The IPCC and Earth Systems Studies
The predictions and sibylline prophesies of the adverse effects projected to accrue as a result of
global warming climate change climate disruption climate catastrophe climate emergency the climate crisis have been paraded by governments and the media across the daily consciousness of the western world for more than three decades with increasingly hyperbolic rhetoric. The unceasing and escalating fever-pitch in the delivery of future climate prognostications by purported experts is reflected most patently in the intentional urgency inherent in the epithets successively attached to the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) hypothesis (enumerated above). The headlong race to lead western civilization back down an energy strategy path abandoned for inefficiency and inadequacy more than two centuries ago is a classic “cart-before-the-horse” situation because, although bombarded with oracular foretelling of what’s to come, no-one outside the inner sanctum of the main-stream climate change cadre has been given the facts or even the premises upon which the auguries are based and on which Armageddon has been foreseen. Moreover, the former predictions of ten, twenty and thirty years ago of what dire consequences were to have come by now have simply failed to adhere to the script. Rather than tax the prophets of doom about their failed predictions, those unmaterialized threats have been swept away into the oblivion of poor societal recollection by the tsunami of superseding academic legerdemain, which, in turn, have then been swept away by…
Based on the premises that every citizen has the right to know the facts behind any conclusion which will affect them, and that the average citizen is more than intelligent enough to understand those facts and draw their own conclusions, a series of posts follow here at The Terrane which provide factual surveys of the scientific foundations which either underpin or undermine the ubiquitous and unexplained proclamations that “scientists conclude…” “experts state…” and “new study finds…”, all of which prefatory clauses are, without exception, followed by pronouncements of bad news broadcast with an air of uncontestable certainty.
I begin this series with some background on both the basis of the ‘climate wars’ and on the principal mover and shaker of the global warming crisis narrative: the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change and its interdisciplinary approach to so-called climate science. That there is a war of ideas and words which is waged between credible scientists arguing either that the sky is falling or, opposingly, that it is not, is the very nature of science and should excite no angst on either side. Nor should it cause any contention in the cases of government, the media or the general public. But, unlike in every other branch of science, climate scientists and governments worldwide behave more like the Catholic Church during the Inquisition: afraid to allow even the thought that their narrative might be lacking and, consequently, taking extreme measures to silence the opposition to the degree that many climate catastrophe crusaders have asked governments to jail anyone who opposes their end-time vision. Ergo – the climate wars. This conflict of disparate conclusions has trickled down to the general public where one’s position regarding the state of the climate has become a bellwether of how that person is viewed and received by ‘right-thinking’ people, deemed to be right-thinking because they think that way (whichever side of the war they might be on). However, the very fact that reasonable scientists disagree that there is (or is not) a climate crisis, should be justification enough for any thinking person to recognize that the science is NOT settled (it never can be), that there certainly IS room for debate and that a pause for some sober consideration might be judicious before we all step onto the moving bus of energy re-structuring, abandoning the source of 80% of world energy in favor of low density sources of power (see: “Concentrate, Please” here at The Terrane) which had proven incapable of providing adequate power for the growth of civilization, even when the world had one fifth the population as now (see Shell Games on The Terrane home page)..
We have witnessed exactly the same kind of scientific squabbling which filters down to the old “father fighting son” which has been the norm throughout the COVID-19 debacle. This effect is especially true about climatology, which is the newest and least mature of all of the many related Earth Sciences. Despite its tenuous status compared to other Earth sciences which possess decades, even centuries, of observations and measurements as a foundation, climate science has eclipsed the entire field of Earth study in that it has usurped the funding dollars to universities and other non-producing entities (NGOs) which rely on grants and gifts to support their endless research.
