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Climate-change orthodoxy: alternative facts, uncertainty equals certainty, projections are not predictions, and other absurdities of the “scientific consensus”

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2017/05/10

G. K. Chesterton once suggested that the best argument for accepting the Christian faith lies in the reasons offered by atheists and skeptics against doing so. That interesting slant sprang to mind as I was trying to summarize the reasons for not believing the “scientific consensus” that blames carbon dioxide for climate change.

Of course the very best reason for not believing that CO2 causes climate change are the data, as summarized in an earlier post

–>      Global temperatures have often been high while CO2 levels were low, and vice versa

–>     CO2 levels rise or fall after temperatures have risen or fallen

–>     Temperatures decreased between the 1940s and 1970s, and since about 1998 there has been a pause in warming, perhaps even cooling, while CO2 levels have risen steadily.

But disbelieving the official propaganda becomes much easier when one recognizes the sheer absurdities and illogicalities and self-contradictions committed unceasingly by defenders of the mainstream view.

1940s-1970s cooling
Mainstream official climate science is centered on models: computer programs that strive to simulate real-world phenomena. Any reasonably detailed description of such models soon reveals that there are far too many variables and interactions to make that feasible; and moreover that a host of assumptions are incorporated in all the models (1). In any case, the official models do not simulate the cooling trend of these three decades.
“Dr. James Hansen suspects the relatively sudden, massive output of aerosols from industries and power plants contributed to the global cooling trend from 1940-1970” (2).
But the models do not take aerosols into account; they are so flawed that they are unable to simulate a thirty-year period in which carbon emissions were increasing and temperatures decreasing. An obvious conclusion is that no forecast based on those models deserves to be given any credence.

One of the innumerable science-groupie web-sites expands on the aerosol speculation:
“40’s to 70’s cooling, CO2 rising?
This is a fascinating denialist argument. If CO2 is rising, as it was in the 40’s through the 70’s, why would there be cooling?
It’s important to understand that the climate has warmed and cooled naturally without human influence in the past. Natural cycle, or natural variability need to be understood if you wish to understand what modern climate forcing means. In other words modern or current forcing is caused by human industrial output to the atmosphere. This human-induced forcing is both positive (greenhouse gases) and negative (sulfates and aerosols).”

Fair enough; but the models fail to take account of natural cycles.

Rewriting history
The Soviet Union had an official encyclopedia that was revised as needed, for example by rewriting history to delete or insert people and events to correspond with a given day’s political correctness. Some climate-change enthusiasts also try to rewrite history: “There was no scientific consensus in the 1970s that the Earth was headed into an imminent ice age. Indeed, the possibility of anthropogenic warming dominated the peer-reviewed literature even then” (3). Compare that with a host of reproductions and citations of headlines from those cold times when media alarms were set off by what the “scientific consensus” indeed then was (4). And the cooling itself was, of course, real, as is universally acknowledged nowadays.

The media faithfully report what officialdom disseminates. Routinely, any “extreme” weather event is ascribed to climate change — anything worth featuring as “breaking news”, say tsunamis, hurricanes, bushfires in Australia and elsewhere. But the actual data reveal no increase in extreme events in recent decades: not Atlantic storms, nor Australian cyclones, nor US tornadoes, nor “global tropical cyclone accumulated energy”, nor extremely dry periods in the USA, in the last 150 years during which atmospheric carbon dioxide increased by 40% (pp. 46-51 in (1)). Nor have sea levels been rising in any unusual manner (Chapter 6 in (1)).

Defenders of climate-change dogma tie themselves in knots about whether carbon dioxide has already affected climate, whether its influence is to be seen in short-term changes or only over the long term. For instance, the attempt to explain 1940s-70s cooling presupposes that CO2 is only to be indicted for changes over much longer time-scales than mere decades. Perhaps the ultimate demonstration of wanting to have it both ways — only long-term, but also short-term — is illustrated by a pamphlet issued jointly by the Royal Society of London and the National Academy of Science of the USA (5, 6).

