Confessions of a Climate Denier

by Elgin Hushbeck

DemocracyI am skeptical of the theory that human activity is causing the earth to warm at a rate that is threatening. I freely admit that I am not now, nor have I ever been a climatologist, and for some this means I am not allowed to have an opinion or reach a conclusion in the matter. I am just supposed to sit down and blindly accept whatever the high priests of science pronounce. But I don’t.
I ask questions. I look at the arguments made on both sides, and have reached a conclusion that is in opposition to the consensus view. Frankly, I find that historically I am in pretty good company. At one point it ran against the scientific consensus to believe that rocks fell from the sky; only the unenlightened believe such things. Now we know that meteorites do exist.
When the theory of plate tectonics was proposed, it ran against the settled consensus view in geology, and opposition was expressed as, “If we are to believe this hypothesis, we must forget everything we learned in the last seventy years and start all over again.” (Hushbeck, 2007)   Because of this its proponent, Alfred Wegener, was rejected and denounced and had to leave his country to find a teaching position, and then in another field.   Then there was the scientific consensus that was Eugenics.   So I do not rate consensus that highly and instead look at the evidence.
When it comes to the evidence, I have been blessed, or cursed, depending on your point of view, to have been following this debate for 40 years. And for 40 years the alarmists have been consistently wrong. They have gone from predicting a new Ice Age to Global Warming and now, since we have not been warming since the mid-90s, they cover their bases with the generic term Climate Change.  In recent months, I have seen some reports about how the data has been “reevaluated” during this pause, so as to find some warming, but I remain skeptical. On several occasions in the past they have been caught, at the least, distorting the data.
More importantly for me, the alarmists have attacked anyone who disagrees with them as being somehow biased, selling their soul to big business, or just being evil. This is the irrational fallacy of ad hominem attack, and fallacies hardly make for sound arguments. In addition they actively try to suppress differing points of view. (The latter being a small part of a much larger problem of enforced conformity by the left.)
For me the four key questions are:
Are we warming? In the long run probably, as we are coming out of a Mini Ice Age and are still below the average temperature for the last 10,000 years, which itself is below the long running average. After all Greenland got is name when people lived there in settlements that are now frozen.
Are we the primary cause? Probably not, as there have been many more significant periods of warming and cooling in the past long before we could have had any impact. Given that the current claims are based on computer models that have consistently been wrong, I see no reason to hold otherwise.
Is there anything we can do about it? Even if the first two answers are yes, the plans put forth would have little if any actual effect on the climate. Any effect they had would be greatly outweighed by their negative impact on people, particularly people in the third world who would benefit the most from economic development and growth. As a Christian I do value the planet, but I value people more.
Is warming a bad thing? Probably not. It would certainly cause disruption, but considering that far more people die each year from cold related causes than from heat related causes, and much of the land mass is currently in colder regions, warming would probably be a net positive.
One other factor.  As an engineer, I do know a little about control systems.   The earth’s climate has numerous such systems, and if climatology is like any other science, I suspect these are far more numerous and far more complex than we now know or understand. I suspect that our lack of understanding of these systems is a primary factor in the models being so consistently wrong.
For the planet to have survived as it has this long, these systems must be robust and strong. For example, in very simple terms, increasing temperatures causes more evaporation, leading to more clouds, which reflect more sunlight out into space, cooling the planet – note until recently the climate models have not factored in cloud cover. Increased CO2 means more food for plants, and this means more plants, which then consume more CO2. If the climate was as fragile as climate alarmist claim, we would not be here in the first place as the climate would have spun out of control long ago.
So I remain skeptical. Maybe if the models had a track record of 40 years of accurate prediction, I would think otherwise, but they don’t.  And until the alarmist give up their irrational arguments to support their claims, I am likely to remain skeptical.

