For too long, scientists who promote the hypothesis that man’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are causing dangerous global warming have been given a free ride by politicians and the press. Their pronouncements, no matter how fantastic, are accepted without question and repeated ad nauseam by compliant governments and reporters alike. When scientists do what all scientists are supposed to do — question and probe — they are treated as enemies of the people and condemned by opinion leaders.

With the upcoming release of the latest UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, 2013 can be the year governments and media grow up on climate change.

Treat catastrophists who push for climate and energy policies that would bankrupt us just as we do other end-of-the-world cultists: demand they prove their beliefs before providing them the time of day, let alone our tax dollars. Insist that climate catastrophists cease with their speculations and instead employ the scientific method.

This involves creating hypotheses based on predefined assumptions. Other scientists, in their proper roles as skeptics, challenge the hypothesis by testing the assumptions. They try to disprove — or as philosopher Karl Popper explained, falsify — the assumptions. Popper’s doctrine of falsifiability: “Our belief in any particular natural law cannot have a safer basis than our unsuccessful critical attempts to refute it.”

This part of the scientific method has not been applied to the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) hypothesis, and it is costing us plenty: literally hundreds of billions of dollars per year, the loss of thousands of jobs, and the rapid destruction of our most reliable and least expensive power source — coal-fired electricity.

The problems started when proponents of the AGW hypothesis, mainly the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), abandoned the scientific method and set out to prove the hypothesis because of a political agenda. They ignored or rejected contradictory evidence, no matter how convincing, and attacked those who tried to disprove the hypothesis. They produced false, imaginary, or concocted ideas and data instead of considering limitations and errors in their work.

This is well illustrated by their failure to properly consider the null hypothesis that global temperatures will not rise appreciably because of CO2 emissions from industrial activity.

Environmental fundamentalists knew that weakening the developed world by cutting off the fuel supply would be met with howls of protest, so politicians have not dared try this, at least not overtly. But an engine may also be stopped by choking off the exhaust, and so extremists worked hard to demonize CO2, the principle byproduct of civilization.

They ignored the benefits of the gas, such as its role in sustaining life. Instead, they labeled CO2 a pollutant and a harmful substance because of its supposed impact on climate.

Activists then succeeded in convincing governments to add the benign gas to lists of toxic substances to be controlled through regulations. This has allowed both the American and Canadian governments to bypass our elected representatives and, through the Environmental Protection Agency and Environment Canada, impose expensive but useless regulations on CO2.

The most effective strategy for fighting climatism — the label given to the climate scare by author Steve Goreham of the American Climate Science Coalition — is public education. Once enough citizens understand that the science, the foundation of the alarm, is hopelessly flawed, support for expensive and futile government action to “stop climate change” will quickly wither.

Here is what the public needs to learn quickly if we are to avoid further damage to our societies.