Opinion: Climate change anything but settled

February 22, 2014


— I repeat: I’m not a global warming believer. I’m not a global warming denier. I’ve long believed that it cannot be good for humanity to be spewing tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. I also believe that those scientists who pretend to know exactly what this will cause in 20, 30 or 50 years are white-coated propagandists.

“The debate is settled,” asserted propagandist in chief Barack Obama in his latest State of the Union address. “Climate change is a fact.” Really? There is nothing more anti-scientific than the very idea that science is settled, static, impervious to challenge. Take a non-climate example. It was long assumed that mammograms help reduce breast cancer deaths. This fact was so settled that Obamacare requires every insurance plan to offer mammograms (for free, no less).

Now we learn from a massive randomized study — 90,000 women followed for 25 years — that mammograms may have no effect on breast cancer deaths. Indeed, one out of five of those diagnosed by mammogram receives unnecessary radiation, chemo or surgery.

So much for settledness. And climate is less well understood than breast cancer. If climate science is settled, why do its predictions keep changing? And how is it that the great physicist Freeman Dyson, who did some climate research in the late 1970s, thinks today’s climate-change Cassandras are hopelessly mistaken?

They deal with the fluid dynamics of the atmosphere and oceans, argues Dyson, ignoring the effect of biology, i.e., vegetation and topsoil. Further, their predictions rest on models they fall in love with: “You sit in front of a computer screen for 10 years and you start to think of your model as being real.” Not surprisingly, these models have been “consistently and spectacularly wrong” in their predictions, write atmospheric scientists Richard McNider and John Christy — and always, amazingly, in the same direction.

Settled? Even the U.K.’s national weather service concedes there’s been no change — delicately called a “pause” — in global temperature in 15 years. If even the raw data is recalcitrant, let alone the assumptions and underlying models, how settled is the science?

Last Friday, Obama ostentatiously visited drought-stricken California. Surprise! He blamed climate change. Here even The New York Times gagged, pointing out that far from being supported by the evidence, “the most recent computer projections suggest that as the world warms, California should get wetter, not drier, in the winter.”

How inconvenient. But we’ve been here before. Hurricane Sandy was made the poster child for the alleged increased frequency and strength of “extreme weather events” like hurricanes.

Nonsense. Sandy wasn’t even a hurricane when it hit the U.S. Indeed, in all of 2012, only a single hurricane made U.S. landfall. And 2013 saw the fewest Atlantic hurricanes in 30 years. In fact, in the last half-century, one-third fewer major hurricanes have hit the U.S. than in the previous half-century.

Similarly tornadoes. Every time one hits, the climate-change commentary begins. Yet last year saw the fewest in a quarter-century. And the last 30 years — of presumed global warming — has seen a 30 percent decrease in extreme tornado activity (F3 and above) versus the previous 30 years.

None of this is dispositive. It doesn’t settle the issue. But that’s the point. It mocks the very notion of settled science, which is nothing but a crude attempt to silence critics and delegitimize debate. As does the term “denier” — an echo of Holocaust denial, contemptibly suggesting the malevolent rejection of an established historical truth.

Climate-change proponents have made their cause a matter of fealty and faith. For folks who pretend to be brave carriers of the scientific ethic, there’s more than a tinge of religion in their jeremiads. If you whore after other gods, the Bible tells us, “the Lord’s wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit” (Deuteronomy 11).

Sounds like California. Except that today there’s a new god, the Earth Mother. And a new set of sins — burning coal and driving a fully equipped F-150.

But whoring is whoring, and the gods must be appeased. So if California burns, you send your high priest (in a carbon-belching Air Force One, but never mind) to the bone-dry land to offer up, on behalf of the repentant congregation, a $1 billion burnt offering called a “climate resilience fund.”

Ah, settled science in action.

— Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.


Bob Smith 1 month, 3 weeks ago

In tomorrow's news today, the pope of AGW creates an Inquisition to root out heretics. Thousands of true believers rush to burn the guilty in solar-powered ovens.


Chris Golledge 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Depends on what you mean by settled.

We have known for 150 years that CO2 interferes with the transmission of radiative energy within the infrared spectrum the earth emits. We know that we have added more CO2 to the air. We know that more CO2 reduces the outflow of energy. We know that we are receiving pretty much the same amount of energy from the sun. We know that the amount of energy in the earth climate system is increasing.

So, unless you think there is a problem with the laws regarding the conservation of matter and energy, human activities are responsible for the 40% increase in atmospheric CO2, and the majority of the 0.8 C global warming we have seen in the last 150 years. The rest of the complexities are just waves on the incoming tide. The waves are interesting, but the tide is still coming in.

Regarding California, climate models predict the expansion of Hadley Cells, and this expansion has been observed. And Hadley Cells strongly influence precipitation patterns.

California is drier in the south than the north.

So, as the drier region expands to the north, you would expect drought in the boundary regions between the very dry and the not so dry. And that is pretty much what we are currently seeing.

Charles is projecting (it's a psych term) his own lack of understanding onto the climate scientists.


