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The science is so settled we can ignore it

26 Jul 2023 | OP ED Watch

The claim that on climate “the science is settled” is plainly a rhetorical hammer not an intellectual position, not least because it coexists seamlessly with the claim that things are worse than “the scientists” thought. But also because the people most fond of chanting it seem to know virtually nothing about science. When Pennsylvania Republican Scott Perry questioned U.S. “climate czar” John Kerry, Kerry babbled that “we have put, I forget the exact number of tonnes, millions of tonnes, of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses are now in the atmosphere”. He was off by five orders of magnitude. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says the U.S. alone released 6,340 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent in 2021 alone. That’s six billion by one country in one year, and the human total since the 19th century is in the hundreds of billions. But Kerry said “millions”. He literally has no idea. Very possibly he’s hazy on the difference. Certainly nothing in his testimony gave any confidence that if asked how many zeroes there are in a billion he would even try to answer, let alone pull it off.

People often mock American politics, and not without reason. Americans themselves have been doing it since it was British politics. But it should also give the rest of us pause that in the United States not all politicians let themselves be bullied into pretending to buy the climate scare. Instead Perry, a former Brigadier General in the Army National Guard who did know it was hundreds of billions, pressed Kerry on why he had reversed himself on whether other nations should commit to cut emissions before the U.S. took drastic action.

In response Kerry spewed “safe” clichés that actually risk exposing one as a blatherskite. For instance one very direct query from Perry, after quoting Kerry in detail that Net Zero was not enough and that humanity must somehow lower atmospheric CO2, was “how much is the correct amount of CO2?”

Like the question “What is the correct temperature?”, Perry’s inquiry should be put to anyone claiming it’s now too hot, followed in both cases by “How do you know?” because it is an important question. But also, surely, a very straightforward one.

Not to Kerry. He proceeded to quibble over what he’d said and to rehash trite general claims, without making any effort to acknowledge the actual question let alone answer it. And when Perry cut him off, saying he didn’t want the familiar spiel but a number, Kerry replied “it changes every day”. To which Perry responded with appropriate incredulity and Kerry doubled down.

That answer is gibberish. If there is a “correct” temperature, and if atmospheric CO2 is the control knob on the global thermostat, then there must be a “correct” level of atmospheric CO2. Not a different one every day. The same one. Which could be 250 ppm, or 300 (but not 150 because then all C3 photosynthesis plants die, including all trees). It could even presumably be 400, since CO2 is plant food and almost every measure of human material well-being has increased as it rose to that figure. But just as there’s a right temperature to cook a turkey, there’s a right temperature not to cook a planet, and if CO2 drives temperature, a right level of CO2 to attain it.

Instead of doing math, Kerry raved about how human CO2 was bad and we were in big trouble because of bad human CO2. “The difference is human beings are creating this,” he said, as if ours were peculiarly toxic to plants and planets. And his quotation above about “millions” of tonnes of greenhouse gasses continued “they’re there, and every day we’re adding more, and so every day the heat is going up and we have to figure out how we’re going to, you know, tame the monster here.” Not something one finds in the lab unless doing the Monster Mash.

In addition to pointing out that atmospheric CO2 had usually been much higher than today, Perry showed charts indicating that according to U.S. government statistics emissions had continued to increase since 2015 but temperature had gone down, which Kerry brushed aside. And the Congressman quoted Kerry to the Washington Post in December 2022 that it was necessary to remove 1.6 trillion tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere at an estimated cost of $1,000 per tonne, for a total cost of $1.6 quadrillion dollars.

That figure is of course ludicrous since it’s roughly 160 times total global GDP, another number one doubts Kerry could get even approximately right without prompting. But it’s also ludicrous that Kerry would claim to know how much CO2 had to be removed without knowing what the right level of CO2 actually is. How could you calculate the former without knowing the latter? It’s grade six math: “Billy had four dollars before buying candy. How much did he spend?” “Um teacher I need to know how much he has left to work out that answer.”

One has the impression Kerry is just making it up as he goes along, or just reading talking points prepared by aides that he doesn’t understand and neither did they. (Though climate activists praise his skill at avoiding political traps as if it were the key attribute of solid science, and as if he actually possessed it.) One also has the impression that this conduct has become an ingrained, unconscious habit because credulous activist journalists don’t challenge him on the inconsistencies and errors even in the unlikely event that they know about or notice them.

As we’ve repeatedly mentioned, as Secretary of State in Jakarta in February 2014 Kerry claimed greenhouse gases form a layer between a quarter and half an inch thick at the top of the atmosphere, which is utterly stupid because if it were true there’d be no CO2 where plants live and they would die. But this ridiculous blunder has never haunted him, very possibly because a great many other alarmists constantly banging on about “settled science” believe those diagrams showing an insulating layer similar to greenhouse glass.

3 comments on “The science is so settled we can ignore it”

  1. World GDP is approximately 100 trillion dollars, or $10^14. $1.6 quadrillion (a quadrillion is 10^15, unless those sneaky Yanks have changed it recently) is 16x10^14 dollars which is 16 times world GDP, not 160 times GDP.

  2. At least that deranged sociopath and his ideological twin (Gore) didn't have the nuclear codes. The present holder is likely prevented from having the real ones, we hope.

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