When confronted by new information which clashes with their previous assumptions, people do their best to resolve the contradiction. By ‘do their best’, I do not mean to patronise. In criticising the thinking of those who accept the theory of catastrophic anthropogenic climate change (CACC), I am criticising myself, or at least a more naive version of myself, since I too casually believed the doctrine before realising that was a mistake.
Most people, as I was, are lacking in scientific knowledge or logical expertise, so they use ‘informal logic’ to test out any novel proposition. In other words, we resort straight to fallacies – as we have been taught to do. So faced with, say, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist stating outright that anthropogenic global warming theory is a lie, we feel unqualified to comprehend the science or interpret the data ourselves, and so we jump to the ‘Why?’, which we somehow feel more qualified to answer.
“Why would they lie to us about [x]?”
This is a mistake, of course. It’s putting logic – formal or otherwise – before grammar, an inversion of the correct procedure. ‘Grammar’ here denotes the What? which must come first. We have to understand the sentence, if you like, before we can interpret its meaning. Nevertheless, we tend to feel that it’s the best we can do, and so we ask –
Question: But why would they lie to us about [x] ?
Answer: I don’t know.
Conclusion: Therefore they are not lying to us about [x].
This is known in logic as the Appeal to Ignorance, and it shows how ignorance reinforces and protects itself. Defaulting to a question which you are not in a position to answer – the ‘why would they’ question – settles the question based on a premise of ignorance, which is no premise at all.
Still, the fallacy of the appeal to ignorance is what most of us resort to when confronted with something that conflicts with our paradigms, our understanding of how the world works. We go straight to motive — why would they lie? — which is a secondary question having no bearing on the primary question, ‘ARE they lying?’
So, is Catastrophic Anthropogenic Climate Change, in the formulation of Professor Ivar Giaever, the 1973 Nobel Prizewinner for Physics, real science?
We have to start with [x] itself, the question of what is happening to climate, whether the changes taking place are anthropogenic, what role is played by carbon dioxide and other gases, how the climate system works and what other forces and processes are at play. As a layperson, one of course has to approach all of this through authority – but to do so critically. Any fault in either the premises of an argument or the reasoning by which a conclusion is reached will invalidate the conclusion. Even if we cannot verify the premises for ourselves, we can validate or invalidate the logic. If the logic is valid, the conclusions may be sound (if the premises are true in the first place). If the logic is invalid, then the conclusions are unsound, regardless of the truth or otherwise of the premises.
There are plenty of scientists who are able and willing to outline the issues involved. In terms of scientific principle, the case for anthropogenic climate change and the case against it are by no means difficult for any intelligent layperson to grasp. One has to approach the question with the understanding that science is not a mystery religion but a branch of philosophy – we can comprehend the issues and the nature of the premises and reasoning on which the conclusions are based. By applying critical thinking we must establish, to the best of our ability, whether the premises are true and the logic valid. If the answer is no in either case, then the hypothesis fails, and we must move on to more productive approaches.
As soon as you begin to apply some logic and a little understanding of the nature of science, you will begin to see problems everywhere in the treatment of the CACC hypothesis. For a start, you might notice that the proposition that ‘the science is settled’, encountered everywhere in the promotion of CACC theory, is itself fallacious, in fact a contradiction in terms: science, by definition, is never settled. In 1869 the English biologist Thomas Huxley introduced the term agnostic to define the essential quality of the scientist, which is that he or she must be able to refrain from making knowledge claims or statements of belief for where evidence justifying such claims does not exist. He was is the necessary virtue — the integrity without without all of epistemology is nothing. He was making essential distinctions between knowledge and belief, belief and hypothesis. Because the scientist must be capable of creativity, divergent thinking — hypothesis creation is just as mysterious a process as the roots of poetry or music. But reality is fractal and therefore science will never arrive at a still point, and therefore science is a process, not a product. Even the most secure of our understandings are capable of deepening and extension in this fractal and unending universe.
And much of what we think we understand will turn out to been a ride in the wrong direction, and a compounding, accumulating error over time can make for a long trek back.
Anyone with the most rudimentary understanding of what science is understands that all scientific conclusions are provisional, and will quickly see that the statement — ‘ the science is settled’ — is really the perfect example of confirmation bias – Four words, but carrying so much meaning, all of it fallacious. Confirmation bias. Appeal to authority. Pseudo-science, according to Giaever’ definition.
Nothing in science can ever be conclusively proven by data. For example, if you are from Europe, you may have seen, in your lifetime, hundreds of white swans. Therefore you would accept, unthinkingly, the proposition that swans – ie, all swans – are white. It would only take a visit to New Zealand and the sight of a single black swan to prove the proposition wrong.
After observing hundreds or thousands of white swans, your conclusion might be that it is extremely likely that swans are always white, but you cannot claim 100% certainty. The science is not ‘settled’.
