Why is there so much preoccupation with atmospheric CO2 concentrations and reducing anthropogenic CO2 emissions when it is well documented in the peer-reviewed scientific literature that the CO2 contribution to the overall greenhouse effect is so weak that it can be easily supplanted by small changes in clouds and water vapor, or natural climate-changing constituents?
Thursday, 24 June 2010
Why Would You Believe This? (1 of 8): 'Few scientists now doubt that due to human activity - burning fossil fuels and deforestation - the climate is changing.'
'Few scientists now doubt that due to human activity - burning fossil fuels and deforestation - the climate is changing.'
First, let me consider the literal interpretation of this sentence. It is true in the banal sense that everything participating in the climate system has some kind of effect on it. Be it cosmic rays, solar radiation, ice at the poles, ocean currents, mountain ranges, termites emitting methane, humans burning coal, or butterflies flapping their wings, the climate system spans so wide a range of space, time, and energy scales that they can all play their part along with countless others. One consequence of this swirl of varying factors and their interactions, is that the climate has always changed in the past, is changing now, and will not stop changing in the future. The challenge for those interested in climate science is disentangling their effects, using the very modest (compared with the scales of the system) and often very noisy data we have available.
So, let me now interpret the sentence as meaning that few scientists now doubt that human activity is a dominant driver of climate due to our recent burning of fossil fuels, and to deforestation. I want to concentrate here on the word 'few' and whether it might be better applied to the core group in and around the IPCC which has so successfully promoted alarm, rather than to the many scientists who have not been at all impressed by such promotions. The many thousands of scientists who have investigated the effects of climate change rather than their causes, I regard as of secondary importance here since 'causes' are our key concern for the time being.
I suppose many people would believe the sentence because, in essence, they trust the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), or organisational leaders such as some in the Royal Sociey of London who were keen to champion the IPCC position. But the IPCC is not worthy of our trust. Its story is one of goal-centred manipulation of people, processes, and publications from the very outset, see for example (2) and (3). It was invented not to explore climate change and report back, but instead to construct, and vigorously promote, a political platform calling for halting, reversing, or dramatically modifying industrialisation based upon a need to avert dramatic and dangerous temperature rises due to associated carbon dioxide releases. For many years, since at least the late 1960s, there has been a febrile and hostile-to-humanity culture amongst some environmentalists, and it continues to this day. Their doom-laden pronouncements are well-suited to sensation-seeking media, and have surely helped create the opportunities so well exploited by the IPCC, see for example (4) and (5).
The early moves in the 1980s and early 90s were spotted and opposed by 47 atmospheric scientists in a published statement (6):
'WASHINGTON, D.C., FEBRUARY 27, 1992---As independent scientists, researching atmospheric and climate problems, we are concerned by the agenda for UNCED, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, being developed by environmental activist groups and certain political leaders. This so-called Earth Summit is scheduled to convene in Brazil in June 1992 and aims to impose a system of global environmental regulations, including onerous taxes on energy fuels, on the population of the United States and other industrialized nations.
Such policy initiatives derive from highly uncertain scientific theories. They are based on the unsupported assumption that catastrophic global warming follows from the burning of fossil fuels and requires immediate action. We do not agree.'
The IPCC structure allowed many hundreds of scientists to take part in reviewing and writing reports. They were then by-passed by a handful of core activists with final editorial rights over press releases, other publicity, and the far more widely read and promoted 'Summary Reports for Policy Makers'. Criticisms of the IPCC working group reports can readily be found on the internet. See for example (7) and (8). Some IPCC authors chose to resign (e.g. 9), others soldiered on in the hope of improving things (e.g. 10). The latest group of IPCC reviewers, clearly chosen to spread participation over as many countries as possible, rather than by expertise alone, is an ongoing reflection of a political rather than a scientific imperative (11).
There are many other theories of climate change, theories brushed aside by the IPCC but not refuted by it. A very brief and readable account of some of them is given here (12). Furthermore, despite their going against the new conventional wisdom, several hundred peer-reviewed scientific papers have been found which do not support specific aspects of the IPCC position (13). The climategate emails confirmed that there were journals in which such works would have had little or no chance of being published (e.g. 14 & 15).
So the 'few' in our sentence of interest here, clearly can apply to those scientists at the heart of the IPCC machinations. The way in which the infamous 'temperatures like a hockey stick chart' was produced, protected and promoted (16), and the climategate emails (17) themselves, reinforce this picture of a handful of plotters and schemers, so wedded to their cause that all critics are seen as enemies to be attacked. Wegman (18) reported a fairly close-knit network of 43, and the climategate emails feature a few of them. Others report around 50 to 60 or so key players at the heart of it all (19). The claims of a consensus by the IPCC have often been challenged, for example in this analysis by Monckton (20), and recently a law professor, treating IPCC as if were presenting a legal brief, found grounds to condemn their materials and their methodology (21).
