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Response to MIT President: Paris Exit Scientifically Sound (Part I)

By Willie Soon and Christopher Monckton of Brenchley -- July 5, 2017

– by Istvan Marko, J. Scott Armstrong, William M. Briggs, Kesten Green, Hermann Harde, David R. Legates, Christopher Monckton of Brenchley, and Willie Soon

MIT president’s letter repeats standard climate alarm claims. Here are the facts (also see Part II tomorrow).

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“Fortunately, contrary to Professor Reif’s claims, the actual current scientific understanding of Earth’s climate dispels the popular delusion that any manmade global warming will be dangerous. That means adhering to the Paris agreement would be ‘a bad deal for America,’ and not only on economic and equity grounds, as President Trump stated.”

“In the last 20 years, humans have released over a third of all the CO2 produced since the beginning of the industrial period. Yet global mean surface temperature has remained essentially constant for at least 15 years – a fact that has been acknowledged by the IPCC, whose models failed to predict it.”

In a recent letter to the MIT community, Massachusetts Institute of Technology President Rafael Reif criticized President Trump’s decision to exit the Paris climate agreement, for ignoring “consensus” climate change science. “Other nations have made it clear that the deal is not open for renegotiation,” he asserted. “And unfortunately there is no negotiating with the scientific facts. I believe all of us have a responsibility to stand up for concerted global action to combat and adapt to climate change.”

Fortunately, contrary to Professor Reif’s claims, the actual current scientific understanding of Earth’s climate dispels the popular delusion that any manmade global warming will be dangerous. That means adhering to the Paris agreement would be “a bad deal for America,” and not only on economic and equity grounds, as President Trump stated.

It would also be a terrible deal on scientific grounds, because evidence-based science clearly shows that the agreement would do nothing to prevent or control global warming or climate change, despite the trillions of dollars it would cost the United States and world.

CO2 Did Not Cause the Warming Since the Little Ice Age

There is no science unambiguously establishing that the tiny portion of carbon dioxide (CO2) in our Earth’s atmosphere (400 parts per million or 0.04%) is the primary cause of the warming observed since the Little Ice Age ended in the mid-nineteenth century. In fact, science has repeatedly demonstrated the opposite, while also showing the benefits of more carbon dioxide and warming.

Ice cores have revealed that changes in CO2 concentration follow rather than precede changes in temperature. As the latest high-resolution records show, during the last deglaciation, atmospheric CO2 lagged temperature increases by 50 to 500 years.

Professor Ole Humlum and colleagues have demonstrated that changes in atmospheric CO2 concentration follow changes in temperature in the short term too, after about 8-11 months. There is a time-lag between changes in temperature and consequent changes in CO2 concentration, caused by outgassing of carbon dioxide from the oceans when they warm and uptake by the oceans as they cool.

Human activities and industries are actually restoring some of the CO2 that was formerly present in the atmosphere, prior to the five-century Little Ice Age, and a little warming may be expected from that small amount of carbon dioxide. But that warming will be small and beneficial, further helping the extra CO2 to spur flower garden, food crop and wild plant growth.

Indeed, plant life has a role in determining atmospheric CO2 concentrations. As higher concentrations help plants grow faster and bigger, and become more plentiful, the growth rate of atmospheric CO2 has slowed down , because plants are absorbing and utilizing prodigious amounts of this “gas of life.” Human contributions to atmospheric CO2 thus affect fluctuations in atmospheric CO2, but not much. This article’s coauthor Hermann Harde has reached similar conclusions.

Professor Reif’s assertion that global temperatures can be controlled by an international agreement that regulates our “sins of emission” is thus at odds with scientific knowledge on cause and effect. King Canute’s warning to his English courtiers in 1032 AD – that even the divinely-anointed monarch could not command sea level – should be heeded by intergovernmental agencies a millennium later.

The Professor’s assertion is also logically invalid, since the Paris Agreement permits China, India and other developing countries to industrialize and burn fossil fuels, with no limit on their emissions and no date by which they must stop. That means major energy and economic sacrifices by the USA and other industrialized nations would not “save humanity” even if the “dangerous manmade global warming” hypothesis were true.

Paris Agreement Is Not About Climate Change

In actual intent and practice, the Paris Agreement is a political tool for suppressing growth, instituting global governance over energy use and economic growth, and redistributing wealth.

Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, former chairman of the IPCC, clearly spelled out that aim. Ms. Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change until last year, openly stated that it was not about climate but that, for the first time, it gave them the tools to replace capitalism. Former UNFCCC section director Ottmar Edenhofer bluntly said climate agreements are actually about how “we de facto redistribute the world’s wealth by climate policy.”

Under the Paris accords, developed nation payments to the “Green Climate Fund” (for redistribution to underdeveloped countries) are to begin at $100 billion per year, of which the US share would have been $23.5 billion had President Trump not taken the United States out of the agreement. Ms. Figueres has suggested that $450 billion a year by 2030 would be appropriate, Competitive Enterprise Institute climate expert Myron Ebell notes.

