Between the Hammer and the Nail

ed359-global_warming_or_global_coolingYes, I know everyone has jumped aboard the Global Warming bandwagon, hammered together the climate change apartment house and moved in lock stock and barrel to the CO2-causes-Climate-Change studio apartment. It’s a shame that such a ramshackle edifice dominates the climate science skyline.

“If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Abraham Maslow, The Psychology of Science, 1966

Part One

Climate change has become the cause celebre of modern thought and action, the hammer employed to bang on almost everything else. Every Progressive cause from highway congestion to homelessness simply must be cast in the glare of Climate Change and/or Global Warming. Every organization from the United Nations to my local County Board of Supervisors is invested in the concept as the source of funding for addressing all social ills.

The basis for this totalitarian acceptance of human caused climate change, aka Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) is the theory of radiative forcing of atmospheric warming, the so-called Greenhouse Effect. As we’ll see later, this is an instance of an attempt to prove an experiment by invoking a theory, rather than the accepted scientific process of proving a theory by experimentation and hypothesis testing.

Carbon dioxide radiative forcing was first proposed by Joseph Fourier in 1824, demonstrated by experiment by John Tyndall in 1859, and quantified by Svante Arrhenius in 1896. The unfortunate and inaccurate descriptor “Greenhouse Effect” was first employed by Nils Gustaf Ekholm in 1901.

The basic premise of the “Greenhouse Gas” theory is that greenhouse gases raise the temperature at the surface of the Earth higher than it would be without them (+33º C). Without these gases in the atmosphere (water vapor (0 to 4%), Carbon dioxide (0.0402%), Methane (0.000179%), Nitrous oxide (0.0000325%) and Fluorinated gases (0.000007%) life on this planet would be impossible.

This basic theory is deployed to buttress the assumptions that increased atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations (mainly CO2) cause increased global average surface temperature, and, therefore lowering atmospheric CO2 concentrations will reduce or even reverse increases in global average surface temperature.

Let’s look at the observations and assumptions that have led to this erroneous conclusion.

Observations and Assumptions

  1. Observation – Humans produce greenhouse gases through industrial activity, agriculture and respiration, increasing the atmospheric concentration of CO2 from ~300 ppmv to ~400 ppmv over the past 58 years
  2. Observation – The calculated measure of global average surface temperature has increased by about 0.8° Celsius (1.4° Fahrenheit) since 1880.
  3. Assumption – Adding more CO2 to the atmosphere causes an increase in global average surface temperature.
  4. Assumption – Increase in global average surface temperature will cause changes in global climates that will be catastrophic for all life on Earth.
  5. Conclusion – Therefore, reducing human CO2 production will result in a reduction in atmospheric CO2 concentration and a consequent reduction in increase of global average surface temperature, stabilizing global climates and preventing catastrophic climate change.

Items 1 and 2 are observations with which few climate scientists disagree, though there may be quibbles about the details. CO2 and temperature have both increased, since at least 1850.

Items 3 and 4 are assumptions because there is no evidence to support them. The correlation between global average surface temperature and atmospheric CO2 concentration is not linear and it is not causal. In fact, deep glacial ice cores record that historical increases in CO2 concentration have lagged behind temperature rise by 200 to 800 years, suggesting that, if anything, atmospheric CO2 increase is caused by increase in global average surface temperature.

Nevertheless, the “consensus” pursued by global warming acolytes is that Svante Arrhenius’ 1896 “Greenhouse Gas” theory proves that rising CO2 causes rising temperature.

However, in the scientific method, we do not employ a theory to prove an experiment. Since we have only one coupled ocean/atmosphere system to observe, the experiment in this case is the Earth itself, human CO2 production, naturally occurring climate variation, and observed changes in atmospheric CO2 and global average surface temperature. There is no control with which to compare observations, thus we can make no scientifically valid conclusions as to causation. If we had a second, identical planet earth to compare atmospheric changes in the absence of human produced CO2, we would be able to reach valid conclusions about the role of CO2 in observed climate variation, and we would have an opportunity to weigh other causes of climate variation shared by the two systems.

To escape from our precarious position between the hammer and the nail, we should understand all possible causal factors, human caused, naturally occurring, from within and from without the biosphere in which all life lives.

