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Believers and Non-believers: Our Global Warming Problem

Written By | Dec 11, 2015

WASHINGTON, December 11, 2015 – We have a global warming problem, but it isn’t between the believers and non-believers as posited by so many mass media outlets, Democrats, and climate scientists with big, federally funded grants at stake.

The problem lies in the false dichotomy that the issue divides by believers and nonbelievers.

Demagogues relentlessly espouse the notion that a warming planet portends a Biblical order of disaster, and that human activity is the primary cause for it. Let’s call the espousers “warmers.” Warmers claim to be opposed by another group they label as “deniers.” Warmers have, with religious fervor, promulgated the view that anyone who challenges their global warming narrative—whether in opposition to it or not—is a denier.

“Scientific skeptics are now routinely censored or threatened with prosecution,” says an article in the Nov. 28-29 issue of The Wall Street Journal.

“One recent survey by Rasmussen Reports shows that 27% of Democrats in the U.S. are in favor of prosecuting climate skeptics. This is the mentality of religious fanaticism, not scientific debate.”

In the soft intellectual climate that exists in the United States and much of the rest of the world, the concepts of global warming and climate change are now conflated.

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In fact, so much has been invested in selling global warming as a modern or post-modern phenomenon that it has become nearly impossible for reporters and editors, for whom science is a neglected foreign language, to distinguish between the two or to at least acknowledge global warming is a an aspect of climate change rather than the whole of it.

Without getting into the weeds with the myriad examples, one need only look at the reporting in the walk-up to and during the climate change Conference of Parties (COP21) taking place in Paris. A video on the CNN COP21 Web page, for example, says that 97 percent of a “a very small sample” of “climate scientists…said, ‘Yes, global warming is man made.'”

Cyclical Reality

Of course, anyone who has had a course in physical geography, physical anthropology, or GEOLOGY, knows that ice ages and the variations with them are cyclical. When the cold hits and the ice expands, it does so for 100,000 years or more. The onset of the Earth’s current interglacial period (the current period of global warming) started about 15,000 years ago. If the last interglacial period is any example, the current interglacial may last another 15,000 years.

As taught and the evidence bears, when the ice melts and the polar ice caps disappear during interglacial periods, sea level rises. When the ice re-forms, sea level falls.

If you read and have visited bookstores in the last couple of decades, you may have seen the Roadside Geology series of books, written to help travelers understand the geology they see along roads cut across the continent. One, Roadside Geology of Virginia by Dr. Keith Frye (Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company, 1986) is particularly illustrative.

“The tidal waters of Chesapeake Bay and other estuaries, sea cliffs, barrier bars and islands, and off-shore bars are the result of the latest rise in sea level and submergence of the land,” Frye explains.

“In the 1.8 million years since the beginning of the Pleistocene Epoch, sea level rose six times to cover at least part of the earlier deposits with new sediment.” (Again, sea level rose six times when humans barely had a toe hold anywhere). Fry continues: “Five times the sea shrank from the continent to permit rivers to cut channels through these sediments to a lowered Atlantic Ocean. The last period of low sea level corresponded with the last Ice Age. Enough water was tied up in the glaciers then to drop sea level some 400 feet, and move the Atlantic beaches 50 miles east of their present locations.”

Think about that for a second. Then consider that “no Chesapeake Bay existed for the first half of the Pleistocene Epoch,” or let’s say, between 1.8 million and 600,000 years ago.

“The rise in sea level since the end of the last Ice Age [12,000 to 14,000 years ago] flooded the coast and caused widespread deposition of beach, estuary and swamp deposits still accumulating in low areas. These will become formations if a rising sea level causes younger sediments to accumulate on top of them. If sea level falls, they will be eroded away.”

Sea level has been 50 feet above its present level, when the entire Eastern Shore was little more than a large sandbar between Chesapeake Bay and the ocean.

Climate scientists are well aware of Earth’s climate cycles! Others who identify themselves as scientists, but who make blanket statements to mass media that global warming is caused principally by human activity need to refrain from discussing things they apparently do not understand.

So, yes, there is such a thing called global warming, but humans only contribute to it. The question is how much do we do so? By what percentage? Perhaps I’ve missed that one, critical, peer-reviewed science paper published in a credible academic journal that has ever dared to apportion the human contribution to the warming phenomenon, though IPCC summary reports have been happy to attempt to do so. If I am mistaken and such a report does exist, please send me a copy! (Surely, it would have made a media splash upon publication.)

Predicting the Future

The IPCC does recognize that the Earth’s temperature has changed independently of human activity, but it insists that human activity in the last nearly 125 years has pushed that increase dangerously above natural levels.   The biggest projected negatives associated with recent global warming appear to be dramatic changes in weather patterns, but so far, those have been iffy, model-based projections.

The expansion of the Saharan, North American, and other deserts—once hospitable environments, occurred long ago in human history.

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IPCC forecasts having been anything but accurate. They’ve been wrong on how quickly global temperatures are rising, how quickly polar ice would melt (another cyclical phenomenon), and on how much sea level would rise. These are things, if mass media reports are accurate, that have been expressed with certainty, with former Vice President Al Gore’s demagoguery (and faux video) leading one of the early charges.

“When a prediction about a complex phenomenon is expressed with a great deal of confidence, it may be a sign that the forecaster has not thought through the problem carefully, has overfit his statistical model, or is more interested in making a name for himself than in getting at the truth,” statistician Nate Silver says in his influential book, The Signal and the Noise: Why Some Predictions Fail — But Some Don’t (Penguin, 2012, p. 405).

It is no wonder, as Silver puts it, that the “American public’s confidence that global warming is occurring has decreased somewhat over the past several years” (p. 418).

And there it is again. Even in Silver’s excellent book we find that false dichotomy of whether or not global warming is occurring. How can we move mass media giants past that falsehood to discuss global warming and climate change intelligently — beyond the warmer-denier dichotomy? If they don’t get it right soon, no one else will. It may be too late to cut through the decades of error preserved and regurgitated daily on the Internet.

So much emphasis is made on the scientific consensus for climate change, but consensus on what, specifically? The obvious, that there is climate change and global warming? Rarely is the consensus defined beyond sky-blue irrefutability. What is the consensus on the “threat” warming poses? And how could such a consensus have any integrity, especially given the notorious inaccuracies of current models and past predictions?

When Hell Freezes Over

Rather than a major tragedy, it’s an inescapable fact that our species has benefited from a warming planet. Life thrives now in areas that were once under ice. Perhaps in a few hundred or thousand years, Siberia and the Canadian tundra will become accessible for farming and mining. One thing is certain: There will be hell to pay when Earth cools again. Of course, few of us are likely to be around then to listen to the accusatory reports of anthropogenic global cooling.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do all we can to stop deforestation, not pollute our environment, find alternatives to fossil fuels, and better mitigate the actual negatives of human activity. We should pay attention to climate change and the weather, but let’s do so with less hype and more intellectual honesty.

David Alan Coia

David Alan Coia is a journalist, editor and educator based in Arlington, VA.