Ringing down the curtain on the great climate panic
Donald A. Neill
This paper highlights a number of “ugly facts” that tend to falsify the Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) thesis. This falsification suggests that projections of catastrophic climate change are unjustified, and that, accordingly, many if not all of the regulatory, economic or financial measures being contemplated by governments are in fact unnecessary. The first four chapters examine the chief flaws in the AGW thesis, showing that recent warming is in no way unusual; that average global temperatures, contrary to the projections of all climate models, have been falling for at least seven years; that there is no significant causal correlation, over any time period, between carbon dioxide concentrations or world fuel consumption, and global temperatures; and that there is, by contrast, a significant correlation, strongly suggestive of a causal relationship, between solar activity and global temperatures. The last four chapters discuss the susceptibility of panics to exploitation for pecuniary or political gain; the logical fallacies inherent in labelling ‘climate change’ a ‘threat’; the extent to which the climate panic and its perpetrators have undermined science and reason; and the potential economic and societal costs of attempts to “combat” climate change. This paper concludes that attempts by governments to solve something that does not appear to be a problem are unnecessary, and are likely to be deeply damaging to the states whose economic activity serves as the foundation of the global economy.
Introduction: Much of the Western world is at present galvanized by worry about the menace of an impending climatic catastrophe. The source of this worry is “global warming”, now euphemized by the more generic (and meaningless) catch-all term, “climate change”. Concerns about “global warming” are grounded in the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) thesis, which argues that human-produced greenhouse gases, chiefly carbon dioxide, are the principal driver of global temperatures; and that continuing human industrial activity will lead to significant increases in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which will in turn drive “dangerous” increases in average global temperatures. Higher temperatures, it is predicted, will in turn lead to all manner of ecological and environmental disasters.
The problem is that there is no empirical evidence to support either the central tenets of the AGW thesis, or the prognostications of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concerning possible future climate states. The great climate panic is predicated solely on the projections of computer models of climate that have never been validated for forecasting purposes; that cannot accurately model past climate states; and that have proven incapable of providing accurate projections even of current, near-term temperature trends. All of the IPCCs projections predict that temperatures will increase in lockstep with atmospheric CO2 concentrations; but, over the past decade, CO2 concentrations have continued to rise, while temperatures have fallen. Even IPCC scientists are beginning to acknowledge that the climate models have failed.
T.H. Huxley once remarked that the great tragedy of science was “the slaying of a beautiful theory by an ugly fact.” This paper examines the great climate panic from the perspective of a number of “ugly facts” which, taken together, tend to falsify the AGW thesis, demonstrating that the panic – and any regulatory, economic or other measures contemplated in response to it – is, and are, entirely unjustified. The first four chapters examine the chief flaws in the AGW thesis, showing that recent warming is in no way unusual, falling well within the parameters of natural warming, and that the Earth has been considerably warmer in the past, before the emergence of humans; that, rather than warming, the Earth has been getting colder for the past seven years, contrary to the predictions of all climate models; that there is no significant correlation, over any time scale, between either carbon dioxide concentrations or world fuel consumption, and global temperatures; and that there is, by contrast, a significant correlation, strongly suggestive of a causal relationship, between solar activity and global temperatures. The last four chapters discuss the susceptibility of panics to exploitation by the unscrupulous; the logical fallacies inherent in labelling a natural phenomenon like ‘climate change’ a ‘threat’; the extent to which the climate panic and its perpetrators have undermined science and reason; and the potential economic and societal costs of attempts to “combat” climate change. This paper concludes that attempts by governments to solve something that does not appear to be a problem are unnecessary, and are likely to be deeply damaging to the states whose economic activity serves as the foundation of the global economy.
Results: The paper argues, first, that the AGW thesis is falsified by its failure to explain observed data, e.g., the fact that temperatures have proceeded in the direction opposite to its key predictions; second, that there is far more convincing evidence that the Sun is probably the key driver of terrestrial climate; third, that the great climate panic (like similar panics in the past) is susceptible to exploitation for pecuniary and political gain; fourth, that it is patently illogical to deem climate change a ‘threat,’ because climate, being cyclical, always changes, inter alia, because ‘threat’ implies deliberate intent to inflict harm; that the reason the proponents of the AGW thesis have been able to perpetrate the great climate panic, and to sustain it for so long, is because they have not been held to rigorous standards of empirical science; and finally, that any attempt by governments to fix – whether through regulation, taxation or other methods – something that is not broken, is likely to cause immense damage to the economies of the advanced industrialized nations, which depend upon ready access to energy to generate the economic success upon which the whole world depends.
