The other day, a friend of mine directed me towards a blog post by Chris Mounsey that does an excellent job of misunderstanding the recent scientific study that found a discernable influence from anthropogenic warming in Antarctica. The study used 100 years of Arctic data, 50 years of Antarctic data, and four computer models to demonstrate that the observations that have been made in those regions are consistent with models in which human emissions are causing mean global warming, and inconsistent with models that include only natural forcings.
As in a great many other cases, the blog author confuses different types of certainty about climatic science. For example, while we definitely know that greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere cause more of the sun’s energy to be absorbed by the Earth, it isn’t clear what effect the inter-relationships between temperature, soil moisture, evaporation, clouds, and reflected sunlight are. The climate system includes a massive number of elements that have complex inter-relations. When it is reported that a scientific study “help[ed] reveal what drives climate change,” the claim being made is that our understanding of that whole complex system has been deepened.
The blog post questions whether warming is happening (it is), whether it might not be a good thing (above a certain level, extremely unlikely), and whether this is just a repeat of the Medieval Warm Period (it isn’t).
In general, it follows the same “toss everything into the pot” strategy found in many pieces of writing that question the scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change. I have previously written about the inconsistency of simultaneously denying warming, denying that warming is caused by humans, and denying that warming is bad. This blog also connects to another argument made previously on this site. The blog is written by a self-identified libertarian. The need to disprove the fact that all sorts of human economic activities have important consequences on third parties is essential if climate change is not to render that entire political philosophy nonsensical.