Ending Fossil Fuels Won’t Stop Global Warming

by | Jul 1, 2022

Is it true that ending fossil fuels will stop global warming?

President Biden has often claimed that global warming and climate change are a “threat to human existence[1]” and he has guaranteed to “end fossil fuels.[2]

Fossil fuels are by far the most important source of energy in America and the world because fossil fuels are the most affordable, abundant, and energy-dense fuels available. Americans strongly prefer fossil-fueled energy, which is why driving up the price and enacting coercive legislation/regulation and costly subsidies have been salient features of anti-fossil policies.

The underlying premise of anti-fossil policies is that fossil fuel emissions are the principal cause of global warming. And global warming will eventually cause climate danger – the “threat to human existence.” So abandoning fossil fuels, climate alarmists claim, will save humanity from the threat of global warming and the resulting climate danger. This theory is sometimes referred to as “anthropogenic greenhouse warming” or AGW, which distinguishes AGW theory from natural (non-human-caused) greenhouse warming theory which is believed to be beneficial to humans.

But is it true that ending fossil fuels will stop global warming? This brief will examine the scientific facts that allegedly support the underlying premise (AGW) of ending fossil fuels. Readers may be surprised to learn that climate scientists have repeatedly failed to scientifically validate the AGW theory and that some scientific evidence has actually contradicted the AGW theory.

Natural and Human-Caused GHG Warming Theories

One aspect of global warming theory that enjoys considerable acceptance among scientists and the public is the theory that certain atmospheric gases, the so-called greenhouse gases (GHG) warm Earth’s atmosphere. Naturally occurring GHGs are thought to act as a layer of insulation in Earth’s atmosphere that effectively slows the rate of loss of solar heat from Earth. Natural GHGs include water vapor, CO2, and a few other naturally occurring gases. Water vapor is thought to be a far more potent GHG than CO2 in warming Earth’s atmosphere and surface.

In the past few decades, some climate scientists have extended the natural GHG warming theory to include the anthropogenic (human-caused) greenhouse warming (AGW) theory that large additions of anthropogenic GHG into the atmosphere (CO2, methane, nitrous oxide, and sulfur hexafluoride, but not water vapor) are causing Earth’s global temperatures to rise unnaturally. About two-thirds of anthropogenic GHG is CO2, emitted by burning fossil fuels.

Note: Do not confuse AGW theory with natural greenhouse warming theory. Natural GHG warming is theoretically dominated by water vapor, which is thought to be many times more potent in warming than the dominant gas in AGW theory, which is CO2.

Validating AGW Theory

Readers may be surprised to learn that scientists have never validated the AGW theory. To validate AGW theory, logic requires that scientists demonstrate that a quantified cause (human-caused GHG emissions) results in a quantified effect (atmospheric warming). For example, if the GHG emissions to the atmosphere double, does that mean global temperature increases by 1 degree or 5 degrees? That question has not been credibly answered.

The principal challenge of validating AWG theory is isolating the cause and effect from the many other causes and effects in Earth’s massive and complex climate system. It doesn’t help AGW theory that CO2 is a trace gas in Earth’s atmosphere. Even after a rapid rise in fossil fuel emissions for over a century, only 4 molecules in 10,000 atmospheric molecules are CO2 molecules.

Climate activists insist that the science is “settled” and often cite events such as rising seas, melting polar caps, or weather events as validation. But evidence of warming is not evidence of the cause of warming and AGW theory cannot be “settled” unless validated by the scientific method.

The AGW theory could be credibly supported if credible mathematical models of the Earth’s climate were used to create computerized simulations of how much global warming will occur in response to anthropogenic GHG emissions. If the warming simulations match (i.e. are statistically correlated to) actual observations of warming, then the simulations would tend to confirm the mathematical expressions of AGW theory and the variables used in the simulation.

Such modeling would be a huge undertaking. But modeling projects have already been underway for decades at the cost of billions of dollars, sponsored by the World Climate Research Programme in collaboration with the US Department of Energy and others. The projects are named the Coupled Model Intercomparison Projects (CMIP).

Validating AGW with Climate Models

The influential United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)[3] is funded and sponsored by the UN and 195 member nations. The IPCC is tasked to continuously review, assess and summarize current scientific publications pertaining to climate change and to periodically issue Assessment Reports based on the reviews. The IPCC’s most influential reports for government and popular consumption are called Summary for Policy Makers[4] which, along with technical reports, are issued in about five-year intervals. Excerpts from IPCC reports are typically reported by popular media without questioning or challenging the validity. Climate activists often refer to the IPCC reports to justify their urgent warnings of impending climate catastrophe.

