One Conservative’s Climate Change Confessional

OK, prompted by some comments to my recent post on our frigid February and by a ProJo letter to the editor which asked:

:Please provide the names of just two skeptics who work in the field of climate science and who have been published in respected peer-reviewed journals. Help me to escape the intellectual manacles that those “environmental clubs” like the National Academy of Sciences and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have duped me into accepting as good science.

I thought I’d explain where I currently stand on “Global Warming” (or Global Climate Change, for those of you who prefer that term).

First, I think that it’s been conclusively proven that the Earth has warmed over the past 100 years.
Second, I also think it’s been shown that the Earth’s temperature regularly fluctuates. Which means…
Third, I don’t believe that we should simply accept that today’s warming is strictly due to anthropogenic (fancy, scientific sounding way of say “it’s humans’ fault”) causes. (For instance, CO2 levels may have been higher in the past than previously believed).
For instance, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (here’s a grain of salt to go with the IPCC, btw) recently downgraded humans’ impact on the environment (though they said we are still more to blame than anything else). Nonetheless, there is, indeed, a scientific consensus that says that mankind needs to shoulder the largest amount of blame.
A well-publicized review by Naomi Oreskes–cited often by Al Gore–illustrated the breadth of the anthropogenic-as-cause consensus. However, some scientists have refuted both the methodology and the results of Oreskes paper. Unfortunately, you won’t find their papers “published in respected peer-reviewed journals” because–they assert–they’ve been blackballed by leading scientific journals.

Two of the world’s leading scientific journals have come under fire from researchers for refusing to publish papers which challenge fashionable wisdom over global warming.
A British authority on natural catastrophes who disputed whether climatologists really agree that the Earth is getting warmer because of human activity, says his work was rejected by the American publication, Science, on the flimsiest of grounds.
A separate team of climate scientists, which was regularly used by Science and the journal Nature to review papers on the progress of global warming, said it was dropped after attempting to publish its own research which raised doubts over the issue.
The controversy follows the publication by Science in December…[by] Dr Naomi Oreskes, of the University of California, [who] analysed almost 1,000 papers on the subject published since the early 1990s, and concluded that 75 per cent of them either explicitly or implicitly backed the consensus view, while none directly dissented from it.
Dr Oreskes’s study is now routinely cited by those demanding action on climate change, including the Royal Society and Prof Sir David King, the Government’s chief scientific adviser.
However, her unequivocal conclusions immediately raised suspicions among other academics, who knew of many papers that dissented from the pro-global warming line.
They included Dr Benny Peiser, a senior lecturer in the science faculty at Liverpool John Moores University, who decided to conduct his own analysis of the same set of 1,000 documents – and concluded that only one third backed the consensus view, while only one per cent did so explicitly.
Dr Peiser submitted his findings to Science in January, and was asked to edit his paper for publication – but has now been told that his results have been rejected on the grounds that the points he make had been “widely dispersed on the internet”.
Dr Peiser insists that he has kept his findings strictly confidential. “It is simply not true that they have appeared elsewhere already,” he said.
A spokesman for Science said Dr Peiser’s research had been rejected “for a variety of reasons”, adding: “The information in the letter was not perceived to be novel.”
Dr Peiser rejected this: “As the results from my analysis refuted the original claims, I believe Science has a duty to publish them.”
Dr Peiser is not the only academic to have had work turned down which criticises [sic] the findings of Dr Oreskes’s study. Prof Dennis Bray, of the GKSS National Research Centre in Geesthacht, Germany, submitted results from an international study showing that fewer than one in 10 climate scientists believed that climate change is principally caused by human activity.
As with Dr Peiser’s study, Science refused to publish his rebuttal. Prof Bray told The Telegraph: “They said it didn’t fit with what they were intending to publish.”
Prof Roy Spencer, at the University of Alabama, a leading authority on satellite measurements of global temperatures, told The Telegraph: “It’s pretty clear that the editorial board of Science is more interested in promoting papers that are pro-global warming. It’s the news value that is most important.”
He said that after his own team produced research casting doubt on man-made global warming, they were no longer sent papers by Nature and Science for review – despite being acknowledged as world leaders in the field.
As a result, says Prof Spencer, flawed research is finding its way into the leading journals, while attempts to get rebuttals published fail. “Other scientists have had the same experience”, he said. “The journals have a small set of reviewers who are pro-global warming.”
Concern about bias within climate research has spread to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, whose findings are widely cited by those calling for drastic action on global warming.
In January, Dr Chris Landsea, an expert on hurricanes with the United States National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, resigned from the IPCC, claiming that it was “motivated by pre-conceived agendas” and was “scientifically unsound”.

