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Tuesday 13 February 2018

Is Climate Change Falsifiable?

I have seen many, perhaps too many, critiques of climate change to remain a convert. For some time now I have been sitting on the sidelines weighing the arguments (see my earlier posts ) and leaning increasingly to skepticism.

Most recently I came across an older video, on the skeptical side, that brought up what I think are most pertinent points often glossed over by the zealots.

The video is rather long, covering a presentation titled "A funny think happened on the way to Global Warming" presented by Steven F Hayward . If you have the time you can watch the whole video.

I found two areas compelling. The first is where Hayward covers the so called 97% consensus, and in particular where he quotes from the abstract of John Cook's paper. If you have followed this saga it was Cook who published a paper that lead to the 97% consensus myth. (If you are inclined you can read the paper here - Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature )

I guess for anyone debating this mythical 'consensus' it is worth seeing how this 97% figure was derived. Here is the abstract to the above paper.


We analyze the evolution of the scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming (AGW) in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, examining 11 944 climate abstracts from 1991–2011 matching the topics 'global climate change' or 'global warming'. We find that 66.4% of abstracts expressed no position on AGW, 32.6% endorsed AGW, 0.7% rejected AGW and 0.3% were uncertain about the cause of global warming. Among abstracts expressing a position on AGW, 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming. In a second phase of this study, we invited authors to rate their own papers. Compared to abstract ratings, a smaller percentage of self-rated papers expressed no position on AGW (35.5%). Among self-rated papers expressing a position on AGW, 97.2% endorsed the consensus. For both abstract ratings and authors' self-ratings, the percentage of endorsements among papers expressing a position on AGW marginally increased over time. Our analysis indicates that the number of papers rejecting the consensus on AGW is a vanishingly small proportion of the published research.

There are many critiques of this study so I won't labour the point, but the widespread reference to a "97% consensus" shows how statistics can be used "by knaves as a trap for fools" , or indeed that there are "lies, damn lies and statistics".

The second part of the presentation that struck me was his quotation from the IPCC report of 2013 (Climate Change 2013 - Working Group Contribution to the Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC) .

In particular the admission that uncertainty in the simulation of clouds results in cloudy (sorry about that one) predictions. Here is the actual quote; - 

"In summary, despite modest improvements there remain significant errors in the model simulation of clouds. There is very high confidence that these errors contribute significantly to the uncertainties in estimates of cloud feedbacks (see Section; Section 7.2.5, Figure 7.10) and hence the spread in climate change projections reported in Chapter 12. ( see Chapter 9, Page 782,)

and most significantly the qualification about the nature of these climate model projections,in that ;-

" these projections were not intended to be predictions over the short time scales for which observations are available to date" (Chapter 9 page 825 )
In other words you cannot dismiss a model as being inadequate if it happens to predict incorrectly in the near term, as it was designed to predict for the long term.


This highlights a fundamental problem with the Climate Change dogma.

Any scientific hypothesis that 'the world's climate is warming in response to anthropogenic Carbon Dioxide emissions' must be falsifiable.  Yet it seems for the many CC zealots the very idea that CC can be falsified by observations is totally out of question. If observations contradict climate models' predictions, new heretofore unknown scientific causes must be at work. For example the observation of a 'pause' in temperature increases over two decades, presented a problem until new theories of heat captured by the ocean were rolled out to a gullible populace. If indeed the heat was to be captured by the oceans shouldn't the models have predicted that in the first place? And why hadn't the oceans captured the heat of earlier decades?

Not surprisingly any record setting hot days are used as clear proof of global warming, but record setting cold days, as currently being experienced by many parts of the globe this Northern winter, are also claimed as examples of global warming. How are both possible?  No doubt some new ideas will be sought and found, but the audience is becoming skeptical.

My single question to the CC zealots remains - tell me what would prove your hypothesis wrong?

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