by Dr. Ed Berry
Introduction to the AGW problem
Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) is the hypothesis that human emissions of CO2 due to burning fossil fuels are causing dangerous global warming.
AGW proponents claim AGW is so dangerous that we must drastically reduce our fossil fuel CO2 emissions in order to stop the disastrous effects of AGW.
Proponents claim the only way to sufficiently reduce human CO2 emissions, and thereby escape the disastrous effects of AGW, is to pass laws that force us to reduce our CO2 emissions. AGW proponents claim we must pass state laws, such as California’s AB32 and Gov. Schwarzenegger’s Western Climate Initiative, national laws, such as Cap and Trade hidden under various clever names, and even international laws, such as the Copenhagen Treaty, in order to force all people and all nations to limit their fossil fuel CO2 emissions.
AGW proponents demand we pass local, city, and county laws to reduce CO2 emissions and they work to enforce such laws under the United Nations International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), Sustainability, and Smart Growth. The AGW hypothesis has become a de facto assumption in our national laws, and is being enforced through the EPA, USFS, and USFWS to name only a few.
The AGW hypothesis has been used to distort our economic playing field by inserting a requirement to count carbon emissions, sequester CO2, provide tax-payer-funded incentives for wind and solar facilities and their necessary electrical transmission lines, and even tax incentives to buy certain automobiles.
The AGW hypothesis has been used to stop the construction of many new clean coal-electric power plants in America since 2000. If the AGW proponents have their way, the AGW hypothesis will control our lives even more in the future.
Constraining our fossil fuel CO2 emissions does not come for free. The trade off is our standard of living, our economy, and our freedom. Clear decision making requires choosing between frying the planet, if you believe in AGW, or surrendering many of our freedoms, and imposing self-inflicted economic handicaps destined to wreak havoc on the competitiveness of American businesses, sending even more jobs to China and elsewhere. The stakes could hardly be higher.
Therefore, people in every affected country, and perhaps especially in America, should sit down and decide whether or not AGW is a valid scientific hypothesis.
That is precisely what we will help you do in this Climate Clash debate.
The Scientific Method
AGW Proponents claim AGW is a “scientific” hypothesis (or theory) and that the AGW hypothesis has been proven to be valid. Before we can determine whether AGW is a valid hypothesis, we must determine whether it is a scientific hypothesis. Therefore, we must first review the scientific method.
There is only one basic method common to science. It is called The Scientific Method.
Dr. Albert Einstein, a master of the method, emphasized science must start with facts and end with facts. All theoretical scientific structures fall between facts. We will also call these facts “data.”
Dr. Richard Feynman, Nobel Prize winner in Physics, described the scientific method this way (“The Character of Natural Law”, The MIT Press, 1965, p. 156.):
“In general, we look for a new law by the following process. First, we guess it. Then we compute the consequences of the guess to see what would be implied if this law that we guessed is right. Then we compare the result of the computation to nature, with experiment or experience, compare it directly with observation to see if it works.
“If it disagrees with experiment it is wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science. It does not make any difference how beautiful your guess is. It does not make any difference how smart you are, who made the guess, or what your name is—if it disagrees with experiment it is wrong.”
Assume you are a scientist.
Your are first an observer. Then your look for some generality, or hypothesis, to explain the facts or data you observe and what you expect to see in the future. Using your hypothesis, you make a prediction about facts unknown. Finally, you check your prediction against new data.
As a scientist, you hold your hypothesis tentatively. If a prediction is not confirmed by the new data, then you abandon your hypothesis. This is an absolute requirement of the scientific method.
Data, or facts, are always the basis of the scientific method.
- We begin with Data.
- On the basis of Data, we guess a hypothesis. This is our Idea that we hold tentatively subject to test.
- To test our hypothesis, we use it to make a Prediction.
- Finally, we test our prediction against new Data (#4). We do not test our prediction against our original Data (#1) because that would be circular and not a valid test.
If new Data shows our prediction to be valid, then we hold our hypothesis tentatively and make new predictions and tests.
In the diagram, Data (#1) and Data (#4) are the realm of experiment. Idea and Prediction are the realm of mathematics.
The process of going from Data to Idea is called “Induction.”
The discipline of Statistics assists in performing induction, that is creating a hypothesis from facts. However, this statistical induction does not prove the hypothesis is valid. The hypothesis must still be tested using the scientific method.
The process of going from Idea to Prediction is called “Deduction.”
Deduction takes us from general to specific. This is the realm of Mathematics and Probability.
Climate models are a means of going from Idea to Prediction. They calculate predictions of hypotheses.
The process of going from Prediction to Data is called “Verification.”
This is where every hypothesis must meet the road. Statistics assists in performing verification.
The scientific method requires looping through these four steps until a hypothesis is found with a successful record of making valid predictions. Science then calls such a hypothesis a “Theory” such as Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, or even a “Law” such as Newton’s Law of Gravity.
