The New Deniers
A characteristic of newspaper editorials advocating more attention to catastrophic global warming is that they rarely offer any evidence in support of the cause. Rather, they advise, in effect, that the "consensus of scientists" ought to be enough to impress us that the sky is indeed falling, and that those who don't recognize the impending disaster simply have their heads buried.
The recent publication of a report by the National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences prompted a number of editorial pieces that repeated this "consensus of scientists" argument. Typically, the pieces presented or summarized no data in support of the catastrophic predictions, nor did they even acknowledge alternative explanations for whatever warming the earth may be experiencing.
The NRC report, titled "America's Climate Choices," is available online and can be downloaded for a more careful examination. It seems, however, that the report was not read by any of the editors who cited it as another reason for addressing the unprecedented crisis we now face.
Of course, the attitude of these editors is that they need not detail any of the proof that we are facing a crisis since a "consensus of scientists" assures us that man-made global warming is real and threatening. But one would think that a report such as "America's Climate Choices" would elaborate on the data upon which these scientists' consensus is based. No such luck.
The 135-page NRC report describes the four National Academies and lists the members of the NRC's Climate Committee and NRC staff. It contains a Summary which assumes that man-made global warming endangers us and summarizes instead what we must do about the problem. Several chapters explain the context for, the unique challenges of, and a framework for making climate choices; and the report concludes with notes, references, and appendices including two that provide detailed information on the affiliations and credentials of those who helped to prepare the report.
In the midst of all of this, there are a grand total of four pages which summarize man-made global warming theory and present some apparently supportive data. Yet even these pages don't contain a word on the existing evidence that man has little if anything to do with climate change.
In fact, it appears that there is no consensus of scientists on man-made global warming, and there never has been. The allegation that the consensus exists has long been one of the tactics used by proponents to suppress dissent. In 2007, a series in Canada's National Post cited findings of a Gallup poll taken in 1992 (the same year in which Al Gore declared that "only an insignificant fraction" of scientists denied the global warming crisis) that 53% of the scientists actively involved in global climate research did not believe that man-made global warming had occurred; 30% weren't sure, and only 17% believed that such warming had begun.
Years later, a consensus had yet to develop. While it was alleged that some 2,500 of the world's top scientists had endorsed the 1995 United Nations International Panel on Climate Change report on man-made global warming, in 1998, more than 17,000 scientists had signed a petition opposing the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty based on that report.
The theory that man is responsible for global warming, chiefly by burning fossil fuels such as coal, was birthed in the 1990 in the United Nations. Since then, it has been largely driven by international politics and greatly influenced by environmental extremists, many of whom are antagonistic toward the United States because of its economic system, affluence, and power. Thus, it has been argued by some that the U.S. was the real target of the United Nations' war on global warming.
What has primarily been motivating the climate scientists in the U.S. who are sounding the global warming alarm (other than their own environmental ideology) is the millions of dollars that the federal government has been spending every year on global warming research -- a powerful incentive for many scientists and institutions to check the theory from various angles and report any findings that might support it. And woe to those who threaten this funding by debunking man-made global warming theory.
It is fascinating that the National Academy of Sciences -- the parent organization of the National Research Council which authored the "America's Climate Choices" report -- claimed in 1975 that "a serious worldwide cooling could befall the earth within the next 100 years," prompting a spate of media reports on the global cooling trend. The National Academy of Sciences needs research funding, too, after all.
There is no incontrovertible evidence that global warming is caused by human activity. Man-made global warming has always been simply a theory. On the other hand, there is quite a bit of evidence (summarized well with hundreds of references in atmospheric physicist S. Fred Singer's 2007 book Unstoppable Global Warming) that makes it pretty clear that at the very least, human activity is not a primary cause of global warming. For example, it is known that that for at least 240,000 years, a rise in CO2 has followed rather than preceded global warming. This squares with the reality that the oceans hold the vast majority of the earth's carbon, and when the oceans warm, they release some of their gasses into the atmosphere.
The fact that information like this has not been widely reported in the media is (again, aside from ideological considerations) a testament to the effectiveness of the alarmists in the scientific community in suppressing the publication of dissenting opinion in scientific periodicals, as documented by the 2009 Climategate scandal (in which private email correspondence among leading scientists who advocated man-made global warming was leaked).
But most of the rest of us have been putting two and two together anyway. Articles written by scientists explaining that carbon emissions have little, if anything, to do with global warming are now appearing in non-scientific periodicals (e.g., "The Truth About Greenhouse Gases" by William Happer, Professor of Physics at Princeton, in the June/July 2011 issue of First Things) and are undoubtedly helping to swing public opinion out of the man-made global warming camp.
In a Rasmussen poll of the American public in August 2011, 69% said that it's at least somewhat likely that some scientists have falsified global warming research data in order to support their own theories and beliefs, including 40% who said this is very likely. Just 22% said that it was not likely or not at all likely that some scientists have falsified such data.
And so the tables seem to have turned: the climate change deniers are now those who continue to insist that global warming represents an approaching disaster for which man is responsible and which he can and must address.
How ironic. How perfectly just. And how long, do you think, before the new deniers get it?
Richard Haddad writes on social and political issues such as climate change.