Citizens’ Analyses of Climate Change Issues
By Dan Davis and Buck Surdu
One of the authors (Davis) grew up in a school system that was about 10% populated by active-duty Royal Canadian Air Force personnel, stationed in the US as part of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). One of those students now resides back in Canada where he works in forestry and other environmental endeavors. When discussing the past fire season in California, our friend from the North opined that the root cause was global warming, occasioned by the increase in atmospheric CO2. Without voicing any contrary opinion whatsoever, he was asked: “Just what is the current level of CO2 in the atmosphere?” His answer was succinct in its brevity and illuminating in its nonsequiturial content: “You must be a Trump supporter!” Like most of us, he did NOT want to discuss facts when he was ranting with emotion. Unlike critical thinkers, he gave way to that emotion.
This “Age” may become known as the Age of Anxiety due to the overload that all First World Citizens are facing. Young officers on the battlefield used to be very much in the dark as to their own location, the surrounding terrain, the location of allies, the proximity of the enemy, etc. Citizens might wait weeks for news from the battlefield in the Revolutionary period. Abraham Lincoln spent nights in the telegraph office eagerly anticipating reports from his Generals: McClellan, Meade, and Grant. But today, all three classes: military officers, citizens and Presidents are over-whelmed by data, images, charts and video recordings. So it is with Climate Change: all three groups are bombarded with a deluge of conflicting information and assailed by a tempest of countervailing instructions. All three types of users are sometimes in desperate need of a way to sort the “wheat from the chaff.”
Current media practice is not to foster thoughtful consideration, but to advance various political positions to the exclusion of all others. We object and offer a more balanced, four-step approach.
A good first step in any analytic process is to determine what is being asserted and by whom. This should give a place to begin and should also give a glimpse as to who is making these assertions and what is their stake in getting everyone to believe their side of the story.
The assertions from the Global Warming advocates seem to fall into four basic areas and they claim the support of “97% of Climate Scientists:”
- The climate is warming dangerously
- That warming is being accelerated by humans
- These events will cause near-term (decades) catastrophes
- That acceleration can be ameliorated/remediated by US Intervention change
Those not inclined to be quite so fast to accept these dire predictions of the end of life on earth, respond:
- The climate has been warming for 12,000 years
- The CO2 trend has not had much observable impact
- Even if it does, there is little the U.S. can do to reduce it
- Costs of radical CO2 restraint will be massive & ineffective
Note that the meteorologist who founded The Weather Channel asserts that climate change is a hoax. Indeed, he even asserted on CNN that the National Science Foundation has only been funding research that they deem will support the pre-ordained climate hysteria.
How should one parse these assertions? Both sides cite well-credentialed “Climate Scientists.” How did these prognosticators attain those titles? Is there a certification exam? State licensing authorities? A quick search via DuckDuckGo found that many major US Universities do not even offer a major or a degree called “Climate Science.” One wonders if this is a self-appointed group specifically seeking research funding that is dependent on their finding the “right” problem and proposing the “right” response.
As second step may be to see if there are issues where there is no compelling reason to disagree, based on our previous study or personal observations. Civility and efficacy demand one finds common ground with colleagues with ostensibly different positions. In Climate Change, it does seem to be accepted that there have been Ice Ages in the past and we are not in one now, but in a warmer “inter-glacial” period. So, we may concur that there is Climate Change, there has always been Climate Change and we assume there always will be Climate Change.
The difference of opinion seems to be the rate of Climate Change. Also at stake are the limits of change. Does the world come to an end at certain high level of CO2? What about a low level? Is CO2 level a major contributor to global warming? Is there a general recognition of what the intermediate levels of CO2 contribution impact our quality of life, as opposed to existential impact on life itself, e.g. if the current levels doubled, would food production suffer or increase? A last issue: What are the time limits for action, in either direction of CO2 concentration change? The final, over-arching issue is: In whom can we trust, especially after we suffered the last two years in which touted “experts” on contagious disease now admit they lied to the public about a pandemic.
The reader’s own experience with this pandemic will support the validity of questioning the assertions made by the “experts.” The reader may get some statistical data comparing the rate (deaths per million) from COVID in the US, which had draconian reactions to COVID, and Sweden, which had a much more modest response. Sweden was held up for derision by the “lock-down” advocates for not responding more dramatically. Sweden was widely given as an example of a country that would wind up having a tragically high death rate, and the Swedish leadership was under intense pressure join the radical-response group. They did eventually succumb a little to the public pressure to conform, and they closed a few areas, such as public swimming pools, and they ordered the use of face masks, but only in 2020, and only in Swedish public transportation and public vehicles like municipal transit authority buses. The net result was continuation of a thriving Swedish economy and a record of about half the COVID death rate per million of that in the U.S.
