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Climate Change 10: Why we argue about it, unsettled science and the moral question.

John Christy is a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville who maintains one of the global satellite temperature records and is one of the leading skeptics of climate alarmism.  His op-ed, Why Do We Argue About Climate Change, hits on a number of important points typically absent from the pubic debate.

Christy says “we basically cannot prove anything about how the climate will change as a result of adding extra greenhouse gases to the atmosphere” so “we are left to argue about unprovable claims.”

We can measure and prove that greenhouse gases are increasing. And, in the laboratory, we can measure and prove that adding greenhouse gases to a jar of air will lead to further warming.

But when it comes to how the actual climate system might respond to extra greenhouse gases, we’re out of luck in terms of “proof” because the climate’s complexities are innumerable and poorly understood.

Model failure means science is hardly settled

I analyzed the tropical atmospheric temperature change in 102 of the latest climate-model simulations covering the past 35 years.  …

All 102 model runs overshot the actual temperature change on average by a factor of three. Not only does this tell us we don’t have a good grasp on the way climate varies, but the fact that all simulations overcooked the atmosphere means there is probably a warm bias built into the basic theory — the same theory we’ve been told is “settled science.”

To me, being off by a factor of three doesn’t qualify as “settled.”

As important as models can be for problems like this, it is clear we have a long way to go. And it is troubling that current policy is being based on these computer models, none of which has been validated by a formalized, independent Red Team analysis.

Is extreme weather getting worse?

Others might look to certain climate anomalies and convince themselves that humans are the cause. I often hear claims that extreme weather is getting worse. Now, here we do have direct evidence to check. Whether it’s tornadoes (no change over the past 60 years), hurricanes (no changes over the past 120 years) or droughts and heat waves (not as bad as they were during the past 1,000 years), the evidence doesn’t support those claims.

Why polls don’t “settle science”

Then, there is that time-honored, media-approved, headline-grabbing source of truth — the opinion poll. The poll can be of scientists, nonscientists, the man on the street, anyone with a smartphone or groundhogs. If no one (not even an esteemed scientific organization) has direct evidence to substantiate any claim of the impact of greenhouse gases on climate, what would an opinion poll provide besides entertainment or (worse) justification for one’s agenda?

This polling tack is relatively clever. Without direct evidence to prove or refute the claims of a climate poll, the poll becomes the popular avenue for supporting whatever claims are being made. With enough attention, a poll’s climate claim morphs into “settled science.”

What to do about climate change is a moral question

Finally, what to do about climate change is not a scientific question; it is a moral question: Is there value in enhancing the quality and length of human life?

If one believes greenhouse gases will cause terrible climate problems, then stopping their release from sources of carbon-burning energy means energy costs will skyrocket.

However, the length and quality of human life is directly proportional to the availability of affordable energy, which today is about 85 percent carbon-based. The truth is, carbon emissions will continue to rise no matter what the U.S. does, because most of the world has already answered the real question — that argument is settled.  …

I’d rather see my five grandchildren have the opportunity to accumulate wealth, enabled by affordable energy, rather than be made poorer and thus less able to face whatever vagaries the world and the climate might throw at them in the future.

Peter Zeller is Director of Operations at Center of the American Experiment.

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