Based on our current cosmology, it is my conclusion that we live in a chaotic, nonlinear, complex coupled ocean/atmospheric adaptive system, with its own set of naturally occurring and human created cycles that interact to produce the climate variation we observe. This variation is not the simple linear relationship touted by the IPCC and repeated in apocalyptic tones by those who profit from its dissemination, but rather is a complex interplay of varying influences, that results in unpredictable climate variation.

More about chaos and complexity in the next installment.


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

The Myth of Climate Control

In his Two Worlds blog, #16 / Acknowledge The Difficulties, Gary Patton references Robert Samuelson in his December 27 editorial, stating that “…regulating the world’s temperature is mission impossible.”

Samuelson is correct in his assessment. Humans do not have the power to control the world’s temperature, even if that concept had any meaning in reality. Humans may have the power, if we have the will, to reduce the effects of human consumption and production on natural climate variation. Switching to “renewable” energy sources is certainly a rational decision, if for no other reason than non-renewable energy sources are finite and will become much more dear as they diminish.

That does not mean that changing our energy sources will allow us to “stop global warming.” The concept is absurd. Allow me to explain.

The current over-fascination with global warming assumes that human CO2 emissions have resulted in “Global Warming” since the Industrial Revolution, around 1850. Observations show that yes, sure enough, global average surface temperature has increased, overall, since 1850, with some pauses and declines along the way.

But wait, why stop looking at 1850? What happened to global average surface temperature before the Industrial Revolution?

As it turns out, global average surface temperature has been increasing steadily since around 1600, 250 years before the 1850 target date. Humans were not producing CO2 in any appreciable quantity in the 17th Century, so what caused this “Global Warming?”

We can go back even further. The 950 − 1250 AD Medieval Warm Period featured Global Average Surface Temperature as high as today with no contribution from increasing CO2 levels. What caused this “Global Warming?”


Looking even further back, the Holocene interglacial, which we currently enjoy, is a period of “Global Warming” that began 12,000 years ago, arising of itself, through natural geophysical processes, from the Pleistocene glacial period.

Over the past 2.5 millions years, the Earth has gone through four additional glacial periods, each with their own “Global Warming” interglacial periods just as we see today.

“Global Warming” is nothing new, having been an essential part of human evolution since our earliest hominid ancestors first walked on their hind legs.

The point is that humans do not cause “Global Warming.” Therefore, by extension, humans cannot stop “Global Warming,” no matter how we change our socioeconomic relationships to the planet we inhabit.

Current fear-mongering about “Global Warming” is not aimed at a radical change in the way humans produce energy. It is an attempt to maintain socioeconomic control in a civilization in which the major economic source, the fossil-fueled “Global Economy,” is sputtering to its inevitable end, threatening the hegemony of the global economic control system set up at the end of World War II. The United Nations’ “Sustainable Development” program, the genesis of the IPCC, is an attempt to prop up development in poor nations, in the face of increasingly apparent environmental limits on economic growth.

Rather than attempting to frighten the world into belief that we can control climate variation that threatens continued growth and development, we should be helping all to understand and prepare for a world that will continually change beneath our feet, and that has unavoidable limits to human economic growth, consumption and production of wastes.

Pretending that we are apart from the natural world and not subject to natural cycles of resource abundance, climate variation and large scale geologic changes is ultimately futile and self-deceptive, as well as destructive to the rest of the world on which we intimately depend.

We must give up the idea of control of climate and instead develop social systems that are resilient and adaptable, and not rigidly demanding of finite resources, critical natural habitats and uncontrollable natural systems.

Climate Change, Not Climate Stasis

Yes, I know Climate Change is everywhere in the news. It’s a divisive issue, with an overabundance of name-calling, unsupported statements, speculation and outright fraud.

Nevertheless, I feel compelled to write about it from my perspective as a semi-climate scientist (I worked with dendroclimatological data as an archaeologist) and long-time student of things scientific and climatological.

The central thesis of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (and many other organizations and individuals) is that observed climate variation in the 20th Century is the result of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels as a result of burning of fossil fuels.

Further assumptions of this thesis include a) increases in global average surface temperature resulting from CO2 increase are inherently detrimental to global environments and human civilization; and b) observed rates of increase in CO2 concentration and global average surface temperature, and thus, global climate, will continue linearly into the future.

There are no historical data to support assumptions a) and b). Existing historical records suggest that periods of warmer climate, such as the Medieval Warm Period, were times of greater biological productivity and advance of civilization, while colder periods, such as the Little Ice Age, were periods of drought, biodiversity reduction and human misery. Historical climate records plus proxy climate records of geologic history clearly show that climate is a chaotic system that does not change linearly in response to any single factor.

