"Greens and many scientists have overstated the certainty of climate disaster out of the belief that governments could not be motivated to act if they viewed the science as highly uncertain....Researchers are unlikely to be able to unequivocally link storm or
flood losses to anthropogenic warming for several decades, if even then."
"Environmentalists have long sought to use the threat of catastrophic global warming to persuade the public to embrace a low-carbon economy. But recent events, including the tainting of some
climate research, have shown the risks of trying to link energy policy to climate science"
"The 20-year effort by environmentalists to establish climate science as the
primary basis for far-reaching action to decarbonize the global energy
economy today lies in ruins. Backlash in reaction to “Climategate” and
recent controversies involving the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change (IPCC)’s 2007 assessment report are but the latest evidence that
such efforts have evidently failed....
Climate science, even at its most uncontroversial, could never motivate
the remaking of the entire global energy economy. Efforts to use
climate science to threaten an apocalyptic future should we fail to
embrace green proposals, and to characterize present-day natural disasters as terrifying previews of an impending day of reckoning, have
only served to undermine the credibility of both climate science and
progressive energy policy.
The Endless Weather Wars
The habit of overstating the current state of climate science knowledge,
and in particular our understanding of the relationship between global
warming and present-day weather events, has been difficult for
environmentalists to give up because, on one level, it has worked so
well for them.
Global warming first exploded into mass public consciousness in the
summer of 1988, when droughts, fires in the Amazon, and heat waves in the United States were widely attributed as warning signs of an
eco-apocalypse to come. Former U.S. Senator Tim Wirth held the first
widely covered congressional hearing on the subject that summer and
admits having targeted the hearing for the hottest day of the year and
turned off the air conditioning in the room to ensure that the
conditions would be sweltering for the assembled media.
Such tactics have only intensified over the past two decades. In the
run-up to U.N. climate talks in Kyoto in 1997, the Clinton
Administration recruited Al Roker and other weathermen to explain global
warming to the public. In 2006, Al Gore used his “Inconvenient Truth”
slide show to link Hurricane Katrina, droughts, and floods to warming.
And some environmental groups have routinely implied that present-day extreme weather and natural disasters are evidence of anthropogenic
Climate change models, created in an effort to
understand the potential long-term effect of global warming on regional
weather trends, can no more tell us anything useful about today’s
extreme weather events than last month’s snow storms can inform us as to
whether global warming is occurring.
Climate Science Disasters
For more than 20 years, advocates have simultaneously overestimated the
certainty with which climate science could predict the future and
underestimated the economic and technological challenges associated with
rapidly decarbonizing the energy economy. The oft-heard mantra that
“All we lack is political will” assumes that the solutions to global
warming are close at hand and that the primary obstacle to implementing
them is public ignorance....
The threat is distant, abstract, and difficult to
visualize. Faced with a public that has seemed largely indifferent to
the possibility of severe climactic disruptions resulting from global
warming, some environmentalists have tried to characterize the threat as
more immediate, mostly by suggesting that global warming was already
adversely impacting human societies, primarily in the form of
increasingly deadly natural disasters.
The result has been an ever-escalating set of demands on climate
science, with greens and their allies often attempting to represent
climate science as apocalyptic, imminent, and certain, in no small part
so that they could characterize all resistance as corrupt,
anti-scientific, short-sighted, or ignorant. Greens pushed climate
scientists to become outspoken advocates of action to address global
warming. Captivated by the notion that their voices and expertise were
singularly necessary to save the world, some climate scientists
attempted to oblige. The result is that the use, and misuse, of climate
science by advocates began to wash back into the science itself.
Little surprise then, that most of the recent controversies besetting
climate science involve efforts to move the proximity of the global
warming threat closer to the present. The most
explosive revelations of Climategate involved disputed methodological techniques to merge multiple data sets (e.g., ice cores, tree rings, 20th century weather station readings)
into a single global temperature trend line, the “hockey stick” graph.
Whatever one thinks of the quality of the data sets, the methods used to
combine them, or the efforts by some to shield the underlying data from
critics, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that those involved
were trying to fit the data to a trend that they already expected to see
– namely that the spike in global carbon emissions in recent decades
tracked virtually in lockstep with a concomitant spike in present-day
Other faulty or sloppy claims in the IPCC’s voluminous reports — such as
the contention that global warming could melt Himalayan glaciers by
2035 — followed the same pattern.
Perhaps most problematic of all, with some environmentalists convinced
that connecting global warming to natural disasters was the key to
climate policy progress, researchers felt enormous pressure to
demonstrate a link. But multiple studies using different methodologies
and data sets show no statistically significant relationship between the rising costs of natural disasters and global warming. And according to a
review sponsored by the U.S. National Science Foundation and Munich Re,
researchers are unlikely to be able to unequivocally link storm or
flood losses to anthropogenic warming for several decades, if even then.
This is not because there is no evidence of increasing extreme weather,
but rather because the rising costs of natural disasters have been
driven so overwhelmingly by social and economic factors — more people
with more wealth living in harm’s way.
Yet prominent environmental advocates, including Al Gore, have continued to make claims linking global warming to natural disasters. And in its
2007 report, the IPCC — ignoring evidence to the contrary —
misrepresented disaster-loss science when it published a graph linking
global temperature increases with rising financial losses from natural
Action in the Face of Uncertainty
It was only a matter of time before such claims would begin to undermine
public confidence in climate science. Weather is not climate and
linguistic subterfuges, such as the oft-repeated assertion that extreme
weather events and natural disasters are “consistent with” climate
change, do not change the reality that advocates and scientists who make
such assertions are conflating short-term weather events with long-term
climactic trends in a way that simply cannot be supported by the
For 20 years, greens and many scientists have overstated the certainty
of climate disaster out of the belief that governments could not be
motivated to act if they viewed the science as highly uncertain. And yet
governments routinely take strong action in the face of high
uncertainty.... California requires strict building codes and has
invested billions to protect against earthquakes even as earthquake
science has shifted its focus from prediction to preparedness. Recently,
the federal government mobilized impressively and effectively to
prevent an avian flu epidemic whose severity was unknown.
In the end, there is no avoiding the enormous uncertainties inherent to
our understanding of climate change. Whether 350 parts per million of
CO2 in the atmosphere, or 450 or 550, is the right number in terms of
atmospheric stabilization, any prudent strategy to minimize future risks associated with catastrophic climate change
involves decarbonizing our economy as rapidly as possible.
evidence of climate change from scientists was never going to drive
Americans to demand economically painful limits on carbon emissions or
energy use. And uncertainty about climate science will not deter
Americans from embracing energy and other policies that they perceive to
be in the nation’s economic, national security, and environmental
interest. This was the case in 1988 and is still largely the case today....
Now is the time to free energy policy from climate science. In recent
years, bipartisan agreement has grown on the need to decarbonize our
energy supply through the expansion of renewables, nuclear power, and
natural gas, as well as increased funding of research and development of
new energy technologies. Carbon caps may remain as aspirational
targets, but the primary role for carbon pricing, whether through
auctioning pollution permits or a carbon tax, should be to fund
low-carbon energy research, development, and deployment.
Climate science can still usefully inform us about the possible
trajectories of the global climate and help us prepare for extreme
weather and natural disasters, whether climate change ultimately results
in their intensification or not. And understood in its proper role, as
one of many reasons why we should decarbonize the global economy,
climate science can even help contribute to the case for taking such
action. But so long as environmentalists continue to demand that climate
science drive the transformation of the global energy economy neither
the science, nor efforts to address climate change, will be well served."
Ed. note: Please excuse "tiny type" in parts of above post. My full time google baby sitter dislikes free speech.