You Could Look It Up–A Few Observations on Climate Change

The subject of global warming has evoked differing opinions among scientists and citizens on the proposition that human activity is causing dangerous warming of planet earth. It is said by proponents of that proposition that the science is settled, and that there is a consensus of scientists in favor of the proposition.

Contrary to the assertion that the science is settled on this issue, there are numerous scientists who differ with the proposition. See, for example, the publications of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) listed at

The lead authors and editors of a recent publication of NIPCC include forty-seven climate scientists. In 2015 the NIPCC published a book entitled Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming. The book explains why there is no merit to the claim of scientific consensus on the causes and consequences of climate change. The authors rebut the surveys and studies used to support claims of a consensus. They then summarize evidence showing disagreement, identify four reasons why scientists disagree about global warming, and then provide a detailed survey of the physical science of global warming based on the authors’ previous work.

A “Global Warming Petition to Congress” was signed by 31,487 scientists, including 9,029 with Ph.Ds. The Petition begins with the following statement:

“We urge the United States Government to reject the global warming agreement that was written in Kyoto, Japan in December 1997, and any other similar proposals. The proposed limits on greenhouse gases would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind.

“There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the earth’s climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the earth.” See

How can one evaluate these conflicting assertions? Very few people are in a position to check personally on the accuracy of data advanced by scientists on any aspect of the debate. Almost no one can independently measure global temperature changes, sea level rise, melting of ice in glaciers or at the North Pole or in Antarctica, etc. Even if one could check on these things for oneself, given that there are so many conflicting explanations of the phenomena, how could one know what conclusions to draw?

A comment of famed and garrulous baseball manager Casey Stengel could be helpful in this regard. He was fond of saying “you could look it up” to back up his phenomenal memory. This brief essay posits that there are some important facts about climate that an individual could look up to shed some light on this contentious issue.

Just a little knowledge of the geological, biological and anthropological history of planet earth would lead one to wonder about the idea that earth and its inhabitants are in danger from global warming caused by human activities. For example, the following are facts anybody could look up and that nobody disputes. Discovery of these facts is due to the continual accretion of knowledge in the physical and biological sciences.

  • Earth is 4.57 billion years old
  • There have been three different climates over this 4.57 billion year period:

The earliest when the climate was extremely hot and the planet was molten and volcanic, without life of any kind

The second when the planet cooled, water collected in the oceans and on land, and bacteria and early life forms appeared

The third, starting about 540 million years ago when the current climate of the earth developed and life as we know it now emerged

  • There have been four ice ages affecting earth in the past three billion years. Within ice ages, there have been periods of more severe glacial conditions and more temperate conditions, known as glacial periods and interglacial periods; in interglacial periods earth warms up but is still in an ice age.
  • Currently, earth is in a period of interglacial warmth in the Pleistocene ice age, which is the most recent ice age. The current interglacial warming period started about 11,700 years ago. It is during this warming period that human civilization evolved to what we know today.
  • During interglacial periods, glaciers retreat. That has been happening since the end of the last period of glaciation 11,700 years ago. The current geological warming epoch is called the Holocene Epoch. It continues up to the present.
  • Since the beginning of the Holocene warming, about 11,700 years ago, the human population of the earth has grown from less than 15 million to around 7 billion.
  • During the last 12,000 years there have been alternating periods of cooling and warming over periods ranging from thousands of years to decades.
  • During a period known as the Holocene maximum, from about 9,000 years ago to about 5,000 years ago, temperatures on earth were warmer than at present. Another warming period known as the medieval warming occurred from about 1,000 C.E. to 1,400 C.E. During the medieval warming, temperatures were warmer than at present.
  • The medieval warming was followed by a cooling period known as the Little Ice Age that lasted from approximately the 14th century to around 1850.
  • Since 1880 the average global temperature has risen by around 0.8 degrees Celsius, or about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Within this recent warming trend there was a period of cooling, from 1940 to 1976.
  • Earth warmed again from 1976 to 1998. In 1998 there was an El Niño warming event. The term El Niño refers to periodic warming in the ocean in tropical latitudes of the central and eastern Pacific Ocean.
  • Since 1998 average global temperatures have neither warmed nor cooled to any significant degree.
  • Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant, and not a harmful substance; it is plant food. Like water, energy from the sun, and the atmosphere, carbon dioxide is essential to life on earth. Every living thing on earth contains carbon.

