By Dr. Neil Frank
As an evangelical Christian, I believe we should be good stewards of God’s planet. We should strive to reduce pollution to protect human health and the natural environment. We should explore new alternative energy sources, always seeking to maximize benefits and minimize harms. We should prioritize providing electricity for the 1.2 billion people who don’t have it—and consequently suffer high rates of disease and premature death.
For these and many other reasons I applaud Mitch Hescox and Paul Douglas’s Caring for Creation: The Evangelical’s Guide to Climate Change and a Healthy Environment (Bethany House, 2016). I enjoyed chapter 4 “We Are Easter People,” which encourages us to move forward not only in our Christian walk, but also in our physical world to explore new alternative energy sources. I appreciate their passion when discussing alternative energy in chapter 6. The success of the M-Kopa Solar Company in Africa with small solar units is impressive. As the authors point out, most of the 1.2 billion people in the world who have no electricity live in remote regions where it would be impossible, in the near term, to erect adequate power lines even if centralized power plants were built. There and in many other remote locations small solar units are the better answer.
It is unfortunate, however, that Hescox and Douglas chose not to present an unbiased discussion of the global warming debate, because this distracts from other excellent parts of the book.
As a veteran atmospheric scientist, I disagree with their basic premise. They believe that human emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) are causing dangerous global warming that we must stop by converting the world’s energy systems from fossil fuels (which now provide about 85 percent of all energy people use worldwide) to “green” energy.
How firmly do they believe this? Douglas writes,
“When people ask me why more climate scientists don’t debate professional skeptics in the media, I tell them the truth. At this point, it’s the rough equivalent of debating gravity or the Apollo moon landing” (p. 90).
As a meteorologist with a Ph.D. instead of a B.S., and over 20 years more experience, I can tell you, that attitude is irresponsible.
It’s also inconsistent with something else the authors do. They challenge readers to raise serious questions about the truth of dangerous manmade global warming. When Hescox is asked about the reality of global warming, he replies: “Don’t believe me without researching the facts for yourself. Don’t listen to twenty-second sound bites on FOX News or MSNBC or talk radio. Take the time to examine the facts for yourself.” That’s what I have been doing over the last nearly 20 years, building on my 55-year career as a meteorologist.
What is the global warming controversy? It is not about the earth warming. Earth has been warming for over 150 years as we emerge from the Little Ice Age. The controversy is over the causes, magnitude, and possible harms or benefits of the warming. Is the cause CO2, as the authors claim, or other factors related to natural cycles, or a combination—and if so, in what balance? Is the warming rapid, large, and dangerous, or gradual, small, and benign? The intent of this review is to show that, contrary to Hescox and Douglas’s assertions, meteorological data support natural cycles, the case for CO2 as primary driver is very weak, and the magnitude of our contribution is small and not dangerous.
While Hescox has no credentials in climate science, I do not denigrate Douglas’s. He has been a TV and radio meteorologist for 35 years. But I do expect him to show me equal respect granted my 55-year career in meteorology and climate science, much of it at significantly higher levels of responsibility. I served in the Air Force as a weather officer from 1953–1957, earned my Ph.D. in meteorology from Florida State University, joined the National Hurricane Center in 1961, where I served for 25 years and was Director from 1974–1987 (the longest term of any Director), then served as chief meteorologist for the CBS TV affiliate in Houston until my retirement in 2008—a retirement during which I have continued and even expanded my studies of global climate change.
I have been following the global warming debate for almost 25 years. During that time I have metamorphosed from a mild believer in the 1980s and 1990s to a very strong skeptic. My journey is typical of a number of skeptics.
I became aware that the planet was warming in the 1980s. James Hansen (NASA) held a press conference in Washington, D.C., on June 9, 1988, and announced that CO2 was causing the earth to warm. Hansen built that relationship into a numerical model that predicted disastrous warming. I had no reason to question his conclusion.
In the late 1990s, big changes occurred when, despite 1998’s global average temperature being the warmest on record until then because of an extraordinarily powerful El Niño, from early 1997 through late 2015—a period of nearly 19 years—there was no statistically significant increase in global average temperature according to our most reliable measurements. The warming trend that had alarmed Hansen and others stopped, even while CO2 levels accelerated upward. What happened? Could CO2’s role have been overstated?
About that time a meteorologist friend challenged me to go back and look at the data. After reading dozens of books and hundreds of papers, looking at reams of data and talking to numerous experts on both sides of the debate, I have concluded that CO2 is not a major factor in the earth’s temperature.