In Florida, Governor DeSantis was widely vilified by the Left for not locking down our economy, for sending kids back to school, and for eliminating state-wide mask mandates. CNN, MSNBC, and others on the Left gleefully anticipated people dropping dead in the streets in Florida. It turns out however, when you look at hospitalizations and deaths, Florida was about 17th in the nation despite having a much older average population that was in the most at-risk demographic for COVID. The “experts” are at loss to explain this.
A third step is to establish what one has personally witnessed: that which an individual sees and cannot be open to an emotional skewing of the observations. When first visiting California in 1985, one of the authors had an opportunity to visit and view an excavated channel that was subjected to tidal flow so was manifestly at sea level, plus or minus tide forces. Since that time frame, global warming became an “existential crisis” on TV talk shows. It is distinctly remembered that there were “Climate Scientists” who were predicting something on the order of 24-foot rise in sea levels over the next century, an average of 2.4 feet per decade. No such sea level change was observed by that author. There has been no readily apparent rise noted in the pilings outside of the restaurant where meals were taken. Some areas in Florida have experienced modest flooding, but it is unclear whether this is due to sea level rise of terrain subsidence. Sinking ground levels are just one of the many parameter data issues that remain open.
It is not the intention of this article to convince the reader of the validity of one side of this issue or the other, but to urge a more reasoned analysis of all issues of consequence. In the matter of one’s own analytic endeavors, it is prudent to be aware of, and cautious with, preconceived notions. The work of Festinger posited and studied the tendency of humans to make early decisions, then reject all data contrary to that choice. One is better advised to seek out data that does not fit with the prevailing notions: the infamous “… yes, but …” responses. In Climate Change, a couple of “yes, but’s” do seem applicable. You may remember the assertions that there will be wholesale destruction of the U.S. due to increasing violence and frequency of hurricanes, but that was followed by no discernible increase hurricane strikes in the U.S. Actually the last few decades have shown a decrease. In a rather embarrassing turn of events, when Al Gore released his second hyperbolic diatribe on Global Warming, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, one of the comments therein was that Global Warming would exacerbate the drought in California and that state would never again see abundant snowpack. Embarrassingly, the next year was the most plentiful snowpack year since the 19th Century; 2021 was another record-setting year, followed by a series of wet and dry years.
These anecdotes are not cited as “proof” that Global Warming is not occurring, but as the sort of data one needs to alert to in the face of a well-funded and highly visible movement to enforce radical change in the U.S. The best science is the search for evidence, not a crusade based on ill-supported truths and proofs. The Greeks held that arguments can be made based on logos, ethos, or pathos. In this case logos might be “Hurricanes, sea levels and droughts do not seem to be getting much worse.” Ethos would be “97% of Climate Scientists say we’re doomed.” Pathos might wail: “Did you see all those poor people flooded out of their homes by Hurricane Katrina?” All three may be effective at swaying the madding crowd, but surely logos must be our foundation when it comes time to make serious decisions.
Seeking numbers, the citizen must be in search of someone who is not trying make a statement about the issues of concern here and seek someone who is more likely focused on another issue of a different interest, and therefore has “no dog in the fight.” There was a program on TV where the producers were interviewing various technical people in London with respect to the Thames estuary. One set of professionals, in charge of the flood gates protecting the river levels on the Thames, had recorded about a three-inch rise per decade in the salient time frame; that would have been one 15th of that which was projected by that “Climate Scientist.” While this data is not a rigorous disputation of the numbers provided by others, it may serve to be a cautionary tale of how it is necessary to question the “science” and the “scientist,” by seeking out reliable data or making personal observations. In our experience bias sometimes drives findings more than observed data.
The fourth step recommended is the review of data from past research which may be indicative of any support for or serious questions about the theses of both sides of any discussions. Not getting a good answer about CO2 levels from my Canadian friend, we sought out some data about past levels of CO2 and associated events/changes. This led to finding a chart that was not associated to a Climate Change research interest, but was focused on basic research into CO2 levels in ice cores and geologic features. See figure below.