No warming since about 1998
Some official sources deny that there has been any cessation of warming in the new century or millennium. Others admit it indirectly by attempting to explain it away or dismiss it as irrelevant, for instance “slowdowns and accelerations in warming lasting a decade or more will continue to occur. However, long- term climate change over many decades will depend mainly on the total amount of CO2 and other greenhouse gases emitted as a result of human   activities” (p. 2 in (5)); “shorter-term variations are mostly due to natural causes, and do not contradict our fundamental understanding that the long-term warming trend is primarily due to human-induced changes in the atmospheric levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gases” (p. 11 in (5)).

Obfuscating and misdirecting
The Met Office, the UK’s National Meteorological Service, is very deceptive about the recent lack of warming:

“Should climate models have predicted the pause?
Media coverage … of the launch of the 5th Assessment Report of the IPCC has again said that global warming is ‘unequivocal’ and that the pause in warming over the past 15 years is too short to reflect long-term trends.

[No one disputes the reality of long-term global warming — the issue is whether natural forces are responsible as opposed to human-generated carbon dioxide]

… some commentators have criticised climate models for not predicting the pause. …
We should not confuse climate prediction with climate change projection. Climate prediction is about saying what the state of the climate will be in the next few years, and it depends absolutely on knowing what the state of the climate is today. And that requires a vast number of high quality observations, of the atmosphere and especially of the ocean.
On the other hand, climate change projections are concerned with the long view; the impact of the large and powerful influences on our climate, such as greenhouse gases.

[Implying sneakily and without warrant that natural forces are not “large and powerful”. That is quite wrong and it is misdirection, the technique used by magicians to divert attention from what is really going on. By far the most powerful force affecting climate is the energy coming from the sun.]

Projections capture the role of these overwhelming influences on climate and its variability, rather than predict the current state of the variability itself.
The IPCC model simulations are projections and not predictions; in other words the models do not start from the state of the climate system today or even 10 years ago. There is no mileage in a story about models being ‘flawed’ because they did not predict the pause; it’s merely a misunderstanding of the science and the difference between a prediction and a projection.
[Misdirection again. The IPCC models failed to project or predict the lack of warming since 1998, and also the cooling of three decades after 1940. The point is that the models are inadequate, so neither predictions nor projections should be believed.]

… the deep ocean is likely a key player in the current pause, effectively ‘hiding’ heat from the surface. Climate model projections simulate such pauses, a few every hundred years lasting a decade or more; and they replicate the influence of the modes of natural climate variability, like the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) that we think is at the centre of the current pause.
[Here is perhaps the worst instance of misleading. The “Climate model projections” that are claimed to “simulate such pauses, a few every hundred years lasting a decade or more” are not made with the models that project alarming human-caused global warming, they are ad hoc models that explore the possible effects of variables not taken into account in the overall climate models.]”

The projections — which the media (as well as people familiar with the English language) fail to distinguish from predictions — that indict carbon dioxide as cause of climate change are based on models that do not incorporate possible effects of deep-ocean “hidden heat” or such natural cycles as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. Those and other such factors as aerosols are considered only in trying to explain why the climate models are wrong, which is the crux of the matter. The climate models are wrong.

Asserting that uncertainty equals certainty
The popular media disseminated faithfully and uncritically from the most recent official report that “Scientists are 95% certain that human are responsible for the ‘unprecedented’ warming experienced by the Earth over the last few decades

Leave aside that the warming cannot be known to be “unprecedented” — global temperatures have been much higher in the past, and historical data are not fine-grained enough to compare rates of warming over such short time-spans as mere decades or centuries.

There is no such thing as “95% certainty”.
Certainty means 100%; anything else is a probability, not a certainty.
A probability of 95% may seem very impressive — until it is translated into its corollary: 5% probability of being wrong; and 5% is 1 in 20. I wouldn’t bet on anything that’s really important to me if there’s 1 chance in 20 of losing the bet.
So too with the frequent mantra that 97% or 98% of scientists, or some other superficially impressive percentage, support the “consensus” that global warming is owing to carbon dioxide (7):


“Depending on exactly how you measure the expert consensus, it’s somewhere between 90% and 100% that agree humans are responsible for climate change, with most of our studies finding 97% consensus among publishing climate scientists.”

