I think we have all heard this claim for years (That CO2 causes our planet to change drastically) but here I show logically why this is claim is based on false premises. The scientific method explains why it is necessary to first disprove the null hypothesis. The short explanation is that this ensures continuity of ideas and logic. If you do not keep this continuity, you double down on your original mistake and thusly anything you publish or explain within this frame of reference is always going to be wrong. In other words, climate science is not doomed because it is wrong per se, but it is doomed because it is based on a premise that is unproven.
The premise of CO2 (or other minor greenhouse gases) as a driver of climate has never been measured as to the exact effect. What we do have evidence of is that the greenhouse effect on our planet has a noticeable impact on temperatures. We know that with water driving the largest portion of this that our planet is made warmer by this impact. This this from actual science which shows that without water and water vapor and other greenhouse gases including CO2 our planet would be much cooler then it is today by approximately 33 degrees Centigrade. Past that, we can make no claims on exact impacts due to increases in any one minor greenhouse gas. We first must find the exact feedbacks that exist in the system before we can make claims on what these changes make on the planet as a whole. If there was only one greenhouse gas (such as CO2) we could perhaps make that claim with the evidence based on the logic continuity that we know the exact changes in just the one greenhouse gas.
But the problem comes in here. When you change the frame of reference for instance to only include your view of the universe which is that carbon dioxide has this certain impact on the entire planet without proof, you started with an unknown claim and you double down on it by claiming this fallacy even more by inserting this data into models. To explain this further, any changes in the minor greenhouse effect of CO2 is going to always be overwhelmed by the major player on the planet Earth: Water. Changes in water content and clouds as well could easily overwhelm any impact we see from any change in CO2 and we as of today can not measure the change that small to figure this out. The problem came of course from climate scientists who believed they were correct without proof. Before the weather satellites and the modern measurements such as ARGOS were out as they are today they falsely double-downed on the theory that any change was caused by CO2 first and by other factors second. And so even after contradictions start arising in the data, their belief of the original fallacy overwhelms this and so they make further excuses such as “well the aerosols overwhelm the effect of CO2 temporarily” and they believe this from the start without actual proof as well. As time goes by, instead of believing in measurements and proof as their back-bone, they believe in a flawed premise and keep down that road instead of just admitting they were wrong from the start. And so the road to doomed! continues as further assertions are claimed and instead of following the scientific method, we have the scientific method built on one flawed premise which ensures that the entire house of cards is nothing but waiting for that inevitable collapse.
This is the logic mistake that believers in religion typically use all the time. They start with the premise that “we live in the end times” or that “today is special” without special proof thereof and by continuing down this road of bad logic, they twist the world into their frame of reference and as they continue they start sounding more and more crazy. Some would say this is what happens when tribalism and when bad ideas take fruit and multiply. I would say that this is exactly the same as climate science because it is the same type of logic fallacy. To believe that a certain event or time is special is the first mistake of someone’s objectivity. This is not to say that anyone who makes this mistake is as crazy as a loon, but you do start to sound like that when you make illogical claims. (examples later on.)
If we look at some current science papers, we see this entire episode in evidence. The recent Marcott paper which I discussed in my last post shows that the continuity of the bad logic caused this paper to be flawed from the start. The abstract itself contains terrible wording and terrible logic that gives the wrong impression to the actual science. (Brief synopsis of Marcott paper: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/03/08/marcott-et-al-claim-of-unprecedented-warming-compared-to-gisp-ice-core-data/) Sure, the reconstruction might be useful in looking at the long-term trends, but instead of looking at what a very smoothed series CAN tell us about the climate, they looked at things that long-term smoothed series’ can NOT tell us. They looked at modern instruments as their benchmark without realizing that their frame of reference was completely out of context. The reason is obviously that they assumed that we live in special times today and that no such events could have ever occurred in the past. We saw this with Dr. Mann who smoothed out the LIA and the MWP by smoothing the data to such a smoothed line that you could not see them. We saw this again with this series which double downed on that logic that if you smooth out these events that it means they did not exist. These scientists therefore continued the logic fallacy that we live in special times and that the warming we saw could never happen naturally. Some further mentions of mistakes follows:
1) They never explored the possibility in the first place that this happened in the past. A 100 year time-span of warming could easily be missed in the data because of the spatial spread. For instance, Marcott’s data has an average time span of 300 years between data points and could not be used to find any trends less than 300 years long which is obviously longer then that 100 year time period. Mann made a slightly different mistake which I will not go into here, but it’s based on the same premise.
2) They confused themselves by looking at what we do know about the 20th century and assuming that we live in special times. This logic fallacy assures that any “Science” they release will be flawed from the start and instead of looking at the past objectively they will look at it from a stand-point that today is special and so they completely confuse themselves with their own circular reasoning.
