Global Warming, Blind Faith, and Global Delusion
A review of Taken by Storm – The Troubled Science, Policy, and Politics of Global Warming by Christopher Essex and Ross McKitrick
In January, 2008 I met Dr. E. Calvin Beisner at a Christian think tank sponsored by Christian Witness to a Pagan Planet.Beisner told me about a book that shows that the irreducible complexity of the numerous factors that contribute to climate makes it impossible to know or predict future climate changes. Beisner is involved with the Cornwall Alliance and has written on the topic of climate change. This article is a review of the excellent book that he recommended.
In November 2007 I published an article for Christian Worldview Network (CWN) entitled Global Warming and the Definition of Sin. In that article I claimed that some environmentalists with neo-pagan worldviews (e.g., Al Gore) have posited the “truth” of CO -induced global warming, defined the production of CO as “sin” and thereby made all humans guilty of a holocaust-like assault on planet earth. I concluded that even if CO is doing what this group says it is, there is no way to repent of this “sin” because human beings cannot live without putting more of it into the atmosphere. Essex and McKitrick's book (both are Canadian college professors) confirms my conclusion that the global warming scare is more religion than science. The book begins and ends with chapters about what the authors call “The Doctrine of Certainty.” We shall begin by examining this “Doctrine.”
The Doctrine of Certainty
Taken By Storm will not be easy reading for those who have not studied math and science at a college level. But it would be worth obtaining a copy just to read chapters 2 and 10 entitled The Convection of Certainty and After Doctrine . These chapters contain their thesis' statements. The intervening chapters contain the scientific arguments to prove what they say in those chapters.
The Doctrine of Certainty is explained by nine points:
- The Earth is warming;
- Warming has already been observed;
- Humans are causing it;
- All but a handful of scientists on the fringe believe it;
- Warming is bad;
- Action is required immediately;
- Any action is better than none;
- Claims of uncertainty cover only the ulterior motives of individuals aiming to stop needed action;
- Those who defend uncertainty are bad people. (Storm:23)
The title of the book is based on a thunderstorm analogy:
The Doctrine is the product of a sociopolitical thunderstorm. The differences between the parties are the pressure gradients that set up the flow, and the warm, moist air that feeds it is the ambient fear that we all can have about an unknown future.” (Storm:24)
The authors' thesis is that the Doctrine is false.
Essex and McKitrick show that they are understanding not just about science, but about human nature, contemporary culture, and how people make decisions, including political decisions.
When it comes to a complex issue like climate change over time, people who are required to make decisions do not have the ability to examine the issues carefully for themselves. This includes politicians who have to rely on others. They point out that many people, even those in important positions, lack the required knowledge of science and mathematics:
Even many educated people are scientifically and mathematically illiterate, because science and mathematics have all but disappeared from the core of a wellrounded education in many places of the world. Many sophisticated and influential people today have a level of scientific and mathematical knowledge that would not stand up to that of a monk from the Middle Ages. (Storm: 28)
I believe another reason for this is the fact that people are being asked to specialize in a field of knowledge earlier in life.
Whatever the cause, people are making momentous policy decisions that will affect the world population's well-being based on science that they cannot personally understand. This would not be so bad if the process included a reasonable system of adjudication of ideas. But it does not.
Man-caused climate change has become a doctrine supposedly only denied by sceptics who are thereby “sinners” because what the authors call “Official Science” has so declared it. Science is not an “official” enterprise; it is individuals who study and hope to understand various aspects of general revelation in their fields of endeavour. When non-scientists need to decide something that requires expertise, authorities are called in to testify to their views. In a scientific world, ideas are debated and put through rigorous peer review. Theories are tested as to their “fit” with the “real world.” But Official Science is another matter.
Essex and McKitrick say,
If an authority makes a pronouncement, doubting it or suggesting alternatives is not necessarily viewed as just seeking the truth; sometimes it is taken as a challenge to power. . . . So a political struggle replaces testing an idea.
