Dear President-elect Trump: Don’t Listen to Ben Santer

Published December 27, 2016

On December 22, Ben Santer – one of the climate scientists most responsible for politicizing and then corrupting climate science — wrote an open letter to Donald Trump once again pretending to speak on behalf of “science.” We can expect many such cries of despair and shouts begging for attention (and continued funding) in the future. In the Trump administration — whether it lasts four years or eight — such histrionics will be a growth industry.

Santer’s entire screed on CNBC’s website — titled “Dear President-elect Trump—Don’t listen to the ‘ignorant voices’ on climate change” — is riddled with alarmism and factual errors. I’m not going to excerpt and rebut it all, but suffice to say: (1) there is no money in skepticism of anthropogenic global warming (AGW), but there are endless government grants for alarmism; (2) climate-alarmist “scientists” who prey upon the uninformed have gotten the science wrong for decades; and (3) withdrawing from the non-binding and ineffectual Paris Climate Agreement will not make the US a “pariah,” but the leader that helped save billions of people in emerging economies from another generation of miserable poverty.

Happily, it is unlikely that Trump will listen to Santer’s ignorant voice, but just to be sure, I share below a rebuttal to one of Santer’s most notorious actions — distorting the Second Assessment Report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (1995) to serve political, not scientific, ends. The following is an excerpt from page 119 of the 2008 book Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1,500 Years by S. Fred Singer and Dennis T. Avery (emphasis mine):

Climate is so complex and variable that it’s difficult to distinguish the causes of its variations. The technique adopted by the IPCC for second assessment report, Climate Change 1995, was called “fingerprinting.” The IPCC compared the detailed geographic patterns of climate change with the calculations of the climate models. This comparison seemed to indicate a growing correspondence between real-world observation and modeled patterns.

On examination, however, this result proved to be false. The correspondence appeared only for the time interval 1943 to 1970. More recent decades show no such correspondence, nor does the complete record, which dated from 1905 to 1995. The IPCC claim is based on selective data. Under the rules of science, this cancels the IPCC’s claim of having found a human impact on climate.

The IPCC’s defenders claim that the crucial Chapter 8 of the panel’s Climate Change 1995 was based on 130 peer-reviewed science studies. Actually, the chapter was based mainly on two research papers by its lead author, Ben Santer, of the U.S. government’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Neither of the Santer papers had been published at the time the chapter was under review and they had not been subject to peer review. Scientific reviewers subsequently learned that both the Santer papers shared the same defect as the IPCC’s Chapter 8: Their “linear upward trend” occurs only from 1943 to 1970.

In fact, the IPPC report itself documented the reality that the man-made warming claim was false. The “fingerprint test,” as displayed in figure 8.I0b of` the 1995 report, shows the pattern correlation between observations and climate models decreasing during the major surge of surface temperature warming that occurred between 1916 and 1940.

The IPCC’s Climate Change 1995 was reviewed by its consulting scientists in late 1995. The “Summary for Policy Makers” was approved in December, and the full report, including Chapter 8, was accepted. However, after the printed report appeared in May 1996, the scientific reviewers discovered that major changes had been made “in the back room” after they had signed off on the science chapter’s contents. Santer, despite the shortcomings of the scientific evidence, had inserted strong endorsements of man-made warming in Chapter 8 (of which he was the IPCC-appointed lead author):

There is evidence of an emerging pattern of climate response to forcing by greenhouse gases and sulfate aerosols … from the geographical, seasonal and vertical patterns of temperature change. … These results point toward a human influence on global climate. [ch.8 p.412]

The body of statistical evidence in Chapter 8, when examined in the context of our physical understanding of the climate system, now points to a discernible human influence on the global climate. [ch.8 p.439]

Santer also deleted these key statements from the expert-approved chapter 8 draft:

• “None of the studies cited above has shown clear evidence that we can attribute the observed [climate] changes to the specific cause of increases in greenhouse gases.”

• “While some of the pattern-base studies discussed here have claimed detection of a significant climate change, no study to date has positively attributed all or part [of the climate change observed] to [man-made] causes. Nor has any study quantified the magnitude of a greenhouse gas effect or aerosol effect in the observed data – an issue of primary relevance to policy makers.”

• “Any claims of positive detection and attribution of significant climate change are likely to remain controversial until uncertainties in the total natural variability of the climate system are reduced.”

• “While none of these studies has specifically considered the attribution issue, they often draw some attribution conclusions, for which there is little justification.”

• “When will an anthropogenic effect on climate be identified? It is not surprising that the best answer to this question is, `We do not know. “‘

Santer single-handedly reversed the “climate science” of the whole IPCC report — and with it the global warming political process. The “discernible human influence” supposedly revealed by the IPCC has been cited thousands of times since in media around the world and has been the “stopper” in millions of debates among nonscientists.

The journal Nature mildly chided the IPCC for redoing Chapter 8 to “ensure that it conformed” to the report’s politically correct Summary for Policymakers. In an editorial, Nature favored the Kyoto treaty.

The Wall Street Journal, which did not favor Kyoto, was outraged. Its condemning editorial, “Coverup in the Greenhouse,” appeared I 1 June 1996. The following day, Frederick Seitz, former president of the National Academy of Sciences, detailed the illegitimate rewrite in the Journal in a commentary titled “Major Deception on Global Warming.”

Oddly enough, a research paper, coauthored by Santer, was published at about the same time — and says something quite different than the IPCC report. It concludes that none of the three estimates of the natural variability of the climate spectrum agrees with the other, and that until this question is resolved, “it will be hard to say, with confidence, that an anthropogenic climate signal has or has not been detected.”

Why did Santer, a relatively junior scientist, make the unsupported revisions’? We still don’t know who directed him to do so, and then approved the changes. But Sir John Houghton, chairman of the IPCC working group, had received a letter from the U.S. State Department dated November 15, 1995. It said:

It is essential that the chapters not be finalized prior to the completion of the discussions at the IPCC Working Group I plenary in Madrid, and that chapter authors be prevailed upon to modify their text in an appropriate manner following the discussion in Madrid.

The letter was signed by a senior career Foreign Service officer, Day Olin Mount, who was then Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State. The Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs at that time was former Senator Timothy Wirth (D-CO). Wirth was not only an ardent advocate of man-made warming, but was a close political ally of then-President Bill Clinton and then-Vice President Al Gore. There seems little doubt that the letter was sent by Mount at the behest of Wirth.

Mount was later named Ambassador to Iceland. That’s a plum post in a pleasant, peaceful First World country. That ambassadorship has often gone to a political ally of the White House rather than to a career diplomat,

The Madrid Plenary, held in November 1995, was a political meeting. There were representatives of 96 nations and 14 nongovernment organizations (NGOs). They went over the text of the “accepted” report line by line. Chapter 8, which should have governed the entire IPCC report, was rewritten to accord with the global warming campaign being waged by the United Nations, the NGOs, and the Clinton administration.

The passages above — and an excerpt from Art Robinson’s Access to Energy from 1997 — is something you should preserve for history. It marks the beginning of the politicization of climate science to serve political ends — and Santer was there, doing all he could (his scientific peers be damned) to make it happen.  So … Dear President-elect Trump: Don’t Listen to Ben Santer.