8 Responses

  • Elgin,
    Thank you for speaking out and telling the truth. You have done your research well, and people should take notice. Too much attention has already been given to an issue that should be of least concern to us in view of more serious issues that are destroying lives in a gruesome way, such as abortion and beheadings of Christians by ISIS.
    Blessings, Nancy

    • I agree, we do have far more pressing problems. Nor, must we take quick action that is sure to hurt many, for some minor potential benefit in the future.

  • Elgin, I wonder how you can dismiss the overwhelming conclusion of climate experts that human activities contribute to the cause of climate change, and that by modifying human activity, climate conditions would moderate. After all, your reliance on the instability of climate models, the climate control systems, the evaporation/CO2 ratio, etc., are all well-known among the experts, yet they conclude differently from you. I will defer to their judgment.
    As for your sensitivity to ad hominem attacks addressed to people who share your views, how is the use of “alarmists,” and “high priests of science” who are “blindly followed,” any different?
    As for your statement, “As a Christian I do value the planet, but I value people more,” I would add that this is a false choice. People with a dying planet soon will have no existence at all.

    • Steve,
      Concerning the consensus, even that is questionable in my mind. A large part of the problem for me is that the issue is often times more politics than science. In addition there have been a lot of distortions, such as the 97% figure that was thrown around a lot, which was bogus. While it has been many years now, the last time I saw an actual survey of climate scientists it was something like 50/50. Finally there has been an active campaign to suppress differing opinions such as in cutting off of funding, and keeping journals from publishing works that do not support Climate Change, etc.
      But fundamentally, the reason I question it is because I look at the evidence and argument on both sides, and yes there are scientist and even climatologist on both sides. I look at the track record of prior claims which have been wrong, and finally I reach my own conclusions based on my own understanding of engineering and science. For example, one of the common errors in many areas is to make long term predictions based on a trend found in a small sample of data. I believe that is what is happening here. Perspective is very important.
      There is no question that from the 1960 to the mid-1990s we were warming. If you take that and assume it will continue, which at the very least was the perspective that was presented to the public, this will of course lead to disaster. But if you step back a bit you see that the highest temperatures for the century occurred during the 1930s. From there we cooled to the 1970s and then warmed again to the mid-1990s. Step back even more we see we are coming out of the mini Ice Age, and that the Roman Period was even warmer than now. Prior to that there another cool period, which was preceded by an even warmer period before that. From that perspective we are on a long cooling trend.
      Add to this that I have looked a bit behind the models, and these are based on a very large number of estimations. Case in point the city heat affect. Many of our temperature gauges upon which we base our knowledge of the temperature changes are understandably in cities. But cities produce their own heat. This is irrelevant in terms of the overall climate, but still this must be factored out of the measurements and how large a factor it is, is just an estimate. Depending on how you estimate just this one factor alone you will have either global warming, global cooling, or no change at all.
