Some inconvenient truths about climate change

Everybody knows that the boat is leaking

And everybody knows that it’s now or never

From Leonard Cohen’s Everybody Knows

Everybody knows that climate change is real, that it is increasing at an alarming rate and it is mostly due to man made greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide. And everybody knows that we must do something now or it will very soon be too late. But what if what everybody knows isn’t true?

Not everything is what it seems:

Everybody knows that you love me baby
Everybody knows that you really do
Everybody knows that you’ve been faithful
Ah, give or take a night or two
Everybody knows you’ve been discreet
But there were so many people you just had to meet
Without your clothes
And everybody knows

Climate change is a very complex issue and I have no answers but I would like to bring up some facts that may cause you to have a few questions about what everybody knows.

Global warming

To begin, we must distinguish between global warming and climate change. They are not interchangeable terms. Climate change includes global warming but also many other climate events. You might wonder why people used to talk about global warming but now mostly talk about climate change. Could it be that it is hard for most people to get excited about temperatures rising by a degree or two Celsius over 100 years? However, if this temperature increase means more hurricanes, tornados, wildfires, landslides, rising oceans, the loss of ice shelves where polar bears hunt, etc. then people may get alarmed.

There is no question that the Earth is getting warmer since the mid 19th century. Over many millennia the planet has had hot and cold periods. The last mini ice age ended around 1750-1850 and since then there has been a warming trend. If we examine only the last few decades the warming seems to be increasing at a faster rate. Is this due to a dramatic increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere? The oft quoted number is that 97% of climate scientists believe that to be the case. A study by John Cook et al (2015) looked at 12,000 articles from 1991 to 2011 dealing with global warming or climate change and found that 97% of those expressing an opinion on whether it was man-made thought that it was. However, like so many other statistics this one is misleading. In fact, 2/3rds of the articles expressed no opinion on the cause. So less that 1/3 believed that global warming was man-made with most of the rest having no opinion and a few disagreeing.

The main greenhouse gas which traps heat in the atmosphere and leads to global warming is carbon dioxide. Since the start of the industrial revolution (1750) the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased by 50%. Even with all the efforts to decrease the use of fossil fuels, it is still increasing. This has led to a 1-degree Celsius increase in temperature and it could hit 2-degrees Celsius within another few decades. So, is this a problem?

Climate Change

Those advocating drastic reductions in the use of fossil fuels need to show that climate change beyond just a slightly warmer climate will lead to more deaths. “We are on a highway to climate hell”, said UN-boss Guterres recently. However, the evidence is simply not there. Well-known economist Bjorn Lomborg, in a 2020 peer-reviewed paper, showed that climate related deaths worldwide were at an all time low while temperatures were at an all time high. I guess that is just a minor inconvenient truth. Are droughts today worse than the “dust bowl” conditions of the 1930s? In fact, droughts in the 13th and 17th centuries, when it was cooler, were much worse.

What about hurricanes, tornados, cyclones and the like? Storm records over the past century show a mild decrease in those while temperatures were climbing. How about wildfires? Hotter temperatures are a minor factor in wildfires. A recent Montreal Gazette article blamed the wildfires on climate change and particularly hotter and drier weather. In the same week there was another article blaming recent landslides on climate change and particularly on wetter weather. Two different authors, both referring to Quebec, and they both believed that “climate change” was behind these events even though one thought it was causing drier weather and the other, wetter weather.

For many true believers, it seems everything must be blamed on climate change. It reminds me of the Bowser and Blue song with the refrain, “C’est la faute du Federal.” In the case of climate change, every unusual weather event is blamed on climate change even though the data does not support those conclusions.

Modelling, Theories and Predictions

Some may argue that I am not a climate scientist and have no expertise. The first part is true but I have a Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology and taught Research Methods and Statistics at Concordia University. The basic principles do not change so I am an expert in those fields. Climate scientists say the public must believe the science. However, the science on climate change is deeply flawed. Good science involves observations, data collection and based on those a theory or model can be formed to explain what is happening. From the model, if correct, one should be able to predict future global warming and/or climate changes. At a minimum the model must fit the past data. That part is relatively easy but numerous possible models can be developed to match historical data. The difference between the models will be the assumptions and the predictions that follow from the model and assumptions. To see if a model is good, hypotheses (predictions) must be generated from the model and these hypotheses must be tested as future events unfold.

