Climate change and scientific consensus

I found the recent Kylie Beach essay in Eternity on the nature of the scientific debate as interesting and useful. David Robertson thinks otherwise and expresses several ideas in his response. There are three key ideas that I took away, and I want to answer each of them in short, separate essays. This article deals with the science of climate change.

Science involves taking careful measurements, formulating theories, and attempting to match those measurements or data with theories in the simplest way possible. In climatology, for example, this involves collecting data on the atmosphere both directly (for example, via thermometers), remotely (satellites) and via proxies (rings, ice cores, etc.). The data must be quality controlled for it to be useful (for example, taking into account a measurement site displacing a change in its environment), and techniques must be calibrated (for example, the relationship between dark circles and temperature). Data can then be plotted and trends measured. The repeatability of results by different research groups using similar but slightly different techniques indicates the robust nature of the results. By this we know with great confidence that temperatures have risen since the start of the industrial revolution. We can also say with confidence that this stands out compared to previous interstades, the hot spells between ice ages.

It is a truism to say that the results of science never stand still, but what result would change the observed data? So let’s move on to theory. Since the planet is certain to be warming, how would we identify the cause? By proposing and testing theories about what might drive change. What is required is not just correlation – a correspondence between observations and theory, but causation – a physical connection between observations of different kinds. The Earth has warmed up during times of the sun’s inactivity. It is therefore not the sun that warms the planet. Changes in Earth’s orbit are producing a jagged pattern in global temperature, and now predict that Earth is expected to cool slowly. It’s not. Therefore, these changes are not the cause of the warming.

How much time do we still give skeptics airtime?

The American Eunice Foote showed in 1856 that the atmosphere absorbed heat, and in 1859 John Tyndall demonstrated that this was due to carbon dioxide and water vapor. Svante Arrhenius from 1900 began to examine how carbon dioxide emissions and the resulting feedbacks from water vapor (additional evaporation) would influence temperature. It is causality. The correlation between carbon dioxide emissions and temperature is now well known. Computer models can now validate past temperature increases, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report shows how different the world would be today without past emissions. Models increase in complexity over time. In this regard, the science is not settled. However, no science update has improved the outlook for our future. The biggest source of uncertainty is us and our emissions. Yes, we can change the world for the better.

David tells us that humility does not require that we listen to climate scientists. Who then? He quotes three people. Michael Schellenberger is a journalist. Bjorn Lomborg has a degree in political science and has taught statistics. Steve Koonin is a theoretical physicist. None of these people are climatologists. David tells us that the site attacks skeptical scientists. In fact, led by real climatologists, it presents new data, summarizes new research, and critiques the work of skeptics, showing it for what it is.

The truth is, 97 percent of articles in the field claim consensus science. The remaining 2-3 percent contain errors.

I would like to end with a warning. Dr Richard Muller is a physicist who once thought climate science was flawed. Such, he started a consulting firm to find any errors in the way the data was analyzed. After assembling a team of leading physicists, Mueller concluded that not only could he replicate the results of other research centers, but the only theory that could explain the observed warming was the greenhouse gas theory. He notes in this maintenance that he wrote a graduate textbook on changes in Earth’s orbit. One could argue that for a physicist to challenge the work of climatologists lacked humility. However, he had the humility to change his mind when confronted with the data. Self-employment continues at Berkley Land.

I presented this video as part of a presentation to a religious group. A skeptic politely waited for me to finish, told me how disappointed he was with Muller. He was attending a conference the following week, where they would share their datasets – a parallel universe.

How much time do we still give skeptics airtime? I have a friend who is a flat earthling. Do we provide them with airtime every time Bezos sends someone into space? Are we giving Holocaust deniers time to discuss the story, or are we putting the inventors of perpetual motion machines alongside the engineers? Attacking the consensus and claiming victimization, exclusion or censorship from “the other side of the debate” is fine rhetoric, but it does not represent the real situation. It is not humble. He said, “My opinion matters as much as that of the next person.” But you are not entitled to your opinion, only what you can argue. This is something the experts can do.

This is the first of a three-essay response from Mick Pope to a recent article by David Robertson, written in response to an article by Kylie Beach. Mick Pope’s next two essays will be published in the next few days.

Pope is a forecasting meteorologist with twenty years of experience in the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. He is also a university professor with a doctorate in tropical meteorology and is part of the ISCAST network (Christians in Science and Technology).

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