Archive for the 'Global warming' Category

Published by paulmacrae on 25 Jun 2014

University of Victoria petition based on misinformation

The following is an opinion article sent to the Victoria Times Colonist on March 14, 2014. It was initially rejected by the TC’s editorial page editors (as have all my opeds over the past few years, even though I used to work there on the editorial page), then accepted, a month later, by the editor. By that time the issue was stale and I didn’t resubmit. I’m told the TC is now more willing to accept opinion articles from climate skeptics than it has been in the past, and I hope skeptics will begin to submit opinion articles critical of the “consensus”.

A student-led open letter to the University of Victoria is asking the university to divest itself of its fossil-fuel investments. “The science is clear,” the letter says. “Anthropogenic carbon emissions are causing rapid climate change worldwide.”

This is a bad idea for many reasons, but here are four reasons why the university should reject this proposal.

1. For a start, the student letter is based on inaccurate information. “Rapid climate change” is currently not happening worldwide, and hasn’t for at least the past 15 years. Even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) acknowledges the reduced rate of warming in its latest report: “The rate of warming over the past 15 years (1998–2012; 0.05°C per decade) … is smaller than the rate calculated since 1951 (1951–2012; 0.12 °C per decade).”[1]

That is, the actual, observed warming over the past 15 years, far from being “rapid,” is less than half of the warming trend from 1951. And 0.05°C of warming is so small it can only be detected by instruments. Continue Reading »

Published by paulmacrae on 10 Aug 2013

University of Victoria promotes climate alarmism

University of Victoria home page raises fears of runaway greenhouse

“Runaway greenhouse easier than previously thought,” shouts a headline on the University of Victoria home page in August. A sidebar headline asks: “Is Earth the next Venus?” With pictures of belching smokestacks, the clear implication is that human carbon emissions are going to create this runaway greenhouse.

The home page text reads: “UVic researcher Colin Goldblatt (School of Earth and Ocean Sciences) has found that the amount of solar energy the Earth now receives could trigger the greenhouse effect, where the planet would be sterilized and left with an atmosphere like that of Venus.” Scary!

Under a “Read More” link is short summary of Dr. Goldblatt’s research paper, published in Nature Geoscience. While the headline this time is more restrained—“Runaway greenhouse effect possible but difficult”—the first paragraph rather breathlessly announces that a runaway greenhouse effect would be “easier” to trigger than was previously believed. Yikes!

The last paragraph in the summary notes, however, that while a “sterilized” Earth could occur, it would take “10 times more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to trigger this than burning all of Earth’s fossil fuels—every bit of coal, oil and gas that exists—would give.”

In other words, if Dr. Goldblatt’s figures are correct, the possibility of a runaway greenhouse is extremely unlikely, the chances of a runaway greenhouse due to human carbon emissions are non-existent, and the UVic website’s main headline is seriously misleading and unnecessarily alarmist.

Elsewhere in UVic’s E&OS department, climate modeler Dr. Andrew Weaver has claimed that, even if we stabilize CO­­­­2 levels at 2006 levels, global warming could continue “unbounded” for centuries—i.e., a runaway greenhouse (Keeping Our Cool: Canada in a Warming World, p. 84).

One view or the other is wrong—no “consensus” here, apparently!—and my bets go with Dr. Goldblatt. Meanwhile, it’s sad to see the University of Victoria promoting global-warming scare stories that have no foundation in fact simply because these scares bring in research funding.

Published by paulmacrae on 20 Jul 2012

Back to the Future: Paradise Lost, or Paradise Regained?

By Paul MacRae

In June, a NASA climate study announced that the warm middle Miocene era, about 16 million years ago, had carbon dioxide levels of 400 to 600 parts per million. The coasts of Antarctica were ice-free in summer, with summer temperatures 11° Celsius warmer than today. The study concluded that today’s CO2 level of 393 ppm was the highest, therefore, in millions of years, and could go to Miocene levels by the end of the century[1]. It was implied, although not directly stated, that readers should react with horror.

A UCLA team, writing in Science, had already pushed the Miocene button in 2009, claiming: “The last time carbon dioxide levels were apparently as high as they are today [15 million years ago, again the mid-Miocene]—and were sustained at those levels—global temperatures were 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit 1 higher than they are today, the sea level was approximately 75 to 120 feet higher than today, there was no permanent sea ice cap in the Arctic and very little ice on Antarctica and Greenland.”[2] Back to the Miocene! Scary!

James Hansen, the alarmist head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), regularly refers to past eras as a warning of the climate catastrophes that could occur today. For example, in 2011 Hansen warned: “[An increase of] two degrees Celsius is guaranteed disaster…. It is equivalent to the early Pliocene epoch [between 5.5 and 2.5 million years ago] when the sea level was 25m (75 feet) higher.” [4] Back to the early Pliocene! Horror!