Concerning the transition away from fossil fuels, during its October 7-9, 2016 annual group meeting, the IMF and World Bank declared: “One estimate suggests that around US $90 trillion will need to be invested by 2030 in infrastructure, agriculture and energy systems, to accomplish the Paris Agreement. …[S]et against the US $300 trillion of assets – held by banks, capital markets and institutional investors – we’re faced with a problem of allocation, rather than outright scarcity.”

Consensus Science is Not Science

Professor Reif’s letter further states,

At MIT we take great care to get the science right. The scientific consensus is overwhelming.

The late physician, researcher, and author Michael Crichton said in his 2003 Caltech Michelin Lecture: “In science consensus is irrelevant. … There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period.”

Indeed, consensus is a political notion. Doubt is the seed corn of science. As Abu Ali ibn al-Haytham explained the role of scientists in the eleventh century,

The seeker after truth does not place his faith in any mere consensus, however venerable or widespread. Instead, he subjects what he has learned of it to his hard-won scientific knowledge, and to investigation, inspection, inquiry, checking, checking and checking again. The road to the truth is long and hard, but that is the road we must follow.

The alleged “consensus” about climate is nothing more than an agreement that temperatures have warmed in the past 300 years, and perhaps an agreement that human activities may have played some role. However, the degree and causes of warming are hotly debated among climatologists. Even today, measuring global temperature is subject to errors, biases, missing data and subjective adjustments.

The use of satellite data to estimate global average temperature is relatively new, and employs a completely different temperature measurement method than used by older methods. Nevertheless, the satellite data and balloon data have provided essentially identical estimates. Neither displays a worrying trend.

In addition, both satellite and balloon data are increasingly at odds with surface temperature records, many of which have been adjusted to show more warming than presented in the original raw data. They are also contrary to the alarming projections of computer climate models on which the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and many national governments have relied.

Scientists agree that climate changes. It has done so since the first wisps of the Earth’s atmosphere formed. However, they disagree on the causes of climate changes, including the mild warming since the Little Ice Age. Coauthor David Legates found that only 0.3% of 11,944 peer-reviewed articles on climate and related topics, published from 1991 to 2011, explicitly stated that recent warming was mostly manmade. His finding reflects other analyses that also debunked claims of consensus.

The World Is Not Experiencing Predicted Warming

Professor Reif also wrote: “As human activities emit more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the global average surface temperature will continue to rise, driving rising sea levels and extreme weather.” His assertions are at odds with actual observations and scientific forecasting.

In the last 20 years, humans have released over a third of all the CO2 produced since the beginning of the industrial period. Yet global mean surface temperature has remained essentially constant for at least 15 years – a fact that has been acknowledged by the IPCC, whose models failed to predict it.

NOAA’s State of the Climate report for 2008 said that periods of 15 years or more without warming would indicate a discrepancy between prediction and observation – i.e., that the models were wrong. Just before the recent natural el Niño event raised global temperature, there had been 18 years 9 months without any global warming at all. The reliance on computer models and predictions, instead of real world observations, is thus misplaced.

In fact, the climate models relied upon by the IPCC and the politicians they advise have predicted warming at about twice the rate actually observed over the past 27 years. During that time, the Earth has warmed at 0.4° C. That is about half of the 0.75° C 27-year warming rate implicit in the IPCC’s 1990 prediction that there would be 1.0° C of warming from 1990 to 2025. (See Table 1.)

Table 1.  Observed global warming, 1990-2016, compared with IPCC predictions made in 1990

Source Observations (°C) over 27 full years IPCC predictions
Dataset NCEI HadC Mean RSS UAH Min. Mid Max.
Linear trend, 1990-2016  0.49  0.47  0.41  0.36  0.32  0.53  0.75  1.13
Centennial equivalent trend  1.81  1.73  1.48  1.35  1.18  1.94  2.78  4.17

Green and Armstrong (2014) conducted longer-term validation tests of the models and found that forecasts from them were much less accurate than assuming there had been no global warming at all. The relative inaccuracy of the IPCC projections increased with longer (multi-decadal) horizons. Even forecasts of natural global cooling at a rate of 1ºC per century were much more accurate over long periods than the IPCC’s projections of dangerous manmade global warming.

Ten years ago, former U.S. Vice President and prominent climate alarmist Al Gore asserted that global temperatures had reached a dangerous “tipping point,” with extreme warming imminent and unavoidable. Professor Scott Armstrong challenged Mr. Gore to a ten-year bet based on the Green-Armstrong-Soon (2009) scientific no-change forecast for global mean temperatures.

Mr. Gore declined the bet. However, TheClimateBet.com website keeps track of how the bet would have turned out. With the ten-year life of the bet due to conclude at the end of this year, the cumulative monthly error in the IPCC’s business-as-usual 0.3 ºC per decade prediction is 22% larger than the error from the benchmark prediction of no warming at all.

