Why climate change should not alarm you

For decades, the United Nations, European governments, Democratic politicians in the United States, and the mainstream media have been telling us that (1) man caused (anthropogenic) emissions of CO2 are an important contributor to the global warming trend of the past four decades, and (2) absent restrictions on fossil fuels, the warming of the Earth’s atmosphere will have catastrophic consequences for the biosphere. The sea level will rise; the frequency and intensity of hurricanes and droughts will increase; marine life will be decimated with the acidification of the oceans. What the public has not been told, however, is that there is a huge amount of evidence and analysis indicating that neither premise is true. There is no evidence that there is something happening to the climate that is outside the range of normal climate variability.

I offer here a primer on why the basis for alarm is unfounded. This conclusion rests on literally thousands of peer-reviewed papers whose existence is either unknown or ignored by the handful of people who drafted the official summary reports that the public is told to accept as gospel.

If you want to dig into the science yourself, I suggest you peruse A Critique of the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s 2017 Climate Science Special Report  (CSSR) 06818_Revised_v.2_Critique_of_Climate_Science_Special_Report_2 and http://climatechangereconsidered.org, which presents  a series of reports on the climate science literature issued by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC). This organization describes itself as “an international panel of nongovernment scientists and scholars who have come together to understand the causes and consequences of climate change. Because we are not predisposed to believe climate change is caused by human greenhouse gas emissions, we are able to look at evidence the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) ignores. Because we do not work for any governments, we are not biased toward the assumption that greater government activity is necessary.”

Every assertion in this primer is supported by a wealth of evidence. For clarity and brevity, I will not specify the sources, but you can find them in the Critique referenced above.

First, we must dispense with an oft-repeated canard. The claim that “the science is settled” is categorically false and misleading. There is no consensus among scientists that the hypotheses of those I call climate alarmists are correct. For example, in a 2014 paper, David Legates, professor of Geography at the University of Delaware, and his co-authors found that only 0.5 per cent of the abstracts of 11,944  scientific papers on climate-related topics published over the 21 years from 1991-2011 had explicitly stated an opinion that more than half of the global warming since 1950 had been caused by human emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases.  As astrophysicist William soon noted, “The overwhelming majority of scientists in climate and related fields, therefore, remain commendably open to the possibility that some other influence – such as the sun – may be the true primum mobile of the Earth’s climate.”

All scientists, including those who conclude that recent changes in global climate are nothing out of the normal range of natural variability, agree that:

  • there has been a very modest rise in temperature since 1977. CO2 concentration in the atmosphere has increased from 280 ppm (parts per million) to 400ppm;
  • Human activity has contributed to the increase.

Beyond that, there is no scientific consensus, at least not among climate scientists themselves. In fact, there is a wealth of evidence that the claims of climate alarmists are dead wrong. The public deserves to be made aware of this evidence.

There is no relationship between CO2 concentration in the atmosphere and temperature

  • Ice core and other proxy records over the last several hundred thousand years show times when
    • CO2 rises and temperature falls;
    • CO2 falls and temperature rises; or,
    • there is no change in CO2 but temperature changes, and vice-versa.
  • In all four of the of the interglacial periods preceding the current one, the temperature was 1-2oC higher than now despite there being 45% more CO2 in the present atmosphere.
  • Temperatures were as warm or warmer during the Roman Warming, starting roughly at the time of Christ, and the Medieval Warming period, starting around the tenth century.
  • During the Great Depression, fossil fuel burning declined 30% yet temperatures were higher. After 1945, CO2 emissions rose, but the climate cooled.
  • In the past two decades, despite an 11% increase in atmospheric CO2, the global temperature has not been rising.

These data suggest that the burden of proof rests with the climate alarmists.