This is why I’m not ready to buy consensus. It’s easy to have one when you exclude the work of those whose research indicates otherwise. But it’s more than a “conspiracy theory” that gives me pause. I also blame the cows.
More seriously, there is also convincing research pointing to another cause. The sun. Both Danish climatologist Henrik Svensmark (Danish National Space Centre) and Israeli astrophysicist Nir Shariv are pointing to the Sun as a major cause. (I know, sounds kind of weird to actually blame the sun for warming the Earth). According to the story detailin Svensmark’s research:

Henrik Svensmark…believes that the planet is experiencing a natural period of low cloud cover due to fewer cosmic rays entering the atmosphere.
This, he says, is responsible for much of the global warming we are experiencing.
He claims carbon dioxide emissions due to human activity are having a smaller impact on climate change than scientists think. If he is correct, it could mean that mankind has more time to reduce our effect on the climate.
The controversial theory comes one week after 2,500 scientists who make up the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change published their fourth report stating that human carbon dioxide emissions would cause temperature rises of up to 4.5 C by the end of the century.
Mr Svensmark claims that the calculations used to make this prediction largely overlooked the effect of cosmic rays on cloud cover and the temperature rise due to human activity may be much smaller.
He said: “It was long thought that clouds were caused by climate change, but now we see that climate change is driven by clouds.
“This has not been taken into account in the models used to work out the effect carbon dioxide has had.
“We may see CO2 is responsible for much less warming than we thought and if this is the case the predictions of warming due to human activity will need to be adjusted.”
Mr Svensmark last week published the first experimental evidence from five years’ research on the influence that cosmic rays have on cloud production in the Proceedings of the Royal Society Journal A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences. This week he will also publish a fuller account of his work in a book entitled The Chilling Stars: A New Theory of Climate Change.
A team of more than 60 scientists from around the world are preparing to conduct a large-scale experiment using a particle accelerator in Geneva, Switzerland, to replicate the effect of cosmic rays hitting the atmosphere…Mr Svensmark’s results show that the rays produce electrically charged particles when they hit the atmosphere. He said: “These particles attract water molecules from the air and cause them to clump together until they condense into clouds.”
Mr Svensmark claims that the number of cosmic rays hitting the Earth changes with the magnetic activity around the Sun. During high periods of activity, fewer cosmic rays hit the Earth and so there are less clouds formed, resulting in warming.
Low activity causes more clouds and cools the Earth.
He said: “Evidence from ice cores show this happening long into the past. We have the highest solar activity we have had in at least 1,000 years.
“Humans are having an effect on climate change, but by not including the cosmic ray effect in models it means the results are inaccurate.The size of man’s impact may be much smaller and so the man-made change is happening slower than predicted.”

Shariv–independently–came to essentially the same conclusion:

Dr. Shaviv reconstructed the temperature on Earth over the past 550 million years to find that cosmic ray flux variations explain more than two-thirds of Earth’s temperature variance, making it the most dominant climate driver over geological time scales. The study also found that an upper limit can be placed on the relative role of CO2 as a climate driver, meaning that a large fraction of the global warming witnessed over the past century could not be due to CO2 — instead it is attributable to the increased solar activity.
CO2 does play a role in climate, Dr. Shaviv believes, but a secondary role, one too small to preoccupy policymakers. Yet Dr. Shaviv also believes fossil fuels should be controlled, not because of their adverse affects on climate but to curb pollution.
“I am therefore in favour of developing cheap alternatives such as solar power, wind, and of course fusion reactors (converting Deuterium into Helium), which we should have in a few decades, but this is an altogether different issue.” His conclusion: “I am quite sure Kyoto is not the right way to go.”

And there are more potential causes, in addition to Solar Activity, there are Milankovitch Cycles and “large Igneous provinces.” In other words, there’s a whole lot more to consider.
And this is where I come down. I’m all for reducing pollution and insofar as that includes reducing our CO and CO2 and methane, I’m all for it. But I don’t think that the current hysteria that blames humans is justified nor that we should be devoting so many resources to stave of the current, hip and trendy version of impending Armageddon.
In a nutshell, we should keep researching–which means being open-minded about alternative theories–but should do so with a little humility (it ain’t just us causing the change) and be pragmatic and fiscally sane in our approach.

