Our guardians from global warming

The advent of climate models has given an aura of certainly to climate predictions, but a model is no better than the science behind it or the data that feeds it.  Unless the weights and interrelationships of climate drivers have a solid scientific basis, feeding future predicted data into climate models lacks the same.  The same goes for data input.  Models do not make the science.  The models model the underlying science.

A climate model can be viewed as basically a function.  The output value (temperature) is a function of the various values given to the chosen climate drivers (inputs) and their interrelationships.  Also a slight increase in the weight given to solar activity (or other drivers) with corresponding changes in weights given other input values can radically change future predictions while still modeling historical data.  (Amusingly, researchers at MIT fed random data to the Mann hockey stick model, and out popped the hockey stick!)  The major natural climate drivers generally include orbital variations, solar output, volcanic activity, and plate tectonics.  Obviously, future volcanic activity cannot be determined, but the same can be said for sunspot activity even though the Maunder, Sporer, and Dalton minimums corresponded with lower than average European temperatures.

There are, then, basically three problems that climate models face.

1. The internal weighting and internal relationships of climate drivers.

Climate Models May Overstate Clouds’ Cooling Power, Research Says
–NYT (7/4/16)

2. Ascertaining the values of current drivers.

Different drivers, such as air pollution and volcanic eruptions, cause radiative forcing.  A positive forcing has a warming effect on the planet, while a negative forcing cools it.  The concept is straightforward, but it's very difficult to establish the actual value of each factor that affects Earth's energy balance.  That's because each is challenging to measure, and some of them overlap.

3. Dealing with projected values of drivers with no known periodicity.

Volcanic eruptions; cloud cover; CO2 absorption by oceans; drying forests; methane bubbling up from Arctic wetlands; El Niño (a “breakthrough” study moves El Niño predictability from 6 months to a year); sunspot activity (the Maunder, Sporer, and Dalton minimums corresponded with lower than average European temperatures).

The third difficulty is freely admitted by government agencies like IPCC and NOAA.  They make a distinction between prediction and projection.

The IPCC provides temperature “projections” as part of its assessment reports.  The IPCC’s researchers say they are not “predictions” since they are based on various scenarios involving different amounts of CO2 and other gases in the future.

The projections are of the form that, other factors remaining constant, if factor X is increased, then thus and so will be the case.  It is an admission that prediction is iffy.  It is also worth noting that weather science may be pretty much “settled,” but that doesn’t mean its predictions are thereby very accurate.

Nonetheless, being able to predict the underlying natural trend is important, because if we are headed for a long period of little (natural) climate change, then addressing human greenhouse gas emission might make sense.

But if we are headed for a mini-ice age it would be stupid to try to counteract AGW.  It would also be stupid if natural drivers are taking us into a serious warming period.  But again, this “stupid” is not a scientific stupid.  It is also important here to recognize that science doesn’t give a damn whether we save the polar bears or alligators or humans, for that matter.  That is a moral issue on which scientists have no more authority than non-scientists.

But by and large, instead of meeting head-on scientific studies questioning current versions dealing with (1)-(3), the government-backed guardians of “settled science” feel morally justified in squelching any research that might run counter to the global warming mantra – all for the good of mankind.  The guardians know what is good for the great unwashed, which must not be confused by that which departs from the narrative.  Shades of Orwell.

Here is a recent example.

The most recent research to examine this topic comes from the National Astronomy Meeting in Wales, where Valentina Zharkova, a mathematics professor from Northumbria University (UK), presented a model that can predict what solar cycles will look like far more accurately than was previously possible. She states that the model can predict their influence with an accuracy of 97 percent, and says it is showing that Earth is heading for a “mini ice age” in approximately fifteen years


Professor Valentina Zharkova at Northumbria University is being attacked by climate change proponents for publishing research suggesting there could be a 35-year period of low solar activity that could usher in an “ice age.”

Zharkova’s conclusions may have huge implications for global temperature modeling, but her analysis is not accepted by some climate scientists. In fact, Zharkova said some scientists even tried to have her research suppressed.

 Plato’s Guardians have arrived.