You can be a climate change skeptic and still take action, just in case


Global warming has caused unstoppable Antarctic melting, two separate groups of scientists conclude in an announcement released Monday. Potentially bad news for (far) future South Floridians who’ll find choice real estate slowing submerging. Also bad timing, perhaps, for US Senator Marco Rubio. On Sunday, Rubio, who may run for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, told ABC News, “I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it.”

Rubio didn’t deny the planet was warming nor that humans play a role. Nor did he advocate a strict “do nothing” stance, saying he had “no problem with taking mitigation activity.” But Rubio’s hedged, modest statement was definitive enough to earn him the ugly “denier” epithet from environmentalists. And a Time magazine columnist wrote that Rubio’s position disqualified him from being president.

But most Americans hold a more nuanced opinion than those Manhattan-Washington elites. They believe human activity is affecting the climate, and that it’s a serious problem. But they also rank global warming pretty low on their list of concerns. Will the consensus GOP stance on climate change hurt its 2016 standard bearer? Maybe in that it reinforces the party’s unhelpful image as old-fashioned and out-of-touch, particularly among younger voters.

Now far be it for a think tanker to suggest politicians let politics drive policy stances. That’s what consultants are for. But as I’ve written before, there’s nothing “conservative” about making an all-or-nothing bet that the vast majority of climate scientists have the story completely wrong. Yes, air temperatures at the Earth’s surface have been flat for 15 years even as greenhouse-gas emissions have continued to increase. Also true that climate models have continually overstated the degree to which the Earth is warming compared with actual climate data.

But are those data points enough to warrant inaction? Here’s MIT climatologist Kerry Emanuel on a recent Econtalk podcast talking about his forecast that if carbon emissions don’t slow, global temperatures will rise in a range of 2.5 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit:

 Nobody pretends to be certain about it. To say it’s between 2.5 and 9 degrees for a doubling or more of CO2, Fahrenheit, it’s to confess that we don’t know. … The near end, it doesn’t morph, it’s 2.5 degrees– we don’t have to worry very much, I would argue. … If it’s in the middle range, there will be problems. Probably we’ll adapt to them. If it’s up at the higher end, that could be catastrophic. And the question for me is: Do we do nothing to avoid, even a small risk of catastrophe for our grandchildren?

Balancing risks and accounting for trade-offs also seem like a political and policy smart way to being thinking about climate change and what to do about it. In “The Power Surge: Energy, Opportunity, and the Battle for America’s Future,” Michael Levi recommends energy-related policies clear two hurdles: First, will they “lead to big gains for the economy, security, or the environment”? Second, can they be “pursued without doing substantial damage” to the economy, security, or environment?

By these criteria, aggressive fuel economy mandates should be rejected, but a green light given for a robust public research agenda to make advanced nuclear power more cost competitive and carbon capture feasible. Indeed, Emanuel is a big proponent of nuclear power, and a growing number of environmentalists seem to be embracing that technology. The Breakthrough Institute offers several research goals to help make advanced nuclear power more cost-competitive. And don’t forget about geoengineering in case those worst-case scenarios begin to play out.

Follow James Pethokoukis on Twitter at @JimPethokoukis, and AEIdeas at @AEIdeas.

16 thoughts on “You can be a climate change skeptic and still take action, just in case

  1. Where is the evidence for “the vast majority of climate scientists”?
    From the start of Gore’s cabal anyone who
    showed the slightest doubt or questioned any of the data was driven from the profession, marginalized, scorned, laughed at, heaped with odium and contumely and probably spat upon.
    Most were very afraid to say anything to the contrary.

    Since then we have emails proving the Hockey stick was a fraud and that the models were not accurate and many more revelations.
    Remember that The brits would not let algor’s film be shown without the falsehoods being revealed first.

    This has led to the brave in the climate community who are not on the government teat to speak out. The pressure is still on and that remains a force of intimidation that requires much fortitude to oppose.

