Carbon Forcings, Chicken Little, Global Energy Budget, IPCC, John Christy, Richard Feynman, Testable Hypotheses, Unfalsifiable Claims
Climate activists are seemingly averse to empiricism, and to the scientific method for that matter. Esteemed climatologist John Christy makes that point abundantly clear in a recent speech entitled “Putting Climate Change Claims To the Test“. Christy was one of two lead authors of the third Assessment Report (AR3) of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), published in 2001, but his research into systematic discrepancies between climate models and actual temperature trends put him in the doghouse with the IPCC. He hasn’t been asked to serve as a lead author since. The transcript linked above is awkward in a few spots where Christy makes informal references to slides, which do, however, accompany and align with the transcript. He covers a lot of ground in this speech, but I’ll cover just a few points. Read the whole thing!
Christy notes that all of the climate models used by the IPCC have substantially over-predicted temperatures for the past thirty years, by an average across models of more than 2.5 times! He measured the errors 17 years ago and again recently, and the magnitude of those errors was almost identical. Yet little progress has been made in correcting the climate models. And why bother? The press simply won’t report the errors, and the IPCC and the activist community are too enraptured by their religious, end-of-days narrative to give it up.
Christy uses a stylized global “energy budget” to illustrate the various sources of climate forcing. He attributes the climate model errors to a failure to adequately account for the escape of energy from the atmosphere into space. He also demonstrates that the magnitude of carbon forcing from human activity represents a tiny contribution to the impact of Earth’s total energy forcings.
Another major point from Christy is that the climate research community has lost its scientific bearings. The very title of his speech refers to testable hypotheses, which is what real science is all about. Christy provides a punchy quote from Richard Feynman on this issue: “Science is a belief in the ignorance of experts.” Today it is routine for climate scientists to report results based on extrapolations from models hinging on mere assumptions they claim to have backtested. Those backtests are often based on flimsy standards and tend to receive little scrutiny, just as long as they are consistent with the so-called “expert consensus”. In other words, those claims amount to a big “what-if” exercise, and the underlying assumptions often lack rigorous testing. Christy goes on:
“Michael Crichton says that in science consensus is irrelevant, what is relevant is reproducible results, consensus is inappropriate. So, as an aside, there’s a strange thing happening in climate science: the proliferation of unfalsifiable claims, in other words the unfalsifiable hypothesis. Remember I said that scientific method: you make a claim and the claim has to be testable and falsifiable and then you check and see if it’s the real thing.
Well here’s the claim. Whatever happens is consistent with global warming. Maybe it’s snow or no snow. More hurricanes? Less hurricanes? This method says wait for something to happen and then claim that human-caused warming is to blame. That’s the unfalsifiable hypothesis and it has no information value and there is no way to test it, it has no testable parameter and so it is not science. The unfalsifiable hypothesis predicts anything is possible therefore nothing is testable.“
In other words, today climate research is infested with “fake science”. Christy marches through a variety of climate-related phenomena in his speech, offering evidence on each that is sometimes mixed but often contrary to the implications of climate models and claims made by activists. The big picture is nothing short of damning to the catastrophic warming narrative. Yet the dire scenarios feared by the Chicken Littles of the world, which never come to pass, continue to be reported eagerly by the media and pressed for costly political action.
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