USA Today Serves Fruits and Nuts on Global Warming

Published October 22, 2013

On October 10, USA Today did its readers a grave disservice by running an op-ed full of smears and false statements by two of the fruitier nutcakes of the environmental movement, Dan Becker and James Gerstenzang.

They disparage Dr. Fred Singer and Dr. Robert Carter, two of the three lead authors of Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science, the latest report from the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC). They also quote me, as head of The Heartland Institute, the organization that published CCR II. And for that, we thank them.

But the rest of their article is pure propaganda sludge.

They quote Dr. Carter, a paelaeontologist and marine geologist and former head of the School of Earth Sciences at James Cook University (Australia), as saying “Currently the planet is cooling.” “Wrong,” they say. “The last decade (2000-2009) was the hottest on record; 2010 was the hottest year recorded.” Their claim is trivially true based on a heavily revised and controversial database that goes back only to about 1850. More reliable satellite data show no warming trend for nearly 17 years and a cooling trend in the last decade. Proxy data show the planet has been cooling since 2,000 years ago and 8,000 years ago.

Becker and Gerstenzang quote Dr. Fred Singer, saying “Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant.” “Nope,” they say. “Acting under U.S. Supreme Court direction, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that CO2 is a pollutant because of the harm it causes.” Gee, who should we believe here, lawyers and bureaucrats or one of the world’s most distinguished astrophysicists? It shouldn’t be a close call.

Some 97% of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere comes from natural sources and only about 3% from human activities. We exhale carbon dioxide. The Supreme Court and EPA can twist the meaning of “pollutant” to extend it to anything added to the air, including our breath, but that semantic trick has no scientific relevance. Dr. Singer is absolutely right: carbon dioxide is plant food, a net benefit to plant and animal life, and not a pollutant.

Becker and Gerstenzang then quote me: “Most scientists do not believe human activities threaten to disrupt the Earth’s climate.” “Misleading, to say the least,” they write. “97% of climate scientists agree that humans are causing global warming.” This is such a cheap parlor trick that one wonders if alarmists realize how foolish it makes them look whenever they use it.

Skeptics don’t say humans are not “causing global warming,” because we acknowledge that agriculture, building roads and airports and water treatment plants, and emissions of various kinds (including carbon dioxide) may indeed affect regional climates and may even be enough to have a discernable impact globally. But is it enough to “disrupt the Earth’s climate”? There is no evidence that it is.

Surveys that supposedly show a consensus in favor of they hypothesis of man-made dangerous global warming invariably ask meaningless questions, such as “is climate change real?” that any skeptic would answer “yes” to. A close look at the latest “study” used by alarmists to back their claim actually found that barely 1% of published scientific articles support the claim of dangerous man-made global warming. (See D. Legates et al., “Climate Consensus and ‘Misinformation,'” Science & Education, DOI 10.1007/s11191-013-9647-9.)

When asked about climate models, the source of most of the alarmists’ claims and predictions, most scientists say they are too crude and unreliable to be useful for policymaking. And think about this: If there were really a “consensus” among scientists about climate change, why are there 78 different climate models that vary widely in their “parameters” (assumptions) and outcomes?

Becker and Gerstenzang make the familiar argument that the media shouldn’t allow global warming skeptics to air their views on their pages or as part of their broadcasts because doing so “equates serious climate science and evaluation of peer-reviewed reports with the declarations of individuals, most lacking academic degrees in climate research, who are often funded by those standing to profit if the United States fails to curb carbon dioxide emissions.”

I count four falsehoods in that one sentence, not counting the authors’ hubris in assuming that they are on the right side of this complex scientific debate. Can you find them?

The reports of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are not “serious climate science.” They are political documents produced to advance the political goals of the governments that created the IPCC, fund it, staff it, select the scientists who get to participate, and revise and rewrite the reports before their public release. Critics all around the world have pointed out how the IPCC’s reports are not reliable, not peer reviewed, and certainly not unbiased.

NIPCC, in contrast, is a group of some 50 skeptical scientists, all of them highly qualified to speak to the issues they address, with no financial stake in the outcome of the global warming debate. Many of them, such as Singer, are emeritus professors, meaning they are no longer competing for grant dollars. No corporate or government funding at all was used to support NIPCC or the publication of its Climate Change Reconsidered series of reports.

In the global warming debate there are two primary sources of reviews of the peer-reviewed science: the IPCC and NIPCC. The first is politicized, unreliable, and largely discredited. NIPCC is the new kid on the block, nonpolitical, and endorsed by many leading climate scientists. NIPCC now best represents the views of independent scientists.

It’s time to stop attacking the messenger and start listening to the message. It is very clear: The human impact on climate is small, future climate change attributable to human activities is likely to be too small to discern from natural variability, and efforts to reduce human carbon dioxide emissions are unnecessary.

[First published at Watts Up With That.]