    ” Global warming in a climate
    scientist is as dangerous as rabies in a dog.” Was that Winnie?

    • Driven from the profession? Proof? Kind of like the creationists who say that anyone questioning evolution is ‘driven from the profession’.

      And the vast majority DO accept AGW:

      Hockey stick a fraud? Uh no. All you have is typical right wing paranoia. And a non existent conspiracy

      just like the right ALWAYS has when the facts disagree with them.

    • Keith,

      Scientific methodology, while not perfect and certainly up for debate, is closer to “proof” than your statement “we have email proving…”

      As nice as it would be, you are not entitled to your own facts, especially in email form.

    • So you are saying that the probability of the event happening is not different from the analysis in 1922 and 2014? Thus, you believe the evidence hasn’t changed? I’m unsure how to take such a stupid statement.

      • I think Charles is that learned people of today may be just as wrong in their deductions as were folks of the last heat wave. Shame on him to not conforming.

      • I think Charles is saying that learned people of today may be just as wrong in their deductions as were folks of the last heat wave. Shame on him to not conforming.

  2. There is one big problem with Pethokoukis’ “do something just in case” thesis. Suppose we are heading into the next Ice Age, just as the expert “scientists” predicted in the 1970s? There is much more evidence for the cyclic nature of repeated Ice Ages over the last few million years.

  3. Regarding the predictions of global cooling:

    Global cooling was predicted by scientists. See the New York Times, Jan. 5, 1978, “International Team of Specialists Finds No End in Sight to 30-Year Cooling Trend in the Northern Hemisphere.” ( The NY Times won’t let you into their site unless you subscribe, so if you want to see extensive excerpts then go here:

    The White House just released the Climate Assessment report. In 1974 the government released “A Study of Climatological Research as It Pertains to Intelligence Problems” which stated that “the Earth’s climate is returning to that of the neo-Boreal era (1600-1850),” which is now referred to as the Little Ice Age. See for extended excerpts. That government report cited “the world’s leading climatologists.”

    Regarding “evidence”:

    There is no evidence of global warming in the last 15 years.

    There is evidence of global warming in the last 100 years.

    There was evidence for global cooling from the 1940s to the 1970s.

    There was evidence for global warming since the Little Ice Age.

    There was evidence for global cooling starting 1000 years ago (the Medieval Warm period) to the Little Ice Age.

    Show me the scientific evidence that anthropogenic CO2 caused those great temperature changes.

    Can you predict the climate from that evidence, let alone determine the cause of those changes? The global climate models currently accepted by the AGW crowd fail to predict what has happened to global temperature in the last 15 years.

    When exactly do we declare that we have “complete” models? The current climate models are not able to accurately predict temperature, let alone hindcast them.

    Was CO2 the cause of those great temperature changes?
    Was CO2 responsible for the cyclical Ice Ages? The ice core data evidence says no, since CO2 levels rose after temperatures rose coming out of the Ice Ages, and then fell after the cooling into the next periodic Ice Age.

    There is far more evidence for the evidence of cyclical ice ages, from the last of which we are still recovering, than there is for AGW. You can look at the temperature graphs. Show me one scientific article that declares unequivocally that there will not be another Ice Age?

  4. Robert puharic wrote:

    And those scientists…97%…say AGW is happening. The ONLY people saying no are the American right.

    No one cares about Cook’s data. he’s not the only scientist saying AGW is happening. There were 2100 papers published last year

    you listen too much to Rush. (PBUH). Learn to think for yourself, right winger

    It is false to claim that those scientists claimed that AGW is happening. Cook’s study was an alleged presentation of the evaluations of people who read the scientific literature, not a study of the authors’ beliefs in AGW.

    Apparently lots of people care about Cook’s data, otherwise they would stop referring to those 12,000 “scientists” who believe in AGW.

    Only non-scientists, or those who do not care about the scientific method, do not care about Cook’s data. Scientists do not care about a scientist’s refusal to supply data for peer review?

