Krauthammer’s Take on Climate Change

Somewhat to my surprise I find myself largely in agreement with Charles Krauthammer on climate change. He writes:

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.

As I said yesterday I would have a lot more confidence in the claims of the advocates if there weren’t so many snake oil schemes. As the old rabbinic saying goes, “If a woman comes from a far country and tells you she’s divorced, believe her.”

The balance of his column is about the fatuousness of “settled science”.

14 comments… add one

  • Ben Wolf

    Snake oil? Please.

  • steve

    Why do you bother reading what partisan pundits have to say on climate science? Why not read the actual scientists? Both sides misrepresent what they actually say, with Krauthammer being no exception.

    Steve

  • Andy

    The controversial parts about climate science really boil down to policy. As with so much else, where one stands is where one sits and science is used, politicized and cherry-picked to support a preferred conclusion.

    Steve’s advice is good – people should read the actual consensus science instead of cherry picking individual scientists or papers or political pundits. The consensus science comes from the IPCC. Unlike a decade ago, their reports are much better and rigorous with respect to knowns, unknowns and uncertainties.

    Also, we should keep in mind that the quality of analysis and, in particularly, confidence levels, vary considerably depending on the particular climate science topic. Advocates tend to ignore these distinctions. For example, there is very strong evidence for a historical rise in temperatures and atmospheric CO2 – so strong that they would require some very compelling evidence to dispute. There is pretty good evidence that these two are linked and that the rise in CO2 is the primary driver for the temperature increase. On the other hand, there is the historical and future effects of climate change on things like wildfires and hurricanes. There’s little evidence that climate change affected these historically (iow a climate change signal can’t be seen above the noise when examining the historical record). Predictions about the future are, at best, unclear. No one really knows what will happen, particularly on a local or regional level. That doesn’t stop people from claiming that all sorts of disasters are a direct consequence of climate change.

    To me, the real problem is the uncertainty. The specific future effects of climate change are unknown outside of macro trends. We are living in a grand experiment – it is hard to formulate a policy to rationally deal with the potentials when partisans can easily exploit the uncertainty to hijack the debate in order to further partisan political goals. And that’s just on a national level (ie. not unique to the US). Global action to deal with an uncertain future even more challenging.

  • Ben Wolf

    @steve

    It’s always best to trust someone without the slightest understanding of radiative physics. Having a newspaper column makes one just as much an expert on the topic as an actual physicist.

  • TastyBits

    @Andy

    The wheels fell off the AWG bus in the summer of 2010. The summer of 2014 will be the last gasp of the AWG hoopla. The models that are the proof are no longer providing the proof. The CO2 levels have been rising, but the temperature has not been responding correctly. It has not been responding well beyond where it should be.

    You will notice that the climate scientists have gone to ground.

  • Andy

    Tasty,

    Well, there are still significant uncertainty about how much CO2 actually affects warming. From Judith Curry’s blog:

    The IPCC AR4 conclusion on climate sensitivity is stated as:

    “The equilibrium climate sensitivity. . . is likely to be in the range 2oC to 4.5oC with a best estimate of about 3oC and is very unlikely to be less than 1.5oC. Values higher than 4.5oC cannot be excluded. .”

    The IPCC AR5 conclusion on climate sensitivity is stated as:

    Equilibrium climate sensitivity is likely in the range 1.5°C to 4.5°C (high confidence), extremely unlikely less than 1°C (high confidence), and very unlikely greater than 6°C (medium confidence)

    It is significant that the AR5 does not cite a best estimate, whereas the AR4 cites a best estimate of 3oC. The stated reason for not including a best estimate in the AR5 is the substantial discrepancy between observation-based estimates of ECS (lower), versus estimates from climate models (higher). Figure 1 of Box 12.2 in the AR5 WG1 report shows that 11 out of 19 observational-based studies of ECS show values below 1.5oC in their ranges of ECS probability distribution.

    Hence the AR5 reflects greater uncertainty and a tendency towards lower values of the ECS than the AR4.

    The point here, IMO, is not that AGW is bunk, but that there is a lot of ambiguity in what scientists actually know and that ambiguity is turned into certainty by advocates one way or another.

