The report “Climate Change: Evidence & Causes,” which was released on Thursday by the Royal Society (RS) and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS), does a serious disservice to science and society. Rather than using the conditional language of real science, it engages in what amounts to propaganda, making absolute assertions concerning topics about which we have little knowledge.
For example, the report proclaims, “Continued emissions of these gases [carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases] will cause further climate change, including substantial increases in global average surface temperature and important changes in regional climate.”
Not “may cause,” or even “probably cause,” but “will cause.” This is not the language of science. While it is common to see such absolute, one-sided assertions from totalitarian regimes trying to sway public opinion, it is appalling that two of the world’s foremost science bodies should engage in such unconditional rhetoric. Sir Isaac Newton, the Royal Society’s most famous member and its president until 1727, would be furious about such a violation of the scientific tradition he cherished.
Continuing in the same tone, the RS/NAS report next says that “long-term climate change over many decades will depend mainly on the total amount of CO2 and other greenhouse gases emitted as a result of human activities.” And then, to ensure extensive coverage from mainstream media, which are already reporting uncritically on the document, “If the rise in CO2 continues unchecked, warming of the same magnitude as the increase out of the ice age [i.e., 7 to 9 °F] can be expected by the end of this century or soon after.”
Such confidence is preposterous. It is also irresponsible since it implies that governments can confidently prepare for warming, while ignoring the possibility that global cooling is the real threat.
We do not actually know how much climate will change as carbon dioxide (CO2) levels continue to rise. In fact, the science is so immature that we do not even know whether warming or cooling lies ahead. Trying to unravel the causes and consequences of climate change is arguably the most complex science ever tackled. Professors Chris Essex (University of Western Ontario) and Ross McKitrick (University of Guelph) write in their book Taken By Storm, “Climate is one of the most challenging open problems in modern science. Some knowledgeable scientists believe that the climate problem can never be solved.”
Indeed, the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change demonstrates that much of what we thought we knew about climate is wrong or highly debatable. The science is becoming more unsettled as the field advances. While atmospheric CO2 concentrations have increased about 8% over the past 17 years, even the IPCC now acknowledges that planetary temperatures have not risen during this period for reasons they do not understand. They’re also in the dark as to why their Fourth Assessment Report (2007) forecast of “a decline in the frequency of cold air outbreaks in the Northern Hemisphere winter in most areas” has failed so spectacularly in recent years. Across the world, new low temperature and snowfall records are being set with increasing frequency.
Supporting fears that the past decade’s cold weather may be a harbinger of significant global cooling, many solar scientists are forecasting that cooling is almost certain as the sun weakens into a “grand minimum” over the coming decades. Solar expert Dr. Habibullo Abdussamatov, of Russia’s Pulkovo Observatory near St. Petersburg, explained, “from approximately 2014, we can expect the start of the next bicentennial cycle of deep cooling with a Little Ice Age in 2055 plus or minus 11 years.”
The last time the sun was as weak as is now being forecast, the Earth was in a particularly cold phase of the Little Ice Age that lasted from about 1350 – 1850, a period of great misery for people around the world.
We won’t know for decades whether Abdussamatov and his peers are right, or whether warming fears are more justified, but geologists call past warm epochs “optimums” and cold times “dark ages” for good reason: history shows that cooling is far more dangerous than warming. Yet governments across the world are planning only for warming, a relatively benign scenario and one that is appearing increasingly improbable.
Whatever the future of climate, we know one thing for certain: with increasing populations and a rapidly growing middle class in the developing world, humanity is going to need ever increasing amounts of inexpensive, high-quality, reliable power. Yet climate campaigners such as Secretary of State John Kerry will undoubtedly use Thursday’s irresponsible RS/NAS report to promote wind and solar power, the least reliable and most expensive options. Moving away from coal and other inexpensive conventional power sources to alternative energy because of climate concerns would be suicide.