At the root of every concern relating to the effects of human-caused-climate-change is the single proposition that changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide are a powerful force sufficient to drive potentially catastrophic changes in global climate. Oddly, there is little evident interest in validating that proposition. Virtually all human-caused-climate-change research is dedicated to projecting future climate on the basis of a proposition that has had very little scrutiny.
The case against carbon dioxide can only be examined by those who are sufficiently informed about the nature of scientific investigation, theory development, and validation or rejection of theories.
Yet it is estimated that only 2% of the US population has earned a degree in one of the sciences or in engineering. It should be no surprise, then, that when discussion turns to science, people often wince and tune out. However, that doesn't mean only scientists are capable of discussing and understanding science intelligently and meaningfully.
A scientific issue that is the topic of conversation by far more people than those who have a sufficient scientific background to critically scrutinize the veracity of its claims is the issue of human-caused-climate-change. Specifically, that issue derives entirely from the premise that increased atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) will dramatically warm Earth's climate.
The challenge, then, is to either validate or reject the premise that increases in atmospheric CO2 are a sufficient cause of significant climate warming.
Traditional science has always been a blend of empirical science stretching our bounds of scientific knowledge coupled with inductive theoretical science that uses empirical evidence as one aspect of validating theories. The process underlying validation of all theoretical scientific propositions is known as The Scientific Method.
Every scientific theory can be reduced to an if, then construction. In the example of human-caused-climate-change theory, the theory can be stated as if human use of fossil fuels increases atmospheric CO2, then Earth's climate will warm significantly.
Unfortunately, the implications of the theory do not work in reverse (the mere fact of a warming climate does not prove such warming is the result of human activity's impact on rising atmospheric CO2). Nevertheless, such claims are made and offered as "proof" of the theory!
Despite the complexity of climate change science, it doesn't require a scientific degree to grasp the essence of the theory. It might come as a surprise to learn that it also doesn't require a scientific degree to scrutinize and judge the validity of this particular theory.
Let me explain.
The Scientific Method, Theory and Law
The Scientific Method is a process by which a theory is painstakingly scrutinized in order to either validate its conclusion or reject it as flawed. The Scientific Method follows these steps to scrutinize and then either accept, revise, or reject a theory:
A. Scrutinize the scientific basis of the theory by critically examining the underlying body of known science relating to the theory.
B. Scrutinize the theory's "if, then" construction by subjecting the theory to experimentation. Note that it is often the case that only certain aspects of a theory can be subjected to experimentation.
C. Scrutinize the theory by observation to validate the theory's "if, then" construction in nature. This may entail observing effects of long past events for which evidence still exists. For example, cosmic radiation is thought to be evidence of the "Big Bang" theory of the origin of our universe.
D. If the theory fails any of the scrutinization described in A.-C. above, then:
Either the theory is discarded as disproven,
Or, if possible, the theory is revised to correct its deficiencies and subjected once again to the scrutinization of A.-C. above.
If the theory passes extensive scientific critique of its underlying basis; and exhaustive experimentation universally confirms the "if, then" construction; and extensive observation in nature universally confirms the "if, then" construction, then, and only then, is the theory accepted as having survived The Scientific Method.
Note that a single failure of the theory (e.g., observation in nature contrary to the theory) is sufficient to doom any theory.
Passing scrutiny of The Scientific Method does not automatically raise the theory to the status of "scientific law"; it merely certifies that, to date, rejection of the theory cannot be supported using The Scientific Method. Having survived initial scrutiny by The Scientific Method, the theory is accorded general acceptance. This does not mean the theory cannot be challenged nor scrutinized in light of new evidence. Indeed, continued skeptical scrutiny is always encouraged in science.
Absolute truth exists in science. Such truths are known as scientific laws. Over time, Newton's theory of gravity derived by his inductive reasoning has been empirically confirmed to the extent that it is now accorded the status of a law of physics.
Who hasn't heard of Einstein's Theory of Relativity? How long as that theory been under scrutiny? It's still a theory, not a law.
Summarizing The Scientific Method, it is a process by which theory is critically and exhaustively examined to either reject, modify, or accept the theory as valid.
What About Human-Caused-Climate-Change Theory?
The human-caused-climate-change theory, also known as the greenhouse-gas-theory-of-climate-change, also incorrectly called "climate change" and "global warming" is the proposition that additional CO2 gas emitted by human combustion of fossil fuels to provide energy for a modern civilization will lead to "unprecedented" and "catastrophic" climate change that will dramatically increase global temperatures with dire consequences to all life on Earth. This theory rests on another theory (the "greenhouse theory") that asserts the level of atmospheric CO2 is a major driver of climate change.
We frequently hear the following:
"97% of scientists agree, climate change is real and it is substantially caused by human activity"
"human-caused-climate-change is 'settled science'"
"the debate is over"
Yet, the underlying theory has never been scrutinized using The Scientific Method!
Why do you suppose that is?
A scientific theory cannot be validated either by consensus or appeals to authority. The only valid process is a proper scrutiny using The Scientific Method.
A theory that has never undergone proper scientific scrutiny cannot be considered "settled science".
Constant scrutiny and skepticism are required for every rigorously examined scientific theory. Scientific theory is never "settled" so "the debate" is never "over". Only scientific laws are considered "settled science".
Ask yourself, why am I being told an untested theory is "settled science" and "the debate is over" when it comes to human-caused-climate-change?
Does Nature Contradict the Human-Caused-Climate-Change Theory?
It isn't necessary to exhaustively examine each facet of this theory with complex scientific processes in order to reject it. Remember, all it takes to reject any theory is discovery of a single counter-example in nature. That is, an example where the "if, then" construction fails in nature.