Richard Heckler 1 month, 3 weeks ago

  • Global warming is happening now. The planet's temperature is rising. The trend is clear and unmistakable.

Every one of the past 37 years has been warmer than the 20th century average. The 12 warmest years on record have all occurred since 1998. 2012 was the hottest year ever recorded for the contiguous United States.

Globally, the average surface temperature has increased more than one degree Fahrenheit since the late 1800s. Most of that increase has occurred over just the past three decades.

  • We are the cause. We are overloading our atmosphere with carbon dioxide, which traps heat and steadily drives up the planet’s temperature. Where does all this carbon come from? The fossil fuels we burn for energy — coal, natural gas, and oil — plus the loss of forests due to deforestation, especially in the tropics.

  • The scientific evidence is clear. Within the scientific community, there is no debate: An overwhelming majority of climate scientists agree that global warming is happening and that human activity is the primary cause.

This broad consensus — and the extensive scientific evidence that supports it — is often downplayed or distorted by a small but vocal minority of special interests that have a vested interest in delaying action on climate change.

  • We have a choice. We can act now to reduce our carbon emissions, slow the pace of global warming, and pass on a safer, healthier world to our children. Or we can choose to do nothing, continue pumping massive amounts of carbon into an already overloaded atmosphere, and suffer the increasingly costly consequences.

Union of Concerned Scientists believe the choice is clear.


Richard Heckler 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Now the earth has billions of people, billions of fossil fuel vehicles,millions upon millions of buildings, the military industrial complex ,tons of coal fired power plants and Fracking all of which produce Pollution = Global Warming = Climate Change. This is new stuff for planet earth.

But I might have a clue as to where Charles K gets his information.


Scott Morgan 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Knew better than to jump into this, normally don't go in this direction. Much wrong with Bush II, I agree, but his slow cautious approach to Climate Change, then called Global Warming I did and do appreciate.

I wish we would slow down on pronouncements as in a few days ago from our top leader stating the drought in California is caused by Climate Change. Not could be, but is caused... Sadly if one really thinks about it, our leader could set down in another area of our huge nation and claim Climate Change caused the floods....

Translation of leaderspeak: "Ouch what just hit my head oh my the sky is...," the U.S.A. needs to change, big big big time, heck with going through government for the people by the people.

Sorry for the jump in thought, but just a few decades ago, ships full of munitions, oil, pollution, you name it were being sunk by the hour. Atomic bombs were being tested, cities burning, thousands of huge petro powered machines moving, good golly the mess. One of my favorite books on WW2 was called appropriately "A World On Fire." Yet in months to a few years everything cleaned up nicely.

In a nutshell I firmly believe some folks are in this dogfight for self indulging reasons. Climate Change: For profit, politics, One World Government from hard core to moderate, in the case of science, fame, and that old get um in a World War nationalism is in play.

Personally, I practice and encourage sound eco living. Love the idea of trains and street cars. Wish Larrytown had them. Love the idea of cheaper ways to heat and cool indoor environments. Despise pollution, any type. Saw horrid water pollution closeup as a youth. This made a huge impression on me. Paper mills dumping waste in the river I lived on made the Kaw seem like a Rocky Mountain stream.

But, to change an entire culture over something we really do don't know even exists, nope.


Mark Rainey 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Follow the money? The profits of the top ten energy companies far exceeds that of Al gore, and many developing nations. The Kansas dust bowl ? Read a little about the Kansas water tables.


Beator 1 month, 3 weeks ago

I see the pro and con climate enthusiasts have their work cut out promoting their science.

A quarter of Americans surveyed could not correctly answer that the Earth revolves around the sun and not the other way around, according to a report out Friday from the National Science Foundation.

Unrelated to topic. Is this a survey problem or a public school problem? Will public school Common Core fix this?


Scott Morgan 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Ken, I tossed a great deal of info on the table as an example of how idiotic this whole climate change goofiness is.

The problem is far too many people believe these silly studies. A good accountant and 2+2 = whatever you want. Follow da money, and in this case power. Speaking of ill gotten gains, I did read where Al Gore is warning Kansans another Dust Bowl is coming. If anybody believes anything this man has to say, then.........oh my. Even Tipper hit the road.

I will focus on just one point, Mexico. Focus of what is actually happening, not what is said. Magic tricks, talk is cheap. Cancun and hosting should be enough said. Mexico, my goodness going green, have you ever been anywhere in this country besides touristo places?


Scott Morgan 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Our nation is in need and suffering, and we focus on a myth.

Geographically tiny European nations in comparison to countries like Mexico, Russia, and the U.S. are so eager to push global Warming/Cooling/Climate Change, do we ask why?

Tiny nations rich in mass transit, with giant green leaning techno corporations as Germany's Bosch, or Sweden's A.B.B. These nations and others are growing fat off the profits of ?. Of course we are dependent on oil and gas. We are different type country. So is Canada a nation refusing to sign self crippling feel good climate treaties.

