Watch for it: We may be on the threshold of a tipping point in climate history. No, I’m not talking about a tipping point in the sense that the Earth will be covered with ice or become hellishly hot. I’m talking about a tipping point in our views of what controls the climate — whether it’s mainly humans or whether it’s mainly natural. It makes an enormous difference in climate policy: Do we try to mitigate, at huge cost, or do we merely adapt to natural changes — as our ancestors did for many millennia?
Such tipping points occur quite frequently in science. I have personally witnessed two paradigm shifts where world scientific opinion changed rapidly — almost overnight. One was in Cosmology, where the “Steady State” theory of the Universe was replaced by the “Big Bang.” This shift was confirmed by the discovery of the “microwave background radiation,” which has already garnered Nobel prizes, and will likely get more.
The other major shift occurred in Continental Drift. After being denounced by the Science Establishment, the hypothesis of Alfred Wegener, initially based on approximate relations between South America and Africa, was dramatically confirmed by the discovery of “sea-floor spreading.”
These shifts were possible because there were no commercial or financial interests — and they did not involve the public and politicians. But climate is a different animal: The financial stakes are huge — in the trillions of dollars, and affect energy policy, and indeed the economic wellbeing of every inhabitant of the developed and developing world. For example, the conversion into ethanol fuel of a substantial portion of the US corn crop raised the price of tortillas in Mexico and caused food riots.
Nevertheless, I believe the time is right for a paradigm shift on climate. For one, there has been no warming now for some 15 years — in spite of rising levels of greenhouse (GH) gases. Climate models have not come up with any accepted explanation. This disparity, of course, throws great doubt about any future warming derived from these same models, and indeed also about policies that are being advocated — principally, the mitigation and control of Carbon Dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels.
Next year, in Paris, the UN will try to reconstitute the basic features of the (1997-2012) Kyoto Protocol — an international treaty of participating nations to limit their emissions of CO2. They may succeed — unless the current paradigm changes.
We can already see the pressure building up for such a treaty. The big guns of international science are actively promoting climate scares. The Royal Society and US National Academy of Sciences have published a joint major report, containing no new science but advocating a “need for action.” The AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science), the largest scientific organization in the United States, is promoting the same policy, but without a shred of science in their slick pamphlet. Even the once-respected Scientific American magazine has gotten into the act and openly advocates such policies.
All of these Establishment groups, it seems, have a keen eye open for government funding — not only for research but also the actions that go with such policies. They all accept the climate science as propagated by the three volumes of the 5th Assessment Report (AR5) of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). Volume #1, dealing with physical science, was published in Sept 2013; volumes 2 and 3, dealing with impacts and mitigation, will be published in March and April of 2014.
But now, for the first time, we have NIPCC (Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change) as a counter to the IPCC, as an independent voice, a second opinion, if you will — something that was advocated by the IAC (InterAcademy Council on Science). We now have a credible number of studies, which the IPCC chose to ignore in reaching their conclusion about anthropogenic global warming (AGW). The NIPCC reports were also published in September 2013 (Physical Science), and in March and April of 2014 (Biological Impacts and Societal Impacts).
The NIPCC, in particular its Summary for Policy-Makers (SPM) of Vol 1, looks critically at the evidence that the IPCC uses to back up their claim of AGW. NIPCC notes that the evidence keeps changing over time. The first IPCC report (1990) used an improbable statistical method to suggest that the warming of the early part of the 20th century was due to human-produced GH gases; no one believes this anymore.
The second assessment report of 1996, which led to the infamous 1997 Kyoto Protocol, manufactured the so-called “HotSpot,” a region of increased warming trend, with a maximum in the equatorial troposphere. That evidence has also disappeared: a detailed analysis (published in Nature 1996) showed that the hHotspot doesn’t even exist. In addition, the assumption that it constitutes a “fingerprint” for AGW is in error.
As a result of these two failed attempts to establish some kind of evidence for AGW, the third IPCC report (2001) latched on to the so-called “Hockeystick” graph, which claimed that only the 20th century showed unusual warming during the past 1000 years. However, further scrutiny demonstrated that the Hockeystick was also manufactured — based on faulty data, erroneous statistical methods, and an inappropriate calibration method. Even purely random data fed into the algorithm would produce a hockeystick.
