nye was in an anti-science video that tried to convince people the creationist view should be censored. As I pointed out then, this is an incredibly anti-science notion. Unfortunately, this isn’t the only example of Mr. Nye’s anti-science behavior.
Nevertheless, I now have to give Mr. Nye some credit for doing something very pro-science: He is going to debate Ken Ham on the question, “Is creation a viable model of origins?” The debate will take place on February 4th at the Creation Museum in Kentucky. It is good to see that Nye is stepping away from his promotion of censorship and is interested in actually engaging the creationist view. I tried to order tickets online as soon as they were available, but the event seems to already be sold out!
Will the Bill Nye-Ken Ham Debate Advance the Secular Cause? Of course not. Debates are all about the faithful on each side saying their side wiped the floor with the other side. I am not sure why Bill Nye decided to debate Ken Ham. Nothing good can come of it.
I obviously disagree. I think debate is usually a good thing, because it allows us to hear another point of view from someone who actually believes in that view. For the creationists who attend the debate (and I suspect they will be the large majority), they will hear from an evolutionist who actually believes in evolution. This will be good, because most likely, much of what they hear about evolution comes from creationists. For the evolutionists in attendance, they will hear about the creationist point of view from a creationist. This is also good, since most of them have probably never bothered to get the creationist view from someone who actually believes it.
In an effort to help Mr. Nye with his budding pro-science attitude, I will give him a piece of advice: Be Prepared!
The 2013 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been released. The final version of the Summary for Policymakers is out, and the complete report is also available. This report is supposed to help us understand what the scientific community says about climate change and whether or not people are responsible for all or part of it. The report says that warming of the climate system is “unequivocal” and that “Human influence on the climate system is clear.” Unfortunately, the scientific community seems rather split on whether or not the IPCC report is reasonable.
I think that the latest IPCC report has truly sunk to level of hilarious incoherence. They are proclaiming increased confidence in their models as the discrepancies between their models and observations increase…in attributing warming to man, they fail to point out that the warming has been small, and totally consistent with there being nothing to be alarmed about. It is quite amazing to see the contortions the IPCC has to go through in order to keep the international climate agenda going.
On the other hand, Dr. Michael E. Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, wrote:
Climate change is real and caused by humans, and it continues unabated. We will see far more dangerous and potentially irreversible impacts in the decades ahead if we do not choose to reduce global carbon emissions. There has never been a greater urgency to act than there is now. The latest IPCC report is simply an exclamation mark on that already-clear conclusion.
Both Lindzen and Mann are recognized experts in climate science, they both have a long list of impressive contributions to the field, and they have radically different opinions when it comes to the IPCC report. Which one of them is closest to being correct?
I doubt that you’ll see this reported in many news outlets, but way back in 2007, Dr. Wieslaw Maslowski, a research professor in the Department of Oceanography at the Naval Postgraduate School, stated that based on his research, the Arctic would be ice-free by the summer of 2013. His prediction was based on a “high-resolution regional model for the Arctic Ocean and sea ice forced with realistic atmospheric data,” and he thought it might be a bit conservative. In fact, he said:
Our projection of 2013 for the removal of ice in summer is not accounting for the last two minima, in 2005 and 2007…So given that fact, you can argue that maybe our projection of 2013 is already too conservative.
Well, as you can see from the graph above, Dr. Maslowski’s “too conservative” prediction has failed miserably. Not only is there ice in the Arctic, there is significantly more ice than there was in 2012. Now, of course, the amount of ice is still way below the average, but it is also way above zero, the prediction that Dr. Maslowski thought might be “already too conservative.”
The earth’s polar regions have large amounts of permafrost, a thick layer of soil underground that stays frozen throughout the year. It has been suggested by climate alarmists that as the earth warms, this permafrost will begin to melt, and that will lead to disastrous consequences. Why? Well, there is a lot of organic material in this permafrost, and it doesn’t decompose much, because decomposition is slowed significantly due to the soil being frozen. As the permafrost thaws, decomposition will increase, and that will lead to a significant amount of carbon dioxide and methane being released into the atmosphere. The release of these greenhouse gases, of course, will further accelerate global warming. This affect is known as the permafrost carbon feedback, and here is what the United Nations Environment Programme says about it:1
If the permafrost thaws, the organic material will also thaw and begin to decay, releasing CO2 and methane into the atmosphere and amplifying the warming due to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions…The permafrost carbon feedback is irreversible on human time scales. Warmer conditions and increased atmospheric CO2 will enhance plant growth that will remove CO2 from the atmosphere, but this can only to a small degree compensate for the much greater carbon emissions from thawing permafrost.
