Posted by: bmeverett | September 20, 2010

More Bad Arguments for Climate Change

The so-called “Climate Change Community (CCC)” is a caring and passionate bunch. They truly want to save the world from what they see as an imminent existential threat to humanity. Over the last decade, however, they have been steadily and inexorably losing the argument. As the public gradually turns their backs on Al Gore and company, the CCC continues to respond with new studies making the same old fallacious arguments. The latest offering is “Global Warming and Extreme Weather: The Science, the Forecast, and the Impacts on America” from the Environment Massachusetts Research and Policy Center. You can read the report at

Their argument runs as follows: (1) The Earth has warmed over the last hundred or so years, (2) the CCC’s hand-picked scientists predict that warming will accelerate, bringing extreme weather events, (3) recent extreme weather events give you a taste of how bad this is going to be and (4) we therefore have to accept massive reductions in our carbon emissions regardless of cost. The timing of the new Massachusetts report is not surprising. The Northeast had a very bad winter, a very hot July and a September brush with Hurricane Earl. Hence, people in Massachusetts are nervous and ready to be frightened by climate change arguments.

Here’s the problem. As I’ve discussed many times in previous posts, science is a simple process. You start with a hypothesis, and then test it against empirical evidence. Whether the hypothesis is valid depends on whether its predictions are consistent with observations. For example, Sir Isaac Newton proposed his law of universal gravitation in mathematical form. Anyone who was interested could drop an object and see if its motion followed Newton’s equations. That’s a good scientific hypothesis. If Newton had said, “A dropped object will move in the direction and at the speed that God dictates”, there would be no way to test it. In other words, that assertion would not have been a scientific hypothesis.

The CCC falls into this trap when it claims that the Climate Change Hypothesis predicts variable weather. The weather is ALWAYS variable. There is no logic to the argument that an unusually cold winter and an unusually warm winter are both evidence of human-induced climate change. The CCC needs to make an actual prediction against which its views can be tested.

Let’s suppose that lighting hits your neighbor’s house, burning it to the ground. The next day a salesman knocks on your door and wants to sell you a $50,000 Lightning Buster 2010™ system guaranteed to protect you against lighting strikes. His sales pitch runs like this, “Good morning. I’m here to protect you against an absolutely certain catastrophe. Your neighbor’s house was destroyed by lighting, and our research team has concluded with nearly absolute certainty that lightning strikes will increase in frequency, eventually destroying the entire town. Here are some terrible photographs of what happened to your neighbor’s house as a result of the fire. Pretty soon that will happen to every house in the country, including yours. Can you imagine what that would be like? The fires will overwhelm the capability of the Fire Department and other emergency services. Food deliveries will stop. People will be fighting in the streets for dwindling supplies. Death, disease and destruction will reign. You can avoid all this with a mere $50,000 purchase.”

Most people would immediately see this salesman as a con artist. He has offered no evidence that the single lightning strike in the neighborhood, tragic as it might be, actually portends widespread disaster, and he has offered no evidence that his product would actually make any difference or that the benefits of his product exceed its rather substantial cost. All he has tried to do is to scare you into doing something he wants you to do. There’s neither logic nor science in this approach.

If the CCC wants to convince people to reduce their carbon footprints in anything more than a perfunctory way, they need to establish a testable hypothesis in the form: “x” amount of human-generated carbon will produce “y” impact on the atmosphere. If that prediction proves true, it supports the hypothesis. The current hypothesis, which says “Continued carbon emissions will cause really bad things to happen”, is not falsifiable and is not therefore a scientific hypothesis. The CCC cannot continue to argue that each unusual weather event supports their hypothesis or that some evidence supports it or that lots of scientists believe it despite the lack of empirical evidence. Furthermore, they must demonstrate that carbon reduction steps are worth their cost.

The CCC has gotten itself into a bind. So many people, many of them intelligent, thoughtful and high educated, have staked their reputation on the need to reduce carbon emissions. Backing away from this position would be humiliating. In this sense, many of the CCC’s members with advanced technical degrees have ceased to be scientists. They are now just advocates.

If the new Environment Massachusetts report is the best they have, it’s no wonder the public is treating this with a big yawn.



  1. Nice article…
    Also my personal ideas about
    Climate change

  2. Awesome web site, I hadn’t noticed earlier in my searches!
    Continue the excellent work!

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