Last month, the opinion pages of The Wall Street Journal feature a column signed by 16 scientists—a group of distinguished physicists and engineers—which challenged the conventional wisdom of an impending climate catastrophe. Its authors made the case that there are no compelling scientific arguments support the calls made by activists and politicians for drastic action to decarbonize the world’s economy. They did not, however, recommend taking no action at all.
Not surprisingly, guardians of the climate catastrophe orthodoxy overreacted with a vengeance by taking pot shots at the signers themselves rather than the argument. (More on that to follow.) What did these scientists who wrote the opinion piece say that produced such a backlash? They highlighted that the models used to forecast future climates and justify proposed policy prescriptions have consistently failed to predict temperatures:
The lack of warming for more than a decade—indeed, the smaller-than-predicted warming over the 22 years since the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) began issuing projections—suggests that computer models have greatly exaggerated how much warming additional CO2 can cause. Faced with this embarrassment, those promoting alarm have shifted their drumbeat from warming to weather extremes, to enable anything unusual that happens in our chaotic climate to be ascribed to CO2 …
Speaking for many scientists and engineers who have looked carefully and independently at the science of climate, we have a message to any candidate for public office: There is no compelling scientific argument for drastic action to “decarbonizes” the world’s economy. Even if one accepts the inflated climate forecasts of the IPCC, aggressive greenhouse-gas control policies are not justified economically.
They also pointed out that alarmism over climate provides is rewarded with financial benefits (research grants, subsidies, etc.):
Why is there so much passion about global warming, and why has the issue become so vexing that the American Physical Society, from which Dr. Giaever resigned a few months ago, refused the seemingly reasonable request by many of its members to remove the word “incontrovertible” from its description of a scientific issue? There are several reasons, but a good place to start is the old question “cui bono?” Or the modern update, “Follow the money.”
Alarmism over climate is of great benefit to many, providing government funding for academic research and a reason for government bureaucracies to grow. Alarmism also offers an excuse for governments to raise taxes, taxpayer-funded subsidies for businesses that understand how to work the political system, and a lure for big donations to charitable foundations promising to save the planet.
By repeatedly invoking claims of so-called “climate experts,” writers of the rebuttal attempt to undermine those 16 scientists with an appeal to authority: an age old tactic used by religions to protect their own self interests and lay the foundation for sanctioning those who question the prevailing orthodoxy. Martin Luther had his 95 theses nailed to a cathedral door and was excommunicated for identifying error. This rhetorical technique is often used, as it appears to be in this case, to mask substantial weaknesses in an argument.