The Myth of 'Settled Science'

By: Charles Krauthammer | Posted: February 21, 2014 3:55 AM
Charles Krauthammer mug

WASHINGTON -- I repeat: I'm not a global warming believer. I'm not a global warming denier. I've long believed that it cannot be good for humanity to be spewing tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. I also believe that those scientists who pretend to know exactly what this will cause in 20, 30 or 50 years are white-coated propagandists.

"The debate is settled," asserted propagandist in chief Barack Obama in his latest State of the Union address. "Climate change is a fact." Really? There is nothing more anti-scientific than the very idea that science is settled, static, impervious to challenge. Take a nonclimate example. It was long assumed that mammograms help reduce breast cancer deaths. This fact was so settled that Obamacare requires every insurance plan to offer mammograms (for free, no less).

Now we learn from a massive randomized study -- 90,000 women followed for 25 years -- that mammograms may have no effect on breast cancer deaths. Indeed, one out of five of those diagnosed by mammogram receives unnecessary radiation, chemo or surgery.

So much for settledness. And climate is less well-understood than breast cancer. If climate science is settled, why do its predictions keep changing? And how is it that the great physicist Freeman Dyson, who did some climate research in the late 1970s, thinks today's climate-change Cassandras are hopelessly mistaken?

They deal with the fluid dynamics of the atmosphere and oceans, argues Dyson, ignoring the effect of biology -- i.e., vegetation and topsoil. Further, their predictions rest on models they fall in love with: "You sit in front of a computer screen for 10 years and you start to think of your model as being real." Not surprisingly, these models have been "consistently and spectacularly wrong" in their predictions, write atmospheric scientists Richard McNider and John Christy -- and always, amazingly, in the same direction.

Settled? Even the U.K.'s national weather service concedes there's been no change -- delicately called a "pause" -- in global temperature in 15 years. If even the raw data is recalcitrant, let alone the assumptions and underlying models, how settled is the science?

Last Friday, Obama ostentatiously visited drought-stricken California. Surprise! He blamed climate change. Here even The New York Times gagged, pointing out that far from being supported by the evidence, "the most recent computer projections suggest that as the world warms, California should get wetter, not drier, in the winter."

How inconvenient. But we've been here before. Hurricane Sandy was made the poster child for the alleged increased frequency and strength of "extreme weather events" like hurricanes?

Nonsense. Sandy wasn't even a hurricane when it hit the U.S. Indeed, in all of 2012, only a single hurricane made U.S. landfall. And 2013 saw the fewest Atlantic hurricanes in 30 years. In fact, in the last half-century, one-third fewer major hurricanes have hit the U.S. than in the previous half-century.
Similarly tornadoes. Every time one hits, the climate-change commentary begins. Yet last year saw the fewest in a quarter-century. And the last 30 years -- of presumed global warming -- has seen a 30 percent decrease in extreme tornado activity (F3 and above) versus the previous 30 years.

None of this is dispositive. It doesn't settle the issue. But that's the point. It mocks the very notion of settled science, which is nothing but a crude attempt to silence critics and delegitimize debate. As does the term "denier" -- an echo of Holocaust denial, contemptibly suggesting the malevolent rejection of an established historical truth.

Climate-change proponents have made their cause a matter of fealty and faith. For folks who pretend to be brave carriers of the scientific ethic, there's more than a tinge of religion in their jeremiads. If you whore after other gods, the Bible tells us, "the†Lord's wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit" (Deuteronomy 11).

Sounds like California. Except that today there's a new god, the Earth Mother. And a new set of sins -- burning coal and driving a fully equipped F-150.

But whoring is whoring, and the gods must be appeased. So if California burns, you send your high priest (in a carbon-belching Air Force One, but never mind) to the bone-dry land to offer up, on behalf of the repentant congregation, a $1 billion burnt offering called a "climate resilience fund."

Ah, settled science in action.

Charles Krauthammer's email address is

(c) 2014, The Washington Post Writers Group

Tags: News, Columns

Comments (10)

John Paul Jones
12:08PM FEB 21ST 2014
P.S. if anyone wants to check out actual science that contradicts the whole "consensus" nonsense, here is a STARTING point. Go to americanthinker and read articles by S. Fred Singer. Then pursue further as necessary. I'm not going to do all the work for you.
2:20PM FEB 21ST 2014
Yes, yes . . . . always go to the far right partisan press to learn about real science, not peer-reviewed scientific articles which must be under the control of liberal influences . . . . not like the fair and balanced as FoxNoise . . . . or American Thinker that "has been criticized for publishing articles with questionable and factually erroneous content" . . .

