In his book “True Enough: Learning to live in a Post-Fact Society” Farhad Manjoo claims: “Facts no longer matter. We simply decide how we want to see the world and then go out and find experts and evidence to back our beliefs.” I am not sure this is a modern phenomenon. There are more experts and evidence available but people always seek confirmation of their prejudice. Expectation of a positive response is jarred when the answer is no. Consider what happens when you ask someone to pass the salt and the answer is no. At a conference of elected officials I was asked, “What is the one piece of advice you would give us?” I replied, “Stop hiring the consultants that tell you what you want to hear.” They responded with silence, so I added, “But that is not what you wanted to hear.”
The Post-Fact society is very active with environmental and climate issues. The media, which has generally abandoned the concept of fair and balanced, amplifies it. There’s a constant search for examples to buttress the idea that global warming and climate change are caused by humans. Even after evidence is proven inaccurate, inappropriate or wrong, the idea is pushed and new ‘facts’ found. Central requirements are to blame humans for the change and imply planetary destruction will result.
A Change Of Gases
Methane (CH4) was considered a more evil greenhouse gas before CO2 dominated the climate change spotlight. Many segments of society were blamed and bullied, but none more so than cattlemen. It was a two-pronged attack. Cows were producing methane that caused runaway global warming and beef was killing you with fat and cholesterol. Master of alarmism Jeremy Rifkin’s ludicrous 1994 book “Beyond Beef: The Rise and Fall of the Cattle Culture” combined the attacks.
Before cows took all the blame, other sources were identified each with increasing output because of human activities. A 1982 paper in Science claimed termites were increasing in number because of bush and forest clearing. However, it wasn’t long before a calculation error was exposed and the termites were forgotten. The beaver briefly replaced them. Increased wetlands caused by reduced trapping caused populations to explode. Potential sources of methane disaster such as thawing permafrost, occur occasionally as alarmists and media perpetuate fears of environmental collapse.
Methane was the focus occasionally in the last 30 years. Reports of methane bubbling up in the Arctic Ocean have triggered a new spate of articles. Most stories are menacing by implication. “Far more of the greenhouse gas, methane, is seeping from seabed deposits in the Arctic shelf into the atmosphere than previously thought.”
To its credit, a New Scientist article says, “The trouble is, nobody knows if the Arctic emissions are new, or indeed anything to do with global warming.”
More important, they have no clue how much there is. “Estimates of how much is out there are vague. There could be anywhere between 500 to 10,000 gigatonnes of carbon in the hydrates and another 7.5 to 400 gigatonnes in the permafrost.”
It’s not surprising because all greenhouse gas numbers are very crude estimates for each source.
Reports of methane leaks are not new. Claims that global warming was thawing permafrost are misleading and out of context. Overall, the world has warmed since the last Ice Age beginning 18,000 years ago. Ice melted, permafrost thawed, and sea levels rose throughout most of that time. In fact, the evidence shows the rate of all these activities have slowed in recent times.
The general trends are not smooth and punctuated by frequent sudden events. Many scientific articles report sudden large releases of methane from the ocean floor. They are part of the clathrate gun hypothesis that claims sudden releases are triggered by sea temperature increases. This is now generally rejected as an explanation for sudden past warming events.
Methane clathrates are a unique form of deposit where methane is contained within the crystal structure of water to form a solid. They occur in large deposits under the oceans and new areas are reported all the time. Many see the vast energy potential, but this only triggers concerns of environmental damage.
More IPCC Omissions and Commissions of Deception
Well what is the methane story? Figure 1 shows Singers estimates of the percentage of greenhouse gases.
Figure 1: Total percentage of greenhouse gases.
Methane is 0.00017% of all atmospheric gases and only 0.36% of the total greenhouse gases. Like CO2, they have inflated the warming potential by claiming it is 20 times more effective than CO2. Despite this, it can’t be very important because Andrew Weaver, Lead Author of the IPCC chapter on computer modeling says, “[Methane] was not considered in any of the predictions at all.”
That doesn’t stop the fear mongering. “But one thing is certain: The fact it hasn’t been factored into previous global warming predictions means forecasts even as recent as the 2007 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are too conservative.” It’s a frightening remark, but not as the author intended. If it isn’t factored in, then it means all previous estimates of greenhouse effects are wrong and the effect of other variables including CO2 are overestimated.
But the problem is even worse. They don’t know how much there is regionally, in total, or the amount of change over time. As the Royal Society notes, “Understanding the atmospheric CH4 budget remains limited by large uncertainties in the individual magnitudes and spatial–temporal variability of sources at both regional and global scales.”
While the IPCC did not include methane in their computer models, they did predict a continued rise. Claims of dramatic increases of methane since 1750 parallel the false claims of increased CO2 included predictions of continued increase. But they were as wrong with these as they were with temperature predictions as Figure 2 shows.
Despite this, cattlemen and all livestock producers were blamed completely without justification. It was a classic example of a post-fact belief. Only half the formula for animal sourced methane was considered because declines in bison, elephant and many other ruminant populations, though regrettable, were not deducted. Nothing was said about the 283 million cows in India.
Equally confusing is the fact that the rate of change of methane levels has declined over the last 24 years. (Figure 3)
Figure 3: Changing methane concentrations.
Exploitation of methane is a classic example of Manjoo’s thesis that facts are not important in the Post-Fact society. All the components of the pursuit of an idea at all costs are involved. Facts are chosen and distorted to promote the idea that humans are causing global warming and climate change, all potentially destroying the planet. Other facts are studiously ignored. Sadly, there is no shortage of experts to bolster the claims and the mainstream media are too willing to amplify and spread the fear and falsity.