Crackpot theory advanced: If carbon-dioxide emissions are increasing, warnings about global warming are wrong

I’m no scientist (nor, probably, are you), but I can recognize a blatant example of reductio ad absurdum when I see one.

Take, for example, THIS COLUMN by notorious global-warming denier Robert Bryce in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal.

Bryce writes:

The carbon taxers/limiters have lost. Carbon-dioxide emissions have been the environmental issue of the past decade. Over that time period, Al Gore became a world-renowned figure for his documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” for which he won an Oscar. In 2007, he, along with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), collected a Nobel Peace Prize for “informing the world of the dangers posed by climate change.” That same year, the IPCC released its fourth assessment report, which declared that “most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likelydue to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.” (Emphasis in original.)

Two years later, Copenhagen became the epicenter of a world-wide media frenzy as some 5,000 journalists, along with some 100 world leaders and scores of celebrities, descended on the Danish capital to witness what was billed as the best opportunity to impose a global tax or limit on carbon dioxide.

The result? Nothing, aside from promises by various countries to get serious—really serious—about carbon emissions sometime soon.

Here’s a reality check: During the same decade that Mr. Gore and the IPCC dominated the environmental debate, global carbon-dioxide emissions rose by 28.5%.

Get it? The world, on the whole, is not heeding Al Gore’s warning about the dangers of greenhouse-gas emissions. Ergo, those warnings are bogus.

But wait. Bryce gets even sillier:

The science is not settled, not by a long shot. Last month, scientists at CERN, the prestigious high-energy physics lab in Switzerland, reported that neutrinos might—repeat, might—travel faster than the speed of light. If serious scientists can question Einstein’s theory of relativity, then there must be room for debate about the workings and complexities of the Earth’s atmosphere.

That’s a classic bait-and-switch. The first sentence in that paragraph is a claim that the science on climate change “is not settled.” The rest of the paragraph has nothing to do with climate science. Rather, it’s a thinly-veiled argument that scientific theories are just that — mere theories — and should not be confused with solid facts.

This kind of specious thinking is common among creationists who contend that evolution is only a theory. As Laurence Moran wrote in a PIECE to which I linked in a previous post:

Well, evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world’s data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts don’t go away when scientists debate rival theories to explain them. Einstein’s theory of gravitation replaced Newton’s in this century, but apples didn’t suspend themselves in midair, pending the outcome. And humans evolved from ape-like ancestors whether they did so by Darwin’s proposed mechanism or by some other yet to be discovered.

Moreover, “fact” doesn’t mean “absolute certainty”; there ain’t no such animal in an exciting and complex world. The final proofs of logic and mathematics flow deductively from stated premises and achieve certainty only because they are not about the empirical world. Evolutionists make no claim for perpetual truth, though creationists often do (and then attack us falsely for a style of argument that they themselves favor). In science “fact” can only mean “confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional consent.” I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms.

But getting back to Bryce’s ridiculous column in the Journal, Jonathan Chait deftly parries his thrust HERE:

The argument goes like this: We can’t be completely sure about any scientific conclusion, not even the theory of relativity, so we might as well listen to the best scientific conclusions available. Bryce starts down that path, but veers off: Since we can’t be sure of any science, let’s ignore climate science. He doesn’t seem to realize he’s made the case for ignoring all science.

I have an idea — why don’t you jump out your window? We can’t be completely sure about the theory of gravity!






  1. Dan Pangburn

    A simple equation based on the physical phenomena involved, with inputs of only sunspot number and ppmv CO2, calculates the average global temperatures (agt) since 1895 with 88.4% accuracy (87.9% if CO2 is assumed to have no influence). The equation, links to the source data, an eye-opening graph of the results and how they are derived are in the pdfs at http://climaterealists.com/index.php?tid=145&linkbox=true (see especially the pdfs made public on 4/10/10, 3/10/11 and 9/24/11). As shown in the 9/24/11 pdf, the equation accurately predicted the temperature trends for the last 20 years.

