Planet Gore

Global Warming: Science or Religion?

I have written several times over the past year about my concern that much of what passes for climate science (or reporting on climate science) — at least with regard to the question of how human activities effect global warming — is more akin to religious belief than verifiable science. See, for instance, this article of mine in Human Events.
A recently published a paper [PDF] makes a similar point:

Albert Einstein once said, “No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong.” Einstein’s words express a foundational principle of science intoned by the logician, Karl Popper: Falsifiability. In order to verify a hypothesis there must be a test by which it can be proved false. A thousand observations may appear to verify a hypothesis, but one critical failure could result in its demise. The history of science is littered with such examples.
A hypothesis that cannot be falsified by empirical observations, is not science. The current hypothesis on anthropogenic global warming (AGW), presented by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is no exception to this principle.

Since I wrote the article in Human Events, I have issued a challenge in every public debate in which I’ve participated asking my opponent to name the conditions or findings — any conditions or findings — that he or she would take as falsifying his or her stated belief that humans are causing catastrophic climate change. To date, no one has been willing to name any conditions that would falsify, for them, their belief in the theory. 

At a conference, I asked the same question to Michael Mann of hockey stick fame, and to his credit he had an answer — just not a very satisfying one, if you think that theories and predictions must be compared to measurable events. He said (admittedly not an exact quote, as over a year has passed since the conversation took place): “Everything I know about physics would have to be thrown out or overturned. The laws of physics would have to be disproven.”

Unfortunately, many scientists — whether because they are true believers in AGW theory or because public fear of climate change has proven to be a funding bonanza for their area of research — refuse to accept any counter evidence as disproving AGW or to admit that alternative hypotheses might explain better than AGW much of climatic phenomena we have recently experienced. 

Neither record numbers of record-setting summer low temperatures, nor any appreciable warming for over a decade — all while CO2 levels continue to increase — can shake those vested in the AGW theory from their belief,despite the fact that both trends fly in the face of every climate model’s predictions.

Fortunately, other scientists still have integrity and follow the facts where they go rather than clinging stubbornly to an increasingly untenable theory and the failed predictive tools that have produced it.

The evidence provided by temperature observations, by lower than usual cyclones and hurricanes, by greening deserts — none of this evidence undermines AGW theory alone: but they should cause honest scientists to be at least a little less firm in their belief in a definite causal link between human activities and planetary warming.  

Sadly, rather than question the faith, they blame even freakish weather tragedies on human actions and, to make the story plausible, switch from calling the problem “global warming” to “climate change.”

“Climate change” is a tautalogy, of course: climate is always changing and has always changed over decades, centuries, and millenia — not exactly like the weather, but close. So fanatics have shifted their claim that humans are causing warming to the claim that we are causing catastrophic climate change — because it can’t be disproven: thus, any change — warmer or colder, wetter or drier — can be blamed on human activity. This is a sly but abjectly dishonest move.

H. Sterling Burnett is a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research and education institute in Dallas, Texas. While he works ...

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