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Right Hooks

Unknown Climate Cause and Effect

When it comes to predicting climate, computer models are not gospel. They're as good as the data they're given.

Jordan Candler · Apr. 10, 2017

Climate curmudgeons claim there exists a near-perfect CO2-temperature relationship. They lecture that “the science is settled.” But it’s impossible to honestly say that the science is settled when absolute proof regarding carbon dioxide’s effects on temperature doesn’t exist. In a new paper published at the Hoover Institution, “Flawed Climate Models,” David R. Henderson and Charles L. Hooper explain in detail the widening divide regarding scientific proof.

As Henderson and Hooper point out, “[A] hypothesis is just that. We have virtually no ability to run controlled experiments, such as raising and lowering CO2 levels in the atmosphere and measuring the resulting change in temperatures.” In the field of science, that’s a critical problem. And what scientists are left with instead are extrapolations that are interpreted through the lens of computer models. “The problem,” the authors contend, “is that these models have serious limitations that drastically limit their value in making predictions and in guiding policy.” They narrow these flaws down to three primary obstacles: measurement error, solar energy and cloud imprecisions.

Concerning the first issue, they quote Stanford scientist Patrick Frank, who in 2011, according to Henderson and Hooper, revealed that “temperatures recorded by weather stations have been incorrectly handled. Temperature readings, he finds, have errors over twice as large as generally recognized. … The error bars are wider than the measured increase. It looks as if there’s an upward temperature trend, but we can’t tell definitively.”

On solar energy, they continue, “The sun’s energy that reaches the Earth’s atmosphere provides 342 Wm–2 — an average of day and night, poles and equator — keeping it warm enough for us to thrive. The estimated extra energy from excess CO2 — the annual anthropogenic greenhouse gas contribution — is far smaller, according to Frank, at 0.036 Wm–2, or 0.01 percent of the sun’s energy. If our estimate of the sun’s energy were off by more than 0.01 percent, that error would swamp the estimated extra energy from excess CO2.”

Then there are clouds. Write Henderson and Hooper: “Why are clouds hard to model? They are amorphous; they reside at different altitudes and are layered on top of each other, making them hard to discern; they aren’t solid; they come in many different types; and scientists don’t fully understand how they form. As a result, clouds are modeled poorly. … If our climate model’s calculation of clouds were off by just 0.9 percent … that error would swamp the estimated extra energy from excess CO2. The total combined errors in our climate model are estimated be about 150 Wm–2, which is over 4,000 times as large as the estimated annual extra energy from higher CO2 concentrations.”

The full article goes into even more detail on the unknown climate cause and effect and is well worth your time. But the bottom line is that global warming, though real, has not matched the modeled projections. Not even close. And the consequences of blindly making policy decisions does a great disservice to society.

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