Who Needs Data?

The scientists at the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit (CRU) and the people who funded them did not know how utterly useless the CRU is. All the research done at the CRU made no difference whatsoever to the "science" of global warming. Just ask other scientists and global warming alarmists. Heck, ask CRU.

You think CRU was the only source of raw thermometer data going back 150 years? Nope, there are two others. So who cares if CRU "lost" theirs?

You think CRU did science that showed warming trends? So what? Their conclusions were the same as everyone else's. Phil Jones, head of CRU, said that.

Our global temperature series tallies with those of other, completely independent, groups of scientists working for Nasa and the National Climate Data Centre in the United States, among others. Even if you were to ignore our findings, theirs show the same results.

In fact, all that nonsense about thermometers, stations, adjustments, tree rings, ice cores, etc. -- all totally useless. Just look at the polar ice caps: one of them is shrinking. Eugene Robinson, Megan McArdle, and Katie Couric said that.

In fact, we don't need any data whatsoever. If there is even the slightest chance that the world might end if the alarmists are right, then the correct policy is to spend humongous gobs of money from now on. Thomas Friedman said that. According to Mr. Friedman, it doesn't matter at all if the science is "unequivocal"; we need be only 1% sure.

Skeptics, your weapons are useless. The climate alarmists always have something else that trumps whatever evidence you have against their alarmism. They don't even need evidence at all -- just an asserted probability as low as 1% that the world will end if they are right. (It's Pascal's wager for the new age.)

Below is a very brief summary of the conclusions from the climate scientists themselves -- those who believe in man-caused, catastrophic global warming.

  • The globe warmed about 0.6o and the oceans rose about six inches in the last hundred years, according to the U.N. IPCC. (I use Celsius throughout unless otherwise noted.)
  • We are now in what is called an interglacial period, or the time between ice ages. Previous interglacial peaks were three degrees warmer than now. In Antarctica, these previous peaks were actually six degrees warmer.
  • Since the last ice age, the oceans rose about four hundred feet. Most of that occurred before the pyramids were built (and well before modern use of fossil fuels), but the trend for hundreds of years up to the present has been rising sea levels.
  • The sea ice of the south polar ice cap has grown in the last thirty years.
  • Climate scientists have fairly recently recognized a climate cycle they now call the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation. "The cause of the oscillation is not well understood, but the cycle appears to come round about every 60 to 70 years." They think this is why temperatures over the last eight years or so do not show the continued warming their models predicted. This and other cycles (Pacific Decadal Oscillation, El Niño, La Niña) are not included in the IPCC climate models.
  • The sun does appear to account for "at least 10 to 30 percent of global warming measured during the past two decades," according to two Duke University physicists. While they were quick to remind us "that their findings do not argue against the basic theory that significant global warming is occurring because of carbon dioxide and other 'greenhouse' gases," they note that IPCC-type climate models do not include any solar influences.
  • The "ice caps" on Mars shrank over all three years of initial observation by NASA's Mars Global Surveyor and Odyssey missions, 2005-2007.
  • Glaciers in the northern hemisphere generally have been shrinking for about seven hundred years, while those in the southern hemisphere have been shrinking for the last sixty-five hundred years. (You might notice that those times precede the modern use of fossil fuels.)
  • Himalayan glaciers, 230 of the largest mid-latitude glaciers in the world, have been growing since at least 1980.

One could go on.  Remember, these are the things that climate alarmists generally concede. So far, I see only slight warming and sea-level rise, nothing that looks unprecedented for an interglacial period, and nothing that looks unnatural. Everything is totally consistent with a planet that is near an interglacial peak and following cycles of various periods (from one year to 40,000 years) that are "not well understood."

What the alarmists do not mention is that their entire CO2-as-culprit story depends on the concept of "positive feedback." Richard Lindzen, professor of climatology at MIT, explained it.

It is generally accepted that a doubling of CO2 will only produce a change of about two degrees Fahrenheit if all else is held constant.  This is unlikely to be much to worry about.

Yet current climate models predict much higher sensitivities. They do so because in these models, the main greenhouse substances (water vapor and clouds) act to amplify anything that CO2 does. This is referred to as positive feedback. But as the IPCC notes, clouds continue to be a source of major uncertainty in current models ...

At this point, few scientists would argue that the science is settled. In particular, the question remains as to whether water vapor and clouds have positive or negative feedbacks.

