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Charles Krauthammer: 'Settled science' keeps changing

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Charles Krauthammer
February 20, 2014

WASHINGTON -- 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.

 “The debate is settled,” asserted propagandist in chief Barack Obama in his latest State of the Union address. “Climate change is a fact.”

Really? There is nothing more anti-scientific than the very idea that science is settled, static, impervious to challenge. Take a nonclimate example. It was long assumed that mammograms help reduce breast cancer deaths. This fact was so settled that Obamacare requires every insurance plan to offer mammograms (for free, no less).

 Now we learn from a massive randomized study—90,000 women followed for 25 years—that mammograms may have no effect on breast cancer deaths. Indeed, one out of five of those diagnosed by mammogram receives unnecessary radiation, chemo or surgery.

 So much for settledness. And climate is less well understood than breast cancer. If climate science is settled, why do its predictions keep changing? And how is it that the great physicist Freeman Dyson, who did some climate research in the late 1970s, thinks today's climate-change Cassandras are hopelessly mistaken?

 They deal with the fluid dynamics of the atmosphere and oceans, argues Dyson, ignoring the effect of biology, i.e., vegetation and topsoil. Further, their predictions rest on models they fall in love with: “You sit in front of a computer screen for 10 years, and you start to think of your model as being real.” Not surprisingly, these models have been “consistently and spectacularly wrong” in their predictions, write atmospheric scientists Richard McNider and John Christy—and always, amazingly, in the same direction.

 Settled? Even the U.K.'s national weather service concedes there's been no change—delicately called a “pause”—in global temperature in 15 years. If even the raw data is recalcitrant, let alone the assumptions and underlying models, how settled is the science?

 Last Friday, Obama ostentatiously visited drought-stricken California. Surprise! He blamed climate change. Here even The New York Times gagged, pointing out that far from being supported by the evidence, “the most recent computer projections suggest that as the world warms, California should get wetter, not drier, in the winter.”

 How inconvenient. But we've been here before. Hurricane Sandy was made the poster child for the alleged increased frequency and strength of “extreme weather events” like hurricanes.

 Nonsense. Sandy wasn't even a hurricane when it hit the U.S. Indeed, in all of 2012, only a single hurricane made U.S. landfall. And 2013 saw the fewest Atlantic hurricanes in 30 years. In fact, in the last half-century, one-third fewer major hurricanes have hit the U.S. than in the previous half-century.

 Similarly tornadoes. Every time one hits, the climate-change commentary begins. Yet last year saw the fewest in a quarter-century. And the last 30 years—of presumed global warming—has seen a 30 percent decrease in extreme tornado activity (F3 and above) versus the previous 30 years.

 None of this is dispositive. It doesn't settle the issue. But that's the point. It mocks the very notion of settled science, which is nothing but a crude attempt to silence critics and delegitimize debate. As does the term “denier”—an echo of Holocaust denial, contemptibly suggesting the malevolent rejection of an established historical truth.

 Climate-change proponents have made their cause a matter of fealty and faith. For folks who pretend to be brave carriers of the scientific ethic, there's more than a tinge of religion in their jeremiads. If you whore after other gods, the Bible tells us, “the Lord's wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit” (Deuteronomy 11).

 Sounds like California. Except that today there's a new god, the Earth Mother. And a new set of sins—burning coal and driving a fully equipped F-150.

 But whoring is whoring, and the gods must be appeased. So if California burns, you send your high priest (in a carbon-belching Air Force One, but never mind) to the bone-dry land to offer up, on behalf of the repentant congregation, a $1 billion burnt offering called a “climate resilience fund.”

 Ah, settled science in action.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for the Washington Post. His email address is letters@charleskrauthammer.com.

 



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