Groups of CMIP and government-sponsored scientists and computer programmers around the world have each developed massive computer models of atmospheric and oceanic physics and chemistry. The CMIP models attempt to predict the human-caused increases in mean global temperatures. Warming predictions made by the CMIP models are assessed by the UN IPCC as the scientific basis to publish IPCC’s predictions of future global warming.

Models Collide with Reality

In 2017, a significant test of the validity of 32 different CMIP model results was conducted by comparing scientifically observed global tem­peratures to the average of the 32 different mean global temperature model warming predictions reviewed by the IPCC. Model inputs include many factors including assumptions of the emissions of “extra GHGs” (human-caused GHGs in addition to natural GHGs). The 32 different model predictions and the real-world observations are compared in the temperature anomaly chart below. (Anomaly charts depict the variation in temperatures.)

The temperature anomaly chart below was prepared by Dr. John R. Christy, Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science, an acknowledged expert in the measurement of global temperatures. (Dr. Christy was honored by NASA and the American Meteorological Society for his global temperature measure­ment achievements. Dr. Christy has served as a Lead Author, Contributing Author, and Reviewer of UN IPCC assessment reports.)

Dr. Christy presented his temperature comparisons and explained the results of his statistical analysis of the comparisons to the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space & Technology on March 29, 2017.[5] Some key excerpts of Dr. Christy’s testimony to Congress follow:

“… the consensus [average] of the models fails the test to match the real-world observations by a significant margin. … As such, the average of the models is considered to be untruthful in representing the recent decades of climate variation and change, and thus would be inappropriate for use in predicting future changes in the climate or for related policy decisions.” [Emphasis added.]

The failure of temperature predictions to predict reality casts serious doubt on the hypothesis of the predictions – the AGW theory that human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are the primary cause of global warming. Also, the widely varying CMIP predictions graphed in the temperature chart reveal the large variance among the world’s climate modeling elite when it comes to predicting global warming, confirming that the AGW science is not “settled.”

Climate Science or Political Science?

Dr. Christy’s presentation also briefly explained the expected scientific method:

“The scientific conclusion here, if one follows the scientific method, is that the average model trend fails to represent the actual trend of the past 38 years by a highly significant amount. As a result, applying the traditional scientific method, one would accept this failure and not promote the model trends as something truthful about the recent past or the future. Rather, the scientist would return to the project and seek to understand why the failure occurred.”

“What is immediately evident is that the model trends in which extra GHGs are included lie completely outside of the range of the observational trends, indicating again that the models, as hypotheses, failed a simple “scientific-method” test applied to this fundamental, climate-change variable. That this information was not clearly and openly presented in the IPCC is evidence of a political process that was not representative of the dispassionate examination of evidence as required by the scientific method. Further, (and this took guts) the IPCC then claimed high confidence in knowing why the climate evolved as it did over the past few decades (humans as the main cause) ignoring the fact the models on which that claim was based had failed an obvious and rather easy-to-perform validation test.” [Emphasis added.]

What Dr. Christy could not know in 2017 was that the CMIP modelers and the IPCC would later repeat the evasion of the model failure and the scientific method. A subsequent version of the CMIP models was published by the IPCC five years later. Analysis of the 2021 model results (published by McKittrick and Christy[6]) revealed a warming bias similar to the 2016 models.

The failure of the CMIP models and the evasion of the scientific method means that the AGW theory continues to be unproven.

AGW Theory Contradicted

Dr. Christy also testified to Congress that he made a surprising scientific discovery within the CMIP model results. Incredibly, what the CMIP results revealed to Dr. Christy is that the:

“… temperature change is modeled best when no extra GHGs are included – a direct contradiction to the IPCC conclusion that observed changes [in temperatures] could only be modeled if extra GHGs were included.” [Emphasis added.]

Instead of confirming the prevailing AGW theory of human-caused GHG warming, Dr. Christy discovered that the model results contradict the AGW theory. Four decades of observed mild warming can be modeled (explained) with only natural GHGs, i.e. without human-caused GHGs.

The results imply that there may be some unidentified natural cause of the observed global warming. As Dr. Christy observed:

“Deliberate consideration of the major influences by natural variability on the climate has been conspicuously absent in the current explanations of climate change by the well-funded climate science industry.”