Significance: On the basis of the AGW thesis, governments worldwide are contemplating regulatory and tax schemes that could impose drastic and crippling costs especially on Western economies, with significant implications for the rest of the world, in particular the developing nations. Given the present state of the global economy, there is no scientific issue of greater international, political, social or strategic relevance on the horizon. The cost to nations of implementing bad policy based on a falsified theory could be enormous.
Considerations for implementation: Impending national and international measures to “combat climate change” are predicated solely on the predictive validity of the AGW thesis. They are therefore not grounded in sound empirical science and should be revisited. There is an urgent need for a comprehensive reassessment of the causes of climate change from a perspective of rational risk analysis based on objective, transparent, peer-reviewed empirical science. Any such reassessment should (a) acknowledge both the weakness of predictive methodologies in the face of complex, interdependent non-linear systems like climate, and the patent inadequacy of linear trend projection as a means of predicting mankind’s technological future; (b) note mankind’s vanishingly small contribution to the terrestrial energy flux, and work upwards from there to attempt to determine whether human activities have a measurable and significant impact on climate; (c) recognize the historical susceptibility of moral panics and economic bubbles to manipulation by opportunists for pecuniary or political ends; and (d) avoid the alarmism, misrepresentation of science, and demagoguery that have thus far been the principal tools of those who, for the past two decades, have been force-feeding the AGW thesis to Western publics.
Governments should reflect carefully before taking costly and irrevocable action in an attempt to influence a global phenomenon that according to all available evidence is largely if not exclusively natural, and that does not in any case appear to be significantly susceptible to alteration by human activity. It would be inadvisable to attempt to identify, let alone implement, policy options designed to influence climate before a thorough, and thoroughly scientific, understanding of the sources, mechanisms and consequences of climate change has been reached.
This study originated in a project aimed at developing a strategic framework to guide the XXX and the XXX in investigating alternative energy technologies. One aspect of that project involved examining means of reducing XXX’s production of greenhouse gases, specifically carbon dioxide. In the course of researching this question, I reviewed the arguments advanced in support of the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) thesis. I also reviewed contrary theses, and the observed data cited in support thereof.
I came to the conclusion that, in addition to being unsupported by empirical data, the AGW thesis is incapable of explaining observed climate trends. On further investigation, it became clear that the Sun, rather than carbon dioxide, is almost certainly the key driver of global climate; and that, therefore, efforts by Western nations to cut carbon emissions (inter alia, through treaties, regulation, taxation and “emissions trading”) were – for a variety of historical, sociological and economic reasons – not only unnecessary, but potentially economically disastrous. Moreover, it seemed likely that, rather than continuing to warm, the Earth was about to enter a cooling phase – and therefore that all of the policies envisioned by the Western governments to respond to “climate change” are, in fact, aimed in the direction precisely opposite to the problem.
One of the individuals who peer-reviewed that paper objected to these conclusions, arguing (in depressingly familiar terms) that “the science was settled”, and that the “scientific consensus” supported the AGW thesis. These were, and are, patently unscientific assertions. Consensus is irrelevant to scientific inquiry; and any scientific theory, even if well-corroborated by observed data, is “settled” only so long as no new observed data comes along to “unsettle” it.
This paper constitutes my response to these tired and manifestly unscientific chestnuts. It has three purposes. The first is to present the empirical evidence that, by any objective scientific standard, falsifies the central tenets of the AGW thesis, and points instead to the Sun as the principal driver of terrestrial climate. The second is to take a broader look at how and why societies fall prey to moral panics and economic bubbles, to discuss the present climate panic in the context of historical, economic, societal and strategic factors, and to look at some of the potential consequences that are likely to ensue if governments continue to enact environmental policies that are based on unsound science. My third purpose is simple: to plead for a return to rigorous scientific inquiry, most especially the principle that any theory that fails to explain observed data is by definition falsified, and must be either changed or discarded.
I have not presented the scientific arguments for the AGW thesis, as these have already been laid out in exquisite detail over the past two decades (and repeated every five years by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). Nor have I attempted to assess separately the quality of the science contained in the peer-reviewed, published works that I have cited. My purpose is not to opine on the validity of published papers, but merely to note their findings, and in doing so, to emphasize three points: first, that the case for the Sun as the principal driver of climate is much more strongly grounded in empirical science than the case for carbon dioxide (much less human-produced carbon dioxide); second, that the claim that the AGW thesis represents a “consensus” among scientists is both irrelevant and demonstrably false; and third, that the debate over the causes and likely consequences of “climate change” is by no means over.
