Thoughts / Climate Change Flowchart
Climate Change Flowchart

Source: Slate 2013-03-04

Climate Change Flowchart

Well, that pretty well sums it up, right?

Not so much.

This flowchart was brought to my attention via a Facebook friend’s comment today (1 Dec 2013) on someone else sharing the reposting of this flowchart on some website called Upworthy. In this article, I will simply refer to it as The Flowchart.

The primary concern of The Flowchart appears to be the opening question: “Do you believe in Climate Change?”. However, from the decision points and comments within The Flowchart it is clear the primary concern is Anthropogenic Climate Change, making that opening question quite misleading.

I will just ignore the little decision points and snarky comments in The Flowchart, and concentrate on the four long boxes, each titled Argument — after I clarify what is meant by Anthropogenic Climate Change.

What is Anthropogenic Climate Change?

The term anthropogenic simply means caused by humans, or more specifically, caused by what humans do. Although there is a significant increase in the amount of carbon dioxide ( CO2) exhaled by humans simply due to the rapidly growing number of humans on this planet; that is not the primary focus of ACC. Its primary concern is human activities which emit CO2, primarily burning fossil fuels (gasoline, fuel oil, natural gas) and deforestation.

Deforestation increases CO2 in two ways. First, trees (and all other plants) inhale CO2 and exhale oxygen, so, fewer trees (plants) means less CO2 is removed from the atmosphere. Second, much deforestation (both clearing trees and clearing brush or other unwanted vegetation) is accomplished by burning the unwanted vegetation, and CO2 is a product of the combustion of vegetation.

Burning fossil fuels also creates CO2 (among other things), since fossil fuels are basically just “fossilized” vegetation.

Climate change, in this context, specifically means the long term increase in the average global temperature of earth’s atmosphere and the local effects of that increase. Long term global cooling (an ice age) caused by humans is not a possibility within the confines of ACC. However, regional cooling is part of ACC — changing the average global temperature could affect the general circulation within the atmosphere, which might result in certain regions of the earth actually becoming cooler.

So, the term Anthropogenic Climate Change specifically means the long-term increase in the average global temperature of earth’s atmosphere (and the local effects of that increase) due primarily to the increase in the concentration of CO2 in earth's atmosphere caused by human activity.

Scientists Agree.

Scientists agree. Ohh, scandal! Sorry to burst your bubble: Big reports, including one by the UK government, found no evidence of wrongdoing in so-called “Climategate.” The vast majority of scientists (~97%) agree that climate change is driven by humans. In 2005, the science academies of the US plus 10 other countries cosigned a statement saying just that. A UC-San Diego survey of all peer-reviewed abstracts about climate change from 1993-2003 revealed not one rejected this position. The 2007 IPCC report says with “very high confidence” that “unequivocal” warming is caused by us. The real debate now is how bad is it going to get?

Climategate was all about a systemic attempt to quiet and ignore any dissent about ACC by those producing “big reports”, including western governments. It is no surprise that those engaged in the wrongdoing would find that there had been no wrongdoing. The UC-San Diego survey, even if accurate, would merely corroborate the systemic silencing of dissent in peer-reviewed publications.

Which “scientists” are they polling? There may be millions of scientists in the world, but less than one percent of them are trained in the complex processes within the earth’s atmosphere and biosphere that affect global climate. The other 99% of scientists only know, at best, what is published in peer-reviewed publications; in actually, I doubt even a majority of those other scientists have the time or inclination to read peer-reviewed publications outside their areas of specialization.

Even if the term “scientists” in this Flowchart actually means those scientists whose specialization is atmospheric chemistry, meteorology, climatology, and anthropology; where is any citation for the “~97%” figure? I can make up numbers, too. However, I won’t make up any more numbers (I made up that “1%” number regarding percentage of scientists with expertise in an area relevant to ACC; the actual number is probably much lower).

In 2011, the American Meteorological Society (the preeminent association in the US of research meteorologists/climatologists), created a Committee to Improve Climate Change Communication (CICCC). The CICCC collaborated with George Mason University and Yale University to “assess AMS members’ perspectives about climate change.” They sent surveys to all Members of the AMS (those that have a degree and/or extensive professional experience related to meteorology); only 26% of those members responded to the survey questions. Of those 26%, merely 52% assert that humans are the primary cause for global warming, while nearly 11% don’t even believe global warming is happening (and this in an association which is a strong and vocal advocate of ACC). Even if one assumed that all of the non-responding 74% would assert that humans are the primary cause for global warming, that would result in only ~88% agreeing with ACC; thus, the “~97%” figure reference in this Flowchart is clearly inaccurate. The true amount of consensus is likely closer to 52% than to 97%.

An upcoming article in the Bulletin of the AMS discusses the four hypotheses that drove this survey, and the conclusions the authors reached based on the survey. The first conclusion is summarized by this quote:

We found that perceived scientific consensus was the factor most strongly associated with AMS members’ views about global warming. This suggests that scientists’ thinking on scientific topics may be subject to the same kinds of social normative influences that affect the general public. Rather than rationally weighing the evidence and deciding for themselves, as would be expected under more traditional ideas of scientific judgment, scientists may also use the views of a relevant peer group as a social cue for forming their own views.

In other words, the primary factor influencing the position of those “~97%” is perception of consensus. By suppressing dissenting views in peer-reviewed literature (and, thus, misrepresenting the true amount of consensus of relevant scientists), the ACC activists bolster support for their position without the hindrance of evidence or scientific method.

The second conclusion from that article:

Political ideology was the factor next most strongly associated with meteorologists’ views about global warming. This also goes against the idea of scientists’ opinions being entirely based on objective analysis of the evidence, and concurs with previous studies that have shown scientists’ opinions on topics to vary along with their political orientation.

The article goes on to point out that “liberals” generally accept ACC while “conservatives” tend to remain skeptical. It is no coincidence that those who want government to have ultimate and complete control over the lives of citizens (except themselves) posit a global threat to all mankind that (supposedly) can only be mitigated through granting the government greater control and subjugating more individual freedoms to “the greater good”.

Negative Outweighs Positive.

It’s Happening Now.

Humans: It’s Us.

For every complex problem there is a solution which is straightforward, simple, and wrong.

H. L. Mencken

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