Notice how strongly this is worded. The effect is “irreversible,” and even though a warmer climate will result in more plant growth, this will not come close to offsetting the devastating amount of greenhouse gases released by the thawing permafrost.
Well, the results of a 20-year experiment have been published in the journal Nature, and not surprisingly, they show that the effect is precisely opposite of the nonsense quoted above.
Not long ago, I wrote a post discussing the anti-science views of “Bill Nye the Science Guy.” In that post, I discussed how anti-science it was for Nye to tell people to blindly accept the scientific consensus and stop arguing about whether or not life is the product of evolutionary processes. Well, I recently came across another example of Nye’s anti-science actions. He has no problem lending his name to an experiment that was brazenly faked.
At the 0:47 mark in the the video above, Nye suggests a “simple experiment” to show that carbon dioxide causes global warming. He says to put two thermometers into two identical bottles, add excess carbon dioxide to one bottle, put both bottles under identical heat lamps, and watch the thermometers. Over time, you will see the temperature in the excess-carbon-dioxide-containing bottle rising more quickly than the temperature in the bottle that contains no excess carbon dioxide. The video he is narrating supposedly shows the experiment and its results, proving beyond any shadow of a doubt that carbon dioxide causes global warming.
Now before I start discussing the article that shows that the experiment was faked, I want to make a quick point. I have students do a similar experiment in my award-winning text Exploring Creation with Physical Science. Unlike the one in the video, the experiment I have the students do works for most students, because carbon dioxide does, indeed, trap infrared light and produce an increased temperature in its surroundings. However, the “simple experiment” shown in the video does not demonstrate this, and anyone with a reasonable knowledge of the physical sciences should understand that.
The White-throated Needletail is thought to be the fastest bird on the planet. It is not endangered, but it is rarely seen in Europe. However, an alert went out last week on the Rare Bird Alert Twitter feed, telling bird-watching enthusiasts that one had been spotted on the Outer Hebrides, an island chain off the west coast of Scotland.
The last confirmed sighting of this bird in the United Kingdom was 22 years ago, so understandably, many bird watchers (about 80 according to one source) went to see it. Here is a video that was taken by one of those people:
The joy these birdwatchers felt in seeing this rare sight quickly turned to anguish, however, when the bird flew into a wind turbine and died. While no one caught the actual death on camera, here is a video of the bird after it was killed by the turbine:
On May 20th, Oklahoma City and its suburbs were hit by a devastating tornado. According to the latest news reports, the mega-tornado killed at least 24 people, nine of them children. My prayers go out to those whose lives have been affected by this terrible tragedy. While the situation is clearly an emotional one, we can’t let our emotions get away with us when it comes to understanding the science behind this tragedy.
This is climate change. We were warned about extreme weather. Not just hot weather. But extreme weather. When I had my hearings, when I had the gavel years ago. It’s been a while. The scientists all agreed that what we’d start to see was extreme weather. And people looked at one another and said “what do you mean? It’s gonna get hot?” Yeah, it’s gonna get hot. But you’re also going to see snow in the summer in some places. You’re gonna have terrible storms. You’re going to have tornadoes and all the rest. We need to protect our people. That’s our number one obligation and we have to deal with this threat that is upon us and that is gonna get worse and worse though the years.
She then went on to talk about a bill she has sponsored. It would put a tax on carbon in hopes of moving people to alternative sources of energy so as to reduce the effects of “climate change.” While Senator Boxer’s words are an emotional call-to-arms, they fly in the face of the scientific evidence.
Using the wind to produce energy is considered by many to be an environmental panacea. Consider the words of Greg Vitali, a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives:
Wind energy is better for the environment than coal, natural gas or nuclear energy. Wind turbines operate pollution free, do not add to climate change and use very little water.
At first glance, this sounds reasonable. After all, wind turbines don’t emit carbon dioxide, so they are not contributing to the horrible “global warming” that is supposed to happen this century. They also don’t seem to consume much. They just sit there, twirling in the breeze, making electricity for us to use. It’s not surprising, then, that wind power is the fastest-growing source of new electrical power in the U.S.
As the video above shows, however, wind turbines do have an environmental impact – they can kill flying animals. Of course, a video of one or two birds being knocked out of the air by a wind turbine is no cause for alarm. The real question is, “How often does this happen?” If a few hundred birds are killed each year by wind turbines, you can legitimately say that their impact on bird populations is relatively low. However, a recent study indicates that more than just a few hundred birds are being killed each year by the turbines that produce wind power.