Appendix-A: The Scientific Debate
This discussion is positioned, as an appendix, outside the main body of discussion because the opinions being referenced do not necessarily align with the duty of inquiry undertaken by the Mysearch website. However, while it has been stated that this inquiry into various aspects of the climate change debate carries no weight of authority, it has raised some concerns about the polarisation of the debate and the apparent dependency on climate models to support its mainstream conclusions.
However, let us start with the assumption that we, the public, are actually being asked to consider the pros and cons of the climate change debate.
What would we need to do?
Well, we might realise that we would have to review a considerable amount of information that is available to us, covering both sides of the debate. However, while this might sound like a reasonable approach, the truth is that most people are too busy with all life’s other priorities to invest the time necessary to investigate the wide scope of issues surrounding this complex subject in any detail. As such, public opinion is often based on mainstream presentations of the climate change debate, possibly in the form of Al Gore’s 2006 documentary entitled ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, which references the much publicised ‘Hockey Stick’ graph. Of course, since that time, we have also been told that there is a 95% consensus of scientists who now agree with the IPCC’s position on climate change, i.e. man-made global warming is real and dangerous to us and the future of our children. Finally, and more recently, even President Obama has stated that:
“The debate is settled. Climate change is a fact.”
Based on this weight of authority many people will simply go along with the apparent overwhelming consensus without necessarily knowing about any counter-claims, which do exist. Of course, whether any of the counter-claims are true is another issue and possibly one even more problematic for the general public to trust, especially if sourced by people and organisations they know nothing about.
Note: While Barack Obama and Al Gore are names recognised by the public, we might realise that they are not climate scientists, they were politicians. We might also question, who exactly is represented by the 95% consensus, what is their weight of authority, do they have any vested interests in pursuing the IPCC model.
So, what people may not necessarily appreciate when first exposed to the climate change debate is that both sides accept that ‘climate change is a fact’ and only disagree on the scope of the many climate change mechanisms that may influence the future direction and severity of climate change. Therefore, this appendix simply attempts to provide references to the other side of this debate, even though we been told that there is nothing more to discuss.
Note: One of the most worrying implications of the polarisation of the climate debate might be considered in terms of the U.S. Attorney General discussing the possibility of pursuing civil actions against so-called ‘climate change deniers’ and referring the issue to the FBI to determine whether or not it meets the criteria for which action might be pursued. The very fact that a high ranking public official might even be considering the legality of investigating or prosecuting anyone over a scientific theory is very worrying on so many levels that we might fear some analogy with the historic persecution of Galileo for disagreeing with the consensus of his time.
While this appendix will be biased towards the counter-arguments of climate change, the links above provide reference to the mainstream consensus, while further information is easy to find on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) website or via Wikipedia discussion of climate change. T. Therefore, the rest of this appendix will attempt to provide references to the counter-arguments and while some attempt has been made to only link to reputable websites, where the opinions of climate scientists with acknowledged credentials are discussed; the reader is still urged to question the claims made on this side of the argument as much as the other side. The first references below link are two YouTube videos, which might provide a reasonable starting point for anybody wanting to get an initial overview of the counter-arguments.
Note: The participants in the video are all respected scientists, who are working in various fields associated with climate change, such that their opinion might be considered to carry some weight of authority, i.e. Nir Shaviv , Paul Reiter , Philip Stott , Richard Lindzen , Patrick Moore , Roy Spencer , John Christy , Nigel Calder , Patrick Michaels , Carl Wunsch , Eigil Friis Christensen , Piers Corbyn . This list of names is also extended in Appendix-B.
The next link is a 2014 article published by scientist Steven Koonin in the Wall Street Journal entitled ‘Climate Science Is Not Settled’ , which suggests that we still do not have all the necessary knowledge needed to form a sensible global climate policy. For those who may wish to initially know more about Global Climate Models and Their Limitations , t, this article provides a reasonably detailed summary that goes on to discuss, model simulation and forecasting, modelling techniques, elements of climate changes and large-scale phenomena.
So, what about the wider technical arguments?
The next set of references widens the discussion to further consider the role of solar activity on Earth’s climate. The first reference is a web-based article by meteorologist Paul Dorian on solar activity in 2016, which appears to be a reasonable and balanced introduction of some of the key issues of concern. The reader might then want to consider an article by Henrik Svensmark entitled ‘The response of clouds and aerosols to cosmic rays ’ , which was published in 2016 in the Journal of Geophysical Research and a 2015 presentation by Nir Shaviv entitled ‘The Sun’s Role in Climate Change’ . David Hathaway , who is an astrophysicist at NASA, has also produced an 87-page article entitled ‘The Solar Cycle' that appears to present an unbiased and detailed review of solar activity. Obviously, if solar activity in isolation can warm, or cool, the Earth's climate, then weather patterns and cloud coverage might also change; although it is not really known whether the resulting cloud changes would diminish the warming or enhance the warming, due to either negative and positive feedback mechanisms. Equally, it is not really understood whether the changes in cloud formation and coverage would increase or decrease precipitation and water supplies in given regions across the global, which might also change weather patterns.
Note: However, we need to draw a distinction between weather and climate along with climate change and the natural variability in the weather. Weather describes the current atmospheric conditions, such as rainfall, temperature, and wind speed, at a particular place and time., which can be subject to change on relatively short timescales.