The United Nations Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), whose remit is only to look at human causes of climate change, is therefore an institution explicitly founded on fallacy – an institutionalisation of confirmation bias. It is not, therefore, a scientific body, but a political one. And once confirmation bias becomes politically institutionalised, any mention of black swans is first stigmatised and later penalised. Over the past decade, global warming skeptics have been driven from their jobs, denied research funding and suppressed in the scientific journals. Those who ask the appropriate questions are stigmatised and stereotyped. At the same time there have been repeated and increasing calls for the arrest and punishment of so-called ‘climate deniers’. These are calls for the suppression of science and the criminalisation of reason, indistinguishable from a religious inquisition.
It’s a strange feeling when logic makes you a heretic.
One doesn’t have to get far into the scientific issues to understand that the argument for Catastrophic Anthropogenic Climate Change (CACC) is constructed entirely of fallacies. Basic epistemology, applied to data which neither side disputes, is enough to invalidate its logic. Professor Bob Carter, rest his soul, recorded lectures demonstrating how temperature reconstructions can be used to show either a warming or a cooling trend, depending on how you ‘fit your line’: how you ‘cherry-pick’ your start points and end points. Climate changes. Historically there are warmer and colder periods. Detailed reconstructions of the climatic history of the last half a million years are based on the single most reliable proxy, which is ice-core samples.
Hopefully you wouldn’t need any kind of expert to explain to you why it is wrong to splice together different data sets — relying on tree-rings, which are in any case an unreliable proxy because there are too many variables — from different locations for different periods of time, as Dr Michael Mann did in creating his famous ‘hockey-stick’ graph. Mann shows temperatures rocketing upwards in the twentieth century, and this is the graph to which the UNIPCC nailed its reputation, and by which its reputation falls. Dr Mann refuses to publish his data, and lost his defamation lawsuit against Dr Tim Bell saying he “belongs in the state pen, not Penn State”. Without the hockey stick, the game is effectively over. We get the Roman and medieval warm periods back. Grapes in England, agriculture in Greenland. We get the little ice-ages, ice-markets on the Thames in Shakespeare’s time. And we get a consistent direction of the correlation: thermal variation precedes changes in atmospheric CO2.
Both of these examples pertain strongly to the ‘What?’ question. Are global temperatures rising? According to Giaever, it is actually not possible to answer such a question, and even if it were, a net variation of 0.8 degrees over a period of one hundred years shows an extraordinary degree of stability. Proceeding to ‘Why are temperatures rising?’ is an absurdity, since we do not know if they are rising or not.
Dr Roger Revelle of Harvard University was one of the first scientists, in 1957, to ask the question whether rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide in the post-war period might have implications for climate. After more than three decades of study, Revelle concluded that the hypothesis remained unproven and advised that it should not form the basis for drastic action, in a paper co-authored with Fred Singer and Chauncey Starr. (“What to do about greenhouse warming: Look before you leap,” which was published in the summer of 1992.) Some of the most famous names in physics, such as Nobel Prize winner Sir Edward Teller, supported him. The eminent Freeman Dyson committed himself to the ‘denialist’ heresy – otherwise known as logic and epistemological integrity:
“I have studied the climate models and I know what they can do. The models solve the equations of fluid dynamics, and they do a very good job of describing the fluid motions of the atmosphere and the oceans. They do a very poor job of describing the clouds, the dust, the chemistry and the biology of fields and farms and forests. They do not begin to describe the real world that we live in. The real world is muddy and messy and full of things that we do not yet understand. It is much easier for a scientist to sit in an air-conditioned building and run computer models, than to put on winter clothes and measure what is really happening outside in the swamps and the clouds. That is why the climate model experts end up believing their own models.”
What distinguishes scientists like Revelle, Teller, Giaever, and Lindzen is nothing to do with funding from the oil industry; it is simply that these people have reached a stage in their careers and an eminence in their fields where they cannot be intimidated. They are in a position to apply the scientific method: the real scientist poses a neutral question, and is disinterested in the outcome, finding disproof as satisfying as proof.
One of Revelle’s students, however, a certain Al Gore, dismissed his teacher’s warning in a puerile ad hominem, saying that Revelle had become senile before his death.
The climate alarmists’ dogma that ‘the science is settled’ reveals a profound ignorance of the scientific method. Yet it is those who defend the integrity of science against political subversion who are branded ‘anti-science’.
The Reverse Correlation
The case for catastrophic anthropogenic climate change rests on a reverse correlation and a series of ad hoc hypotheses.
Firstly it reverses the correlation between atmospheric carbon dioxide and temperature. If a correlation between A and B is noticed, there are three possibilities: A causes B; B causes A; or some other factor, C, causes both A and B.
The reconstruction of temperatures and carbon dioxide levels over the past 650,000 years based on ice-core sampling shows that that rises and falls in temperature occur first, followed after a lag of around eight hundred years by corresponding rises or falls in carbon dioxide levels. Changes in carbon dioxide levels do not cause rising or falling temperatures. In fact, if a causal relationship exists between these two variables, we must say that higher and lower carbon dioxide levels are the result, not the cause, of warming and cooling. Oceans absorb carbon-dioxide as they cool and emit it as they warm, and of course oceans warm and cool much more slowly than landmasses and the atmosphere — thus the 800 year lag.
