Why Global Warming Alarmism Isn’t Science

In this week’s The Week That Was, Ken Haapala, Executive Vice President of the Science and Environmental Policy Project, offers a concise explanation of why global alarmism, as represented by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is not science:

In an interesting opinion piece in The New York Times entitled “On Experts and Global Warming,” Gary Gutting, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, argues that the non-experts must accept the findings of the expert authorities in climate science. Though not named, no doubt the expert climate authorities are the members of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), particularly as expressed in the Summary for Policymakers (SPM) of the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4).

Unfortunately, the good professor fails to recognize the tremendous change in thinking that came about through the development of natural philosophy – scientific philosophy. Under scientific philosophy, the pronouncements of climate authorities are not as important as how and why they acquired their claimed knowledge. Did they adhere to the principles of acquiring scientific knowledge? If the climate authorities did not, then anyone familiar with scientific principles is perfectly capable of challenging these experts, even though the challenger is not, necessarily, an expert in climate science.

There are many glaring scientific defects in AR4, particularly in the SPM. Among these defects are the following:

* Ignoring scientific data that is contrary to the central conclusions.

* Failure to rigorously test hypotheses using physical observations.

* Assuming results are evidence of cause.

* Assuming a poor correlation is evidence of cause.

* Assuming a thorough knowledge of the climate system.

* Assuming that calculations involving variables with a low level of understanding can produce results embodying a high level of understanding.

* Assuming projections from unverified models are scientific knowledge.

The SPM focuses only on the past fifty years – not carefully defined. Thus, it ignores a vast body of scientific evidence that prior warm periods equal to or greater than the current period existed and that the historical warm periods are unrelated to atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). The main body of the AR4 explains these omissions by claiming the past warm periods were not global. Yet, according to the most comprehensive, reliable data available, satellite data, the current warm period is not global. It is concentrated in the northern part of the Northern Hemisphere, above 35 deg N.

CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and laboratory experiments show that a doubling of CO2, absent of feedbacks, will increase temperatures by about 1.2 deg C. The SPM assumes positive feedbacks amplify this small warming. Yet, nowhere in AR4 are these positive feedbacks tested against physical observations as required by the critical step of hypothesis testing. Tests by others demonstrate that the assumptions fail when tested against the proper alternative hypothesis – the null hypothesis. Such testing is the foundation of scientific knowledge.

There is little question warming occurred in the 20th century and the results of warming can be observed. However, these results do not establish cause.

During the 20th century, both CO2 and temperatures increased, but not necessarily together. The correlation is poor. For several multi-decadal periods during the 20th century temperatures fell while CO2 increased.

In the SPM, only one natural variation is considered – solar irradiation. Other influences of the sun and the influence of ocean oscillations are ignored.

An appendix to the main body of the AR4 gives the levels of understanding for sixteen variables considered to influence temperatures (many important variables are not considered). The levels of understanding for five of these influences are rated as very low. The levels of understanding for ten for the remaining eleven are rated as low to medium. Yet the SPM states a high level of confidence in results of its work. One cannot have high confidence in the results, when starting with a poor understanding of critical variables.

The models have never been verified, thus are interesting artifacts, not knowledge.

Contrary to the statements of Professor Gutting, anyone understanding the principles establishing physical sciences has a solid philosophical basis for challenging the work of the experts of the IPCC.