      For example, my car shows outside temperature, and on a calm day during the winter, I have seen the temperature go from -29 (I do live in Wisconsin) to -20 as I get to a town, only to have it drop back again as I leave. BTW, we now can get temperature from satellites which avoid this problem. Yet the period of time we have been getting satellite data is also the period of the great pause, i.e. once we got a much better way of measuring temperature, the warming stopped, though given the longer term trends that is likeky to be that we were at another peak before entering another cooling phase.
      Thus while some scientists warn about warming, I have read others who think the sun plays a dominate role in the climate and who think we might very well be entering a period of cooling. I could get into the details of the other particulars you mentioned, such as CO2 and the fact that over the very long term this shows little actual correlation to temperature, but these have all been addressed scientists working in the field. I would point you to DrRoySpencer.com as a good place to start.
      Still over the period I have followed the debate, those warning about Global cooling/warming/change have consistently been wrong in their predictions, and that is the real test of any scientific theory, not what it has predicted, but what has been tested and confirmed, Global warming theories have been particularly bad in this area.
      You wrote “As for your sensitivity to ad hominem attacks addressed to people who share your views, how is the use of “alarmists,” and “high priests of science” who are “blindly followed,” any different?”
      Yes there is a huge and extremely significant difference. The fallacy of ad hominem attack falls under the broader category of fallacies of irrelevance. It is basically an attempt to shift the focus away from the evidence and reason being presented and onto the person making the argument. Since the evidence is what matters, and the person is irrelevant, thus the fallacy.
      If you look at my statements on “high priest of science” it was not actually a statement of who they were and a reason we would ignore them, it was a statement that we should not just accept what they say. In short that we can and should look at the evidence for ourselves. This is not a call to ignore the evidence but to look at it, the exact opposite what the fallacy of ad hominem attack does.
      As for the use of alarmists, maybe, but then what would you call people who have been predicting the end of the world within 10 years for the last 40 years if not longer? But, in any event, this is yet another call not to blindly accept what they say, but instead to look at the evidence. Finally look at my core arguments, they are not based on trying to put the focus on those who claim man-made global warming, which quite frankly would be very easy to do, but instead to focus on the evidence that their predictions of doom may not be correct.
      Compare this to what they do, their fundamental arguments are to focus on the person themselves, apart from the evidence they present. A classic example is to accuse people who disagree of working for, or just supporting the Oil companies. When they do this they are arguing that we should ignore any evidence they present, because they cannot be trusted. This is the fallacy of ad hominem attack.
      “People with a dying planet soon will have no existence at all” I think this is hyperbole and best. The prediction they make, would hardly kill the planet. Cause significant disruptions yes, kill the planet no. One the other hand the changes demanded, such has the recent EPA rules will cause significant harm. Sure they will be minimal to the well off, but they will hit hardest on those who can least afford it. I do not believe it is moral to cause a known harm now to prevent a possible future harm, particularly given the track records of the models which have been be consistently wrong.