If the model only deals with the rise in temperatures, it is fairly simple to test but even then, there have to be assumptions about how much greenhouse gases will be in the atmosphere in the coming years and while carbon dioxide is the main driver of global warming there are other gases that play a role and events like volcanic activity also have a major impact. Further, to what degree will government policies aimed at reducing carbon be effective. Combine these factors with the huge variability in temperature from year to year with the tiny temperature changes that are being examined and you can see the difficulty of testing any model.

Models of climate change events are even more difficult and the examples discussed above do not even suggest a correlation between global warming and various climate events, let alone a causal relationship.

So, while the climate scientists and politicians say to trust the science, the truth is there is no good science to support climate change models aside from the simple statement that temperatures can be expected to rise over the coming decades and that possibly/probably some of the rise is due to human behaviors such as burning fossil fuels. But I know of no-good study that has shown the exact relationship between different man-made factors and the amount of temperature rise that we can expect. Again, a good model must be validated by events that occur after the model has been created, not before. That would be good science but so far it does not seem to exist.

Why everybody knows that climate change is real

So many people believe climate change is real because most politicians say it is. As a politician it would be bad for your career to go against what everyone believes. The same can be said about climate scientists. We live in dangerous times where dissenting views can get you cancelled. Nevertheless, some brave scientists (1,500+ worldwide) have signed the Climate Intelligence Foundation’s (Clintel) statement stating that there is no climate emergency. If you want to know more about how the authoritative climate change bodies mislead the public and policy makers, go to their web site, and maybe download their 300+ page analysis of the latest IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report. The IPCC is the body that government policy makers look to for objective data on climate change. The problem is that the body is biased and paints the worst possible picture. As just one example, a review article on the subject of loss/damage due to climate change published in 2020, showed that 52 out of 53 peer reviewed papers dealing with “normalised disaster losses” saw no increase in harms that could be attributed to climate change. The IPCC highlighted the single paper that claimed an increase in losses. That paper is – unsurprisingly – flawed, but the IPCC only talked about that article.

But what if the climate change believers are right?

While my brief analysis in this article makes the case that the there is no good scientific evidence for global warming causing extreme weather events and more deaths than normal worldwide, the problem is that in science you can’t prove the null hypothesis. That means that it is possible to show that something is happening beyond just random variation but there is no way to show conclusively that something is not occurring. What if the worst-case scenarios do happen? What if temperatures increase exponentially in the coming decades and a point is reached where extreme weather events killing millions of people do occur. What if by that point it is too late and a vicious cycle has begun which can’t be stopped as some models predict? That nightmare scenario is extremely unlikely but even rare events do happen sometimes.

What is the rational approach to deal with possible climate change?

It is certainly NOT to blindly believe what everybody knows but to weigh the costs/benefits of various actions. Replacing our reliance on fossil fuels is generally a good thing. Alternatives are less polluting and reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. However, there are real costs to destroying the oil and gas industries immediately. Among those costs are condemning poorer countries to regular power blackouts and economic devastation. For Canada and the US there will be less severe consequences but they will be weakened economically and countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia that will not kill their oil and gas industries will become more powerful. That is not a good thing.

So, what can we do? We must make decisions rationally and not be guided by emotions. The world is not ending. We have time to slow global warming. Some countries like Germany have invested heavily in solar cells and wind turbines but they haven’t reduced their need for oil and gas and those alternatives are very costly. Much better alternatives are nuclear plants and Hydro power. However, people irrationally fear nuclear power and plants are being closed rather than being built. Nuclear plants are much more economical and reliable in the long run than sun or wind. The dangers can be controlled and the track record is excellent. Hydro power is very clean but the environmentalists and indigenous rights groups don’t want land flooded. Well, if they also believe that the world is coming to an end due to climate change, which is the lesser evil? I think the answer is obvious. Electric cars are also a good solution but batteries must be developed that last longer and fast charging infrastructure must be built. We have started in this direction which is good. Forests do absorb carbon so better forestry management is good and will reduce wildfires. There are many things that can be done but we must not be making decisions based on unproven theories/models in a panic.

As everybody knows, Chicken Little was wrong. The sky is not falling and the world is not ending.

