At the link site RealClearPolitics, when they link to one article on a topic, they often also have a link to another article giving a different or opposite perspective on the same topic. This morning they posted a link to my article from Monday, "The 'Science' Underlying Climate Alarmism Turns Up Missing." Sure enough, the adjacent link was to an article by uber-alarmist Bill McKibben, titled "Recalculating the Climate Math." I thought you readers might enjoy a comparison of the two.
My post featured a new Research Report just out from a group of prominent independent scientist and mathematicians, that subjected EPA's so-called "Endangerment Finding" to rigorous validation (or invalidation) as against the best available empirical evidence from 13 different sources. EPA's Endangerment Finding is the regulatory determination that forms the basis for the current campaign of the Obama administration to fundamentally transform the energy sector of the economy, to put coal mines and coal miners and coal power plants out of business, to reduce and restrict the use of fossil fuels, and to cost the American public hundreds of billions of dollars -- all to "save the planet." Yet as it imposes these enormous costs, EPA somehow skipped the step of conducting any rigorous validation/invalidation exercise of the Endangerment Finding against the best available evidence. "Science," of course, is the method by which hypotheses are proposed, and then those hypotheses are subjected to rigorous validation/invalidation tests as against the best empirical data. After applying that method in the best tradition of science, the conclusion of the Research Report that I discussed is that EPA's Endangerment Finding has been invalidated.
Now, a person might very reasonably want that conclusion to be subjected to meticulous scrutiny. That's why the authors of the Report posted all of their data and methods publicly, so that anyone could take whatever potshots they want. The key to science is reproducibility. Maybe somebody can find other or better data that lead to a different result. Maybe somebody can find a flaw in the math. Maybe somebody can propose an alternative interpretation of the data under which the alarmist hypothesis survives. Who knows? Have at it!
And then there's McKibben's article. Really, is there any bigger airhead in the world of climate alarmism than this guy? As far as I can figure out, he doesn't even know what the scientific method is. A fair description of his article is that it is pitched to college humanities majors who may have taken one basic science course in junior high school, and may have been taught about the scientific method, but have long since forgotten the part of the method that involves testing the hypothesis against the data.
Rather than try to state the theme of McKibben's article for him, I'll quote his own words:
The future of humanity depends on math. And the numbers in a new study released Thursday are the most ominous yet. Those numbers spell out, in simple arithmetic, how much of the fossil fuel in the world’s existing coal mines and oil wells we can burn if we want to prevent global warming from cooking the planet. In other words, if our goal is to keep the Earth’s temperature from rising more than two degrees Celsius—the upper limit identified by the nations of the world—how much more new digging and drilling can we do?
Here’s the answer: zero. That’s right: If we’re serious about preventing catastrophic warming, the new study shows, we can’t dig any new coal mines, drill any new fields, build any more pipelines. Not a single one.
Now, the proposition that a given amount of burning of fossil fuels and adding of CO2 to the atmosphere will lead to a given amount of global temperature rise, such as the two degrees Celsius cited by McKibben -- that's what we call in science a "hypothesis." Mr. McKibben, can you kindly share with us the empirical data and the methodology by which this hypothesis has been quantitatively validated to the extent that it can and should now be used to justify taking hundreds of billions of dollars of assets (whose value arises out of their being able to provide cheap energy to the masses) and rendering those assets valueless?
You will not find the answer to that question in this article. But, McKibben claims, the answer is to be found in the "new study released Thursday"! Here is a link to that study. And guess what? You won't find the answer to my question there either! This "study" treats the relationship of CO2 ppm in the atmosphere with temperature rise as a total given, and makes no attempt to support the quantitative relationship function or tie it to empirical data of any kind. In a chart on page 6, the report asserts that the 2 degrees C limit of temperature rise will be hit when cumulative human CO2 emissions hit about 850 gigatons. But how do they know that? What is the empirical basis for the quantitative relationship function that they use? Try studying the report and see if you can find it. After several reads, the best I can find is this on page 12:
We know from atmospheric physics that the key factor determining the extent of global warming is the cumulative amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions over time. 11
Aha!! We "know" this is true, because of "atmospheric physics"! And that's all you'll find here. If you want to know any more of how we got this, you'll just have to follow footnote 11.
Go all the way to the end of the report, and here is the text of footnote 11:
Temperature change is roughly proportional to total cumulative CO2 emissions (until emissions peak, and assuming smooth variations in emissions). IPCC Climate Change 2013, Working Group 1 report, sec.12.5.4, pp.1108ff, http://ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/wg1/WG1AR5_Chapter12_FINAL.pdf. See also Reto Knutti presentation to UNFCCC Structured Expert Dialogue 2013-15 Review, 13 November 2013, ‘Relationship between global emissions and global temperature rise’, at https://unfccc.int/files/science/workstreams/the_2013-2015_review/application/pdf/7_knutti.reto.3sed2.pdf.
Once again, it's just more ex cathedra statements without any clue as to whether or how they have been empirically validated. Go ahead and follow the links in the footnote as well. Here is what you will find: UN IPCC modelers treating their models (i.e., hypotheses) as proved without empirical validation of any kind. There are no further references. You have hit the end of the road. That's it.
So now, in the Research Report that I discussed in my post, we have a serious rigorous effort of validation or invalidation of the climate models (as applied in EPA's Endangerment Finding). And the result is that, once ENSO (El Nino/La Nina) effects are backed out, there is no atmospheric warming in the 13 best data sets left to be explained by the CO2 greenhouse effect. In the report that McKibben relies on, there is no empirical validation of the key hypotheses at all, whether in the report itself or in its references. The difference is: one is science, that is, testing of the hypothesis against the best empirical data; and the other is just argument from authority. Hey, we're the priests here! Of course our hypothesis is true -- we say so! How dare you ask us to validate it empirically!
Meanwhile, all of this is fairly meaningless in terms of any possible real world effect on the climate. The "commitment" just made by China is to cause its emissions to "peak" in 15 years; and in the meantime they plan to build hundreds of additional coal-fired power plants, far more than replacing the emissions from any that we might close. India equally has no intention of stopping the increase in the use of coal until everyone in that country has electricity, which again will be hundreds of power plants from now. Japan closed all of its nuclear plants after the Fukushima accident in 2012, and replaced that electricity with additional fossil fuel resources. Most of Africa remains to be electrified. What say you to these things, McKibben? If just the U.S. shuts its fossil fuel resources, how does that change anything?
But yes, our President has totally signed on with the McKibben program. So has Hillary Clinton.