We could write much more about this but will conclude these remarks by considering one phenomenon that is supposed to be circumstantial evidence of the danger of global warming to human beings and animals. That is the polar bears. According to Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth (2006), polar bears face extinction due to melting of ice in the arctic. However, the polar bear population has actually increased from 5,000 to 25,000 in recent decades. The biggest threat to polar bears is human hunting of the bears. This subject is examined in detail in the book Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming (2007) by Bjorn Lomborg.

NOTE: In an Appendix to the Education chapter of the book portion of this website, under the title CRITICAL ANALYSIS AND THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD, there is a more detailed essay on the science involved in appraising the hypothesis that human activity is causing dangerous global warming. Find the text in the third paragraph of chapter 28 on Education following note 166 at this link



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17 Responses to You Could Look It Up–A Few Observations on Climate Change

  1. An Op Ed by theoretical physicist Steven Koonin titled “A ‘Red Team’ Exercise Would Strengthen Climate Science” was published in the Wall Street Journal on April 21, 2017. Subscribers can look it up.

    Dr. Koonin states that “the public is largely unaware of the intense debates within climate science.” He argues that a form of debate between a Red team and a Blue would take place over time with papers being exchanged and critiqued, all on the public record. “The inherent tension of of a professional adversarial process would enhance public interest, offering many opportunities to show laymen how science actually works.”

    • fgmarks says:

      Richard: Thanks for the reference to the article by Professor Koonin. Public debate is what aggressive proponents of AGW want to stifle. They have been doing so by making it difficult for climate skeptics or even agnostics to publish in academic and popular science related periodicals. Richard Lorenz is a long-time Professor of Meteorology at MIT. He has written about the censorship problem. A recent essay of Dr. Lorenz appeared in the Wall Street Journal of March 4, 2015, under the title “The Political Assault on Climate Skeptics,

  2. John Deming says:

    Brilliant, effective argumentation!

    • fgmarks says:

      John: Thanks


      • This is where the Red team vs. Blue team concept that I mentioned in my first comment could, and in my view should, be put into action. Let’s call what Fred reported the position of the Red team. I have been a “fan” of that team and its major players for decades. But like almost all of the presentations concerning AGW (actually I can’t think of an exception) this is one-sided, just as we see when politicians present their point of view, or attorneys argue for their client in court. Like it or not, we have an adversarial system even in science. A Blue team should give a response to each of the points.

        In my experience, both sides of this issue have significant evidence to support their positions. But previous calls for “debate” have gone nowhere. And calls for Al Gore to be a debater are ridiculous and not serious. The debaters, if any, should be scientists, not public spokesmen. That’s what the Red vs. Blue idea is about.

        I believe that the burden of proof is on those who claim that humans are causing global warming and with it climate change, and that such change has a net harmful effect, and that reducing the burning of fossil fuels is the answer. Let them offer, say, their 10 strongest points in support of this position. Then let those points be scrutinized. (The NIPCC report does this sort of thing in detail for the IPCC report, much more than the book Fred mentioned).

        I’ll also mention something that goes unreported. Supposedly, in recent years a billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty. This was made possible by the production that came from burning fossil fuels.

  3. Chuck Lee says:

    Fred, many thanks for publishing this intelligent assessment of an otherwise highly emotional and hysterical reaction by the masses to a scientific conundrum. You are the “watchman at the gate” and your devotion is valuable and appreciated.
    – Chuck Lee

    • fgmarks says:

      Chuck: Thanks. I am not the onlywatchman at the gate See two blog posts published here in 2019: one by Ian Plimer and the other by Richard Lindzen, both knowledgeable scientists in the field of climate.

  4. William Vetter says:

    Love the article. However, the “debate” over global warming science misses a most important point: In what possible world would a coercively imposed”solution” by state actors assure that, unlike virtually any previous state solution to a problem, it would succeed instead of making things worse? State coercion is far more dangerous to humans and the earth than, and more urgent than, “global warming”.

    Bill Vetter

    • fgmarks says:

      Dear Bill: what you say is completely true. Time will tell how long this public concern about AGW continues. It appears to me that the most reliable measurements of global temperature–those taken by instruments carried in orbiting satellites that measure the temperature in the lower troposphere–show no appreciable warming since 1997. It may be that a large proportion of the public is already doubtful that serious warming is occurring, because opinion polls asking what worries people show that global warming is far down the list, at the bottom in fact.


  5. Lise ODonnell says:

    Very interesting.