This is precisely what has happened with global warming. They explain further:
Governments consult and employ people to act as science authorities, as do other institutions such as the media. The collective voice of these authorities makes up Official Science. . . . Official Science may serve many functions, but it is most important to understand that Official Science is not science. Moreover, those involved with it represent only a minority of people involved with science, and they are not appointed by scientists to speak on their behalf. (Storm: 36)
No one expects computer models of the weather to be that certain. Yet many have come to expect climate models, which treat a far more difficult scientific problem, to be so certain that a gap between predictions and reality over a small region of the world [that in 2002 it was getting colder in Antarctica] is a worldwide news event. The truth is we have much less reason to ascribe certainty to climate models than we do to weather models. So why the headlines? . . . It is among other things, the Doctrine at work (Storm: 70).
A Doctrine, which is not based on truth, revealed or otherwise, causes many to think they know what they do not know. Essex and McKitrick explain that because Official Science must deal with social realities that have nothing to do with science, it is a different entity than science.
I saw a case of “Official Science” in the local newspaper the other day. A meteorologist is hired by the paper to write a daily weather column. He often uses this to promote his belief in global warming. But what is amazingly ironic is that he readily admits that when it comes to local weather, the “models” have improved but are very uncertain more than a few days out. So he admits that it is very difficult to predict local weather even in the short term. But when it comes to something exponentially more complex, future global climate as it changes over years, this same man claims to have near utter certainty! He, like most of our citizens, has become mesmerized by the religion of global warming so much that he has lost all scientific common sense.
This case in our local paper illustrates something that Essex and McKitrick point out:
So while scientists are sceptical of their own work and that of others, Official Science speaks with the simple confidence that good politics and journalism demands, but which science abhors. (Storm: 36)
My weatherman was “doing” Official Science and thus displayed confidence in what he as a scientist cannot be confident about: the future climate of earth and that it can be driven in a certain way by only one of the nearly infinite number of influences on it—man produced CO2 . Official Science “knows” with near certainty what true scientists readily admit they cannot know. The Doctrine claims that there are no credible dissenters.
Essex and McKitrick (and the Cornwall Alliance) disprove this.
They are deemed “not credible” not on the grounds that they lack credentials or evidence, but rather on the simple basis that they are called “dissenters” who dare question the Doctrine. (see Storm:50, 51). They claim that because of how “dissenters” are treated, regular scientists drop out of the debate:
Soon it is open season on scientific dissent by a mob of activist journalists, activist environmentalists, and self-appointed “straighteners” who feel a dose of vigilantism is their personal contribution to making a better world. (Storm:52)
They even cite a case of a Danish government tribunal putting a man on trial for writing a sceptical book on this topic:
Yes, in Denmark, in 2003, a man was put on trial for writing a science book. You can take the people out of the Middle Ages, but you can't take the Middle Ages out of the people (Storm: 54).
Theories and Models
Essex and McKitrick state there is no theory of climate. (Storm: 71) Why? Simply because of how differential equations work. These equations concern variables and how they change in various dynamic relationships. The authors explain the basics of such equations on page 72 of the book. They state, “The theories of basic science are written in differential equations.” They further explain, “A solution of a differential equation is not a number or a few numbers; it is a function. A function is a rule between variables.” With a valid equation one can predict the status of certain variables in their relationship to one another over time (just as one example). Such mathematics is used to predict where planets will be in relationship to one another at a certain future time.
This needs to be understood in order to understand why there can be no theory of climate. Chapter 3 of Taken by Stormtakes us through the world of linear equations, non-linear equations that apply to fluid dynamics, chaos theory, kinetic theory, turbulence, and ultimately face to face with the impossible complexity of climate. They describe the complexity of fluid dynamics that, unlike climate, can be put to controlled experiment:
The experiments are bedevilled by the fact that a turbulent fluid is active on scales smaller than the size of the finest exper imental probes . Thus , the measurements themselves are not of the actual variables but of some kind of unspecified, instrument-dependent average of the variables, in only one small region of the fluid (Storm: 78).
