Don’t Call Climate Skeptics ‘Deniers,’ Call Us ‘Correct’

Published October 30, 2017

Arturo Casadevall and Ferric Fang, two academic microbiologists with no special knowledge of climate, recently used their article in the Hill to commit the repellent but now commonplace hate-crime of describing researchers skeptical of the sillier exaggerations of the climate-change establishment as “denialists.”

This disfiguring hate-word, calculated to invite an invidious comparison between climate skeptics and those who say the Nazis did not murder six million Jews, is not fit to be uttered by any serious academic. Here, as always, its misuse by intellectual pygmies indicated more than a little nervousness on the part of the establishment, for the world continues to warm at a rate well below what was originally predicted, and, as it turns out, there is a good explanation for the discrepancy.

The two hate-speakers tediously trundled through the history of challengers to the scientific establishment who were proven right (Hypatia, Giordano Bruno, Galileo, Benjamin Franklin, and John Scopes), but they did so without appreciating that it is we climate skeptics today who are the sciconoclasts, and it is the entrenched and generally totalitarian academic elite with which they pietistically identify themselves that is as wrong today as the mob that is said to have murdered Hypatia for her nonconformist astronomical notions and the cardinals who condemned Bruno to death.

The two microbiologists have missed the point entirely. They talk of “virtually unanimous consensus” that Earth is facing a period of anthropogenic climate change. Yet the largest sample of academic papers on climate ever studied — an impressive 11,944 papers over the 21 years 1991–2011 — showed only 0.3 percent “consensus” explicitly supporting the proposition recent global warming was mostly manmade. The question whether the small warming that is to be expected will prove dangerous was not even asked; the “consensus” on that question is even smaller.

Even if there were a “virtually unanimous consensus,” science is not advanced by consensus but by informed dissent. The instances the microbiologists themselves cite make it quite clear that where there is a “consensus,” it is nearly always wrong, at least at the margins.

Newton’s celestial mechanics was universally regarded as correct for three centuries, but relativity has replaced it — thanks to the work of a skeptical patent clerk from Switzerland.

And what was the response of the scientific “consensus” then? In Germany, 100 scientists wrote a book against Albert Einstein and his “Jewish science.” Where are they now?

The microbiologists indulge in the rebarbative mantra of the hard left to the effect that “the Trump administration has repeatedly belittled the value of scientific expertise and eliminated scientists from panels that advise the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice.”

No, but the Trump administration has eliminated political activists posing as scientists, replacing them with scientists who are willing to put science first and totalitarian politics nowhere.

The microbiologists ignorantly assert “no one is denying … the standard model of particle physics.” Actually, there is a lively debate among speculative cosmogonists as to the origin of the universe and, therefore, as to the emergence and influence of various particles, whose number and properties seem to change with bewildering rapidity as new theories are advanced.

The microbiologists do not seem to appreciate the reason why climate skeptics are skeptical is that, in numerous respects, climate science and mitigation economics are simply wrong. It is now clear to all but an irredentist minority the climate models, in their predictions, have exaggerated the rate of global warming, perhaps by as much as threefold.

And, since the two microbiologists adore “consensus,” there is near-unanimity in the journals of mitigation economics to the effect that it is two to three orders of magnitude costlier to attempt to mitigate largely non-existent global warming than to let it happen and adapt to its consequences.

Without any evidence, the microbiologists indolently assert “the denial of climate science is centered on resistance to economic and lifestyle changes that would bring about major disruption to certain ways of life, as we switch away from carbon-based fuels.”

First, the world is not “switching away” from coal, oil, and gas — very far from it, in fact. Secondly, the academic resistance to the party line on climate is based on a number of downright errors of official climatology.

One example: Only one-third of the global warming predicted by the usual suspects arises directly from greenhouse gases. The remaining two-thirds, they say, comes from consequential amplifications of the direct warming, known as “temperature feedbacks.” Official climatology’s mid-range estimate of the “feedback fraction” — that is, the fraction of the global temperature after the direct warming that is fed back to the input of the global-warming calculation — is 0.65. Yet, given a pre-industrial surface temperature of 287.5 Kelvin, the maximum theoretically possible value of the feedback fraction — obtained by assuming, impossibly, that the entire 32 K natural greenhouse effect is feedback-driven — is 32/287.5, or 0.11. Absurdly, the official best estimate is about six times this absolute maximum.

What that means is that there will not be more than 1.5 K global warming for each doubling of CO2 concentration, not the 3.3 K that is the models’ current mid-range estimate. And 1.5 K of warming, not much more than 2.5 Fahrenheit, is just not enough to worry about.

Tellingly, the two microbiologists do not include even a single scientific quantity in their purely partisan political shriek against those who do not share their drearily dismal, cloyingly totalitarian outlook on science. So little science do the two scientists know that they say, “Science… always considers its knowledge to be provisional.”

A single counter-example will demonstrate the unwisdom of their use of the universal quantifier (not that they would know it if they bumped into it). On a hyperbolic as well as on a Euclidean surface, the square on the hypotenuse of a right triangle is always equal to the sum of the squares on the two catheti. Perhaps they were not paying attention when they were taught this as schoolboys. Some scientific hypotheses, though by no means all, are indeed definitively demonstrable. We have, for instance, definitively demonstrated above, with indefeasible simplicity, that the global warming to be expected in response to doubled CO2 cannot exceed 1.5 K.

To turn the prissy-preachy language of the two microbiologists upon them, it would “behove” totalitarian scientists such as they to consider the maxim of all scientists: “I may be wrong.”

They were wrong to blame the recent hurricanes in the Caribbean on global warming, for the good and sufficient reason that worse and more frequent hurricanes have occurred before — as they would have discovered if they had remembered that scientific opinion is valueless unless it is based on at least a little elementary research.

Don’t call us skeptics “deniers,” call us “correct.” It is official climatology’s party line that is more and more obviously false, as well as self-serving.

Nobody pays me to ask scientific questions where so many others, bullied and hectored by a handful of bossy conformists, fear to tread. I and those like me ask questions because, unlike the faithful who bang their heads on the floor and say “I believe!” when informed of the party line, our approach to the natural world is a holy marriage of the curiosity and awe that are embodied in the two words, followed by a question mark, that are the fons et origo of all true science: “I wonder?”

[Originally Published at the American Spectator]