There are, in fact, other plausible scientific theories of global warming. For example, what caused the great glaciers of the ice age to begin melting about 11,500 years ago? It could not have been AGW, since significant human use of fossil fuels did not begin until about 200 years ago. (For more information on post-ice-age (interglacial) warming, see the web pages of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):[7] NOAA National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service: Glacial-Interglacial Cycles )

IPCC Warming Predictions

The IPCC, in its 2021 IPCC (AR6) Summary for Policy Makers, predicted that the mean global surface temperature increase from the beginning of the industrial age (1850-1900) through the end of the 21st century to very likely to be between 1.0°C and 5.7°C.[8] IPCC’s 2021 Summary for Policy Makers also says that the earth experienced a temperature increase of about 1.07°C from 1850-1900 until 2019. So the IPCC’s effective global warming prediction from now to the end of this 21st century would be a likely warming of between 0°C and 4.6°C.

That means that the IPCC effectively predicted that warming for the remainder of the 21st century could be as high as 4.6°C or as low as no warming at all. But IPCC’s “no warming” hedge does not change the fact that the IPCC predictions have no basis in scientific evidence. As such, the warming predictions are not validated by scientific methods. They are science fiction.

For perspective, four decades of satellite measured temperature anomaly data indicate an atmospheric warming trend of about 0.15°C per decade (through May 2022), with a high degree of confidence.[9] Should this temperature trend continue, the mean global temperature at the end of the 21st century would be about 1.2°C higher than it was in May 2022.

Summary of Global Warming Revelations

The forgoing is a lot of science for non-scientists to digest. So let’s pause to summarize the science for the sake of clarity:

  • The average temperature changes of the CMIP models significantly failed to match four decades of scientifically observed changes in both the 2016 and 2021 versions. Therefore the CMIP models results are not credible as global warming predictions or appropriate to use in policy decisions. AGW theory remains unproven.
  • The results of each of the 32 CMIP models also varied significantly from each other, indicating a further significant uncertainty in modeling science. The science is definitely not “settled,” as many climate alarmists claim.
  • CMIP model results approximate temperature observations without using extra fossil fuel emitted GHGs; contradicting the anthropogenic greenhouse warming theory and implying that natural influences might be causing the gradually rising global temperatures.
  • Scientific observations by satellites credibly confirm that Earth has been warming at a rate of about 0.15°C per decade during the past four decades. Should the four decade trend continue, Earth would warm about 1.2°C for the remainder of the 21st
  • The latest (2021) IPCC warming prediction for the remainder of the 21st century is as high as 4.6°C or as low as no warming at all – but has no basis in scientific validation.

Further Considerations

According to the Wall Street Journal, only 18 of the 195 nations of the world have been reducing fossil fuel emissions in the past decade.[10] In fact, CO2 emissions have increased by 60% in the past 30 years.[11] So with only 10% of nations reducing fossil fuel emissions, the total reduction in anthropogenic greenhouse warming would still not be significant even in the unlikely event that the AGW is somehow proven to be valid and more than the mild 0.15°C per decade. American fossil fuel sacrifices will have been in vain.

The mild global warming trend and other science revealed in this brief are not the only significant factors that could be considered regarding the end of fossil fuels. A companion policy brief published in Capitalism Magazine, “What Is the Best Way to Manage Climate Danger?” provides facts and logic that prove that: (1) continued coercion to end fossil fuels will be very costly; (2) in the past 100 years, with fossil fuel emissions rising, the global rate of climate-related deaths plunged by 98%; and (3) climate change will not be dangerous to people who take the ordinary, well-proven precautions to protect themselves against extreme weather events. Read the companion brief to review the irrefutable evidence that supports the brief’s conclusions.

The Absence of Proof

This brief has credibly explained, as the title promises, why ending fossil fuels won’t stop global warming. There is no proof that fossil fuel emissions significantly increase global warming.

AGW cannot be proven by laboratory experiments because experiments could not account for the complexity and vastness of Earth’s atmosphere and oceans. The CMIP climate model simulations might have provided supporting evidence if the model predictions reasonably matched actual global temperatures. But as Dr. Christy has credibly demonstrated, the models have repeatedly failed to do that and have actually contradicted the AGW theory of global warming.

It is conceivable that climate scientists will eventually find sufficient evidence to credibly indicate a cause, or multiple causes, for Earth’s gradual warming, such as AGW, post-ice-age warming, or something else. Even evidence of the onset of a new ice age could emerge. But humans cannot survive or prosper by wildly speculating on unknown “proof”.

