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When Virtue Signals Wear Science as a Skin Suit


[Coauthored by Doug Goodman. Goodman graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in 1972 and majored in physics and atmospheric physics. His professional life began as a weather officer in the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program and later evolved into a career in the aerospace industry developing remote sensing and high performance supercomputing systems.]

Executive Order 14057 justifies the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Plan to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions as necessary to counteract the existential threat of climate change. The program’s comprehensive and prohibitively expensive initiative proposes to transform the operational military by achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2045, purportedly on firmly established “science-based” targets that are validated by computer models and consensus within the scientific community. The plan’s ambitious yet unrealistic goals, which are presented as an alarmist ultimatum, ignore the foundational principles of physics and battle-proven lessons of military history.  

The Plan establishes emission objectives by determining “alignment with the scale of reductions required to limit global warming below 2°C above pre-industrial temperatures and to pursue efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C.” These emission reduction targets come directly from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Net-Zero Paris Climate Accord. 

The IPCC is not a science-based organization that conducts its own research but rather a governmental policy organization whose members are countries, not scientists, and whose representatives are bureaucrats who develop and promote international climate policy. The IPCC sponsors and filters climate science research generated from outside organizations to support its primary charter of establishing the man-made causes and influences on climate change.

The narrative that the earth’s climate balances precariously on the brink of catastrophe and merits the distinction of a national security priority is constantly presented to the public in familiar, apocalyptic terms. President Biden warns that global warming is the greatest threat to national security. DOD Secretary Lloyd Austin alerts the public of existential climate threats, including an ice-free Arctic Ocean, although as of January 2023 the Arctic sea ice pack is at its highest since 2003. 

The DOD and high-ranking officials from the NavyArmy, and Air Force proclaim that it is incumbent upon the armed services to implement net-zero without delay to avert a worldwide catastrophe. Despite the incessant fear-mongering, no one appears to pause and consider that the DOD produces only 1% of the United State’s CO2 emissions, which in turn is responsible for 13% of the world’s total. Even if the DOD achieves net-zero, eliminating 0.13% of the world’s CO2 output would not detectably reduce global temperatures.

The McKinsey Report details the enormous costs and disruption to society to attain net-zero and concedes there is only an even chance of limiting warming to 1.5°C,  and it is far from certain whether the world will be able to keep the temperature increase to that level. The transition will require a fundamental change to the world’s economy, costing an estimated $6 trillion per year for the next 30 years. This translates to $11,000 per year for every American until 2050 for a result that cannot be ensured. 

Most of the sacrifice will come from the Third World, where 1/3-1/2 of GDP will be required to achieve net-zero, but at a further cost of killing millions and plunging more millions into extreme poverty and starvation. Bjorn Lomborg warns that a zero fossil fuel solution is expensive, leads to misery and an impoverishment of the planet, and will fail to mitigate temperature elevation appreciably. 

The hasty evolution to net-zero comes at a prohibitive price, and its adherents concoct doomsday scenarios that demand and ennoble mass sacrifice. Depicting a world in complete environmental collapse due to the effects of fossil fuels promotes a theme intended to instill panic. The DOD embellishes adverse weather-related and environmental events but fails to place them in context or provide contrary interpretations. The extent and history of glacial retreat, sea level rise, desertification, forest fires, heat waves, death due to heat as opposed to cold, hurricanes, and tornados are exaggerated and depicted in emotional terms to legitimize drastic action. 

These contentions have been examined extensively, using the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s (NOAA) and the IPCC’s own data, and refute the hypothesis that there is a climate crisis based on these criteria. The number and intensity of severe climate events have diminished, and for those that occur, poor countries lack the resources to deal with natural disasters, while wealthier societies are able to better mitigate structural damage and human injury.

Computer modeling, a useful tool for conceptualization, forms the heart of climate science. The technique, however, is unable to prove hypotheses and has been wildly inaccurate since its inception. Climate science is a complex subject of interacting variables acting over time cycles that differ by orders of magnitude from the depths of the oceans to the upper stratosphere that are in turn affected by orbital mechanics and solar perturbations. The authenticity of ground-based temperature readings, the raison d’être of climate activists, raises alarm about the IPCC’s most fundamental assessments, since the underestimation of the heat island effect may distort the temperature anomaly data by up to 40%.

