CLIMATISM!

Reviewed 7/19/2012

Climatism!, by Steve Goreham

CLIMATISM!
Science, Common Sense, and the 21st Century's Hottest Topic
Steve Goreham
John Coleman (Fwd.)
New Lenox, IL: New Lenox Books, April 2010

Rating:

2.0

Fair

ISBN-13 978-0-9824996-3-4
ISBN 0-9824996-3-9 466pp. HC/BWI $32.95
Work in progress

There is a spate of books purporting to set forth a calm and rational alternative to the mainstream view that, as they invariably describe it, holds the Earth to be facing imminent climate catastrophe. This book, written by an engineer and business executive, falls into that category. The author claims to present a realistic look at the science of climate change, and concludes that the mainstream view of the situation is utterly delusional. How can I demonstrate that he is mistaken? Let me start by quoting the first two paragraphs of his Introduction (emphasis his.)

"Humanity is in the grip of a madness. It's a madness driven by fear and based on mistaken science. It's a madness now adopted by most of the governments of the world, trumpeted by the press, and taught in our schools and universities. It's a madness that, if left to run its course, will steal our freedoms, destroy our standard of living, and result in the deaths of millions of people in the developing world.

"A new ideology—Climatism—drives this madness. Climatism is the belief that man-made greenhouse gases are destroying Earth's climate. Climatism is an extreme form of environmentalism that is using the natural climatic changes of Earth to re-define our societies. Climatism has adopted the mantle of science and uses fear of global catastrophe to alarm the public and achieve its objectives. Backed by academia and with millions in funding from foundations, Climatism is using modern public-relations techniques to mold public opinion. The attack is powerful and aimed at every part of our way of life."

I submit that this is inflammatory rhetoric instead of calmly reasoned discussion.1 But of course Mr. Goreham could still be right; and were he right, he would be justified in using this sort of rhetoric — at least in order to grab the world's attention before presenting the substance of his case.

So let us examine the substance of his case. In an Author's Note, he writes on page xii, "Most news stories pointed to a weather event, such as Hurricane Katrina or catastrophic fires in Australia, and then jumped to the conclusion that the event was caused by human industry." If you undertake to check this, by for example using Nexis, you will find that the opposite is the case: Most news stories about extreme weather events do not even mention climate change. Those that do mention it usually say that some scientists think climate change is responsible for the event, and then quote someone who disagrees.2

Returning to his Introduction, I find the book's conclusion on page 3: "This book takes a realistic look at the global warming crisis. Our conclusion will be that the global warming of the 20th century is primarily due to natural causes and not due to man-made emissions of carbon dioxide." Note Goreham's use of the "royal we," despite the fact that he is the sole author. We are amused.

The remainder of his Introduction describes how the book is divided into three parts. They deal with a) climate science; b) the ideology of Climatism and its proposed remedies; and c) the economics of those remedies. On page 4, he states another conclusion (italics his): "If global warming is from natural causes, then all efforts to stop the Earth from warming are not only futile, but destructive to our way of life and economic prosperity of the developing nations." Quite simply, it does not follow that no effort to counter the natural process that he says causes warming could possibly succeed — at least, not until that process is identified. Could it be the Sun? If so, artificially increasing the Earth's cloud cover, or placing giant mirrors in space to deflect some of the sunlight hitting the Earth, are two possible remedies. It is true that these would be costly, and might have unwanted side effects. But both could be effective at reducing warming. So it looks to me, pending Mr. Goreham's disclosure of the natural cause of global warming, as if his scientific point fails. That leaves his economic point, which is a very different sort of argument.

Chapter 1

I turned to Chapter 1, where I expected to find a scientific discussion of this natural cause of global warming. And Mr. Goreham does include some science. There is this sentence: "For the benefit of the reader, leading U.K. and U.S. government agencies report a global temperature increase of 0.7°C (approx. 1.3°F) since the year 1900." (p. 7)

Next, a box on page 9 lists the nine scientific errors Justice Burton found in Al Gore's presentation An Inconvenient Truth in 2007. Let's examine the first one, on projected sea-level rise. This is often claimed to be a prime flaw in Gore's documentary. Mr. Goreham writes: "Mr. Gore's forecast of sea level rise of up to 20 feet (7 metres) is not in line with scientific consensus." Contrast this with a BBC News story posted on 11 October 2007, which listed three of the errors: "Mr Gore's assertion that a sea-level rise of up to 20 feet would be caused by melting of ice in either West Antarctica or Greenland 'in the near future'. The judge said this was 'distinctly alarmist' and it was common ground that if Greenland's ice melted it would release this amount of water — 'but only after, and over, millennia'." Justice Burton is right that saying this will happen in the near future, as that time span is commonly understood, is alarmist. The difference is that Mr. Goreham's version omits the phrase "in the near future" — thus implying that there could never be a dramatic rise in sea level such as Gore projected.