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17 years ago

To pull just one thing out of your post: I don’t think anyone rational is arguing that adverse climate change is “strictly due to anthropogenic causes.”
It just drives me to distraction to see so many people “la la la” their way around this issue, casually tossing an “it hasn’t been proved!” out the window of their metaphorical Hummer.
To “be pragmatic and fiscally sane in our approach” is in general good advice no matter what we do, but even skeptics such as yourself ought to look at this as a kind of modern-day Pascal’s wager. If I’m wrong, than the worst consequence is that we’ve spent some extra money and have cleaner air and more renewable energy. If you’re wrong, we’re screwed.

17 years ago

A bit off topic (okay, a lot off topic) but I can’t help myself. Do you use the same “Pascal’s Wager” logic with abortion?

17 years ago

“Pascal’s wager
An argument according to which belief in God is rational whether or not God exists, since falsely believing that God exists leads to no harm whereas falsely believing that God does not exist may lead to eternal damnation.
[After Blaise PASCAL.]”

17 years ago

Exactly SusanD,
I apologize for hijacking the post but I just wanted to see if mrh applies the same logic to his own life.
The abortion debate centers on the unanswerable question, when does life begin (just as the existence of God is an unanswerable question that Blaise tried to answer).
If a society believes life begins at conception and lives accordingly (by being pro-life) the result of being wrong may be some unwanted children.
If a society believes life begins at birth and lives accordingly (by being pro-choice) the result of being wrong is the murder of 1.4M children a year.
But this logic exercise in the global warming debate is not appropriate because a question on CO2’s role in the weather is an answerable question (it just lacks funding because its not a politically correct question).

Marc Comtois
17 years ago

“If I’m wrong, than the worst consequence is that we’ve spent some extra money and have cleaner air and more renewable energy. If you’re wrong, we’re screwed.”
Reading what you want to and missing my point. I didn’t say we shouldn’t spend money to have cleaner air and renewable energy. In fact, I said there’s value in doing that in and of itself. I also didn’t say that humans didn’t contribute–thus I’m not a “skeptic”–I’m just not convinced that curbing human contributions will have the effect that we’re told it will. And neither are the scientists I mentioned. A majority ain’t a consensus.
That’s why I think we need to spend money on research–and allow discussion–on other possible reasons for the climate change. I don’t think we should put all of our eggs in one basket.

17 years ago

Reading what you want to and missing my point.
No, just reading sloppily.
I guess my point is, non-anthropogenic climate change isn’t really a critical policy issue, right? So by all means, let’s continue the research and learn all we can about what causes climate change.
I’m just not convinced that curbing human contributions will have the effect that we’re told it will.
Well, we’ll never really know until we try won’t we? Maybe it’s not you I’m arguing with — it’s the people who dismiss all human influence and want to cling to the current state of energy affairs.
One more thing on scientific consensus. It’s worth noting that Dr. Peiser, whom you quote above, works with the “International Policy Network,” and organization that has has received $295,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998. Just sayin’.
WJF — I do not believe the cases are parallel, but this is probably the wrong forum that particular discussion. If you’re interested, feel free to email me at mattATunlikelywordsDOTcom.

Marc Comtois
17 years ago

….and Al Gore sells carbon offsets to himself. The whole debate is rife with self-interested parties.
As far as knowing unless we try, well, sure, but the pressure is to do more, faster knowing what we know…and not really worrying if the consensus happens to be wrong. But what if it is? Isn’t it worth diverting some of that billions in new technology (incidentally, plenty of interested parties promoting those, too) geared towards reducing anthropogenic carbon production into research in other areas? Ya know, just in case it happens to be something else, like the sun, causing the problem?
Here’s an example of how consensus– often fed by self-interest–can hinder finding a true scientific solution to a problem. (The key portions are about half-way down. It’s a long interview).
Btw, the scientist won the Nobel Prize.

17 years ago

for the other side of the debate not featured in “an inconvenient truth”, watch “the great global warming swindle” now online at youtube.
among the highlights:
co2 increases FOLLOW not precede temperature increases. Thus, they are a result not a cause of temperature increases.
and there’s something reassuring about seeing the founder of greenpeace call out environmental extremists.

17 years ago

“co2 increases FOLLOW not precede temperature increases.”
Really! Doesn’t that put a bit of a dent into the whole theory of anthropomorphic global warming?

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