“Natural”: A problem in the climate debate?

Dr. Arnd Bernaerts
3 min readNov 27, 2020


One of the worst failures in science is to use superficial terms. Are explanations like “natural variability”, “natural internal processes”, “natural climate variability” in any way helpful? Not really, as it merely indicate: produced by nature.

One can hear and read it quite often since the climate change debate started in the 1970s. Searching the internet for the word “natural” pops-up abundantly. For example:

­­__ Natural Climate Variability, (Michael Ghil, 2001);

__ Natural Variability and Climate Change, (Zack Guid, 2019);

__ Natural Oceanic Cycles (div.)

If you look for help from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), you won’t get very far. Its Glossary- (2014) says this: Climate variability refers to variations in the mean state and other statistics (such as standard deviations, the occurrence of extremes, etc.) of the climate on all temporal and spatial scales beyond that of individual weather events. Variability may be due to natural internal processes within the climate system (internal variability), or to variations in natural or anthropogenic external forcing (external variability).

The WMO is demonstrating that it does not recognize two problems. On the one hand there is the reference to the “climate system”, which is defined by the “United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change”, 1992, (UNFCCC), as the totality of the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere and geosphere and their interactions (1). The meaningless is easy to recognize by replacing “climate” by the word: “nature”: to see, when saying instead: “Nature is the totality of the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere and geosphere and their interactions”. Using such explanation for any serious scientific work is completely useless and feigns incomprehensible competence.

Far more serious is that this completely undermines the basis for progress in the climate debate. The basis of all considerations and explanations must always assume that:

Nothing happens in this world except as allowed by the laws of physics. What this means is that for every physical action there is going to be a well-defined cause, and a well-defined effect. Quantum mechanical weirdness that operates at atomic scale does not invalidate this physical description of the macroscopic range that is of interest.

[Source: https://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/17/lacis-at-nasa-on-role-of-co2-in-warming/]

The climate debate will do little for the preservation of this earth if science, meteorologists as well as climatologists, do not adhere strictly to it and explain everything that happens in the climate system or by “natural” according to legal rules of physics. If you can’t, you have to say it. This is especially true for science. Under no circumstances should this ignorance be concealed with empty words.

(1) Note that the UNFCCC does not offer a definition on “climate”. More details at: http://www.whatisclimate.com/