The major problem with computer models is the resolution and averaging required to make the models computable. The atmosphere is divided into volumes with horizontal grid lengths of tens of kilometers within which parameters like temperature, pressure, and density are averaged to represent the entire volume. These cells are analyzed with Navier-Stokes numerical programs to model the resulting fluid flow. Atmospheric processes like cloud physics and turbulence occur at scales well below the resolution of these cells, which compels modelers to estimate the values and effects of these processes. These guesses invariably favor global warming and the deleterious effects of CO2.

Since data collection points rarely align with the grid points required by the numerical models, discrepancies of hundred of kilometers exist, which modelers homogenize to allow the data to fit the grid. This leads to false adjustments and manipulations of the real data. Computational models are inherently unstable and diverge from physical reality. At distances below the grid scale, perturbations multiply and a butterfly effect ensues. Modelers are forced constantly to realign or reset the initial conditions, which mask the deviations and give the illusion that the models accurately predict observed conditions. 

DOD officials defend net-zero defense prioritization by claiming that scientific consensus and sham peer-reviewed studies validate this contention.  Peer review has degenerated into a process that favors a regression to the mean, and has become a form of consensus. The original 97% consensus claim from Cook in 2013 that humans are the major cause of global warming that will result in catastrophic climate events has been widely discredited. Investigators point out that the number is closer to 1.6%, but the original, inaccurate claim of near-universal consensus, advanced by Barack Obama and John Kerry, remains a favored technique of politicians to inject ideology into science. 

John Clauser won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work with particle entanglement and serves as an example that the most distinguished and competent scientists are not immune from rebuke for challenging the climate change narrative. Dr. Clauser stated publicly that there is no climate emergency and the dangerous corruption of science threatens the world economy and welfare of billions of people. Mainstream media outlets allied to climate science activism predictably marginalized the distinguished physicist with ad hominem attacks and inferred that only bonafide climate scientists like Dr. Michael Mann, the originator of the widely debunked hockey stick-shaped temperature acceleration profile, are qualified to speak on the subject. 

The DOD plan to reduce greenhouse emissions makes no mention of the stabilizing benefits of rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations in terms of food production or the weak correlation between temperature and CO2 levels over the last 570 million years. There has been a 20% increase in the world’s biomass over the past 40 years, and CO2 is responsible for 70% of this benefit. Some of the world’s most unstable regions have achieved an element of food security, as exuberant plant life has reversed desertification. During drought stress both C3 and C4 plants require less water in the presence of elevated CO2 levels, which is partially responsible for robust global, staple cereal crop production since the earth has warmed modestly. Increasing the economic stability of otherwise volatile Third World countries confers a military advantage to the United States.

Basing long-term national defense priorities upon climate change ideology calls into question the integrity of military leaders who make decisions that violate the historical lessons of military science—a nation must optimize its access to natural resources, develop war plans that allow for flexibility and maximum projection of power, and to conclude that one’s enemies will not be concerned with carbon footprints when it comes to surviving and winning a major military conflict.

No commander purposely informs potential enemies that the armed forces will be restricted for decades to specific, unproven technologies and untested operational strategies that are established solely to comply with climate change dogma. Future and present adversaries are under no such constraints and will devote resources predicated on the best opportunity for success. Electrification of the armed services requires ready access to an abundance of rare earth metals that are located and mined in China and Russia. Our lack of these natural resources accentuates strategic vulnerabilities. The efficiency of batteries, which will power a net-zero military, falls precipitously in cold temperatures—the harsh climates that exist in countries that are now our main military and economic rivals. 

The DOD’s presumption that climate change is driven primarily by atmospheric CO2 concentrations defies the laws of physics described by some of the field’s greatest minds. In 1900 Max Planck, the founder of quantum mechanics, described the relationship between electromagnetic radiative flux and its frequency spectrum. This discovery demonstrated that in the absence of greenhouse gases the total outgoing infrared energy (IR) flow to space would be 394 watts per square meter (W/m2).

