Does Gaia Hear the Prayer of a Climate Alarmist?

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Global warming has a pause button? Who knew? It “seems to have paused since the turn of the millennium,” reports James Maynard at Tech Times“but climatologists believe this slowdown is not a reason for celebration.”

The pause, they say, may be due to cooling of the Pacific Ocean since the last El Nino cycle, and warming will probably re-start with the next such cycle. Climatologist Michael Mann of Penn state calls it a “false pause” and notes that none of the explanations offered for it “involve climate models being fundamentally wrong.”

Perhaps that’s the problem. Maybe the global climate just does what it does instead of what Michael Mann’s models  decree it must do.

Bailey Smith, then head of the Southern Baptist Convention, raised hackles in 1980 with his announcement that “God Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew.” While Smith found a few defenders, most Christians condemned the claim. The most trenchant criticism came down not to any denomination talking point, but to a simple notion,  one even agnostics could buy into : God, not Bailey Smith, decides who God listens to.

A disclaimer: I tend to agree that what’s often falsely characterized as the “scientific consensus” is plausible. That is, it seems very possible that human activity exerts non-trivial effects on global climate.

That said, the alarmists — you know, the people who warned us in the 1970s that Earth was slipping into a new Ice Age, who by the ’90s had changed their wolf cry to global warming, and who lately stick to the safer, less specific term “climate change” — might do well to heed the Bailey Smith lesson. Certitude concerning powerful forces goeth before a fall.

When the testable elements of the “scientific consensus” — predicted temperature changes, predicted frequency of large-scale weather events like hurricanes, etc. — routinely fail to transpire, that failure calls for some degree of re-examination. And perhaps a bit more humility before the forces of nature.

But no. Climate alarmists characterize the “scientific consensus” as so unquestionable, and the stakes as so high, that the two taken together constitute a strong argument for putting the alarmists in charge of public policy.

I disagree. Power is a dangerous thing. Perhaps even more dangerous than global warming. At the very least, we should require more proof of the latter before granting the former. Let’s not surrender our freedoms lightly.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

 

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  • Dawie Coetzee

    Tom, let me restate my general position on the issue: whatever uncertainty there is about the reality of climate change, there is far greater uncertainty that the mooted responses would alleviate the problem and not make it worse. A strong argument may, however, be made that responses which favour corporate over individual action through accreditations, type-approvals, enforced standards, and all regulation to the effect that a thing may only be done if it is grossly overdone – i.e. corporately mass-produced – would all tend to stimulate the very industrial-economic processes which have been causing the problem. In fact we can characterize this as the most salient characteristic of industry over the past half-century.

    • Dawie,

      Well stated (or, rather, re-stated)! Next time I do an op-ed on the general topic, I’ll probably be pinging you to request permission to so quote you.

      Given this specific medium (the 400-500 word op-ed), I tried to narrowly tie the piece to one implicit proposition: That if you say you know problem X, and that problem X implies bad outcome Y, and that you should therefore be given substantial political power for the purpose of reducing/solving problem X, it’s problematic if your predictions vis a vis problem X seem to never quite pan out, and even more problematic if, instead of changing your theories about problem X, you just blow off your predictive failures and keep repeating the same theories and same demands for power.

  • I have to say something about the consensus thing. You only roughly mentioned it, but the whole 97% thing really “grinds my gears.” (Excuse the cliche phrase.)

    “Cook et al. examined 11,944 abstracts from the peer-reviewed scientific literature from 1991–2011 that matched the topics ‘global climate change’ or ‘global warming’. They found that, while 66.4% of them expressed no position on anthropogenic global warming (AGW), of those that did, 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are contributing to global warming.”

    “In Science & Education in August 2013 David Legates (a professor of geography at the University of Delaware and former director of its Center for Climatic Research) and three coauthors reviewed the corpus used by Mr. Cook. In their assessment, “inspection of a claim by Cook et al. (Environ Res Lett 8:024024, 2013) of 97.1% consensus, heavily relied upon by Bedford and Cook, shows just 0.3% endorsement of the standard definition of consensus: that most warming since 1950 is anthropogenic.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surveys_of_scientists'_views_on_climate_change

    The truth is, as you mention, we (as in humans) have no idea. Weather is a tremendous force. I’m currently traveling across the country and I’ve been thinking about this. I got stuck in Missouri for half a day waiting for crews to clear the roads of snow. Initially, I naively thought, “I’ll just outrun the storm.” That idea lasted about 5 minutes. While it seems like snow and rain moves slowly and lasts a long time on the ground, and even by looking at maps, those things move faster than any plane most of the time. Humans are so tiny and significant. To claim and understanding of this massive, chaotic, random force is stupid. This debate no longer has anything to do with science, but playing sides and trying to ‘win.’ But I think that’s what you’re getting at anyways.

    • Ethan,

      Yeah. I’m actually generally inclined to buy into the possibility of anthropogenic global warming and/or other disruptive climate affects of human activity. But I do see some of the “trying to win” stuff going on.

      More than that, I see a stubborn insistence that “the models” are correct no matter how many exceptions to them turn up, and a stubborn refusal to consider the possibility of large, general error in those models. It’s like a religion (which is one reason I chose the comparison I chose).