  5. Robert puharic wrote:

    There’s no ‘evidence of warming in the past 15 years’. OMFG!!! Everyone’s wrong!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Actually no. There’s evidence that there’s a heat sink which is moderating the warming

    so the right wing tendency to put ideology ahead of science naturally leads them into error. It always does.

    30 years from now the right wing will be telling us how smart they were for defending AGW against liberal skeptics.

    Your own reference link was to an article attempting to explain why there has been no atmospheric warming in the last 15 years, by pointing to an alleged increase in ocean heat content (OHC) as the sink for the heat that is not heating the atmosphere. The paradigm of the pro-AGW people is the claim that the Earth’s atmospheric temperature is going to increase, wreaking havoc upon mankind and the planet. The global climate models to which they point claim that global average surface atmospheric temperatures are on the rise. To claim that now we know that the heat is going into the oceans does not substantiate the claim that the Earth’s atmospheric temperature will warm, it is an admission that the pro-AGW people have failed in their predictions, and now they know one reason why they have failed.

    So the AGW crowd acknowledges the failure of their models to predict atmospheric temperatures, upon which global climate depends. How do you define “longer term,” so that we may know when to expect the so-far-failed computer models to correctly predict temperatures? What is the evidence for that, since these climate models haven’t been around long enough to check their ability to predict the long term temperatures?

    Your own reference cited data consisting of ocean temperatures down to only 2000 meters, not the entire ocean space. The average depth of the world’s oceans is 3688 meters (, which means that the OHC is not of all the oceans, but only 46% of them. As the 2013 IPCC Summary for Policy Makers states, “On a global scale, the ocean warming is largest near the surface.” This means that, according to the IPCC Summary, they are ignoring data that would not corroborate their claims of global warming.

    Furthermore, your own link claims that 93.4% of “global warming” is going into the oceans. This means that there is data for only .934 * 2000 / 3688, or 49%, of the total earth heat capacity (atmosphere, ocean surface, and ocean space below the surface). Would you want a brain surgeon operating on you with only 49% of the data necessary to do his job?

    What is the evidence that deep ocean heat content has any effect upon global climate, which by definition occurs in the atmosphere and ocean surfaces?

    What is the evidence that increasing atmospheric CO2 causes increasing deep ocean heat increases? In fact, from chemistry 101 we learn that colder water holds more gases in solution than does warmer water.

    As for the famed “hockey stick”:
    Robert Way, a co-author of the OHC paper referenced by SkS that you linked to, also has written this on the hockey stick at SkS:

    I don’t mean to be the pessimist of the group here but Mc brought up some very good points about the original hockeystick. The confidence affirmed to it by many on our side of the debate was vastly overstated and as has been shown in the recent literature greater variability on the centennial scale exists than was shown. The statistical methodology used by Mann did rely too much on tree rings which still are in debate over their usefulness to reconstruct temperature and particularly their ability to record low-frequency temperature variations. I’ve personally seen work that is unpublished that challenges every single one of his reconstructions because they all either understate or overstate low-frequency variations.

    (my emphasis was added.)

    Robert Way wrote elsewhere at SkS, stating that Hansen’s original hockey stick “was not an example of someone using a technique with flaws and then as he learned better techniques he moved on… He fought like a dog to discredit and argue with those on the other side that his method was not flawed. And in the end he never admitted that the entire method was a mistake” (my emphasis added.)

    There is a more detailed body of evidence that presents the un-scientific side of those who call themselves “scientists” on the pro-AGW side at Are there examples of un-scientific “deniers”? Of course. But I am not the non-skeptical believer that emotionless scientists exist only on one side, and that anything they publish can be believed.

    The truth is not up for a vote of “consensus.” Scientists are not gods who we can blindly believe can create hockey sticks at will. They are people with agendas and emotions, and who do not always follow the scientific method.

    I will keep asking the following questions until you answer them:
    1- You mentioned “complete” models in a prior post. When exactly do we declare that we have “complete” models? The current climate models are not able to accurately predict temperature, let alone hindcast them.

