A Free-Market Energy Blog

Accurate Climate Forecasts: End the CO2 Fixation (Part I)

By Paul Driessen and David Legates -- November 12, 2014

“Everybody talks about the weather,” an old adage states, “but nobody does anything about it.” Don’t tell that to the climate alarmists who conflate weather with climate because humans are causing climate “disruption.” Experts from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, fixated on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, tell us to “do something about it.” At the very least, they say, improved climate prediction can prepare us for the crises to come.

There are three problems with his narrative (outside of its recent political rejection at the U.S. ballot box, which means defunding to come).

One, scientists increasingly realize that carbon dioxide’s role as a “greenhouse gas” is much lower than previously thought.

Two, cutting CO2 emissions means slashing the use of fossil fuels that provide over 80% of America’s and the world’s energy enabling modern living standards and lifting billions of people out of poverty and disease.

Three, focusing solely on CO2 means climate predictions will never be right.

Fossil evidence from all over the world memorializes glaciers that multiple times buried almost half of the Northern Hemisphere under 1-2 miles of Pleistocene ice, freezing so much water that sea levels fell nearly 400 feet each time. In between each glacial period, the planet warmed, the ice melted, and the seas rose. The Medieval Warm Period (~950-1250 AD) enriched agriculture and civilizations across Asia and Europe, while the Little Ice Age that followed (~1350–1850) brought widespread famines and disasters to those regions and to Vikings who had settled in Greenland.

The Dust Bowl upended lives and livelihoods for millions of Americans, while decades-long droughts vanquished once-thriving Anasazi and Mayan cultures, and drought and flood cycles repeatedly pounded African, Asian and Australian communities. Hurricanes and tornadoes have also battered states and countries throughout history, in numbers and intensities that have been impossible to pattern or predict.

Ignoring History to Claim ‘Climate Change’ is a Recent Phenomenon

Many professors, regulators, and politicians teach that natural climate variability occurs only on millennial time scales. The so-called “Hockey Stick” graph denies that the Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age occurred, and argues that the climate change during the last thousand years is our fault, and almost any rising temperatures will be calamitous. Despite stronger buildings, advanced warning systems, modern agriculture and other technologies, we are led to believe our communities are more susceptible to climate changes and weather events, and will not be able to deal with or adapt to them.

We’re also supposed to accept claims that climate scientists and their computer models are now able to forecast climate and weather changes with amazing accuracy. These models suggest that greenhouse gases will increasingly trigger more “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people, species and ecosystems,” a recent UN report insists. These claims persist, despite the fact that we have fewer severe storms, an 18-year pause in air temperature rise, more polar bears, and more Antarctic sea ice.

Consider hurricanes. An Inconvenient Truth and other eco-propaganda maintain that hurricanes are increasing due to rising CO2 concentrations. In reality, we are near a 30-year low in hurricane energy (measured by “accumulated cyclone energy,” the ACE index), and there has been no increase in tropical cyclones or tropical storms globally over that period.  Landfalling hurricanes in the United States have shown a downward trend since 1945. It has now been 3,300 days since the last Category 3-5 hurricane hit the US mainland (as of November 8) – the longest stretch (by more than 1,000 days) since records began in 1900. This Atlantic hurricane season is the least active in 30 years.

We are also told that planetary temperatures continue to warm to unprecedented levels. However, there has been no warming since 1995, several recent winters have been among the coldest in centuries in the United Kingdom and continental Europe, and the 2013-14 winter was one of the coldest and snowiest in memory for much of the United States and Canada.

Accurate climate forecasts one, five or ten years in advance would certainly enable us to plan and prepare for, adapt to and mitigate the effects of significant or harmful climate variations, including record high summer temperatures, record low winter cold, and recurring periods of more frequent or intense hurricanes, tornadoes, floods or droughts. However, such forecasts can never be even reasonably accurate under existing EPA, IPCC and similar hypotheses. The reason is simple.

Computer Models CO2-Driven

Today’s climate models are tuned to define carbon dioxide as the principal driving force in global climate change. Few models or studies reflect the powerful, interconnected natural forces that clearly caused past climate fluctuations – most notably, variations in the Sun’s energy output.

