Research & Commentary: Idaho Lawmakers’ Doubts About the Climate ‘Consensus’

Published January 14, 2016

On January 2, the Twin Falls Times-News released a highly deceptive story, “At Idaho Legislature, Many Doubt Scientific Consensus on Global Warming Cause,” containing many dubious assertions about the debate between scientists over the effects of climate change, how much of global warming is caused by humans, and what the actual scientific “consensus” is.

The claim “climate scientists overwhelmingly agree: The earth is warming at a dangerous rate, and we are responsible for it” is inaccurate, as is the assertion the “level of agreement” among climatologists is 97 percent. Although the article mentions a “wide range of surveys and literature reviews,” the author does not cite any to back up his claim. This is because there are no surveys or literature reviews showing a “scientific consensus” in support of the catastrophic, man-caused global warming hypothesis.

The surveys the author intimated support this assertion are, without exception, methodologically flawed and, as Heartland Institute Senior Fellow James Taylor writes, “[They] merely show a majority of scientists believe some global warming has occurred and humans have played some role in the warming.” These surveys have been contradicted by much more reliable research. As Craig D. Isdo, Robert M. Carter, and S. Fred Singer note in Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming: The NIPCC Report on Scientific Consensus, “Extensive survey data show deep disagreement among scientists. … Many prominent experts and probably most working scientists disagree with the claims made by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).”

IPCC’s climate predictions are based on global climate models (GCMs) that “forecast” the effects of greenhouse gas emissions on the climate. These GCMs consistently overestimate climate sensitivity to carbon dioxide, and four specific GCM forecasts the IPCC has cited have been proved erroneous by real-world data from multiple sources. As the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) states in its comprehensive book Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science, “Global climate models are unable to make accurate predictions of climate even 10 years ahead, let alone the 100-year period that has been adopted by policy planners.”

A Heartland Policy Tip Sheet laying out pro-environment, pro-energy, and pro-jobs policies notes, “Fear of global warming (or ‘climate change’) during the past two decades led to the adoption of taxes, regulations, and subsidies aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions. But now we know the threat of global warming was grossly exaggerated and reducing emissions would have zero impact on temperature or weather. Repealing those laws would produce an energy dividend of hundreds of billions of dollars a year as energy costs fall and new jobs and opportunities for economic development emerge.”

Contrary to the claims made in the Twin Falls Times-News, a zeroing out of all carbon dioxide emissions in Idaho would have no measurable impact at all on the world’s climate.

Rather than rely exclusively on IPCC for scientific advice, Idaho policymakers should seek advice from independent, nongovernment organizations and scientists. Much of what has been done to combat climate change has been wasteful and even counterproductive. Idaho could do much better to protect its environment by enacting policies that cost less and require fewer regulations. Idaho should base its climate policies on the hazards that apply to its particular geography, geology, weather, and economy.

The following documents provide additional information on climate change and the alleged global warming consensus.

Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming (revised 12/04/2015)
The most important fact about climate science, often overlooked, is that scientists disagree about the environmental impacts of the combustion of fossil fuels on the global climate. There is no survey or study showing “consensus” on the most important scientific issues, despite frequent claims by advocates to the contrary. Scientists disagree about the causes and consequences of climate for several reasons. Probably the only “consensus” among climate scientists is that human activities can have an effect on local climate and the sum of such local effects could hypothetically rise to the level of an observable global signal. The key questions to be answered, however, are whether the human global signal is large enough to be measured, and if it is, does it represent or is likely to become a dangerous change outside the range of natural variability? On these questions, an energetic scientific debate is taking place on the pages of peer-reviewed science journals.

Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science
Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science is an independent, comprehensive, and authoritative report on the current state of climate science, published in October 2013. It is the fourth in a series of scholarly reports produced by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, an international network of climate scientists sponsored by three nonprofit organizations: the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, the Science and Environmental Policy Project, and The Heartland Institute. (Also see the Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science “Summary for Policymakers”:

Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts
The second volume of three in the second wave of the Climate Change Reconsidered series, Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts, was released on April 9, 2014. Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts constitutes an independent, comprehensive, and authoritative report on the impacts of climate change on plants, terrestrial animals, aquatic life, and human well-being. (Also see the Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science “Summary for Policymakers”:

AMS Survey Shows No Consensus on Global Warming
In this September 2013 Heartland Institute Policy Brief, President Joseph Bast examines an American Meteorological Society survey of its members that revealed only 39.5 percent believe manmade global warming is dangerous.