It is not logical to accept a theory or claim that lacks proof. If unproven claims are accepted as valid, then any false or speculative claim must be accepted as valid. For example, someone could claim, without proof, that Earth is now descending into a new ice age. Would we accept that claim as valid? Or would we demand proof?

Therefore, it is irrational to accept the validity of climate alarmists’ claims that fossil fuels cause global warming. Those claims are not only unproven, there is even credible evidence to the contrary.

Moral Implications

Many climate alarmists have been impugning the morality of people who supply and enjoy the benefits of using fossil fuels and applauding the false “virtue” of people who are minimizing fossil fuel consumption. But the scientific evidence indicates that fossil fuel suppliers and users are not causing global warming and have no reason to feel guilty. Moreover, there is no moral virtue in avoiding fossil fuel consumption. If a person can afford an electric car, that person can enjoy driving it for many reasons. But that electric car is not a moral dispensation for the person’s “carbon sins” or a credible “virtue signal.”

Most Americans will agree that it is immoral for people or the government to employ or threaten, physical force against innocent people. In America, people are quite reasonably deemed innocent until proven guilty. In the case of using fossil fuels, there is no proof of guilt. Fossil fuel users are innocent of contributing to global warming. Therefore, America’s anti-fossil policies that employ the force of law to ensure compliance, can no longer be morally justified.

Further, impugning the integrity and morality of people who rationally question the human-caused theory of global warming, is morally repugnant. Ad hominem and other verbal attacks that falsely vilify and impugn the innocence and morality of fossil energy suppliers – people who find, produce, transport, refine fossil fuels, and supply electricity using fossil fuels – are also morally repugnant.

Demands by public officials that fossil energy suppliers should be prosecuted or otherwise treated as criminals are especially repugnant. When Americans hear or read of such vilification, they should reflect on how primitive and short-lived American life would be without the affordable and convenient fossil-fueled electricity and transportation that energy suppliers provide.

Saving America From the End of Fossil Fuels

To end fossil fuels, American governments are taxing and restricting supplies of fossil fuels to discourage consumption by driving up the price of fossil fuels. Governments are also enacting laws to mandate electric utilities to replace fossil-fueled electric generation with government-subsidized wind and solar electric generation. Electric vehicles also enjoy government subsidies. There is even serious talk of forcing or subsidizing Americans into buying costly electric vehicles and electric home heating furnaces in place of fossil-fueled vehicles and furnaces.

Some opponents of America’s anti-fossil policies have correctly protested that the policies aimed at ending fossil fuels are too costly. But protesting the cost alone, may not persuade people who genuinely fear alleged climate danger. Too many Americans do not understand that abandoning fossil fuels will not mitigate climate change. Nor do most Americans grasp that there is a better, proven way to manage climate change. So too many Americans will conclude that the cost of anti-fossil policies is a cost Americans must bear to prevent climate danger. They may even feel guilty for even questioning the virtue of our governments’ anti-fossil policies.

Most of the world’s nations have concluded that ending fossil fuels cannot be justified. And if a foreign power sought to keep fossil fuels from America, wouldn’t Americans view that as an act of war? Yet many Americans, including media commentators, business leaders, and lawmakers, passively accept the allegations that fossil fuel consumption is accelerating global warming and causing a climate catastrophe. Many do so without at least questioning the loss of a resource that is so critical to American and global prosperity. This failure to even question, much less challenge, the unproven premises of the war on fossil fuels, has allowed US officials to continue to forcibly deny Americans the use of fossil fuels and impose immense costs without consequences to the officials.

America’s unfortunate anti-fossil policies are very likely to continue until Americans are informed of the pertinent facts and the reasons why government attacks to end fossil fuels are irrational and immoral. Hopefully, people who do understand the truth will also come to understand that unless they speak out, their silence unnecessarily yields to the fear-mongering and false moralizing of climate alarmists.

Americans should certainly be grateful to Dr. Christy and Dr. McKittrick for their expertise, scientific integrity, and courage to speak out. Hopefully, more American individuals, educators, commentators, politicians, and energy company executives will find the courage to expose the fallacies that falsely “justify” ending fossil fuels.”

Providing fellow Americans with links or copies of this brief and the companion brief in Capitalism Magazine, “What Is the Best Way to Manage Climate Danger?” might be a convenient and effective way to educate fellow Americans.