If you enjoy reading my Uncommon Sense articles, share/forward them with others and urge them to subscribe. It is free and there is no advertising on my web site. Readers may agree or disagree but I hope they will be stimulated to consider other points of view.


  1. However, like so many other statistics this one is misleading. In fact, 2/3rds of the articles expressed no opinion on the cause. So less that 1/3 believed that global warming was man-made with most of the rest having no opinion and a few disagreeing.

    How do you underpin this statement with facts, please?

  2. Well-known economist Bjorn Lomborg, in a 2020 peer-reviewed paper, showed that climate related deaths worldwide were at an all time low while temperatures were at an all time high.

    Please explain why an economist and his peers study climate change and are given validation? Would it not be scientists who would be more apt to have appropriate models for climate change measurements?

  3. “Global hydropower capacity is set to increase by 17% between 2021 and 2030….in 2040 Canada is projected to generate 8.5 % of the world’s hydro power…

    this indicates that Canada is not “immediately” stopping the use of fossil fuels…

    what do you think?

    Thank you for this article…lots of ideas to discuss!!!

  4. Thanks for the questions. I’ll answer them from the top. 12,000 papers examined in the study by John Cook. 2/3 expressed no opinion so that is 8,004 papers with no opinion. That leaves 3,996 papers where an opinion was expressed and it was in 97% of those that the opinion was that Global Warming was man made, at least in part. That is 3,876 papers. If we divide 3,876 by 12,000 we get .323 or 32.3%. That is a lot less than 97%.

    Re the second question. The subject was the cost of climate change and deaths are part of that cost. That is why an economist was looking into the issue. However, I should have explained that in the article. I reviewed a lot of material and the evidence so far is that contrary to what the IPCC reports say, there is no proof that climate change is causing economic losses. As I said in the article:

    “a review article on the subject of loss/damage due to climate change published in 2020, showed that 52 out of 53 peer reviewed papers dealing with “normalised disaster losses” saw no increase in harms that could be attributed to climate change.”

    Re your last comment. Yes, Canada is not immediately shutting down the oil and gas industries but they are trying to do so as much as possible and as quickly as possible. I think they are going too quickly.

    As for raising issues to discuss, that is what I hope to do with my articles.

  5. If the remaining papers did not express an opinion, they should not be counted. They are a priori irrelevant. So, the correct statement is that 97% of of papers that did express an opinion supported the opinion that climate change is man-made. That’s an astounding level of agreement. Governments make policy on a lot less than that every day.
    Further, scientists in the last couple of years have been able to say to what degree climate disasters have been exacerbated by climate change.
    Finally, no one except radical environmentalists are saying replace fossil fuels “immediately “.
    The one thing I can agree on here is your support for Nuclear power. There is a lot of new technology that is safer and it is the most economical. Even the old nuclear technology is statistically proven to be safer than any other form of energy.

  6. Re the 97%, many share your view that if 97% of those expressing an opinion believe climate change to some extent is due to human activities then 97% is the correct number. Nevertheless, I believe it is misleading when over 2/3 have no opinion. Noopinion does not mean they disagree but it also does not mean they agree. Using the 97% without mentioning that 2/3 took no position is misleading. Anyway, my article acknowledges that some of the warming is caused by humans just that the exact amounts are unclear.

    As for global warming causing extreme weather events to a greater extent than in the past, I am still looking for some good studies showing that. Feel free to share any that you have found.

    Immediately is a relative term but there is pressure to go as fast as possible and I think we should move more slowly but I agree that we should be replacing fossil fuels.

    On nuclear energy, another reader in a private e-mail informed me that there are 90 nuclear plants under construction worldwide. That is encouraging news. We agree that there are smarter technologies that solar and wind at this time.

    Thanks for your comments.