    2- Was CO2 the cause of those great temperature changes during the Medieval Warm period, and during the Little Ice Age?

    3- Was CO2 responsible for the cyclical Great Ice Ages over the last two million years? The ice core data evidence says no, since CO2 levels rose after temperatures rose coming out of the Ice Ages, and then fell after the cooling into the next periodic Ice Age.

    4- There is far more evidence for the evidence of cyclical ice ages, from the last of which we are still recovering, than there is for global warming. Show me one scientific article that declares unequivocally that there will not be another Ice Age?

  6. This post should have been:

    Robert puharic wrote:

    And those scientists…97%…say AGW is happening. The ONLY people saying no are the American right.

    No one cares about Cook’s data. he’s not the only scientist saying AGW is happening. There were 2100 papers published last year

    you listen too much to Rush. (PBUH). Learn to think for yourself, right winger

    Robert puharic then wrote:

    Again no one cares about Cook. There are THOUSANDS of papers published. The right’s obsession with anecdotes is precious and cute, but not science.

    Unless, and until, you can explain the THOUSANDS of papers, you have a problem

    There are not thousands of papers published claiming that 97% of climate-related scientists believe in AGW. There is only one that claimed to have sent about 12,000 questionnaires, not to the authors of those studies, but to reviewers of those studies who would subjectively determine whether the studies’ authors believed in AGW. That is the source of the “97%” claim.

    Robert puharic claims that “No one cares about Cook’s data.” How many people agree with Robert that no one cares about data that is allegedly “scientific” data, and which the creator of that data refuses to surrender that data for peer review?

  7. Robert puharic wrote:

    You forgot to insert the word ‘successfully’ explain why there’s been little warming. Conservatives don’t like to tell the whole story.

    I didn’t forget. It is irrelevant whether the AGW advocates have created an explanation, successfully or not, for why their own models have failed to predict the atmospheric temperatures of the last 15 years. The models have not been modified to become predictors of total planetary heat to correct for the fact that they have failed to predict atmospheric temperatures correctly. These models predicted, and still predict, rising atmospheric temperatures. These models are not predictors of total planetary heat. These models predicted relentless rising of atmospheric temperatures over the last 15 years, which did not occur.

    Scientists know our models are incomplete. But the fact the earth is warming due to AGW, while denied by the right, IS a fact. It’s not open to dispute since we can MEASURE it.

    Scientists have limited ability to measure temperatures and CO2. They can not directly measure the temperatures or CO2 concentrations of 300 years ago, or 1000 years ago. They can use proxy data for such temperatures. There is no measure of AGW. If you bothered to read the excerpts that I presented written by Robert Way, an AGW advocate, it can not be assumed that scientists have used proxy temperature data correctly, even over the last century. That is the purpose of peer review, which you seem so unconcerned about.

    They have not successfully measured or computed the CO2-forcing component of temperature changes, let alone the anthropogenic portions of the CO2 component. How do I know this? I know this because the computer models of the CO2-forced temperatures have failed to predict the last 15 years of non-existent atmospheric temperature warming. I also know this because there are no computer models of the last two thousand years which have successfully predicted the Medieval Warming period or the Little Ice Age.

    The right, by definition, is wrong because they are immune to evidence, no matter the topic.

    I would love to see your dictionary that contains such a “definition.”

    And, of course, when the ocean can no longer moderate the warming? The right admits the ocean IS a heat sink but fails to tell us what’s going to happen when ocean temps rise, as demonstrated by the West Antarctic which was predicted 40 years ago.

    Why did you mention only the West Antarctic, instead of the entire Antarctic region? Is it because you know that the Australian National Snow and Ice Data Centre reported the following just seven days ago:

    ANTARCTIC sea ice has expanded to record levels for April, increasing by more than 110,000sq km a day last month to nine million square kilometres.
    The National Snow and Ice Data Centre said the rapid expansion had continued into May and the seasonal cover was now bigger than the record “by a significant margin’’.