These nine errors have been much discussed, and I won't examine each of them here. [LINKS] The bottom line is that Mr. Justice Burton affirmed that the central thesis of An Inconvenient Truth — the climate is warming and man-made emissions of carbon dioxide are primarily responsible — is well supported by science. Here are his exact words: "It is substantially founded upon scientific research and fact, albeit that the science is used, in the hands of a talented politician and communicator, to make a political statement and to support a political programme." Read the rest of his general ruling here.

Thus, one major plank undergirding Mr. Goreham's argument fails; and it is not even about primary scientific sources but about a presentation derived from them. What is noteworthy about these first pages (pages 7-12) is that they mostly attack statements by Al Gore, James Hansen, and Sir Nicholas Stern on the damage expected from global warming. (There's also a bit about how much money Gore is supposed to be making.) Since Mr. Goreham divided his book into three parts, with Part Two for effects and Part Three for economics, he should not have those discussions in Part One.

On page 12, he begins a section aiming to debunk what he calls "EIGHT 'DISASTERS' OF GLOBAL WARMING". These are:

  1. Icecap Melting Causes Flooding from Sea Level Rise
  2. Devastation from Hurricanes and Tropical Storms
  3. Famine and Death from Droughts and Floods
  4. An Increase in Temperature-Related Human Deaths
  5. 'Plight' of the Polar Bear and Species Extinction
  6. Water Supply Shortages from Melting of Glaciers
  7. Acidification of the Oceans and the Deaths of Coral Reefs
  8. Shut Down (sic) of the Gulf Stream Triggers a New Ice Age

Here once again he's talking about disasters. If he really were serious about Part One being about the science, he would defer this to Part Two or Part Three. But let's go with the floe — I mean flow.

Icecap Melting

"The biggest projected disaster from manmade global warming is sea-level rise from melting of the icecaps of the Arctic, Greenland, and Antarctica." He returns once again to the 20-foot rise; you might have thought that his list of nine errors would have disposed of this, but evidently not. (Leave aside his including the Arctic icecap. Not being land-based, it would not add to sea-level rise.) To debunk this claim, he quotes historic rise: "However, sea-level rise has been a steady 6-7 inches per century for the last 5,000 years. With recent warming temperatures, the rise has been 7 inches per century since 1850. [23] Even the mid-level ocean-rise forecast of the IPCC is only 15 inches (0.39 meters) by 2100.[24]" Here are his two citations:

23) AB Robinson, SL Baliunas, W Soon, "Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide", Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons 12, pp. 79-90

24) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 4th Assessment Report, Summary for Policy Makers, 2007, p. 13, www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/ar4-syr.htm

Robinson et al. gives a value of 8 inches per century. However, there appear to be multiple versions of this paper online; perhaps Goreham used a different one. The paper, incidentally, is sort of an omnibus on all projected effects of warming. Here is the entirety of what it says about sea-level rise, along with the citations:

"The computer climate models do not make any reliable predictions whatever concerning global flooding, storm variability, and other catastrophes that have come to be a part of the popular definition of 'global warming.' (See Chapter 6, section 6-5 of reference 14.) Yet several scenarios of impending global catastrophe have arisen separately. One of these hypothesizes that rising sea levels will flood large areas of coastal land. Figure 15 shows satellite measurements of global sea level between 1993 and 1997 (43). The reported current global rate of rise amounts to only about plus 2 mm per year, or plus 8 inches per century, and even this estimate is probably high (43). The trends in rise and fall of sea level in various regions have a wide range of about 100 mm per year with most of the globe showing downward trends (43). Historical records show no acceleration in sea level rise in the 20th century (44). Moreover, claims that global warming will cause the Antarctic ice cap to melt and sharply increase this rate are not consistent with experiment or with theory (45)."

43: Nerem et al., (1997) Geophys. Res. Let. 24, 1331-1334; Douglas, B. C. (1995) Rev. Geophys. Supplement 1425-1432
44: Douglas, B. C. (1992) J. Geophysical Research 97, 12699-12706.
45: Bentley, C. R. (1997) Science 275, 1077-1078; Nicholls, K. W. (1997) Nature 388, 460-462

His link for ref.24 is invalid. I found the AR4 Summary for Policy Makers at http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/syr/en/spm.html. It does not give what Goreham calls "a mid-level rise." However, taking the mean of the extreme values from the six scenarios (0.18 and 0.59m) gives 0.385m, close enough to Goreham's result. But note how the AR4 SPM qualifies their projections:

"Because understanding of some important effects driving sea level rise is too limited, this report does not assess the likelihood, nor provide a best estimate or an upper bound for sea level rise. Table SPM.1 shows model-based projections of global average sea level rise for 2090-2099.[10] The projections do not include uncertainties in climate-carbon cycle feedbacks nor the full effects of changes in ice sheet flow, therefore the upper values of the ranges are not to be considered upper bounds for sea level rise. They include a contribution from increased Greenland and Antarctic ice flow at the rates observed for 1993-2003, but this could increase or decrease in the future.[11] {3.2.1} "

And the rates do seem to be increasing.