In the diagram, we see the arrow of time moving to the right and incrementing in duration. In this context, climate change typically takes place over decades and centuries, while weather in the form of a rain storm might only last an hour or so, although severe storms, i.e. hurricanes, may last for days. Likewise, climate variability may be considered in terms of specific climate patterns such as the El-Nino effect in the Pacific Ocean. Therefore, some care is required when attempting to extrapolate shorter-term changes in the weather and climate variability as being a reflection of longer-term climate change. Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory works with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, such that we might assume they will support the mainstream consensus on climate change. However, they have produced a balanced assessment on hurricane activity in in which it is stated that:
“It is premature to conclude that human activities, and particularly greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming, have already had a detectable impact on Atlantic hurricane or global tropical cyclone activity.”
Likewise, a 2007 article entitled Counting Atlantic Tropical Cyclones Back to 1900 also provide some perspective on the scope that climate change may have already changed current weather patterns. While the link allows reference to the entire article, the following extract may provide an initial insight.
“Mann and Emanuel  used this data set to find a positive correlation between sea surface temperatures and Atlantic basin tropical cyclone frequency for the period of 1871–2005. Likewise, Holland and Webster  analysed Atlantic tropical cyclone frequency back to 1855 and found a doubling of the number of tropical cyclones over the past 100 years. Both papers linked these changes directly to anthropogenic greenhouse warming. However, both analyses, with no indication of uncertainty or error bars, presumed that tropical cyclone counts are complete or nearly complete for the entire basin going back in time for at least a century. This article will show that this presumption is not reasonable and that improved monitoring in recent years is responsible for most, if not all, of the observed trend in increasing frequency of tropical cyclones.”
As such, some care might be needed in simply assuming that any perceived changes in short-term weather patterns has to be attributed to global warming. While this statement is not intended to refute that some global warming has taken place over the last 100 years, the extent that it can be attributed to CO2 increases requires further consideration. As previous indicated, new research suggests that fluctuations in solar activity may also be linked to changes in temperature, possibly better than CO2 levels. This statement might be supported by another web-based article by Nir Shaviv entitled ‘Carbon Dioxide or Solar Forcing? ’. In a similar fashion some have questioned the correlation between climate change and sea-level in a 2012 article entitled ‘Twentieth-Century Global-Mean Sea Level Rise (GMSLR)’ that concludes:
“The reconstructions account for the observation that the rate of GMSLR was not much larger during the last 50 years than during the twentieth century as a whole, despite the increasing anthropogenic forcing. Semi-empirical methods for projecting GMSLR depend on the existence of a relationship between global climate change and the rate of GMSLR, but the implication of the authors’ closure of the budget is that such a relationship is weak or absent during the twentieth century”
At this point, the reader may like a break from reading too many articles and view another YouTube video entitled ‘Interview with Professor Richard Lindzen ’, who was Professor of Meteorology at MIT until he retired in 2013 and was a lead author of chapter-7 of the IPCC third assessment report on climate change. However, Lindzen criticized the assumed scientific consensus on climate change as long ago as 2008 in an article entitled ‘Climate Science: Is it currently designed to answer questions? ’
Note: A more recent report has been produced by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which covers the testimony given by four prominent climate scientists, i.e. Judith Curry, John Christy, Michael Mann and Roger Pielke, to a hearing of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology of the US House of Representatives in March 2017.
In 2013, Stefan Molyneux, who is not a climate scientist, produced a YouTube video entitled ‘Climate Change in 12 Minutes - The Skeptic's Case . While this appendix has try to avoid using material source by non-experts, the video might reflect the understandable confusion that may well linger in the mind of the general public, hence its inclusion. However, Judith Curry, who is a climatologist and former chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology gave a lecture in 2015 entitled ‘Climate Science and the Uncertainty Monster, the scope of which is summarised below:
“How to understand and reason about uncertainty in climate science is a topic that is receiving increasing attention in both the scientific and philosophical literature. This is one perspective on exploring ways to understand, assess and reason about uncertainty in climate science. Uncertainty associated with climate science and the science-policy interface presents unique challenges adding to the complexity of the climate system itself, the potential for adverse socio-economic impacts of climate change, and politicization of proposed policies to reduce societal vulnerability to climate change. The challenges to handling uncertainty at the science-policy interface are framed using the ‘monster’ metaphor, whereby attempts to tame the monster are described. Uncertainty of climate models is interpreted in the context of model inadequacy, uncertainty in model parameter values, and initial condition uncertainty. The challenges of building confidence in climate models are described. A concerted effort is needed to identify better ways of framing the climate change problem, explore and characterize uncertainty, reason about uncertainty in the context of evidence-based logical hierarchies, and eliminate bias from the consensus building process.”
Part of the certainty being questioned also concerns the role of solar variability on northern hemisphere temperature , which are often used to provide some of the initial parameters of various climate models or used as an accuracy reference for the output of these models. The paper referenced above is by Willie Soon, Ronan Connolly and Michael Connolly, where the following extract is taken from the conclusion section.
“One reason why the ‘hind-casts’ might have failed to accurately reproduce the temperature trends is that the solar forcing they used all implied relatively little solar variability. However, in this paper, we carried out a detailed review of the debate over solar variability, and revealed that considerable uncertainty remains over exactly how the Total Solar Irradiance (TSI) has varied since the 19th century. When we compared our new composite to one of the high solar variability reconstructions of Total Solar Irradiance, which was not considered by the CMIP5 hind-casts, we found a remarkably close fit. If the Hoyt & Schatten reconstruction and our new northern hemisphere temperature trend estimates are accurate, then it seems that most of the temperature trends since at least 1881 can be explained in terms of solar variability, with atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations providing at most a minor contribution. This contradicts the claim by the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that most of the temperature trends since the 1950s are due to changes in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations.”
While the references presenting the other side of the debate might be extended almost indefinitely, the examples covered might reasonably suggest that the debate is not over and much research work is still required before making energy policy decisions that might affect the lives of billions on a global scale.