What led to that conclusion? Here are some of the basic facts.
Earth’s temperatures—local, regional, and global—rise and fall in cycles. Globally, ice ages are the longest cycle we are aware of. An Ice Age lasts about 100,000 years and is followed by a roughly 10,000-year warm (interglacial) period. We have been in the current interglacial for almost 12,000 years.
Data show a correlation between CO2 and the earth’s temperature over several ice ages, leading many to assume CO2 drives temperature. However, CO2 concentration lags temperature by several hundred years. Why? A large amount of CO2 resides in the atmosphere, but a much larger amount in the ocean. When the earth recovers from an Ice Age and warms, the ocean gives up CO2 to the atmosphere. The reverse occurs when the earth enters an Ice Age. As the water cools, it absorbs CO2.
On the time scale of ice ages, there is a direct relationship between CO2 and the earth’s temperature, but it is the exact opposite of what the current manmade global warming theory requires. Because CO2 follows temperature, it cannot be the cause of global warming; instead it is the effect. John Kerr’s book The Inconvenient Skeptic: The Comprehensive Guide to the Earth’s Climate summarizes the paleoclimate history in terms laymen can grasp easily.
On a shorter time scale, ice core samples from Greenland for the last 10,000 years show a very strong 1,000-year cycle. As illustrated in this graph of global temperature history since about 9000 B.C., the earth was much warmer than now during the two lengthy periods called the Holocene Climate Optimum roughly 8,000–6,000 and 5,000–4,000 years ago, and it was as warm if not warmer than today 3,000 years ago during the Minoan Warm Period, 2,000 years ago during the Roman Warm Period, and 1,000 years ago during the Medieval Warm Period—when Scandinavians farmed in Greenland for over 300 years.
Right on schedule, we are warm today as we recover from the Little Ice Age (roughly 1600–early 1800s).
Over the last 10,000 years, atmospheric CO2 levels have been very stable at about 280 parts per million. Therefore, CO2 was not responsible for any of the above warm periods, or for the recovery from the Little Ice Age.
Currently the earth has been warming for almost 175 years as we emerge from the Little Ice Age, yet CO2 levels did not start rising significantly until after World War I. This strongly suggests that the current warming is, like the earlier ones, the result of a natural 1,000-year cycle, and the contribution from CO2 is minor.
One fact that those who believe manmade CO2 emissions are causing dangerous warming sometimes cite is that the concentration of atmospheric CO2 has risen by about 43 percent since the Industrial Revolution. That rise sounds significant, but in context with total composition of the atmosphere it really isn’t.
Consider this illustration. The football stadium in Dallas has over 100,000 seats. If we assign a molecule of air to each seat, in today’s mix nitrogen would occupy about 80,000 seats and oxygen almost 20,000. Water vapor is quite variable but would occupy somewhere between 1,000 and 3,000 seats. CO2 would occupy only 40 seats (400 parts per million).
Even after the 43 percent increase since the Industrial Revolution, CO2 is only 0.040 percent of the atmosphere. Yet, some experts would have us believe this tiny part of the atmosphere can control the earth’s temperature. Over 90 percent of the earth’s warming from greenhouse gases is caused by water vapor, not CO2.
The cold temperatures in the Little Ice Age bottomed out in the 1600s and 1700s. That was when George Washington was in Valley Forge. The recovery from the Little Ice Age began in the mid-1800s, and the earth has been warming for almost 175 years. During this warming period another 60-year cycle in the earth’s temperature has been revealed. The earth warms for 30 years, then cools for another 30 years.
The following table and related graph show the relationship between CO2 and the earth’s temperature as the earth has passed through the 60-year cycles.