  7. Mr. Steinberg. I find it quite unfortunate the way you downplay the serious risk posed by climate change and your belief that there is very little science backing up the human cause and effect of climate change. We could attempt to debate these facts here by sharing thousands of links to studies and reports, but that is simply unrealistic. It boils down to a few simple facts and common sense:
    Who is more likely to be trying to mislead the public and to what gain? The thousands of climate scientists from essentially every country on planet earth who have been ringing the alarm bells for decades, or the fossil fuel companies that profit from the continued use of their products? You truly believe that the vast majority of INDEPENDENT scientists across the globe are part of a huge, well organized conspiracy theory to convince the human race that we are causing climate change and the effects of this are putting our future at risk? Why in the world would they want to do this? Not only do they have nothing to gain from this (they could be studying other things if you are going to suggest they are making it all up just to get science funding), but it is also next to impossible for a global conspiracy of this size to be properly organized. On the other hand, a few huge fossil fuel companies, with billions of dollars at their disposal can easily fund front groups to try to mislead the public. This is extremely well documented and proven.
    Your claim that there is very little science proving the cause and impacts of climate change is just plain wrong. Do you truly believe that nearly every country gets together every year at the COP climate meetings, with thousands of participants, including governments of all stripes and scientists from all over the world, and they have not first studied the vast amounts of scientific evidence? Your source convincing you of the contrary is biased and incorrect. I apologize for being blunt, but It is simply illogical to think otherwise.
    In addition, just look around at the increase in heat waves, droughts, floods, extreme weather, forest fires, etc. It is plain to see that the climate is changing for the worse. There is a consistent trend of record breaking heat across the planet.
    It always amazes me that people who deny the science of climate change are the same people who will get into cars, or planes or buildings and put their trust and lives in the hands of science every single day, because all of those things as well as so much more in our daily lives were developed using science.
    Your source,, is a highly suspect source of information. Read this:
    I am not anti-nuclear (keep all existing nuclear running!), but as for your comment about “Nuclear plants are much more economical and reliable in the long run than sun or wind”, consider these facts: Wind and solar are now often the least expensive forms of electricity generation. In addition, they can be deployed much faster than most other types of power plants and have the ability to be both small and large, making them very flexible and adaptable. They are also generally relatively close to the initial budget estimates. New construction of nuclear, on the other hand, is far more expensive than wind and solar and on top of that is historically vastly over budget. It takes many years to build (sometimes a decade) and often takes much longer than planned. As for SMRs (small nuclear reactors), they are supposed to help with these problems, but the technology is still in development, and it will take many more years before they will be able to generate electricity on a significant scale.

  8. Thank you for your comment. I usually get many private e-mails but too few public comments. From the private e-mails, a majority surprisingly agreed with my analysis. Of course, some agreed with your point of view. I followed the link to the critique of Clintel and found that there really wasn’t much real criticism. The fact that some oil and gas money comes to them is not surprising, there was no evidence that MOST of their funding is from big oil nor that MOST of their signatories (now over 1,500) have any connection to the oil and gas industry.

    To reiterate some of my points from the article. I do know what constitutes good science and most of what passes for science supporting “climate change” is very poor. One medical doctor who wrote to me said “Everyone believes in science but few understand science.” Again I am not disputing that the planet is getting warmer VERY SLOWLY. So studies showing the earth is warming are accepted by everyone. The key question is how much fossil fuels are accelerating the increase in temperatures compared to what we can expect from looking at the temperature cycles over the last few thousand years or more. Studies of a few hundred years do not reveal the big picture.

    Another question is are these higher temperatures leading to more extreme climate events. As I wrote there is plenty of evidence that we had worse weather during the 1930s and in earlier centuries when it was cooler, not hotter.

    Even if the conventual wisdom on climate change is correct (very debatable), the developed countries could go to ZERO carbon emissions and it would hardly make a dent in the emissions since countries like China, India and the African continent won’t play ball.

    Re nuclear plants, one reader wrote that he did some research and found that worldwide 90 new nuclear plants are on stream. That is encouraging. If solar power is economical, I support it but people won’t use it if it is not. Same applies to wind turbines. Hydro power is a good answer where it is possible. Regardless, for the foreseeable future we will need some fossil fuels and i prefer that they come from the US and Canada than Russia, Saudi Arabia or Iran.

    My bottom line is that we shouldn’t just accept what everybody knows without asking some critical questions.

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Picture of Dr. Bill Steinberg

Dr. Bill Steinberg

Dr. Steinberg has a BSc from McGill University, a PhD in Psychology from Northwestern University, and was a professor at Concordia University. He was Mayor of the Town of Hampstead for 16 years and led the demerger battle. He was was awarded the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal and is currently President of the Cochlear Implant Recipients Association.

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