Climate Consensus or Climate Variation?

Although I am frequently accused of being a “denier” of various stripes, I don’t deny climate, climate change or Global Warming. I don’t even deny the so-called “consensus” of scientists/climate scientists and/or others who hold that climate change is real. On the other hand, while the consensus may be real, the conclusions drawn may not be an accurate reflection of reality.

As an archaeologist and dendroclimatologist, it is my experience and professional conclusion that human beings do not “cause” observed climate variation, but instead, humans may influence natural climate variation in various ways. Furthermore, climate variation is not uni-directional, unilinear nor predictable on greater than annual time frames and local geographic scales. Therefore, it is impossible to predict the effects both of human contributions to natural climate variation, and, perhaps more importantly, the effects of reducing or removing human influences on natural climate variation.

I’ve read a lot of the on-going literature on both sides of the climate change argument, popular and scientific, regarding the debate on the causes and effects of climate variation. In the following article,  Philip Jenkins artfully echos my experience and my informed opinion on the nature and reality of climate variation and the human relationship to the future of our climates.

History and the Limits of the Climate Consensus

Source: History and the Limits of the Climate Consensus | The American Conservative

Re-Counting the Deck Chairs on the Titanic?

Two recent announcements on the Climate Change front have the blogosphere buzzing:
Richard A. Muller announced an updated paper, in the NY Times Opinion Page, originally presented and rejected for publication in 2011, claiming that global warming is indeed occurring and “essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.” Oh, and he also claimed, again, despite evidence to the contrary, that he is a “converted skeptic.” 
Just in the nick of time, Anthony Watts announced on Sunday the paper he and others have been working on since June 2011, consisting of a reassessment of temperature instrumentation siting across North America based on a newly certified method of classification of siting criteria. Unlike the Muller paper, Watts has made the contents and data available openly for all to view and critique.
Despite evident similarities in scientific grandstanding, neither paper offers anything to a produce a sea-change in conclusions about the reality and nature of anthropogenic climate change. Muller’s paper amounts to saying, “And another thing…” a year and half after the argument is over. Watts paper, makes an important contribution to the interpretation of a a small part of available atmospheric data, and may point the way to a reassessment of surface temperature measurements throughout the world.
Luboš Motl, in his blog, The Reference Frame, asks: Have Muller or Watts transformed the AGW landscape? The answer, of course, is “No.”
Science doesn’t work that way. Science is not advanced by opinion pieces in the New York Times nor strategically timed blog announcements, both designed to build popular interest in otherwise esoteric studies of scientific methodology. Science advances by the slow accumulation of observations, painstaking hypothesis testing of theories to explain those observations and careful modification, or in extreme cases, rejection, of established theory. Science doesn’t take place in the blogosphere or on rapidly yellowing newsprint.
The climate science hyperbole exposed this past weekend is not about science, it is about credibility.
Despite recent headlines, there are only two scientific questions about climate variation of importance to politicians, policy-makers and the general public: 
Does CO2 produced by human activities contribute significantly to observed changes in global average surface temperature and, thusly, global weather patterns? The corollary question is: Will reduction of human atmospheric CO2 production significantly reduce future increases in global average surface temperatures and resulting changes in global weather patterns?
On these two questions, climate science is equivocal.
The controversy centers of the observed correlation between variation in global average surface temperature and global average atmospheric CO2 concentration. 
Global average atmospheric CO2 concentration has increased at a steady rate since modern measurements began in 1957. 
Global average surface temperature has increased variably since modern measurements began in  1885 (in most places), 1650 in the UK.

