29. CLIMATE AND THE CONSTITUTION #2

Harrison Schmitt

Former Senator Schmitt Accuses National Academy of Conflicts of Interest in Study of Global Climate Change

Extraordinarily complex natural processes underlie changes in the Earth’s climate. They represent decadal to millennial to epochal variations in weather patterns as nature continuously attempts to compensate for solar heating imbalances in and between the atmosphere, oceans, and landmasses.

Nature’s attempts to restore heat balance at and near the Earth’s surface take place under many complicating influences. These include the rotating Earth’s seasonally variable orientation relative to the Sun; periodic differences in Earth’s orbital positioning around the Sun; movement and release of heat stored in the oceans; atmospheric circulation; the Sun’s variable irradiance and magnetic fields; frequent and unpredictable volcanic eruptions; and geologically slow but exorable redistribution and reconfiguration of land, ocean, and ice masses. No evidence exists that these natural processes have become more extreme in the face of climate change over the last several centuries. [1]

In this context of natural reality, the recent report, “America’s Climate Choices,” released May 19, 2010, by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), illustrates how far that formerly illustrious Academy has strayed from the principles of “science.” Those principles are, simply: observe, hypothesize, test, analyze, retest, and repeat this cycle until plausible, objective conclusions appear to be warranted – conclusions that others or nature can replicate.

The Academy, in contrast, has become just another political arm of the governmental establishment, promoting a federal mandate of “major technological and behavioral change” based on flawed as well as selective science. The report’s conclusions that “climate change is occurring, caused largely by human activities…” and that “the U.S. should act now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions” ignore contradictory tests of such hypotheses that come through objective observations.

Unfortunately, support for the Academy’s political statements also comes from Alan Leshner, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) [2]. The AAAS, in an Essay Review of books related to the climate change debate in its Science magazine [3], could not even bring itself to require consideration of books dissenting from the “consensus” that current climate change is human caused [4]. Both Science and its near twins, Nature and EOS, continue to editorialize in support of the human-caused climate change hypothesis [5]. In addition, these publications allow the same biased commentary to be included routinely in reports of observational data and modeling runs.

In taking these political, non-scientific positions, the National Academy has joined another political body, the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in attacking the heart of free institutions and economic prosperity. The Academy’s and British Royal Society’s Presidents and membership have exacerbated their loss of credibility rather than enhancing it [6] in defensive reactions and justifications after the 2009 public disclosure of fraud within the climate science political community [7]. The Royal Society takes a particularly disappointing and ironic position, as its founders’ motto 350 years ago was to “accept nothing on authority [8].” The National Academy now has embarrassed itself further by using a statistical analysis of publication records as “scientific” justification of the so-called “consensus” that humans cause climate change [9].

Unfortunately, bias permeates both the reports and the published work reviewed in reports produced by the Academy and IPCC for the use of “policy makers.” This bias follows from the dependency on government funding of so many climate researchers and bureaucrats as well as from the extra-constitutional political leanings of most academics today [10]. If grant applications from the researchers involved do not propose to show the effects of humans on climate, their proposals risk not being funded by bureaucrats that want justification for their grab for regulatory control. If the research conclusions do not allege an effect by humans on climate, however tenuous that effect might be, their career-essential papers probably will not be published by politically committed journals. Not following liberal orthodoxy on climate change thus may create problems of tenure at home institutions.

If the recent climate science policy scandals [11] show nothing else, they show the existence of political bias as well as scientific fraud in the academic hierarchy of Western nations. Even the Academy’s study of “America’s Climate Choices” was funded by the leadership of the Congress and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), both of which have huge political and budgetary interests, respectively, in reaching the conclusion that humans cause modern climate change. 85% of the Academy’s future study funding [12] depends on concluding what your political customers, the politicians and bureaucrats, want you to conclude.

On the other hand, Ralph J. Cicerone, President of the National Academy of Sciences, correctly states “that the state of climate change science is strong;” however, ironically, he refers to the wrong aspects of climate change science when he makes that statement. Recent international scientific conferences hosted by the Heartland Institute of Chicago, the broad compilation of information contained in Climate Changed Reconsidered [13], and an increasing body of published research data, documented in subsequent essays, shows that observational climate change science is indeed strong.

The results of this observational scientific research and analysis show that natural processes dominate changes in Earth’s climate and it is that conclusion that should drive national policy. The last thing policy makers should rely on is guidance based on assumptions put into obviously flawed computer models. It is factually, professionally, and absolutely wrong for the former Chairman of the National Science Board to state in congressional testimony that there exist no “specifics, alternate hypotheses, and facts” contrary to the human-caused climate change hypothesis [14]. As statements in the NAS report confirms, a socialist political agenda drives government policy and that policy seeks control over all aspects of local as well as national economic activity, particularly energy production and use.

The climate debate should not be about whether human activity can affect local and even regional climate. Levels of stored organic carbon in soils have been reduced for thousands of years by agricultural activity [15], although new carbon retention practices in the United States and elsewhere have begun to mitigate this long-term trend. Asia’s rapid industrialization and the carbon soot deposited on Tibetan glaciers, the third largest accumulation of terrestrial ice, appears to be increasing the rate of melting of at least some of those glaciers [16]. An extreme decline in regional fish stocks appears to have resulted in more abundant phytoplankton and, in turn, in the drawdown of ocean carbon [17]. Regional urban pollution, such as that in and downwind from many large metropolitan areas, constitutes a continuing concern [18]; however, great progress has been made since the 1960s in reducing such pollution, particularly in the United States [19]. Other examples exist of human impact that may or may not affect climate, such as rainforest loss and possible stratospheric ozone depletion. Satellite observations and/or biological surrogates, however, have not yet revealed the long-term natural variability of stratospheric ozone [20] since the so called “ozone hole” over Antarctica was discovered. In the case of rainforest loss, although the long term effects on carbon emissions of such loss would be difficult to measure within the spectrum of carbon sources and sinks, logic would suggest that massive loss of rainforest would not be the desirable outcome for various biological, economic, and esthetic reasons. Finally, in the last 100 years, declining fish populations may have resulted in foraminifera biomass increase in the North Atlantic.