While there are many examples where the human-caused-climate-change theory is contradicted in nature, only one is sufficient to reject the theory. Nevertheless, let's examine two examples where dramatically rising atmospheric CO2 had no impact whatsoever on global climate change. But first, it is very helpful to have some background information about climate episodes on Earth, in particular, Earth's typical climate, ice eras, ice epochs, and ice age/interglacial cycles.
For 90% of the past 3.5 billion years, Earth's typical climate, inhospitably warmer than anything human's have ever experienced, has dominated. During Earth's typical climate, global average temperature (72˚F) is approximately 13-14˚F warmer than at present. Any claim that recent modest warming is "unprecedented" is a fabrication intended to deceive.
Only seven times during the past 3.5 billion years has Earth's climate dramatically cooled by 18˚F from its typical climate into a climate regime known as an ice era. The seven known ice eras average 50 million years duration, some longer, some shorter.
Within ice eras are ice epochs, the coldest climate regimes of ice eras that are typically hundreds of thousands of years duration. Ice age/interglacial cycles are embedded within ice epochs.
Ice age/interglacial cycles are typically 60,000 to 100,000 years duration. Interglacial interruptions of ice age cycles are typically about 3,000 to 12,000 years duration at current temperature regimes, though some, like the current Holocene Interglacial (at 10,700 years and ongoing) can last as long as 15,000 years. An ice age cycle includes an ice age and an interglacial. Modern humans have existed entirely within the Holocene Interglacial and, therefore, have never known either much colder ice age conditions or Earth's typically much warmer climate when Earth is not experiencing an ice era.
Counter-examples in nature to the human-caused-climate-change theory:
These counter-examples describe just two of the many climate regimes during which there were dramatic changes in atmospheric CO2 that were not the cause of dramatic changes in global average temperature. In one case, changes in climate were responsible for the changes in atmospheric CO2, the complete reverse of the claims made by the human-caused-cimate-change theory. In the other case, an entire ice era cycle occurred while atmospheric CO2 was dramatically changing just the opposite of what we would expect and, clearly, was not the cause of the dramatic climate change that produced the ice era.
The first counter-example uses the same chart with which Al Gore attempted to deceive viewers of his first docufiction movie, "An Inconvenient Truth" (really, "A Convenient Lie" for which his net worth increased to over $100 million). At one point in his movie, Al Gore stood in front of a large projection of 650,000 years of ice age cycles and noted the apparent lockstep changes in global average temperature with changes in atmospheric CO2.
Gore conveniently failed to mention that, with an average 800-year lag, atmospheric CO2 rose only after global average temperature increased!
There is a good reason why atmospheric CO2 would rise during interglacials and fall after a new ice age cycle began. Earth is 70% covered by oceans. Oceans are the largest source and sink of atmospheric CO2 (considerably more than plant growth and decay). As climate warmed, oceans slowly responded by warming. As oceans warmed, relatively more CO2 was emitted to the atmosphere and relatively less was absorbed from the atmosphere, both working to increase atmospheric CO2 with some lag behind climate warming as the interglacial unfolded. When the interglacial ended with a new ice age cycle, the oceans cooled, though more slowly than air temperatures cooled. This reversed the process and relatively less CO2 was emitted to the atmosphere while relatively more CO2 was absorbed from the atmosphere, both working to decrease atmospheric CO2 with some lag behind climate cooling as the new ice age cycle unfolded.
Those who stubbornly cling to the "Al Gore theory of climate change" must find a rationale to explain what caused atmospheric CO2 to increase and decrease to create and end each interglacial. Neither Gore nor any of his devoted followers have any idea why the CO2 changed in the first place if it, indeed, had been the source of climate warming and cooling to start and end interglacials.
The second counter-example examines a 50-million-year long ice era that began roughly 470 million years ago and ended 420 million years ago.
Global average temperatures plunged 10˚C while atmospheric CO2 rose from 4200 ppmv to 4500 ppmv and then as the ice era ended and temperatures rose 10˚C, atmospheric CO2 fell from 4500 ppmv to 3000 ppmv, a decrease of 1500 ppmv as temperatures soared dramatically. According to the theory that is "settled science" and for which "the debate is over", such an anomaly is impossible.
These two counter-examples are all The Scientific Method requires to entirely refute the theory that dramatic increases in atmospheric CO2 must lead to significant (and "catastrophic") global warming.
There is no scientific basis for reducing CO2 emissions. Withdrawal from the Paris Accord was a very good move by President Trump. Even its most ardent supporters recognized that, even accepting the discredited theory, the Paris Accord would have done little to impact climate change.
Why would any rational individual continue to accept the belief that human activity burning fossil fuels has any discernible impact on global climate?
Author of "Looking Out the Window", an evidence-based examination of the "climate change" issue, Bob Webster, is a 12th-generation descendent of both the Darte family (Connecticut, 1630s) and the Webster family (Massachusetts, 1630s). He is a descendant of Daniel Webster's father, Revolutionary War patriot Ebenezer Webster, who served with General Washington. Bob has always had a strong interest in early American history, our Constitution, U.S. politics, and law. Politically he is a constitutional republican with objectivist and libertarian roots. He has faith in the ultimate triumph of truth and reason over deception and emotion. He is a strong believer in our Constitution as written and views the abandonment of constitutional restraint by the regressive Progressive movement as a great danger to our Republic. His favorite novel is Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand and believes it should be required reading for all high school students so they can appreciate the cost of tolerating the growth of unconstitutional crushingly powerful central government. He strongly believes, as our Constitution enshrines, that the interests of the individual should be held superior to the interests of the state.
A lifelong interest in meteorology and climatology spurred his strong interest in science. Bob earned his degree in Mathematics at Virginia Tech, graduating in 1964.