In its most recent AR5 of 2013, the IPCC has dropped all previous pieces of evidence and instead concentrates on trying to prove that the reported surface warming between 1978 and 2000 agrees with a warming predicted by climate models. This so-called proof turns out to be a weak reed indeed. The reported warming applies only to surface (land-based) weather stations and is not seen in any other data set; the weather satellite data that measure atmospheric temperature show no significant trend — neither do proxy data (from analysis of tree rings, ocean/lake sediments, stalagmites, etc)
It can therefore be argued that there has been no appreciable human-caused warming in the 20th century at all — and that the warming effects of rising GH-gas content of the atmosphere have been quite insignificant. See alsohttp://www.americanthinker.com/2013/11/ipcc_s_bogus_evidence_for_global_warming.html
But what about future global temperatures? Opinions differ sharply — all the way from another “Little Ice Age” (a calamity, in my opinion) to a resumption of warming (aided by the “missing heat” that some alarmists are sure is hiding somewhere). Personally, I don’t do forecasts since I know too little about the Sun’s interior; I simply try to understand and explain the past climate. But if pressed, I would go with historic cycles, like the observed 1000-1500-yr cycle; it suggests a modest warming over the next few centuries, perhaps in ‘fits and starts’ — unlike computer models that yield a steady increase in temperature from a steady increase of GH-gas levels.
Will nations accept any treaties emanating from the 2015 Paris Conference? So far, only Western Europe seems to be keen on ratifying — and even there, doubts are developing. Eastern Europe is definitely against any new Protocol, as are Japan, Australia, and Canada. And what about the Chinese, the world’s largest emitters of CO2? They gain a competitive advantage if their commercial competitors accept the Treaty’s restrictions, which raise their cost of energy.
The United States may be in a transition mode — and that’s where a paradigm shift could really make a global difference. According to the latest Gallup poll, the US public ranks Global Warming almost at the bottom of twenty issues, mostly concerned with economics. The White House, however, seems to be gung-ho for climate alarmism. President Obama is planning new climate initiatives, based on advice from his Science Adviser, John Holdren, an erstwhile disciple of “Population Bomb” Paul Ehrlich. John Podesta has come aboard as counselor and special assistant to the President to push climate initiatives. And of course, the rest of the Administration is in tune with the White House.
Secretary of State John Kerry considers AGW the greatest challenge to US security — in spite of having his plate full of foreign-policy problems: the Iran nuclear negotiations, the Syrian civil war, a developing Sunni insurgency in Iraq, the Arab-Israel ‘peace’ negotiations, and the Russian annexation of Crimea. This, of course, is the same John Kerry, who as a US Senator in 1997 voted for the Byrd-Hagel Resolution against the likes of a Kyoto Protocol.
In mid-2014, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) will issue its opinion on the EPA’s mis-guided and unscientific efforts to limit or even abolish the use of coal for electric generation. If SCOTUS can become aware of the NIPCC conclusions, they will surely decide against EPA and therefore the WH. Such an event may become the trigger for a cataclysmic paradigm shift in US policy on energy and climate. The November 2014 elections could tip the balance and finally kill the myth of Global Warming catastrophes in the US and throughout the world.
S. Fred Singer is professor emeritus at the University of Virginia and director of the Science & Environmental Policy Project. His specialty is atmospheric and space physics. An expert in remote sensing and satellites, he served as the founding director of the US Weather Satellite Service and, more recently, as vice chair of the US National Advisory Committee on Oceans & Atmosphere. He is a senior fellow of the Heartland Institute and the Independent Institute. He co-authored the NY Times best-sellerUnstoppable Global Warming: Every 1500 years. In 2007, he founded and has since chaired the NIPCC (Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change), which has released several scientific reports [Seewww.NIPCCreport.org]. For recent writings, see http://www.americanthinker.com/s_fred_singer/ and also Google Scholar.
[Originally published at The American Thinker]