    (Emphasis added)

    What is happening to the WAIS? It has been retreating for the last 20,000 years. The final paragraph of the Science article (Conway, et al.) states:
    “We suggest that modern grounding-line retreat is part of ongoing recession that has been under way since early to mid-Holocene time. It is not a consequence of anthropogenic warming or recent sea level rise. In other words, the future of the WAIS may have been predetermined when grounding-line retreat was triggered in early Holocene time. Continued recession and perhaps even complete disintegration of the WAIS within the present interglacial period could well be inevitable.” (My emphasis added)

    If you want to blame the shrinking of the WAIS on AGW, then you may as well blame the cyclic Ice Ages of the last two million years on humans also. Did we go back in time to cause them?

    Are you aware that climate change of a small portion of the planet does not imply the same climate change world-wide?

    So only by ignoring the MEASURED rise in the world’s temps over the last 150 years, and pretending ONLY the last 15 years matter can the right even BEGIN to make an argument.

    About half of the measured rise in global temperatures in the last 100 years occurred before 1940. That is before the great rise in atmospheric CO2. This fact, by itself, invalidates the current climate models’ claims of CO2-forced global temperatures changes.

    If those climate models are unsuccessful at predicting CO2-forced global temperatures over 15 years, why do you assume that they will correctly predict the next 100 years? The models make predictions with a granularity of 1 year, not 5 years, not 50 years, not 500 years. If they alter the granularity of these climate models to 50 years, for example, then we need to wait 50 years to see if their predictions are accurate models of climate. Exactly how long should we wait before rejecting those climate models?

    Check your own Bible, IPCC, 2013: Summary for Policymakers, page 16: ” Climate models now include more cloud and aerosol processes, and their interactions, than at the time of the AR4, but there remains low confidence in the representation and quantification of these processes in models.” (Emphasis added) Unfortunately for AGW advocates, H2O is a far more effective greenhouse gas than is CO2, yet it is not adequately represented in the climate models. The current climate models are therefore not sufficient as climate modelers, let alone climate predictors.

    None of the models are able to re-generate the Roman Warming period, the Medieval Warming period, or the Little Ice Age. If computer models can not re-create past temperatures, why should we believe that they can predict future temperatures?

    it’s typical of the cherrypicking of data the right has ALWAYS used

    If you don’t understand the concept of energy balances, take a course in thermo. It’s well worth the investment.

    How interesting that you like cherry-picking when it comes to your preferred geographical zones.

    How about this for cherry picking:

    With 31% ice coverage today (May 9, 2014), Lake Superior now has more ice than after the epic cold winter of 1978-79, which had everyone in a tizzy over the coming Ice Age.

    And you ignore the fact of the 2100 papers written last year on AGW only ONE, written by the Russian Petroleum institute, denied it’s happening

    False. Here is a bibliography listing recent peer-reviewed studies addressing just one facet of global warming, the fact that global climate models have failed in their predictions of GW, let alone the other facets involved with AGW:

    - Fyfe, J.C., N.P. Gillett and F.W. Zwiers, 2013: Overestimated global warming over the past 20 years. Nature Climate Change, 3, 767-769, doi:10.1038/nclimate1972
    - Swanson, K.L., 2013: Emerging selection bias in large-scale climate change simulations. Geophysical Research Letters, 40, DOI: 10.1002/grl.50562.
    - McKitrick, Ross R. and Lise Tole (2012) Evaluating Explanatory Models of the Spatial Pattern of Surface Climate Trends using Model Selection and Bayesian Averaging Methods. Climate Dynamics DOI 10.1007/s00382-012-1418-9.
    - Fildes, Robert and Nikolaos Kourentzes (2011) “Validation and Forecasting Accuracy in Models of Climate Change International Journal of Forecasting 27 968-995.
    - Anagnostopoulos, G. G., D. Koutsoyiannis, A. Christofides, A. Efstratiadis & N. Mamassis (2010). “A comparison of local and aggregated climate model outputs with observed data.” Hydrological Sciences Journal, 55(7) 2010.
    - McKitrick, Ross R., Stephen McIntyre and Chad Herman (2010) “Panel and Multivariate Methods for Tests of Trend Equivalence in Climate Data Sets”. Atmospheric Science Letters, DOI: 10.1002/asl.290

    Again, you cherry pick evidence, as the right does, regarding the hockey stick. You’re just a latter day creationist.

