Don’t Know Much ‘Bout Climatology

Why should we believe the scientists about climate change?  Nobody — not even any individual scientist — understand all the details of the IPCC’s recent 1552 page “summary” of climate science.  So why buy into the idea that tiny amounts of gases from beneficial energy production can cause devastating global harm?

Part of the reason is that scientists have had a great track record.  We trust our lives to supercomputer calculations about wing shapes and aerodynamics, despite the obvious fact that a hundred-ton hunk of metal obviously can’t fly.  We take medicines that rely on the absurd notion that illnesses are caused by tiny invisible creatures called germs.  We convict criminals based on the bizarre notion that human beings are built from a chemical code recorded on tiny molecules scattered all through their bodies.  I’m writing this on a laptop that relies on transistors which are based on quantum mechanics, a theory that even Einstein thought was too crazy to be true.  Believing in science has turned out to be a very good bet.

Climate change isn’t just some fad among scientists.  The basic scientific insight is over a century old. Scientists in hundreds of universities and labs all over the world, have developed our current knowledge of climate change in thousands of studies.  The evidence is truly massive — I recently strained my wrist when I carelessly picked up the first volume of the current IPCC report with one hand — at 1552 pages of tiny print, it’s a bit on the heavy side.  And it’s only a summary of the evidence.

When you start looking a bit deeper, it’s remarkable to see how hard scientists have worked to confirm individual pieces of the puzzle and to test their theories.  There’s lots of criticism of particular results and intense further research to investigate disputed questions.  Another thing that’s impressive about the IPCC report is that there’s an elaborate system to provide the probability for each individual finding — some are considered “almost certain” while others are merely “very likely” or “likely”; the evidence on some is considered to provide “high confidence” while others are only “medium” or “low” confidence.  These folks are really being careful to tell us what they know and what they don’t know — what’s the last time you saw a politician do that??

Sure there are handful of dissenters, just as there were a few scientists in the 1950s who insisted that cigarettes couldn’t possibly cause cancer.  But we’d be irrational — and I don’t use that word lightly — to ignore what climate scientists are telling us.

Reader Comments

2 Replies to “Don’t Know Much ‘Bout Climatology”

  1. Climate change has been occurring for hundreds of millions of years. Scientists have been measuring temperatures around the globe for little more than a century. Climate modelers have built mathematical models that can reproduce recent measurements of temperature and recent projections of historical temperature and CO2 trends that were derived from proxy data obtained from studies of tree rings, ice cores, fossil pollen, ocean sediments, etc. Their models cannot predict the future.

    Alleged “anomalous” climate warming in the past 150 years has been correlated with measured and inferred CO2 concentration in the atmosphere.

    Correlation is not proof. I could easily build a model that correlated changes in global temperature with human population changes, but that would not prove that changes in population caused climate change. I could also show correlation between other rapidly increasing phenomena – say, the number of dogs on earth, or the number of cars – and global temperature. I could also show inverse correlations with other phenomena, I am sure.

    The only “proof” that “climate scientists” can point to, that human action is causing climate change, is the fact their models don’t work to track with alleged temperature change, unless they plug into their models CO2 production by humans. You see, they built that forcing function into their models.

    “Climate scientists” can’t imagine what else could be causing climate change, so they are left with the only possible explanation – human generation of CO2. That is not science. That is hubris. None of the other factors they built into their models will cause the climate change they claim they can measure. Relying on that lack of imagination does not prove causation.

    The measurements they take are designed to generate support for the thesis they are asking us to accept. They “see” what they are looking for. That isn’t convincing. Neither are their models, neither are their arguments from authority, neither are their arguments that their theories should be accepted because most scientists agree.

    Climate scientists can’t prove anything they claim to understand about climate change. They can’t test their theories because the real world – and the universe – will intrude into and disturb any experiment they attempt. They can’t control all the other variables – known and unknown. And no one now alive will likely live long enough to see any significant climate change.

    Scientists can’t predict climate change for the simple reason that the future has yet to be determined. They also can’t prove they can control or direct climate change but they can surely cause a lot of human suffering if they are given the power to try.

    Let them call themselves scientists. But don’t give them the power to experiment on a country-wide or global scale. Don’t give them the power to interfere with the life-sustaining actions of human beings who are engaged in the business of providing the energy and food and shelter needed for survival.

    And when climate change does occur, as it always has, let them come up with new theories, and new models, to explain why they didn’t see what was actually coming. But don’t ask us to believe them.

    1. Dan, we keep proving that no intellectual or leadership group in the world today has a clue about how to keep the human race from destroying itself.

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About Dan

Dan Farber

Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…

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