That research has tended, over the past decade or so, to focus on Earth Systems – some former university geology departments are now called Earth Systems Studies departments. Warning: any university program that has had the word “Studies” inserted into its title is less rigorous than a program focusing on a single, defined discipline. This shift to systems studies goes along with the ‘interdisciplinary” meme, which is nothing more than obfuscation talk meaning that the “science” is practiced by jacks of all trades and masters of none. Any time one attempts to get a single person, place or thing to do two jobs, neither job is done as well as two individual persons places or things would do on its own with its portion of the job at hand. Think about paint and primer in one, all in a single can; or shampoo and conditioner all in one bottle. Those do the jobs at hand adequately, but not as well as would be done if one used both for their respective purposes.
It is not the case that one person cannot stray outside the strictures and boundaries of a single discipline. Many are well versed, even very capable of being both, say, a chemist and a biologist, or a geologist and an engineer (or whatever). But the very concept of interdisciplinary organizations, or interdisciplinary studies, crosses an invisible line and the issue under consideration is thrust immediately and irrevocably outside the realm of science and into politics.
Each member of a consensus-oriented, interdisciplinary panel, having their own specific expertise, will figuratively turn all the necessary knobs and screws within a team’s governing structure to have as much of their own information and perspective as possible inserted into the end product – and so will all the other members regarding their respective disciplines. But not all of the disciplines can be included to the degree desired by the respective representatives on the team, with the result that the end product will inevitably be a compromise, which, by definition, cannot be considered scientific. Rather, it is a political agreement, constructed to achieve a consensus between disparate disciplines via a series of dilutions of each included discipline in order to meet some goal as chartered by that particular sponsoring organization. The result is invariably that no conclusion which has been considered and edited by all members can be wholly correct or true as viewed strictly from the perspectives of practitioners of each discipline. Let me re-phrase that: Any conclusion reached via consensus between disparate scientific disciplines will not represent the strict position held amongst scientists working outside the interdisciplinary team and within the conclave of their own specialties.
So, with respect to the Earth, what are Earth Systems anyway?
Before tackling that, it is instructive to look at the Earth another way: as a whole the Earth can be said to consist of four spheres:
The Lithosphere: The solid Earth itself, extending from the center of the planet to and through its crust (yes, I know the Outer Core is liquid). There are some who will argue with this very general definition, making the point that the term “lithosphere” refers to a very specific region of the upper crust and mantle only, and I will not argue with them. They are correct, sensu stricto. I use the term in the context of this post in the more general way as defined above and in context of the remaining spheres;
The Hydrosphere: the liquid portion of the Earth, residing mostly above the lithosphere and excluding the liquid Fe-Ni outer core;
The Atmosphere: No explanation needed on this one;
The Biosphere: again, no real explanation needed other than to answer the question: isn’t that crossing the line into biology and becoming interdisciplinary? I include it here because it is undeniable that life has affected the physical attributes of Earth as much as Earth has affected life. A significant percentage of all mineral species, the composition of the atmosphere, the climate we have, atmospheric properties, circulation and erosive forces, the presence and compositions of soils, the specific composition of the oceans, can be traced back to the fact that the lithosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere have all had interactions with the biosphere.
That is a simplistic way of looking at Earth, but it is acceptable for the current purpose.
Now, with that bit of perspective: What are Earth Systems?
I am personally less than clear on this because systems seem to be a moving target and can include whatever considerations might be needed by the particular organization, government entity, or affiliation of parties conducting any particular study. So, for example, there is the “Climate System” which can include such things (but not necessarily all at once) as diverse as the air, the oceans, biota, rocks, the sun, the moon, interstellar radiation (the list goes on). All of those things can have an effect on climate to some degree or another. In such a sense, considering all inputs and perspectives to a “system” can be a good thing.
On the other hand, as mentioned above, it is a near-impossible feat to completely satisfy (in this case) each meteorologist, climatologist, oceanographer, biologist, geologist, solar physicist, lunar geophysicist, cosmologist/astronomer… participating in any study by giving the degree of attention to their respective disciplines as they think is absolutely necessary. Depending which discipline has the most influence with the convening organization, and on what the goals of the organization are, the aspects of some (or one) of the many disciplines will be more completely represented and, consequently, closer to correct than others, which will be represented by varying degrees of incorrectness (or, rather, not-quite-wholly-correctness or completeness). However, in order for all parties to be equally represented, each and every player is going to have to settle for something which is not quite the whole picture, or is in some way not contextually correct.