    I pointed out in a prior post that AGW advocate Robert Way presented peer-reviewed evidence (which I quoted for you) that falsifies Hansen’s methods of arriving at his original hockey stick. Disproving a logical or scientific hypothesis is not cherry-picking. If I want to disprove the following hypothesis:

    “All green smorfs have geegles;”

    then all I need do is present one green smorf that does not have a geegle in order to invalidate the hypothesis. I do not need to show you all green smorfs. That is not cherry-picking. That is how you invalidate a scientific hypothesis.

    And you keep DENYING that the models exist and are accurate when energy balances are factored in. The 1st law is accurate and complete.

    And I will continue to deny it, because there is no OHC model that includes data below 2000 meter depth of the oceans, while the average planetary ocean depth is 3688m, as I pointed out in a prior post.

    Would you be satisfied with a global climate model that included temperature data from only the Northern Hemisphere? Would you be satisfied with a sociology study that made conclusions about all people, but only men were studied? Then why are you satisfied with a global heat model that only includes the upper 49% of the globe that is being measured?

    A well-mentioned study that included ocean depths down to 2000m is “Comment On Ocean Heat Content And Earth’s Radiation Imbalance. II. Relation To Climate Shifts” (Nuccitelli, Way, Painting, John Church, Cook) March 31, 2012. The authors conclude “We find no evidence that the global flux imbalance has declined significantly in recent years, or that the CO2 feedback is negative or inconsistent with climate models.” Note that the authors did not conclude that CO2 had a positive feedback, but only that the study that they were commenting on did not prove that CO2 feedback was negative.

    If I publish a study that claims that the Earth is about 4 billion years old, but reviewers of that study find errors in it, that does not prove that the Earth is 2 billion or 6 billion years old, nor does it mean that the Earth is not 4 billion years old. It only means that my study failed to prove my hypothesis.

    The climate models do not model global heat. They model CO2-forcing of atmospheric temperature changes. Who cares about global heat, unless there is a scientific hypothesis, along with evidence that substantiates that hypothesis, that implies a causal connection between total global heat and AGW?

    You continue to conflate global heat content with AGW. Check your own Bible, IPCC, 2013: Summary for Policymakers, page 14. There is a table that contains the radiative forcing estimates for “the main drivers of climate change.” Global heat content is not listed as a main driver.

    Your obsession with the last 15 years is exactly that…an obsession. It fails to address the massive data from THOUSANDS of studies showing increasing temprature, such as the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet. The right ignores that since it has NO explanation for an event PREDICTED FOUR DECADES AGO

    See my response above that deals with your WAIS claim.

    I predict that the sun will eventually explode. Do we agree? But how long will it take before the sun explodes? The length of time necessary for a prediction to be proven true must be part of the prediction to be considered a viable scientific hypothesis. The only way to check the robustness of a hypothesis that makes predictions is to observe whether those predictions come true. The current climate models fail to accurately estimate what the observed temperatures were over the last 15 years. How many years of error are we to tolerate before rejecting the CO2-forced AGW hypothesis?

    The US right is the ONLY large political movement in the western world denying AGW. No major conservative party in Europe denies it. The US right has always been wrong about science

    And you’re wrong again

    Science is not determined by a vote. It is determined by logic, hypotheses, and observational data.

    At one time there was a consensus that the Earth was the center of the solar system. Eventually the consensus was rejected, and Copernicus’ view of a heliocentric solar system became the “consensus.”

    Science is not mob rule.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>