|CO2’s Relation to Earth’s Temperature
|Years||Earth’s Temp. (phase)||Earth’s temp.(trend)||CO2 levels and trends(parts per million)|
|1850–1880||Warm||Rapid warming||~280 and steady|
|1880–1910||Cool||Steady cooling||~280 and steady|
|*1910–1940||Warm||Rapid warming||Slow increase|
|1940–1975||Cool||Significant cooling||Rapid increase|
|*1975–1998||Warm||Rapid warming||Accelerating increase|
|1998–2015||Cool||No change||Rising >400|
|*Indicates phases when the earth’s temperature and CO2 are both positive.|
A close examination of the table shows that CO2 levels and the earth’s temperature were both rising in only two of the 30-year warming phases (1910–1940 and 1975–1998). In the remaining four phases (two-thirds of the time), they were out of phase (107 years). A statistical analysis of these two parameters during the last 160 years shows at best a very poor relationship
CO2 started rising in a 30-year warming phase from 1910–1940, culminating in the 1930s—till then the warmest decade since the Little Ice Age. Some meteorologists at the time speculated CO2 was responsible, but then the earth moved into a 35-year cooling phase, by the end of which the consensus among experts was that we were heading for another Little Ice Age—even though the CO2 levels were accelerating upward. Kenneth Richard at the German website “No Tricks Zone” cites 285 peer-reviewed papers from the 1960s through the 1980s predicting global cooling
Finally, even over shorter periods—such as from the 1950s to the present (the period during which, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, human emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases were the primary cause of global warming)—the relationship between global atmospheric temperature and CO2 remains opposite what’s necessary for CO2 to drive temperature. The article “The phase relation between atmospheric carbon dioxide and global temperature,” published in the journal Global and Planetary Change, concluded that CO2 lags temperature by 9.5 to 12 months depending on altitude. (Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation Senior Fellow Dr. David Legates, a climatologist, pointed this out in a critique of an article by Hescox in 2012, so Hescox should have known this when cooperating with Douglas on writing Caring for Creation.)
What can we conclude? The relationship between CO2 and the earth’s temperature is poor on all time scales from ice ages (100,000 years) to interglacial periods (10,000 years) to short periods of a few centuries or even decades.
Another way we can evaluate the impact CO2 has on the earth’s temperature is to examine the forecasts produced by climate models. All of the climate models have a built-in relation between CO2 and the earth’s temperature that was determined by the observations made in the 1980s–1990s. During that time, the earth’s temperature was rising and the CO2 levels were accelerating upward. Since the CO2 levels were correctly projected to continue upward in the future (see the table above), and since the modelers’ underlying theory was that the rise in CO2 had driven the rise in temperature, it is not surprising that the models forecast continued warming.
If the CO2/temperature relation built into the models is correct, then the models should make accurate forecasts. Numerous tests of the models have been conducted. In one test of over 100 model runs, every one failed. In every case the temperatures forecast by the models were much too warm. Dr. John Christy (who in addition to being a prominent climate scientist is, like Paul Douglas, an evangelical Christian), testified on Feb. 2, 2015, before the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and technology that on average “the models overwarm by a factor of 2.5.” He offered this graph to illustrate.
In personal communication, Christy updated the data through the end of 2016—a year made much warmer by an extraordinarily strong El Niño. For 1979–2016, the 102-model average warming rate is 0.216˚C per decade (up 2 thousandths of a degree), while the weather balloon observed decadal rate is 0.107˚C per decade (up 28 thousandths of a degree) and the satellite observed rate is 0.124˚C per decade (up 33 thousandths of a degree). Even after the temporary upward surge of 2016, then, the models overstate the warming rate by 75 to 102 percent, and rapid cooling in late 2016 and early 2017, probably caused by the La Niña that typically follows an El Niño, suggests that the observed rate through the satellite measurement period will decline again soon. This strongly suggests that the CO2/temperature relation programmed into the models is wrong, at best overemphasizing the role of CO2 on the earth’s temperature.
In conclusion, we have two different “data” sources that tell us CO2 is not the major cause of global warming. If this is true, then the cause of the observed global warming must be something other than CO2, and there is no need for a moratorium on fossil fuels.
If CO2 is not a primary factor, what has caused the recent warming? One possibility is the sun. Two German scientists, Fritz Vahrenholt and Sebastian Lüning, in The Neglected Sun: Why the Sun Precludes Climate Catastrophe, found excellent correlations between variations in the sun and global temperatures. Over 100 peer-reviewed papers support this conclusion.
The number of sunspots is one indicator of solar energy. Both the sunspot activity and the earth’s temperature peaked in the twentieth century. Today the sun is turning quiet. The last time it was this quiet was in the 1700s during the Little Ice Age. As a result, many solar experts in Europe believe the earth will cool, not warm, over the next couple of decades.
So much for summarizing my understanding of the relationship between CO2 and global warming. Now let’s turn back to Caring for Creation. The authors use a 4-step process to convince people of dangerous manmade global warming:
- Create alarming scenarios that appeal to the emotion.
- Appeal to the authority of “experts.”
- Appeal to consensus.
- Demonize skeptics.
