Climate Change: What Do Scientists Say?

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Apr 18, 2016

Climate change is an urgent topic of discussion among politicians, journalists and celebrities...but what do scientists say about climate change? Does the data validate those who say humans are causing the earth to catastrophically warm? Richard Lindzen, an MIT atmospheric physicist and one of the world's leading climatologists, summarizes the science behind climate change.

While activists and politicians issue doomsday warnings, most scientists have a far more measured perspective on climate change. 

  • Scientists, like MIT atmospheric physicist Richad Lindzen, have a far more measured view of potential global warming than activists and politicians pushing doomsday narratives. Lindzen notes that current climate models simply are not complex enough to predict changes to the climate accurately.View Source
  • So far, Lindzen points out, all the predictions of climate warming since this latest warming period (1978-98) have greatly exceeded the climate reality.View Source
  • WATCH: Atmospheric physicist Richard Lindzen on the political assault on “climate skeptics.”View Source
  • Related reading: “Dynamics in Atmospheric Physics” – Richard LindzenView Source

Current climate models are simply too limited to account for all the factors impacting the climate.

  • All predictions of climate warming since this latest warming period (1978-98) have greatly exceeded the climate reality. Recent experimental research has shown the important role that variations in solar radiation and natural climate variability have on the earth’s climate – elements that are not a part of current climate models.View Source
  • Climate models have failed due to air temperature measurement error, high sensitivity in measuring the sun’s energy output, wide variation in cloud-pattern modeling, among other issues.View Source
  • Many climate scientists have been forced to admit the inaccuracy of climate models, and that better computer models will not necessarily make predicting future climate change easier.View Source
  • Related reading: “The Climate Science Isn't Settled” – Richard Lindzen, Wall Street JournalView Source

Despite all the dire warnings, there has been no increase in extreme weather patterns due to climate change.

  • The number of extreme weather events – hurricanes, droughts, tornadoes, floods, etc. – have not increased in number or intensity.View Source
  • The IPCC has admitted that there is little evidence to link climate change to extreme weather events and that past warnings of droughts were “overstated.”View Source
  • In general, the support for recent global warming comes less from the data and more from the fact that the globe experienced a little ice age between the 15th and 19th centuries.View Source
  • Related video: “Is Climate Change Our Biggest Problem?” – Bjorn Lomborg, PragerUView Source
  • Related reading: “Climate Change: The Facts” – ed. Alan MoranView Source

Essential data supporting claims of global warming is of poor quality, making precise measurement of change largely inconclusive.

  • While there is general consensus that the climate temperature has increased about 1.5 degrees since the 19th century, the data supporting the claim is of poor quality and makes precise measurement inconclusive. In general, the support for recent global warming comes less from the data and more from the fact that the globe experienced a little ice age between the 15th and 19th centuries.View Source
  • All predictions of climate warming since this latest warming period (1978-98) have greatly exceeded the climate reality. Recent experimental research has shown the important role that variations in solar radiation and natural climate variability have on the earth’s climate – elements that are not a part of current climate models.View Source
  • WATCH: Atmospheric physicist Richard Lindzen on the political assault on “climate skeptics.”View Source
  • Related reading: “The Deniers: The World Renowned Scientists Who Stood Up Against Global Warming Hysteria, Political Persecution, and Fraud” – Lawrence SolomonView Source

Key assumptions in climate models remain unproven, creating major uncertainty about the models’ predictions. 

  • Current climate models assume a positive feedback loop between the heat retained by anthropogenic CO2 and clouds and other water vapor in the atmosphere. This feedback loop is unsubstantiated and creates uncertainty in climate models because of the uncertainty around the role of water vapor and clouds.View Source
  • Climate models assume that the climate is highly sensitive to changes in greenhouse gases, whereas observable phenomena show that the climate is insensitive to such changes.View Source
  • WATCH: Atmospheric physicist Richard Lindzen on the political assault on “climate skeptics.”View Source
  • Related video: “What They Haven’t Told You About Climate Change” – Patrick Moore, PragerUView Source

I’m an atmospheric physicist. I’ve published more than 200 scientific papers. For 30 years I taught at MIT, during which time the climate has changed remarkably little. But the cry of “global warming” has grown ever more shrill. In fact, it seems that the less the climate changes, the louder the voices of the climate alarmists get. So, let’s clear the air and create a more accurate picture of where we really stand on the issue of global warming or, as it is now called—“climate change.”

There are basically three groups of people dealing with this issue. Groups one and two are scientists. Group three consists mostly, at its core, of politicians, environmentalists and the media.

Group one is associated with the scientific part of the United Nation’s International Panel on Climate Change or IPCC (Working Group 1). These are scientists who mostly believe that recent climate change is primarily due to man’s burning of fossil fuels—oil, coal and natural gas. This releases C02, carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere and, they believe, this might eventually dangerously heat the planet.

Group two is made up of scientists who don’t see this as an especially serious problem. This is the group I belong to. We’re usually referred to as skeptics.

We note that there are many reasons why the climate changes—the sun, clouds, oceans, the orbital variations of the earth, as well as a myriad of other inputs. None of these is fully understood, and there is no evidence that CO2 emissions are the dominant factor.  

But actually there is much agreement between both groups of scientists. The following are such points of agreement:

1) The climate is always changing.

2) CO2 is a greenhouse gas without which life on earth is not possible, but adding it to the atmosphere should lead to some warming.

3) Atmospheric levels of CO2 have been increasing since the end of the Little Ice Age in the 19th century.

4) Over this period (the past two centuries), the global mean temperature has increased slightly and erratically by about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit or one degree Celsius; but only since the 1960’s have man’s greenhouse emissions been sufficient to play a role.

5) Given the complexity of climate, no confident prediction about future global mean temperature or its impact can be made. The IPCC acknowledged in its own 2007 report that “The long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible.”

Most importantly, the scenario that the burning of fossil fuel leads to catastrophe isn’t part of what either group asserts. So why are so many people worried, indeed, panic stricken about this issue. Here’s where Group Three comes in—the politicians, environmentalists, and media.

Global warming alarmism provides them, more than any other issue, with the things they most want: For politicians it’s money and power. For environmentalists it’s money for their organizations and confirmation of their near religious devotion to the idea that man is a destructive force acting upon nature. And for the media it’s ideology, money, and headlines. Doomsday scenarios sell.

Meanwhile, over the last decade, scientists outside of climate physics have jumped on the bandwagon, publishing papers blaming global warming for everything from acne to the Syrian civil war. And crony capitalists have eagerly grabbed for the subsidies that governments have so lavishly provided.

Unfortunately, group three is winning the argument because they have drowned out the serious debate that should be going on. But while politicians, environmentalists and media types can waste a lot of money and scare a lot of people, they won’t be able to bury the truth. The climate will have the final word on that.

I’m Richard Lindzen, emeritus professor of atmospheric sciences at MIT, for Prager University.

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