What’s Wrong with AGW Science


Please have a look at Dr Richard Muller from Berkeley discuss the tactics used to present evidence in the infamous “hockey stick graph”.


The following was my reply to a family member who is a wonderfully successful entrepreneur and a great person who is happily and recently married and living in NYC. He recently posted on Facebook some disparaging remarks about political foes of Global Warming science since the entire world is behind it. I replied and offered to supply some rationale behind the skeptic’s position but only on his invitation. He invited my remarks and this is what I sent him.

What’s Wrong with Anthropogenic Global Warming  Science and Theory?

This is a lengthy reply to your invitation. It cannot credibly be done otherwise so forgive me up front for the length. Having said that let me also say that this is a topic that appears to carry some emotional baggage with it. It shouldn’t since it is largely a search for the truth. My attempt here is to provide an explanation into my perspective and I have attempted to respond in a factual basis.

The Problem Definition

CO2 is a greenhouse gas. No one disputes this. The argument put forward by the AGW crowd is that humans are spoiling the atmosphere with emissions from by-products of the combustion of fossil fuels. The argument goes further to state that the damage being done is based on the fact that with all of this CO2 in the atmosphere our climate will warm and we will suffer irreparable damage to life, property, etc.

Okay for this to be true, we have to prove some things.

1. That the amount of CO2 that results from combustion is actually producing the postulated effect, ie. warming the planet as a direct result of its production into the atmosphere.
2. That the amount of warming will produce damage on a net basis. In other words some places will actually benefit from this ( Canada, Russia, etc.) and others will not, so we should be able to demonstrate that this issue creates a net problem since it may in fact be a net benefit.

And finally, if the foregoing are all proven to be true, then the resulting policy debate should be centered around

3. What can be done to mitigate the damage and what are the costs of those policies? In other words, if we are to engage in a program that would result in net cost increases in energy in an effort to slow down or reduce its use in order to avoid the damage that will be incurred, then the benefit we receive from that should at least be commensurate or exceed the cost of undertaking it.

This is where I start on the whole issue. Are we in agreement so far?

Scientific Method

Science provides a methodology for ascertaining the truth, it is called the scientific method which basically boils down to doing the following things.

1. Create a hypothesis that explains something that is occurring in the real world.
2. Test your hypothesis under conditions that allow for the veracity of your hypothesis to be demonstrated.
3. Show that your hypothesis explains the actual outcomes observed. If it does not, then you must reject the hypothesis. By reject the hypothesis, I don’t mean start over from scratch. I do mean that you have failed to prove your current hypothesis.

Approach to Proving the Theory

The Global Warming community has taken a two-step approach to proving their case. The first is to demonstrate that the temperature increases in the latter part of the 20th century have been historically abnormal. In fact it is the contention that we will warm the planet up to levels that will produce a self-perpetuating spiral of cataclysmic events. They have attempted to show this from the reconstruction of a temperature history database that has become itself a subject of much controversy (more on that later). Secondly they have attempted to show by use of climate modeling that continued use of fossil fuels will create the conditions for climate driven disasters. In order for these models to be persuasive they must be verified in both describing already existing historical data and in forecasting the magnitude and impact of their hypotheses.

Models Fail Step 3

Modeling the atmosphere is a very complex undertaking and doing so with the ability to understand the drivers of change is daunting. Many iterations of scenario testing should allow improvements over time to get closer and closer to predicting actual historically documented data. But so far, their computer models have been unable to predict temperatures that have already been observed based upon the variables that they have used.

When you have a model that doesn’t even explain the baseline scenario, nor account for variables that have already been observed, then the model is inadequate as a scientific hypothesis.  And indeed the scientists understand this because they aren’t actually making predictions with their models, they are merely suggesting possible scenarios that are nothing more than mere conjecture.  From the link:

…there are no predictions by IPCC at all. And there never have been. The IPCC instead proffers “what if” projections of future climate that correspond to certain emissions scenarios. There are a number of assumptions that go into these emissions scenarios. They are intended to cover a range of possible self-consistent “story lines” that then provide decision makers with information about which paths might be more desirable. But they do not consider many things like the recovery of the ozone layer, for instance, or observed trends in forcing agents. There is no estimate, even probabilistically, as to the likelihood of any emissions scenario and no best guess. Even if there were, the projections are based on model results that provide differences of the future climate relative to that today. None of the models used by IPCC are initialized to the observed state and none of the climate states in the models correspond even remotely to the current observed climate. emph added.

One of the conclusions of this is that not only do the models underestimate the impact of water vapor in their temperature models but this also suggests that they underestimate naturally occurring feedback loops that mitigate temperature rises and the impact of CO2 induced warming.  Since their models don’t explain actual observable data, then the models cannot be used to predict future temperatures or conditions resulting from temperatures because the underlying hypothesis has not been shown to fit the data.