“[Recent research [suggests CO2 generated by human activities cannot have the warming effects claimed by many scientists and their models.” (Critique, p.11)

  • CO2 is a trace gas in the atmosphere, comprising only about 0.04% (4/10,000) of all the gases in the atmosphere, up from about 0.03% in 1910.
  • “A study of satellite photographs by Rang Myeni and a team of researchers at Boston University found during the past 30 years, 20 percent of Earth’s surface became greener. Only 3 percent of Earth browned. This finding is extremely important, because as CO2 increases, so does plant growth, and plants produce more oxygen, pushing the system toward equilibrium.” (Critique, p.12)
  • The capacity of the CO2 molecule to absorb heat that otherwise would radiate into space becomes almost completely saturated beyond 300 ppm, i.e., cannot absorb much more heat. When the CO2 concentration goes from 280 ppm to 400 ppm, for example, the radiative forcing – the difference between sunlight absorbed by the Earth and energy radiated back into space – rises from ~257 w/m2 (watts per square meter) to ~ 258 w/m2. A concentration of 800 w/m2 yields a forcing of ~ 263 w/m2. Saturation occurs because the only effective absorption band for a CO2 molecule is at the wavelength of 15 microns in the infrared. Once the absorption capacity is used up, it doesn’t matter how much CO2 is added. The effect is like painting a window; no matter how many coats are added after the first coat, the incremental opacity is minimal, if anything.
  • In sum, “Atmospheric CO2 is not capable of producing catastrophic global warming because warming potential is essentially exhausted after relatively low levels of additional CO2 have been added.” (Critique. P.13)
  • Because CO2 cannot cause significant global warming by itself, the IPCC asserts that more CO2 produces more water vapor, which does have the capability to raise the temperature of the atmosphere, since it accounts for 95% of greenhouse gases. This assertion, however, fails the test of logic and evidence. If it were true, then, as Don Easterbrook, emeritus professor of Geology at Western Washington, noted, “… as CO2 rises, we should observe a concomitant increase in water vapor. However, … water vapor between 10,000 feet and 30,000 feet declined from 1948 to 2014.” (Critique, p.22)

If humans keep pumping CO2 into the atmosphere, what will be the cumulative effect?

The effect depends on atmospheric residence time (how long CO2 stays in the atmosphere). To give you a sense of the nature of the discussion among scientists as opposed to policy advocates, I quote at length from Climate Change Reconsidered II:

“The correct estimate of the atmospheric residence time is important. The IPCC has constructed a model claiming the natural CO2 input/output is in static balance and all CO2 added to the atmosphere from anthropogenic carbon combustion will stay there almost indefinitely. With an anthropogenic atmospheric CO2 residence time of 50-200 years (Houghton, 1990) or near-infinite (Solomon et al., 2009), there remains a 50% error… in the IPCC’s model: the measured rise in the atmospheric CO2 level is just half of that expected from the amount of anthropogenic CO2  supplied to the atmosphere, and carbon isotope measurements invalidate the IPCC’s model (Segalstad, 1992; Segalstad, 1998).

“ The alternative evaluation of the CO2 residence time – giving values of about five years for the bulk of the atmospheric CO2 molecules, as per Essenhigh’s (2009) reasoning and numerous measurements with different methods – indicates that CO2 is part of a dynamic, not static system, where about one-fifth of the atmospheric CO2 pool is exchanged every year between different sources and sinks due to relatively fast equilibria and temperature-dependent CO2 partitioning…. “ (Climate Change Reconsidered II, p.164).

The case for catastrophic climate change rests on unvalidated computer models, all of which, except for one (the Russian model [INM-CM4)], have been wrong.

  • The average projection of 102 IPCC-endorsed climate models for the temperature increase in the tropical upper troposphere over the period 1979-2017 was 0.44oC per decade. The observed increase, based on satellite measurements, was 0.15o The model predictions are way too high.

Claims that we are experiencing unusually warm or unusually severe weather are not supported by the evidence. Neither is the claim that humanity has to fear rising sea levels.

  • The authors of the Climate Science Special Report, working under the auspices of the fourth National Climate Assessment, the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) assert that since the end of the 1800s and since the 1960s in particular, there has been an especially pronounced upward trend in global temperature, and that can be attributed to human activity. The factual part of their statement is correct, but the inference is utterly misleading. The Critique of the CSSR puts the recent temperature trend in proper context:

“The CSSR report alleges annually calculated global average surface air temperature increased by about 1 degree C, or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, during the 115-year period from 1901 to 2016, making this era the warmest in the history of modern civilization. However, Greenland Ice Sheet Project 2 (GISP2) ice cores show 1,500 to 10,000 years ago, global temperature was 1.1-2.8 degrees C warmer than at present…. These findings are validated by global glacial advances and retreats, oxygen isotope data from cave deposits, tree ring data, and historic records.[e.g., barley grown in Greenland for beer by the Vikings, olives grown by the Romans far further north than had been thought possible]. The most recent interglacial period, about 120,000 years ago, was considerably warmer than the current period….” (Critique, p. 22)

