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Climate Alarmism Versus the Scientific Method

July 9, 2020

Climate Change Weekly #365

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There are many paths to knowledge, but foremost among them, at least for the discovery and understanding of universal truths and societal progress—for knowledge not involving personal preferences, interpersonal relations, and the vagaries of the human heart—is the scientific method. Central to the scientific method is the idea of empirical falsification, demanding that theories be scrutinized and tested using data and facts.

Albert Einstein once said, “No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong.” To verify a hypothesis, there must be a test by which it can be proved false. A thousand observations may appear to verify a hypothesis, but one critical failure could result in its demise. The history of science is littered with such examples.

Sadly, the recent history of climate research has been a continual undermining of the scientific method: promoting theory over evidence and mathematical models over data, using misdirection or thoroughly unsupported statements to push the theory humans are causing a climate catastrophe, garnering headlines despite readily available proof such statements are false.

Over the past decade, for example, numerous researchers have claimed excess carbon dioxide from human fossil fuel use is being absorbed by the world’s oceans and turning them acidic, thus threating the extinction of shellfish and other marine life. To back this claim, they pointed to laboratory experiments in which oysters were placed in buckets of sea water to which the researchers added chemicals to take the sea water from its normal average pH of 8.1 or 8.2 to below 7, turning what was an alkaline fluid into acid. This, quite predictably, eroded the oysters’ shells, killing them.

In truth, no one would deny turning the oceans into acid baths would be deadly for shellfish and most if not all other sea life. But the claim that oceans are acidifying is a lie.

A new study by biologist Jim Steele, the recently retired director of San Francisco State University’s Sierra Nevada field campus, “Ocean Health—Is There an ‘Acidification’ Problem?” demonstrates even if atmospheric CO2 concentrations were to rise from today’s 0.0004 percent to 0.10 percent (over about 250 years at current rates), ocean pH would fall only to 7.8, still well above neutral, for all ocean surface waters, and would stabilize there.

Instead of threatening to “acidify” the world’s oceans, carbon dioxide is a vital part of ocean health and the ocean food web, Steele writes, and the modest rise in carbon dioxide is helping sea life thrive. The foundation of the ocean food web is phytoplankton, which includes organisms such as microscopic plants and bacteria. These organisms require CO2 to make their food through photosynthesis, and they are doing better as carbon dioxide concentrations have modestly increased.

Another climate tall tale regularly making headlines despite being directly contradicted by the best available evidence is the claim that human-caused climate change is causing famine and starvation.

Climate Realism in May and June refuted stories in which the mainstream media uncritically parroted claims made by climate alarmists asserting climate change either currently is or soon will cause crops to fail and cause starvation and malnutrition. Had the journalists writing the stories showed a little bit of investigative initiative, they could easily have discovered hundreds of field experiments and studies collected and summarized on CO2 Science demonstrating crop yields have been booming and hunger and malnutrition declining as, and in large part because, carbon dioxide concentrations have been rising. CO2 is critical for photosynthesis. Much of this research is also distilled and discussed in the exhaustive report by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change in Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts (CCRIIBI).

In one egregious article, the group Cornell Alliance for Science claimed farmers in southern Africa were desperate for new farm technologies and crops to fight a climate-change-induced decline in crop production which the Alliance wrote was “driving millions [of southern Africans] into hunger.” Data from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization shows cereal (staple) food crop production across southern Africa has grown substantially and fairly steadily since at least the 1960s, regularly recording record yields year over year, with the past 10 years providing the 10 highest crop yields in South African history.

Then there is disease, so much in the news with the COVID-19 pandemic. Following the Democrat Party playbook as laid out by Rahm Emmanuel, of “never letting a crisis go to waste,” radical climate alarmists threw over science once again to argue climate change is making pandemics more frequent and more deadly. During the coronavirus pandemic, Google News, GQ, The Hill, Jurist Legal, the L.A. Times, MSNBC, and Time magazine published articles claiming human-caused climate change was making pandemics more likely or would make them more frequent and more deadly in the future.

Article after article on Climate Realism responded to these claims by examining the evidence, as the scientific method demands, showing the opposite is the case.

For instance, Climate Realism showed an article in Pro Publica blatantly lied when it stated “vector-borne diseases—those carried by insects like mosquitoes and ticks and transferred in the blood of infected people—are also on the rise as warming weather and erratic precipitation vastly expand the geographic regions vulnerable to contagion.” The vast body of scientific literature, as detailed in chapter four of Climate Change Reconsidered II: Fossil Fuels, shows there is no factual basis for this claim.

Studies from Africa, England, Wales, North and South America, Thailand, and beyond show claims of links between human-caused climate change and the spread of malaria, dengue fever, West Nile virus, and other vector-borne diseases are grossly overstated or outright false. For instance, in a 2010 study in Nature, Gething et al., compared historical and contemporary maps of the range and incidence of malaria and found endemic/stable malaria is likely to have covered 58 percent of the world’s land surface around 1900 but only 30 percent by 2007. They report, “even more marked has been the decrease in prevalence within this greatly reduced range, with endemicity falling by one or more classes in over two-thirds of the current range of stable transmission.” They write, “widespread claims that rising mean temperatures have already led to increases in worldwide malaria morbidity and mortality are largely at odds with observed decreasing global trends in both its endemicity and geographic extent.”