These facts help explain why even alarmist scientists like Ben Santer now recognize that there has been a global warming “hiatus” for more than 15 years. The facts also suggest that it makes little sense to promote “dangerous manmade global warming” that is increasingly at odds with observations. (Part II tomorrow)

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Istvan Marko is professor of organic chemistry and medicine at the Catholic University in Louvain, Belgium; he did his post-doctoral work organometallic catalysis with Nobel Prize Laureate K. Barry Sharpless at MIT.

Scott Armstrong is an author, forecasting and marketing expert, and professor of marketing at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania; he received his PhD from MIT.

William Briggs is a data philosopher, epistemologist, probability puzzler, bioethicist and statistician to the stars.

Kesten Green researches and writes on forecasting methods and applications at the University of South Australia Business School.

Hermann Harde is professor of atomic, molecular and optical physics, experimental physics and optics at Helmut Schmidt University in Hamburg, Germany.

David R. Legates is professor of climatology at the University of Delaware and a former Delaware State Climatologist.

Christopher Monckton received his BA in journalism studies from University College, Cardiff, England; he served as special advisor to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, 1982-1986.

Willie Soon is a scientist based in Cambridge, MA.

9 Comments


  1. Dennis Mitchell  

    Although aimed at the science, this item is a fine example of first-class journalism where facts and rumors are separated using with named and credible sources to qualify and/or quantify for a reader to evaluate. If this sort of clear-eyed essay was allowed to be found routinely in the major media of the world, perhaps so much treasure would have not been wasted jousting at the windmills of environmental alarmism. Both the quixotic and the viciously greedy have lived well on the false premises of the politicization of science.

    Reply

  2. John Shanahan  

    For a long time there has been counterproductive divisiveness throughout the U.S. Federal Government on the topic of fossil fuels and nuclear energy. Inspiring Statesmanship is non-existent. Working to bring people around the world together for the common good, non-existent.

    Professor Reif deserves thanks for bringing the alarm about catastrophic man-made global warming due to use of fossil fuels to the highest office at one of the greatest institutions of scientific learning, MIT. This gives scientists who are skeptical of this alarm a very good place to present their views. It takes the discussion away from Tweets and media sound bites. The biggest catastrophe would be if the world was forced to stop using fossil fuels for no good scientific reason. It would be good to reach consensus on this point.

    Reply

  3. Pat Frank  

    Professor Reif’s comment, “At MIT we take great care to get the science right.,” when contrasted with his belief in the “overwhelming” scientific case for AGW, produces a perfect example of inadvertent high irony.

    Professor Reif got the science wrong, at MIT where they take great care to get the science right.

    Reply

  4. Carbonicus  

    Professor Reif dispenses with his scientific training and becomes a political advocate by taking the positions he has put in writing.

    That in and of itself isn’t surprising. What is surprising is that an MIT professor doesn’t even recognize that’s what he’s done.

    So much for “bastions” of “higher learning”.

    Reply

  5. Jim Hollingsworth  

    You do not have to be a climatologist to recognize something of climate. A student of history can see what the climate has done for thousands of years and can relax about changes of climate. Since climate is always changing we need not worry about small changes in temperature. Even if there were larger changes it would still be cheaper to adapt to the changes than to try to change the world. It is a pretty large world, and nature is able to adapt to many things that we may not think possible. Jim Hollingsworth [email protected]

    Reply

  6. James Rust  

    As an MIT alum, I was emailed Prof. Reif’s June 2 statement about staying in the Paris Climate Agreement. This lack of scientific credibility made me reply with a note back to the e-mail source that I would stop making alumni contributions to MIT because they were no longer a scientific institution. In addition, I said their donations would be made to The Heartland Institute which promotes truth in science.

    Reply

  7. Craig Astin  

    This confusion began with the term and Industry of “Political Science”, this term is contradictory. Science seeks the truth, politics uses a show of hands to decide what is popular, blending the two creates nonsense.

    Reply

  8. Jozsef Feiler  

    I see nof climate scientists are signing the statement… Seems a PhD in washing machine repairing is qualifying for opinion on quantum physics today… It is politics what we see, not science, indeed. What I see above flies in the face of current standing of science. Of course, we can argue that Earth is flat in political domain, as the signatories are doing. If they would be trained in climate science, that would lend credibility, but without that it is only noise.

    Reply

  9. Willem Post  

    During a glaciation period, biomass is minimal and sea levels are low.

    As it gets warmer (for whatever reason) and the ice melts, biomass becomes more plentiful due to increased CO2 uptake and subsequent decay, a biomass building process that may take 1000 years, or more.

    So yes, CO2 increase comes after temperature increase, in general.

    With fossil fuels, the natural CO2 cycle is augmented by the human CO2, about 52.7 billion metric ton/y in 2014, due to increase to 60 or 65 billion Mt.

    This is not anymore a trivial quantity, as it could upset the balancing of various sources and sinks.

    http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/cop-21-world-renewable-energy-and-world-trade

    Reply

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