There are some signs that the tide may be turning. The leaders of the Royal Society of London, a body explicitly excluding advocacy when founded, went overboard in their support for dramatic actions based on concerns over CO2. But this year, enough of its fellows objected to being misrepresented, and the society has agreed to review its postion, hinting at a more reasoned and temperate approach (22).
There also many open-letters and petitions from well-qualified scientists critical of CO2 being given such a prominent role in climate dynamics. For example, there is such a letter supported by some 395 scientists and others from relevant subject areas published in Germany last year (2009): (23). Several such petitions or open letters or senate testimonies, have been published over the years (e.g. see 24 and 25). More recently, an environmentalist author has written about his discoveries when he looked more deeply into the IPCC (26):
'I was shocked by what I found. Firstly, there’s no real consensus among the scientists in the UN working groups, especially around oceanography and atmospheric physics. The atmospheric physics of carbon dioxide for example is presented as being pretty straightforward: it is a greenhouse gas, therefore it warms up the planet. But even that isn’t settled. There’s a huge amount of scientific disagreement on how much extra heating in the atmosphere you will get from carbon dioxide. It is even broadly accepted that carbon dioxide on its own is not a problem...
'So behind the appearance of consensus and settled science, there is now this tremendous battle going on. The dissenting scientists are described by certain journalists and environmentalists as ‘denialists’ and ‘sceptics’ funded by the oil industry. This is simply not the case. There are top-level atmospheric physicists, oceanographers and solar scientists who do not agree that the case is proven for global warming...'
In summary, the reality is that a few dozen scientists were exploited by the political activists behind the IPCC, giving their views on CO2 and climate a prominence utterly undeserved, and which were too readily adopted as gospel by thousands of other scientists or geographers more concerned with the effects rather than the causes of climate change, e.g those investigating natural habitats, and who would no doubt have found that adding a passing reference to 'global warming' did their grant applications no harm at all. To those who gained from the self-reinforcing tidal wave of grants and job opportunities in 'climate science', must be added those investors who see billions of dollars of profit in carbon trading, those NGOs such as WWF who enjoyed a surge in donations, and those politicians who see the required massive taxation and government intervention in society as highly desirable ends in themselves.
On the other hand, there are a great many scientists who differ, and who have been seriously un- or under-represented in the world of politics, as well as in some scientific and environmentalist circles wedded to what has now become the establishment view. The word 'cabal' is more apt than the word 'consensus' when it comes to scientists and the role of CO2 in climate, the dramatisation of which has provided advantages for many thousands of people in science, in finance, and in politics. That does not make it right, nor does it make it sensible. Nor does it make the critical scientists deserve the put-down of 'few'. For those most qualified to discuss causes of climate change, they may well be the majority.
Many of these are secondary or tertiary sources, but usually with links to primary ones where applicable. This is often how I first come across reports, and I find that the comments of the secondary sources can be helpful as an introduction or overview. In addition, I believe the scientific refutation of the exageration of the role of CO2 is well established. What is going to take more time, is establishing that view more widely in politics, and here the vivid and punchy writing of informed commentators is likely to be extremely important.
(1) Schools' Low Carbon Day website: http://www.lowcarbonday.com. The quotations to be used in these posts were found under the 'About Us' tab, where they are presented as reasons why we should worry about climate change. And worry our children too, I presume.
(2) A potted history of what led to the formation and goals of the IPCC: http://www.kusi.com/weather/colemanscorner/38574742.html
(3) Dr Tim Ball shares comments on the history and approach of the IPCC ('There are several problems with the articles cited, especially in the WGII Reports. First the IPCC pushed the peer review issue to extremes by claiming they only used such articles, then peer reviewing each other’s work. They used the issue to divert skeptics by telling them to get peer reviewed publications knowing they could control it. When one article by-passed their guard and was published by Geophysical Research Letters they got the editor fired. Now we discover they used a multitude of non-reviewed articles often from very biased sources such as the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace as references.' ): http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/19702
(4) Examples of hostile-to-humanity and/or dramatically pessimistic attitudes by environmentalists adding to the subculture in which something like the IPCC can thrive, the absurdity of many of the quotes having been shown by the passage of time (e.g. Ehrlich 'I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000.'): http://pushback.com/issues/environment/ecofreak-quotes/
(5) More self-serving lunacy here (e.g. in 1970 'Dr. S. Dillon Ripley, secretary of the Smithsonian Institute, believes that in 25 years, somewhere between 75 and 80 percent of all the species of living animals will be extinct.'): http://www.ihatethemedia.com/earth-day-predictions-of-1970-the-reason-you-should-not-believe-earth-day-predictions-of-2009