  • TastyBits

    @Andy

    Global warming has been occurring since the last ice age ended, and it will continue until the next ice age begins. As best we know, this is due to a wobble in the Earth’s axis, and humans are powerless to stop it.

    Sudden anomalies in the climate happen. To my knowledge, there is no final explanation for the Little Ice Age. We know little about the mechanics of the oceans, and they are vast. I do not think most people actually fathom the volume of water contained in the oceans.

    Like the human body, the Earth has self regulating mechanisms, and unless catastrophic events occur, they usually manage fairly well. One difference is that to the Earth years, decades, and centuries are less than rounding errors, and as such, they are meaningless. Humans are vain creatures, and they find it difficult to accept that they are insignificant.

    I could go on and on, but it would make no difference. The Y2K people believe they saved the world, but there is more code that was not fixed than was fixed. The hardware guys never got worked up because it was only a problem at the human level. Computers work in binary, and there is no overflow problem from 99 to 100. The calculations work, but the display may look screwy.

  • steve

    ” but that there is a lot of ambiguity in what scientists actually know and that ambiguity is turned into certainty by advocates one way or another.”

    Yes. So what happens is that skeptics, especially those who know nothing about the field, like the pundits who get quoted most often, claim that the latest findings show they are right and the other side is wrong. If you read the actual scientists, they look to see if there is an explanation, a better understanding of what is happening, to interpret the latest findings. It is a process of constant refinement. The supposed scientists who claim to know exactly what will happen in 30 years largely do not exist. That is a role largely played by non-scientists, and that is a problem seen with AGW “supporters”.

    Steve

  • I’m more concerned about policy than I am about the politics. I think that carbon offsets are snake oil. While “cap and trade” in theory isn’t snake oil in practice it is.

    Additionally, I’m convinced that carbon emissions rise logarithmically or even exponentially with income. If true, that would greatly reduce the effectiveness of a carbon tax while increasing the misery such a tax could produce. Basically, it would fall most heavily on those least able to do anything about it.

  • TastyBits

    I would urge anybody without flood insurance to read your homeowner’s policy carefully. Most (all?) do not cover water from outside, and when this snow melts, it may get into your house.

    This is not a political statement. Water damage can be a lot more costly than you may think.

  • Two sump pumps (on battery backup) and drainage tile all around the basement. The only floods I worry about are the ones induced by the city.

  • TastyBits

    @Dave Schuler

    A woman I worked with in Pennsylvania lived on a hillside, and she never thought about flooding. Several years ago she told me her basement flooded when a nearby creek overflowed. When she told me her husband was an insurance salesman, I asked her if they were crazy. She said they never thought it could flood. I am like Paul Revere for flood insurance.

    “The floods are coming. The floods are coming.”

  • jan freed

    You may proceed, Mr. Krauthammer, to lecture us all on the nature of science, though our most trusted messengers and every national science academy (without exception) in the world have issued official statements that climate change is real, man made and catastrophic. Unequivocally.

    http://opr.ca.gov/s_listoforganizations.php

    How catastrophic? Aha! The science is admittedly uncertain. Scientists will tell you global warming may be totally catastrophic (a major extinction event, humans included) to very catastrophic (crippling increases in the extremes we have already suffered).

    It depends on what we do to reduce emissions: how deep the cuts and how soon the cuts.

    Shall we continue ponder these deep philosophical questions, dither and delay, Team Krauthammer? Do you know the costs of inaction?

    Once, not so long ago, Mr. K. counseled a trillion dollar jump into Iraq – on astronomically less evidence.

    In Mr. K.’s recent dance of the veils, yet again he has a credibility problem.

  • Red Barchetta

    Observing the reality of the radiative physics of CO2 and attributing global warming to CO2 is like attributing global warming to the reality of the heat generated from sex.

    You folks would do well to read about tasty’s wobble citation, also augmented by other gravitational and energy transport phenomena. Have any of you considered the dominating effect the distance of the earth from the sun?? Its a very exotic concept. Its called summer and winter.

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