Global Warming and Real Science

The science is settled, the debate is over!  So say some prominent politicians, government bureaucrats, and a handful of so-called scientists who push the notion of a global climate that is warming rapidly and uncontrollably with time.  The problem according to the “warmers” (those who espouse this idea) is the increased concentration in the atmosphere of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases that are produced by the burning of fossil fuels, namely oil, natural gas, and coal.  And they further assert that the temperature increases are certain to do irreparable harm to the planet and all of its inhabitants human and otherwise going so far as to call the imagined problem a “weapon of mass destruction.”  Because of its alleged seriousness, the “warmers” claim the problem must be countered by all means at our disposal.  And it must be done – now – through the application of draconian measures to control or even eliminate use of the offending compounds.  And it must be done even if that means putting perhaps the greatest economy in the world at serious risk – maybe even in jeopardy of failure while totally ignoring the contributions of the greatest climate offender, China.

The “warmers” purport to show that the observed small increase of global temperatures during much of the second half of the 20th century, a period during which fossil fuel exploitation was intense, is highly correlated with a contemporaneous increase in the concentration of atmospheric CO2.  They apparently draw from the CO2/temperature correlation a cause-effect relationship, which is that the increased temperature is a direct result of increased CO2 concentration.  But any credible scientist knows that while there certainly is a probability that such a relationship may exist, the level of probability that can be deduced from the existing data definitely is far from perfect, i.e. the data do not establish the relationship unequivocally.  A further complication to the “warmer’s” problem is that for the last one and one-half decades, global temperatures have been relatively steady, that is unchanging, while atmospheric concentration of CO2 has continued to rise at a more or less constant rate.  The failure of atmospheric temperature to rise despite a continuing increase of CO2 during that most recent time period indicates that other bio-physical factors in addition to CO2 concentration can also influence global temperature and indeed may be the primary driver of any perceived temperature changes.  An additional critical factor that comes immediately to mind is the cyclicity of solar activity and the many obvious ways that the Sun’s variability affects the Earth’s atmosphere.  Unfortunately additional factors have not yet been addressed in any meaningful way by the “warmers” – and probably never will be as to do so would be an implicit rejection of the notion of a settled science.  The failure of the “warmers” to establish a quantifiable and irrefutable cause/effect relationship between CO2 concentration and global temperature increases plus the leveling off of the temperature curve during the past fifteen or so years are indications that man-forced warming of the planet is far from unequivocal and the science that controls the perceived problem is far from settled.  And if further convincing is needed you might want to consider the opinions of more than 30,000 scientists, approximately 30 percent of whom have Ph.Ds, who have signed on to the Global Warming Petition Project in which they attest to the following:    

 “There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate.  Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.”

 From these few simple but straightforward facts it is clear that with the man-caused global warming controversy as with other contentious complex natural phenomena amenable to description by science principles, the debate is far from over.  In fact it is just beginning.

Charles E. Adams, Jr., Ph.D.

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