Fluid dynamics and turbulence are only a small part of everything that makes up global climate and these cannot be perfectly understood even in a controlled setting.
Another problem is called “sensitivity of the initial conditions” which simply means that something apparently small and insignificant can have a major significant result. This is known as “the butterfly effect.”Aflap of a butterfly’s wings might throw off a weather forecast. This means that in dynamic systems some tiny variation in an initial condition may create an enormous change in outcome. As Essex and McKitrick explain, “there was no level of detail that can be safely ignored.” This is also known as chaos theory.
What this all means is that there can be no theory of climate. The authors claim that even if we had what they call an “Enchanted Computing Machine” (ECM) (“that can magically cope with all of the details needed to compute all of the theory while securing all the necessary initial data to implement it”) we still could not get firm answers to climate (Storm:86).
The dream of the strong ECM, wherein perfect predictability is achieved through computation in complete detail, died with the chaos revolution (Storm: 87).
The tiniest change could throw everything we thought we knew out the window. So we cannot compute climate based on any known theory. Those interested can read the details of their arguments in their book. Here is a nice summary of the issue:
We could talk about how the oceans interact with the land, the exotic thermodynamic property of ice compared to other solids that makes it possible to skate and ski, and also for glaciers to flow, making them the subject of wonderful mystery and unpredictability. We could talk about the land-surface-air interactions, and how we not only have to think about flow over land of different heights, but around buildings, through forests, past every leaf.We could talk about the ever so important first kilometre of air above the ground and ocean, and all of the rich chemistry that goes on in the air and ground; the gases emitted by the soil and volcanoes; the gases absorbed and lost; the chemicals that the rain cleans out of the air; the fluid-solid interactions of rivers. And we have not even arrived at butterflies or seagulls, or the family dog for that matter (Storm: 95).
So we do not know and cannot know by theory or computer prediction the future of climate. It is unknowable. In modelling, detail is thrown away because there are far too many details to process (Storm: 96, 97). But models are “something between science and art. Some are more science while others are more art, and there is everything in between” (Storm: 100).
Meteorological models are examples of modelling. But they are based on repeated experiences that are observable over time. Climate is different: “Unlike meteorological models, climate model parameterisations have not been tuned after repeated experience with climate change. Moreover, unlike meteorologists, no climatologist has lived through repeated events in his or her field so as to acquire a personal sense of experience of what to forecast (Storm: 101).
The modeller cannot forecast climate in the manner that weather is forecast.
Essex and McKitrick also show: There is no such thing as a global “temperature.” For there to be a single temperature there must be “thermodynamic equilibrium,” and that doesn't even exist in a room! (Storm: 114, 115). Temperature is not a “thing” but, “a number that represents the condition of a physical system.” (Storm: 117). Averaging various temperatures in various locations is as meaningless, they say, as averaging all the numbers in a phone book to get an average phone number. They explain that this is because temperature is an “intensive quantity” not an extensive one with an “additive property” like energy. (Storm: 117) They illustrate this by stating,
If you join two identical boxes with the same energy and same temperature together, the resulting box will have twice the energy, but it will not have twice the temperature. There is no amount of temperature; it measures the condition of the stuff in the box (Storm: 117).
So one cannot take a temperature somewhere in each of the 50 states, add them all together, divide by 50, and have the “average” temperature of the United States at a given time. It would be a meaningless number. So how can one create a model that gives a temperature as an output and have it be meaningful? Essex and McKitrick comment:
The subtleties of the dynamics and thermodynamics are simply unpresentable, so the grand creations of the modellers have no impact. Instead, the modellers must suffer the indignity of having the intellectual products cheapened by the portrayal as fancy thermometers. They are not thermometers and global climate isn't temperature (Storm: 121).