In step 1, the authors cite testimonies of 13 people who have observed disturbing changes in weather during their lifetimes, including Hescox’s 90-year-old father (pages 17, 21, 22, 26, 45, 46, 57, 58, 59, 64, 76, 95, and 131). I would add my own experience. In my preteen years in northwest Kansas, it was an annual winter ritual to go ice skating on the streams and ponds. My grandfather harvested ice from the creek and placed it in a deep pit covered with hay for use all summer. People no longer ice skate in Kansas during the winter. The weather has changed during my lifetime because the earth has been warming.
One has to admit it: these testimonies appeal to the emotion. Their intent is to gain your support for CO2-based global warming. But the occurrence of warming doesn’t tell us what caused it.
What if CO2 didn’t cause it, and the warming was the result of natural cycles? Every one of the testimonies would still be true!
Talk about appealing to emotions! That surely is what Douglas’s outlook for the future does:
A major city will run out of water. Local officials will have no good options. A mega-fire will consume the suburbs of a large metropolitan area, fire fighters powerless to stop it. Only a reprieve in the weather will slow its advance. Not only Miami, but portions of Tampa, Norfolk, Annapolis, Boston, and the Bay Area will flood on sunny days, with a full moon exerting an additional tidal tug. The U.S. will see thousands of climate refugees permanently displaced from their homes. Extreme rains will flood a big city, disrupting life for hundreds of thousands of inhabitants for weeks. A large, violent EF-4 or EF-5 tornado will hit a downtown, with a loss of life rivaling Katrina in 2005. A Category-4 or -5 hurricane fueled by unusually warm water will devastate a major U.S. city with damage rising into the hundreds of billions of dollars. Drilling for fresh water will become more lucrative than fracking oil. Worldwide, more crops will fail and fresh-water shortages will increase over time. Residents of coastal Bangladesh will be forced inland by rising seas—a tidal wave of climate refugees igniting tensions with India. Wilting heat and perpetual drought around the Mediterranean Sea and Middle East will tempt millions to flee their homelands for norther Europe and Asia. Melting arctic ice will result in new shipping routes and arctic oil exploration, sparking new conflict with Russia. Government officials will wring their hands and point a finger of blame at each other, wondering why there was no warning, why contingency plans weren’t put into place sooner. Americans will hold their representatives responsible for political paralysis and habitual climate inaction, demanding solutions. [p. 97]
The disastrous specifics of this prediction are irrelevant to the debate. Though the cities and other human artifacts Douglas mentions are new, the climate and weather events are not. They have been happening throughout geologic history, not just since the beginning of the period of allegedly CO2-driven global warming. Further, the disasters Douglas predicts will only occur if there is dramatic global warming. Hescox and Douglas believe increasing CO2 will cause the warming and can be controlled. The data above suggest that CO2 is not the cause. Warming may still occur because of natural cycles, and some of the events Douglas listed may occur, but reducing our CO2 emissions will not prevent them.
The authors also claim that there is a perfect analogy between tobacco companies’ attempts to suppress scientific evidence that smoking causes cancer and fossil fuel companies’ financial support of “climate skeptics” to hide the danger of CO2 in manmade global warming. In actual fact, there is no analogy. The early evidence that smoking caused cancer was followed by numerous medical studies that found the same, and it was indeed discovered that the tobacco industry had hidden this information from the public.
But the hypothesis that CO2 generated by man is responsible for global warming dates back to the 1980s. At that time CO2 and global temperature were both rapidly increasing and the hypothesis seemed reasonable. However, unlike the case with tobacco, recent meteorological data seriously undermine the hypothesis. While according to our most reliable global temperature data (from satellites) there was no statistically significant warming from early 1997 to late 2015 (and renewed warming from late 2015 through 2016 was driven by a super-El Niño like what drove the warming of 1998—which 2016 edged out as warmest year in the satellite record by 0.02˚C, a statistical tie and well within the margin of error), CO2 levels continued to accelerate upward throughout the period. This strongly suggests that CO2 is not a dominant factor in controlling the earth’s temperature—and if this is true, the hypothesis is not valid.
In step 2 of their process, Hescox and Douglas stress the importance of seeking truth from “experts.” “We should listen to real experts” (p. 61). Who are these experts? “People who devote their entire careers to tracking subtle, long-term changes—they all agree the planet is warming” (p. 60). But all the skeptics agree the planet is warming, too! The question is, what is causing the warming?
Step 3 is their appeal to “the overwhelming consensus: 97% of climate specialists.” Even President Obama makes frequent reference to this number.