    The future average global temperature trend that this equation calculates is down. The huge effective thermal capacitance of the oceans (about 100 times everything else) will cause the decline to be only about 0.13°C per decade. The decline may be as much as 0.22°C per decade if the sun goes really quiet.

    This trend is corroborated by the growing separation between the rising CO2 and not-rising agt. From 2001 through September, 2011 the atmospheric CO2 increased by 23.7% of the total increase from 1800 to 2001 while the average global temperature has not increased. The 23.7% CO2 increase is the significant measurement, not the comparatively brief time period.

  2. Dan Pangburn: Your argument here that rising levels of CO2 have not resulted in rising global temperatures is much the same one you used in a comment two years ago on the Web site sindark.com: http://www.sindark.com/2009/07/28/hfcs-and-climate-change/

    Here’s the response you got from a commenter named Milan:

    “That simply isn’t true. There is a clear link between rising greenhouse gas concentrations (caused by human activity) and increasing temperature.

    “There are scientific uncertainties about the magnitude of different feedbacks – especially as the climate continues to change – but the statement that “[w]ithout NET positive feedback the Global Climate models predict that Global Warming from doubling atmospheric carbon dioxide will NOT be significant” is without scientific basis.

    “The Technical Summary of the IPCC AR4 explains this all in detail:

    “‘The dominant factor in the radiative forcing of climate in the industrial era is the increasing concentration of various greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Several of the major greenhouse gases occur naturally but increases in their atmospheric concentrations over the last 250 years are due largely to human activities. Other greenhouse gases are entirely the result of human activities.

    “‘Current concentrations of atmospheric CO2 and CH4 far exceed pre-industrial values found in polar ice core records of atmospheric composition dating back 650,000 years. Multiple lines of evidence confi rm that the post-industrial rise in these gases does not stem from natural mechanisms

    “‘The total radiative forcing of the Earth’s climate due to increases in the concentrations of the LLGHGs CO2, CH4 and N2O, and very likely the rate of increase in the total forcing due to these gases over the period since 1750, are unprecedented in more than 10,000 years

    “‘The concentration of atmospheric CO2 has increased from a pre-industrial value of about 280 ppm to 379 ppm in 2005.

    “‘Increases in atmospheric CO2 since pre-industrial times are responsible for a radiative forcing of +1.66 ± 0.17 W m–2; a contribution which dominates all other radiative forcing agents considered in this report.

    “‘The global average surface temperature has increased, especially since about 1950. The updated 100-year trend (1906–2005) of 0.74°C ± 0.18°C is larger than the 100-year warming trend at the time of the TAR (1901–2000) of 0.6°C ± 0.2°C due to additional warm years. The total temperature increase from 1850-1899 to 2001-2005 is 0.76°C ± 0.19°C. The rate of warming averaged over the last 50 years (0.13°C ± 0.03°C per decade) is nearly twice that for the last 100 years. Three different global estimates all show consistent warming trends. There is also consistency between the data sets in their separate land and ocean domains, and between sea surface temperature (SST) and nighttime marine air temperature.'”


    I also have noticed, Dan, that you’ve touted the so-called Oregon Petititon (which also is known as the Petition Project).

    I’ve dealt with that matter on several occasions in the past. Such as here:

    “The ‘scientists’ who signed that petition included veterinarians and medical doctors. Numerous other scientists who were listed as signatories have disavowed the whole thing.

    “Indeed, the petition has been widely debunked:

    And here:

    “For more on that bogus petition, read this:

    “And this:

    “And this:

  3. Dan Pangburn

    When given a choice between
    1. an equation that was derived by an unpaid Mechanical Engineer that has calculated average global temperatures since 1895 with an accuracy of 88% and accurately predicted average global temperature trends for 20 years and counting and
    2. scary predictions that have failed miserably to predict temperatures for the last decade by people whose pay checks depend on making scary predictions.

