Tag Archives: scientific consensus

Another Journalist Distorts Science

A January 6 opinion piece in Forbes magazine claims scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate warming is a canard used by scientists to propagate fear in the public. This assertion by the author Alex Epstein may have some shock value, but it’s not really worth much consideration or response. Though, I will briefly take the bait one last time to tighten the lid on this odorous scatology.

The article asks two simple questions. Epstein’s answers, however, are long, rhetorical, and lacking in citations to recent and peer-reviewed studies. I have answered each question here with simple concise statements using data provided on the NASA Climate website.

  1. What exactly do the climate scientists agree on?
  2. How do we know the 97% agree?

A1: Scientists agree that most historic climate changes are attributed to tiny changes in Earth’s orbit around the sun, which alter the amount of solar radiation received on Earth. Moreover, they agree that most of the current warming is very likely human-induced and has proceeded at an unprecedented rate in the past 1,300 years.

A2According to the NASA website, “Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities [1] and most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position. The following is a partial list of these organizations, along with links to their published statements and a selection of related resources.”

NASA identifies 7 major scientific societies with large memberships that have published statements on the significance of anthropogenic climate warming, including the American Association for the Advancement of ScienceAmerican Chemical SocietyAmerican Geophysical Union, and American Medical Association. Refer to this web page for a list of about 200 worldwide scientific organizations that agree that climate change has been caused by human action. And, I recently commented on two new signatories, the Smithsonian Institution and the Union of Concerned Scientists, here.

The consensus view highlighted in A2 above differs from the putative statement Epstein associates with climate scientists, such as “97% of climate scientists [agree] that human beings are the main cause of warming.” Clearly, the meaning conveyed in NASA’s statement is much different from Epstein’s statement. But, Epstein’s entire article is based on this false statement that most good climate scientists would avoid uttering.

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Once again, we see a journalist and non-scientist waxing authoritatively on a subject he knows little about and one far beyond the scope of his training. The full article “’97% Of Climate Scientists Agree’ Is 100% Wrong” is online here. The author’s bio on its own will probably seal the deal for most readers.

I write about the environmental benefits of industrial progress. An energy philosopher, debater, and communications consultant, I am the Founder and President of the Center for Industrial Progress and head of the I Love Fossil Fuels Campaign. I have defended fossil fuel energy in debates against Greenpeace, 350.org, and the Sierra Club. You can read more about my work at AlexEpstein.com, and see the first chapter of my new book free at MoralCaseForFossilFuels.com.

Can anyone define an “energy philosopher“ or explain the discipline of energy philosophy? Aside from a few personal blogs and social network pages with banners of “The Energy Philosopher”, I could not find anything online about this branch of philosophy. And, consider the following from his website and new book:

  • Founder and President of the Center for Industrial Progress: Its mission is to “bring about a new industrial revolution.” Epstein and his “think tank” claim there is a “moral case for fossil fuels.”
  • The Moral Case For Fossil Fuels, the book: Epstein makes the dubious claim that we only learn about the downside of fossil fuels. I posit that most of us recognize fossil fuels as a relatively inexpensive source of energy. We also know there are health-related costs and, for example, immeasurable environmental cleanup and litigation costs—think Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon oil spills just to name two disasters.  Epstein suggests the moral significance of fossil fuel use is driven by its low cost and capacity to improve life on Earth.

Patrick J. Michaels, the director of the Center for the Study of Science at the Cato Institute, has this to say about Epstein’s new book:

Alex Epstein’s long-anticipated book, The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, published by Penguin, comes out today! I reviewed it as, “simply the best popular-market book about climate, environmental policy, and energy that I have read. Laymen and experts alike will be boggled by Epstein’s clarity.

Yes, I can see that many readers would be “boggled.” The climate denial and delusion movement, as illustrated by Epstein’s opinion piece, defines the media “echo chamber.”

  1.  W. R. L. Anderegg, “Expert Credibility in Climate Change,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Vol. 107 No. 27, 12107-12109 (21 June 2010); DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1003187107.

P. T. Doran & M. K. Zimmerman, “Examining the Scientific Consensus on Climate Change,” Eos Transactions American Geophysical Union Vol. 90 Issue 3 (2009), 22; DOI: 10.1029/2009EO030002.