And, in testimony to the U.S. government: “The Earth was much warmer than today in the early Cenozoic [which began 65 million years ago]. In fact it was so warm that there were no ice sheets on the planet and sea level was about 75 meters (250 feet) higher.” [5] Heavens! The planet could revert to the age of dinosaurs! (Hansen didn’t mention that sea levels today are 120 metres—almost 400 feet—higher than they were a mere 15,000 years ago, without creating a catastrophe.)

If we don’t curb our carbon-emitting ways, the alarmists warn, we face “increasingly radical temperature changes, a worldwide upsurge in violent weather events, widespread drought, flooding, wildfires, famine, species extinction, rising sea levels, mass migration, and epidemic disease that will leave no country untouched.” [7] The only catastrophe not mentioned here is “acidification” (i.e., a slight decrease in alkalinity) of the oceans.

If a warmer, more CO2-rich world would be hell in the future, it logically must have been hell in the past, too, when global temperatures were much warmer and carbon dioxide levels much higher. How could anything live, for example, in those “acidified” oceans of the Miocene? At least, this is what alarmist climate scientists like Hansen want the public to believe.

An Eocene ‘paradise’

Curiously, while alarmists warn about the horrors of returning to the climate of millions of years ago, paleoclimatologists tell a different story. They more often see our earlier planet as a “paradise,” even “paradise lost.” Continue Reading »

  1. 7-5.5°C

Published by paulmacrae on 01 May 2012

Alarmist climate science as a textbook example of groupthink

By Paul MacRae

A while ago, I received an email from a friend who asked:

How can many, many respected, competitive, independent science folks be so wrong about [global warming] (if your [skeptical] premise is correct). I don’t think it could be a conspiracy, or incompetence. …  Has there ever been another case when so many ‘leading’ scientific minds got it so wrong?

The answer to the second part of my friend’s question—“Has there ever been another case where so many ‘leading’ scientific minds got it so wrong?”—is easy. Yes, there are many such cases, both within and outside climate science. In fact, the graveyard of science is littered with the bones of theories that were once thought “certain” (e.g., that the continents can’t “drift,” that Newton’s laws were immutable, and hundreds if not thousands of others). Science progresses by the overturning of theories once thought “certain.”

And so, Carl Sagan has written: “Even a succession of professional scientists—including famous astronomers who had made other discoveries that are confirmed and now justly celebrated—can make serious, even profound errors in pattern recognition.”[1] There is no reason to believe that climate scientists (alarmist or skeptic) are exempt from this possibility.

That leaves the first question, which is how so many “respected, competitive, independent science folks [could] be so wrong” about the causes and dangers of global warming, assuming they are wrong. And here, I confess that after five years of research into climate fears, this question still baffles me.

 Climate certainty is baffling

It is not baffling that so many scientists believe humanity might be to blame for global warming. If carbon dioxide causes warming, additional CO2 should produce additional warming. But it’s baffling that alarmist climate scientists are so certain that additional carbon dioxide will produce a climate disaster, even though there is little empirical evidence to support this view, and much evidence against it, including a decade of non-warming. This dogmatism makes it clear, at least to those outside the alarmist climate paradigm, that something is very wrong with the state of “consensus” climate science.

There are many possible reasons for this scientific blindness, including sheer financial and career self-interest: scientists who don’t accept the alarmist paradigm will lose research grants and career doors will be closed to them. But one psychological diagnosis fits alarmist climate science like a glove: groupthink. With groupthink, we get the best explanation of “how can many, many respected, competitive, independent science folks be so wrong.” Continue Reading »

Published by on 15 Jun 2008

The making of a climate skeptic

Paul MacRae, June 15, 2008

How is it possible for a theory, which is false in its component parts, to be true as a whole?

— Jean Francois Revel, Neither Marx nor Jesus, p. 15

After reading some of the False Alarm website, which criticizes the scientific “consensus” that humans are the principal cause of global warming, a friend sent me an email the other day that read, in part:

How can many, many respected, competitive, independent science folks be so wrong about this (if your premise is correct)?  I don’t think it could be a conspiracy, or incompetence…  Has there ever been another case when so many “leading” scientific minds got it so wrong?

This is a really good question. I’m not a climate scientist (but, then, neither is Al Gore); I’m an ex-journalist, now an academic. I teach professional writing. How dare I claim to know more than, say, the 2,000 or so scientists who contribute to the reports of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)? These are the experts, after all, and they say that humans are the principal cause of global warming at the moment. How could the experts possibly be wrong?

Continue Reading »