In 1915 Karl Schwarzchild, the first to find an analytic solution to Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, developed the atmospheric radiative energy transfer equations which allowed scientists to compute the actual IR energy flow to space in the presence of the greenhouse gases—H20, N2O, CO2, and CH4.  The difference between the outflow of energy between Planck’s theoretic condition where there is no atmosphere (394 W/m2) and the actual case accounting for greenhouse gases (277 W/m2), equals the amount of energy absorbed by these gases (117 W/m2) and describes the earth’s energy balance between incoming solar radiation and earth’s outgoing infrared radiation—the foundational principle underlying global warming.

More recently, Dr. William Happer, Professor Emeritus of Physics at Princeton University and one of the world’s preeminent experts on atmospheric radiative energy transfer, built upon these theories to quantify the radiative properties of global warming. He showed that the CO2 concentration at the current levels of 400 parts per million (ppm) is responsible for 30 W/m2 or 26% of the total greenhouse gas absorption.

There is a common misperception that large changes in atmospheric CO2 necessarily translate into similarly large changes in the greenhouse effect. The IPCC claims that doubling atmospheric CO2 concentrations from 400 to 800 ppm will result in catastrophic global warming by the end of the century. Dr. Happer subjected this contention to scientific rigor by calculating the CO2 saturation effect and found that this doubling of CO2 concentration will result in a paltry 3 W/m2 increase in outgoing IR absorption. This 1% increase in absorption results in a 0.71º C temperature increase—4 times lower than the value predicted by the IPCC. 

The application of radiative transfer methods casts doubt on the claim that CO2 has been the major cause of the observed 1°C global warming since the pre-industrial period. This IPCC-driven hypothesis stipulates that CO2 must absorb outgoing IR radiation at a value of 5.4 (W/m2). Happer’s calculations, however, indicate a CO2 absorption magnitude of only 2.2 (W/m2) over the same time period. The IPCC reconciles this 2.5-fold thermodynamic discrepancy by introducing unscientifically proven positive feedback mechanisms that have little to do with atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

The exploitation of positive feedback mechanisms is a common tactic of the climate movement and contradicts the preeminence of protective, negative feedback loops as described by Le Chatalier’s Principle—if a dynamic equilibrium is disturbed by changing the conditions, the position of equilibrium shifts to counteract the change to reestablish an equilibrium.  

The IPCC’s fixation on CO2 as the central element in earth’s cataclysmic demise leads to erroneous simplifications, and, as in the case of the DOD’s climate plan, inspires institutional transformations that are destined to fail and come at excessive costs and disruptions. The IPCC dismisses natural causes of modest global warming, including water in its gaseous, liquid, and solid states. In its gaseous form water vapor is substantially the most powerful greenhouse gas, and it dwarfs CO2’s absorption of earth’s outgoing radiation. In the forms of ice and clouds, it reflects upwards of 30% of incoming solar radiation, representing 100s of W/m2

Unlike CO2 which evenly distributes itself in the global atmosphere, H2O is constantly redistributing itself and changing states in microphysical processes that are not well understood and very difficult to simulate. The error and uncertainty of water’s contribution to the earth’s energy budget dwarfs any of the CO2 effects promoted by the IPCC and blindly accepted by the DOD.

Virtue-signaling climate scientists and their dutiful DOD disciples, who ignore real science and adopt policies that will impoverish societies for no proven benefit, will be exposed and repudiated by history’s greatest physicists, whose timeless wisdom and insights reveal feckless promoters, who hijack science in the name of politics.

Published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
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  • Scott Sturman

    Scott Sturman, MD, a former Air Force helicopter pilot, is a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy Class of 1972, where he majored in aeronautical engineering. A member of Alpha Omega Alpha, he graduated from the University of Arizona School of Health Sciences Center and practiced medicine for 35 years until retirement. He now lives in Reno, Nevada.

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