Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Weather or Climate?

This has been a highly promoted video that is supposed to be "devastating" to "climate deniers".

Strangely, I'm not devastated.  Most people who question the influence of human activity on the climate and, particularly, the effect of CO2 as a greenhouse gas, have long dismissed storms, droughts, heat waves, and such as exactly what Dr. Tyson says:  weather.  It's the global warming crowd with their media megaphones that makes the latest record heat wave in some city a sign of global warming.

When Tyson says climate has changed many times, this is true.  Then he says the change is always traceable to a "global force".  The thing is that we do not know what those "global forces" were in most cases.  Sometimes it was solar activity.  Sometimes it was an increase in volcanic activity.  Sometimes we are not sure. 

The big pivot is when he says that the "strongest force driving climate change right now is the increasing CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels".   It's an interesting theory, a theory based on computer models.  Those models predicted that the average temperature would be significantly higher than it is now.  They were wrong.  Tyson then falls back on the claim that the oceans are warming.  Again, this was not predicted by the climate models.  The models were wrong.

Ocean temperatures are like everything else, cyclical -- El Nino and La Nina patterns are examples of this.  If the oceans are warming, it may well be part of a natural process unrelated to the CO2 level.

Tyson confirms what we "deniers" have said all along -- most of what the global warming alarmists are screaming about is really just weather.  The reason Dr. Tyson is doing this spot is because we have had a couple of years in the United States, not only without significant warming, but with cooler than normal temperatures in much of the country.  Having the Great Lakes iced over was kind of a bummer for the AGW crowd, and they needed a pep rally.

I do not claim to speak as an expert on meteorology.  It's a physic-based discipline and quite complex.  But here's the thing:  Tyson's analogy is, at base, a statistical argument.  Climate is predictable as a statistical model based on historic data.  It assumes that the data points are comparable across time.  What if your thermometers are more precise or calibrated a little differently than they were two hundred years ago?  What if we collecting more data now than we were a hundred years ago?  What if we are collecting data from more places and in different ways than we were fifty years ago?  What if some of our historic baselines built on ice core samples and tree ring data are less than perfect?  It's like anything else, if you are a little off on the foundation, your rafters can end up a foot apart.  It's also pretty easy to get a distortion built into your projection based on a few outliers in the recent past.  In fact, if you look at the current divergence between reality and the majority of model predictions, it's kind of what you would expect if extremes in recent years had inordinately influenced the line.    

"Deniers" are not the ones who confuse weather and climate.  "Deniers" are not disputing climate change.  What we are denying is the certainty of a statement like that one Tyson made in the video about the strongest force driving climate change being CO2 from oil and coal.  There is no proof of that.  The strongest force is probably solar activity.  Another powerful factor may be cyclical changes in ocean temperatures unrelated to CO2 -- which, we should recall, is the product, not just of fossil fuel combustion, but of all animal life on the planet.  It is necessary for plants to have CO2 in order to thrive and produce their by-product, O2.   

The problem is that we are not talking about science in some theoretical sense.  The impact of implementing measures to curb carbon dioxide emissions could be devastating to economies as well as the lifestyles, health, and well-being of much of the human population.  If you are going to make the kinds of claims that warmists are making, you had better be able to back it up with something other than cute but vapid propaganda.

If this is such a big deal, why are we not talking about Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTR)?  Instead we focusing on wind and solar that work fine for backyard and off-grid electrical generation but are inefficient, expensive, and environmentally damaging in large arrays feeding into a distributed power grid.  We are talking about electric cars that run on power generated by traditional power plants.  We are penalizing developed nations and ignoring nations like China and India that produce more pollution and emissions each and every year.     


  1. It's difficult to know which represents the greatest threat to civilisation, climate change or political attempts at remediation. Once science comes up with a cure for the common cold, then perhaps we can move on to planetary climate control?

  2. That's a very good point. Hubris will get you in a lot of trouble.