William Happer, Cyrus Fogg Bracket Professor of Physics at Princeton University, went further.

With each passing year, experimental observations further undermine the claim of a large positive feedback from water. In fact, observations suggest that the feedback is close to zero and may even be negative. That is, water vapor and clouds may actually diminish the already small global warming expected from CO2, not amplify it.

In short, if the "positive feedback" hypothesis is false, and "experimental observations" so far say it is, then the case for global warming alarmism completely falls apart.

Do these professors at MIT and Princeton sound like cranks to you? Senator Inhofe (R-OK) found over 650 such "cranks." By the way, these people have "Ph.D." after their names.

But let's get back to Thomas Friedman's formulation -- the formulation in which physical observations become moot. Upon entering Friedman's world, we talk only of costs and probabilities. Not just possibilities, but probabilities. Otherwise, we could invoke the possibility of the planet-eating Flying Spaghetti Monster of atheist fame and justify spending every cent we have to combat it. (Actually, Friedman's calculus is not far from that.)

(Freidman is not the only one to propose his argument. It is used throughout the blogosphere by those who think they can avoid all hard thinking and all hard data with some magical, logical QED that trumps everything.)

The cost of fighting global warming has recently been estimated. As reported in The Washington Post,

With enough technological advances, the world could get to a dramatically lower level of greenhouse gas emissions at a cost of between one and three percent of global GDP per year, according to a report issued Tuesday by a group of economists. That price tag is in line with previous economic estimates aimed at meeting more modest climate goals.

The world's GDP in 2008 was about $70 trillion. So 1% to 3% of that is $700 billion to $2.1 trillion. Per year. Let's call it two trillion every year from here out.

To justify an expense of $2 trillion per year to avoid catastrophe, the "expected cost" of catastrophe must be at least $2 trillion per year. The expected cost is the product of the probability of catastrophe and the cost of catastrophe.  That is

(Probability of catastrophe) X (Cost of catastrophe) > $2 trillion

If we think the probability of catastrophic warming is just 1%, then we would have to assume that the cost of such catastrophic warming would be $200 trillion per year to make our abatement cost worthwhile. That is almost triple the entire world's GDP! How can the cost be more than everything we have or could ever hope to have?

Recall that this probability must include the combined probability that (1) the globe is getting warmer, (2) it is due to man's use of fossil fuels, (3) the warming is catastrophically bad, (4) the only remedy is drastic curtailment of fossil fuel use by man, and (5) all the governments of the world will actually implement such a policy. On top of that, we must include the probability that the remedy must be implemented immediately to be effective. Waiting even another decade or two for more evidence would be too late.

Larrey Anderson put this combined probability at 2.8% using generous assumptions. That's not too far from Friedman's claim of "a lot higher than 1 percent."

If we bump up the probability to a generous 3%, the cost of catastrophe would have to be almost $67 trillion to justify the $2 trillion cost of abatement. That is almost the entire world's GDP. Every year.

How many of you think the cost of catastrophic global warming is wiping out mankind or sending him back to "cannibalism," as Ted Turner claimed?

Even if we give the climate alarmists the benefit of the doubt and call the probability of catastrophe even, or 50-50, then the cost of catastrophic global warming would have to exceed $4 trillion per year, or about 6% of global GDP. Every year.

That is the combined GDP of approximately 145 of the 227 countries in the CIA World Factbook.

Do we really think the costs of catastrophic warming are that high -- the equivalent of completely wiping out two-thirds of the planet, or even the entire planet?

You can formulate the problem as Friedman does.  But to get the answer he gets requires extreme assumptions...extreme in the probability of catastrophe and extreme in the cost of catastrophe.

The IPCC's worst-case scenario over the next hundred years is a temperature rise of 4o (7.2o F) and a sea-level rise of 26 to 59 centimeters (10 to 23 inches). Why would that wipe us out? 

average annual temperature in Memphis, Tennessee is 62.3o F.  The temperature of Lexington, Kentucky is 54.9o F. That is a bigger difference than the IPCC's worst-case scenario.

Could mankind handle that kind of adaptation -- moving from Memphis to Lexington in the next hundred years?

Thomas Friedman thinks it's worth $2 trillion a year to avoid even the slightest probability of that.

I do agree with the climate alarmists on something: CRU's findings and CRU's e-mails did not affect science.

Randall Hoven can be contacted at randall.hoven@gmail.com or via his web site, randallhoven.com.
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