  • Hurricanes are becoming less frequent. hurricanes
  • Droughts are becoming less frequent. drought
  • Heat waves are not increasing at an alarming rate. “The all-time record high for heat waves in the United States happened many years ago. Thirty-eight states set their all-time record highs before 1960. Twenty-three states’ record highs occurred in the 1930s. (Critique, p. 29).” Every continent’s record high temperature was recorded before 1980 (Critique, p. 31).
  • The claim that sea levels will rise 1-8 feet by 2100 is alarmist fantasy with no empirical support whatever.
    • No reputable study shows a substantial sea level rise. The sea level is not rising on a planetary basis.
    • Where sea level change has been tracked near stable land masses, over the last 100 years, the sea level has been rising six inches per century. Over the last 800 years the rate of increase per century has been constant at 6-7 inches.
    • Various studies (Critique,24-28) show:
      • no correlation between CO2 concentration and sea level rise
      • sea level ups and downs over the 20th century but no clear acceleration pattern.

So, what is the main driver of climate change?

The Sun accounts for 99.98% of the total energy contribution to the Earth’s climate. There is considerable empirical support for the hypothesis that minor variations in solar energy output may be by far the most important contributor to global temperature change.

Here are some gleanings to give you a sense of the empirical and analytical support for the hypothesis that the behavior of the sun may be by far the main driver of climate change on Earth.

  • Sebastian LueningD., Geology/Paleontology, University of Bremen, Germany (1997):
    • “Besides temperature and CO2 … solar activity has increased over the past 150 years.
    • “The solar magnetic field has more than doubled.
    • “The solar activity of the past decades was one of the highest over the past 10,000 years.
    • “Since the birth of Christ, total temperature development has closely matched solar irradiance (TSI) – measured in watts per square meter.”[1]
  • Danish Physicist Henrik Svensmark has developed a hypothesis, backed up by much empirical evidence, showing a strong connection between climate and “cosmic rays” – high energy radiation, consisting primarily of high energy protons and atomic nuclei.

Svenmark’s work describes the basic process by which cosmic rays influence temperature as follows: lower magnetic field strength means there is less sunspot activity. With fewer sunspots there is  less solar wind [a stream of plasma released from the upper atmosphere of the sun, consisting mainly of electrons, protons, and alpha particles]. The lighter the solar wind, the greater is the volume of galactic cosmic rays hitting the Earth. More cosmic rays induce more low-level cloud formation. Greater cloud cover causes more sunlight to be reflected into space. The Earth becomes colder.[2]

  • “… the Serbian astronomer Milutin Milankovitch argued that orbital changes associated with obliquity [tilt of the earth’s axis], precession of the equinoxes, and variations in orbital eccentricity [around the sun], should have a profound effect on glaciation…. The major factor in long term glacial growth and retreat is summer insolation (the amount of incoming solar radiation). This determines whether snow that accumulates in winter will survive the summer. If it does, then snow will accumulate forming glaciers.

“Milankovitch argued that the relevant quantity for forcing glacial cycles is the insolation in summer over the Arctic. The orbital variation of this quantity is about [100 watts per square meter], which is huge compared to the contribution due to CO2. Moreover, as the 2002 paper by Sverker Edvardsson et al. and the 2006 paper by Roe have shown, the correlation of the Milankovitch parameter with the time rate of change of ice volume is about as good as any correlation in geophysics….”[3]

  • A Russian scientist, Habibullo Abdussamatov of the Pulkovo Observatory, draws on his analysis of the effects of the sun [total solar irradiance (TSI)] on the Earth’s energy balance, and proposes that the maximum phase of the solar cycle – and therefore maximum global warming — was reached in the second half of 2014, and thus that we can expect to experience the beginning of a new Little Ice Age.

Here are his key contentions, evidence, and analysis:

“The sun is the main factor controlling the climatic system and it is more powerful than abilities of human beings. The climate changes are beyond human control and are practically not connected with its activities.

“In the 20th century TSI reached its record for at least the past 700 years.

There is no global warming for more than 17 years [as of July 2014] [as] the result of the TSI fall since 1990.

