Recently Rev. Mitchell Hescox, CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network, wrote an email to a pastor, who forwarded it to us. It’s a prime example of the fallacious (and worse) discourse climate alarmists often use.
Here’s what Hescox wrote:
I pray you will reconsider your stance on climate change. It is apparent, you have been mislead by evil spirits. Climate change science was first published in 1892, the National Academy of Science first told President Johnson about the serious impacts in 1965 (not President Obama) and the real truth is that almost 100% percent of climate scientists understand the facts how humanity is changing the planet.
Please just take a walk in God’s creation. The Great Lakes ice is nowhere near as extensive as even a few years ago, planting zones are drifting north as are migrating birds. Isaiah’s prophecy is coming true. Humanity is destroying God’s creation because we false to follow God’s commandments.
Climate change has already changed rainfall patterns in the US and around the world. We are killing God’s children around the world but we are to selfish to be good stewards and build Jesus’ Kingdom and allow for “thy will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”
[He then inserted a list of articles supporting the notion of a 97% scientific consensus on dangerous manmade global warming, after which he concluded:]
I realize it will take the Holy Spirit to transform you and my prayers will be for the love of Jesus to do just that.
We hope my reply to the pastor is helpful not just to him but also to many others:
Grace and peace to you in Christ. Thank you for sharing with us the email you received from EEN CEO Mitch Hescox. It’s sad to see that he continues to demonize (“you have been mislead [sic] by evil spirits”) those with whom he disagrees about global warming, but not surprising after years of observing his conduct and many rebuffed attempts to reason with him.
Hoping you’ll find them helpful, here are some comments on the points he raises:
- Climate change science was first published in 1892,
- This was when Svante Arrhenius recognized that the infrared-absorbing quality of CO2 entailed that increasing CO2 in the atmosphere should, other things being equal, make it somewhat warmer than it otherwise would be, and the reverse from decreasing it. That doesn’t equate with belief that increasing CO2 in the atmosphere will, after all climate feedbacks are accounted for, cause so much warming as to be catastrophic, or even so much as to be net harmful instead of neutral or net beneficial. Mitch here commits the logical fallacy of equating part with whole. Arrhenius’s discovery is not the whole of “climate science.”
- What Mitch wants everyone to fear and therefore join him in fighting is dangerous manmade global warming, but that requires high “climate sensitivity” (amount of warming, after all climate feedbacks have acted, consequent to a doubling of atmospheric CO2 concentration). High climate sensitivity, however, does not self-evidently follow from Arrhenius’s observation that CO2 is an infrared-absorbing gas. Although the computer models on which the IPCC depends predict high climate sensitivity, they predict at least twice, probably three times, the warming actually observed, which means they’re invalidated and provide no rational basis for any predictions of future temperature and therefore no rational basis for any policy in response to it. Empirical observations point to much lower climate sensitivity and thus run contrary to the expectation of dangerous human-induced warming.
- the National Academy of Science first told President Johnson about the serious impacts in 1965 (not President Obama) and
- What follows from this? Certainly not that the claim that the amount of CO2 we’re adding to the atmosphere is sure to cause catastrophic results.
- the real truth is that almost 100% percent of climate scientists understand the facts how humanity is changing the planet.
- This is of course such a generalization as to be irrelevant to the question whether the amount of CO2 we’re adding to the atmosphere is causing warming so dangerous as to justify our spending trillions of dollars attempting to mitigate it.
- Please just take a walk in God’s creation.
- Anecdotal observation, which is what “a walk in God’s creation” would afford, cannot provide the statistically significant sample observations necessary to validate or invalidate a theory about the magnitude of warming (or cooling) that ensues from a given increase (or decrease) in atmospheric CO2 concentration. This kind of writing subtly tugs at one’s emotions while not really constituting scientific reasoning.
- The Great Lakes ice is nowhere near as extensive as even a few years ago, planting zones are drifting north as are migrating birds.
- Here Mitch commits the logical fallacy of affirming the consequent (which often overlaps with the post hoc fallacy: after this, therefore because of this). It works like this: Someone argues, “If A happens, then B will happen. B happens. Therefore A happened.” The trouble with that is that other factors than A might be capable of causing B. Mitch’s argument, not explicitly spelled out (thus leaving the fallacy less obvious) is this: “If human activity is causing global warming, then Great Lakes ice extent will diminish and planting zones and migratory birds will drift poleward. Great Lakes ice extent has diminished and planting zones and migratory birds have drifted poleward. Therefore human activity is causing global warming.” But what if something else is causing global warming? The same effects will be evident.
- Isaiah’s prophecy is coming true. Humanity is destroying God’s creation because we false [sic] to follow God’s commandments.
- Not only does Mitch unjustifiably apply (an unspecified) prophecy from Isaiah to current conditions without offering any contextual exegesis (unsurprising since he doesn’t even specify the passage), but also he assumes that we’re “destroying God’s creation” without providing evidence for that or countering evidence that might suggest otherwise. Further, he doesn’t consider the possibility that even if we are in some respects “destroying God’s creation,” human-induced global warming might not be one of those respects.