    You choose 2.

    I wonder how much wider the separation between the rising atmospheric carbon dioxide level and not rising average global temperature will need to get for you to realize that maybe you have been misled.

  4. Clear connection? I’d like to see it. CO2 has been steadily rising. Temps have flatlined. And the oceans? They appear to have stopped expanding the last few years.

    Now what does all this actually mean? Hard to say. It depends on the weighting of various factors. Neither side can be sure from such a small sample space 30 years of good data is not enough.

    BTW Pat – if you look at newspaper history we have been having climate alarms about every 30 years going back to 1890 or so. Back when cooling was a “problem” it was thought to be particulates from coal plants. Now we know better. It is really the plant food being emitted that is causing all the problems. Coal is bad. It causes cooling and warming. And in just the right proportions to explain everything. How convenient.

    BTW America should not spend another penny on “mitigation” until China and India sign on. No point in crippling our economy for nothing.

  5. Dan,

    Fear will keep the star systems in line. (for a while). All politics in America is fear and envy driven. If it wasn’t for the fact that science and engineering have been strangled in America I might have hope.

    Political digression:
    The right (generally) fears that some people will be having to much fun and avoid the consequences of that if there weren’t laws. The left (generally) fears that some people will be making too much money and greatly admire the rich who agree because you know – except for Steve Jobs it was all theft. And BTW lucky Jobs never got ensnared in our Prohibition laws. Or that fellow Gates for that matter. Economic panics and moral panics. Couldn’t we all just calm down?

    Back On Topic:
    Two of my kids are in training to be engineers. So I musta done something right.

    We will be limited to writing software because that is about all you can do that doesn’t have a serious environmental impact – yet. And BTW. Tobacco smokers are unwelcome and they are lucky we don’t put them in jails. Soon. Very soon.

  6. And Pat – the political shenanigans over the applications of technology go back a long way. Look up “Edison Current Wars”.

    BTW when did scepticism (I like the Brit spelling) cease to be the core of the newspaper business?

    Why only look at cui bono from one side? What is in it for both sides? Do donations and grants go up depending on the amount of fear that can be generated?

  7. Have I got more crackpottery for you. The cheapest way to mitigate CO2 is to plant trees. That is not an allowable way of solving the problem. Why? Well you see North America as far as we can tell is already a net carbon sink. Plus we could get paid to plant more trees. Well we can’t have that sort of thing. Americans getting rich from saving the planet. So vegetation is not acceptable for amelioration. It was all out in the open. Look it up. Maybe CO2 really had other purposes than those stated.

    Now who knows? The worst case theory might be true. But for sure the politics is very dodgy. It sorta makes people suspicious.

  8. M. Simon: Several things (not necessarily in order of importance):

    –You ask: “Do donations and grants go up depending on the amount of fear that can be generated?”

    I ask: Is global-warming scepticism (British spelling, just to please you) largely funded by fossil-fuels industries?

    –You say: “Temps have flatlined.”

    I say: The 2000s was the warmest decade on record, surpassing the 1990s, which in turn had surpassed the 1980s, etc. Climate change is best measured over the course of decades or longer. Brief departures from long-term trends are not a measure of climate change. They are merely fluctuations in weather.

    –You say: “[The oceans] appear to have stopped expanding the last few years.”

    I say: Short-term sea-level oscillation is to be expected during interglacial periods. More to the point, extreme flooding in various parts of the world over the past year or two has represented a back-and-forth effect between the continents and oceans, resulting in a temporary drop in sea levels. Again, the long-term trend is what’s important. And there’s no indication of any long-term drop in sea levels.

    Here’s the big picture: No matter the efforts by some folks to gin up scepticism about climate change (i.e. the bogus Climategate scandal, the emergence of sunspots theories, etc.), the fact remains that the overwhelming majority of climate scientists subscribe to mainstream theories on anthropogenic global warming.

