Climate-Alarmist Junk Science and the Base-Line Fallacy
With the composite president known as “Joe Biden” pushing ahead with implementing the Green New Deal, the climate-alarmist industrial complex will be ramping up its propaganda to scare as many people as possible into believing that Planet Earth is about to burn up. Unless, that is, we -- the people -- allow our freedoms and prosperity to be whittled away until freedom and prosperity are for most people half-forgotten memories.
So now is a good time to explore the biggest fallacy of all underlying climate-alarmist junk science. This is the “base-line fallacy,” which is a cousin of the statistical “base-rate fallacy”; both result from probabilistic errors when assessing the likelihood of scenarios based on the pattern of prior events.
The “base-line fallacy” involves the selection of a starting-point in the dataset which conveniently omits confounding data, so that the conclusion reached is determined not by objective patterns in the whole dataset but by short-term trends in the partial snapshot of data used in the study. This outcome may be the result of an innocent error by the researchers, and peer-review should pick this up and cause it to be corrected. But this does not appear to have happened with climate-alarmist research. Instead, it is beyond doubt that the base-line fallacy is embedded in the research methodology of such studies and is actually normal practice. This is not credible science. It is political ideology masquerading as -- at best -- junk science. It’s possibly the biggest intellectual fraud thus far in the history of science.
But we need to start at the beginning to understand the enormity of what is now happening in orthodox (i.e., ideological) climate “science”. Dissenters are now few and far between, in part because funding for climate research is now almost wholly aimed at proposals supporting the Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming scenario. My objection is on the grounds of logic (as befits a philosopher), not science. Logic is a form of reasoning that preserves the truth-value of the premises employed.
Scientific arguments are supposed to start from true premises (the data) plus premises supplied by the theoretical postulates (or hypothesis) under test. Predictions arrived at on this basis can then be checked by observational research and/or controlled experiment to arrive at an assessment of the truth of the theoretical postulates, and the hypothesis can be modified if necessary and subjected to further testing, along with more data-gathering.
This is what makes science better than trial-and-error learning: scientific predictions should have a higher-than-chance probability of turning out true. In fact the history of CAGW predictions demonstrates a much higher-than-chance probability of them turning out false, as environmentalist Dr Patrick Moore sets out in his debunking book.
If the logic is flawed, then the science is flawed, and its credibility should be challenged. We’ve been told that there is a scientific consensus on climate change, and this alone should ring alarm bells. Science cannot progress by consensus but only by challenge and rebuttal based on the quality of evidence and argument. But if the science has become a political ideology challenge, then rebuttal will be discouraged or suppressed. Which is what has happened with climate-alarmist “science”. The issue of objective truth must be obscured to save appearances, and this is why climate alarmists systematically employ the base-line fallacy in their reasoning.
The climate alarmists customarily choose two calendrical baselines to work from. The first is the start of the Industrial Revolution, around 1800. This marks the beginning of the post-Little Ice Age rising trend in average global temperatures (the River Thames in London last froze over in 1814). From around this time atmospheric CO begins a long slow climb upwards from a very low base, the rise being due to the sudden and vast increase in the burning of coal as an industrial fuel. But the initial curve is very shallow and doesn’t begin to steepen significantly until after the end of WWII.
Thus 1945 is the second chosen baseline for climate alarmists, because from here on the upward climb in atmospheric CO levels steepens apparently alarmingly (especially if one chooses a suitably small incremental measurement index for the graphical y axis). Inconveniently, from 1945 average global temperatures actually fall slowly and slightly until 1976, when the rise is resumed, and there’s another flat period from around 1997 to 2015, after which temperatures begin to rise again. But throughout this time -- 1945-2015 -- atmospheric CO levels were still rising. If there were any causal linkage between CO and global temperature, these anomalies require explanation, but thus far no non-problematic explanation has been offered.
And if that is all one ever sees, then one might be forgiven for believing that the apparently near-exponential recent rises in atmospheric CO2indicate the imminent occurrence of near-exponential rises in global temperatures, leading to catastrophic climate changes that will bring famine and death to millions. Thus has the climate-alarmist industrial complex hoodwinked millions of people into believing that “green” policies are the only means of averting a global catastrophe. And by carefully selecting a baseline for presenting the historical data, the earlier data can be ignored; data that expose the intellectual fraud which lies at the heart of the CAGW scenario.
Average global temperatures have actually shown a cooling trend for the past 250 million years. The recent warming trend has not reversed this; statistically it’s an insignificant upward tick in the data and is largely explicable not by increasing atmospheric CO2 levels but by the periodicity of the Earth’s orbit and tilt relative to the sun. On the basis of trends over many millions of years, it is reasonable to suppose that we are actually headed for a new Ice Age within the next 4,000 years. A little global warming (whether anthropogenic or not) in the meantime is no bad thing. This point is eloquently argued by geologist Gregory Wrightstone.
The climate history I’ve set out above is drawn from his book, and I highly recommend it as a compendium of rebuttals against the extravagant claims of climate-change alarmists.
Choosing a different baseline affords a completely different explanation for the recent rises in both global temperature and atmospheric CO2 levels. Our planet has been significantly warmer in the very distant past, and with much higher atmospheric CO2 levels, but never has there been runaway global warming; the warming trends have always reversed without human intervention. Why should it be any different today? But to ask this question is to be ridiculed by climate alarmists as a “conspiracy theorist”.
As the climate alarmists become ever more desperate to induce mass-hysteria their claims get ever more absurd.
But the underlying trend is moving us very slowly towards a new Ice Age.
Covertly exploiting the base-line fallacy is fundamental to preserving the credibility of the CAGW climate-alarmist junk science in the minds of its adherents. This fallacious reasoning should be exposed for what it really is: possibly the biggest intellectual fraud in the history of science.
Wen Wryte is the pseudonym of a retired teacher of philosophy who leads a contemplative life.
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