The Myth of the Climate Change ‘97%’
The assertion 97 percent of scientists believe climate change is an urgent, manmade problem is a fiction. The so-called consensus claim comes from a handful of surveys and abstract-counting exercises that have been contradicted by more reliable research. Rigorous international surveys have found most climate scientists disagree with the consensus on key issues, such as the reliability of climate data and computer models. They do not believe climate processes such as cloud formation and precipitation are sufficiently understood to allow reliable predictions of future climate change.

Consensus? What Consensus?
This 2013 report by Andrew Montford, published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, examines a paper by Cook, et al. alleging a global warming consensus and concludes, “[T]he consensus referred to is trivial” since the paper “said nothing about global warming being dangerous … [and] the project was not a scientific investigation to determine the extent of agreement on global warming, but a public relations exercise.”

97 Percent Consensus? No! Global Warming Math Myths & Social Proofs
In this 2014 paper from Friends of Science, a Canadian public policy group, the authors find mathematical errors and, in some cases, manipulation after closely examining five studies that attempt to show a scientific consensus exists on the causes and consequences of climate change, “The deconstruction of the surveys that follow shows the claim of a 97 percent consensus is pure spin and ‘statisticulation’—mathematical manipulation,” they conclude.

Top 10 Global Warming Lies
It’s not unusual for environmental radicals on the left to make false assertions to attract media attention and raise money, but a mailer from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) “may have set a new low,” writes Heartland Institute Senior Fellow James M. Taylor in this 12-page response to EDF. “The only good thing about EDF’s preposterous mailer is that it can be used to show open-minded people the difference between global warming alarmists and global warming truth-tellers,” Taylor writes. Taylor addresses 10 false claims in the EDF document, from the alleged impact of global warming on bat populations, infectious diseases, and national security to the mailer’s dire warnings about rising sea levels and shrinking glaciers.

Ten Principles of Energy Policy
Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast outlines the 10 most important principles for policymakers confronting energy issues, providing guidance to deal with ongoing changes in markets, technology, and policies adopted in other states, supported by a thorough bibliography.

Q&A: Prof. Phil Jones
In the wake of the Climategate scandal in February, 2010, BBC environmental analyst Roger Harrabin put a series of questions to Professor Phil Jones, director of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia. “[F]or the two periods 1910-40 and 1975-1998 the warming rates are not statistically significantly different,” Jones confessed. Jones also acknowledged, “[F]rom 1995 to the present there has been no statistically-significant global warming,” and when asked, “When scientists say ‘the debate on climate change is over,’ what exactly do they mean—and what don’t they mean?” Jones replied, “I don’t believe the vast majority of climate scientists think this. This is not my view. There is still much that needs to be undertaken to reduce uncertainties, not just for the future, but for the instrumental, and especially the palaeoclimatic, past as well.”

A Truly Disturbing Look at Why Global Warming Alarmists Lie about the Science
This 2009 review of Why We Disagree About Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity highlights some of the astonishing admissions made by Mike Hulme, one of the leading purveyors of global warming alarmism. For example, Hulme writes, “Uncertainty pervades scientific predictions about the future performance of global and regional climates. And uncertainties multiply when considering all the consequences that might follow from such changes in climate” (p. 83). Addressing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s credibility, Hulme admits, “The Panel was not to be a self-governing body of independent scientists.”

Impact of Current Climate Proposals
Author Bjorn Lomborg investigates the temperature reduction impact of major climate policy proposals implemented by 2030, using the standard MAGICC climate model. Even optimistically assuming promised emission cuts are maintained throughout the century, the impacts are generally small, Lomborg finds. The impact of the U.S. Clean Power Plan would be a reduction in temperature rise by 0.013°C by 2100. The promise made by the United States at the COP21 climate conference in Paris, its so-called “intended nationally determined contribution” (INDC), will reduce temperature rise by 0.031°C. The E.U. 20-20 policy will have an estimated impact of 0.026°C; the European Union’s INDC will have a 0.053°C impact; and China’s INDC will only have a 0.048°C impact. All climate policies by China, the United States, the European Union, and the rest of the world, assuming they are fully implemented by 2030 and sustained throughout the century, would likely reduce global temperature rise by about 0.17°C in 2100. Lomborg reports these impact estimates are robust to different calibrations of climate sensitivity, carbon cycling, and different climate scenarios. Current climate policy promises will do little to stabilize the climate, and their impact will be undetectable for many decades, Lomborg concludes.


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