Those who support human origin of increased temperature point out that atmospheric CO2 warms the atmosphere, and note the (rough) correlation between these two graphs and proclaim linear causation. 
Judith Curry has this to say about observation-based attribution.
Those who do not support causation point out that correlation does not equal causation, and also notice that, while global average surface temperature has fluctuated throughout the study period, global average CO2 concentrations have retained a steady, linear rate of increase.
Furthermore, ice core records reveal a 200 to 800-year global lag between prehistoric global average surface temperature fluctuations and subsequent prehistoric atmospheric CO2 concentrations, indicating that atmospheric CO2 concentration variation is driven by global average surface temperature, not the other way round. 
While global average surface temperature may be a largely irrelevant mathematical computation, it is increasingly evident that atmospheric dynamics are driven, to a large extent, by natural cosmic forces, such as Milanković  Cycles, solar magnetic variation and cosmic rays.
It remains to be seen whether the Muller and Watts papers are recounting the deck chairs on the Titanic, or building new acceleration couches aboard SpaceShipOne.

The Church of Anthropogenic Global Warming

Welcome to the Church of Anthropogenic Global Warming, with the Reverend Billy McKibben!
Hallelujah, brothers and sisters! Bang your hands together! Let me hear you say “Amen!”
In McKibben’s latest sermon: Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math, The Beloved and Respected Reverend Pastor attempts to quantify the imminent Apocalypse by holding up the holy relics of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW): the sacred 2 degrees Centigrade of allowable global temperature increase; the parable of the 565 Gigatons of CO2; and the holy sacrifice on the altar of CO2: 350 ppm.
According to his bio, Bill McKibben has been an active Methodist all of his life, and he openly recruits religion and religious leaders to play vital roles in protecting the Earth. “The future of Christian environmentalism may have something significant to do with the future of the planet,” he testifies in OnEarth, the proselytizing house organ of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
In The Christian paradox: How a faithful nation gets Jesus wrong, McKibben expresses his environmental and religious frustrations with modern life:
“America is simultaneously the most professedly Christian of the developed nations and the least Christian in its behavior. At the moment the idea of Jesus has been hijacked by people with a series of causes that do not reflect his teachings. … We were trying to get politicians to understand why the Bible actually mandated protecting the world around us (Noah: the first Green), work that I think is true and vital.”
In his 2005 book: The Comforting Whirlwind : God, Job, and the Scale of Creation acclaimed environmentalist and writer Bill McKibben turns to the biblical book of Job and its awesome depiction of creation to demonstrate our need to embrace a bold new paradigm for living if we hope to reverse the current trend of ecological destruction.” Google Books
It is no surprise to see Global Warming couched in religious terms. It has all of the classical Biblical trappings: a theological morality tale complete with Heaven, Hell, the Devil, angels and cherubim, confession, sins, retribution and redemption, with final salvation to eternity.
Global warming threatens descent into an eternal hell of fire and drought for those who don’t see the light, following the dreaded Tipping Point of inevitable irreversible climate collapse. We are shown vivid revelations of the great flood, of pestilence, plagues of insects, famine, disease, social collapse, war and death. We are cautioned against the great Devil denialist whispering doubts into our ears, challenging our faith in Global Warming. We are promised redemption if we just confess our sins and promise to change our ways. The promise of a new world, with abundance for all in eternity, lies just beyond the horizon studded with wind generators and papered with solar panels.
“Bless me Father for I have sinned. It has been two weeks since my last recycling. I am guilty of the sin of impure thoughts about Styrofoam plates. I coveted my neighbors SUV.”
The Reverend McKibben speaks glowingly of colleagues who have gained the faith: “Ronald Bailey, the science writer at Reason, converted a few years ago to belief in global warming and called for a carbon tax.”
McKibben’s website for this campaign: has a page for faith-based supporters of the Global Warming campaign, with a list of 40 “resources” for religious support, stating: “Communities of faith are at the forefront of the 350 movement.” One might assume this includes economical as well as spiritual support.
Pass the Love Offering plate, brothers.
The Faith page at also states: “350 represents more than just a scientific benchmark for a safe climate – there are also deeply moral and spiritual reasons for getting the world back below 350 ppm CO2.”
It is true, and somewhat frightening to consider, that 90% of the people in the United States believe in a god, and 80% of them believe in a return of Jesus Christ to save the world. This merely demonstrates that consensus opinion does not trump scientific reality. Climate science is not about belief, it is about rational observation, testing and verification of the evidence of the parameters of natural climate variation and the extent to which human activities influence those natural changes.
The “moral and spiritual” arguments employed as the basis of the perception of Anthropogenic Global Warming are anti-scientific. It is this irrational faith-based acceptance of proselytizing AGW proponents that is the greatest threat to an understanding of natural climate variation and the role played by human action in observed climate change. It is irresponsible, misleading and ultimately demagogic to stand at the digital pulpit and wave the AGW Bible to spread fear and misunderstanding among people who have been conditioned to accept such authoritarian pronouncements without question or critical thinking. 
Climate variation is real and has consequences for the very real world we live in. We cannot accommodate to the realities of the natural world by pretending we can continue the present unsustainable course of human development by substituting solar and wind energy technologies for fossil fuel technologies. Whether or not human action can in any way change natural climate variation, it is certain that life on earth cannot withstand unlimited growth in consumption by an unlimited growth in human population in a world of finite resources. 
Looking to renewable energy resources as the savior of human civilization is as self-deceiving as praying to a god for salvation from human foibles. Couching the debate over Climate Change and Anthropogenic Global Warming in religious terms, even for the purpose of bringing religious believers into the fold, is self-defeating, because it denies rational investigation, critical thinking and self-reliant decision-making. 
If we are to find a way to accommodate climate variation, natural or human caused, it will be through rational discourse, not through blind religious acceptance and belief.

