Thursday, September 1, 2011

Al Gore's assault on the integrity of science

I am skeptical of long-term forecasts about global warming. According to Al Gore, this makes me a "denier", a term implying that I not only reject alarmist claims about human-caused climate change, but that I am a Holocaust "revisionist," which is to say an anti-Semitite and, therefore, a racist.

In an interview with an Alex Bogusky, Gore makes absolutely clear his intention to draw a parallel between skepticism about anthropogenic climate warming and racism.

Although this is a claim of astounding asininity, it is, presumably, an effective tactic in what Gore terms "winning the argument," an argument in which he has a huge personal financial stake.

But it is much more than that. It is an obscene attack on civilized and rational discourse.

Climate change projections are just that, projections. There is nothing settled about projections that cannot be definitively tested in less than the time over which the projections have been made.

Yes, science is about projections. But what scientific illiterates such as Al Gore like to call "settled science" is about projections that have been experimentally verified with such certainty that they are described as laws, although even as laws they are subject to skepticism, for otherwise they would not be a part of science. But there is no way that a 50- or 100-year projection of climate variation can be tested with absolute certainty in less than 50 or 100 years.

And even then, confirmation of a projection is not proof of the principles underlying the projection. In the case of climate projection, proof of the underlying principles appears to be theoretically impossible, since the climate is a complex, non-linear system. It was precisely the realization of the non-linearity of climate models that gave rise to chaos theory, which reveals the fundamental unpredictability of most of what happens in the World.

But there are much simpler reasons for skepticism about alarmist predictions of climate warming. Such predictions are based, for the most part, on attempt to project the effect on climate of human-caused increases in the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide. But as experts in the field readily acknowledge, there are many other effects of human activity that impact climate, but which current climate models fail to adequately consider.

Black carbon, for example, or soot, a product of fossil fuel and vegetation burning, also traps energy in the atmosphere, thereby exacerbating the warming effect of carbon dioxide, whereas atmospheric sulfur pollution adds reflective white sulfate particles to the atmosphere, which have a direct cooling effect while serving as nuclei for water droplet, and hence cloud, formation.

Clouds, have a large effect on the Earth's energy balance by blocking outgoing radiation between Earth and space and reflecting incoming solar radiation. Such cloud effects are likely much greater than those of  either carbon dioxide or black carbon.

The variable activity of the sun must also be considered. For example, the sun's magnetic field affects the amount of cosmic radiation reaching the Earth's upper atmosphere. The mesons, to which cosmic rays give rise in the atmosphere cause water vapor nucleation and cloud formation. Moreover, long-term fluctuations in the Sun's magnetic field seems to explain historic changes in global temperature rather well. This and other solar effects need to be fully evaluated before climate change models could possibly have significant long-term predictive value.

Another great uncertainty concerns the fate of anthropogenic carbon dioxide once it has been added to the atmosphere. Some of it is assimilated by vegetation and increases the pool of carbon in soils and plants. Some dissolves in the ocean. Some is sequestered through geological processes. We know rather little about how changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration affect the rates at which these various sinks for carbon dioxide function.

Therefore, the one thing we can say with certainty about the effect of human activity on climate, is that we cannot predict it with any certainty.

This is not to say we should be unconcerned about human effects on the environment. There is merit in the precautionary principle, and I firmly believe we should aim to reduce the human impact on the environment. But we cannot turn the World's economy on a dime and we should not be focusing on carbon dioxide very largely to the exclusion of all else. Technology is advancing rapidly across the spectrum of industrial activity. Recycling is intensifying, resource use efficiency is increasing. We may need to encourage these trends in some areas. But we should be motivated on the basis of rational discourse, not by insults from self-serving bullies.

Image source

Al Gore's participation in the debate about climate change constitutes a serious threat to the integrity of science. His resort to blind brutal partisanship encourages bad science by inhibiting vigorous criticism of research that supports the climate alarmist view, while promoting vicious attacks on scientists with the temerity to investigate ideas that counter the climate alarmist program.

And it should be remembered that Al Gore's Nobel prize was not a science prize. It was a "peace" prize awarded by the same corrupt or unbelievably stupid Norwegian politicians who awarded the "peace" prize to President Barak O'Bomber.

See also:
Climate Science: Peak Civilization?

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