The assumption of human causation of observed climate variation is so convoluted I’m astonished at the widespread, unquestioning acceptance of this thesis by the broader scientific and popular communities.

When I first became aware of the IPCC’s Anthropogenic Global Warming climate mandate and their acceptance of Michael Mann’s “Hockey Stick” graph, I knew there was something seriously wrong. I had been studying climate variation over the past three millennia as part of my archaeological research, and I knew for a fact that the Little Ice Age and the Medieval Warm Period were real climate phenomena that did not appear in the IPCC argument. My archaeological data demonstrated an increase in human population movements across the Bering Strait during the Medieval Warm Period, and a decrease in movement during the Little Ice Age.

Subsequent research has failed to dissuade me from my earliest conclusion. It is increasingly clear that human CO2 production has very little influence on naturally occurring climate variation, and therefore, reducing human fossil fuel consumption and investing in a huge, environmentally destructive renewable energy industry will not be effective in changing the course and rate of climate variation, even if such an effort were proven to be desirable. The chaotic interplay of variables responsible for naturally occurring climate variation are so much more powerful than human produced atmospheric CO2 as to be overwhelming.

The Earth’s climates will continue their inexorable pas de deux between glacial and interglacial periods, regardless of human action. We are currently in the Holocene Interglacial, which is reaching the end of its run, exhibiting increased variability as it approaches the inevitable tip over into a rapid decline into the next glacial epoch. There’s not a thing we can do to change this cosmic cycle other than to prepare ourselves to adapt to a rapidly changing environment such as humans experienced in our early evolution.

Humans are an evolutionary product of natural climate variation that is beyond our ability to control. The sooner we accept this reality and let go of the notion of control of the world and its processes, the sooner we can get down to the task of preparing to live as a part of the world, not apart from it.

Standing with Our Toes Over the Edge

What we humans optimistically call civilization these days is only the most recent of many civilizations that have come and gone, rising to shine briefly, then slowly decline, fail and disappear into the basement storage room of history. Our turn is coming, perhaps sooner than anyone expects.

Not long after I escaped from my obligatory military service in the 1970s, I studied Earth Science at a small “Normal” school (what we now call a teacher’s college) in Western Nebraska. My major professor, Dr. Larry Agenbroad, was a charismatic figure in the classroom and the field, much the favorite of the female contingent of our academic cohort. And he was wise in the ways of Earth and Mankind. Alas, he is no longer alive to pass on his knowledge.

In classes in geomorphology he taught us some very practical geological wisdom, such as don’t build your house in a flood plain or on the slope of an “extinct” volcano.

He also taught us that modern industrial agriculture had been developed during a geologic period of unusually stable, warm and wet weather, called the Holocene, and that one of these days conditions would change and we would be unable to grow enough food to feed an exponentially expanding human population.

In a petroleum geology class, he taught us about, as you might guess, petroleum, the sticky remains of ancient sunlight, turned into a concentrated energy source by time, pressure, temperature and Standard Oil. He mentioned in passing that this resource is finite, that when it is gone there will be no replacement, and we had better be thinking of making it last as long as possible if want to keep on the current path of civilization.

Dr. Agenbroad’s vision has come back to haunt us all.

Our civilization has two great challenges before it right now, challenges that have no solutions, that humans cannot forestall, that are as  inevitable as sunrise and sunset:  Peak Oil and Climate Change.

Peak Oil is the point at which annual oil consumption surpasses the annual amount of oil we discover in new oil fields. This point has passed globally. Climate Change is the slow change of global climate conditions through the phases of glacial and interglacial periods that the world has experienced for the past 2.6 million years.

The “oil crisis” of the early 1970s brought Peak Oil to public attention. There’s nothing like sitting in a long line of cars at a gas station to make you realize oil is a finite resource. At about the same time, meteorologists noticed that global temperatures were declining and they began talking about the dangers of global climate variation.

These two observations got some people to start thinking about the future of civilization. Unfortunately, those doing the thinking were an integral part of the military-industrial complex, and the result was the oil wars of Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan, attempts to consolidate control of the last large untapped oil reserves in the world.

This new direction in United States foreign policy was hatched in George W. Bush and Dick Cheney’s Energy Task Force, officially called the National Energy Policy Development Group (NEPDG) of 2001. In over 10 months of secret meetings, government officials met with petroleum, coal, nuclear, natural gas, and electricity industry representatives and lobbyists to decide how to conduct the future energy polices of the United States government.