Who is gagging our meteorologists?

Some one or some organization is attempting to influence the upcoming annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society (AMS).

According to  Urging American Meteorological Society to Get Tougher on Climate Change, a program called Forecast the Facts is attempting to lobby the AMS to change their 5-year policy on climate change to a new policy “drafted by a panel of [unidentified] experts” (emphasis added). The “Campaign Director” is identified as Daniel Souweine.

The Forecast the Facts web site turns out to be a product of “Citizen Engagement Laboratory (CEL).”

And who is the Chief of Staff of CEL? You guessed it: Daniel Souweine.

The web site describes CEL as: “a non-profit, non-partisan organization that uses digital media and technology to amplify the voices of underrepresented constituencies. We seek to empower individuals to take collective action on the issues that concern them, promoting a world of greater equality and justice in the process.”

The CEL web site lists as a “Partner,” which describes itself as: building a global grassroots movement to solve the climate crisis. Our online campaigns, grassroots organizing, and mass public actions are led from the bottom up by thousands of volunteer organizers in over 188 countries.

Sounds like birds of a feather, even though they are both attempting to lobby a major national organization to change a policy that affects all of its members… from the top down. Hardly grass roots organization. And hardly on behalf of “underrepresented constituencies.”

Evidently, grassroots meteorologists are insufficiently toeing the line when it comes to laying weather patterns at the feet of “global warming.” Someone unnamed wants them to publicly join the global warming bandwagon in blaming human CO2 emissions for observed climate change, ignoring the uncertainty of climate science, ignoring all evidence to the contrary, insisting on one single simplistic explanation for climate change.

TeeVee weather presenters, even those who are qualified meteorologists, are the most visible source of public information about weather and climate. They appear daily to billions of people, and whether or not it is a good idea, their “opinions” about climate change carry a lot of weight in popular culture. It’s no wonder that those whose interests are served by spreading fear of climate change in support of a predetermined economic outcome are after these “grass roots” who fail to tremble in fear of natural climate phenomena.

This is not grass roots, this is Big Money come to the service of shadowy figures in the background of international politics and economics. Who profits from fear of climate change? Who is funding this program to gag independent meteorologists and TeeVee weather presenters?

