Posts Tagged Climate Science

CFCs, not CO2?

Could CFCs, already known to be responsible for the ozone hole, also be responsible for global temperature change, rather than CO2?

That’s the conclusion from a new paper in Modern Physics B, a high-level peer-reviewed journal.  The paper found that while the correlation between recent temperature anomalies and  CO2 was close to 0 – as in, no correlation whatsoever – the correlation to CFCs was close to 1, almost a perfect fit:

Climate scientists have been hard-put to explain the fact that there’s been no net warming since 1998, despite increases in atmospheric CO2.  If this is true, it is extraordinarily good news.  CFC usage has been heavily reduced since their effects on the ozone layer were discovered, and are slowly being removed from the atmosphere.  The 15-year lull in warming would not, then, be a pause before further warming, but the top of the roller coaster before we headed back down.

But more important, even the publication of the piece pulls the rug out from underneath the climate alarmists, who have been telling us for well over a decade that The Science Is Settled, and that CO2 emissions are responsible for global warming – or, as they now prefer, “climate change.”  There has been plenty of reason to doubt these conclusions – historically, CO2 levels have closely led, rather than closely training, global temperatures.  Moreover, climate has been changing for millennia, long before the industrial revolution.  And recent papers have also cast doubt on the speed with which temperatures have actually been increasing.

CO2 emissions have become something of a totem in current policy debates, inserting themselves into just about every discussion, and they have been responsible for some of the most distortionist of recent economic policies.  The people who suffer from these policies most are, of course, the poorest. Globally, the poorest find themselves victimized by added costs for their countries to industrialize and modernize.  Locally, Americans find themselves with higher utility costs from green subsidies, higher food costs from diverting massive amounts of corn to ethanol, higher housing costs from mandatory efficiency requirements in building codes, and higher transportation costs from boondoggles like “cash-for-clunkers.”   And of course, such policies make jobs scarcer for college grads, and less remunerative for a middle class already finding it hard to save for their futures.

On a grander scale, “greenhouse gas emissions” end up being the justification for wasteful light-rail, high-speed rail, and streetcar projects, and the excuse for diverting ever-more tax dollars into losing efforts to force people out of suburbs an into higher-density city centers.  The Supreme Court’s ruling that CO2 is a pollutant has given the EPA carte-blanche to interfere in just about every industrial process in the country.  This despite the fact that natural gas use has allowed the US’s CO2 emissions to fall to 1992 levels, even as actual industrial production has risen, without massive government intervention.

As, the climate alarmists have been seeing the debate slip away from them, they have resorted to more anti-science, political hardball tactics.  The Climategate I and Climategate II emails laid bare the ruthlessness with which they treated those who questioned their orthodoxy.  Recently, it was revealed that the Texas A&M Atmospheric Sciences Department was requiring what amounted to a climate loyalty oath for its faculty – usually not a sign of security that one’s position is supported by the actual science.

Add this paper to the growing body of evidence undermining the need for massive reordering of the global economy in order to stave off a disaster that looks increasingly unlikely.

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Nobel Prizes and Consensus – Updated

So much for the idea that science operates by consensus.  If it did, Dan Schechtman would still be working in obscurity, rather than having just been named the 2011 Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry.

Schechtman won for discovering something called quasicrystals (the article is a little technical).  We all think we know what crystals look like: solid forms that are not only symmetrical, but that also repeat endlessly.  Schechtman discovered crystal structures that are symmetrical, but have patterns that don’t repeat – ever – when they’re put next to each other.  It’s a three-dimensional analogue to Penrose Tiling, where the pattern is symmetrical about the center (in this case, it repeats 5 times), but never repeats as you move outward.

The world of crystallography didn’t receive Schechtman’s discovery with open arms:

“People didn’t think that this kind of crystal existed,” she said. “They thought it was against the rules of nature.”

“I told everyone who was ready to listen that I had material with pentagonal symmetry. People just laughed at me,” Shechtman said in a description of his work released by his university.

For months he tried to persuade his colleagues of his find, but they refused to accept it. Finally he was asked to leave his research group, and moved to another one within the institute.

Shechtman returned to Israel, where he found one colleague prepared to work with him on an article describing the phenomenon. The article was at first rejected, but finally published in November 1984 — to uproar in the scientific world. Double Nobel winner Linus Pauling was among those who never accepted the findings.

“He would stand on those platforms and declare, ‘Danny Shechtman is talking nonsense. There is no such thing as quasicrystals, only quasi-scientists,”’ Shechtman said.

Schechtman encountered fierce resistance to a laboratory discovery, and was rightly forced to go through the scientific process of debate, discussion, and reproducible experiment.  Computer models showing that such shapes were possible wouldn’t have been enough.  Making the lab measurements wouldn’t have been enough.  Making the crystals in once wouldn’t have been enough.  Explaining other scientists’ data wouldn’t have been enough.  Only when he was able to use his discovery to make useful predictions was it enough for us.  (The article says that the discovery took place on April 8, 1982, which corresponds to the first day of Passover that year.  Insiders will understand the structure of this paragraph.)

Climate orthodoxy considers itself bound by almost none of these constraints, and seeks to operate by consensus.  Science can be as susceptible to groupthink as any other pursuit.  It’s only the rigor of repeatable, predictive, real-world experimentation that keeps it grounded and validates its conclusions.

UPDATE: The official Nobel Prize press release recognizes Schechtman’s, “fierce battle against established science.”  Imagine that.

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