With that background, I want to evaluate the current premier consensus building, interdisciplinary entity: the United Nations’ International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
This is the organization which issues assessment reports on the state of the climate at irregular intervals. Despite its own vehement attestations, the IPCC is not a scientific body. It is strictly a political body chartered to achieve a political end via a political process including consensus building via the procedure of an interdisciplinary team which includes some scientists, but an awful lot more “delegates” who are politically appointed non-scientists. Add to that, that the actual IPCC charter is precisely worded that the goal of the IPCC is to identify and assess to what extent human influences are affecting the global climate.
By its very founding charter, the IPCC specifically eliminates consideration of any real world data which could point to causes of climate change other than human causes. That is not science! Science and the scientific method requires that any and all real world data must be considered when a scientist (or interdisciplinary team of scientists and others) tests its hypotheses – in this case, that the fraction of carbon dioxide emitted by the combustion of fossil fuels, compared with the much more significant fraction of CO2 in the atmosphere naturally and which derives from natural sources, is wreaking havoc on Earth and life and will result in our mutual destruction if not curtailed. As the old adage says: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and that is an extraordinary claim. But, the IPCC ignores all climate inputs except those it ascribes to the burning of fossil fuels (and there are MANY other inputs and data that must be considered in order to purport to represent a scientific consensus).
What that all means is that the hypothesis of anthropogenic global warming, as espoused by the IPCC, from which all participating world governments take their cues, can never be a scientific theory. In science, a theory is an overarching explanation of some phenomenon in the natural world which must account for, and be consistent with, ALL DATA and not just a select sub-set, or, in the case of the IPCC, on NO (as in ZERO) empirical data but resting wholly on the projections of computer models (soon to be addressed in an upcoming post coming to The Terrane home page). In turn, that means that the pronouncements of the IPCC cannot be considered scientific in and of themselves.
Even more fundamentally, it is undeniable that most of the “delegates” who represent the 190 (+/-) nations kowtowing to the IPCC and who attend the periodic bacchanalias, each held in desirable tourist destinations (not one has even been convened in, say, Camden, NJ) are not themselves scientists but rather, political appointees. Most of the scientists who get to attend are not actually participating as practicing scientists as part of their role. Rather, what they do it assemble (a selected sampling from) the scientific literature on the IPCC-identified components of the “climate system” (not necessarily all components, see above), and then focus on any finding which points to human emissions of CO2 and ignore research which points to natural causes of climate variability. They then collectively decide which specific findings of which specific disciplines are going to get more emphasis and which less in a report they then publish as the Xth Assessment Report, which almost no-one reads, so it is abstracted into a “Summary for Policymakers,” which is typically written by non-scientists delegates. The scientists from the team selected to help expurgate the assessment report to produce the Reader’s Digest version tend to be the most non-scientific of the scientist members; i.e., the most politically inclined scientists of all, selected for the reason that they have demonstrated the ability to accept the most compromises to the strict adherence to their discipline so that the organization’s political goals can be achieved Let me state the end of that last sentence in a manner closer to the truth: because they have shown the ability to manipulate, modify, excise and ignore the totality of scientific findings, compiled in the full assessment reports which must be compromised in order to achieve an interdisciplinary consensus view which also comports with views, goals and concerns of the non-scientific (aka political) delegates and their representative nations.
Consequently, it is impossible for the U.N. IPCC to produce a scientific end product. Its only end product specifically ignores real world data and must, consequently, shoe-horn a conclusion about the climate into a stated goal using only a partial data set. The IPCC assessment reports might be a lot of things, but the one thing they are not are summaries of the state of the science, as the Panel so frequently purports. Despite having more non-scientist delegates than scientists and despite the fact that the Summaries for Policymakers are watered-down versions of the assessment reports, written predominately by delegates, and that the findings of the summaries must be acceptable to all delegates from all nations, the proclamations in those summaries are heralded around the world under the epithet “The Science” which they tell us is irrefutable and agreed on by 97% of all scientists (see Shell Games here at The Terrane for an analysis of that claim).
