July 26, 2021

July 26, 2021

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‘CLIMATE EMERGENCY’ A Figment of Modelers’ Imaginations

by | Jul 16, 2019 |

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“Democratic lawmakers, including six presidential candidates, on Tuesday [July 9] unveiled a Congressional resolution declaring a climate change emergency to spur ‘sweeping reforms’ to stem a dangerous rise in global temperatures. The non-binding resolution, introduced by Democratic Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Earl Blumenauer and Senator Bernie Sanders, ‘demands a national, social, industrial and economic mobilization’ to ‘halt, reverse, mitigate and prepare for the consequences of the climate emergency and to restore the climate for future generations.’” This was reported by Reuters News Agency last week.

In an effort to drum up support for its costly ‘carbon tax,’ the Liberal government of Canada has also announced a climate emergency. Britain’s parliament has declared a climate change emergency as well, “backing a call by opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for ‘rapid and dramatic action’ to protect the environment after… weeks of protests by the Extinction Rebellion climate movement,” according to Reuters. The Climate Mobilization group tells us that “Over 790 local governments in 17 countries have declared a climate emergency and committed to action to drive down emissions at emergency speed.”

In considering whether this makes any sense, let’s take a page out of Blumenauer’s book and, as he put it, “tell the truth about the nature of this threat.”

The so-called emergency is nothing other than the over-active imaginations of activists who are putting too much faith in the computer model forecasts of the future, while ignoring observational data that tells us nothing extraordinary is happening.

NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies asserts that between 1880 and 2017, there has been only slightly more than one-degree Celsius rise in the so-called global average temperature despite a supposed 40% rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) database of state-wide extreme weather records, arguably the best of its kind in the world, shows that so far in 2019, only one extreme weather record has been set—the coldest day in the history of Illinois.

In 2018, the only records set were:

  • the largest hailstone in the history of Alabama
  • the most rainfall in a 24-hour period in Hawaii
  • the most precipitation in a year in Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and West Virginia.

In 2017, the only record set was for the fastest wind gust in California. No records were set in 2016.

In 2015, only two records were set: the most precipitation in a year in Arkansas and the largest hailstone in the history of Illinois.

In 2014, only one record was set—the most rainfall in a 24-hour period in New York. And so it goes, year after year as we move into the past with the occasional state record set, as one would expect due to natural climate variability. In the first 18+ years of the 21st century, only two states recorded their maximum temperatures—South Carolina in 2012 and South Dakota in 2006. Contrast that with 1936, when 15 states set their all-time maximum temperature records.

Similarly, the NOAA’s updated coastal sea level tide gauge data (2016) shows no evidence of accelerating sea level rise. NOAA data also shows that for almost 142 consecutive months starting on Oct. 24, 2005, there were no major or moderate landfall hurricanes in the continental United States, the longest such period in records starting in 1851.

Much to the frustration of climate alarmists, the instrumental record clearly indicates that, not only is there no climate emergency underway, but today’s climate is actually quite stable.

The climate scare is based on only one thing (aside from the drive for world socialism—see the conclusion to this piece)—computer model forecasts of what may happen someday if we do not restrict our use of fossil fuels to reduce CO2 emissions. But these models do not work because we do not understand the science well enough to know what mathematical equations to program into the models. Observations demonstrate that the actual rate of warming between 1979-2017 is three times smaller than that predicted by the average of 102 different climate models.  

Let’s drill a bit deeper into this scandal.

Our government has financed more than one hundred efforts to model our planet for the better part of three decades. They continue to do so even though none has been able to predict the known past or, after a decade of study, accurately predict what was to happen ten years later. If you watched this year’s Indianapolis 500 motorcar race, you know they predicted 80% chance of rain, but the sun never went behind a cloud.

The problem facing scientists who study climate with no bias is that the public has no clue what mathematical models actually are, how they work, and what they can and cannot do. So, let’s try to simplify the complex subject of mathematical modeling.

Before we build buildings or airplanes, we make physical, small scale models and test them against the stress and performances that will be required of them when they are actually built. 

When dealing with systems that are totally beyond our control, we try to describe them with computer programs or mathematical equations that we hope may give answers to the questions we have about how the system works today and in the future. We attempt to understand the variables that affect the operation of the system. Then we alter the variables and see how the outcomes are affected. This is called sensitivity testing and is the very best use of mathematical models.

Historically, we were never foolish enough to make economic decisions based on predictions calculated from equations we think might control how nature works. Yet, today, in the climate sphere, we are doing just that.

All problems can be viewed as having five stages: observation (seeing a physical occurrence), modeling (estimating mathematical relationships), prediction (how the system might work), verification (seeing a correct result) and validation (determining that the result was not a random occurrence).

Perhaps the most active area for mathematical modeling is the economy and the stock market.  No one has ever succeeded in getting it right, and there are far fewer variables than those that determine Earth’s climate. For many years the Wall Street Journal selected five eminent economic analysts to select a stock they were sure would rise in the following month. Then they had a chimpanzee throw five darts at a wall covered with that day’s stock market results. A month later they determined who did better choosing winners: the analysts or the dart-throwing chimpanzee. For many years the chimp won so often that they discontinued the contests. We are not saying that today’s mathematical modelers would not beat chimps throwing darts at future Earth temperatures, but we will not object if you were to reach that conclusion.

While no one knows all the variables affecting climate, there are likely hundreds of them. Here are some important factors for which we have limited understanding:

1- changes in seasonal solar irradiation

2- energy flows between the ocean and atmosphere

3- energy flows between the air and land

4- balance between Earth’s water, water vapor and ice

5- the impacts of clouds

6- understanding the planet’s ice

7- mass changes between ice sheets, seal level and glaciers

8- ability to factor in hurricanes and tornadoes

9- the impact of vegetation on temperature

10- tectonic movement on ocean bottoms

11- differential rotation between Earth’s surface and the planet’s core

12- solar system magnetic field and gravitational interactions.

Yet today’s modelers tell us that they can forecast the planet’s climate for decades or even a century in the future and want our leaders to manage our economies accordingly. Dr. Willie Soon of the Harvard-Smithsonian astrophysics laboratory once calculated that if we knew all the variables affecting climate and plug them into the world’s largest computer, it would take 40 years for the computer to reach an answer.

The only emergency that matters is the threat to our way of life in the free democratic world placed upon us by climate alarmists, many of whom do not really care about climate or the environment in general. Their goal is world socialism and complete government control of the peoples on our planet. It is an assault no less frightening and damaging than the wars that have plagued mankind since the dawn of time. It’s time governments stood up to them.


Dr. Jay Lehr is a Senior Policy Analyst with the International Climate Science Coalition and former Science Director of The Heartland Institute. He is an internationally renowned scientist, author, and speaker who has testified before Congress on dozens of occasions on environmental issues and consulted with nearly every agency of the national government and many foreign countries. After graduating from Princeton University at the age of 20 with a degree in Geological Engineering, he received the nation’s first Ph.D. in Groundwater Hydrology from the University of Arizona. He later became executive director of the National Association of Groundwater Scientists and Engineers.

Tom Harris is Executive Director of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition, and a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute. He has 40 years experience as a mechanical engineer/project manager, science and technology communications professional, technical trainer, and S&T advisor to a former Opposition Senior Environment Critic in Canada’s Parliament.

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