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Hey, Charles: Seems like climate denial is a religion …

February 8th, 2011 · 1 Comment

This cross-post from Steven D addresses, with some passion, Charles Krauthammer’s shallow and ignorance promoting sense of humor when it comes to the realities of climate change science.  Those who are rejecting science — as does Krauthammer — in their blind assertions of falsehoods and truthiness are exemplifying ideologically driven religious passion above scientific knowledge.

On the issue which Krauthammer is joking, this Washington Post piece is of direct relevance: Is severe winter weather related to global warming?

Query:

Is Charles Krauthammer, a man with a degree in Medicine (psychiatry) and Economics who plays a know it all on TV simply Ignorant, Stupid, Lazy, Evil or All of the Above?

As the Sportscasters say, Let’s go to the tape:

Dear Charles, I checked.  You’re wrong.  Climate scientists do not worship a Nature deity called Climate Change, nor is Al Gore their High Priest.  They do not gather together in conclaves to perform rituals and offer up prayers, nor do they all adhere to a single dogma of faith in  unseen forces that control humankind’s destiny.  In short, none of them claim to be infallible, unlike the Pope or the claims made by adherents of other major religions for their holy books.

What they do is adhere to the Scientific method.  They fight and argue about their work but when someone proves them wrong they usually admit their errors.  That’s because their mission in life isn’t to find some supernatural force to explain all of unanswered questions regarding the universe.  All they try to do is explain what they observe happening and how it happens to the best of their ability.  Reason and logic, data and the experimental method are there guidelines to discovery the truth about our world, not faith or belief in prophets or reputed Gods or holy scriptures.

Scientists develop new theories based on known facts and prior scientific theories that have been tested and found to accurately depict the physical processes that affect our world. Then they test their new theories  by comparing the predictions made by those theories to actual  real world data (i.e., information).

They take facts, develop theories and then test those theories against real world data (i.e., information) regarding land, air and water temperatures, the amount of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere and the rate at which they are increasing.  They examine known patterns of climate variability such as the cyclical El Nino and La Nina oscillations in the Southern Hemisphere that has had so much to do with theextreme weather events the world has experienced over the last two years.

They also study the effect of solar radiation on climate, and the effects of “carbon sinks” such as tropical rain forests and the oceans which trap CO2,  removing it from the atmosphere. They fact check each other and revise results when they discover their earlier research or theories were wrong.

Presumably , Charles (may I call you Charles?) you are a bright man, considering you became a psychiatrist, so you ought to know what you don’t know.  And you don’t know Jack about global warming and the greenhouse gases (large amounts of which are produced as a result of human activity) that are the driving force behind climate change.

Maybe it’s because you’re just too lazy to actually study up on the science of climate science that you called it a religion.  After all, pontificating on talk shows and writing political columns doesn’t require a lot of work.  Maybe you are just following your bosses’ orders to hew to the ever more right leaning line of your newspaper, the Washington Post.  Certainly your flippant and cheap shots at Al Gore are exactly the type of comment that allows political pundits to earn income far in excess of the value they provide to our society.

For example, did you know that climate change from a man made warming from CO2 emissions was originally predicted by a Swedish Scientist, Svante Arrhenius in a landmark scientific paper in 1895, over a 100 years before Al Gore became every Climate Denier’s favorite punching bag?

In 1895, Arrhenius presented a paper to the Stockholm Physical Society titled, “On the Influence of Carbonic Acid in the Air upon the Temperature of the Ground.” This article described an energy budget model that considered the radiative effects of carbon dioxide (carbonic acid) and water vapor on the surface temperature of the Earth, and variations in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. [...]

Arrhenius argued that variations in trace constituents—namely carbon dioxide—of the atmosphere could greatly influence the heat budget of the Earth. Using the best data available to him (and making many assumptions and estimates that were necessary), he performed a series of calculations on the temperature effects of increasing and decreasing amounts of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere. His calculations showed that the “temperature of the Arctic regions would rise about 8 degrees or 9 degrees Celsius, if the carbonic acid increased 2.5 to 3 times its present value.

Arrhenius worked before computers (much less the supercomputers we use today) and before the massive data sets on rising temperatures and rising emission of greenhouse gases yet he was still able to postulate the first theory of global warming because he used science, not religion.  He took the work of earlier scientists such as the Irish Scientist John Tyndall who first discovered that carbon dioxide, methane and water vapor all absorb infrared radiation, thus trapping heat in the atmosphere.
Arrhenius worked before computers (much less the supercomputers we use today) and before the massive data sets on rising temperatures and rising emission of greenhouse gases yet he was still able to postulate the first theory of global warming because he used science, not religion.  He took the work of earlier scientists such as the Irish Scientist John Tyndall who first discovered that carbon dioxide, methane and water vapor all absorb infrared radiation, thus trapping heat in the atmosphere.
Arrhenious also expanded ion the work of British scientist James Crollwho developed a theory on why Ice Ages develop and how the climate changes as a result of the expanding ice resulting in “feedbacks ” that are self sustaining.  Kroll recognized that …

[T]he ice sheets themselves would influence climate. When snow and ice had covered a region, they would reflect most of the sunlight back into space. Sunlight would warm bare, dark soil and trees, but a snowy region would tend to remain cool. If India were somehow covered with ice (or anything white), its summers would be colder than England’s. Croll further argued that when a region became cooler, the pattern of winds would change, which would in turn change ocean currents, perhaps removing more heat from the region. Once something started an ice age, the pattern could become self-sustaining.