  9. But Pat. A good theory should make good predictions. Now I understand you are a layman and I’m an engineer so that puts you at a serious disadvantage but if a theory doesn’t predict the future you have to assume there are problems. The biggest problem is no predictive value.

    And yes. The oil companies are protecting their interests (and yours too if you like the advantages of cheap transport) so are the hysterics protecting their interests. Balance. It used to be important in the newspaper business.

    And then there is the Svensmark work on clouds which echos Lindzen’s work. If that turns out correct (and there is no reason to believe it won’t at this late stage of the work) everything done so far in climate science will need to be severely revised. The hubris of the climate “scientists” is that they had faith that CO2 was it. Real scientists look hard for anything that might confound their understanding. And once you leave simple physics the compounding of errors is almost inevitable. Like are clouds an independent variable or a dependent variable? Or a mixture? And if a mixture what are the proportions?

    Cosmic rays? We hadn’t even considered cosmic rays a component of climate. The energy involved is insignificant. But they modulate clouds. Even a 1% modulation throws everything “known” out the window. It will be interesting watching the explanations. But it is like religion. Or science.

    “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” – Max Planck

    I don’t blame you for not keeping up. But the internet is forever.

    Anyway – believe it or not – engineers have higher standards of proof than scientists. You wouldn’t want a 50/50 chance of falling out of the sky every time you get on board an airplane. And as far as I can tell engineers fall mostly in the sceptic community. Jeff Id over at “the Air Vent” being one of the chief sceptics. Very good at it too. If you recall “Climategate” broke over at his place.

    His scepticism falls where mine does. Not proved sufficiently to be worth wrecking our economy. You might not be worried about a 10% rise in food costs. But at the margins it is going to kill somebody. That bothers me. Because my job is focused on keeping people alive. Every single decision no matter how small could cost a life. Of course when I do military work the orientation changes a little – keep our guys and gals alive. And hurt theirs. Still.

    And it makes no difference what we do. China will have double US CO2 output by 2020 – 8 or 9 years from now. And it is expected to double again by 2040. Did I mention India?

    But if we have to spend to fix it I like trees. I also like the GA144.

  10. shawnnews

    M. Simon — Unfortuately tone can not be accurately conveyed on the internet. So this is not a smarmy post.
    Now my questions for you.
    Why do you think mechanical engineers have a higher standard of proof than other scientists? You have accurately repeated that theories have to have a predictive value — why do you think climate scientists haven’t considered this? Often Pat lists a series of science organizations that support the theory of man-made climate change. Do you think that they haven’t taken into consideration cosmic rays or other theories regarding man-made climate change. This site, admittedly run by a non-scientist, answers many questions regarding climate denialism and has an entire section devoted to the scientists you mention, Richard Lindzen.
    Again, this is not meant to be smarmy– my science education from high school to college (1987- 1997) involved the advancement of the man-made global warming hypothesis. The science articles I read currently support this hypothesis and have not weakened.
    The only poeple disagreeing usually come from conservative partisan sources like the Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, Mises.org, Heartland, or other non scientific organizations.

  11. M. Simon: Spare me the condescension, Mr. Hot-Shot Engineer. Anyone who puts quotation marks around the word “scientists” when it’s applied to climatologists — and then contrasts them to “real scientists” — is not to be taken seriously, no matter his pretentions to scientific expertise.

    I suppose you also liken global-warming deniers to Galileo, which is utterly preposterous, as I noted here recently:


    Incidentally, I’m guessing that your climate-change scepticism (British spelling again) has more to do with your libertarianism than with any objective assessment of climate science. The idea of curbing greenhouse-gas emissions just goes against your libertarian grain.

    Correct me if I’m wrong about that.

  12. Dan Pangburn

    The planet has been warming (until about 2001) since the depths of the Little Ice Age. “…2000s was the warmest decade on record…” is about as profound as saying that you drove 10,000 miles last year and the last 10 days were among the greatest distance traveled since the beginning of the year.

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