The Coming Paradigm Shift on Climate

Published April 17, 2014

The just-published reports of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change may lead to a paradigm shift about what or who has been causing climate change. All the evidence suggests nature rules the climate—not man.—Ed.

Watch for it: We may be on the threshold of a tipping point in climate history. No, I’m not talking about a tipping point in the sense that the Earth will be covered with ice or become hellishly hot. I’m talking about a tipping point in our views of what controls the climate—whether it’s mainly humans or mainly nature. It makes an enormous difference in climate policy: Do we try to mitigate, at huge cost, or do we merely adapt to natural changes—as our ancestors did for many millennia?

Tipping Points Frequently Occur
Such tipping points occur quite frequently in science. I have personally witnessed two paradigm shifts where world scientific opinion changed rapidly—almost overnight. One was in cosmology, where the “steady state” theory of the universe was replaced by the “big bang.” This shift was confirmed by the discovery of microwave background radiation, which has already garnered Nobel prizes, and will likely gain more.

The other major shift occurred regarding continental drift. After being denounced by the scientific establishment, the hypothesis of Alfred Wegener, initially based on approximate relations between South America and Africa, was dramatically confirmed by the discovery of sea-floor spreading.
Climate Tipping Point Is Near
These shifts were possible because there were no commercial or financial interests in these matters, and thus they did not involve the public and politicians. But climate is a different animal. The financial stakes are huge—in the trillions of dollars—and affect energy policy and the economic wellbeing of every inhabitant of the developed and developing world. For example, the government-imposed conversion into ethanol fuel of a substantial portion of the U.S. corn crop raised the price of tortillas in Mexico and caused food riots.

Nevertheless, I believe the time is right for a paradigm shift on climate. For one, there has been no warming now for more than 15 years despite rising levels of greenhouse (GH) gases. Climate models have not come up with any accepted explanation. This disparity, of course, throws great doubt on claims of any future warming derived from these same models. This disparity similarly throws doubt on the wisdom of policies that are being advocated to mitigate the dubious future warming—principally, the mitigation and control of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the burning of fossil fuels.

Next year, in Paris, the United Nations will try to reconstitute the basic features of the (1997-2012) Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty of participating nations to limit their emissions of CO2. They may succeed unless the current paradigm changes.

We can already see the pressure building up for such a treaty. The big guns of international science are actively promoting climate scares. The Royal Society and U.S. National Academy of Sciences have published a joint major report, Climate Change: Evidence & Causes, containing no new science but advocating a “‘need for action.” The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the largest scientific organization in the United States, is promoting the same policy, but without a shred of science in their slick pamphlet. Even the once-respected Scientific American magazine has gotten into the act and openly advocates such dubious policies.

Government vs. Science
All of these establishment groups, it seems, have a keen eye open for government funding; not only for research but also for actions that go with such policies. They all accept the climate science as propagated by the three volumes of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report. Volume Number 1, dealing with physical science, was published in September 2013. Volumes 2 and 3, dealing with impacts and mitigation, are being published in March and April 2014.

But now we have the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) as a counter to the IPCC. The NIPCC serves as an independent voice and a second opinion. This second opinion fulfills a recommendation by the prestigious InterAcademy Council on Science. The NIPCC documents thousands of studies which the IPCC chose to ignore in reaching its dubious conclusions about anthropogenic global warming (AGW). NIPCC reports were published in September 2013 (Physical Science), and in March and April of 2014 (Biological Impacts and Societal Impacts).

Previous Climate Claims Disproven
The NIPCC, and in particular its Summary for Policymakers of Volume 1, looks critically at the evidence the IPCC uses to support its claims regarding AGW. NIPCC notes the evidence keeps changing over time. The first IPCC report, published in 1990, used an improbable statistical method to suggest the warming of the early part of the twentieth century was caused by human-produced GH gases. But sound science clearly disproves this.

The IPCC’s Second Assessment Report, which was published in 1996 and led to the infamous 1997 Kyoto Protocol, manufactured the so-called “hot spot,” a region of increased atmospheric warming in the equatorial troposphere that allegedly demonstrated a human fingerprint on recent warming. That evidence has also disappeared after a detailed analysis (published in Nature in 1996) showed the hot spot doesn’t exist. In addition, the assumption any such hot spot would constitute a fingerprint for AGW is in error.

As a result of these two failed attempts to establish some kind of evidence for AGW, the third IPCC report, published in 2001, latched onto the so-called hockey stick graph, which erroneously claimed the warming of the twentieth century was unique during the past 1,000 years. Further scrutiny demonstrated the hockey stick was artifically manufactured and based on false data, erroneous statistical methods, and an inappropriate calibration method. This was strikingly illustrated when the climate model algorithm that produced the hockey stick produced a similar hockey stick when it was fed purely random data.

