CNN and its Piers Morgan show just aired a very short exchange of opinions
between a defender of the climate alarm (an activist in the Sierra Club, well, its executive director) and the man behind the skeptical ClimateDepot.com website.
I think that Marc Morano couldn't be a full-fledged scientist – I mean to actually calculate various things from the observed data, including confidence levels, and other things. It's my understanding he doesn't have the technical background for that.
However, when it comes to his ability to localize the relevant literature and data for a question, to figure out their implications for some general enough questions, to memorize all these things, and to clearly present them, he would probably beat a vast majority of scientists and non-scientists on both sides of the dispute about the climate change.
A significant part of the scientific research – even in climatology – is complex enough so that the laymen can't really understand it or reproduce it and they may end up with wrong conclusions if they use their inadequate approximate methods to think and their not really solid and verified "idiosyncratic theories of physics" – and they should know that these methods aren't rigorous.
On the other hand, I believe that there exists a certain elementary layer of all these scientific questions that even a layman, assuming his or her basic intelligence, should be able to follow. When a layperson is actually told some data about some question, he or she should be able to deduce the right conclusions.
Brune said that everything is settled and the climate change is real. But what does this widespread yet ill-defined slogan mean? He immediately switched to the enumeration of some recent extreme weather events or recent natural catastrophes, if I use a strong word. Fires, droughts, hurricanes, floods in his parents' house, and so on.
He doesn't say so comprehensibly or explicitly but these events are supposed to be summarized by the phrase "climate change" (in its meaning as of January 2013 and the meaning keeps on mutating and changing). But despite its ill-defined character, "climate change" must surely have something to do with the "climate" and with the "change". But an elementary evaluation of the data shows that the "examples" that Brune enumerated have nothing to do with the climate and nothing to do with a change.
They have nothing to do with the climate because they are weather events. If you talk about these events in isolation, they're weather events of the kind that simply do occur sometimes (or generalized weather events: wildfires are surely not "just" weather events). If you want to talk about the climate, you must look at their frequency or statistical distribution over longer periods of time, at least 30 years or so.
But as Marc Morano was able to efficiently and quantitatively explain in the highly limited room he was given, none of these "bad events" actually has had any positive (i.e. increasingly worrisome or harmful) trend in recent years or decades. These are just scientific facts. A talk about some particular events may impress some viewers but to suggest that these events have been getting increasingly frequent, strong, or devastating is simply a lie. It is incompatible with all the observations.
So Piers Morgan may be obsessed by the rise of CO2 but the scientific fact is that despite the nearly religious status that CO2 seems to play in the world view of people such as Morgan, it hasn't mattered for the weather at all, at least not at a detectable level. After all, this conclusion of numerous explicit observations isn't a purely empirical fact. Even according to the state-of-the-art theories of the climate, there doesn't seem to be the tiniest reason why the increasing CO2 should directly yet strongly enough (for the detection to be possible) affect the frequency of fires (more CO2 usually means less oxygen, and this actually makes fires slightly harder to ignite, not easier), hurricanes, tornadoes, drought events, floods (those things seem to be uncorrelated).
The only hypothetical, theoretically justifiable influence of CO2 on the weather events is an indirect one: increasing CO2 concentrations first increase the global mean temperature (or at most the overall latitude-dependent temperature gradient), and then this higher global mean temperature changes the frequency and composition of extreme events (although it's usually not clear why the overall shift of the global mean temperature should seriously matter for the local weather: there isn't any counterpart of the "greenhouse effect" here that would make it natural to believe in these correlations). Because the link is indirect and at least one of the links in the chain is speculative, one should expect – even theoretically – that this relationship will be even weaker and less visible in the data than the hypothesized influence of CO2 on the global mean temperature.
But even the hypothetically stronger influence of CO2 on the temperature has been empirically non-existent in the last 15 years. If we assume that the changes in the extreme events are caused by the change of the global mean temperature, and it's the only mechanism that is theoretically defensible these days, then we may predict that there should be no significant CO2-driven change in the frequency of extreme events in the last 15 years, either. And indeed, this expectation seems to be true.
However, even if you found some change in the frequency of some extreme events, e.g. one type of them, in recent years (less than 15), it simply couldn't have been caused by global warming because there's been no global warming for 15 years (the slope of the straight lines most accurately approximating temperature graphs and calculable by linear regression seems to be "flat"). This is such a simple logical observation that I believe that everyone who has a college degree (or even a good enough high school in his CV) should be able to "rediscover" this simple argument and reach the simple conclusion. No change of extreme events between the late 1990s and the recent 5 years could have been caused by global warming because the latter just didn't exist.
What do the champions of the climate alarm respond to this simple and pretty much indisputable argument? They usually switch topics, usually to personal attacks (and absurd claims about the funding that is behind the skeptics rather than the alarmists: Brune did make this switch immediately), so that they don't have to deal with some basic science that is inconvenient for their beliefs. They want everyone to forget this argument quickly, to forget their knowledge of science and even logic in general. However, when they do respond, they usually say that the global warming is still there. It is "underlying" the noisy evolution of the temperature record.
The separation of the temperature graphs to the "noise" and the "underlying trend" of course can't be reliably done and it is hypothetical – this separation i.e. attribution is just another way to formulate the basic climate dispute. But more importantly, it is physically inconsequential, too. It's unimportant because if the frequency of some extreme weather events depends on the temperatures (imagine a whole map of them, one for each moment of time), it is the actual temperatures measured by thermometers and not some hypothetical "underlying" temperatures that can't be measured by thermometers! For example, if the frequency of wildfires were affected by the temperature and if the temperature were changing, it wouldn't matter whether it was changing because of the Sun, black carbon, CO2, or accidentally lowered number of clouds in the air.
And the actual temperatures simply haven't risen for 15 years which is why this non-existent rise couldn't have increased the frequency of wildfires, droughts, hurricanes, or floods in the houses of parents of Sierra Club hired guns. It's just not physically and logically possible. Something that doesn't exist can't really cause anything!
(The number of flooded Sierra Club members' parents' houses was increasing but that's not because of climate change but because of the dramatically increasing number of these demagogic parasites in that NGO and other alarmist organizations, and the implied increase of the number of their parents and their houses, and maybe even in the increase of the number of houses per one Sierra Club family as these jerks have been accumulating wealth.)
These logical arguments about the possible causal relationships are so simple that it's very hard for me to imagine that some superficially moderately intelligent people such as Piers Morgan who talk about climate change very often and listen to many comments about it haven't been able to understand them as of today. But maybe I am wrong. Maybe they are really not getting it. Alternatively, they know that their opinions about the climate are pure crap but they spread them because the belief in them leads to some convenient conclusions and they're convinced that many TV viewers are stupid enough to buy these illogical comments, anyway.
I am leaning towards the latter scenario. Piers Morgan and others isn't completely stupid; he's more dishonest than stupid.
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