  6. Alvin Lowi, Jr. says:


    Thanks for your very succinct and informative query re. AGW. As you know, I have made several attempts in the past to do the same, often at much greater pains and length, without as much effect as you have made. My most recent is “CATASTROPHIC FAILURES IN SCIENCE THEN AND NOW,” which I will send you if you are interested. I originally thought of AGW as a legitimate scientific theory like the Rayleigh-Jeans theory of blackbody radiation, which was demolished by Planck in what Galambos called the ultra-violet catastrophe. I have since come to understand the AGW is epistemologically defective thereby forfeiting any claim to scientific legitimacy.

    • fgmarks says:

      Alvin: thanks. Since your comment I have read what you have written on AGW and find it helpful to understanding not only the physics of climate but also the debate on the subject. If it were not for the academic credentials of so many people with training in science, who attest to their belief in the AGW hypothesis, I would say this is a contemporary example of the basis for the title of a famous book–Extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of crowds. When people well trained in physical science endorse something so dubious as the AGW hypothesis, the answer is not that they are deluded, it is probably something else. In cases of those living on research grants given to prove AGW the answer may be in the German proverb “whose bread I eat his song I sing.”

  7. ees says:

    This is an excellent article which well explains my own ideas of Globel warming. I am not a scientist, or even close, but I live in north Ohio very near Lake Erie and have visited the islands in lake Erie where the glaciers , when they melted slide down over the earth and caused very deep groves in the stone and dug out the lakes. When the glaciers melted there were no people living, no coal burning furnaces or cars. So what actually caused the glaciers to melt. As an airforce pilot back in the 50s, flying into Iceland and Greenland, the volcanoes are very wide spread and polute the air every time they erupt. When flying back to Dover Airforce base, the aircraft had to be washed due to the heavy soot build up on the wings of a C124. I definitely believe the volcanoes have a great effect on globel warming and that will go on for ever.

    • fgmarks says:

      Thanks for sharing your personal observations. One does not have to be a scientist to have a scientific attitude. My favorite definition of science is by David Deutsch, a physicist, in his book The Beginning of Infinity (2012). He says that science is the search for better explanations. You asked a good question: what caused the glaciers to melt thousands of years before the Industrial Revolution? People who claim to be scientists are publishing opinions explaining why the recent warming is due to human burning of hydrocarbon fuels. Such people are not seeking an explanation for what caused warming episodes in the geological past. Everything they write on the subject, at least what I have read, repeats the idea that warming periods in the past show an unambiguous relationship to increasing concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide. The alleged correlation is contradicted by the historical and geological record. Even if the correlation was not ambiguous, correlation is not proof of causation. That is a basic principle of human understanding. Billions and billions of U.S. dollars or their equivalent have been spent to prove the hypothesis that humans are causing global warming. A German proverb may help in appraising this situation. It is “whose bread I eat his song I sing.”

  8. Duncan Holt says:

    Excellent piece.
    Not mention that co2 is also a coolant, only absorbs IR in two narrow bands as opposed to h2o as vapour which has far greater IR transmission capacity.
    Convection is the dominant mode of thermal transfer throughout the lower atmosphere water vapour being the dominant regulator of temperature on earth owing to its huge heat capacity and its presence in all three states as solid, liquid and as a gas.
    In the upper atmosphere where convection is no longer efficient radiative transfer in all directions occurs. Any back radiation from the upper atmosphere simply slows the overall heat transfer down. Typical K&T charts double the back radiation which is also a grave error and also treat earth as a disc which is wrong again and also wrongly assume p/4 to be correct.
    The real white elephant in the room is telling people that cold can actually heat something warmer than itself.
    The Laws of Thermodynamics as far as I can tell still exist as surely now as they always have and cold will still not be able to heat something warmer than itself.
    I said in 1996 to a friend that they would find a way to tax the air that we breath and they have!
    I find the whole debacle utterly ludicrous.
    When do I even care what the average temperatures might be.
    I always want to know how cold it is esp during winter and how hot it might get in the summer!
    And how could they gain an accurate average?
    For even the vaguest notion of accuracy of an average temperature every spot on the surface and at every level of the atmosphere would have to have simultaneous readings taken which
    The answer is that they cant gain an accurate average and the average is not even as useful as highs and lows.
    The ozone hole scare of the 70’s was also not due to cfcs (although cfcs are not good and we are well rid).
    An ozone hole occurs every year at the poles during the winter where the atmosphere receives no sunlight and hence converts no o2 to o3.
    Panicking the masses did however serve as a social engineering pointer in that it established viability of this type of environmental modality.
    The only danger we face is that of authority.

  9. Fred another good analysis of time and how the universe has responded to our species
    a tempt to use political law. that has very little effect on climate change except to steal more money and create
    more corruption.

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