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.
- What exactly do the climate scientists agree on?
- 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.
A2: According 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  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 Science, American Chemical Society, American 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.
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.”
- 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.