This is part of a concerted behind-the-scenes program funded by monied interests to subvert all elements of environmental awareness and activism to the cause of money and power, political and economic influence. Global warming hyperbole has been used to discredit free-thinking, independent scientific research, free expression, free thought and free action. The individuals and corporations funding this movement are laying the ground work for society controlled by corporate-government-military oligarchies to maintain the economic and political status quo.

Follow the money…

Climate Variability vs. Climate Change vs. Global Warming

This article, It’s Not About Feedback by Willis Eschenbach, is critical to understanding the nature of climate variability and the mistaken direction taken by political organizations, such as the IPCC and others, in interpreting observations based on a preconceived misunderstanding of climate dynamics.

In our shared mechanistic world, we operate on the common sense principle that “If you push something hard enough, it will fall over.” This is the linear world of everyday expectations, in which a given action always results in the same outcome, and it works pretty well in most situations, such as getting out of bed, drinking a cup of hot coffee or stepping off the front stoop.

However, when we deal with complex systems such as weather, atmosphere, oceans and climate, this principle serves us poorly. In the world of complex and chaotic systems, when you push something hard enough, sometimes it does indeed fall over. Other times, when you push that same something with the same force, it stands resolutely unmoving. And even other times, the same push results in the object flying off into a corner of the room and whining piteously to itself.

This is because in the complex world, there are far more variable and unpredictable factors than one’s simple push acting on the object and affecting the outcome.

This is the case with climate variability. The IPCC, and other political and science organizations, operate as if climate changes in reaction to one simple push, the total amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. They have put together a body of observations: increasing average temperature at many surface temperature measuring stations; a decline in extent and thickness of Arctic ice; melting of glaciers and ice fields in some parts of the world; and increasing atmospheric concentration of CO2 (and other “greenhouse” gases). They have entered these data into their computers and the computer ground on them a bit and spit out a Douglas Adams answer: 42. Unfortunately, just as in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, they neglected to formulate the appropriate question to the ultimate answer.

The basic assumption in these computations, well refuted by Eschenbach, is that there is a linear relationship between the total concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere and average surface temperature, and further, that human production of CO2 is responsible for the observed increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration. In other words, if humans continue to push up CO2, temperatures will continue to rise, glaciers will continue to melt, and, in short, the global Popsicle will be no longer lickable.

As Eschenbach points out, this turns out not to be the case.

The Earth’s biosphere, including the oceans, landmasses, atmosphere and all the biological and geophysical bits that hang about within them, is a pretty clever place. Over unimaginable millennia, the biosphere has developed a homeostatic system that works to keep conditions on the Earth within a narrow range of temperature, humidity and atmospheric gas concentrations, hovering around the freezing point of water. Even odder, this range of conditions is uniquely maintained at just the right combination for the establishment and maintenance of life, as we know it, as it has been fruitful and multiplied across the face of the earth, in pursuit of its own unique form of happiness.

This has caused a great many philosophers to scratch their thinning pates in consternation. Is the Earth and this Universe designed just so, for Life and human beings to evolve and contemplate the wonder of its creation? Or, on the other hand, paw or various appendages, if the Universe were not so ordered would there be anyone around to scratch their thinning pates wondering about it?

This is known as the Anthropic Principle, over which much ink and dead trees have been sacrificed in sorting it all out.

What’s important for those of us getting out of bed in our mechanistic world, contemplating steaming cups of coffee and slippery front stoops, is this: Climate variability has no constant rate of change or direction; climate changes constantly, as it has since there first were oceans and atmosphere; and global warming is a misperception of cause and effect caused by overdependance on computer models and insufficient attention to the complexity of global climate systems.

Cries of "Costly Fraud!" are as deceptive as their targets

This article: Anthropogenic global warming is a huge costly fraud! by climatologist Cliff Harris, has a great deal of truth in it, and much hyperbole as well.

Yes, Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) is overstated by many, mischracterized in the popular press, and generally misunderstood by a poorly informed public. While this is an unfortunate error, it does not pass beyond to deliberate fraud… maybe.