According to the scientific method, a hypothesis cannot validate itself. It can only be validated or invalidated by new data. When you read a climate model “proves” global warming, you will realize such a statement is non-scientific. A model or a hypothesis cannot “prove” anything. But data can invalidate a hypothesis or model.
Einstein described the “Key” to science well when he said:
“The case is never closed.”
“Many experiments may prove me right but it takes only one to prove me wrong.”
A valid scientific hypothesis must be falsifiable.
Falsifiable means there must be some experiment or possible discovery that could prove the hypothesis untrue.
For example, Einstein’s theory of Relativity made predictions testable by experiments. These experiments could have produced results that contradicted Einstein. While Einstein’s theory has stood the test of time, so far, the point is that his theory is constructed to be falsifiable.
By contrast, a hypothesis that your home is populated by little green men who can read your mind and hide or turn invisible whenever anyone looks for them, is not falsifiable: these “little green men” are “designed” so no one can ever see them.
On the other hand, a hypothesis that “there are no little green men in your home” is scientific: you can disprove it by catching one. Similar arguments apply to abominable snowmen, UFOs and the Loch Ness Monster.
This method of falsifying a negative to prove a theory was discovered in mathematics in the 1820’s.
The following chart shows necessary qualities of a Scientific Theory.
To save time and reduce confusion, Dr. Eric, I suggest we define some terms for this debate.
Are the following definitions acceptable? If not, would you please suggest revisions?
- AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming) is global warming caused by human CO2 emissions resulting from burning fossil fuels.
- GC is geologic carbon, which includes fossil fuels and limestone.
- BC is biologic carbon, which includes atmospheric CO2, dissolved CO2, and life forms.
- Geologic time scale is millions of years.
- Western Civilization time scale is about two thousand years.
- Fossil fuel time limit is 300 years.
- 1850 is the year humans began emitting CO2 from burning fossil fuels.
- Base CO2 is 285 ppmv.
- Today’s CO2 is 390 ppmv.
- 1950 is the year humans began burning significantly more fossil fuels than in the past and therefore began emitting significantly more CO2 from fossil fuels.
- Temperature will be given in degrees Celsius, e.g., 5 C.
- If it becomes necessary, temperature may be given in Kelvin, e.g., 273 K.
- “Temperature” means “globally-averaged lower tropospheric temperature.”
- CO2 without further definition means the carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.
- CO2 concentration will be given in ppmv.
- The use of “we” or “our” in the context of fossil fuel CO2 emissions will refer to all humans.
- IPCC is the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
- NIPCC is the Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change.
- Climate Sensitivity (CS) is the amount temperature will rise if CO2 is doubled from any starting value.
- The IPCC calculation of CS without feedback is 1 C.
As I understand them, below are your claims. Is this correct? If not, please revise as necessary:
- Before 1850, CO2 never exceeded Base CO2 in the past 750,000 years.
- Human fossil fuel burning has caused CO2 to rise monotonically to 35% above Base CO2.
- By 2020, our CO2 will likely be 50% above Base CO2.
- If human CO2 emissions stopped abruptly, it will still take thousands of years for CO2 to return to Base CO2.
- “We are beginning to see the initial effects of AGW warming.”
- “We are already in big trouble” due to the added heating of today’s CO2.
- The Earth will be hotter in 2020 due to our CO2 emissions.
- The Earth will be even hotter in 2100 due to our additional CO2 emissions.
- If CO2 reaches 50% above Base CO2, the Earth will be a worse place to live than now.
- The threat of CO2 at 50% above Base CO2 is “significant.”
- “Significant” means we must stop our CO2 emissions now to avoid the threat’s impact.
Finally, this is your challenge in this debate:
You must show the AGW hypothesis satisfies the following criteria:
- Is formulated in a manner that allows scientific invalidation.
- Has followed the steps of the scientific method.
- Has made valid predictions.
- Has made no invalid prediction.
So far, you have not done this.
- You have talked about the comparatively rapid conversion of GC to BC but you have not shown that this has any bearing what-so-ever on AGW.
- You have talked about the 35% increase in CO2 since 1850 but you have not shown what part humans may have played in causing this increase. To do so you would need to present a full inventory of all other sources and sinks of CO2.
- Simply saying because humans have emitted CO2, they caused CO2 to increase 35%, is no more valid than saying, because you dumped a bucket of water in a lake, you caused all the water to flow over the dam, ignoring the vast quantity of water flowing into the lake via a river.
- You have talked about added CO2 being like putting on a heavier coat, but you have not provided any numbers or physics showing that your overly simplistic model of our complex atmosphere behaves as you are assuming it behaves.
- You have not shown how much any amount of CO2 might increase the Earth’s temperature.
- Simply arguing that CO2 increases temperature is not sufficient to support the dire scenario you have painted should we not stop burning fossil fuel.
- You have not produced any convincing observational evidence that recent climate is unnatural and potentially catastrophic.
- You have not presented the AGW hypothesis in sufficient detail such that it can be tested by the scientific method.
- You have not produced convincing observational evidence that AGW is true.