In other words, 3% (“on average”) of “publishing climate scientists” disagree. And the history of science teaches unequivocally that even a 100% scientific consensus has in the past been wrong, most notably on the most consequential matters, those that advanced science spectacularly in what are often called “scientific revolutions” (8).
Furthermore, “publishing climate scientists” biases the scales a great deal, because peer review ensures that dissenting evidence and claims do not easily get published. In any case, those percentages are based on surveys incorporating inevitable flaws (sampling bias as with peer review, for instance). The central question is, “How convinced are you that most recent and near future climate change is, or will be, the result of anthropogenic causes”? On that, the “consensus” was only between 33% and 39%, showing that “the science is NOT settled” (9; emphasis in original).

Science groupies — unquestioning accepters of “the consensus”
The media and countless individuals treat the climate-change consensus dogma as Gospel Truth, leading to such extraordinary proposals as that by Professor of Law, Philippe Sands, QC, that “False claims from climate sceptics that humans are not responsible for global warming and that sea level is not rising should be scotched by an international court ruling”.

I would love to see any court take up the issue, which would allow us to make defenders of the orthodox view attempt to explain away all the data which demonstrate that global warming and climate change are not driven primarily by carbon dioxide.

The central point

Official alarms and established scientific institutions rely not on empirical data, established facts about temperature and CO2, but on computer models that are demonstrably wrong.

Those of us who believe that science should be empirical, that it should follow the data and change theories accordingly, become speechless in the face of climate-change dogma defended in the manner described above. It would be screamingly funny, if only those who do it were not our own “experts” and official representatives (10). Even the Gods are helpless in the face of such determined ignoring of reality (11).


(1)    For example, chapter 10 in Howard Thomas Brady, Mirrors and Mazes, 2016; ISBN 978-1522814689. For a more general argument that models are incapable of accurately simulating complex natural processes, see, O. H. Pilkey & L. Pilkey-Jarvis, Useless Arithmetic: Why Environmental Scientists Can’t Predict the Future, Columbia University Press, 2007
(2)    “40’s to 70’s cooling, CO2 rising?”
(3)    Thomas C. Peterson, William M. Connolley & John Fleck, “The myth of the 1970s global cooling scientific consensus”, Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, September 2008, 1325-37
(4)    “History rewritten, Global Cooling from 1940 – 1970, an 83% consensus, 285 papers being ‘erased’”; 1970s Global Cooling Scare; 1970s Global Cooling Alarmism
(5)    Climate Change: Evidence & Causes—An Overview from the Royal   Society and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, National Academies Press; ISBN 978-0-309-30199-2
(6)    Relevant bits of (e) are cited in a review, Henry H. Bauer, “Climate-change science or climate-change propaganda?”, Journal of Scientific Exploration, 29 (2015) 621-36
(7)    The 97% consensus on global warming
(8) Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970; Bernard Barber, “Resistance by scientists to scientific discovery”, Science, 134 (1961) 596–602. Gunther Stent, “Prematurity and uniqueness in   scientific discovery”, Scientific American, December 1972, pp. 84-93. Hook, Ernest B. (ed), Prematurity in Scientific Discovery: On Resistance and Neglect, University of California Press, 2002
(9)    Dennis Bray, “The scientific consensus of climate change revisited”, Environmental Science & Policy, 13 (2010) 340 –50; see also “The myth of the Climate Change ‘97%’”, Wall Street Journal, 27 May 2014, p. A.13, by Joseph Bast & Roy Spencer
(10) My mother’s frequent repetitions engraved in my mind the German folk-saying, “Wenn der Narr nicht mein wär’, lacht’ ich mit”. Google found it in the Deutsches sprichwörter-lexikon edited by Karl Friedrich Wilhelm Wander (#997, p. 922)
(11)  “Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens”; Friedrich Schiller, Die Jungfrau von Orleans.



Posted in consensus, denialism, global warming, media flaws, peer review, resistance to discovery, science is not truth, science policy, scientism, unwarranted dogmatism in science | Tagged: , , | 6 Comments »

How many does it take?

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2014/03/02

To the question, “How many …. does it take to change a light bulb?”, there are innumerable answers, a few of them even good ones

Recent events prompt me to paraphrase:

“How many climate models does it take to get it right?”