Interestingly, he cites nothing for disasters 2 through 5 except the cover of a book showing swimming polar bears. He could easily have used that same Robinson paper. It's a mystery why he didn't. For disaster 6 he cites An Inconvenient Truth and the Robinson paper. For #7, he cites "CO2, Global Warming and Coral Reefs" by Craig Idso (Science & Public Policy Institute, 2009) to support the statement that "Contrary to fears, experimental data indicates that the recent increase in ocean surface temperature and atmospheric CO2 concentration is having a positive effect on coral growth." And for #8 he cites The Day After Tomorrow (fiction) and "The Younger Dryas," National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, web site: http://lwf.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/abrupt/data4.html" So in the main what we have here are merely assertions that the disasters are not going to happen.

Chapter 2

Chapter 2 is devoted to describing the greenhouse effect and the history of its discovery, and it does a pretty good job of that. But then we arrive at the present — when, Goreham claims, "Urban Heat Island Bias" has skewed the surface temperature data upward because "most of the U.S. temperature-measuring sites show a temperature error of over 2°C too hot." (p. 30, emphasis his) To support this he cites a study headed by Anthony Watts that photographically surveyed the 1,221 stations of the USHCN and ranked them into five categories. This study was discredited when a team at NOAA took data from just the stations Watts rated good and showed these gave almost identical results. In addition, satellite data show that the polar regions, nearly devoid of cities and town, are warming more than the rest of the planet.

More detail about Chapter 2 is here.

Chapter 3

In Chapter 3, the focus is on carbon dioxide. Goreham asserts that it's not a pollutant because it's plant food, a product of life, "naturally produced by nature;" that, despite keeping Earth's surface 15°C warmer than it would otherwise be, it cannot be causing global warming because it's a trace gas and doesn't stay in the atmosphere long. Also, the water-vapor positive feedback that would augment any temperature increase due to CO2: that's just a bogus assumption the IPCC puts into its models.

More detail about Chapter 3 is here.

Chapter 4

Chapter 4 is all about cycles: the three Milankovich cycles of 22,000, 41,000 and 100,000 years that are generally held to be responsible for ice ages; another long cycle of 70,000 years due to shifting of the inclination of Earth's orbital plane; and shorter cycles. Most of the shorter cycles are well-accepted. There's the PDO, 30 to 40 years long; the AMO on a 60-year cycle; and the ENSO at 3 to 7 years. Finally, there's a putative 1,500-year cycle claimed by Singer and Avery[2].

More detail about Chapter 4 is here.

Chapter 5

The Sun is the villain of chapter 5. Although in this context I think it's more accurate to call it the savior, since (Goreham claims) it would absolve the world of any need to cut back on CO2 emissions. He presents a number of graphs comparing solar activity (as measured by numbers of sunspots) with Earth's temperature (as derived from proxy measurements.) True, there is a strong correlation. But in the present, we find that since 1979 sunlight intensity has been flat or declining slightly; it cannot be driving the current warming. He mentions ultraviolet light. This has been mentioned as a possible driver in some papers, but the conclusion is not well accepted. Cosmic ray flux varies inversely with solar activity, and Goreham cites Svensmark and others to claim that weaker cosmic ray flux means fewer low-level clouds, thus enhancing warming. Svensmark's work is not accepted as valid by the scientific community.

More detail about Chapter 5 is here.

Chapter 6

The last chapter in the science section of the book is Chapter 6, and here Goreham returns to his pattern of debunking disasters. He "helpfully" tells us that the melting of Arctic pack ice will not raise sea levels. Since that ice is floating, it's hardly necessary to point this out. Also it's irrelevant, since no one claims otherwise. He presents more charts and goes through a lot of gyrations purporting to show that the evidence for these disasters is bogus. One pillar of his case is the observation that predicted catastrophes haven't yet occurred. Well, duh! They're predicted to happen in the future, dood!3

More detail about Chapter 6 is here.

The remainder of the book is devoted to attacking the mainstream consensus using all the familiar talking points — including the old chestnut that there is no consensus. I don't have time to go into these point by point right now, and I don't see much need to. Goreham largely fails to make his case that the science falls apart; rather, it's his arguments that fail when closely examined. He put a lot of work into this book, and by reading it you will learn a good deal about climate science. Just be aware that the conclusions don't really follow from the evidence presented. I'll give it a rating of 2, in the fair category, because of the effort it represents — an increase from my original rating. I'd say it's readworthy, but not trustworthy.

1 Look at this phrase in the sentence he emphasizes: "destroying Earth's climate." The use of phrases like this — "destroy the economy"; "kill millions of jobs"; "take away our liberty" — is typical of climate-change Denialists. And they call us "alarmist." For the record, no one serious about climate change says it will destroy the world, or the climate, or even humankind.
2 A useful source is Who Speaks for the Climate? by Maxwell T. Boykoff.
3 The sheer bogosity of this argument makes me wax sarcastic. Even Criswell got this right when, in opening the 1959 movie Plan Nine from Outer Space, he declared in somber tones that "Future events such as these will affect you — in the future."

Due to time pressures, I must defer completing this review. The pages linked in the blue-outlined box below are therefore missing or unfinished.

Chs 2 & 3 Chs 4, 5 & 6
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