Patterson: Climate science far from settled - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Voices

Patterson: Climate science far from settled

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East Valley resident Tom Patterson (pattersontomc@cox.net) is a retired physician and former state senator.

Posted: Monday, April 21, 2014 12:02 pm

The more evidence pours in that their dire warnings are doubtful, the louder environmental scare mongers insist that the “science is settled.” “We should not allow a tiny minority of shoddy scientists and extreme ideologues to compete with scientific facts,” declared Secretary of State John Kerry. “The science is unequivocal.” Barack Obama agreed that “the debate is settled.”

But the notion of “settled science” is, itself, unscientific. Science is essentially a process of ceaseless discovery, not a codified collection of facts. When scientific consensus forms around specific conclusions, real scientists understand that the state of our knowledge must always be open to new data and more useful conceptualizations.

It’s ironic that skeptics of global warming, as conceptualized, are sometimes derisively referred to as “Flat Earthers,” since that particular shape of the earth was long settled science. Only a “tiny minority” thought otherwise and they were ridiculed mercilessly.

The teachings of the Roman physician Galen were the settled science of medicine for almost two millennia. We now know that almost all of Galen’s conclusions were dead wrong but dissenters were shunned and punished. The result was unimaginable and unnecessary human suffering from disease over the centuries.

Even if we were to foolishly accept the notion of settled science, the currently fashionable ideas around climate change wouldn’t qualify. The basic notion is that rising levels of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, trap heat near the earth’s surface and will soon cause everything from rising oceans to mass species extinctions and rising crime rates (really!).

However, in the past 15 years during which developing and developed countries around the world have been belching unprecedented amounts of CO2 into the air, the Earth has seen no temperature increase. That’s not good for all those sophisticated computer models, of course, but maybe it’s just a coincidence and the sample size is too small, you say?

According to Dr. Jay Lehrer of the Heartland Institute, in spite of our climbing CO2 levels, the temperature on earth today is actually lower than the average over the last 5,000 years. Temperature changes over the last 300 years, on the other hand, correlate almost perfectly with the activity level on the surface of the sun.

You might know from media coverage that there is great concern about receding glaciers. You may not know that other glaciers are advancing. A recent study of 246 glaciers worldwide revealed no net change in size.

And those cute polar bears mortally threatened by global warming? Their North American population has increased from 5,000 to 25,000 over the last 50 years.

There’s more but none of this matters to true believers in the religion of environmentalism. To them, warming is due to “climate change,” of course, but so is cooling. Tornadoes and hurricanes are the result of our negligence even though there has been a decline in the number of these storms over the last few decades.

No question that flooding and mud slides are caused by you-know-what, but so is drought. At least that’s what President Obama recently declared on a trip to California’s drought stricken farm country.

Come on. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found the drought “resulted mostly from natural variations in the weather.” The inciter-in-chief got carried away. He also failed to mention the millions of acre-feet of water dumped into the ocean, at the insistence of environmental special interests, to save the delta smelt, a small bait fish.

Reasonable people can see that we probably are in a warming trend and human activity may be complicit. But there may not be much we can do about it. A recent study by the Science and Public Policy Institute showed that if the U.S. eliminated all carbon emissions immediately — no driving, no electricity, nothing — it would by 2100 only make the temperature .7 degrees Celsius cooler.

A more rational approach would be to limit emissions where practical but to also learn to accommodate to changes in the climate, as has always been done in the past. The worst option would be to allow our liberty and prosperity to be regulated out of existence by those hysterically pushing us to panic.

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