- - Tuesday, March 11, 2014


While this week’s Senate Climate Action Task Force all-night marathon may seem like the ultimate comedy, real climate scientists are crying over the event. It’s not just because of the numerous basic science mistakes made by the senators.

Scientists are also concerned that most of the media and public will fail to realize that many of the senators’ absolute assertions are simply science fiction.

The senators repeatedly argued that the science of climate change is “settled.” Scientists supposedly know with certainty that our carbon-dioxide emissions are causing a climate crisis.

There is no further need to investigate the validity of the theory or to consider alternative evidence, the senators asserted. Rather, we must take action to stop the unfolding human-caused climate catastrophe.

Like children frightening each other with ghost stories, senators seemed to be competing for the most alarming forecasts of eco-disaster.

Sen. Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts Democrat, easily took first place with his warning: “The science proves there is a danger . The planet is running a fever, but there are no emergency rooms for planets.”

Professors Chris Essex of the University of Western Ontario and Ross McKitrick of the University of Guelph classify this sort of remark as part of the “Doctrine of Certainty” that has ruined the climate debate.

In their book “Taken by Storm,” they explain, “The Doctrine is a collection of now-familiar assertions made about climate, all of which must be accepted without question.”

If one dares question the Doctrine, the reaction from true believers is immediate: You are a denier, an enemy of nature, a pawn of big oil — and you must be silenced.

The senators did not even consider the possibility that, as Mr. Essex and Mr. McKitrick say, “The Doctrine is not true. Each assertion is either manifestly false or the claim to know is false.”

Besides the Democratic senators who took part in Monday night’s event, America’s leading “Doctrine of Certainty” campaigners include former Vice President Al Gore, Secretary of State John F. Kerry and President Obama himself.

Following Mr. Obama’s assertion in January’s State of the Union address that “the debate is settled,” Mr. Kerry told Indonesians last month that the science backing what he called “the greatest threat that the planet has ever seen” is “something that we understand with absolute assurance of the veracity of that science.”

In reality, trying to unravel the causes and consequences of climate change is arguably the most complex science ever tackled. Mr. Essex and Mr. McKitrick explain: “Climate is one of the most challenging open problems in modern science. Some knowledgeable scientists believe that the climate problem can never be solved.”

One of the reasons the Senate Climate Action Task Force can get away with their exaggerations is that the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the United Kingdom’s Royal Society and other national science bodies are not doing their jobs.

Rather than working to help to defeat the anti-science “Doctrine of Certainty” distorting the climate debate, these scientific bodies and others who should know better engage in propaganda, making absolute assertions concerning topics about which we have little knowledge.

The National Academy of Sciences-Royal Society report, “Climate Change: Evidence and Causes,” released on Feb. 27, is a prime example. In it, there appear numerous unfounded assertions that cannot be supported by science.

For example, it says, “If the rise in [carbon dioxide] continues unchecked, warming of the same magnitude as the increase out of the ice age [i.e., 7 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit] can be expected by the end of this century or soon after.”

Not only does such a confident prediction undermine the careful approach scientists normally take when addressing difficult fields of study, it is irresponsible, since it encourages governments to prepare only for warming while ignoring the possibility that far more dangerous cooling is on the way as the sun weakens into a “grand minimum” over the coming decades.

Reports such as that from the National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society provide political cover for politicians of developed country to bring in draconian and unnecessary carbon-dioxide regulations that are destroying their most important source of electric power — coal.

Ontario has already closed most of its coal stations because of the government’s blind adherence to climate-change doctrine. This has led to soaring electricity prices, a major cause of the province’s decline from “have” to “have not” status.

With the Senate Climate Action Task Force’s help, the Obama administration appears determined to do the same in the United States, ending America’s use of coal, the least expensive and most reliable electricity source.

The president and his allies promote wind and solar power, the least reliable and most expensive options available, in the vain belief that this will stop the climate from changing.

No one knows whether spending billions of dollars revamping the U.S. energy infrastructure will finally break America’s back. Still, there are limits to how many blunders even a great nation can commit and still survive.

Let’s not find out if bowing to the climate-change “Doctrine of Certainty” will be America’s final, fatal mistake.

Tom Harris is executive director of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition (climatescienceinternational.org).

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