Historical Data Used is Questionable

As for reconstructing the historical temperature data base, other issues have come into play.  The difficulty is based upon capturing temperature data that approximates as well as can be expected a map of temperatures that is sufficiently complete to be able to show what a global mean temperature actually is.  This is a sizable undertaking because it requires many data points and geographic interpolation between the readings locations in order to provide sufficient coverage of the earth to reliably conclude differences in global temperatures.  This is compounded by the lack of written history in many parts of the world.  As a result proxies have been used in some cases and discarded in others.    The construction of a global mean temperature over time will serve to illustrate temperature variations that occurred before the internal combustion engine arrived on the scene and after.  If there has been no real difference in warming periods between the before and after maps then the argument that human activity positively influenced global mean temperature is discredited.  For this reason, scientists have been keen to get their hands on the raw temperature data sets to validate what was being used and check it’s veracity.  Those responsible for managing this data, at the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at East Anglia University in the UK would not release it even under the threat of Freedom of Information Act requests.

There is evidence that the data collected was both scrubbed and cherry picked to make the actual historical record appear more favorable towards the claim that temperature swings were more pronounced in the 20th century than in previous centuries.   It appears that the data sets have been manipulated towards this end.

Evidence that the historical data sets were massaged also can be seen graphically in the form of the original hockey stick graph.  The famous hockey stick graph that was used to produce the IPCC report became infamous for it’s hiding of the Medieval Warming Period (MWP) which tended to exaggerate the warming occurring in the 20th century. This graph ignored previously accepted historical proof of earlier work done by other scientists demonstrating that the MWP was actually considerably warmer than our current late 20th century climate.

For comparison purposes the infamous hockey stick graph is reproduce here.

The Hockey Stick Graph

In contrast to this display other scientists have produced more widely respected graphs that bear more accurate depictions of the historical record.  The following chart was presented at the Heartland Institute Conference 2009 International Conference on Climate Change by Dennis Avery showing temperature data collected since the end of the last ice age.

Climate Swings of the Past 12,000 Years -Northern Hemisphere

From the Heartland Institute h/t Powerlineblog

It demonstrates climates that were warmer than even the MWP.  If this is true then the entire notion of a planet warm enough to generate a self-perpetuating spiral of cataclysmic events is without foundation.

The following by Syun Akasofu also takes a longer term perspective and compares the emergence from the little ice age with the IPCC hockey stick projection.

Multidecadal Oscillation Projection compared to Hockey Stick Projections

From Syun Akasofu, Heartland Institute h/t Powerlineblog

Since the turn of the century it appears that our climate is actually cooling not warming according to Don Easterbrook who presented this chart at The Heartland Institute conference on Climate.

From Dennis Easterbrook at the Heartland Institute Conference

The Climate is Cooling h/t Powerlineblog

The following panel from Dennis Avery show the plotlines of CO2 concentrations versus temperature data recorded by CRU and for the satellite temps of the lower troposphere.   The visual lack of a correlation is somewhat telling.

Dennis Avery's CO2 vs Temp Correlation Plot

From the Heartland Institute h/p Powerlineblog

And finally Don Easterbrook shows the correlation comparison between solar activity as an explanation for temperature variation and CO2 levels.

Don Easterbrook's Correlation Comparison

CO2 Explains none of the Temperature variation h/t Powerlineblog

The Attorney General  of the State of Virginia has filed legal action against the University of Virginia who employed the originator of the Hockey Stick graph because he was using government grant money to produce the graph and report.  The basis of the legal action is misuse of government funds.   More on the fraudulent use of and massaging of data was revealed in Climategate, the release of emails between AGW supporters discussing suppressing exculpatory findings, temperature records and, data manipulation.

Bad Faith Behavior – Climate Gate

Among the behaviors discovered from this release of emails are the following:

  • Manipulation of evidence
  • Private doubts about whether the world is actually heating up
  • Suppression of evidence
  • Fantasies of violence against prominent climate skeptics
  • Attempts to disguise the inconvenient truth of the Medieval  Warm Period
  • how best to squeeze dissenting scientists out of the peer review process

And for a comprehensive rundown of this hushed up scandal you can visit http://www.climategate.com/

Is AGW a Perpetual Motion Machine?

Some scientists are actually of the opinion that the entire theory behind AGW in fact violates the 2nd law of Thermodynamics which states the limitations on the flow of heat energy.  The argument is that back radiation from the atmosphere cannot possible be used to heat the earth as heat energy would have to flow in a direction opposite to that which is described by the 2nd law.

No Consensus

Lastly, if you still think that the science is settled please see this link,  http://www.petitionproject.org/index.php where over 30,000 American Scientists agree that the scientific evidence is simply not credible to support the AGW theory.    While I don’t take this information for anything other than a show of hands it is useful for no other purpose than to dispel the media driven notion that there is consensus on the side of AGW supporters.

