28 March 2017

The Fake Climate Debate and The Real One

Posted by Dan Satterfield

I just finished reading a paper by Michael Mann, Stefan Rahmstorf et.al in Nature Reports today that is getting some deserved press attention. It’s rather complicated (OK, for non-atmospheric science geeks, it’s a brick) but in plain language, it indicates that the warming of the climate is doing what many of my fellow forecasters have been suspecting for quite some time: changing the upper-level wind flow and therefore changing our weather patterns. In general, this seems to be leading to more extreme weather, and it’s more than just the increased risk of heatwaves and droughts, from a warmer climate, it’s a change in what we call the Rossby wave pattern. I must mention my friend Stu Ostro (at The Weather Channel) because he was first (I know of) to insist that something was going on, and it’s looking more and more like he’ll be vindicated!

This is not the first paper about day to day weather changes due to climate change,, and my friend Jennifer Francis has been publishing papers about changes that seem to be related to the loss of Arctic Sea ice for several years now. This is difficult science and not everyone agrees, but that’s just the point I’m leading to here.

This is the real debate going on in science right now.

How is the warming climate showing up in our daily weather? How will it change the weather in local areas, and could the effects be surprising? Could the loss of Arctic ice be causing a pattern preference in winter that had not existed before? How is the fact that the continents are warming faster than the oceans going to impact the atmospheric flow in summer? Will it lead to an increase in blocking patterns that will bring extreme heat and drought to some areas? Mann, Rahmstorf, et.al seem to have evidence that this is indeed the case.

Tomorrow you can see the fake debate in a hearing of the House Science Committee. This will consist of a lot of statements, that unlike the paper I wrote about above, did not make it through peer-review. It might matter to the public, but the science community could care less. NULLUS IN VERBA. The motto of the Royal Society. Take no man’s word for it. Show me the evidence.

Dr Michael Mann (of Penn. State Univ.) will once again represent the thousands of scientists, and EVERY major scientific body on the planet, who say we must get away from carbon as an energy source, and all based on thousands of published papers.  While others will represent those who failed to convince everyone else and cannot seem to back up their claims in the peer-reviewed literature. This will be all about the things that people see on the internet, and what most people think that scientists are debating about regarding climate change. They are not. Not for years. They know it’s the carbon, and that it’s not the sun, and certainly not volcanoes, or any other crazy conspiracy theory regarding aliens, chemtrails, or the Chinese! They know how the greenhouse effect works all the way down to the sub-atomic level of the electron waves in molecules of gas. You know what? Most all of the people on that committee know it too. The real reason for that hearing is to manufacture doubt. It’s a page out of the tobacco industry and almost word for word. Don’t believe me? Read this book by Harvard Professor Naomi Oreskes.

That’s what Tuesday’s hearing is all about Charlie Brown.

Lamar Smith is the chair of the House Science Committee, and I do not exaggerate when I say he is the laughingstock of the science community. The HSC Twitter account is notorious for falling for every silly conspiracy theory out there. I would dearly love for Dr. Mann to look Lamar Smith in the eye tomorrow and say “Representative Smith, just what do you know, that every science body on this planet, including the AMS, AGU, National Academies, AAAS, and the Royal Society does not? 

Please illuminate us!

Note: If they did it correctly, you’d have 98 scientists with Dr Mann and two on the opposite side. Just remember that this is the fake debate, and trust me the real one is far more interesting (albeit complex).