What do we actually know about global climate variability over the part of Earth history most relevant to the present? Actually, we know a lot. Since the last Ice Age ended about 10,000 years ago [21] (the glacial maximum lasting between 33,000 and 19,000 years ago [22]), geological and tree ring records document prolonged periods of warmth and cold, ranging from 3000 years to a few hundred years in duration [23]. The Little Ice Age of 1400-1900 [24], following the Medieval Warm Period of 600-1300, recorded the last multi-century period of global cooling during that 10,000 years, although decades-long cooling has occurred several times since.

By 1400, Arctic ice pack had enclosed Iceland and Greenland and driven Viking settlers away from their farms on those islands [25]. By the end of the 1600s, in response to the earlier climate cooling, Alpine glaciers had advanced over valley farmlands cultivated after those same glaciers had receded during the Medieval Warm Period [26]. Indeed, all of the consequences of warming prior to 1300 reversed during the next several hundred years of the Little Ice Age.

Since about 1660, the middle of the last, 70 year-long phase of the Little Ice Age, global surface and near surface temperatures have risen an average of about 0.9 °F (0.5 °C) each 100 years [27]. In response, a general retreat of world glaciers has taken place over the last century or more, not just in the last decades of the 20th Century [28], repeating the documented pattern of the Medieval Warm Period.

The Arctic Ocean ice pack has retreated northward since about 1800 [29]. Since 1979 and the beginning of satellite monitoring, a continuous decline in ice pack area has been alleged [30]; but with the most obvious decline only starting in about 1998. 1998 also is about the time the current cycle of decadal Northern Hemisphere warming leveled off, a correlation suggesting that wind or ocean currents may be at play more than water temperature. It should be remembered in this context, that during the Medieval Warm Period, Arctic sea ice probably largely disappeared during some summers, depending on high latitude atmospheric circulation [31], and may do so in the future for natural reasons [32]. Similarly, though only on a decadal rather than a century scale, satellite observations since 1979 show that the decrease in the area of the Arctic ice pack since 1996 appears to have reversed from its 2007 summer minimum [33]. Antarctic sea ice also has retreated from the extent reported by explorers and whalers early in the 20th Century [34]. Antarctic sea ice, however, has been expanding northward for about two decades [35] after indications of an additional gradual decline following the 1950s [36]. Further, winter ice cover on the Great Lakes, although highly variable since satellite data became available in 1973, has been rising steadily since 2006 from its minimums in that year and in 2002 [37], consistent with the current trend in Arctic ice cover.

Since the last vestiges of the most recent major Ice Age about 11,600 years ago (the end of the Younger Dryas cold period [38]), decades-long periods of warming and cooling have been superposed on even longer cycles. The longest of these cycles repeats about every 1500 years and the shortest about every 55-60 years [39]. These latter, short, multi-decade intervals of rapid warming and cooling [40] have occurred during the current, 350-year long general warming trend. The most recent short-term variations have been cooling between 1935 and 1975, warming between 1975 and 1995, and now cooling again since 2000.

In short, nothing other than ordinary natural climate variations have occurred since fossil fuel use accelerated in the 20th Century. General agreement exists among both climate change alarmists and climate change realists that most of the slow variations over the centuries before 1949 came from natural causes [41], with a general warming trend continuing the recovery from the extremes of the Little Ice Age. Then politics took over when definitive measurements of a steady increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide became available after 1960 [42]. Since then, “carbon dioxide,” an essential ingredient for life itself, has become a stalking-horse for increased government control of consumers, private business, industry, and the economy. Sadly, even the historic Geological Society of London, of which the author has been proud to be an Honorary Member, has jumped to the remarkably unscientific conclusion that the current rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide is human-caused, even after noting that nature has caused far greater increases in the past [43].

A new scientific concern arises from calls for global geo-engineering projects to cool climate [44] even though nature has done a great job of this in the past. Considering the limitations on our understanding of nature’s role in climate, much less the uncertainties of the effects of geo-engineering and its unintended consequences, no credence whatsoever should be wasted on its advocates of tinkering with the Sun’s interaction with the Earth’s atmosphere. Resources should be applied to dealing with the consequences of change and to gathering better observational information on what change to expect.

In the name of the impossible goal of climate control through taxes and regulation [45], many in Congress wish to vote on legislation that would seriously and unconstitutionally harm the American economy and employment dependent on the strength of that economy. The Environmental Protection Agency already has assumed unauthorized, unconstitutional, dictatorial powers to regulate carbon dioxide emissions as a pollutant. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has joined in this scientifically ridiculous intrusion into American liberty.

These continue to be dangerous times for liberty and constitutional protection of that liberty. Election battle lines have formed for America’s long-term effort to restore and maintain constitutional principles and common sense in climate policy.

( See Related Release No. 10 of 02/22/2010)

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