After all, the last 15-20 years have seen almost no global warming despite continuing increase in what is supposed to be the primary influence, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; see for instance “Climate scientist: 73 UN climate models wrong, no global warming in 17 years”

Unsurprisingly, gurus and groupies of the hypothesis of human-caused global warming (AGW, anthropogenic global warming) have come up with all sorts of reasons why this recent lack of warming doesn’t disprove their hypothesis, for example [1]:
“The biggest mystery in climate science today may have begun, unbeknownst to anybody at the time, with a subtle weakening of the tropical trade winds blowing across the Pacific Ocean in late 1997. …. average atmospheric temperatures have risen little since 1998, in seeming defiance of projections of climate models and the ever-increasing emissions of greenhouse gases. . . . Climate sceptics have seized on the temperature trends as evidence that global warming has ground to a halt. . . . Climate scientists, meanwhile, know that heat must still be building up somewhere in the climate system, but they have struggled to explain where it is going, if not into the atmosphere. Some have begun to wonder whether there is something amiss in their models…. That has led sceptics — and some scientists — to the controversial conclusion that the models might be overestimating the effect of greenhouse gases” .

The only correct answer, of course, to “How many climate models does it take to get it right?”, is that it takes either none or an infinite number of climate models to get it right, because it is impossible for any number or array of computers to take into account all the variables and their interactions including feedbacks both positive and negative.
Models are research tools. Modelers try to find variables that combine to deliver results that mimic what is actually observed. The only test is against the real world. The only available data are what has happened up to the present. But it is elementary that the past is no guarantee of the future when it comes to human knowledge: not when it comes to believing that all swans are white, or that any given mutual fund outperforms all others, or anything else, including climate models — there is no guarantee that unknown or neglected variables will not become significant in the future. The past can be a fairly reliable guide only empirically, extrapolating actual real-world events, not merely human interpretation of or theories about those events: we can be fairly confident that the sun will (appear to) rise regularly in the east every 24 hours (or so), and that the succession of ice ages and warm periods experienced by the Earth will continue their cycles at about the same intervals (~150,000 years during the most recent million years).

Climate models are no more than research tools. They are inherently, inevitably, incapable of making reliable forecasts (recall always Michael Crichton’s wise words on consensus and prophecy [2].

Most of the arguing over the significance of the lack of atmospheric warming in the last couple of decades has been beside the point, arguments over whether it shows that long-term human-caused global warming (AGW, anthropogenic global warming) is actually occurring or not. Few moments of thought are needed to concluded that a couple of decades is insufficient to decide that. A mere smidgeon of knowledge of uncontroversial historical data suffices to recognize that global warming of about 5-6oC in the next 75,000 years or so is predictable since the Earth is just emerging from the last Ice Age, of which there have been 7 or 8 in the last million years. One of the obvious points against all current climate models is that the causes of these cycles are not understood and are therefore missing from the models.

The real point is that, since all the models have been wrong for the last couple of decades, therefore the models are faulty: “the most important point: the climate models that governments base policy decisions on have failed miserably” [3].
All official climate models have been definitively discredited. It follows that their predictions are not worth attending to.

How many Internet pundits does it take before one finds a reliable opinion?

I’ve remarked before on the pervasive unreliability of Internet stuff like Wikipedia [4] or Facebook [5]. There are a few useful sources only among the mass of rants by people who don’t know what they’re talking about but who parrot mainstream views as though those were Gospel Truth. So, for example, “Skeptical Science” had this to say [6]:
“Climate models have to be tested to find out if they work. We can’t wait for 30 years to see if a model is any good or not; models are tested against the past, against what we know happened. If a model can correctly predict trends from a starting point somewhere in the past, we could expect it to predict with reasonable certainty what might happen in the future”.
Utterly, fundamentally, indubitably wrong on one of the most elementary points about models and what past performance cannot with assurance say about the future. Models are constructed by using past data, so of course they “predict” what happened in the past.
This particular pundit flaunts apparently expert status — “Skeptical Science is maintained by . . . the Climate Communication Fellow for the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland” — while also disclaiming any authoritative knowledge: “There is no funding to maintain Skeptical Science other than Paypal donations — it’s run at personal expense. . . . [and] has no affiliations with any organisations or political groups. Skeptical Science is strictly a labour of love”.

