Free Markets, Free People

The science is not settled

Dr. Steven Koonin is the director of the Center for Urban Science and Progress at New York University. Formerly, he was undersecretary for science in the Energy Department during President Barack Obama’s first term. So, not a guy you’d think would be a Koch-funded climate denier. Yet, he writes in the Wall Street Journal that the current state of climate science is not settled, despite what others may say.

After spending several paragraphs highlighting both our lack of scientific understanding of basic climate processes, and the unreliability of the different computer models and their predictions, he concludes:

These and many other open questions are in fact described in the IPCC research reports, although a detailed and knowledgeable reading is sometimes required to discern them. They are not “minor” issues to be “cleaned up” by further research. Rather, they are deficiencies that erode confidence in the computer projections. Work to resolve these shortcomings in climate models should be among the top priorities for climate research.

Yet a public official reading only the IPCC’s “Summary for Policy Makers” would gain little sense of the extent or implications of these deficiencies. These are fundamental challenges to our understanding of human impacts on the climate, and they should not be dismissed with the mantra that “climate science is settled.”

While the past two decades have seen progress in climate science, the field is not yet mature enough to usefully answer the difficult and important questions being asked of it. This decidedly unsettled state highlights what should be obvious: Understanding climate, at the level of detail relevant to human influences, is a very, very difficult problem.

This is not coming from some right-wing whack job. It is the sober assessment of the science from a former Obama Administration official. Claims that the “science is settled” are just that: claims. They are claims made to further a specific political agenda, not a realistic summation of what we actually know.

Yet we are told that massive government action is required—usually leavened with a generous dollop of socialism—to prevent disaster. A disaster, by the way, than cannot be confidently predicted. If that is so, the predictions of success for ameliorative actions cannot be confidently predicted either. Indeed, we cannot truly say that massive ameliorative actions are even needed.

“The science is settled,” therefore, is not a factual, scientific statement. It is a political one. It deserves no more respect than any other political assertion.

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5 Responses to The science is not settled

  • “It deserves no more respect than any other political assertion.”

    Actually, it deserves a lot less. It is nothing more or lessI than a well-constructed “shut up”. It is intended to foreclose debate.

    It is employed by idiots like Erp.

  • The science can hardly be settled with it’s barely part of the process…

  • Total Human Energy production (2011) 13113 Mtoe * 41.868×10^15 J/Mtoe =

    (A) 549.0×10^18 Joules

    1361 Watts per square meter strike Earth per second.

    Earth’s radius is 6371 kilometers, or 6,371,000 meters

    We could do complex calculus to account for the curvature of the Earth and surface area therefrom, and the angle of incidence of what strikes, but it all reduces to being equal to a circular disc of the same radius as Earth, or pi times the radius of earth squared.

    31% of the energy Earth receives is reflected, so 69% is retained

    Earth’s Energy received from sun = (B) 173.5×10^15 J/s, of which 69% is retained

    dividing (A)/(B) and dividing again by 0.69 out we find

    It takes roughly 4586 seconds, or 1 hour 16 min 26 seconds for Earth to retain as much energy from the sun as from *all* human energy sources in a year

    multiply (B) by 31,536,000 seconds per year, and we get that on a ‘same time period’ basis = 5.471×10^24 Joules per year from the sun, of which (C) 3.775×10^24 are retained.

    Divide, (C) by (A) and you see that the ratio is 6876 to 1

    I did this to four significant figures because that’s the limit of one of the figures I had. On that scale, human energy expenditure is just barely a rounding error.

    indeed, the sun varies its output by several times as much as total human energy production

    Any notion that what we’ve been doing controls the planet is hubris

    References linked here

    • Now just hold on a second there!
      Where’s the dancin? Where’s the drummin? Where’s the polar bear pictures and the simulations of New York and London being under water?
      This looks like a bunch of danged numbers to me!
      This isn’t ‘Science’! Where’s the human part about feelings? (the dancin and drummin and feeling bad about polar bears)?

  • Polar bears all dead yet? NYC swamped yet?