- There is considerable empirical evidence that human activity is improving some parts of the earth even while it’s harming other parts. Particularly in terms of what I consider the bottom-line measure of environmental quality—human health and life expectancy—the overall trend is toward an increasingly healthful environment for human beings, as witnessed by improving health and life expectancy over time.
- It is entirely possible that some human-induced global warming is actually more beneficial than harmful to the world. There is no objective way of determining an “optimal temperature” for Earth’s atmosphere. It is clear historically that the temperature of the Little Ice Age (roughly 1350–1850) led to considerable reduction in plant growth over most of Earth’s land mass and to increasing hunger and disease among human beings. It is also clear historically that the Medieval Warm Period (roughly 950–1250), when temperatures were at least as warm as today and probably somewhat warmer, coincided with greater extent and density of plant growth and therefore more food for all animals, including people, resulting in less hunger and disease among humans.
- Historical evidence shows a pretty consistent pattern that when a society transitions from subsistence agriculture to early industrialization, two things happen simultaneously: air and water and solid waste pollution (the unintended consequences of industrialization) rates and concentrations rise, and human health and life expectancy rise. The increase of the former would cause a decrease in the latter; consequently, something must be more than offsetting that effect. The something is the intended consequences of industrialization: increasing availability of food, clothing, shelter, and other amenities that enhance human health and longevity. The simultaneous rise in pollution and in human wellbeing implies that the intended consequences of industrialization outweigh the unintended. But before long, as the early industrialization increases a population’s wealth and gives rise to higher technology, leading to an economy that is increasingly service- and information- and technology-driven rather than materials-driven, pollution rates peak (at different times for different pollutants) and then fall, eventually reaching levels lower than before industrialization. At the same time, health and longevity continue to rise. This is what environmental economists call the “pollution transition,” or “environmental transition,” or “environmental Kuznets Curve,” illustrated here:
Why does this happen? Because a clean, healthful, beautiful environment is a costly good, and wealthier people can afford more costly goods than poorer people. As economic development makes people wealthier, they not only wish but also can afford the more expensive technologies that make it possible to have high industrial production with low pollution emissions.
- Climate change has already changed rainfall patterns in the US and around the world.
- Fallacy of assuming the consequent again.
- We are killing God’s children around the world but we are to [sic] selfish to be good stewards and build Jesus’ Kingdom and allow for “thy will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”
- Actually, what’s killing God’s children around the world is poverty, not global warming. Someone with income equivalent to the bottom tenth in America can thrive in any climate from the Arctic Circle to the Sahara Desert; someone living on the equivalent of $1.50 a day can’t thrive in the best tropical paradise. The “solution” to allegedly human-induced global warming—drastic reductions in CO2 emissions achievable only by drastic replacement of abundant, affordable, reliable fossil fuels with diffuse, expensive, unreliable renewables—means trapping people in their poverty for generations to come, and thus continuing their high rates of disease and premature death.
- I realize it will take the Holy Spirit to transform you and my prayers will be for the love of Jesus to do just that.
- If this isn’t psychological manipulation, I’m not sure what would be. Besides that, it’s a case of petitio principii—assuming the conclusion that’s in debate.
Finally, Mitch’s appeal to consensus is a mistake for several reasons:
- Consensus isn’t a scientific value, it’s a political value. Want to know who won an election? Count votes. Want to know how much warming comes from adding CO2 to the atmosphere? Don’t count votes, do the difficult physics and empirical investigation necessary to find out.
- The history of science is filled with examples of consensus among scientists being overturned by empirical evidence. E.g., for decades medical doctors thought ulcers were caused overwhelmingly by excess stomach acid caused by too much stress and too much spicy food. In the 1980s, against withering opposition, two Australian doctors proved instead that they’re overwhelmingly caused by a bacterial infection. (They won the Nobel Prize for Medicine for their discovery.) E.g., geologists used to think the continents couldn’t move; in the 1960s, the theory of continental drift overturned that idea. Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions chronicles many more.
- The vaunted 97% “scientific consensus” about global warming applies actually to a pretty small piece of the picture: that global average surface temperature has risen since about 1850, and that human emissions of greenhouse gases have contributed significantly to that warming. Specify that the human activity is the majority cause and the consensus declines. Specify that it’s the sole cause and it declines further. Specify that the warming attributable to human activity is net harmful rather than neutral or net negative, and the consensus declines further. Specify that the warming is highly dangerous and it declines further. Specify that the warming is so dangerous as to justify spending trillions of dollars trying to mitigate (diminish) it, and the consensus declines still further. Specify that mitigation is the wiser response than adaptation, and it declines yet more.
- The vaunted 97% “consensus” is based on badly flawed surveys of published articles; correction for the flaws either greatly reduces or completely eliminates the consensus.
- A far higher number of scientists have embraced an opposite statement, leaving no room for misinterpretation of published articles, etc., but a clear, unambiguous statement.
All of my comments here of course merely rebut Mitch’s claims. For a positive case that human-induced global warming is much smaller than Mitch (depending on the IPCC) claims and that seeking to reduce it by drastic transition from fossil fuels to renewables will do more harm than good, see our paper A Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor 2014: The Case against Harmful Climate Polices Gets Stronger.
Thanks again for forwarding Mitch’s comments. I hope you find this helpful. Please let us know how else we might serve you, and please uphold us in your prayers.