We did some Wikipedia-level research on the existence of various life forms on the same time scale. Study this graph carefully, particularly the levels of CO2 today related to over the entire time that homo sapiens has been on earth and note that the levels of CO2 today are not nearly the highest ever. This seems to show the viability of animals at different levels. Not graphed is the optimal balance for both animals and plants. Naturally, plants thrive on CO2; the current rise may be like spreading Miracle-Gro on the entire earth. One scientist opined that the optimum balance was on the order of 800 ppm, about twice the current level. If the plant biomass of the earth were to increase even 1/4% due to increases in CO2 and increased temperature, a quick back of the envelope indicates that would purge the atmosphere of most of its CO2, not to speak of the growth in food productivity. (Remember that plants take in CO2 and produce oxygen.)
One last analytic issue: the cost of remediation, should the warming continue. We are not aware of any significant consideration of this path. Were the oceans to continue to rise for any reason, what would the impact be? Are there engineering capabilities to respond to sea level changes? The flood gates on the Thames or the system of canals and levees in Northern Europe may be models of some salvation of current ports. The loss of private property, many being vacation homes, would be heartbreaking to the owners, but would not threaten the survival of the Nation.
Other engineering solutions might be found to the challenges. Sea retaining dikes, such as those in the Netherlands, could be studied and emulated. Elevation of port facilities might be an affordable solution for short-time transition to ports being flooded. Of course, should the “Climate Scientists'” worse fears be correct and the ambient temperature rise to the levels of Venus (864°F), these stop-gap measures would be of little avail. In considering the likelihood of this catastrophe, we might take notice of the fact that life on earth has survived CO2 levels of at least fifteen times the current concentration. This has been observed to have been attained without any demonstrable significant loss of life forms, as is shown on the graph above. It used to be thought that the cataclysmic meteor impact in the Gulf of Mexico led to the extinction of the dinosaurs, but current thought seems to be the today avian animals are the descendants of that flying members of that biological group.
If Climate Change is as dire as those who profit by this alarmism predict, what is the appropriate level of remediation? Is it several millions of dollars to build systems of dikes and levees around key coastal areas? Or is it to destroy whole industries and impose totalitarian mandates? Is it to continue to use available fuel sources and exploit clean nuclear power, while seeking alternative fuels? Is it to move from relatively clean fuels to maximum use of hazardous waste found in batteries made from materials controlled by our enemies? Where is the reasoned debate on proper response and remediation? The Biden administration and its radical green allies can’t explain why getting our energy from Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Russia makes more sense than Texas, Oklahoma, and Alaska.
It might be noted that the somewhat “overdue” next Ice Age (that was being predicted by the “experts” when we were children) would occasion the loss of virtually all of Canada, the top row of US States, the Northern third of Europe and virtually all of Russia. This would leave all those areas under several hundred feet of snow and ice. That would be a threat to humanity and the end of life as we know it in North America, the Midwest becoming untillable tundra. Sea levels would drop some three hundred and sixty feet, leaving major US ports, the ones that are not permanently Ice Bound, miles from the coast, up-stream on non-navigable rivers. Could it be our progeny will give thanks for our foresight in producing high levels of CO2 to stave off the Ice Age for a few more centuries?
The reader will note that this paper takes no definitive position on any of these issues. It just lays out how to consider the issues as they may be advanced by partisan, self-interested, and propagandizing individuals with self-serving sub-rosa agendas. Science should be more about asking the right questions, than about trying to defend and impose the partisan parties’ “right answer.” We indeed live in a world in which some thoughts are deemed unthinkable and unspeakable. In a Leftists world, where questioning the anointed narrative is cause of derision, vilification, censure, and cancelation, beware those who do not want to talk numbers and retreat rapidly into ad hominem attacks.
It is up to each person to develop their own list of salient questions about a topic of interest/importance. We provide below a list the authors consider germane when considering the issues surrounding Climate Change:
- Is the climate changing?
- How fast is it changing?
- Is the change even a bad thing?
- How might the change impact us and our progeny?
- Are human activities impacting the changes or change rates?
- What are the quantified parameter values now?
- What have they been in the past?
- What trust can we put in the various groups studying this?
- What are those groups’ hidden agendas or conflicts of interest?
- What are the cost/benefit analyses of remediation attempts?
- What level of response is warranted compared to other issues?
We will author additional articles about “Climate Change” in the future, but for now, we assert that perhaps recent events have shown us that we must treat “experts” with skepticism. We should go beyond the potted analyses and biased conclusions and look at the data ourselves. Guided by the data and our personal observations, we should form our own conclusions about the causes, effects, and remediation of “Climate Change.”
There links of interest: