Bast: Understanding the Global Warming Delusion (PJM Exclusive)

During the past year, the theory of man-made global warming took some serious hits. More than a few people are now saying the whole thing was a lie or an elaborate hoax, and that someday we’ll be laughing at how foolish we were to “fall for it.”

Certainly there is a solid basis for this view. Global temperatures during the past ten years stopped rising and started to fall, something computer models that claim to show a human influence on the climate did not predict.

Despite wall-to-wall promotion of global warming alarmism by the media and businesses seeking to cash in on public concerns, only 36 percent of Americans believe global warming is man-made, according to a Pew Research Center poll released in October. That's down from 47 percent the year before.

In November, a whistleblower or hacker released emails and other documents stored on computers at the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia. The emails show a deliberate effort to falsify data and suppress academic debate in order to exaggerate the possible threat of man-made global warming.

Because the emails were written by leading scientists who edit and control the content of the reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Climategate has caused the scientific case for global warming to come crashing down.

On December 20 another collapse occurred -- this one in Copenhagen, where representatives from more than 200 countries met but could not agree on a treaty to replace the Kyoto agreement, which expires in 2012. That same day, the Wall Street Journal reported that “White House officials ... agree [with Sen. James Inhofe that] a cap and trade bill will not pass the Senate next year.”

So is the great global warming delusion over?

Not quite.

Most of the scientists responsible for creating the delusion still believe global warming is man-made and will be a crisis. We know this from an international survey conducted in 2008 by Dennis Bray and Hans von Storch. They surveyed 373 scientists who work for climate research institutes and appear in the climate journals that are controlled by the now-notorious Climategate gang.

Thirty-five percent responded “very much” when asked the following question: “How convinced are you that most of recent or near future climate change is, or will be, a result of anthropogenic causes?” On a scale from 1 to 7, with 1 being “not at all” and 7 being “very much,” 83 percent answered 5, 6, or 7. Only 1 percent said “not at all” and only 11 percent answered 1, 2, or 3. Answers to the question “How convinced are you that climate change poses a very serious and dangerous threat to humanity?” were similar.

However, the Bray and von Storch survey also reveals that very few of these scientists trust climate models -- which form the basis of claims that human activity could have a dangerous effect on the global climate. Fewer than 3 or 4 percent said they “strongly agree” that computer models produce reliable predictions of future temperatures, precipitation, or other weather events. More scientists rated climate models “very poor” than “very good” on a long list of important matters, including the ability to model temperatures, precipitation, sea level, and extreme weather events.

The reliability of climate models is important because actual global temperature records show very little warming or changes in long-term weather events -- such as the frequency or severity of hurricanes -- that could be attributed to human activity.

Computer models are practically the only “proof” that global warming alarmists have to support their theory and forecasts. How can scientists know that global warming is man-made and will be a crisis, while at the same time express deep skepticism towards the computer models that might support such beliefs?

The answer is that they don’t actually “know” global warming is man-made or will be a disaster; they “believe” this to be true.

Like the rest of us, scientists rely on the expertise of others to provide guidance on issues they haven’t taken time to study. Climate change is a complex topic that requires the insights of geologists, physicists, climatologists, and statisticians (to name only four disciplines) to get a fairly complete understanding of the issue.

Most scientists align their beliefs regarding global warming with the views expressed by the IPCC, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other organizations they trust. Climategate revealed that trust was misplaced. The institutions formed to bring together specialists to produce overviews of the science of climate change have been politicized and corrupted by private agendas.

In the months and years ahead, many scientists who lent their names and reputations to the global warming delusion -- because they trusted the IPCC and other institutions -- will “come out of the closet” and admit that, upon closer inspection, they were wrong and the theory of global warming is either unproven or simply false.

Many prominent scientists have already debunked global warming (see Lawrence Solomon’s book, The Deniers, for profiles of some of them), and tens of thousands more have signed petitions and resolutions protesting the abuse of science in the global warming debate.

The histories of other “extraordinary popular delusions,” as Charles Mackay labeled them in 1841, suggest it may take decades for elite opinion to acknowledge the truth. Some very bright people will go to their graves still believing in “global warming.”

But believing is not knowing, and that crucial difference both caused and is spelling the end of one of the great delusions of our age.