(6) An expression of dissent by atmospheric scientists in 1992: http://sepp.org/policy%20declarations/statment.html
(7) For a list, with links, of distortions, errors, and exaggerations in IPCC Working Group (WG) reports, WGI, WGII, and WGIII, which usually include the summary reports for policy makers: http://sites.google.com/site/globalwarmingquestions/ipcc
(8) The Global Warming Policy Foundation has an IPCC Corner on its website where papers on IPCC 'blunders' can be found: http://www.thegwpf.org/
(9) Open letter of resignation from the IPCC in 2005 ('I personally cannot in good faith continue to contribute to a process that I view as both being motivated by pre-conceived agendas and being scientifically unsound.'): http://www.climatechangefacts.info/ClimateChangeDocuments/LandseaResignationLetterFromIPCC.htm
(10) Another reviewer within the IPCC is disheartened by their deceit ('I have been a reviewer of the last two IPCC reports, one of the several thousand scientists who purportedly are supporters of the IPCC view that humans control global temperature. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many of us try to bring better and more current science to the IPCC, but we usually fail.'): http://icecap.us/index.php/go/new-and-cool/fact_based_climate_debate/
(11) Publication of next wave of IPCC authors, group leaders, etc. This page provides some comments, and also a link to a pdf with the published details: http://nofrakkingconsensus.blogspot.com/2010/06/climate-bibles-new-authors-announced.html
(12) Seven theories of climate change, summarised for the layperson here: http://www.heartland.org/books/SevenTheories.html
(13) A list with links to 750 or so peer-reviewed scientific papers not supporting the IPCC positions: http://www.populartechnology.net/2009/10/peer-reviewed-papers-supporting.html
(14) Example of a scientist concerned about what climategate revealed about some journals: http://reason.com/blog/2009/11/30/climategate-and-scientific-jou
(15) More commentary on scientific journals and climategate ('If the science is so solid, why stoop..'): http://www.thegwpf.org/climategate/1094-climategate-if-the-science-is-solid-why-stoop.html
(16) 'The Hockey Stick Illusion', by A.W. Montford. Stacey International, 2010.
(17) Emails from the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit: http://www.climategateemails.com/
(18) The 2006 Wegman report on estimating pre-instrumental temperatures using proxy measures such as the thickness of tree-rings ('As statisticians, we were struck by the isolation of communities such as the paleoclimate community that rely heavily on statistical methods, yet do not seem to be interacting with the mainstream statistical community. The public policy implications of this debate are financially staggering and yet apparently no independent statistical expertise was sought or used'): http://republicans.energycommerce.house.gov/108/home/07142006_Wegman_Report.pdf
(19) Here a journalist gathers several insights into the modest numbers of core scientists at the heart of alarmism ('Fifty-three authors and five reviewers are all that can be said to explicitly support the claim of a significant human influence on climate.'): http://nofrakkingconsensus.blogspot.com/2010/06/how-many-ipcc-scientists-say-so.html
(20) A powerful, extensively referenced, review of the IPCC claims of scientific consensus last updated in 2009: http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/monckton/consensuswhatconsensusamongclimatescientiststhedebateisnotover.html
(21) Comments on the IPCC as an advocacy group (' ... if your mandate is to produce an objective report and you instead ignore, minimize, and conceal evidence that happens to undercut your preconceived opinions, you've betrayed the public's trust.' ), with a link to the full report by a legal expert: http://skeptic.mensnewsdaily.com/2010/06/cross-examining-the-ipcc/
(22) Comments on and quotes from the Royal Society of London (2010) as they prepare to step back a little from their unseemly and unscientific position on climate, and some mention of similar societies in France, India and the United States: http://climaterealists.com/index.php?id=5813
(23) An open-letter by leading scientists in Germany, supported later by hundreds of other scientists and others from relevant areas, in 2009: http://www.eike-klima-energie.eu/news-anzeige/klimawandel-offener-brief-an-kanzlerin-merkel-temperaturmessungen-ab-1701-widerlegen-anthropogen-verursachte-temperaturschwankungen/
(24) The Oregon Petition, and other public statements by scientists are reported on here ('In the report U.S. Government Atmospheric Scientist Stanley B. Goldenberg was quoted as saying “It is a blatant lie put forth in the media that makes it seem there is only a fringe of scientists who don’t buy into anthropogenic global warming.”): http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/22624
(25) Open letter by 160 physicists ('While substantial concern has been expressed that emissions may cause significant climate change, measured or reconstructed temperature records indicate that 20th and 21st century changes are neither exceptional nor persistent, and the historical and geological records show many periods warmer than today.'): http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/11/02/160-physicists-send-letter-to-senate-regarding-aps-climate-position/
(26) Peter Taylor, an author and environmentalist took a closer look at the IPCC ('I was shocked by what I found. Firstly, there’s no real consensus among the scientists in the UN working groups, especially around oceanography and atmospheric physics.'): http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php/debates/copenhagen_article/8979