There is indeed “no peer-confirmed scientific research that establishes a cause-and-effect relationship between increased atmospheric carbon dioxide and higher (or lower) global temperatures.” There is, in fact, no scientific research that demonstrates the validity of global average surface temperature as a measure of climate variability

Surface temperature is just one variable in local climates. An average of all surface temperatures on the Earth gives us a number, but one which is not particularly useful in assessing variability in local climates, let alone in the speculative concept of a “global” climate. 

To then take this nebulous methodology and attempt to project it forward into the future through the use of mathematical global climate models results in a product that bears almost no relationship to the reality of climate variation and is meaningless in terms of the contribution of anthropogenic greenhouse gases to that variation.

The simple fact is: We just don’t know.

It’s OK to not know.

Admitting our ignorance is a healthy characteristic of a well adjusted human being. To pretend that we know everything and that we can predict something as complex and chaotic as climate 100 years into the future, when we can’t even predict the weather next year, is the height of folly.

The truth is, we’re just going to have to wait and see.

Meanwhile, we can prepare ourselves for any climate eventuality by keeping ourselves and our societies as resilient and flexible as possible. This means not tying ourselves to finite energy sources, not building major cities and human playgrounds on shorelines subject to storms and inundation, not building on the slopes of volcanoes, active or “dormant,” not building in flood plains and generally conducting ourselves as if we had learned something from 3.5 millions years of evolution.

Oh, and here’s the toughy. We have to learn to control our population so as to not consume more than our planet can naturally replenish.

That’s a pretty tall order. I have little confidence that Homo sapiens can pull it off.

Wouldn’t hurt to try.

If… could… might… the uncertainty of climate change

Polar bears threatened IF climate change warms Hudson Bay: Study

Cities along the southern Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico will likely be hardest hit IF global sea levels rise, as projected, by about 3 feet (1 meter) by 2100, researchers reported in the journal Climate Change Letters.

How do these uncertainties get transformed to certainty in the corporate media? Predictions in science are not descriptions of what is certain to happen, they are hypotheses to be tested against observation. Mathematical climate models only model those parameters programmed into them. They cannot account for those factors not entered into the model’s scenarios.

Since articles published in corporate media are ephemeral, written by non-scientists and subject to the whims of for-profit corporate interests, we cannot base world climate and energy policies on screaming headlines and yellow journalism. Science, and scientists (not science lobbying organizations such as the IPCC and National Science Foundation) must be the final arbiters of scientific reality.

From the Land of Headline Hyperbole

The scare-mongering US News and World Report headline:  Wolverines Threatened by Climate Change, Earlier Springs is typical of media hype over “global warming.”

Are wolverines threatened? No. But, “Wolverine habitat in the northwestern United States is likely to warm dramatically if society continues to emit large amounts of greenhouse gases, according to new computer model simulations carried out at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colo.”

Where is the research to support this statement? Not in the article published in Environmental Research Letters. That is merely a study of the effects of increased average surface temperatures on wolverine habitat, based on the unsupported assumption that human greenhouse gas emissions are causing global warming.

This long-term assumption stems from the earliest studies of the misnomered “greenhouse effect by  Svante Arrhenius, who assumed, without evidence, that observed increases in temperatiure were the result of widespread burning of coal.

Based on that assumption, the extending assumption is made that by reducing human produced greenhouses gases, we can somehow stop climate change and save the wolverines.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Climate change continues apace, with or without human contributions. Even if humans were causing every bit of observed climate change, and even if humans stopped producing greenhouse gases today, climate change would continue and wolverine habitat would continue to change. ‘Twas ever thus.

Wolverines evolved in a changing habitat and will continue to do so long after Homo sapiens are a distant dusty and unpleasant memory. Despite overwhelming hubris, humans are not the be-all and end-all on this Earth. Climate change is a cosmic phenomenon, with its wagon hitched to our local star, turning in tune to local solar cycles.