Historically, colder periods are linked both to famine, as crops fail, and the rapid spread of pandemics, such as the bubonic plague which ran rampant during the Little Ice Age. During relatively warm periods, pandemics typically wane, though they do not disappear, and hunger and malnutrition both decline sharply. Chapter 7 of CCRIIBI details the results of dozens of peer-reviewed studies and reports showing premature deaths from illness and disease are far more prevalent during colder seasons and colder extended time periods than during warmer weather or eras.

In a study published in the Lancet in 2015, researchers examined health data from 384 locations in 13 countries, accounting for more than 74 million deaths—a huge sample size from which to draw conclusions—and found cold weather, directly or indirectly, killed 1,700 percent more people than hot weather.

“[N]on-optimum ambient temperature is responsible for substantial excess in mortality, with important differences between countries,” the Lancet study stated. “Although most previous research has focused on heat-related effects, most of the attributable deaths were caused by cold temperatures.”

There is an old adage in legal circles: “When the law is on your side, pound the law; when the facts are on your side, pound the facts; when neither is on your side, pound the table.” For three decades now, climate alarmists have been pounding the table because they lack facts to back up their increasingly shrill warnings human fossil fuel use will cause a climate apocalypse. They hold rallies in the streets, carrying placards and wearing t-shirts that say “Believe Science,” even as their practices betray the scientific method.

Climate alarmists aren’t true scientists. They are sideshow hucksters hoping to sell the rubes (the general public) the dangerous notion that giving government greater control over our lives will enable human beings to control the weather and make the world a utopia. Ask the people who lived behind the Iron Curtain or now languish in the socialist paradises of Cuba, North Korea, and Venezuela how that has worked out for them.

—    H. Sterling Burnett

SOURCES: Climate Change Weekly 362; Climate Realism; Climate Realism; CO2 Science; Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change; Climate Realism


IN THIS ISSUE …

ENERGY GROWTH, SECURITY TRUMPING CLIMATE IN CHINA, INDIA, AND PAKISTAN … RECENT ANTARCTIC WARMING OF NATURAL ORIGIN


ENERGY GROWTH, SECURITY TRUMPING CLIMATE IN CHINA, INDIA, AND PAKISTAN

The United States, no longer a party to the Paris climate agreement to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, is reducing emissions. By contrast, China, the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter; India, the world’s third-largest greenhouse gas emitter; and Pakistan, in the top 25 of emitters, are investing heavily in new coal-generated electricity, a significant source of emissions, despite committing under the Paris agreement to cap or reduce emissions in the near term.

Bloomberg reports China brought approximately 29.9 gigawatts (GW) of new coal-fueled power plants online in 2019. In addition, as of May, 46 GW of new coal-fueled plants were under construction and another 48 GW, approved by the government this year, are in various stages of development.

In India, despite having the fourth-largest coal reserves in the world, the government had barred new coal mines for decades, necessitating increasing coal imports for its growing electric power sector. Now, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced the freeze on new coal mines is over, OmmCom News reports.

“Today, we are not just launching the auction of commercial coal mining but are also pulling the coal sector out of years in lockdown,” Modi said during a video press conference.

Modi estimated India’s newly freed mining and energy sector would create new jobs and new markets for the country’s coal and other minerals and eventually make the country energy-independent.

In Pakistan, the government is calling for increasing the percentage of electric power produced by coal by 30 percent by 2030, saying neither renewables nor hydropower are in a position to supply all of Pakistan’s growing energy needs reliably. The government has declared new coal power a national priority, bringing the Thar coal power project, including an associated mine, online in July 2019. Since then, the plant has generated 4,155 GwH, with The International News reporting the project has saved the country as much as $130 million by replacing imported LNG and coal.

SOURCES: OmmCom News; Global Warming Policy Foundation; The International News; Bloomberg; Bloomberg


RECENT ANTARCTIC WARMING OF NATURAL ORIGIN

A new study published in Science puts the lie to claims that human-caused climate change is causing warming and glacial melting in Antarctica. Climate alarmists have long been at a loss to explain how “global” warming could be affecting only parts of Antarctica. Parts of western Antarctica have warmed while the rest of the continent has displayed no warming or minimal warming.

The study from a team of researchers from universities across Korea explains what is behind Antarctica’s asymmetric temperature change, showing recent climate trends on different parts of the continent are entirely due to natural origin: human greenhouse gas emissions need not apply.

Using various sources of observational data and the outputs of multiple climate models, the researchers demonstrate differences in geography and terrain, combined with multiple opposing ocean currents and patterns that circulate around Antarctica, and their atmospheric impacts and interactions, produce differing climate results on the continent’s various regions.

“The current west-east asymmetry of Antarctic surface climate change is undoubtedly of natural origin because no external factors (e.g., orbital or anthropogenic factors) contribute to the asymmetric mode,” the authors conclude.

SOURCES: Global Warming Policy Foundation; Science

Article Tags
Climate Change Environment
Sub-topic
Energy: Coal
Author
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., is a Heartland senior fellow on environmental policy and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.
hsburnett@heartland.org

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