I will challenge the consensus claim later, but first I cannot resist pointing out the irony of their appealing to consensus just one paragraph before they approvingly quote John Reisman saying, “Science is not a democracy. It’s a dictatorship.” And who or what is the dictator? “Evidence does the dictating.” Evidence—not any individual scientist, not a body of scientists, not a consensus of scientists.
Consensus is not evidence. Real-world observations, whether in laboratory or in nature, are evidence. Consensus is a political value. Want to know who won an election? Count votes. Want to know how much warming comes from rising atmospheric CO2 concentration? Don’t count votes—even of “experts.” Instead, do the hard work of generating hypotheses (based on your understanding of the physics of radiative heat transfer, how that functions in the atmosphere and oceans, and how thousands of geophysical feedbacks respond to it) and then rigorously, fearlessly comparing them with real-world observations. When we do that, as we saw above, the case for CO2 as primary driver of global warming collapses.
Nonetheless, Hescox and Douglas do appeal to consensus, for example, to a letter sent to President Obama in the summer of 2015, signed by 130 evangelical leaders, supporting his “Clean Power Plan” to reduce global warming by forcing the closure of many coal-fired electric generating plants (p. 159). Who signed the letter and what are their qualifications? A careful search of the Worldwide Web failed to find the letter or a list of its signers (though it is referred to, e.g., here and here), but it is very similar to a letter sent to Congress in July 2013, signed by 194 “Evangelical Scientists and Academics.”That letter urged Congress to support action against manmade global warming. Although climate change was the primary subject, so climate scientists ought to have been well represented among signers, an analysis of the signers’ fields of expertise (which were not listed with their signatures) showed that only 5 had backgrounds in atmospheric science, meteorology, or climatology, and 11 in geology and 10 in physics—the two other fields most relevant to the global warming debate. There were 117 with backgrounds in biology, 29 in chemistry, and the remaining 22 in more distantly related fields. I called a number of the signees and asked them why they believed in manmade global warming. Every one of them said it was what they were reading in the non-meteorological science literature (Nature, Science, etc.). Not one had initiated an in-depth analysis of the topic.
Consensus does not establish truth! For example, in the 1970s the consensus was that we were heading towards an ice age.
Finally, in step 4, Hescox and Douglas demonize skeptics by suggesting they embrace conspiracy theories: “Beware of conspiracy theories. When the facts and evidence aren’t on their side, some people, institutions, special interests, and politicians addicted to a steady IV-drip of campaign donations find it easier to rely on conspiracy theories and manufactured misinformation” (p. 57); “We should listen to real scientists and not look for conspiracy theories under every rock” (p. 61); “Cherry-picking data to make a point—or relying on intellectually lazy conspiracy theories—isn’t an honest way to address the problem” (p. 69).
Before moving on, let me comment on the “97% consensus” and challenge the claim that only “a shrinking few still try to deny the scientific reality of climate change.”
A variety of studies have purported to find an overwhelming consensus among climate scientists on global warming. However, the studies rarely specify what it is to which the scientists agree. Usually it is nothing more than that the earth has warmed since 1800 and that human activity has contributed significantly to the warming—something almost no skeptics would deny. No study—whether a survey of published articles or a survey directly of scientists—has found anything remotely near a 97% consensus not only that the earth has warmed and that human activity has contributed significantly but also that human activity has been the primary driver, that the warming caused by it is dangerous, and that attempting to prevent future warming by reducing CO2 emissions would do more good than harm—and those are the issues debated.
In 2004 Science published the results of a study by historian Naomi Oreskes claiming that “without substantial disagreement, scientists find human activities are heating the earth’s surface.” But an attempt at replicating the study both found that she had made serious mistakes in handling data and, after re-examining the data, reached contrary conclusions. As Benny Peiser pointed out in a letter to Science (Submission ID: 56001) that Science declined to publish but that the Cornwall Alliance summarized in 2006:
Oreskes claimed that an analysis of 928 abstracts in the ISI database containing the phrase “climate change” proved the alleged consensus. It turned out that she had searched the database using three keywords (“global climate change”) instead of the two (“climate change”) she reported—reducing the search results by an order of magnitude. Searching just on “climate change” instead found almost 12,000 articles in the same database in the relevant decade. Excluded from Oreskes’s list were “countless research papers that show that global temperatures were similar or even higher during the Holocene Climate Optimum and the Medieval Warm Period when atmospheric CO2 levels were much lower than today; that solar variability is a key driver of recent climate change; and that climate modeling is highly uncertain.” Further, even using the three key words she actually used, “global climate change,” brought up [not 928 but] 1,247 documents, of which 1,117 included abstracts. An analysis of those abstracts showed that
- only 1 percent explicitly endorsed what Oreskes called the “consensus view”;
- 29 percent implicitly accepted it “but mainly focus[ed] on impact assessments of envisaged global climate change”;
- 8 percent focused on “mitigation”;
- 6 percent focused on methodological questions;
- 8 percent dealt “exclusively with paleo-climatological research unrelated to recent climate change”;
- 3 percent “reject[ed] or doubt[ed] the view that human activities are the main drivers of ‘the observed warming over the last 50 years’”;
- 4 percent focused “on natural factors of global climate change”; and
- 42 percent did “not include any direct or indirect link or reference to human activities, CO2 or greenhouse gas emissions, let alone anthropogenic forcing of recent climate change.”