“The Earth will continue to have a negative energy balance in the future … because the Sun is moving to the Grand Minimum [TSI].

“The gradual consumption of the solar energy accumulated by the ocean during the whole XX century will result in decrease of global temperature after 20 +/- 8 years due to the long-term negative average annual balance of the energy incoming and emitted by the Earth into space.

“All eighteen periods of significant climate changes found during the last 7,500 years were entirely caused by corresponding quasi-bicentennial variations of TSI together with the subsequent feedback effects, which always control and totally determine cyclic mechanism of climatic changes from global warmings to Little Ice Ages.

“Every time the TSI experienced its quasi-bicentennial peak up to ~ 0.5%, a global warming began with a time delay of 20+/-8 years defined by the thermal inertia of the ocean, and each quasi-bicentennial descent in the TSI caused a Little Ice Age (together with the subsequent nonlinear feedback effects).

“… significant climate variations during at least the past 800,000 years indicate that quasi-bicentennial and 100,000 years cyclic variations of the TSI entering the Earth’s upper atmosphere (taking into account their direct and subsequent nonlinear secondary feedback influences) are the main fundamental cause of corresponding alternations of climate variations from global warmings to the Little Ice Ages and Big Glacial Periods.

“After the maximum phase of solar cycle 24 (approximately at the second half of 2014), after the whole season of “solar summer” in our solar system as a whole, we expect a season of “solar autumn”, and then approximately in 2060+/- 11, the season of “solar winter” of the quasi-bicentennial solar cycle.

“In 1998-2005 the Earth reached the maximum of global warming.”

Dr. Abdussamatov predicted the stabilization of both temperature and the ocean level for the past [now 18] years in 2003-2007.

On the relative impact of CO2 concentration in the atmosphere he contends that

“Antarctic ice cores provide clear evidence of a close coupling between variations of the temperature and atmosphere concentration of the CO2 during the past 800,000 years induced by the astronomical Mikankovitch cycles. According to the ice core data drilled near Vostok site, Antarctica: The peaks of the carbon dioxide concentration have never preceded the warmings, but on the contrary always took place 800 +/- 400 years after them.

“There is no evidence that carbon dioxide is a major factor in the warming.

“… the climate sensitivity to increasing content of carbon dioxide decreases with significant growth of water vapor concentration in the surface layer. Negligible effect of the human-induced carbon dioxide emission on the atmosphere has insignificant consequences.”

These quotations are from a presentation by Dr. Abdussamatov, ‘2014 – The beginning of the new Little Ice Age’, Ninth International conference on Climate Change, Heartland Institute, July 8, 2014.

Climate science reporting is suffering from a crisis of integrity.

Whether or not I have persuaded you to become a climate alarmist sceptic, you should now be aware that there is a great deal of reputable science suggesting that at the very least the claims of the climate change alarmists are at best highly conjectural. The science not only is not settled, there is a strong, evidence-based case that that the rise in anthropogenic CO2 emissions are a non-problem. Giving the public an unqualified alarmist narrative and not presenting credible contrary evidence is a betrayal of public trust. We all deserve better from those who purport to tell us what to worry about and what should be done.

[1] See Sebastian Luning, ‘The neglected sun: how the IPCC managed to forget natural variability in their climate models’, Ninth International conference on Climate Change, Heartland Institute, July 8, 2014.  This paper is notable for the large number of scientific studies it references as concerning effect of the sun on climate. Almost none of them are reported in the mainstream media.

[2] This summary of Svensmark’s hypothesis is from a presentation by  Don J. Easterbrook, ‘Cause of the pause in global warming:  its implications for future climates — the past is key to the future’, Ninth International conference on Climate Change, Heartland Institute, July 8, 2014. For a detailed description of Svensmark’s hypothesis please see Henrik Svensmark’s lecture of  March 15,2015 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EgA8zSSC0zI

[3] See Lindzen, ‘Global warming, models and language’in Alan Moran (ed.) Climate Change: The Facts, (Woodsville, NH: Stockade Books, 2015), p.55.

You can like or comment on any article.

Ground rules for comments 

I strongly welcome comments, but  ask you to abide by the principle, “Always respect the person, never respect the idea.”  A thoughtful analysis of why the views  I present are wrong helps all of us get closer to discerning what is true, but civility must rule.



Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *