Like the humbug hiding behind the curtain in “The Wizard of Oz” pretending to be something more than he was, climate change deniers want us also to ignore their misguiding efforts concealed by a curtain of deceit. They are well-funded to present themselves as a false-balance to the growing body of evidence that points at human actions creating a more rapid rate of global warming than nature would achieve on its own. But ignoring them is becoming easier as the physical evidence from extreme weather becomes linked more and more to increased global temperatures.
Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average of air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global sea average.
Most of the increase in globally observed temperatures since the mid 20th century is very likely (90% probable) due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations – 2007 IPCC report
The above statement is confirmed by 97% of those who actually study climate change. Now this doesn’t mean that there isn’t still some unanswered questions remaining amongst these scientists on certain specifics. What it does mean however is that they no longer argue the point that man’s contribution to global warming is real. It is. But it is this singular aspect of loose ends remaining that climate deniers cherry pick to dispute the fact of the scientific consensus regarding anthropogenic global warming (AGW)
Naomi Oreske first validated the scientific consensus in her 2004 study where she conducted a survey of 928 peer-reviewed abstracts on the subject “global climate change” that were published between 1993 and 2003 and found that not a single paper rejected the consensus position that global warming is man caused.
Non-scientist Christopher Monckton, who likes to refer to himself as Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, tried to disparage Oreske’s findings by citing social anthropologist Benny Peiser’s 2005 article entitled It’s the Cold that Kills. Both men have been in the climate denier’s camp for some time now. Peiser however later admitted that he had not followed Oreske’s method and had to concede his findings did nothing to challenge the 97% figure she presented. See Peisner’s back-peddling spelled out here
Later proof that a climate science consensus exists was provided in a study by John Cook, et al, using 11,944 climate abstracts from peer-reviewed scientific literature between 1991 and 2011. In this study it was found that 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming from those abstracts that acknowledged man’s impact on global warming.
To date there has been no proof put forth by the climate denier machine that credibly counters the evidence that a consensus does exists amongst climate scientists regarding AGW. But needless to say, this fact has not prevented deniers from trying to disparage this consensus with other bogus charges. Perhaps the biggest attempts being used are, (1) the claims that though there may be a consensus among climate scientists, there theories on AGW are specious and (2) government funding of climate science research motivates the continuation of this specious research.
To answer the first part let’s make it perfectly clear what all scientist agree with – a theory is not an absolute truth. Theories are only as sound as the physical evidence that can be measured and are strengthened or weakened by peer review from other scientist in a similar field. Peer review tests the theory’s method of proof. If this peer-review doesn’t support the claims made by the initial research then corrections are made, new research is then done and the theory is reintroduced with these changes. Again the peer review will either support it or challenge it. If it doesn’t get challenged then it remains intact and remains a scientific “fact” until new evidence comes to light to alter it negatively or enhance it further.
When climate change deniers challenge the science with the argument that there is no absolute proof, they are merely trying to muddy the water about a scientific theory where the preponderance of evidence supports a claim. There are few absolutes in this world yet many people today, including the denier camp, base life choices and economic decisions on volatile stock markets, premonitions, supernatural beliefs and simple “gut” feelings. To suggest then that the science isn’t absolute enough for such people reeks of hypocrisy.
The scientific method is a building block process of trial and error that eliminates weak assumptions and dubious evidence until what’s left is a conclusion that is as sound as is humanly possible. Unlike religious institutions that make claims unsupported by tried and true evidence, science treads lightly with “facts” and knows they are always subject to change. What we currently know about climate change and man’s contribution to it has been building for many decades and very little dispute now remains as to the veracity of this claim, despite what some people want you to believe.
People who create doubt about the climate science and who, like Benny Peiser and Christopher Monckton, have no related scientific expertise or back ground, are supporting an agenda highly in line with the interests of the fossil fuel industries. If their views are also a product of funding, directly or indirectly, from the fossil fuel industries, then I think it’s safe to say they are not here to defend science per se or serve the interests and general welfare of human populations.
THE USUAL DEMONS: EXPLOITING FEARS ABOUT GOVERNMENT AND ACADEMIA
This leads me to the second point about how charges are made by the denier community that expresses the unfounded notion that the consensus of scientists are addicted to the government funding they receive for their research, bringing their research into question. According to this charge this funding supposedly comes from some unaccountable government mandate that promotes the view of the human contribution to increased global temperatures, Why you might ask? So they can promote clean, renewable energy; an infinite source of energy that threatens the short and long-term profits of the fossil fuel industry.
John Coleman, founder of the Weather Channel, once referred to global warming as “the greatest scam in history”. Calling man-made global warming a scam or a hoax in the face of an overwhelming climate science consensus seems insane, which of course it is. But to deal with this departure from sanity Coleman and others have chosen to attack this consensus with misdirection. That misdirection suggests that the climate science has been hi-jacked by government largesse.
“This theory [of man-made global warming] has failed to verify and is obviously dead wrong. But the politically funded and agenda driven scientists who have built their careers on this theory and live well on the 2.6 billion dollars of year of Federal grants for global warming/climate change research cling to this theory and bend the data spread to support the glorified claims in their reports and papers.” – John Coleman
At this point let me point out that not only is John Coleman not a trained meteorologist, (his education background is journalism) he has no scientific expertise. Despite this fact he contradicts this by claiming that meteorology was his “field of life-long expertise.”
He served as the weather forecaster, what is referred to as a “rip and reader” for several TV stations before purchasing the Weather Channel in 1981. Our corporate media seems to think this qualifies him to speak in opposition to the views of trained and educated experts.
If he were a true meteorologists then his views today would be in conflict with his Broadcast Meteorologists peers. In a recent study the following information was cited
More than 9 in 10 TV weathercasters have concluded that climate change is happening. Of TV weathercasters who have concluded that climate change is happening, nearly 9 in 10 think human activity is at least partly responsible over the past 50 years. SOURCE
Much of the same can be said about Anthony Watts. Watts is the right-wing climate denying blogger of Watts Up With That who presents himself as an AMS certified television meteorologist (retired), a dubious claim at best. This certification does not require meteorology to be your major however and Watts himself will inform you that he is “not a degreed climate scientist.” Watts only attended electrical engineering and meteorology classes at Purdue University, failing to graduate or receive a degree.
So when these men speak about real climate scientists being on the government dole they don’t do so with any genuine expertise or solid foundation of evidence. In Watts case part of his motivation comes from the celebrity status he appears to enjoy from conservative think tanks such as the Heartland Institute and others who are heavily funded by the likes of the Searle Freedom Trust, the John William Pope Foundation, the Howard Charitable Foundation and the Sarah Scaife Foundation.
THE DONALD TRUMP OF THE CLIMATE DENYING COMMUNITY
In Coleman’s case though, its seems to be related to an enmity he seems to have for higher learning and academia. In a piece he wrote back in 2007 he attacked, among others, the academic culture he felt was “single-minded” and proceeded to belittle the people who work at universities and research the theory related to man-made global.
“Some dastardly scientists with environmental and political motives manipulated long term scientific data to create in [sic] allusion of rapid global warming” Coleman presumptuously claimed. Without any fact-based resources to support his audacious comments he asserted that “dastardly scientists” and “[t]heir friends in government” have conspired to steer “huge research grants their way to keep the movement going.” Could Coleman be the Donald Trump of the climate denying community?
MAKE IT A CONSPIRACY TO GAIN PLAUSIBILITY
Note too how these preposterous allegations to debunk the climate science consensus materializes only recently, following the revelation that the 3% of legitimate climate scientists who dispute AGW have been funded by the fossil fuel industry. For this revelation we also owe thanks to Naomi Oreskes for her book, Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming and its accompanying documentary of the same title.
Prior to that there was no suggestion that a conspiracy existed between the government and climate scientists. To make such a baseless charge would have to assimilate the entire history of climate science knowledge that begins in the 19th century as something that originally set its sights on destroying the fossil fuel industry with the intent of replacing it with clean, renewable energy.
Not that there weren’t uses of wind and hydro power back in the 1800’s but where is the link with what little of this existed and say John Tyndall (1820-1893) who was responsible for the concept of the “greenhouse effect”. And where was the government/climate science link when later in the 19th century Svante Arrhenius, the first climate modeler, began demonstrating how much the climate would change for a given amount of CO2 given to or removed from the atmosphere. And was the government under the Eisenhower administration behind Charles Keating’s research that began in 1958 and showed the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels? Coleman, Watts and their accomplices in the denier campaign are silent on this.
The fact-less accusation that questions the climate science consensus is simply a ploy to redirect the public’s attention. Why not make audacious claims that can’t be validated? Making biased comments about academia having “a single minded culture” opens the door for the average lay person who are often too willing to buy into. “They all look askance at the rest of us, certain of their superiority”, Coleman snubs in his diatribe against the climate science consensus. This stereo type is deeply imbedded into the common culture in most countries and plays well with the conservative think-tank crowd.
By reflecting these very real charges aimed at them back to their accusers the denier camp can achieve a part of their goal even if they have egg on their face for doing so. The public will soon tire of it all thinking as we all tend to do that everyone is lying and only out for themselves.
Once you inject this element into the climate science debate then facts are no longer relevant. The denier camp who is heavily invested in global media outlets can milk any spurious idea long enough, as they did with the hacked emails from servers at the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit, better known as “Climategate”. Years after several investigations exonerated Michael Mann and Phil Jones the denier camp still cites these hacked e-mails as a part of conspiracy to defraud the public.