In its most recent report, IPCC has dropped all previous pieces of evidence and has instead concentrated on trying to prove the reported surface warming between 1978 and 2000 agrees with the warming predicted by climate models. This so-called proof turns out to be a weak reed indeed. The reported warming applies only to surface (land-based) weather stations and is not seen in any other dataset. The weather satellite data that measure atmospheric temperature show no significant trend. Neither do proxy data from analysis of tree rings, ocean/lake sediments, stalagmites, corals, ice cores, etc.

It can therefore be strongly argued there has been no appreciable human-caused warming in the twentieth century at all. This demonstrates the warming effects of rising atmospheric GH-gas content have been quite insignificant.

Future Climate Uncertain
What about future global temperatures? Opinions differ sharply—all the way from predictions of another Little Ice Age (which was a calamity for human health and welfare) to a resumption of warming aided by the “missing heat” that some alarmists are sure is hiding somewhere in the Earth’s climate system.

Personally, I don’t do forecasts, because I know too little about the sun’s interior; I simply try to understand and explain the past climate. If pressed, however, I would go with historic cycles, such as the observed 1,000-1,500-yr cycle. These cycles suggest a modest warming over the next few centuries, perhaps in fits and starts rather than the steady increase forecast by IPCC computer models.

Political Considerations
Will nations accept any treaties emanating from the 2015 Paris Conference? So far, only Western Europe seems to be keen on ratifying such a treaty, and even there, doubts are developing. Eastern Europe is definitely against any new treaty, as are Japan, Australia, and Canada.

What about the Chinese, the world’s largest emitters of CO2? They gain a competitive advantage under the likely restrictions on Western democracies under such a treaty.

The United States may be in a transition mode in its opinion about climate change, and that’s where a paradigm shift could really make a global difference. According to the latest Gallup poll, the U.S. public ranks global warming concern almost at the bottom of 20 proposed issues, mostly concerned with economics. The Obama White House, however, seems to be gung-ho for climate alarmism. President Obama is planning new climate initiatives based on advice from his chief science adviser, John Holdren, who previously warned about global cooling and global overpopulation. Political activist John Podesta has come aboard as a counselor and special assistant to the president to push climate initiatives. The rest of the administration is in tune with the White House.

Secretary of State John Kerry considers AGW the greatest challenge to U.S. security even though his plate is full of urgent foreign-policy problems such as the Iran nuclear negotiations, the Syrian civil war, a developing Sunni insurgency in Iraq, the Arab-Israel ‘peace’ negotiations, and the Russian annexation of Crimea. This, of course, is the same John Kerry who as a U.S. Senator in 1997 voted for the Byrd-Hagel Resolution opposing treaties such as the Kyoto Protocol.

In mid-2014, the U.S. Supreme Court will issue its opinion on the EPA’s misguided and unscientific efforts to limit or even abolish the use of coal for electric generation. If the Supreme Court can become aware of the NIPCC conclusions, it will surely decide against EPA and therefore the White House. Such an event may become the trigger for a cataclysmic paradigm shift in U.S. policy on energy and climate. Similarly, the November 2014 elections could tip the balance and finally kill the myth of global warming catastrophes in the United States and throughout the world.


NIPCC conclusions are backed by thousands of peer-reviewed studies, in striking contrast to the IPCC’s alarmist predictions:

* Climate data tell us the human impact on Earth’s climate is very small and any warming due to greenhouse gases will be so small as to be indiscernible from natural variability.

* The net impacts of modestly rising temperatures and higher carbon dioxide levels on plants, animals, wildlife, and human welfare have been positive so far and are likely to continue to be positive.

* The costs of trying to mitigate climate change by reducing emissions vastly exceed the benefits. These mitigation efforts would cost the average U.S. household $3,900 per year and destroy millions of American jobs. Mitigation of actual effects of any climate change would cost a tiny fraction of that.

* In light of the new science and economics of climate change, thousands of laws passed at the height of the global warming scare need to be reevaluated and modified or repealed.


S. Fred Singer ([email protected]) is professor emeritus at the University of Virginia and director of the Science & Environmental Policy Project. He served as the founding director of the U.S. Weather Satellite Service and, more recently, as vice chair of the U.S. National Advisory Committee on Oceans & Atmosphere. In 2007 he founded, and has since chaired, the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, which has released several scientific reports. This article originally appeared at and is reprinted with permission.