Arrhenious took Kroll’s ideas regarding feedback in climate systems and applied them to the situation which would occur if greenhouse gases were increasing in the atmosphere, as the best data he had at the time suggested.  Guess what  Arrhenious postulated long before Al Gore parents were born?

Arrhenius showed his physical insight at its best when he realized that he could not set aside another simple feedback, one that would immediately and crucially exaggerate the influence of any change. Warmer air would hold more moisture. Since water vapor is itself a greenhouse gas, the increase of water vapor in the atmosphere would augment the temperature rise. Arrhenius therefore built into his model an assumption that the amount of water vapor contained in the air would rise or fall with temperature.

Gosh darn, Charles, that’s exactly what Al Gore said.  But Arrhenius went even further by showing the connection between rising levels of Carbon Dioxide and increased water vapor in the atmosphere:

The consequences of adding CO2 and warming the planet a bit would indeed be amplified because warmer air held more water vapor. In a sense, raising or lowering CO2 acted mainly as a throttle to raise or lower the really important greenhouse gas, H2O.

Well, Charles, perhaps it is understandable that you didn’t know that the science (not the religion) of climate change started in the mid-19th Century rather than being something Al Gore pulled out of his ass one day. Indeed, Arrhenius initial theory, while fundamentally correct on the larger issue that a rise in CO2 would warm the atmosphere and lead to more water vapor in the air was not without its flaws.  Subsequent scientists, with more data available to them built on his work to improve it and correct the errors in his initial theory.  Does that sound like religion to you, Charles?

For example, as early as the 1930’s (yes the 1930’s) scientists documented that global temperatures had indeed increased since the 19th Century.

The head of the U.S. Weather Bureau’s Division of Climate and Crop Weather responded in 1934. “With ‘Grand-Dad’ insisting that the winters were colder and the snows deeper when he was a lad,” he said, “…it was decided to make a rather exhaustive study of the question.” Averaging results from many stations in the eastern United States and some scattered locations elsewhere around the world, the weather services found that “Grand-Dad” was right: average temperatures had risen several degrees Fahrenheit (°F) since 1865 in most regions.

I bet none of your Oil Industry lobbying buddies related that fact to you, did they?  And I’m willing to bet that you never examined the history of the “science” (not religion) of climate change that continued to progress from simple theories to ever more complex ones all during the 20th century through the first decade of the 21st century.  Because if you had you would have discovered that Roger Revelle, a renowned Oceanographer, demonstrated in 1957 that all of the carbon dioxide being produced by humankindcould not be absorbed by the oceans.

In 1957,Revelle co-authored a paper with Hans Suess that suggested that the Earth’s oceans would absorb excess carbon dioxide generated by humanity at a much slower rate than previously predicted by geoscientists, thereby suggesting that human gas emissions might create a “greenhouse effect” that would cause global warming over time.[3] Although other articles in the same journal discussed carbon dioxide levels, the Suess-Revelle paper was “the only one of the three to stress the growing quantity of CO2 contributed by our burning of fossil fuel, and to call attention to the fact that it might cause global warming over time.”

Did no one mention Revelle’s work to you Charles?  Did you fail to do what any good journalist would do and study the history of this science you so casually dismissed as a religion?  Or did you just conveniently lie about what you did  know?

Of course, Revelle wasn’t entirely correct either.  He used estimates regarding the amount of CO2 mankind would produce in the future based on existing trends in the 1950’s.  It turns out his estimates were way too low, because human populations grew at a rate much faster than he estimated as did their production of CO2, errors that other scientists have since corrected in newer, better models of climate change caused by human activity.  Still his work and that of other scientists in the 1950’s, half a century ago, and long before Al Gore created his documentary “An inconvenient Truth”.  Look at this radio program by GE which demonstrates that prominent scientist in the 1950’s were already warning about man-made global warming:

Of course, there are many other sources of evidence that supports the theory of climate change global warming of which human activity is the principal cause.   There’s recent evidence from the past that the greatest extinction of life on the Earth, the Permian extinction, was caused by large emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases.

Unlike end of dinosaurs, 65 million years ago, where there is widespread belief that the impact of a meteorite was at least the partial cause, it is unclear what caused the late Permian extinction. Previous researchers have suggested massive volcanic eruptions through coal beds in Siberia would generate significant greenhouse gases causing run away global warming.

“Our research is the first to show direct evidence that massive volcanic eruptions — the largest the world has ever witnessed -caused massive coal combustion thus supporting models for significant generation of greenhouse gases at this time,” says Grasby.

Oddly enough, at a time when CO2 is again rising at an astonishing rate, we are witnessing thelargest mass extinction event since the Permian era:

As long ago as 1993, Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson estimated that Earth is currently losing something on the order of 30,000 species per year — which breaks down to the even more daunting statistic of some three species per hour. Some biologists have begun to feel that this biodiversity crisis — this “Sixth Extinction” — is even more severe, and more imminent, than Wilson had supposed.