That wholly non-scientific, strictly political document is then quoted by the media as “the science” and adopted by the participating nations as representing the scientific consensus (there is no such thing) and, consequently, “The Science” behind any decision or recommendation made by the Conference of Parties (the name of the free-for-alls attended by the national delegates), of which we just had the 26th iteration. That this is strictly political is borne out by the behavior of the many nations after each successive charade is over: upon reading the Summary for Policymakers, each particular nation is free to decide whether any of the findings or recommendations are in their best interests to adopt – or to what degree they are going to ignore them.
If there were actual scientific findings from each discipline represented in the “interdisciplinary systems team” that the Earth is in an bona fide crisis and the fate of humanity really does hang by a thread (the findings of each Summary for Policymakers since the second), there could be no option on how to act, or which specific recommendation a country might or might not adopt. Compliance would be the only reasonable course of action for all. There could not possibly be the kind of cherry picking of some options at the expense of others as each nation decides what it will actually do from the laundry list of actions heralded in the Summary for Policy-Makers as being critical. Or, what mostly happens, what they are each NOT going to do.
That there are such things as “systems” which need to be understood on multiple levels by a team which includes different disciplines is not in question. What is in question is convening such interdisciplinary teams under the auspices of a committed political organization, each member state of which has the power to sandbag the proceedings regardless how much or how little skin they have in the game or of how valid or invalid the conclusions and recommendations of the organization are. Or, as actually happens, each participant has the option to change the conclusions of the scientists who write their findings in the Assessment Reports.
The utter failure of such an interdisciplinary approach is manifest is the inability of the most recent, or any previous, Conference of Parties to reach any real consensus after 26 attempts which have produced six Assessment Reports and attendant Summaries for Policymakers. This entire process is and has been a multi-tens-of-billion dollar farcical orgy of hubris on a scale never before seen on Earth.
In the foregoing summary I have simplified things quite a bit, but the narrative does describe accurately enough the basis behind the decisions of about 190 (+/-) nations to march headlong down a path to eliminate the principal source of their civilization-sustaining energy even before they have any idea of how they will accomplish that goal, any assurance that it even can be accomplished or any realistic assessment of the cost in both dollars and human misery. But more to the point, the nations which are now parading their virtue in front of the collective world population because they are climate crisis believers (although not necessarily actors in the ostensible cure) have not even been presented with a single piece of empirical evidence that the entire suite of recommendations is even necessary.
Let me be clear – Not one single scientist has ever presented a study based on real-world observations and measurements that human-emitted CO2 is the cause of even a tenth of a degree of global warming or that there is the slightest need to curb fossil fuel use to save the planet. NOT ONE! If anyone can cite such a study, based on purely empirical evidence, I will retract that statement.
That is the state of how “the science” behind the global warming hypothesis is conducted and if you are a researcher and want to obtain grant money to fund your pet project, it had better somehow relate to terrible things which will accrue to anything under the Sun unless people stop burning fossil fuels. This unsavory state of affairs can be attributed to the pure hucksterism perpetrated on western societies which can be boiled down to three pure assumptions foisted as fact onto the world’s public:
- Of all the things in nature and all of things we do as a species on and to this planet, one human behavior and one single human behavior alone, is wrecking the planet and will make it uninhabitable. That one behavior is the human emissions of carbon dioxide as a result of the burning of fossil fuels;
- Digital simulations run on powerful computers can predict the future climate out to 20, 40 even 100 years from now, despite the fact that similar versions of those same simulations are what is used to produce weather forecasts (need I even go into that line of reasoning?);
- If we stop that one behavior of burning fossil fuels and emitting CO2, we can not only forestall Armageddon, but can control the climate indefinitely for as long as we want.
Special thanks to Steve Koonin, science advisor to former president Obama.
Those three assumptions are analyzed in detail in the next post, entitled Shell Games.
Thanks again for your patience, and I hope you enjoy my next offerings.