Instead, perhaps pay a "little more" attention to what actual scientists and their professional organizations indicate about the issue (just inconvenient truths for John Paul):

2003-2013 - American Geophysical Union. "Human‐induced climate change requires urgent action. Humanity is the major influence on the global climate change observed over the past 50 years. Rapid societal responses can significantly lessen negative outcomes."

2004 - American Chemical Society. "Comprehensive scientific assessments of our current and potential future climates clearly indicate that climate change is real, largely attributable to emissions from human activities, and potentially a very serious problem." (2004)

2005 - U.S. National Academy of Sciences. "The scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify taking steps to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere."

2006 - American Association for the Advancement of Science. "The scientific evidence is clear: global climate change caused by human activities is occurring now, and it is a growing threat to society."

2007 - American Physical Society. "The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring. If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth’s physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now."

2010 - The Geological Society of America. "The Geological Society of America (GSA) concurs with assessments by the National Academies of Science (2005), the National Research Council (2006), and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2007) that global climate has warmed and that human activities (mainly greenhouse‐gas emissions) account for most of the warming since the middle 1900s."

2012 - American Meteorological Society. "It is clear from extensive scientific evidence that the dominant cause of the rapid change in climate of the past half century is human-induced increases in the amount of atmospheric greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide (CO2), chlorofluorocarbons, methane, and nitrous oxide."

There's more, but "pursue further as necessary. I'm not going to do all the work for you." . . . .

Pathetic . . . .
John Paul Jones
11:29AM FEB 21ST 2014
Krauthammer is exactly right. There is no settled science. You religious-like AGW believers are just politically driven nuts following what your leaders are telling you. No, it has not been proven that man made emission are causing warming. There is some evidence that those emissions can have an effect but no evidence that the effect is even measurable compared to natural occurrences. There ARE literally thousands of highly degreed and accomplished scientists who have stated this over the years. You believers just ignore them and follow the IPCC which is a rather small and not so impressively degreed group of big government funded "scientists" who cling to proven failed models and conspire to silence and ignore real science that details the lack of certainty in what has driven climate changes for thousands of years. There is absolutely nothing scientific or settled enough to justify intentionally crushing our national and world economy resulting in tremendously increased poverty and massive death from lack of food, fuel and medicine (yes all dependent on affordable energy). By the way, the word "consensus" is nonsense and has no application in science. If its right its right no matter whether there is consensus or not. And if its wrong its wrong, or if it is uncertain its uncertain.
1:18PM FEB 21ST 2014
Yes, yes, you must be right . . . your Ph.D. in Climate Science says so . . . oh, that's right . . . . you don't have one . . . so, you obviously must know better than 200 scientific professional organizations, the National Academy of Science (NAS), etc., etc. . . . . yes, yes, you must be right . . . . and will back that up with claims by scientists whose expertise mostly isn't in climate science, geosciences, oceanography and other relevant fields (yes, there are a few, but few - oh, and if you give me a list, better be sure that EVERYONE on your list actually agreed to be on that list and has credentials in the relevant fields) . . . my friends on the NAS don't agree with you, but why should they . . . . you aren't a peer, nor even a Ph.D. scientist . . . . but hang in there on your " 'consensus' is nonsense and has no application in science - If its right its right no matter whether there is consensus or not" . . . . that's worked well for other flat earthers who are also in denial, and likewise can't grasp how science actually works . . . . you didn't once work for the tobacco industry once upon a time as a cancer denier, did you . . . .

Pathetic . . . .
John Paul Jones
1:55PM FEB 21ST 2014
Thank you for proving my point Frank. S. Fred Singer is a Ph.D. and a professor at UVa. Maybe not as good as your alma mater??? I'm laughing right now. So you have once again shown your prowess in the field of copy and paste, but predictably ignore all of the real science that exposes the AGW agenda and its lack of scientific methods. No one argues that there are not a bunch of politically driven organizations that repeat your pasted TPs. There is a lot more out there and it is far more soundly grounded. Have a nice day child!
3:14PM FEB 21ST 2014
So, it's a peer review article, correct . . . . yes, yes, Singer's denial must be right (after all, his expertise is in space research, atmospheric pollution, rocket and satellite technology, and is arguably best known for his denial of the health effects from secondhand smoke) . . . . and he has the support of at least one major scientific professional organization, right . . . . which one . . . . oh, that's right . . . . there are NONE . . . the closest appears to be the American Association of Petroleum Geologists which in 2007 split on the issue, with their President acknowledging in 2010 that "Climate change is peripheral at best to our science . . . . AAPG does not have credibility in that field . . . . and as a group we have no particular knowledge of global atmospheric geophysics" . . . . since that declaration, "no scientific body of national or international standing (has) rejected the findings of human-induced effects on climate change" . . . . so yes, your one scientist must be the world expert and superior to virtually all the other scientists who work on climate change . . . and you couldn't even make your truthiness under the actual comment you were responding to . . . .

