BY LARRY BELL | SEPTEMBER 25, 2013
Sermonizing at the church of the burning planet
Bummer! Now, just as members of the UN's Church of the Burning Planet are scheduled to finalize their latest hellfire and brimstone sermon, a chilling development has occurred. A flood of blasphemous reports circulated among ranks of former faithful parishioners are challenging human-caused climate crisis theology.
From September 23 through 26, representatives of the world's Environment Ministries are meeting in Stockholm to agree on the final draft of a key portion of the gospel of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Summary for Policymakers — which is expected, once again, to keep the political climate cauldron steaming. This Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) is intended to be used by international ministers working to devise a new global treaty by 2015 to curb "climate change."
That goal is certainly no trifle, given that dramatic climate changes have been occurring over many millions of years, although lately…not so much. Therein lays the big rub. How can ministers conjure up a newsworthy sequel to previous knuckle-biting prognostications when all evidence suggests the prophesies, and the scriptures they were based upon, were proven wrong?
Remember that really scary "hockey stick" graph IPCC used to show that rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations would send global temperatures soaring? And recall all the ballyhoo about CO2 levels reaching a 400 ppm record high? Yet last February even IPCC's chairman Rajenda Pachuri admitted that world temperature data has been flat for the past 17 years. And that was after the British media reported the UK Met Office was projecting a 20-year standstill in global warming by 2017.
You certainly know the jig is up when the New York Times finally recognizes that the feverish climate fervor is overheated. They reported on June 6, "The rise in the surface temperature of Earth has been markedly slower over the last 15 years than in the 20 years before that. And that lull in warming has occurred even as greenhouse gases have accumulated in the atmosphere at a record pace." Reporter Justin Gillis went on to admit the break in temperature increases "highlights important gaps in our knowledge of the climate system," whereby the lack of warming "is a bit of a mystery to climate scientists."
Where, oh where, has global warming gone?
One highly plausible answer to this mystery is that the climate models upon which IPCC's failed projections are based exaggerate climate sensitivity to CO2, underestimate known natural forcings, and simply don't understand how to factor in and calibrate other influences such as ocean cycles and solar activity. Numerous recent scientific papers suggest overestimation of sensitivity by at least 30 percent may account for much of the problem. If so, a reduction of 30 percent would leave lots of missing heat which must have been offset by natural cooling.
After all, the importance of those natural influences shouldn't be that surprising given history shows temperatures have been higher when CO2 levels were lower, and vise versa. In fact, the past century has witnessed two generally accepted periods of warming. The first occurred between 1900 and 1945. Since CO2 levels were relatively low then compared with now, and didn't change much, they couldn't have been the cause before 1950.
The second possible very small warming, following a slight cool-down, may have begun in the late 1970s lasting until 1998, a strong Pacific Ocean El Niño year. Yet even if global temperatures actually did rise very slightly during that second period, the U.K. Hadley Center and U.S. NOAA balloon instrument analyses fail to show any evidence, whatsoever, of a human CO2 emission-influenced warming telltale "signature" in the upper troposphere over the equator as predicted by all IPCC global circulation models. In fact, about half of all estimated warming since 1900 occurred before the mid-1940s despite continuously rising CO2 levels since that time.
So maybe the models are broke…not the climate after all!
According to a recent Opinion & Comment piece titled "Overestimating global warming over the past 20 years" that appeared in Nature Climate Change, the model-based fear and loathing attached to global warming may be substantially overheated. Notably, Francis W. Zwiers, one of the three authors, is a vice-chair of this relevant section for AR5. The writers observe that whereas the global mean temperature over the past 20 years (1993-2012) rose at a rate of between about 0.14°–0.06° C per decade, average temperatures computed by 117 simulations of 37 climate models predicted a surface temperature rise of 0.30°-0.02° C per decade. The observed rate of warming was less than half of the simulated rate.
The inconsistency between observed and simulated warming was even greater over the past 15 years (between 1998 and 2012). Here the observed trend was 0.05°-0.08° C per decade, vs. the average simulated trend of 0.21°-0.03° C. The observed trend was four times smaller. The divergence began in the early 1990s. Accordingly, evidence indicates that the group of model simulations do not reproduce observed global warming over the past 20 years, or the slowdown over the past 15 years.
Since 2003 when the trend reached close to a predicted 0.2° C /decade peak, the trends have been waning strongly. The measured trend was lower in 2013 than 2008, which was, in turn, lower than in 2003.
As well-known climate scientist Judith Curry points out, the selection of 20 years was prudent because it gets away from the "cherry-picking" criticism of starting with 1997 or 1998, a big El Niño period. It also includes a big jump that occurred from 1993-1998.
"The ocean ate my global temperatures"
Kevin Trenberth theorizes that missing heat takes a dive into deep oceans. "The oceans can at times soak up a lot of heat. Some goes into the deep oceans where it can stay for centuries [and where lamentably, there are no reliable temperature measurements]. But heat absorbed closer to the surface can easily flow back into the air." Yet sea surface temperatures and the upper heat content didn't increase over the last decade by enough to account for the "missing heat" that those greenhouse gas emissions should have trapped in the Earth's climate system but couldn't be found.
And how have they arrived at this hypothesis? Well, perhaps you already guessed the answer. Of course! They developed some hypothetical, unproven guess-work models.
Climate as religion…imposing penance for prosperity
Atmospheric physicist and Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at MIT, Richard Lindzen, posted an article in the fall 2013 issue of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons characterizing global warming as an alarmist religion. Furthermore, he accuses alarmist orthodoxy of adjusting both data and theory to accommodate politically correct positions that are costly to society.
Scientists who give in to this temptation make meaningless claims; activists for certain causes supported by those claims pull political strings; and the scientists, in turn, are rewarded with more research funding. The result is an "Iron Triangle" of destructively twisted science incentives. Lindzen remarks, "A surprisingly large number of people seem to have concluded all that gives meaning to their lives is the belief they are saving the planet by paying attention to their carbon footprint."
Global warming (aka "climate change") has thus become a religious mantra, a call for action in a crusade against larger evils we have perpetrated against nature and punishment for our sins. Author Michael Crichton articulated the essence of this creed in a 2003 speech whereby: "There's an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with Nature; there's a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result from eating from the tree of knowledge; and as a result of our actions, there is a judgment day coming for all of us. We are energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability is salvation in the Church of the Environment, just as organic food is its communion, that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs imbibe."
What will IPCC's high priests ordain next?
Daunting pressure befalls those scores of IPCC representatives in Stockholm who must wordsmith and dumb down a final summary of climate conclusions that will once again garner world-shaking attention. Their previous reports will provide tough acts to follow in the alarm department. For example:
The IPCC's 2001 Summary for Policymakers Report (TAR) stated: "Most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations."
The IPCC's 2007 report (4AR) said: "Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations."
And now, a leaked draft of the new 2013 (5AR) is expected to conclude: "It is extremely likely that human influence on climate caused more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010."
And there you have it! Whereas they were previously only very likely sure that we humans contributed to global warming 6 years ago, now that there hasn't been any warming for nearly three times that long they are expected to be extremely sure. Also, never mind that the latest 10-year period (2003-12) is the coolest decade since satellite records began in 1979.
Assuming that they're likely to be extremely sure that despite flat temperatures we're still at fault, what do you plan to do about it? If continued guilt about your carbon footprint is prompting you to consider trading in your CO2-belching SUV for a bicycle, remember that you'll still exhale between 0.7 and 0.9 kg of carbon dioxide daily just being alive. So if you're waiting for IPCC to cut you any slack…don't hold your breath.
Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) Advisor Larry Bell heads the graduate program in space architecture at the University of Houston. He founded and directs the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture. He is also the author of "Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax."