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Is There a Case Against Human Caused Global Warming in the Peer-Reviewed Literature? Part 2

This is part two in James Powell’s series examining the peer-reviewed scientific publications of 115 climate skeptics. In part one, he introduced the skeptics database, and found that the vast majority of climate skeptics have zero published works to their name. The series is reposted with permission from our partners at Skeptical Science.

Science advances through the peer-reviewed primary literature. Peer-review is not perfect, but it is the best system humans have invented for uncovering and correcting errors. In science, the truth will out.

Part 1 of this series of posts introduced a database of more than 115 climate skeptics and the peer-reviewed papers each has published as recorded in the Web of Science. The database is located here. I have now added the journal for each publication. You will find the papers organized by journal here.

Some conclusions emerge from reading this set of abstracts, and in some cases the entire paper, which can be done in an hour or two.

  • 70% of those listed have no scientific publications that deny or cast substantial doubt on global warming. This list includes such outspoken and media-promoted skeptics as Joe Bastardi, Freeman Dyson, Bjorn Lomborg, Christopher Monckton, Jo Nova, Ian Plimer, Matt Ridley, and S. Fred Singer. Why don’t they write up their argument and submit it to a scientific journal?
  • None of the papers provides the “killer argument,” the one devastating fact that would falsify human-caused global warming. The best they can do is claim that sensitivity is low, which they have been unable to substantiate and which much evidence contradicts. If as the skeptics claim, human-caused global warming is wrong, why can’t they show it is wrong?
  • None of the papers explains the observed, concomitant rise in fossil fuel emissions, atmospheric CO2, and global temperatures. Attempts in some papers to blame the the sun are falsified because as temperature has risen, solar activity has remained about the same, or even declined.
  • The skeptics have no better theory, or indeed any theory, to explain all of the observational evidence of man-made global warming.
  • Many papers, particularly the earlier ones, suggest improvements in the IPCC’s procedures, in the way temperature data are collected, etc. They imply that once those improvements have been made, the case for human-caused global warming might be weakened. Instead that case has grown stronger.
  • A true scientific skeptic must be prepared to change his or her mind as new evidence comes in. But as far as I am able to tell from these papers, in spite of the continuing rise in global temperature; heat records; extreme weather of all sorts; melting glaciers, ice caps, and sea ice; sea level rise; migrating species, and the like, no skeptic who wrote in the first half of the 1990s has since accepted human-caused global warming. To be a climate skeptic is to remain a skeptic.
  • Richard Muller says, “The skeptics raised valid points and everybody should have been a skeptic two years ago. And now we have confidence that the temperature rise that had previously been reported had been done without bias.” To me, this makes him a skeptic. See this other quotes here.  But his publication of the BEST results may indicate that we should no longer consider him one.
  • In a 1990 paper, Professor Richard Lindzen of MIT argued that because the observed global temperature rise to that year had been less than predicted, the sensitivity of global temperature to rising CO2 must be less than expected. Therefore, he wrote in 1990, “The current state of our understanding of climate hardly justifies a consensus over the response of climate to the small increase in downward flux caused by a doubling of CO2.” In spite of all the evidence mentioned in item 6, 21 years later, in a paper titled, “On the observational determination of climate sensitivity and its implications,” Lindzen and Choi conclude, “The results imply that the models are exaggerating climate sensitivity.” In that 21 year period, atmospheric CO2 concentration rose from 354 to 389 ppm and the global mean temperature anomaly rose from about +0.2 to about +0.6°C. Moreover, if the sensitivity is as low as Lindzen has been saying for more than two decades, what caused the observed temperature rise?
  • Skeptics feel no compunction about making emphatic statements on subjects far afield from their expertise, in some cases, literally. Astrophysicists write about polar bears; those with no expertise in computer modeling denounce  climate models.

These peer-reviewed papers by skeptics offer no reason to doubt that global warming is real, caused by humans, and dangerous. Despite ample opportunity, climate skeptics have failed to present any coherent alternative to the theory that carbon emissions are the primary driver of observed warming. That is why 100 national and international scientific organizations have issued statements accepting human-caused global warming, and not a single such organization has issued a statement of denial.

Dr. James Powell is a scientist, author, former president of Reed College, and a member of the National Science Board.

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