  • Thanks for your thoughtful reply.
    I agree that the 97% figure is a fallacy, but hardly “bogus.” Instead of representing 97% of climate scientists, it did represent 97% of the peer reviewed journal articles supporting global warming with humans as part of the cause.
    As for ad hominem, yes, it is a logical fallacy, in that it attributes to an argument factors affecting the argument maker which have no bearing on the argument. I stand by my assertion that some of the characterizations of people who differ with you meet that standard.
    You suggest that some of the proponents of climate change do so out of political concerns. This is likely true; it is also true the other way around. In fact, many are on record as saying that if the proposed restrictions on carbon emissions hurt business, then they should not be put into effect.
    Finally, it is not hyperbole to say that the earth is dying. Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, in a speech last year in Edinburgh, said he fears global warming might wipe out all life on Earth. If that’s alarmist, count me in. It’s better to be prepared and wrong, than unprepared.

    • Steve,
      “Instead of representing 97% of climate scientists, it did represent 97% of the peer reviewed journal articles supporting global warming with humans as part of the cause.”
      When you look at the original survey, (http://tigger.uic.edu/~pdoran/012009_Doran_final.pdf) you find that it was sent to 10,257 Earth scientists. Out of this 3146 decided to reply. Right here we have a problem. This was a not a random survey but a self-selected survey. It is somewhat better than an internet poll, but not by much. The two questions asked were:
      1. When compared with pre- 1800s levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant?
      2. Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?
      As for the first question I would have answered yes. Pre1800 takes you close to the Little Age. Thus the question was effectively, have we warmed since the Little Age. This is effectively a meaningless question to the overall debate.
      As for question 2 a smaller 82% answered yes. But even here there is a problem with the relative term “significant.” In the world of science and engineering that can means little more than measurable. Again even those who question warming agree we are having some impact. The debate is in how much of an impact we are having, and more importantly how much we could do to actually affect this. BTW, the closer you get to trying to answer these questions, the more uncertainly you have among the scientists.
      When it comes to the much celebrated 97% figure that represented a subset of 76 out of 79 individuals. 97% sound very impressive. But since 76 people is less than 1 percent of the people asked, and only 2.5 percent of those who choose to reply it can hardly be said to be an accurate overall representation or even useful.
      This is why I label this the 97% bogus. This is one of the big problems I have with Climate change. I have researched a number of such claims and most of the time they just do not hold up and are often have serious distortions. The infamous hockey stick graph which was so important to launching the initial concern about global warming also falls into this category. This is why I doubled global warming from the beginning because of my reading of history I knew it to be wrong. But if they has published the following graph which shows global temperatures for the last 2000 years, would they have been convince people we are in danger? http://www.drroyspencer.com/wp-content/uploads/Ljungqvist-2000-yrs-temp-reconstruction.jpg
      Are we warming? At least until 20 years ago yes. Are we a significant factor? I would side with the over 550 scientists who did not agree with the global warming advocates.
      Concerning ad hominem attack, actually as someone who has taught Critical Thinking at an under-graduate level for many years, including instructing other instructors on how to teach it, I would differ with your view of the fallacy. Still, at best you could argue that I decorate my post with such terms. You could remove them all and not affect my argument one bit. The supporters of Climate Change make it the core of their rejection of any criticism.
      As for political concerns on both sides, I would agree. That is why that is not a key part of my argument. As for not hurting business, I would agree we should not. Not because I like business per se. Perhaps you don’t, but many on the left use the term business, as some sort of disconnected and often bad or evil entity. They are not. They are simply collections of people. Hurting business, is hurting people. It is hurting not just the owners, but the workers who get laid off or don’t get raises. It is also hurting the people who purchase their produces who have to pay higher prices, and who can no longer afford to get the products they want. So yes I do not want to hurt people.
      I do believe it is hyperbole to say the early is dying. Sure if you look at things like the hockey stick graph, it looks pretty bad. But when you look at actual data you don’t see this at all. For example based on the chart above of the temperature over the last 2000 years, you see periods where we were both warmer and where the temperature rose faster than in recent times. Then there is the fact that our current models have been consistently wrong. Or the fact that CO2 levels show very little actual correlation to the temperature.
      Not only do I believe it is wrong, this notion that the earth is dying one a major causes of suffering and death. It goes well beyond the global warming debate into environmentalism in general, which I have no doubt that future generations will look back on as one of those things that swept through science as eugenics did in the first half of the 20th century. The main different is that environmentalism will have killed far more people.
      A thought experiment. If scientists said we faced a danger that would destroy the world in 100 years, but if we killed everyone in Dhaka, Bangladesh, population of about 14 million, we would save the world, would you support doing it? Wouldn’t it be a good trade? Yet that, on a mini scale is exactly what we are doing now. It is just that the death and suffering is spread throughout the 3rd world where it is largely hidden, and not gathered together in a city we can name. We have stopped using DDT and in places where diseases like malaria were effectively wiped out, now they have returned, with currently 1-2 million dying each year. We block the production of golden rice that would could save 1-2 million children a year from dying and going blind. Now there are some who want to ban chorine. Sure not all of these deaths could be prevented, but a large percentage could and over the years the numbers are much large than the city of Dhaka and are still growing.
      For us in the first world, such debates often center on cost and convenience. But in the 3rd world, these are often life and death and far too often death win. So again I choose life and I put people first. Before I take actions that will harm and even result in people dying, I want something a lot better than computer models have so far have been consistently wrong.