The fact that I am not myself a climate scientist should not be cause for concern. The vast majority of those involved in the IPCC process – and, indeed, most of those responsible for promulgating and exacerbating the climate panic – are not climate scientists either.
Two of the scientists who reviewed earlier drafts of this paper recommended that I incorporate a section addressing implications for the Department of XXX. I had considered this, but had decided not to do so – not because there are no implications for XXX (far from it!), but rather because the implications of the failure of the AGW thesis are national, and indeed international, in scope. Western governments are flirting with carbon taxes and carbon trading, and are planning to meet in Copenhagen later this year to attempt to create an international regime to control carbon emissions. The Obama Administration is entertaining an EPA finding that carbon dioxide is a “dangerous pollutant”; and at time of writing, Congressional Democrats were considering a 600+ page “climate bill” which, among many other dubious things, would enshrine the failed AGW thesis as the law of the land. But if that thesis has been falsified – and it has – then all of these measures are nothing more than a costly, disruptive and scientifically unsupportable exercise in ideology. The potential implications of the outcome of the “climate debate,” therefore, go far beyond the mandate or interests of a single Department. The entire world stands to lose: both the industrialized part that consumes most of the energy, and in doing so, generates virtually all of the wealth of the planet; and the non-industrialized part that hopes one day to do the same, but that, for the nonce, lives or dies upon the largesse generated by the wealthier nations. If the developed world deliberately hobbles itself, then the excess capacity upon which the developing world subsists will vanish, with grimly predictable consequences.
Instead of addressing XXX implications, therefore, I have included a section that examines how energy, wealth, and economic crises are intimately interlinked. This section demonstrates, inter alia, that in an industrialized society, the demand for more, and ever more highly-ordered, power, always increases; that efficiencies incorporated through technological innovation tend to increase aggregate energy consumption, rather than decrease it; that, despite thirty years of subsidies and unprecedented political pressure, “green power” has made virtually no progress in the US, while the use of nuclear power and fossil fuels has increased significantly; and that, for the past sixty years, the only time US energy consumption has ever actually decreased has been as the direct result of terribly disruptive politico-economic events. If the arrow of causality between economic performance and energy consumption is bi-directional – and there is every reason to suppose that it is – then an international attempt to reduce energy consumption could, if successful, trigger a worldwide economic catastrophe (on top, of course, of the one that is already well under way). The implications are, in fact, global.
Some of the language in this paper is blunt. This is deliberate. I hope to encourage readers to re-examine what they think they know about a scientific question that has become so clouded by politics and ideology as to have entirely departed the realm of empirical science. The climate debate must be brought back into that realm, and subjected to rigorous, unswerving scientific scrutiny. I expect that my observations, my questions, and my tone will be unwelcome to many, and may elicit a harsh response. So be it. Angry replies to legitimate scrutiny and scientific criticism have regrettably become the hallmark of the climate debate, as they inevitably do in any area of endeavour where ideas are subsumed by ideology, and emotion is permitted – even encouraged – to displace reason. Perhaps, by providing a long-overdue look at the other side of the argument, we can begin to purge the ideology and emotion from the equation, and put objectivity, science and reason back in the driver’s seat, where they belong.
- D.A. Neill, March 2009
Since the masses of the people are inconstant, full of unruly desires, passionate, and reckless of consequences, they must be filled with fears to keep them in order.
- Polybius, Histories
Science never pursues the illusory aim of making its answers final, or even probable. Its advance is, rather, towards an infinite yet attainable aim: that of ever discovering new, deeper, and more general problems, and of subjecting our ever tentative answers to ever renewed and ever more rigorous tests.
- Karl Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery
A prince…must always seek advice…he should be a constant questioner, and he must listen patiently to the truth regarding what he has inquired about. Moreover, if he finds that anyone for some reason holds the truth back he must show his wrath.
- Niccoló Machiavelli, The Prince
The great tragedy of science: the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact…
Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly to wherever and whatever abyss nature leads, or you shall learn nothing.
- Thomas Huxley, Address to the British Association for the Advancement of Science
We must get the science right, or we shall get the policy wrong.
- Christopher Monckton, Climate Sensitivity Reconsidered
The most costly of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true.
- H.L. Mencken, A Mencken Chrestomathy
 There is no semantic value in characterizing as unusual, let alone hazardous, the mutability of a system that has always been mutable – although clearly there is immense political value in doing so.