Policy Prescriptions Premature

From the beginning of my paper, I said that two things have to be proven to take this seriously.  The first one has not been proven.  CO2 presence in the atmosphere has not been shown to produce a warmer climate.  It is not detectable as an explanatory variable in temperature variations observed. The second one is an open question.  Even if humans were warming the planet, is it certain that is a bad thing?  Therefore any discussion of policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gases produces a cost with no verifiable benefit.  In any ordinary situation, this course of action would be considered sheer foolishness.

Hype a Result of What?

But the hype of this has been pursued not due to scientific validity but entirely due to political reasons and for some, financial reasons as well.  For example, Goldman Sachs and Al Gore both have ownership interests in the Chicago Climate Exchange which would make money from every carbon credit traded in the event that cap-and-trade became a law.   Trillions of dollars worth of carbon credits are envisioned to be traded on this new exchange lining the pockets of the exchange owners.  Many other businesses have a financial interest in pursuing this law as well.

That is why this entire issue is being driven by those with a financial interest (rent seekers) and by those with a political interest (socialists) who want to exert control over property and lifestyle and to use this politically to exact payments from the western world to the developing world to fulfill their socialist utopian dream.   In a further irony, many would label as projection, the AGW alarmists are always charging the other side that they are funded with private or industry money and can’t be trusted.  The fact is the Climate researchers get far more government money than any of the private researchers receive from private sources and they have much more reason to “cook the books” as it were.

Ice Age More Likely than Harm from Warming

My own personal view is that we are at a much greater danger from an ice age than from Global Warming.  Did you know that the island of Manhattan has been buried in ice over a mile thick on three separate occasions in the last 50,000 years?   There is clear evidence that 2/3 of North America was covered in glaciers creating the Great Lakes, and many other geological features that only receded around 13,000 years ago.  Geologically speaking this is a blink of an eye.  Further, there were no internal combustion engines around to alter the climate from one in which we were buried in ice to what we have today.  These climate variations occur for many reasons, from changes in sun spots to shifting of the sun’s magnetic field, to meteors hitting the earth to volcanic activity.  All of which have far greater impact on our climate than anything that has been predicted by the IPCC, even if you accept what they say is true.   To suggest that mankind can do anything that would produce a significant change to the earth’s climate is almost laughably ridiculous in comparison to what occurs in nature.


So to try to close this out:

1.       The models used can’t even predict the past let alone the future.

2.       The data for generating the hockey stick graph has been fudged and greatly minimizes the MWP in favor of a false uptick at the end of the 20th century.  A lawsuit is underway to demonstrate that public funds have been used fraudulently towards that end.  If the 20th century is not the warmest on record as many scientists suggest, then the entire argument falls apart.

3.       A small group of scientists in positions of power have used their positions to oversell their case and to shut down the voices of skepticism and opposition.  The claim that there is a consensus is straight out of Goebbels and is patently false.

4.       We don’t know whether warming would even be a detriment, it may be a net benefit

5.       Policies have been advanced to exact rents from society at large in the form of wealth transfers by the wealthy and well-connected, and to solve a political wet dream, – in advance of the AGW theory validation, rather than as a result of it.

I therefore invite you to respond.  My reaction to your FB post was largely based on the fact that you exhibited a mindset that I find unfortunate but representative of the left and that is to denigrate those who don’t agree with you.  This comes from, in my opinion, hanging out in an echo chamber where you have no exposure to folks who think differently and cannot actually even fathom much less understand how that could be[1].  This can easily be reinforced by an overly left leaning media that refuses to cover stories that its customers don’t want to hear.  It culminates in frustration that your side has not achieved the spoils of victory that you so clearly and richly deserve and produces a tendency to want to win the debate by force rather than by persuasion.   As an example, look to Thomas Friedman lately as someone who admires the Chinese Communist system more so than our own because they don’t have to put up with the messiness of winning the argument, they are just able to “get it done”.

I rather enjoy some political give and take and enjoy attempting to persuade on the strength of facts, logic, and evidence as I believe that it keeps someone sharp and prepared for the battle.   I hope that you do as well.

This topic has long ago been turned into a political battle by attempting to skip over the scientific battle and declaring victory.  This fact in and of itself is revealing and should cause any casual observer to take note.  Those driving this train in favor of national or supranational government solutions have much at stake, in most cases a return on a substantial investment in the outcome.

[1] A Famous anecdote comes to mind about an editor from The New York Times who remarked “I don’t know how Nixon won (the ’72 election).  Nobody I know voted for him.”


About discriminatingviews

I am a small business consultant currently focused on placement and implementation of Electronic Health Record software for the small private practice community in Northeastern Ohio
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