Peter Doran and Maggie Zimmerman’s “Examining the Consensus on Climate Change” (EOS, January 2009), concluded, “It seems that the debate on the authenticity of global warming and the role played by human activity is largely nonexistent among those who understand the nuances and scientific basis of long-term climate processes.” However, Doran and Zimmerman counted only 79 out of the 3,146 responses to their survey in determining the alleged consensus, and the two questions asked in the survey were framed such that even the most ardent skeptics—like Fred Singer, Richard Lindzen, and Roy Spencer—would have answered “Yes”:
- “When compared with pre‐1800s levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant?”
- “Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?”
Another study, “Expert credibility in climate change” (PNAS, April 9, 2010), by William Anderegg et al., reported that a survey of publication and citation data of 1,372 climate researchers found that 97 to 98 percent believed that “anthropogenic greenhouse gases have been responsible for ‘most’ of the ‘unequivocal’ warming of the Earth’s average global temperature over the second half of the 20th century.” But Anderegg’s study covered only the 200 most prolific writers on climate change, excluding thousands of others, and even the conclusion that humans caused “most” of the warming doesn’t mean that those scientists consider global warming a crisis or that we should spend trillions of dollars attempting to stop it.
Probably the most widely cited study claiming to find such consensus, John Cook et al.’s “Quantifying the Consensus on Anthropogenic Global Warming in the Scientific Literature,” purported to find that “Among abstracts expressing a position on AGW, 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming.” Of course, “Humans are causing global warming” is something that nearly every skeptic—including myself—could affirm. The question is not whether we’re causing global warming, but whether we’re causing most of the recent warming, whether it’s dangerous, and whether we should abandon abundant, affordable, reliable energy from fossil fuels in exchange for sparse, expensive, intermittent energy from “renewables” in an effort to stop it. Cook et al.’s paper was critiqued in another paper by David Legates et al., who reviewed the same papers Cook et al. had reviewed and concluded that the actual consensus supportable by their abstracts was only 0.3%.
Legates et al. critiqued only Cook et al.’s statistical methodology and methods of interpreting the literature, not the quality of the selection process by which Cook et al. determined which papers to include and which to exclude from their survey. But another scholar, José Duarte, did look at the selection process and found it “multiply fraudulent.” So Duarte called for Environmental Research Letters to retract Cook et al. He pointed out that although Cook et al. had claimed to have excluded papers on “social science, education, research about people’s views on climate,” they had in fact included many such. He also listed some of the many properly scientific papers that Cook et al. ignored but should have included and that would have counted against their conclusion.
Cook et al. surveyed 11,944 papers on global warming that had been published from 1991 through 2012. They did not read the papers or talk to the authors, but they did read the abstracts. The results of the abstracts were divided into 7 categories:
|Category||Number of papers|
|1. Man is causing all of the warming||64|
|2. Man is causing over 50% of the warming||922|
|3. Man is causing less than 50% of the warming||2910|
|4. No opinion or uncertain||7930|
|5. Man is causing some but far less than 50%||54|
|6. Man is not causing warming, with qualifications||15|
|7. Man is not causing any warming||9|
It appears that Cook et al. decided to compare only those scientists who had strong opinions. If that is the case, the first 2 categories represent scientists who believe man is causing all or most of the warming (986), while those in categories 6 and 7 believe man is causing none or almost none (24). This ratio is about 97%. But the most important result of this study is that almost 8,000 had no opinion or were uncertain. So much for the 97%.
Why were there only 24 papers published by skeptics? We found out in 2009, when 22,000 email exchanges between senior meteorologists in the U.S. and Europe where released. Many of the emails were published by Steven Mosher and Thomas Fuller in Climategate: The Crutape Letters (nQuire Services, 2010). We learned the following things from this scandal:
Those promoting manmade global warming:
- Controlled the meteorology and climatology journals in the U.S.;
- Controlled non-meteorological science publication (Nature, Science, etc.);
- Controlled Wikipedia;
- Manipulated data;
- Demonized skeptics.
Papers by skeptics were blackballed and not published in U.S. professional journals. In contrast, Kenneth Richard has documented over 1,000 peer-reviewed papers published in Europe and Asia in 2014, 2015, and 2016 that challenge the hypothesis that CO2 has been the primary driver of recent global warming (and other aspects of the bogus “consensus”) and support solar, oceanic, and other natural cycles as the primary causes of global warming, but they are not found in the U.S. publications.
Let me introduce you to a number of credible skeptics. In 2013 Forbes Magazine surveyedover 1077 earth scientists and found 64% believed global warming was from natural causes.
In 2013, 49 retired astronauts and senior NASA scientists wrote a scathing letter to the Administrator of NASA challenging NASA’s position on global warming.
In recent years a growing number of global warming believers have become skeptics. At the top of the list is Dr. Judith Curry, who was Head of the Department of Meteorology at Georgia Tech. This is what she told the National Press Club in September 2014:
“If I were a non-tenured scientist, I would fear for my job! But I am a senior scientist with retirement in sight, so I can afford to do what I want, say what I think.”
Very troubled by Climategate, Dr. Curry, formerly a believer in dangerous manmade warming and a contributing author to several IPCC assessment reports, began corresponding with skeptics and found many of their arguments persuasive. She was also greatly influenced by the pause in the global warming. She now calls herself a “lukewarmer.”
Next is Dr. Joanne Simpson. Dr. Simpson was a senior scientist at NASA and at one time President of the American Meteorological Society. When she retired, she said,
“Since I am no longer affiliated with any organization nor receive any funding, I can speak frankly and as a scientist I remain skeptical.”
Dr. Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace, has published Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout, in which he states
“There is no definitive scientific proof, through real world observations; that CO2 is responsible for warming the globe.”
Dr. Moore is now a skeptic and has abandoned Greenpeace because he feels it lost sight of its purpose.
Dr. Alan Carlin was a senior scientist for EPA for 37 years before he retired and wrote Environmentalism Gone Mad. He believed in manmade global warming until someone challenged him with the pause in the global temperature. After months of study, he became a skeptic.
Dr. Jay Lehr was one of the original designers of the EPA under President Nixon. He is now a skeptic and leading a nation-wide effort to devolve most of EPA’s functions to regional, state, and local levels.
The Heartland Institute has sponsored 11 International Conferences on Climate Changethat have been attended by thousands of scientists and other experts, and over 31,000 scientists have signed a petition saying, “There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.”
I could go on with numerous other examples, but the ones I have presented should be sufficient to show that skeptics are numerous, growing in number, and most have impeccable credentials.
Let’s pause and summarize the points I have been trying to make with data:
- The earth has been warming for over a century and a half.
- CO2 is not a major factor in the global warming, and numerous credible scientists agree with this conclusion.
- The warming is being caused primarily by natural forces over which man has no control.
- If the globe continues to warm, some of the alarming predictions made by the Hescox and Douglas could occur.
But what about energy? Should we continue using the fossil fuels that provide about 85% of all energy we consume? Or should we strive to replace them as rapidly as possible with renewables—especially wind and solar?
Most skeptics I know would welcome an open discussion of energy sources. For example, in the desert regions of Africa where there is adequate sunshine, individual self-contained solar units seem to be an excellent choice. But in Europe, where there is little sunshine in the winter and wind is very irregular, nuclear would seem to be a better option. Many mountain valleys of the Alps see no sunshine for almost 5 months; there solar is out of the question.
Experience is showing that forcing the rapid move from fossil fuels to renewables has unforeseen and harmful consequences. The move to green energy in Germany has been a mild disaster. Germany had one of the finest and most reliable electric grids in the world, powered by 17 nuclear plants. After the nuclear tragedy in Fukushima, Japan, Germany decided to go green. Nine of the plants have been decommissioned and replaced with solar and wind. Electricity rates have more than doubled, and the supply has become unreliable. To supplement power when the wind doesn’t blow, Germany is now installing coal plants. Meanwhile, its citizens object to wind farms destroying the land.