They largely ignore the important effects of urban and other land use changes, as well as internal climate fluctuations like the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (El Niño and La Niña) and the North Atlantic Oscillation. If we truly want reliable predictive capabilities sometime in the future, we need to eliminate the obsession with carbon dioxide as the primary driver of climate change. We also have to devote far more attention to studying all the powerful forces that have always driven climate change, the roles they play, and the interactions among them.

Regarding climate forecasts, Weatherbell forecaster Joe D’Aleo puts it this way. Unlike those who assume that the future climate will be dictated largely by CO2 levels, Weatherbell examines major multi-decadal cycles in the Pacific and Atlantic, variations in the sun’s energy output, winds high in the atmosphere, soil moisture, winter snow cover, volcanic eruptions – and unusual features like the pool of warm water that developed in the central Pacific during the super La Niña of 2010-2011 and slowly drifted with the wind-driven currents into the Gulf of Alaska, causing the “polar vortex” that led to the cold, snowy winter of 2013-2014. Weatherbell is successful because it considers all factors when examining how and why climate will vary.

“The potential for climate modeling mischief and false scares from incorrect climate model scenarios is tremendous,” says Colorado State University analyst Bill Gray, who has been studying and forecasting tropical cyclones for nearly 60 years. Among the reasons he cites for grossly deficient models are their “unrealistic model input physics,” the “overly simplified and inadequate numerical techniques,” and the fact that decadal and century-scale circulation changes in the deep oceans “are very difficult to measure and are not yet well enough understood to be realistically included in the climate models.”

Nor does applying today’s super computers to climate forecasting help matters. NOAA, the British Met Office and other government analysts have some of the world’s biggest and fastest computers – and yet their (and thus the IPCC’s) predictions are consistently and stupendously wrong. The simplest way to explain this is to note that speedier modern computers simply make the “garbage in, garbage out” adage occur faster, thereby facilitating faster faulty forecasts.

Why does this continue to happen? Follow the money.

Government Funding = CO2 Fixation

Billions of dollars are doled out every year for numerous “scientific studies” that supposedly link carbon dioxide and other alleged human factors to dwindling frog populations, melting glaciers, migrating birds and cockroaches, and scores of other remote to ridiculous assertions. Focusing on human-induced dangerous climate change in research proposals greatly improves the likelihood of receiving grants.

American taxpayers alone provide some $2.5 billion annually for research focused on human factors, through the EPA, Global Change Research Program and other government agencies. Universities and other institutions receiving grants take 40% or more off the top for “project management” and “overhead.” Neither they nor the researchers want to upset this arrangement, and all fear that accepting grants to study natural factors or climate cycles might also imperil funding from sources that have their own reasons for making grants tied to manmade warming, renewable energy or antipathy toward fossil fuels. Peer or environmentalist pressure, and shared views on wealth redistribution and economic transformations via energy policies, also play major roles.

When Nebraska lawmakers budgeted $44,000 for a review of climate cycles and natural causes, state researchers said they would not be interested unless human influences were included. The “natural causes” proposal was ultimately scuttled in favor of yet another study of human influences.

The result has been a steady stream of computer model outputs that alarmists present as credible predictors of planetary warming. However, none of the models predicted the ongoing warming pause that has now lasted 18 years, and counting. Nearly every one predicted temperatures that with every passing year are higher than actual recorded global temperatures by an ever widening margin. When Dr. Mojib Latif of the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences recently claimed he had predicted the current global warming pause in 2008, he failed to mention that his “forecast” came more than a decade after the pause began. It is easy to “forecast” the past.

The constant predictions of looming manmade climate disasters are also used to justify demands by poor and developing countries that developed nations “compensate” them with tens or hundreds of billions of dollars in annual climate reparation, adaptation and mitigation money. Meanwhile, those no-longer-so-wealthy nations are implementing renewable energy and anti-hydrocarbon policies that drive up energy costs for businesses and families, kill millions of jobs, and result in thousands of deaths annually among elderly pensioners and others who can no longer afford to heat their homes properly during cold winters.

[Part II tomorrow will examine the negative implications of biased climate modeling/forecasts and discuss a new way forward.]


Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death and Cracking Big Green: To save the world from the save-the-Earth money machine. David R. Legates, PhD, CCM, is a Professor of Climatology at the University of Delaware in Newark, Delaware, USA.