  • My problem with any discussion with you on this topic is primarily that we must be looking at two different sets of statistics. Those I see certainly confirm significant global warming over the last 20 years, the loss of a lot of glacial ice and huge shrinkage of the Arctic sea ice. I have some scientifically minded friends in the Yukon who are extremely concerned about the recession of the permafrost and ice in the region, and rather share their concern.
    I am also not a climatologist, not even an atmospheric physicist (though I did take a course and do a little research something over 40 years ago). In those days, I would have shared your scepticism about the level to which we understood the mechanisms. But science has moved on, and I am impressed by the fact that a large number of governments are sufficiently persuaded by the experts in the field (among whom there is certainly consensus, though you’re right in saying it’s nothing like the 90+% some claim) to take significant action; it is not by and large popular, it is expensive and inconvenient, so that does impress me.
    I’m not a biologist either, but I do not share your thinking that CO2 promotes plant growth and therefore promotes a self-regulating mechanism. My understanding is that while yes, plants do need CO2 (and fix it, removing it from the atmosphere), this is a threshold effect and more CO2 than the required threshold does not tend to produce more plant life. In any event, we are also removing vast swathes of CO2 fixing forest in many areas to accommodate more humans.
    I do take your point that as significant warming occurs, very large areas of Canada and Siberia will become cultivable. However, a very large amount of currently low lying land will then be underwater, and a very substantial proportion of large conurbations in the world are in low lying locations. The disruption if these are all flooded will be extreme (this is already manifesting in India); the resulting impact there will also fall most heavily on the third world.
    I am entirely persuaded that CO2 does operate as a “greenhouse gas”, and that the levels have increased massively over the last 40 years. I am also now aware that weather and climate systems are chaotic (which was only being murmured about 40 years ago), and one of the features of chaotic systems is that relatively small changes can tip them between very different states; not all of the systems in ecology are negative feedback loops, some are positive, and there seems significant evidence that greenhouse effects produce positive feedback.
    As a result, I echo Steve Kindle’s remark; if we do not act to prevent global warming, we risk a worldwide ecological catastrophe which will impact third world and first world alike, and which could be impossible for us to reverse; the negative effect on humanity would be vastly in excess of any effect of seeking to minimise carbon emissions now.
    The trouble is, I think it may well already be too late.
    I would mention that I also consider that burning our limited stockpile of complex naturally formed hydrocarbons is extremely bad stewardship of the earth’s resources.

    • Chris,
      Perhaps we are looking at different data. (See my post to Steve and the hockey stick graph vs the chart of temperature changes over the last 2000 years). The last 20 there has been no warming, something now called the great pause. In some place the ice is melting, in other it is at record levels. For me the Climate is in a state of constant flux, and the longer back you look the more it has changed both warmer and cooler. Climate science started at the end of a short term cooling phase (1930s – 60s) and was predicting new Ice Ages. Then we went into a warming phases (1970s – mid 1990s) and they started talking about global warming, (with the fact that they were wrong about Venus being a contributing factor in the view of CO2). Since the mid-1990s we have been in a pause and the terminology changed to climate change. Thus for me it is clear that much of this debate is driven by projections off of small sample sizes, a notorious problem in science.
      I conclude we do not yet really know what is going on and need a lot more research before we can really say what is happening. Sure we have 40 years more research, but the simple fact is that the models are still consistently wrong. Also when I look at the much large swings that have occurred in the past, (the period of human history also coincidences with comparatively calm period in the earth’s climate) there clearly must be some strong feedback mechanisms at work and which we do not yet understand.
      That governments are persuaded does not persuade me at all. In fact one of my problems is that government, and other supporters, are pushing this beyond what the evidence supports. It is also distorting the science. Put “climate change” in funding request and you are far more likely to get funded. I remember seeing a while back an analysis of several drafts of one of the IPCC reports, and how the politicians who did the final revisions dropped out mitigating factors put in by the actual scientists, and strengthen and in some cases even exaggerated their claims. Get the politicians out the debate and you would have a much different discussion.
      I agree there is a lot to criticize about the examples of feedback loops. They were given as rough examples, not definitive proofs, which is why I prefaced them as “in very simple terms…” In past discussion I have found that a lot of people do not understand what a control system is, so I gave some examples.
      Concerning C02, while it is up about 40% and does play a large role on Venus, it does not seem to do so here, has it has changed a lot over the past geologic ages and yet shows little actual correlation to temperature. As for small change being an important factor, I remember see that at times in the past it has been 10 times higher than it is now.
      As for potential catastrophe, see my comments to Steve, but I do not think we should allow death and suffering now based on predictions about what might happen in 100 years based on models that so far have been consistently wrong.

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