No, global warming will not be reversed by a paradigm shift

by Kuhn Structure of scientific revolutions The concept of paradigm shift does not apply to global warming and climate change. It’s a recurring negationist trope, which I’ve seen online over the past few days, but it’s based on a cursory reading of Kuhn’s work at best, lots of cognitive biases, and a deep misunderstanding of the science of global warming.

A Kuhnian paradigm shift occurs when the fundamental explanatory theory of a set of observed phenomena is found to be incorrect. This is signaled by numerous failures of theory to explain related phenomena and increasingly baroque and improbable explanations being created to cover the cracks. As more experiments based on the theory are performed, more of them give negative results.

Historical examples include the universe revolving around the earth relative to the sun, the phlogiston theory that fire was an element released during combustion, and the ether theory that an invisible substance conducted electromagnetic waves. All these paradigms were set aside because they were not sufficiently explanatory of the observable reality at the time of experiments and observations. As Kuhn pointed out, it takes time to overturn paradigms.

A great scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up who knows it. —Max Planck

Global warming is not a scientific theory, it is an observed reality. The atmosphere and oceans are warming. It’s a recorded fact based on ground and satellite datasets, backed up by worldwide observations of things like seasonal onsets and durations, plant growth, and more. It’s not a theory. It is a fact.

Facts and observations are not subject to paradigm shifts.

Anthropogenic global warming is a set of overlapping theories that stem from experiments dating back to the 1850s. It was then that Eunice Newton Foote published her paper on her experimental observations of the warming effect of solar radiation sun on different gases, including the observation that increasing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere would increase atmospheric temperatures. That CO2 is a greenhouse gas – it absorbs and re-emits infrared more than visible light spectra – is experimentally rock solid. This is a fact that has been tested to the point where it is indisputable. CO2 being a greenhouse gas is not a theory, it is a fact.

In the 1890s, Arrhenius calculated the effect of rising CO2 on the atmosphere. His calculations turned out to be remarkably accurate. His projection was a theory, in the sense that it was not an observation of reality, but a calculation of the effects of changes. It was also limited, as it did not include background feedback models.

Since Arrhenius, a subset of science has been devoted to experiments to determine whether his theory was borne out by empirical reality. Assessments of ground temperature datasets indicated increases, but they were indicative and insufficient on their own to prove warming was occurring with certainty. The quest to validate or disprove Arrhenius continued.

One such effort has been measuring parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere, the most famous being the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, which has maintained a daily record since Keeling began observations in 1958. It is a measure of reality, not a theory. . The increase in CO2 in the atmosphere is an observed fact, not a paradigm or subject to a paradigm shift.

In the 1940s, carbon dating became a technique used to find the historical age of organic materials based on the presence of the isotope carbon-14. The carbon-13 and carbon-12 isotopes became important, as observations of their report in the 1970s clearly showed that the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere came from organic sources, and that the only additional organic sources were the fossil fuels extracted and burned. Again, the ratio of carbon 13 to carbon 12 is an observed reality. The only source of new carbon in the atmosphere that has stood up to experimental scrutiny is fossil fuels.

This is one of many well-supported pieces of evidence and theories underlying anthropogenic climate change, and it is highly unlikely to be overturned by a new paradigm, as carbon dating and analysis isotopic are widely used and proven techniques and approaches. There is no evidence that carbon dating does not do exactly what it says on the box, and therefore the conditions for a paradigm shift do not hold.

In the 1970s, we had both ground temperature data sets and satellite temperature sets. At that time, warming was a clearly detectable reality. Historical datasets and related material such as tree rings, geological records, etc. gave a solidly accurate perspective on historic temperatures, and the new satellite datasets made it clear that the warming observed on the ground was not an isolated event, but part of a whole. Change of atmosphere. Global warming was an observed reality that had been indicated as highly probable by calculations 80 years earlier.

Historical and current temperature measurements have had only small error bars since then, including the work of ‘skeptic’ and physicist Richard Muller, who found that automated, identical and rigorous adjustments to data sets from base temperature showed more warming than the previous ones. manual adjustments, eliminating his theory that the manual adjustments had accidentally created the appearance of warming. It was the last big question that was reasonable to ask about whether global warming was a reality or not, and I like to call it one of the Koch brothers’ less than satisfying investments, because they invested 250 $000 for it.

Over the past two years, satellite and terrestrial datasets have grown to such a statistically large size that all but the remotest possibility that we were wrong in assessing them has been removed. We are now 99.9999% convinced that global warming is real and, moreover, that it is caused by us. It’s the gold standard of scientific confidence, and it’s why the scientific consensus that climate change is real, serious, and caused by us is so high, as evidenced – at last count – 6 different studies.

All scientific observations support anthropogenic global warming. The large collection of theories that make up anthropogenic global warming is strongly supported by experimental evidence. Resilience – independent, unrelated studies leading to the same conclusion – is absurdly high.

None of the conditions for a Kuhnian paradigm shift exist for global warming. No paradigm shift will occur.


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Teresa H. Sadler