In addition one must consider the third possibility, that C is driving both A and B. The best candidate for C would be solar activity and its relationship to albedo effect – and there is some very interesting emerging science by Nir Shaviv and Henrik Svensmark on the precise mechanism by which this would work.
Bait and Switch
While the true direction of the correlation between temperature and carbon-dioxide might be news to the uninformed, both sides of the question acknowledge the causality clearly evident from the ice cores that temperature drives atmospheric carbon dioxide rather the other way round, (if that were even possible).
Pay attention to Gore’s statement of the correlation between temperature and carbon-dioxide levels in his film An Inconvenient Truth:
“The relationship is actually very complicated, but there is one relationship that is far more powerful than all the others, and that is this: when there is more carbon dioxide, the temperature gets warmer.” Al Gore’s CO2 Emissions Chart
He assumes the reverse correlation while fudging the fact that he is doing so. The relationship should be stated in the opposite fashion: When it is warmer, there is more carbon dioxide. But it’s the reverse correlation that is now enshrined as dogma.
The reversal is deliberate, as evidenced by the fact that Gore performs a bait-and-switch manoeuvre to deceive his audience, by using the colour red to represent temperature and blue to represent atmospheric carbon dioxide in a graph of a thousand year reconstruction of temperature and atmosphere. However, in the next, now famous graph representing a 650,000-year reconstruction, where Gore uses a ridiculous stunt with a crane to demonstrate just how hot it’s going to get, the colours are switched: red now represents carbon dioxide and blue represents temperature.
Why would he make this switch? The purpose can only be to obscure the direction of the correlation, obfuscating the real trend that temperature (in blue) changes first, which is clearly visible in the graph. Bait and switch. That alone tells you that this is ‘pathological’ science, in Giaever’s terms — fraudulent science: an intentional lie.
The CACC party, once it became apparent that the true direction of the historical correlation could not be denied, introduced a series of ad hoc hypotheses to rescue their primary hypothesis.
Here’s how an ad hoc hypothesis works. I say to you that fluorescent light bulbs are powered by hundreds of tiny leprechauns holding candles inside them.
You smash open a bulb and say, Look! No leprechauns.
Ah, I say, but the leprechauns might be invisible.
That’s an ad hoc hypothesis. In case of (catastrophic, anthropogenic) climate change, two main ad hoc hypotheses are used to rescue the failed primary hypothesis. First, the feedback loop hypothesis, which goes like this: a rise in CO2, which is a greenhouse gas, creates a rise in temperature, which leads to more evaporation and a rise in water vapour, by far the most important greenhouse gas, which creates a feedback loop and a runaway greenhouse effect.
Firstly, this is based on the false premise (QED) that CO2 drives temperature; predictions based on it (such as the tropospheric ‘hotspot’) have not been fulfilled; and of course it is completely illogical, since CO2 is not the only greenhouse gas – if it were true, rises in water vapour alone (by far the most powerful greenhouse gas) would create a runaway greenhouse effect. Said effect would be triggered every time the sun passed over the ocean. Every summer — every morning — would be a disaster.
The second problem with the feedback hypothesis is that it fails to take account of other variables. The fact is of course that higher temperatures lead to higher evaporation, which leads to more cloud cover and an albedo effect which balances the system. At the same time, plant life (and therefore all life-forms) thrives in a warmer climate, binding atmospheric carbon into living forms. The idea that we must remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by ‘sequestering’ it under ground is an utter mockery. To sequester carbon, Plants trees. Reforestation solves the (imaginary) problem as well as many real ones.
The second ad hoc hypothesis is that of a putative (though undefined) tipping point, i.e., a level of atmospheric carbon-dioxide which would lead to a sudden change in the way the system behaves. This is just more invisible leprechauns, giant ones with flame-throwers this time. Professor Richard Lindzen, who is acknowledged as the leading figure in the founding of climatology as a scientific field, explains that ‘tipping point’ do not typically occur in systems characterised by diminishing returns, which is what we are dealing with in the greenhouse effect. As carbon-dioxide is added to the atmosphere, each quantity added has a decreasing effect; the second million tons has less effect than the first, and the third has less than the second, and so on. The notion of a tipping point is an unfalsifiable, ad hoc hypothesis.
By this point, there’s not much left to say. Regardless of premises, if your logic is invalid your conclusions are unsound.
The logic of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Climate Change theory (CACC) theory is invalid . In Giaever’s terms the science is pathological at best, and in many cases, like Michael Mann’s, clearly fraudulent.
The answer to the Why? question cannot be that the scientific establishment is universally incompetent. Clearly the scientific method is being suppressed in regard to climate, and so the question must indeed at this point become not merely ‘Why would they lie to us about climate change?’ but ‘Why are they lying?’
And that is a very interesting question.