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Climate Cultists

Has the desperate global warming crusade reached its Waterloo?

Jun 16, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 38 • By STEVEN F. HAYWARD
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The IPCC modeling chapter, which virtually no reporter reads, is also candid in admitting that most of the models have overpredicted recent warming. The 17-years-and-counting plateau in global average temperature, following two decades of a nearly 0.4 degree increase in temperature that boosted the warming narrative for a time, is the biggest embarrassment for a supposed scientific “consensus” since Piltdown Man. The basic theory says we’re supposed to continue warming at about 0.2 degrees Celsius per decade, but since the late 1990s we’ve stopped. In one of the infamous emails revealed in the East Anglia “climategate” scandal of 2009, Kevin Trenberth, a prominent climate scientist, called it a “travesty” that scientists couldn’t give a good reason for the pause. They’ve been scrambling ever since, offering a variety of explanations, but none of them can minimize the fact that nearly all of the models failed to predict a “pause” of this length, and if the “pause” continues for another 5 to 10 years, all of the models will be falsified.

Where is the missing heat? The climateers are certain it is going into the deep ocean, and while this is a plausible theory, we have very little data to substantiate the hypothesis, and still less understanding of how this might play out in the future if it is happening. If the El Niño (warmer than average surface temperatures in the Pacific) predicted for this coming year is as big as some current data suggest, we may well see a global temperature spike commensurate with the El Niño-related spike of 1998. The specific effects of high El Niño years are hard to predict, but if there is an El Niño-related spike next year, you can be sure the climate campaigners will loudly proclaim that “the pause is over!” But this would obfuscate rather than clarify the reasons for the pause. Other explanations for the pause include western Pacific wind patterns, aerosols, and solar variation. (This last explanation is ironic, since the climateers have been adamant up to now that solar variation plays very little role in climate change.) Some or all of these may be factors, but the difficulty the climate community is having provides reason to doubt their grasp of a matter we are consistently assured is “settled.”

The temperature plateau and the persistent limitations and errors of the computer models strongly suggest the kind of “anomalies” that Thomas Kuhn famously explained should constitute a crisis for dominant scientific theories. What’s more, several papers recently published in the peer-reviewed literature conclude climate sensitivity is much lower than previously thought, making the problem of climate change much less likely to be catastrophic and more likely to be easily managed. But with the notable exceptions of the Economist and straight-shooting New York Times science blogger Andrew Revkin, these heterodox findings, which have steadily eroded the catastrophic climate change narrative, have received almost no media attention.

Despite all this, there has been not even the hint of a second thought from the climateers, nor any reflection that their opinions or strategies could bear some modification. The environmental community is so deeply invested in looming catastrophe that it’s difficult to envision a scientific result that would alter their cult-like bearing. Rather than reflect, they deflect, blaming the Koch brothers, the fossil fuel industry, and Republican “climate deniers” for their lack of political progress. Yet organized opposition to climate change fanaticism is tiny compared with the swollen staffs and huge marketing budgets of the major environmental organizations, not to mention the government agencies around the world that have thrown in with them on the issue. The main energy trade associations seldom speak up about climate science controversies. The major conservative think tanks have no climate change programs to speak of. The Cato Institute devotes just two people to the issue. The main opposition to climate fanaticism is confined to the Heartland Institute, the London-based Global Warming Policy Foundation, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and a scattering of relentless bloggers who have acquired surprisingly large readerships. That’s it. These are boutique operations next to the environmental establishment: The total budgets for all of these efforts would probably not add up to a month’s spending by just the Sierra Club. And yet we are to believe that this comparatively small effort has kept the climate change agenda at bay. It certainly keeps climateers in an uproar.

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