N. Oreskes, “Beyond the Ivory Tower: The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change,” Science Vol. 306 no. 5702, p. 1686 (3 December 2004); DOI: 10.1126/science.1103618.

Climate Warming Consensus

As part of this blog’s random and unending series of posts on climate science and global warming — see here and here — I have a few final words on the scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate warming. Final? Yes, final…because consensus is nearing unity and the issue is settled. I only want to dwell briefly on the subject, just long enough to showcase two recent  statements on climate change and fossil fuel use.

According to NASA’s global climate change website, 97% of climate scientists agree that “climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities…”  Additionally, many leading scientific organizations have endorsed this position. In 2009, the American Association for the Advancement of Science reaffirmed its 2006 stance along with 18 other respected scientific organizations, concluding that anthropogenic global climate warming is underway and will continue to threaten human populations.

Now there are two more notable scientific organizations officially and publicly joining the consensus. On October 2, the Smithsonian Institution announced its “Official Climate Change Statement.” Their assessment acknowledges the global climate is warming because of human activities and meaningful action is urgently needed. The statement is good, but a little long. So I will post the first paragraph, which conveys the core message.

Rapid and long-lasting climate change is a topic of growing concern as the world looks to the future. Scientists, engineers and planners are seeking to understand the impact of new climate patterns, working to prepare our cities against the perils of rising storms and anticipating threats to our food, water supplies and national security. Scientific evidence has demonstrated that the global climate is warming as a result of increasing levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases generated by human activities. A pressing need exists for information that will improve our understanding of climate trends, determine the causes of the changes that are occurring and decrease the risks posed to humans and nature.

The carefully prepared statement emphasizes an urgent need for more information. This makes sense given the Smithsonian’s expertise in data collection, analysis, and education. The full statement, however, says very little (I’m being generous) of the urgent need for meaningful action on the major causes of the problem (i.e., burning fossil fuels).

The second announcement, however, is a bold move by the Union of Concerned Scientists to fully divest from fossil fuel companies. Divestment simply means giving up stocks, bonds, or other investments that are unethical or immoral. On September 18, Ken Kimmell, President of the UCS released the following statement to the media before the UN Climate Summit in New York City.

Climate change is one of the greatest threats facing humanity. To address global warming, we need to significantly reduce heat-trapping carbon emissions—and that means moving away from oil and coal now, and over time from natural gas. We encourage businesses, universities, nonprofits and other organization to divest from fossil fuel companies to help speed the advancement of clean energy to curb climate change.

UCS doesn’t have any direct investments in fossil fuel companies. Like many Americans, we invest in large managed index funds to reduce our financial risk. Our board investment committee has been working to move our resources into ‘sustainability funds’ and found that even those funds do not necessarily screen out all fossil fuel companies. As a result, fossil fuel companies accounted for less than 5 percent of our total investments before we began looking at divesting.

The UCS Board has directed our investment committee to determine how best to divest more fully from fossil fuels, and they have already begun moving a large portion of our investments into fossil free investments and will continue to do so. We are committed to continuing working with our investment committee to map our progress toward divestment on an annual basis.

This statement illustrates a reasoned response to an urgent threat; it suggests a reasonable path for transitioning away from fossil fuels. The transition will accelerate as more organizations and corporations begin to get rid of their harmful investments. More divestment, along with further progress on clean energy technologies, will change the flow of capital from fossil fuels toward clean, sustainable energy sources.

Several cool websites offer more details and advice on divesting. I stumbled on the eye-catching Fossil Free website. They are described as “…an international network of campaigns and campaigners working toward fossil fuel divestment in our communities.”

Fossil Free is a project of 350.org, which organizes campaigns and public actions through a vast global network. Remember their campaigns against the Keystone XL Pipeline Project? The  name of the organization — 350 — is inspired by scientists’ recommendations to cut the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere from its current level of 400 parts per million to 350 ppm or less.

Dr. James Hansen, Former NASA Climatologist:

If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced … to at most 350 ppm.

Source: 350.org

Source: 350.org