Climate Change: The False Assertion Of ‘The Science Is Not Settled’

I have to get this out-of-the-way right off the top: In science, nothing is ever “settled” in the sense people think when using that word. It’s the nature of science to always question, but there are things for which there is overwhelming evidence and we might sometimes refer to these things as facts. But if you’ve heard conservative media reports on climate change, then  surely you must “know” the science on climate change is not yet settled. Fox News pundits and other right-wing hacks point to scientists who say humans are not responsible for global warming, or that the globe isn’t actually warming at all, its cooling.

Glacier Lagoon - photo by Antonio Terreno

The problem with these assertions about climate change is that conservative media rarely finds a climate scientist who will back it up. Instead, they find professionals from other fields of science, and because these people can call themselves scientists, that fulfills the narrative that there is not consensus among scientists on climate change. But that is the key point you need to remember. When they make statements like that, they are usually careful to say “scientists” and not “climate scientists.”

You can call someone a professional athlete but that doesn’t mean they will be prolific in all professional sports. So an NHL hockey player can call himself a professional athlete, and he may excel at his sport, but that doesn’t mean he is skilled in other professional sports. A practicing chiropractor is a doctor and a cardiovascular surgeon is a doctor, but that doesn’t mean each one is qualified in the other’s field of expertise. The chiropractor is not automatically qualified to offer a prognosis on a patient with a heart problem just because he is a doctor.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, signed by 16 “scientists,” we are told there is “No Need to Panic About Global Warming.” Of course all but 2, maybe 3, of these 16 scientists have any expertise related to weather and the climate, and I’m not sure any of them qualifies as a scientist who studies the climate for a living.

Editor’s Note: The following has been signed by the 16 scientists listed at the end of the article:
A candidate for public office in any contemporary democracy may have to consider what, if anything, to do about “global warming.” Candidates should understand that the oft-repeated claim that nearly all scientists demand that something dramatic be done to stop global warming is not true. In fact, a large and growing number of distinguished scientists and engineers do not agree that drastic actions on global warming are needed.

In September, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Ivar Giaever, a supporter of President Obama in the last election, publicly resigned from the American Physical Society (APS) with a letter that begins: “I did not renew [my membership] because I cannot live with the [APS policy] statement: ‘The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring. If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth’s physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now.’ In the APS it is OK to discuss whether the mass of the proton changes over time and how a multi-universe behaves, but the evidence of global warming is incontrovertible?”

In spite of a multidecade international campaign to enforce the message that increasing amounts of the “pollutant” carbon dioxide will destroy civilization, large numbers of scientists, many very prominent, share the opinions of Dr. Giaever. And the number of scientific “heretics” is growing with each passing year.

It seems in America we have divisive issues for which there is no such divisiveness among the experts. A comprehensive study released in April found that an overwhelming majority of scientific papers on climate change concluded that global warming is real and humans are the cause.

Whether you call it climate change or global warming, there is scientific consensus that it’s real and human activity is the cause. That is the finding of a new study that examined 11,944 scientific papers on global warming. Of the papers that offered a causality on global warming, 97 percent concluded global warming is real and humans are the cause.

Some of these climate change deniers not only say humans are not the cause, but that there is no global warming in the first place. Of course, we have things like melting glaciers that say otherwise.

NBC News — The world’s glaciers lost 260 gigatons of water each year between 2003 and 2009, making these rivers of ice responsible for almost a third of sea-level rise in that time, new research finds.

And of course there was the unprecedented Greenland ice sheet melting.

NASA reports unprecedented melting of Greenland’s ice sheet according to measurements taken by three independent satellites.

And then we have the people of Kiribati, who have decided climate change denialism will get them a ticket to oblivion. The tiny Pacific island nation recognizes the danger climate change poses to this low-lying nation of 100,000. In fact, they feel this threat is so imminent, they have the extreme idea of purchasing land elsewhere to relocate the entire nation. But you don’t need to leave the United States to find stories of relocation. It’s happening in Alaska right now because of sea level rise and melting permafrost.

But the denialists have it all figured out. They say climate change alarmism is all about money.

Why is there so much passion about global warming, and why has the issue become so vexing that the American Physical Society, from which Dr. Giaever resigned a few months ago, refused the seemingly reasonable request by many of its members to remove the word “incontrovertible” from its description of a scientific issue? There are several reasons, but a good place to start is the old question “cui bono?” Or the modern update, “Follow the money.”

Alarmism over climate is of great benefit to many, providing government funding for academic research and a reason for government bureaucracies to grow. Alarmism also offers an excuse for governments to raise taxes, taxpayer-funded subsidies for businesses that understand how to work the political system, and a lure for big donations to charitable foundations promising to save the planet. Lysenko and his team lived very well, and they fiercely defended their dogma and the privileges it brought them.

That’s a laughable indictment considering the vested interests in status quo. Follow the money? How about the oil industry, which is the wealthiest and most powerful industry on the planet.

The Guardian — Lobby groups funded by the US oil industry are targeting Britain in a bid to play down the threat of climate change and derail action to cut greenhouse gas emissions, leading scientists have warned. Bob May, president of the Royal Society, says that “a lobby of professional sceptics who opposed action to tackle climate change” is turning its attention to Britain because of its high profile in the debate.

Prof May writes that during the 1990s, parts of the US oil industry funded sceptics who opposed action to tackle climate change. A Scientific Alliance spokesman said today’s meeting was sponsored but funders did not influence policies. ExxonMobil said it was not involved.

One adviser is Sallie Baliunas, an astrophysicist at the Harvard Smithsonian Centre, who is linked to the Marshall Institute. In 1998 Dr Baliunas co-wrote an article that argued for the release of more carbon dioxide. It was mass-mailed to US scientists with a petition asking them to reject Kyoto.

But go ahead conservatives, keep denying climate change based solely on your opinion. Because that’s always a sound recipe for advancing human civilization.

photo by Antonio Terreno

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