3) Lost in the noise, we see an incomplete picture of the past with climate change happening over eons and eons and scientists still focusing on the short-term trends of 100 years or even 1000 and 10000 years. And the picture of the longer time spans is still incomplete. We still do not know the exact cause of ice ages or other longer and worse instances of climate change. Until we know why and how natural variability works on this planet, injecting artificial influences like “the human imprint” is a case in faulty objectivity.
4) We see an over-emphasis on some parts of the climate and not enough on others such as clouds which probably have more of an impact than CO2 ever will. What makes clouds increase or decrease on our planet? Interesting questions like that are never asked because the belief and observer bias cloud their judgment. Volcanos and solar influences over short time periods are over-analyzed which is fine, but this tells an incomplete picture when you start realizing that the climate is not something that is static but rather dynamic and always changing.
With all of those mistakes in evidence, it’s no wonder that there are so many people sceptical of the AGW and CAGW arguments. The sceptics realize that the first mistake means that any other proclamations issued by climate scientists and a complying media are built on a house of cards that has no foundation. And this is the problem, even if you think proved AGW or CAGW with this faulty logic at the start, you have no proof because in the end your proof includes that fundamental assumption at the start namely that humans have a noticeable impact on the climate due to CO2 emissions. Until you divorce yourself from that logical fallacy and understand that the real world is not the same as a physics lab, you will never prove the impact CO2 has on the planet. And so the circle is complete with the logic completely encircled in itself. This is a major problem because the circle goes on and on forever as the logic is stuck in this circle. That first crucial step is all it takes to be stuck in this logic paradox.
And since you can not prove the impact CO2 has on the planet, any further attempts to do this are doomed from the start. The logic chain is broken in other words and thusly the only thing further time and money on this subject is going to give us is further fallacies like the ones I mentioned above. That list is by no means exhausted and further items can and will be added to it as the scientists double down on their first mistake and make further ones. As Marcott made the mistake in thinking the 20th century was special, further mistakes will be made as this observer bias creates an atmosphere in which climate scientists feel like more and more the world turns against them and as this happens, the tribalism creeps in further and further and before long they will start sounding crazy. It is crazy for instance to claim that modern instruments are measuring something unprecedented. How do they know? Proxies do not even have close to the spatial accuracy that our modern instruments have. And most studies do not adequately show whether our current measurements are unprecedented or not. The problem obviously stemmed from a failed belief that modern times are indeed special.
We also see claims like this in the media: http://www.nwf.org/Wildlife/Threats-to-Wildlife/Global-Warming/Global-Warming-is-Causing-Extreme-Weather.aspx where global warming is said to cause extreme weather. If you see something special in modern times, anything you see will eventually be seen as proof of your theory. Just like the “end of times” guy wearing a placard that says the same on the street corner, you believe falsely that what you see actually proves your case. In addition, it is also possible to over-look evidence that this is not the case: http://stevengoddard.wordpress.com/2013/02/24/all-new-york-major-hurricanes-occurred-below-350-ppm-co2/ such as that historical note and others which actually disproves your case that current weather is unprecedented. So since you believe that the modern warming trend is terrible, and since you also believe that extreme weather of today is more terrible than yesteryear, you start to see anything that could even be vaguely unpleasant as being caused by climate change as well. This also includes saying and/or thinking that global warming causes cold and harsh winters. To anyone else this is obviously nuts as a warmer world in general means less cold events in general. But to the deluded few who have continued down the first logical fallacy, this is now fact and so the not so smart among them will state outright inanities because they honestly believe that anything bad regardless of how its related to a changing climate is also caused by said.
No matter how bad the claims get in the climate science field, we must remember one fundamental truth. As unlikely as it might seem from recent data, it is possible that perhaps some of the milder claims from AGW might be proven correct in the future. As we get more data, the proof might arrive suddenly of some measurable change and perhaps at that date we could put a definitive answer to how CO2 impacts global temperatures. AS we advance in science, we will hopefully learn more about the weather. Perhaps given a certain temperature we might be able to figure out exactly how much this impacts our planet. But until the fundamental question is answered, any links between humans and the climate is nothing but speculation and perhaps wonderment.
I read your comment at WUWT in the thread below Nancy Green’s article. You were referring to an earlier comment by “Thomas.” Glad to see you expanded this into a blog post. Observer bias. Haven’t heard that term applied nearly enough to the ongoing climate debate. Good stuff.
Thanks, I have been thinking about this for awhile. Namely, what caused smart scientists to lose their objectivity? I really think this is the core part of the entire argument politically or scientifically…