We’d Better Be Right On Climate Science

Published May 7, 2009

Dr. Harrison H. Schmitt is a Harvard-trained geologist, a former U.S. senator from New Mexico, and a former astronaut, the last living man to have walked on the moon.

He is among more than 20 elite scientists and economists who will present at the third International Conference on Climate June 2 in Washington  D.C. The conference will call attention to widespread dissent to the asserted “consensus” on the causes, consequences, and proper responses to climate change.

We’d Better Be Right on Climate Science

Climate change assumptions, instead of facts, and computer modeling, instead of real-world observations, are what underpin the political efforts to restrict American liberties and confiscate trillions of dollars of people’s income.

The science behind this massive intrusion into American life requires more than just a “consensus” of like-minded climate analysts. It has to be correct.

There are strong differences among scientists who observe real-world weather and climate and those who attempt to model nature’s complexities. Those who observe the natural, economic, and sociological aspects of climate change are “realists” rather than “skeptics.” The modelers, on the other hand, believe complex mathematics and broad assumptions can forecast the future of the Earth’s most complex system, climate.

Observational facts should force realism and calmness into the faith-based hysteria about alleged human-caused global warming. For example, careful analysis by geophysicist Syun Akasofu of the International Arctic Research Center shows a natural warming of the lower atmosphere of half a degree Celsius per 100 years since about 1660, when the Little Ice Age reached its nadir. This natural warming trend has not accelerated during the growth of fossil energy use in the past 100 years.

The observed 50-year increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide of one molecule per 10,000 molecules of air has had no detectable effect on climate—warming and cooling trends have occurred during the past half-century as they have for thousands of years.

Where is all the carbon dioxide produced by burning of fossil fuels? Geoscientists have long known that atmospheric carbon dioxide cycles through the oceans every five to 10 years, not every 200 years as claimed by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Furthermore, for every fossil-fuel carbon dioxide molecule added to the atmosphere, the ocean eventually soaks up about 50 carbon dioxide molecules. These observational facts mean we cannot cause the ballyhooed doomsday assumption of a “doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide.”

On top of that, engineer and climate expert Fred Goldberg of Sweden’s Royal School of Technology points out the greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide decreases rapidly with increasing concentration. About 95 percent of that effect already has been used up at today’s level of 385 parts per million.

The computer models do not work. Their unanimous prediction that the troposphere (lower 0-15 km of the atmosphere) should have warmed significantly in response to current levels of carbon dioxide does not match actual measurements. Physicist David Douglass of the University of Rochester has shown that the troposphere has remained unchanged or cooled slightly since 1979 when satellite and balloon-borne measurements of atmospheric temperature began. The models cannot truly deal with the realities of weather—evaporation, convection, clouds, rain, and all the other pathways by which nature inexorably moves heat from where it is warm to where it is cold.

And then there are the effects of the sun and the oceans. The oceans not only store enormous amounts of solar energy, as research meteorologist William Gray of Colorado State University points out, they also transfer that energy around the globe over decades and centuries through a system of interconnected currents and current oscillations that create climate variations over vast regions.

Also, as physicist Willie Soon of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics has documented, the position and orientation of the Earth in its orbit around the sun determines weather and climate.

Given what we actually know about climate, and all the remaining uncertainties, Americans should think long and hard before giving up more of their liberties and income to satisfy politicians who just want to “do something” to satisfy a particular special interest. A long-term political agenda is at work here, gathering power at the expense of liberty.

A very high probability exists that just “doing something” will not work against natural climate forces we only incompletely understand. When we realize what liberties we have lost, the probability also is very great that we will deeply regret not choosing to prepare for climate change instead of trying in vain to stop it. Our focus should be on how to produce more energy to raise worldwide living standards, not on how to limit energy use and economic growth.

Harrison H. Schmitt, PhD, is a geologist, planetary scientist, Apollo 17 astronaut, former U.S. Senator, aerospace consultant, former chair of the NASA Advisory Council, and author of Return to the Moon.