Latest posts by H. Sterling Burnett (see all)
- CO2 Science: Carbon Dioxide Not Temperature Driver - October 12, 2018
- EPA’s Non-Politicized Science Benefits Americans - October 11, 2018
- Proposed Endangered Species Reforms: Good but Not Good Enough - October 4, 2018
Recently there has been a great deal of controversy over the adoption of new social studies and history textbooks in Texas. Global warming alarmists have successfully pressured textbook publishers into removing any trace of the undeniable fact that the causes and consequences of global warming are still open for debate or that any scientists still question the theory that humans are causing catastrophic climate change. This is unfortunate because in removing all reference to skepticism concerning warming, the publishers have foregone the truth for political expediency. Should these textbooks be adopted as is, it will be a disservice to Texas students. It’s my sincere hope that the Texas’s State Board of Education, reject all the proposed books, reopen the selection process and make it clear that any textbooks to be adopted, if they address global warming (and they need not do so) must acknowledge the ongoing debate concerning the causes and consequences of climate change and air the views of both sides of the debate.
A reader wrote me in response to the Dallas Morning News article. I have reprinted our exchange below (leaving out the name of the writer to protect his anonymity). I post it to answer questions others might have but haven’t asked.
Mr. Burnett, I agree with you that we all should have an open mind on this subject and we should lead our students into critical thinking, (about any subject for that matter).
But you contradict that statement in your own editorial. You flatly state: “The models are wrong.” You also cherry pick and mislead by stating: “…the facts show and failed to predict the current lack of increase in Earth’s average temperature…”
Those statements do not show someone who is keeping an open mind and using critical thinking.
No model that I have seen (and I have seen probably just about every one) do not support your statements unless one cherry picks the information provided and doesn’t take a look at all the information provided.
The Koch brothers funded a study with a team of skeptical scientists. They provide all their data with total transparency. Check the results for yourself in the second link. http://www.examiner.com/article/koch-funded-study-finds-global-warming-is-real-and-humans-are-the-cause
Mr. (Name withheld):
Thank you for your attention to my article and for your thoughtful response. However, I believe we will have to agree to disagree. Though stating “the models are wrong,” is a strong statement concerning current temperatures and temperature trends I believe it is wholly accurate see Dr. Roy Spencer’s post.
Concerning the really important matters, the projected harmful results from AGW, its certainly true that one can pick and choose models to project whatever current weather/climate trends or events happen and then claim that this hurricane or that drought, etc… is consistent with the models, but that doesn’t seem to me to be a sound scientific process. One critical feature of the scientific method is the falsification or the ability to disprove the theory. A theory that can’t be disproven is a religion. I have no problem with religion, but religion should not be confused with science. Michael Mann once told me that that for AGW to be wrong everything he knew about physics (including fundamental laws of gravity, thermodynamics and laws concerning the conservation of energy and entropy) would have to be wrong. That is shear hubris in the face of the numerous climate factors of which scientists are ignorant. I have written about the problems with selective choice of models a number of times in the past, for instance at, National review and Human Events
Nothing, I’ve seen since I wrote these pieces has led me to change my considered opinion.
There are simply too many factors that climate modelers admittedly don’t understand or know how to plug into their models, to have any confidence in models projections of future harms when they cannot even accurately model temperature trends.
If there is a model that has accurately projected the current lull in temperature, let me know which one it is, then let’s check the projections that flow from it concerning various climate phenomena and trends and see how they comport with what has been actually measured or recorded. A model that projected temperatures and most recorded phenomena and measured trends accurately, I would count as one worth serious consideration.
Concerning the Koch brothers, I have never met them and to my knowledge my work has never been funded by them. More importantly, even if I, or the scientists you discuss, were a wholly paid employees of the Koch brothers, the question would remain, is what we have written wrong. To indict or praise the work of someone because of who they associate with, who they are paid by, or because it is supported by a majority (or consensus) is a logical fallacy.
Arguments should be analyzed strictly on their own merits, regardless of whether one likes or trusts the persons or groups making them.
Just my two cents.
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D.
I had thought that that would be the end of the exchange but it was not. Instead I received this reply:
So you’re not going to keep an open mind and you haven’t studied the lag affect yet? Looking at only the last 16 years of data reminds me of my liberal friends who post the Federal Budget Deficit from 2009 to present and they show how much it has come down under Obama. But of course they fail to acknowledge and show the previous years budget deficit prior to 2009 and the enourmous jump it made right after Obama took office.
To which I responded:
You misunderstand me or misstate my position. I don’t have any problem with the idea of a lag effect, just show me where the models we are supposed to trust, build it in. They treat emissions as if they worked geometrically not logarithmically. I never said that I just looked at the last 16 years of data, I just pointed out that they missed the actual measurements for the past 18 years. The models and their promoters don’t accurately portray the state of our knowledge about climate sensitivity.
To the extent that the models have accurately hind-cast, past temperatures and trends they have only done so after much tinkering and building in adjustment factors. The fact that the model temperature projections have error bars as great or greater than the actual expected temperature rise, tells me they aren’t very useful for decision making. If I hired a caterer for a party and informed him that I expected 30 people to attend, but there could be as few as zero (not counting me) or as many as 75, I wouldn’t really be providing him with much useful information for planning purposes.
I’ve got an open mind, I admit I could be wrong. And all I request to trust models projections is a model that gets temperatures and expected climatic events mostly right. You seem to think that that is too much to ask on my part. Unlike AGW believers, I take data and evidence to be paramount, not unconfirmed (perhaps unconformable) theory. In addition, I don’t require the scientific method or basic rules of physics, biology, chemistry or any other core principle or set of principles to have to be overturned to prove me wrong.
Having said this, even if I am wrong and potentially dangerous human caused warming is in the offing, I would still argue that the danger, the actual harms, resulting today and in the future, would be greater from denying widespread access to and use of fossil fuels than the harms from warming. Leaving billions in grinding poverty and want today, and leaving future generations poorer than they otherwise would be, by stopping fossil fuel use, is immoral, since it sacrifices present generations based on possible harms to future generations that will be much wealthier and able to adapt to or mitigate climate change much better due to their greater wealth. It’s the difference between the impacts of cyclones and tidal waves on Indonesia or the Indian subcontinent compared to the impacts in the U.S. or Japan. The difference between harms from widespread drought in the Southwestern U.S. compared to a similar drought in Sudan or Ethiopia.
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D.