The correct answer, of course, to “How many Internet pundits does it take before one finds a reliable opinion?”, is that unless one already knows a lot about a subject, the Internet is far more likely to mislead than to give reliable guidance.

How many Science Advisers does it take to deliver reliable advice?

It takes only one, provided it’s someone who understands what they’re doing.

Unfortunately, Presidential Science Advisers have so far always been scientists [7] with inadequate understanding of history of science and the nature of scientific activity and who therefore characteristically overestimate the trustworthiness of whatever the prevailing mainstream consensus happens to be. History is perfectly clear that science has always progressed by finding flaws in the mainstream consensus, modifying it or even overturning it completely [8]. The greatest achievements that we honor in retrospect were contrary to their contemporary mainstream consensus and were resisted, often fiercely and sometimes viciously, when they were first proposed [9]. To be potentially effective, science policy would need to be deeply informed by the maturing body of scholarship in Science & Technology Studies (see The progress of science and implications for Science Studies and for science policy;  and A consumer’s guide to Science Studies  [large file, takes a minute or more to download]).

Roger Pielke, Jr., has written soundly and sensibly of the proper role of scientists toward policy making: they should be honest brokers [10], delivering to decision makers the most unbiased, well informed, judicious summary of all the understanding and insight reflected in the various and often differing views of competent researchers.

The current Presidential Science Advisor is scandalously lacking in those desiderata: John Holdren’s epic fail.

How much contradictory data does it take to change a mainstream consensus?

It takes a lot more now even than it used to in the past. Max Planck, Nobel Prize for Physics (1918, quantum theory) is inevitably cited in this connection for the insight that new theories do not become accepted by convincing the mainstream but only as the old-timers pass away and a new generation takes over; science advances, in other words, one mainstreamer funeral at a time. Nowadays, outside interests have become so vested in scientific issues that it will take something like a social or political revolution to displace hypotheses like human-caused global warming [11].

[1] Jeff Tollefson, Climate change: The case of the missing heat — Sixteen years into the mysterious ‘global-warming hiatus’, scientists are piecing together an explanation, 15 January 2014; Nature 505: 276-8 ; doi:10.1038/505276a
[2] Michael Crichton, Aliens cause global warming, Caltech Michelin Lecture, 17 January 2003; also in Three speeches by Michael Crichton
[3] 95% of Climate models agree: The observations must be wrong 
[4] Beware the Internet: “reviews”, Wikipedia, and other sources of misinformation;  The Fairy-Tale Cult of Wikipedia;  Another horror story about Wikipedia;  The unqualified (= without qualifications) gurus of Wikipedia;  Lowest common denominator — Wikipedia and its ilk
[5] Facebook: As bad as Wikipedia, or worse?
[6] Getting Skeptical about global warming skepticism — How reliable are climate models?
[7] Pp. 37-8 in Henry H. Bauer, Scientific Literacy and Myth of the Scientific Method, 1992
[8] Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 1970
[9] Bernard Barber, Resistance by scientists to scientific discovery, Science, 134 (1961) 596-602
[10] Roger A. Pielke, Jr., The Honest Broker: Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics, Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 2007
[11] Henry H. Bauer, Dogmatism in Science and Medicine: How Dominant Theories Monopolize Research and Stifle the Search for Truth, 2012

Posted in global warming, politics and science, resistance to discovery, science is not truth, science policy | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Climate models are wrong — Surprise??

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2013/08/05

The Office of Medical and Scientific Justice posted an informative article from the Providence Journal about the fact that all climate models have predicted continuing temperature rise as carbon dioxide levels have continued to increase, whereas in reality temperatures have not risen for more than 15 years:

“05 Aug (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL) – Climate science is in turmoil. Contrary to predictions by the world’s leading climate models and despite rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, global surface temperatures have been flat for 16 years. How can the climate models be wrong?”

My answer is that the models can be wrong simply because they cannot be right. Global climate is influenced by so many factors that no model could possibly be right, especially since some of the factor are simply not understood, for example, the cause(s) of the 7 or 8 temperature fluctuations over a range of 5-6 degrees Centigrade during the last million years or so (see “A politically liberal global-warming skeptic?”).

Posted in global warming | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

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