Pathetic . . . . .
John Paul Jones
3:18PM FEB 21ST 2014
Keep at it Frank! I know you are very threatened by dissenting opinions which call into question the accuracy and motives of your leaders. By the way, Wikipedia is fun but some might take you more seriously if you explore beyond it. Just kidding I don't really expect that of you.
8:04PM FEB 21ST 2014
Of course you must be right . . . which is why you have virtually no demonstrable facts of your own . . . . don't like being shown to be engaging in more easily shown to be incorrect right wing spun truthiness . . . you can raise whatever dissenting scientific opinions you want . . . just as soon as you publish your first scientific article in this area in a peer reviewed journal, or complete your doctoral dissertation defense in climate change in a U.S. university . . . . after all, when was the last national science geosciences conference you got asked to speak at . . . . oh, that's right, NEVER . . . .

The actual facts are hard to refute, aren't they (notice he never attempts to demonstrate to a non-believer that my facts are wrong, except to extraordinarily claim that all my quoted scientific organizations must be "politically driven organizations") . . . . it's why even main global warming skeptic Dr. Richard Muller recently stated:

"CALL me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause" . . .

The mice are all abandoning the ship . . . . No wonder you have to resort to pushing right wing news sources as science, while remaining unbelievably. . . .

Pathetic . . . .
Minh Duong
10:57AM FEB 21ST 2014
The main problem of your entire analysis unfortunately rests on flaws on understanding and logic. When the President says the science on global climate change is "settled," he is not saying that everything about climate change is known or that everything is solved. Climate change is not a TV show where everything is wrapped up in an hour.

What the President means is that among climate scientists--people who study and understand this subject in great detail--there is no real debate on the two fundamental questions: "Is it happening and did humans most likely cause it?" The vast majority of climate scientists (90+%) agree that the answer is yes in both cases. Scientists do disagree on projected future impacts and how best to solve it. Solving it also involves governmental, political, and economic factors outside the realm of science. As to your first point, projections, are that, projections. Predictions about the future are never 100% guaranteed unless someone has clairvoyance. Your first lack of understanding is that when you ask an expert about the future, he/she will give his best advice. You can believe it or not, but assuming that they "know" about the future is you projecting your disbelief and ignorance on them.

The President's statement also serves to counteract the disingenuous and false contention that deniers have claimed over the years that there is a controversy over climate change among scientists. There is not. It's the same tactic that fundamentalist Christians have tried to use against evolution; lie about the existence of a "controversy" to foment doubt.

Second, comparing the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer to climate change is at best flawed analysis. Doctors will all agree that breast cancer can kill you. That is settled science. What to do about it (and other cancers) unfortunately is not settled. Medicine has gone a long way from the days of bleeding patients but no one in the medical field will ever say any treatment is "settled" as there are always new advances.

The comparison of weather to climate also suffers from a total lack of understanding about what climate change is and the effects. Climate change is not about the number of hurricanes or the polar vertex in particular. However in your expert analysis of weather and climate change, you failed to mention any scientists are claiming weather patterns and climate change are the same. That's because they are not. In other words you are falsely equating something that did not say.

Finally, no scientist will ever say that science is a religion and nothing can ever be challenged. Unfortunately, that is your mindset against something that you cannot understand that has nothing to do with religion. Scientists always have uncertainty. If you've ever read any scientific paper, the amount of uncertainty is even published with results. What the consensus of scientists think is that with evidence, they agree or disagree on a matter. If you have an extraordinary claim in science, you need extraordinary amount evidence not faith. People win Nobel prizes for challenging the conventions like prions (bad proteins) can cause disease. The problem is not that scientists won't accept evidence; it's people like you and the deniers that don't bring any real evidence and then are flabbergasted that scientists won't listen to you.
10:22AM FEB 21ST 2014
Yes, yes . . . . we understand your thousands of Ph.D. degrees in this area (that IS what you're saying - you know better) . . . and your very mis-understanding (or intentional partisan spin) about what the science and what scientists are saying, discounts your argument . . . as to Freeman Dyson . . . the mathematician is brilliant, no doubt . . . but he also once told his wife not to worry about climate change . . . "The polar bears will be fine" . . . . they aren't . . . . and I seriously doubt he desires his legacy to be dependent on the merits of his climate change denial . . . . . . so try becoming actually educated on the issue from actual climate scientists (and not just the deniers), rather than repeating your FoxNoise nonsense . . . . . . .

Pathetic . . . .

Leave a Comment on This Story

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.