This is not to say that one cannot take a temperature at a certain location over a period of years and come up with average highs and lows for that location (which, of course, is done throughout the world). But the results are statistics, not an actual temperature. The statistics are only meaningful if the same process were used to gather the data and nothing significant changed at the location where data was gathered. As Essex and McKitrick point out, that is not the case even with local temperatures. The Global Historical Climatological Network that gathers data from stations that record local temperatures had between 12,000 and 15,000 locations from which to gain data between 1950 and 1970. In 2000 there were less than 6,000 such locations (Storm: 154, 155).
This has seriously damaged the data quality and calls into question the statistics used to generate a number falsely called a global “temperature.” (Essex and McKitrick with tongue in cheek call this number “T-Rex” which supposedly is going to devour the planet.)
Furthermore, the data gathering stations that remain open are often located in airports in larger cities where the urban heat island effect is a factor. The bottom line is that the data gathered before the large decline of data locations that happened precipitously in about 1990 is of a different nature than the data gathered since 1990. Essex and McKitrick conclude,
If you are calculating an index and the circumstances change, the index must be terminated, and replaced by a new one. TRex has had it both ways. It is an index whose sampling rules changed dramatically at several times, but it has not been terminated particularly in the beginning of the 1990s. Data quality rules say, T-Rex must be terminated! (Storm: 157).
There is more to say about global “temperature,” and Essex and McKitrick reveal many important facts and issues in chapters four and five entitled “T-Rex Devours the Planet” and “T-Rex Plays Hockey.” The latter title refers to a famous hockey stick shaped graph that was published to prove global warming. Ross McKitrick and another scientist were able to show serious errors in the original work that created the hockey stick graph to such a degree that the issues ended up on the cover of The Wall Street Journal in 2005 and in testimony before congress. The hockey stick graph was eventually debunked (Storm: 171 – 173). They cite the reason that a single flawed graph ended up being the centre of a political storm:
It is far worse to have to face it [errors in one's work] when the PUN [Panel of the United Nations on climate change] has elevated your disputed work onto such high pedestal that it is virtually an act of divine infallibility, worshipped by international media throughout the world (Storm: 171).
Again, flawed science has become a religion.
[Editorial Note – Due to space constraints an entire section of the original article has been removed. This makes excellent reading under the headings - A Lying Metaphor: “Greenhouse Effect”, Do Humans Cause Climate Change?, and The Difference Between Nescience and Uncertainty, The complete article is available at - http://cicministry.org/commentary/issue106.htm]
Answers to the Doctrine of Certainty
It is time to go back to the nine points of the Doctrine and answer some questions. Essex and McKitrick do this in chapter 10.
Is the Earth warming?
The answer is that because there is no single global temperature, we cannot give a yes or no answer. The Earth is not in thermodynamic equilibrium. Temperatures are going up and down here and there all over the planet. As they point out,
If there were some climate changes in the category of our sun going nova, or even something more moderate like a major ice age, then all of the infinity of local temperatures would be saying the same thing; namely, that it is heating or cooling everywhere or every when (Storm: 315).
Has warming already been observed?
The answer is yes, in many places; but then cooling has been observed in many places as well.
But what people have in mind here is that an 'unnatural' warming has been observed here or there. To conclude that would require some idea of what the natural temperature in a location is, but there is no such single thing (Storm:316).
Are humans causing global warming?
We cannot know!
Humans have modified the environment in which they live, and will continue to do so. But to conclude that humans are the one cause of climate change is to make the mistake of picturing our complex, chaotic climate as a thermometer in a greenhouse (Storm: 317).
Do all scientists but a few on the fringe believe it?
The answer is “no.” This is a political issue, not a scientific one. Essex and McKitrick explain:
The critics, when not dismissed as “contrarians,” are often referred to as “sceptics.” A sceptic is someone who true believers do not want to invite to a séance. They have also been called “dissidents,” bring to mind the internal opponents of the Cold War Soviet Union. Lately the term “deniers” and “climate criminals” have become more common as the political nastiness has grown (Storm: 317).
The consensus is fictional and political. Scientists debate that which is debatable, “And climate change is debatable to say the least!” (Storm: 318).
