Magicians and Climate Modelers

Magicians possess skills that make us want to believe that their illusions—pulling a rabbit out of hat, making someone disappear, or sawing them in half—are real. Climate modelers possess similar talents. They build elaborate and complex computer models that are used to forecast what the climate will be like decades in the future. The forecast is always gloomy and they and the climate establishment want us to believe that the forecasts are accurate..

Over the past 28 years, these models have been used to tell us that the globe’s temperature would increase more than 6 degrees C, that coastal areas and cities like New York and Washington DC would be underwater, and that there would be increases in extreme weather events like hurricanes. These forecasts have been consistently wrong and yet policy makers, the media, and climate advocates continue to push a message of doom because their real agenda is to increase central political power and to wage war on carbon.

This may seem like a harsh indictment but environmental zealots have been using computer model wizardry since the time of the Club of Rome, which also predicted doom–famine, the exhaustion of natural resources, and population growth that would outstrip the world’s capacity to sustain it. The forecasts of dread are wrong for at least three simple reasons—advances in technology, complexity that defies the ability to capture it in a model, and the “fatal conceit” of those who believe that they are smart enough to reduce a complex world to a mathematical model and develop policies for how the world should work and how we should live our lives.

The climate system is one of the most complex systems being studied. It is comprised of the atmosphere, oceans, ice, and land surface. Each of these components is comprised of complex, interconnected parts and workings that are not fully understood. Lack of understanding about these components and how they interact make it impossible to write the thousands of equations that are needed to construct an accurate climate model.

The International Panel on Climate Change in its most recent report lists 11 factors that contribute to warming—CO2, other greenhouse gases, aerosols, ozone, clouds, land use, water vapor, and solar effects. It then ranks the understanding of them from Very High to low. Of the 11, only 5, or 45%, are ranked as high or very high. Translating the uncertainty associated with these processes and other variables into the probability that models accurately represent how the climate system operates would show that it is quite small. For example, if a model contained just the 11 factors listed by the and the probability of each being correct was .75, which is a generous assumption, the probability of the model output being correct would be 0.04223513603210449. But, models have many more than 11 variables, which means that the probability that its output is correct is close to zero.

As demonstrated by Professor Ed Lorenz of MIT and the father of chaos theory, the climate system is chaotic—being non-linear where small changes can have large effects. Sensitivity to initial conditions, according to MIT’s Technology Review “has a profound corollary: forecasting the future can be nearly impossible.” Lorenz in his work reached the following conclusion, “In view of the inevitable inaccuracy and incompleteness of weather observations, precise very-long-range forecasting would seem to be nonexistent.”

There is only one reason why the climate establishment uses models as its foundation. To create illusions like magicians, so that their policy prescriptions and limits on fossil fuels appear justified to avoid catastrophe.



Bankrupt Advocacy

The Partnership for Responsible Growth, which should be renamed the Partnership for No Growth, in one of its latest Wall Street Journal ads asserts that “The Pentagon Sees Climate Change As A Serious National Security Threat”. It then asks, “Shouldn’t You”?

The answer to that question is NO!

The Pentagon has a long history of using some public concerns as a way to protect its budget and justify larger ones. In the 1960s, for example, in the midst of the Cold War, there was an annual spike in reports of Russian submarine sightings off the east coast around the time that Congress was considering the Navy’s budget. DOD embracing the so called climate threat is simply a case of emulating the logic of the infamous bank robber of the 1930s and 40s, Willie Sutton. When asked why he robbed banks, Sutton answered, “That’s where the money is”. Today, the money in this Administration is related to climate change.

Since President Obama has made climate change one of his top priorities—climate change expenditures have grown from $7.4 billion to over $21 billion–it is no surprise that DOD would latch on to it as a rationale to protect its budget, which has not fared well in recent years.

DOD’s case as cited by the Partnership has been independently reviewed a number of times and found wanting. Last year, the George C. Marshall Institute issued a report Connecting Climate and National Security that concluded:

The evidence in support of the claim that climate change will undermine U.S. national security is, at best, ambiguous and, most probably, non-existent. Dire scenarios of refugees crossing borders because of floods or civil war erupting out of famine-induced crises make for stimulating discussion, but assessments of the underlying propositions prove the scenarios unfounded. … Actual experience suggests none of the intervening conditions (droughts, floods, storms, famine, or refugees) contribute significantly to intrastate or international conflict. Indeed, some scholarship even shows that rather than creating conflict, environmental issues result in cooperation among groups and states as they work to adapt to water shortages or famine”.

The fact that this group has latched onto such a shallow and discredited argument reveals just how weak its case is. Two of its arguments are that the current Syrian refugee crisis and sea level rise around Norfolk Virginia are the result of climate change. Even the EU climate advocates haven’t gone so far as to claim that its refugee crisis is caused by climate change instead of ISIS and civil war. For the Partnership to do so trivializes a humanitarian crisis.

At least the Partnership is grossly right in its statement about sea level rise off Norfolk’s coast. Unfortunately, it is dead wrong on implied causality.

There are two reasons why Norfolk faces a long-term sea level rise problem. About 35 million years ago, a large meteor hit the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay creating a crater that is 56 miles in diameter and 1000-4000 feet deep. That has been causing subsidence, which continues. In addition, sea level around the globe has been rising since the end of the last ice age, about 16,000 years ago. According to Carl Wunsch of MIT and one of the world’s leading oceanographers, sea level will continue to rise until the next ice age.

The Partnership ad ends by attacking fossil fuels, which will be with us for decades to come in spite of its agenda, and asking “how else do we combat climate change?

It could begin by accurately defining of the climate change issue. As more scientific evidence accumulates, it becomes ever more clear that the climate system is more complex than generally appreciated, that a number of forces cause it, and that CO2 is not the major cause. As long as groups like the Partnership inaccurately define the problem, they will continue to pursue false but costly solutions. Climate has always changed and always will. The challenges that it creates can best be addressed by technology, sensible land use policies, and honesty about what we know and don’t know.