And perhaps you never heard ofDr. Jeffrey Kiehl of the National Center for Atmospheric researchwhose states that studying the past evidence of periods of increased greenhouse gases such as occurred in the Permian era, shows that the Earth is far more sensitive to warming than most climate scientists originally thought.

The magnitude of climate change during Earth’s deep past suggests that future temperatures may eventually rise far more than projected if society continues its pace of emitting greenhouse gases, a new analysis concludes. The study, by National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) scientist Jeffrey Kiehl, will appear as a “Perspectives” piece in this week’s issue of the journal Science [...]

Building on recent research, the study examines the relationship between global temperatures and high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere tens of millions of years ago. It warns that, if carbon dioxide emissions continue at their current rate through the end of this century, atmospheric concentrations of the greenhouse gas will reach levels that last existed about 30 million to 100 million years ago, when global temperatures averaged about 29 degrees Fahrenheit (16 degrees Celsius) above pre-industrial levels.

Kiehl said that global temperatures may gradually rise over the next several centuries or millennia in response to the carbon dioxide. Elevated levels of the greenhouse gas may remain in the atmosphere for tens of thousands of years, according to recent computer model studies of geochemical processes that the study cites.

The study also indicates that the planet’s climate system, over long periods of times, may be at least twice as sensitive to carbon dioxide than currently projected by computer models, which have generally focused on shorter-term warming trends. This is largely because even sophisticated computer models have not yet been able to incorporate critical processes, such as the loss of ice sheets, that take place over centuries or millennia and amplify the initial warming effects of carbon dioxide. [...]

Kiehl focused on a fundamental question: When was the last time Earth’s atmosphere contained as much carbon dioxide as it may by the end of this century?

If society continues on its current pace of increasing the burning of fossil fuels, atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide are expected to reach about 900 to 1,000 parts per millionby the end of this century. That compares with current levels of about 390 parts per million, and pre-industrial levels of about 280 parts per million.

So you see, Al Gore was too conservative about the effects of man-made climate change when he released “An Inconvenient Truth,” as were all the scientists whose research and peer reviewed work you brushed off as a mere “religion.”  Every day climate scientists correct themselves and their fellow scientists when new evidence, such as the far more rapid rates of melting Arctic sea ice and increased temperatures in the Arctic, shows that their earlier models were insufficient to explain why climate change is occurring far faster than they ever imagined.

Dear Charles, when was the last time you studied a basic physics book?  When was the last time you spoke to an “expert” on the field of climate science who actually is a working scientist?  Were you even aware of the PNAS study that showed that of scientists who had published 20 or more articles about climate related issues, 97% of them accept that climate change is real and is primarily the result of human activity, especially the burning of fossil fuels?

Because the timeline of decision-making is oftenmore rapid than scientific consensus, examining the landscape of expert opinion can greatly inform such decision-making (15, 19). Here, we examine a metric of climate-specific expertise and a metric of overall scientific prominence as two dimensions of expert credibility in two groups of researchers. We provide a broad assessment of the relative credibility of researchers convinced by the evidence (CE) of ACC and those unconvinced by the evidence (UE) of ACC. [...]

We compiled a database of 1,372 climate researchers based on authorship of scientific assessment reports and membership on multisignatory statements about ACC ISI Materials and Methods). We tallied the number of climate-relevant publications authored or coauthored by each researcher (defined here as expertise) and counted the number of citations for each of the researcher’s four highest-cited papers (defined here as prominence) using Google Scholar. We then imposed an a priori criterion that a researcher must have authored a minimum of 20 climate publications to be considered a climate researcher, thus reducing the database to 908 researchers. Varying this minimum publication cutoff did not materially alter results (Materials and Methods). [...]

The UE [unconvinced experts] group comprises only 2% of the top 50 climate researchers as ranked by expertise (number of climate publications), 3% of researchers of the top 100, and 2.5% of the top 200, excluding researchers present in both groups (Materials and Methods). This result closely agrees with expert surveys, indicating that ?97% of self-identified actively publishing climate scientists agree with the tenets of ACC (2). [...]

Probably not.  I suspect Charles that  you could give a damn about actual research by scientists regarding climate change or the thousands of studies and journal articles that support what is indeed a science and not as you so blithely and disdainfully referred to as a religion.  It’s far easier for you to take stupid, ignorant and insulting potshots at Al Gore than do the hard work of researching the scientific evidence that supports the theory of climate change caused by human activity.  But hey, you make a good living at spreading lies and half-truths and insulting not only Al Gore but all the individual scientists who have devoted their careers to studying climate.  Why give up a good gig with The Washington Post and Fox News to be a paid propagandist when telling the truth might affect the only thing you apparently care about: you bank account.

Charles, I’d ask how you can live with yourself, but as a psychiatrist you no doubt are aware that extreme narcissists such as yourself rarely have any qualms of conscience about the evil that they do.

Tags: climate change · climate delayers · environmental · guest post · religion and global warming

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