We have a religion at work here that takes humanly caused global warming as its own “special revelation” that has settled the matter once and for all.
Is it bad and should we act immediately?
These, points—five and six of the Doctrine—have become meaningless. If we cannot forecast future climate change we cannot declare it to be good or bad. In my opinion, what we have is humans thinking they can control that which is beyond their control. They fear a possible bad future. It is true that catastrophes happen, including weather-related ones.
Essex and McKitrick state,
Clearly, we cannot say 'it' is all bad and getting more bad, as some seem to want to do. We cannot function rationally this way (Storm: 318).
Is any action better than none?
This is a nonsense question.We are asked to take action based on the possibility that something bad might lie in the future because humans are doing what they cannot avoid doing—creating CO2.
Essex and McKitrick make a humorous but valid analogy:
The reasoning is that being a sceptic about the prospect of one's house burning down does not stop us from buying fire insurance. But if this was a case of buying insurance, the Kyoto Insurance company would be up on charges for fraud. You would be buying a policy for which it is unclear precisely what is being insured, for which the premiums cost more than the putative damages, and which does not pay any compensation in the event the damages occur. Would you be willing to buy such a policy for your home or auto? If so, please contact the authors (Storm: 318).
So the answer is no, do not take action on something that may not exist.
Are the critics of the Doctrine bad people with bad motives?
The final two points of Doctrine are based on the faulty logic of the ad hominem argument. Since we cannot know future climate change, how can people who say we cannot know be proven to have bad motives?
So the Doctrine is false and misleading. But most of the world believes it.
Some evangelicals have been deceived into signing statements on global warming. That is not surprising when we consider how many are courting favour with the world. And since so many are deceived on the level of special revelation (they teach false doctrine) we cannot be surprised that these same people are misled about general revelation as well. Believing falsehood is always harmful, whatever falsehood it is.
That brings us to the concluding points of this review. If, for the sake of argument, we were to grant that humanproduced CO2 will be the cause of cataclysmic events, then we had better get right with God because we cannot live without creating CO2. I say that based on Jesus' comment regarding people killed by a disaster. He said: “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5b.).
I agree that the planet faces a disaster, but the disaster of which I speak is far worse than any effects of the supposed human-caused climate change. The disaster is God's wrath against sin. And we have an antidote.We have The Gospel.
The eco-alarmists of the world see the human population as the main threat to the environment. But as Christians we must submit to the truth of the Bible:
God blessed them; and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth' (Genesis 1:28).
God repeated this command to Noah after the flood:
As for you, be fruitful and multiply; populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it (Genesis 9:7).
Apparently God was not concerned about CO . He was concerned about the people.
The global warming religion is about redefining sin. It is about man, rather than God, defining what is and is not “sin.” It is also about offering false “redemption” by purposely impoverishing the entire human race.
We should not get sidetracked. The real issue is God's wrath against sin (as He defines it) and where we shall spend eternity. Our only hope is through the finished work of Christ.
Christians have the answer to the ultimate “global warming,” which will happen when God judges the earth with fire (2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 16:8).
The single global warming-related issue we should concern ourselves with is telling a sinful world of God's impending judgment unless it repents of its rebellion against Him and obeys the One who has been resurrected to be King and Lord.
About the Author
Bob DeWaay is the senior pastor of Twin City Fellowship in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He has been a pastor with Twin City Fellowship for 28 years and the senior pastor since 1995. He holds a B.A. in Bible and Pastor Studies from North Central Bible College, and a M.A. in Theological Studies from Bethel Theological Seminary. Bob and his wife Diane have been married 36 years and have two chi ldren and two grandsons. He is the author of the book Redefining Christianity – Understanding the Purpose Driven Movement. Since 1992 Bob has published over 100 articles on important theological issues through Critical Issues Commentary. He is also a frequent radio guest on KKMS 980am in the Twin Cities and has a Critical Issues Commentary radio show on Oneplace.com.