Saving the Planet, One Denier at a Time

Posted: Aug 10, 2014 12:01 AM

In the fog of scandals, it has fairly well been lost that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has rolled out new regulations setting in motion coal’s destruction as an energy source in the United States. We continue to be told that no respectable scientist argues against the case of climate change. Some have even argued the scientific debate is over (as if any scientific debate can ever be over). So we set out to find a legitimate scientific expert who argues against the current mantra. We searched far and wide (not really -- it was easy) and found two climatologists.

This all happened because of the Obama Administration’s organized assault leading up to the EPA rule changes. They even dragged in Secretary of State John Kerry, making it a matter of national interest. Kerry stated, “If we make the necessary efforts to address the challenge – and suppose I’m wrong, 97% of them are wrong -- suppose they are, what is the worst that can happen?” Obviously Mr. Kerry never met an out-of-work coal miner who is part of a devastated community shut down by the new rules. The campaign resulted in the release of the National Assessment on Climate Change, which casts a long shadow over anyone doubting there is climate change (which technically no one could doubt as there is always changing climate).

I contacted Dr. Patrick J. Michaels after reading his column on the matter. Dr. Michaels is no pedestrian climatologist. He is the former president of the American Association of State Climatologists. He was a research professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Virginia (that school Thomas Jefferson founded) for 30 years. Michaels was a contributing author and reviewer of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2007. Dr. Michaels’ first assignment was for me to read the analysis he did with Paul C. Knappenberger of the draft report of the National Assessment. I had to read all 133 pages.

To make sure the 240 authors in charge of the National Assessment received a clear message from Michaels and Knappenberger, they started their analysis by asking whether the authors were familiar with “Karl Popper’s famous essay on the nature of science and its distinction from ‘pseudoscience’.” They go on to say that “The National Assessment is much closer to pseudoscience than it is to science. It is as explanatory as Sigmund Freud. It clearly believes that virtually everything in our society is tremendously dependent on surface temperature and, because of that, we are headed towards certain and inescapable destruction, unless we take its advice and decarbonize our economy pronto. Unfortunately, the Assessment can’t quite tell us how to accomplish that, because no one knows how.” Michaels goes on to say “In the Assessment’s 1,200 horror-studded pages, almost everything that happens in our complex world – sex, birth, disease, death, hunger, and wars, to name a few – is somehow made worse by pernicious emissions of carbon dioxide and thejogglingof surface temperature by a mere two degrees.”

Dr. Michaels made clear to me the proximate cause of the EPA rules go back to a law signed by President George H. W. Bush that was later validated by the Supreme Court. Then Michaels went further in questioning the science behind the report. He stated “I was mystified that the Administration is focusing on this (the National Assessment). It is to support the EPA regulations. They are being pretty ruthless.”

He rattled off a series of statements about the National Assessment and the science behind it. He told me, “There is no way to tell how much affect man’s activity has on the CO2 levels. Fossil fuel is causing increased CO2 in the atmosphere. CO2 does warm the surface. The question is how much? 6,000-9,000 years ago, it was much warmer in the Arctic than it is today. We can tell that from digging down into the ice.” He continued, “Currently the sea level does not change between winter and summer months when the ice cap has melted. So why is there the exaggerated concern about increased ocean levels?”

It is fair to say that Dr. Michaels did not argue with some of the basic facts asserted by the Global Warming supporters. It is just that he does not see from where they are drawing their conclusions. Michaels expressed strongly that he thinks the GW supporters had little or no science to back up their conclusions. When asked why he thought they persisted in their claims, he did not provided the answer purported by most which is they suffer either from peer pressure or are afraid they will lose funding, especially federal grants. Michaels instead stated “They are unwilling to admit they are wrong.” Otherwise, they have ridden this horse so far they are afraid to get off.

Michaels then told me the story of Lennart Bengtsson, a famous Swedish meteorologist, who recently announced he had joined the advisory council of the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), an organization that questions the current orthodoxy. In (German publication) Der Spiegel, Bengtsson outlined his reasoning for becoming a skeptic on Global Warming. A few days later Bengtsson resigned from the Advisory Board, writing “I have been put under such an enormous group pressure in recent days from all over the world that it has become virtually unbearable to me. If this is going to continue I will be unable to conduct my normal work and will even start to worry about my health and safety.” Normally the scientific response to Bengtsson’s change in position should have been asking for an explanation and understanding why such a prestigious meteorologist changed his position. Instead it appears that he experienced a coordinated campaign of belittling and threats.

To attempt to validate Michaels’ assertions, I spoke to another pre-eminent Climatologist, Dr. S. Fred Singer. He too is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Virginia. He is the Founder and president of the Science & Environmental Policy Project. Dr. Singer has a laundry list of qualifications in this scientific area as you could imagine of a gentleman approaching his 90th birthday. His career started in 1948 with his Ph.D. from Princeton and includes being a deputy assistant administrator of the EPA.

Dr. Singer reasserted the fact that temperatures have not risen in the past almost 18 years. He stated “All computer models predicted increases, but the models are not producing the expected results.” Thus, how can you believe their predictions of weather effects 50 to 100 years from now? The correlation of CO2 levels rising and increased temperature does not track going back to 1975. Singer stated “Many people believe that increased CO2 levels are a good thing as it is beneficial for plants and we are experiencing significant increases in vegetation.”

Then why does Singer believe that the GW crowd pushes forward their beliefs? He did not agree with Michaels on this as he stated there are four factors: 1) Money, 2) Professional Pride and Advancement, 3) Power and 4) Prestige. When I asked why people are continuing to assert these positions, Singer replied “They are either misinformed or lying.”

I then asked Singer what harm there would be to reduce the CO2 output. He stated something that is very well-known: the United States produces about 10 percent of the world’s CO2. China and India are producing about 50% of the world’s CO2. They are not going to be reducing their production soon as they continue to open coal-burning energy plants to meet the burgeoning needs of their populations. Playing devil’s advocate, I asked might it not be good to set an example for the world with less CO2 creation. Other than the obvious answer that it has not been shown that the increased levels have actually had a harmful effect and that shutting down the use of coal was harmful to our economy, he asked to what end we would decrease the output of CO2. “What is the harm to humans? In submarines the acceptable level of CO2 is 5,000 parts per million which is currently over 12 times the CO2 level of 400 parts per million we experience.”

We, as ordinary citizens, do not have the skills to evaluate the scientific evidence regarding the issue of Global Warming, which has morphed into Climate Change and now Climate Disruption. When such capable men as the two interviewed here outline their rejection of the status quo, one must as a matter of the scientific process question the status quo. When you see what happened to a worldwide pre-eminent scientist like Bengtsson, one must wonder why the GW crowd insists on unanimity. When so many politicians jump into this issue, one must ask what their agenda is on this matter. Most of all, we must remain scientifically skeptical.

In the recent Fox series "Cosmos," a remake of the great series done by Carl Sagan, the host Neil deGrasse Tyson left us with many thoughts, one of which was quite poignant. He said “One of the things I love about science is we don’t have to pretend we have all the answers.” Yet when it comes to what was once called Global Warming and now branded Climate Change, some scientists and their adherents insist on ideological purity no matter the cost to people and breaking the basic tenet of science that you are always searching for the truth and that the truth is ever evolving.” It is nice to know some brilliant scientists still live by that concept.