Right Opinion

Badgering Badgers on Climate Change

Cornwall Alliance · Nov. 18, 2017

By E. Calvin Beisner

The Cap Times in Madison, Wisconsin, recently ran an article titled “Climate change is here: Wisconsin is seeing earlier springs, later falls, less snow and more floods,” to which a Badger state resident called our attention.

It’s typical climate alarmist propaganda, and it bemoans what it considers the ignorance, or worse, of those who disagree:

“There are still people who refuse to see what the vast majority of scientists consider self-evident. The president has called climate change a Chinese hoax. The governor’s chief environmental agency, the Department of Natural Resources, has eliminated climate research, disbanded its science bureau and scrubbed all mention of climate change from its website. The agency’s communications director didn’t respond to a Cap Times request for an interview on the subject.”

“Badger State folks have a front-row seat to the effects of global warming,” the article continues. It then discusses rising temperatures and predictions of “earlier springs, later falls, less snow, less lake ice, more floods, more drought, more algae” as well as “more heat.”

The article begins by referring to a map taken from a U.S. Department of Agriculture report on “plant hardiness” for the state: “The new map marked a sea change. … The new map extended the state’s warmest zone — with temperatures bottoming out at minus 10 to minus 15 degrees — from two small pockets clinging to the Lake Michigan coast near Manitowoc and Milwaukee to a swath that runs from the Illinois border up the coast to the tip of Door County. Madison, which used to be the westernmost point of the next warmest zone — with coldest temperatures bottoming out at minus 20 to minus 15 degrees — is now squarely in the middle. The coldest zone — minus 35 to minus 40 degrees — has fallen completely off of the map.”

Although in an agricultural state, you’d think this would be celebrated as great news, the article treats this news as catastrophe coming ‘round the corner.

Well, what’s to be said? How do we respond?

The first and most important point to make about that article is simply that it uses a sleight of hand typical of many climate alarmists. It speaks of “climate change” with the tacit assumption that it’s primarily human-induced. But changes in temperature — upward and downward — have happened throughout Earth’s history, long before any human activity could conceivably have contributed anything significant to them.

The second is that it considers only a relatively short period in Wisconsin’s climate history. Had it gone back, via proxy measures, to the Medieval Warm Period, the Roman Warm Period, the Minoan Warm Period, or especially the Holocene Climate Optimum, it would have found Wisconsin’s climate equally warm or warmer.

A third failure in the article is to focus on negative consequences of Wisconsin’s warming while ignoring positive consequences. Earlier annual thaw and later annual freeze mean longer growing seasons; fewer cold snaps mean fewer temperature-related deaths (because cold snaps kill 10 times as many per day as heat waves); and increasing precipitation raises crop yields.

Those are fairly broad problems with the article. Now for a few more technical, narrower matters.

“One of the many findings was the 1.1-degree statewide temperature increase between 1950 and 2006,” the article reports. “Scientists expect the average statewide temperature to rise by another 6 or 7 degrees by mid-century, and possibly as much as 9 degrees. Even discounting the worst-case scenario, that’s an acceleration over the increase between 1950 and 2006 by a factor of about eight.”

The rate of rise reported for 1950–2006 was 0.196 degrees per decade. To rise by 6 degrees by mid-century would require a decadal rate of 1.875 degrees ([6/32]*10), which is not eight but nine times the prior rate — and that’s just for the lowest number they present. So their math is a little off. For the highest, 9 degrees by mid-century, the decadal rate would have to be 2.8125 degrees, which is 14.35 times the prior rate.

But the really crucial question is, what basis have they for projecting that the rate of rise will increase by a factor of 9 to 14.35 times? Well, granted that we’re talking about the future, the only possible basis is computer modeling. Two problems then arise.

First, the computer global climate models have consistently predicted two to three times as much warming as actually observed, so it would make sense to adjust their projections of future warming downward by one-half to two-thirds, i.e., from “6 or 7 degrees by mid-century, and possibly as much as 9 degrees,” to “2 or 3, or 2.33 or 3.5 degrees by mid-century, and possibly as much as 3 to 4.5 degrees.”

Those would still indicate an increase in the decadal rate by a factor of 3.19 to 6.78 times instead of 9 to 14.35 times. What could justify the prediction of such an increase in the rate? Again, we’re left with only the computer models.

But, as the comparison between observed and predicted warming rates shows, the models haven’t been validated (a charitable way of putting it), and another important difference between predictions and observations pushes us hard toward the conclusion that the models are invalidated. What’s that?

It’s the fact that none of the models predicted the complete absence of statistically significant increase in global average temperature from early 1997 to late 2015, a period of roughly 18 years and nine months and typically called simply “the pause,” while various modelers had said in the late 2000s and early 2010s that a period of no statistically significant warming lasting eight or more years couldn’t be reconciled with the models.

Even more important, the computer models’ predictions, inflated as they have been, and as wrong as they were about the pause, predict that warming (two to three times observed) to be driven 100% by human activity, none at all by natural. But there are two problems with that assumption.

The first is that the fact of past warming in the absence of the alleged human causes demonstrates that we can’t be sure a priori that human activity drove all the observed warming.

The second is that recent research by John Christy, Joseph D'Aleo, and James Wallace finds that if you control for solar, volcanic, and ocean current (especially El Niño/La Niña Southern Oscillation), no warming is left to blame on human activity.

The article also assumes that the warming predicted will be harmful to people — e.g., in the discussion of heart waves. But, as I pointed out above, cold snaps kill 10 times as many people per day as heat waves, which implies that with warming you’ll get a reduction in temperature-related deaths. Further, simply looking at migration patterns for temperature-sensitive people — primarily the aged — tells you they recognize that they’re healthier in warmer than in colder climates. They move closer to the equator, not farther from it.

In short, insofar as the article, and the research on which it’s based, is intended to persuade people that we should “do something” to prevent the feared warming, and insofar as we can only “do something” about the human causes of it, not about natural causes, both the article and the research paper commit the post hoc fallacy. Seeing that some warming has occurred, and predicting that more warming will occur, they jump to the conclusion that it must be caused by human activity. But there are other possible causes, they can’t be ruled out, and the Christy-D'Aleo-Wallace research makes it quite likely that natural causes far outweigh human causes.

Republished from Cornwall Alliance.

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