Fortunately for wolverines, global climate patterns are not controlled by computer simulations. The world remains a chaotic and inexpressively beautiful place, arising of itself, providing constant surprise and delight to its human inhabitants.

Dueling Hypotheses

A recent article by Dr. Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) contains so many glaring errors and biased assumptions, it’s hard to know where to start.

First of all, the difference between theory and hypothesis:

The problem is not with dueling hypotheses, it is with dueling theories regarding the processes resulting in observed global warming. One theory states: Observed global warming is the result of human greenhouse gas emissions. Another theory states: Observed global warming is not caused by human greenhouse gas emissions, but is a result of natural geophysical processes.

The statement, “Global warming is the result of human greenhouse gas emissions” is not an hypothesis, it is a proposition, or at best, a simple theory. A theory is an explanation of process based on a body of observation.

Hypotheses, on the other hand, are predictive “if…then” statements used to test a small subset of  a theory as an adequate explanation of observations, thus either strengthening or weakening the theory. The results of an individual hypothesis never disprove a theory. A theory can only be weakened and eventually replaced by the accumulation of a body of evidence that contradicts the theories explanation of observations, and the formulation of a new theory that provides a more adequate explanation.

We can test the theory of anthropogenic global warming with the hypothesis: If observed global warming is caused by human greenhouse gas emissions, then we should find a positive correlation between the amount and rate of greenhouse gas production and global average temperature rise. This is weak test of the theory, since, if we find such a positive correlation, we merely confirm the existing theory. No new information is gained. If we fail to find the positive causal correlation, it may be because we just have not looked hard enough yet, or haven’t looked in the right places. The truth is still out there!

Alternatively, a null hypothesis would be stated as: If observed global warming is caused by human greenhouse gas emissions, then we should not find a negative correlation between the amount and rate of greenhouse gas production and global average temperature rise. This is a much stronger test of the hypothesis, since it only takes one instance of negative correlation to negate the hypothesis and weaken the theory as an explanation of observations.

This is the process of Science, the Hypothetico-deductive Method of Theory Confirmation.

Secondly, Trenberth repeatedly fails to make a distinction between Global Warming and Anthropogenic Global Warming. There is no question that the average global surface temperature of the Earth has been increasing steadily over the past 20,000 years or so, else, we would still be skirting glaciers on our daily commute. The question is: What is the contribution of anthropogenic greenhouse gases to this warming, and, what effect will reduction of anthropogenic greenhouse gases have on this on-going global warming, if any?

Since we do not yet fully understand the natural geophysical processes that result in observed climate variations over geologic time periods, it is very difficult, if not impossible, for us to fully understand the contribution to global climate variation resulting from anthropogenic greenhouse gases. Wild predictions of future catastrophic weather events are simply science fiction prognostications with as much scientific validity as a Star Wars movie.

The periodic reports by the IPCC are not scientific documents, they are produced to give policy-makers estimations of the relevant probabilities of various climate scenarios, as an aid in preparation of national and international policies dealing with climate variation. These statements of probability have been inflated by the world press and by politicians anxious to make a name (and fortune) for themselves. Probability has been turned on its head into certainty and is being used by all manner of organizations and individuals to forward their individual agendae. Hyperinflated scare stories of sea level rise, catastrophic flooding, heat waves and droughts have been used to justify continued human growth and development in the face of dwindling natural resources and increasing air, water and soil pollution, all in the name of environmental justice.

At some point, increasing evidence of negative correlations between global average atmospheric CO2 concentrations and global average surface temperature will falsify the null hypothesis and greatly reduce the adequacy of the anthropogenic global warming theory as an explanation of observed global average surface temperature increase. At that point, environmental organizations, politicians and science policy organizations will find they’ve hitched their wagons to a black hole. Their unceasing drum-beat for Anthropogenic Global Warming will ultimately discredit their otherwise worthwhile and necessary programs to reduce human pollution as a result of unrestricted human population and economic growth.