Meanwhile, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the World Bank, who up to then had pretty much held a stranglehold on the global economy, suddenly realized that if world petroleum supplies ran short, the Global Economy was going into the toilet in a big way. The result was the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), created to give policy advice to world governments on how to deal with human caused climate change (aka Global Warming).

That advice was, and is, rich countries give lots of money to poor countries, as guilt payment for the climate change the rich countries have caused, to bring poor countries into the Global Economy before it collapses under the weight of its own impossibility.

All of these national and international shenanigans were a last ditch attempt to control the uncontrollable, to solve the problems for which there are no solutions, and to try to avoid those unavoidable realities of Peak Oil and Climate Change.

As Albert Einstein noted in the 1940s:

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

Peak Oil is the result of building a high energy, high consumption civilization on a finite resource, with insufficient resources to continue when the finite source runs out. It’s as if I won a lottery and bought a mansion that requires more monthly expenses to maintain than I make in my regular salary. Once the lottery winnings are spent, I don’t have enough money to pay the regular expenses, and the house is foreclosed.

The IPCC is an attempt to find a technological fix for climate change, to “stop” global warming” so our burgeoning population and it’s constantly growing economy can continue indefinitely.

But climate change is not the problem. Climate change has continued for millennia, long before humans came on the scene. The problem is that humans have built a civilization based on the assumption of a static climate, that will continue into the future indefinitely, as it has for the past 100 years.

A simple geology class would disabuse even a freshman college student of that myth.

The twin challenges humans face today, Peak Oil and Climate Change, we ourselves created by way of our highly technocratic civilization. Our energy intensive technology is the problem, not the solution. Further technology cannot “solve” these problems, they can only make them worse.

When you’re standing on the precipice with your toes dangling out over the edge, you can do one of two things: you can take a step backwards, or, if you don’t like moving backwards, you can turn around and take a step forward.

Global Warming? Really?

It’s amazing that so many electrons are still shed over global warming. While the evidence piles up that we have entered the cooling phase ofthe 60 year climate variation cycle, anthropogenic global warming proponents have cranked up the propaganda machine in an attempt to revive the Global Warming Scare(c).

Even Michael Mann’s Hockey Stick has been dragged out of the closet, slapped with a new coat of varnish and paraded before the amnesiosphere as if it was something new and legitimate.

And yet, no one can argue that there has been no significant change in global average surface temperature in the past fifteen years, the length of time the climate modelers set as the test of their own climate models which failed to “project” this pause in the Modern Warming Period.

This is not to say that warming will not recommence, in its own time, at its own rate. It is to say, however, that the “consensus” hypothesis of anthropogenic global warming is seriously called to question by the present state, or lack of it, of global warming.

The best hypothesis to explain the body of observation of global climate variation is the combination of solar/cosmic cycles that influence insolation, cloud formation and the Earth’s energy balance, and oceanic decadal cycles that redistribute the Earth’s heat from the equator to the poles, and onward out into space.

Climate models are not evidence; they are hypotheses waiting to be tested against contemporary observation. So far, no existing climate model has been verified against modern observations.

Time will tell!

Climate Science is not Settled

One of the lightly whispered themes in my continuing thread about The Broadcast has to do with climate science and the assumption that the consensus is in, the science is settled and there’s no reason for anyone to be skeptical nor “deny” that observed climate variation is caused by human production of CO2 and other “greenhouse” gases.

David Segal refutes the the idea of settled climate science in an article in Medium:


What is your position on the climate-change debate? What would it take to change your mind?

Source: What I Learned about Climate Change: The Science is not Settled — Medium

Climate science, as any science, is never settled. There is no scientific theory that is not subject to new discoveries, new hypothesis modification or even wholesale abandonment. We learn new things all the time in scientific research, even and especially new things about subjects we though we readily understood.

Particle physics is just one example. Not too long ago, all physicists agreed that we pretty much knew everything there was to know about the make up of the atom and it’s sub-atomic particles. We even postulated that if we could determine the exact position and velocity of very particle of the Universe, we could predict the future with great accuracy.

Up pops quantum physics and the whole discipline of particle physics changed, almost over night, and is still changing.

So when you hear someone say, “The science is settled,” crank up your bullshit detector and engage your skepticism generator. They obviously have a reason for attempting to pull the global warming wool over your eyes.