Have our leaders forgotten our geography as we board up more and more factories across the country. Do we care about 75 year old citizens freezing because they can't afford to use our abundant natural gas reserves? Within a few miles of Larrytown, folks can tap free natural gas, and do. Within miles, sometime yards some folks are paying 3 bucks a gal. for propane. Which comes to 1500.00 to fill a 500 gal. tank. Huh? Free fuel seeping out of the ground, and somehow through regulations we can magically turn it into an unfordable and misunderstood fuel.

Oh, some of us find it strange, countries like Germany, Sweden, Japan, even Spain have cheap sources of electricity thanks to the ole U.S.A. They all use Nuclear power which seems to come with funding by us. Even long time U.S.A. critic Norway is silently going Nuke. Finally long overdue, Georgia is building the first Nuclear power plant in something like 30 years in our nation.

As we over-regulate ourselves into a third world nation, others build fiscally sound economies. All of this on a whim, a wisp of rumor. An ill wind so to speak. So convenient this fib, too much rain, climate change, too little same, giant storms climate change, lack of tornadoes same. Bold face lies, Arctic ice disappearing accepted so easily. Knock knock, Lake Superior just froze over for the first time in years. Should be noted Lake Superior shorelines have gone down, not up as predicted just 10 years ago. Not a scientist, but with the ice comes cooler lake temps in the Summer.

Pretty poor theory this rising of oceans levels, off by 100%. How many other weather science mistakes are still believed? Worse, never publicly corrected. Do they still force school kids to sit through An Inconvenient Truth anymore? No, this fiction film just silently went away.

Some of us remember Nuclear Winter, a big thanks to the 1960s New York Times. We need to act very carefully as a nation in dealing with how we deal with whatever they call it nowadays. I worry about our poor aging population shivering in their own homes due to energy costs.


Beator 1 month, 3 weeks ago

over the next 10's to 100s of thousands of years, this carbon release will be reabsorbed by the earth's natural processes and our planet's biogeological processes could look pretty much the same as before,

so we are a part of Earth processes. Therefore, it matters not what we do today...humans/ mix of species...mix of human species, 10's to 100s of thousands of years from now will adjust...?

Sounds good to me



Beator 1 month, 3 weeks ago

I am not a Scientist.

I think the climate has been changing for a few billion years though. If humans evolved from Earth processes, how can they change the climate if they are a natural result of Earth's evolutionary process? If humans could change climate, wouldn't their changing climate be a part of Earth's evolutionary process?

Now if humans were created, that's another process outside of Earth's process that Earth had nothing to do with. So, it could be said that humans can change climate?


Ken Lassman 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Can folks see where Mr. Krauthammer made a huge leap of faith? In the second paragraph of his column, he equates the debate being settled about the fact of climate change with the SCIENCE of climate change being settled. The fact of climate change is very well documented and is beyond reasonable reproach if you look at the evidence. This does not mean that the science is settled at all, and that "climate" is a monolithic singularity.

What Mr. Krauthammer failed to do is succeed in clarifying the difference between observation and modeling, and the varying degrees of certainty the scientific community has in understanding the many, many aspects of the climate. Instead of going to a few of his favorite cherry pickers, he would have served himself much better by going to the source: the hundreds of climatologists who were involved in writing up the summary conclusion of their understanding of the climate: WORKING GROUP I CONTRIBUTION TO THE IPCC FIFTH ASSESSMENT REPORT CLIMATE CHANGE 2013: THE PHYSICAL SCIENCE BASIS

If he had done this, he could have avoided merely stirring already muddied waters and instead educated his readers on what is our current understanding of the climate. Let's take hurricanes, for instance, since he attempts to summarize the issue of Atlantic hurricanes with some lame factoids about Sandy instead of conveying what climatologists are saying. From the document cited above, here are some excerpts:

"No robust trends in annual numbers of tropical storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes counts have been identified over the past 100 years in the NorthAtlantic basin...although Grinsted et al. (2012) find a significant positive trend in eastern USA using tide-guage data from 1923–2008 as a proxy for storm surges associated with land-falling hurricanes. Differences between tropical cyclone studies highlight the challenges that still lie ahead in assessing long-term trends....More recent assessments indicate that it is unlikely that annual numbers of tropical storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes counts have increased over the past 100 years in the North Atlantic basin. Evidence however is for a virtually certain increase in the frequency and intensity of the strongest tropical cyclones since the 1970s in that region." p252-3

"There is low confidence in the projections for the tropical Atlantic, both for the mean and interannual modes, because of systematic errors in model simulations of current climate. The implications for future changes in Atlantic hurricanes, tropical South American and West African precipitation are therefore uncertain." p.1910

Mr. Krauthammer--and readers--would be much better served actually seeing what the scientific community means when it says that while climate change is a fact, the climate is complex and our understanding of it has varying degrees of certainty depending on what you are talking about. You (and he) can find out the details here:


Bart Johnson 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Cue all the comments attacking the author or dismissing him entirely without addressing a single point raised in the article in 3....2....1....


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