Hescox and Douglas’s enthusiasm for green energy in chapter 6 has to be tempered by reality. It is exciting to learn that Tesla expects to produce 500,000 electric cars per year in another decade (p. 114), but that will hardly put a dent in the need. There are nearly 260,000,000 motor vehicles on the roads in the U.S., and over 90% of the energy they consume comes from oil. Last year 16 million new cars were sold in the U.S. They are serviced by 115,000 filling stations. Worldwide there are over 1 billion vehicles. How many decades would it take to convert from gasoline and diesel to electric engines and build a network of charging stations?
It is difficult to determine the amount the U.S. has spent on green energy, because the expenditures are spread over a number of agencies. One estimate suggests we have spent $150 billion over the past 15 years.
In their excitement over green energy, Hescox and Douglas failed to mention a number of financial disasters. Several years ago Solyndra went bankrupt, costing us half a billion dollars. Sharyl Attkisson, who used to be a reporter for CBS, wrote in her book Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama’s Washington, that she quit CBS because it refused to run some of her stories on green energy. Her chapter on green energy passes on some of what she sought to report in those articles. In 2009 the U.S. subsidized 11 electric car companies for $2.5 billion; 6 are bankrupt, and the other 5 are floundering. The U.S. spent another $300 million on 2 companies to build car batteries, and both are bankrupt. In 2015 SunEdison, the largest green energy company in the U.S., went bankrupt, costing us another $2.5 billion. Abengoa, out of Spain, one of the biggest renewable energy companies in the world, is also threatening to go bankrupt. This will cost the U.S. another $2 billion. In 2016 President Obama sent $400 million to the U.N. as the down payment on our commitment of $3.5 billion to support developing countries convert to green energy. On January 17, 2017, just before he left office, President Obama sent another $500 million.
Hescox and Douglas claim this is a pro-life issue and if we control CO2, multitudes of lives will be saved in the far distant future. But what about today? In addition to 1.2 billion people who have no electricity, another 2-3 billion in the world lack safe water and sewage. It is estimated 2 to 4 million people die each year because of the lack of these two necessities. What about taking a small portion of money wasted on green energy projects and building wells in Africa and supporting companies, like M-Kopa, who are building individual solar units?
Without question the primary purpose of the book is to seek the support of Christians for green energy. It is unfortunate that Hescox and Douglas did not present a balanced view. Rather than acknowledge there are serious questions about the effect of CO2 on the earth’s temperature, they chose to belittle the credibility of anyone who would challenge their position on manmade global warming.
What are their qualifications? Douglas earned a B.S. in meteorology and has been a television and radio meteorologist for some 35 years. Hescox, a former pastor and now CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network, earned a Masters in Divinity and a B.S. in geosciences. These are respectable qualifications for their respective contributions to the book, but they are by no means extraordinary, and they pale into insignificance compared with eminently qualified scientists on the other side, whose character they impugn implicitly by referring to them as a body (not by name) as given to cherry-picking data, resorting to conspiracy theories and “dishonest misinformation,” and motivated by payoffs from fossil fuel corporations. Some, like them, are also dedicated Christians—like Dr. John Christy and Dr. Roy Spencer, who have received national and international recognition for their outstanding work developing a method of computing the temperature of the earth from satellite data, and Dr. David Legates, Dr. G. Cornelis van Kooten, Dr. Anthony Lupo, and more—not to mention myself. Did they consider the Ninth Commandment (“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”) or Philippians 2:3 (“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”) when they denigrated their brethren?
This prompts one final critique of Caring for Creation. A responsible book on the subject should have interacted significantly with contrary arguments. Yet electronic searches failed to find reference to a single prominent skeptic. It’s not difficult to find out who they are. A single article in Wikipedia lists 22 who challenge the accuracy of IPCC climate projections, 27 who argue that global warming is caused primarily by natural processes, 11 who say the cause of warming is unknown, and 4 who argue that whatever its cause global warming will have few negative consequences. Among these are several Nobel Prize winners (like Ivar Giaevar) and some of the most distinguished scientists in American history (like Frederick Seitz, S. Fred Singer, and Freeman Dyson). And these are just the most prominent. There are thousands of others. Surely Hescox and Douglas could have at least acknowledged the existence of some of these outstanding scientists who totally disagree with them and the experts they mention.
Their failure to grapple with opposing arguments exposes their book as an exercise in confirmation fallacy.
Neil L. Frank, Ph.D. (Meteorology) is a veteran atmospheric scientist of over 50 years’ service. He was the longest-serving Director of the National Hurricane Center (1974–1987) and Chief Meteorologist of KHOU-TV, the CBS affiliate in Houston, TX (1987–2007), and continues his study of climate change in his retirement. He is a Fellow of The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.