Notes

[1] BIDEN’S EXISTENTIAL THREAT: President Biden at COP26: Climate change is an existential threat to human existence as we know it – CNN Video   November 1, 2021   https://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2021/11/01/biden-climate-change-cop26-speech-sot-vpx.cnn

[2] BIDEN’S GUARANTEE: (80) Biden: “I Guarantee You We’re Going To End Fossil Fuel” – YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Slszva6kk90  Sep 6, 2019 — Joe Biden told a questioner during a campaign event, “I guarantee you we’re going to end fossil fuels,” in New Castle, N.H. on 9/6/19.

[3] IPCC: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is an organization funded by the United Nations. It was established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1988 to assess scientific publications to guide public policy. The IPCC is governed by the IPCC’s 195 member nations. 195 member nations elect a bureau of scientists to serve for the duration of each assessment cycle (usually six to seven years). The bureau selects experts nominated by governments and observer organizations to prepare reports.

[4] IPCC Assessment Reports: IPCC reports are based on scientific research published independently of the IPCC. The research is primarily financed by governments, the overwhelming majority by US taxpayer funded agencies of the US government NASA, NOAA, NSF and DOE. The most recent report AR6 was published in 2021. Most of the IPCC cites were published in the section named Summary for Policy Makers.    https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg1/downloads/report/IPCC_AR6_WGI_SPM_final.pdf

[5] CHRISTY: ChristyJR_Written_170329 (house.gov)   March 29, 2017. https://science.house.gov/imo/media/doc/Christy%20Testimony_1.pdf?1

Dr. John Christy is the Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science, the Director of the Earth System Science Center, Alabama’s State Climatologist and a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society. He is recipient of NASA’s Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement and a Special Award by the American Meteorological Society. He has served as Lead Author and Contributor/Reviewer for reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  He received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Atmospheric Sciences from the University of Illinois.

[6] CONTINUED IPCC WARMING BIAS: Pervasive Warming Bias in CMIP6 Tropospheric Layers – McKitrick – 2020 – Earth and Space Science – Wiley Online Library; https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2020EA001281   Drs. McKittrick and Christy compare the 2021 CMIP model results to scientifically observed atmospheric temperatures and find a significant lack of correlation.

[7] GLACIAL-INTERGLACIAL CYCLES:  NOAA National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service: Glacial-Interglacial Cycles https://www.ncei.noaa.gov/sites/default/files/2021-11/1%20Glacial-Interglacial%20Cycles-Final-OCT%202021.pdf

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) administers the US Weather Service and is the primary US agency for climate research. According to NOAA, “Large, continental ice sheets in the Northern Hemisphere have grown and retreated many times in the past. We call times with large ice sheets “glacial periods” (or ice ages) and times without large ice sheets ‘interglacial periods. The most recent glacial period occurred between about 120,000 and 11,500 years ago. Since then, Earth has been in an interglacial [warmer] period called the Holocene. Glacial periods are colder, dustier, and generally drier than interglacial periods. These glacial–interglacial cycles are apparent in many marine and terrestrial paleoclimate records from around the world.”

[8] IPCC, 2021: Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis.  https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg1/downloads/report/IPCC_AR6_WGI_SPM_final.pdf

[9] WARMING TREND: The satellites are owned and operated by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Data calculations and charts are assembled by satellite temperature experts, Dr. Roy Spencer and Dr. John Christy  (University of Alabama, Huntsville).  https://www.drroyspencer.com/latest-global-temperatures/.

[10] WALL STREET JOURNAL: Renewables Are Key to Cutting Emissions Over Next Decade, U.N. Panel Says – WSJ https://www.wsj.com/articles/emissions-cuts-in-next-decade-are-crucial-to-meet-paris-targets-u-n-panel-says-11649085009

[11] 60% INCREASE: Net Zero by 2050 – Analysis – IEA https://www.iea.org/reports/net-zero-by-2050     The International Energy Agency (IEA) recently reported, “Despite many pledges and efforts by governments to tackle the causes of global warming, CO2 emissions from energy and industry have increased by 60% since the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change [aka the UNFCC or the Kyoto Protocol] was signed in 1992.”

 

FEEL FREE TO SHARE
Richard Batey received a Bachelor of Science degree (Physics) from Texas A&M University and enjoyed a lengthy career in the electric utility power generation and transmission industry. Rich receives no compensation or other benefits from any employers or sponsors.

Related articles

The Dangers of Climate Change Groupthink

The Dangers of Climate Change Groupthink

While the climate is a complex system and much of the scientific analysis is technical, acquiring first-hand knowledge of climate change and forming an independent view of it is essential.

Voice of Capitalism

Our weekly email newsletter.