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Euroscepticism has gone from mad to mainstream. The same thing will happen to ‘climate change’ scepticism

The history of science is the history of one collapsing consensus after another

By on Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Environmental activists dressed as polar bears Binsar Bakkara/AP/Press Association Images

Environmental activists dressed as polar bears Binsar Bakkara/AP/Press Association Images

I have a natural bent towards scepticism about what everyone seems unquestioningly to believe. If I didn’t, I probably wouldn’t have become a Catholic: the secularism in which I was brought up crumbled in the end under my natural scepticism’s dissolving acids. What is sound doesn’t crumble; that’s why real scientists have scepticism built in: and why the “scientific consensus” presently damning all “climate change scepticism” as simply impermissible is so deeply intellectually disreputable.

Scepticism, of course, in a society in which, as Peter Hitchens memorably puts it, “hardly anyone has been taught how to think, while millions have been taught what to think, can be an uncomfortable option. We all remember, for instance, when eurosceptics were consistently treated like idiots or lunatics. This was the semi-official position of the BBC until very recently. Only last year, Rod Liddle wrote in his Sunday Times column of being summoned to see his boss at the BBC following a complaint about the Corporation’s bias against Eurosceptics. The complaint had been made by Lord Pearson of Rannoch, then a Tory peer. “The [BBC] panjandrum”, wrote Liddle “listened to my nervous musings and then held aloft Lord Pearson’s latest letter and said: “Rod, you do realise that these people are mad?”

Well, we’re all Eurosceptics now; hardly a single politician is prepared to admit that he or she was ever in favour of this country’s entry into the eurozone.

And I am now prepared to make a prediction; that in just the same way, climate change scepticism will – at some time during the next decade – become as normal as Euroscepticism is now. Here, for instance, is another example of what one might call the “Climategate” syndrome, that is, the tendency of some climate scientists (or climate ideologists, it’s often the same thing) either to suppress or distort evidence in order to drive home the conclusion they want us all to accept as an article of faith: that global warming is taking place at a rate which will lead to ecological disaster at some time during the next century, and that this effect is what they call “anthropogenic”, in other words, it’s caused by us. If you refuse to accept this, the implication is, you are doing something as intellectually disreputable as denying that the earth revolves round the sun, or even as denying the Holocaust: the accusation here is of climate change “denial”, as though it were some kind of crime.

Here’s the story.

Professor Richard Muller, of Berkeley, and colleagues from the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperatures project team (BEST) published a study last week designed to show that the planet has warmed by almost a degree centigrade since 1950 and is still warming. Their work was widely quoted as showing that only major carbon dioxide reduction measures can save us all, by reporters and commentators from the BBC, the Independent, the Guardian, the Economist and, of course, many newspapers and TV news services all over America.

According to the Washington Post, the BEST study has “settled the climate change debate” and has demonstrated that anyone who remains a sceptic is committing a “cynical fraud”.

Well, cynical fraud yourself, whoever wrote that: for, according to one of the report’s lead authors, Professor Judith Curry, head of the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Prof Muller’s claim that the report has proved global warming sceptics wrong is quite simply a “huge mistake”, with no scientific basis. She also said that this claim had to be compared to the notorious “Climategate” scandal two years ago.

In fact, she insisted, the project’s research data show there has been no increase in world temperatures since the end of the 90s. “There is no scientific basis for saying that warming hasn’t stopped,” she said. “To say that there is detracts from the credibility of the data, which is very unfortunate.”

The data, quite simply, show that though CO2 in the atmosphere has continued to rise, there has been no global warning at all for 13 years, none at all: nada, niente, zilch.

Prof Muller nevertheless denies warming is at a standstill. “We see no evidence of it [global warming] having slowed down,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. There is, he added, “no levelling off”. Pressed by a Mail on Sunday journalist, however, he admitted it was true that the best data suggested that world temperatures have not risen for about 13 years. But, he said, this might not be “statistically significant”, although, he then went on to say, it was equally possible that it was. “I am baffled,” responded Professor Curry, “as to what he’s trying to do”. She also repeated that “To say this is the end of scepticism is misleading, as is the statement that warming hasn’t paused.”

The trouble is, that no matter how often one points out very simple facts, such as the fact that (as Professor Curry points out) since 1998 there has been no global warming, and nor has there been any convincing explanation from the man-made CO2 bunch why this should be; they just carry on intoning their mantra, which has taken on a dogmatic weight almost impossible to shift.

Mentioning Peter Hitchens just now reminded me of a piece by him published a year or two ago, which is well worth reading in full: it includes nothing which isn’t true, so far as I have been able to check, including the following, which begins with the subject of Al Gore’s ludicrous film An Inconvenient Truth (which got him the Nobel Prize, for heaven’s sake):

…take, just for example, the famous picture of polar bears on a melting ice-floe, supposedly doomed victims of global warming.

The USA’s ex-vice president, the propagandist Al Gore, got audiences going “Aaah!” by saying the bears had “nowhere else to go”. Really? The picture was taken in August, when the Alaskan ice always melts. The polar bears were fine. Think about it.

They can swim and they weren’t far from land. Recent studies show that most polar bear populations are rising.

The world was warmer than it is now in the early Middle Ages, long before industrial activity increased CO2 output, a fact that the warming fanatics have worked very hard to obscure.

Oh, and the most important greenhouse gas by far is not CO2 but water vapour, which is not influenced by human activity at all.

All this is in fact the case. Take that apparently polemical accusation that “the warming fanatics have worked very hard to obscure” the fact that the world was warmer than it is now in the early Middle Ages. It is absolutely true: they have. Consider the following testimony given to the US Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works in December 2006 by Dr David Deming, of the University of Oklahoma’s College of Earth and Energy:

Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee, and distinguished guests, thank you for inviting me to testify today. I am a geologist and geophysicist. I have a bachelor’s degree in geology from Indiana University, and a Ph.D in geophysics from the University of Utah. My field of specialization in geophysics is temperature and heat flow. In recent years, I have turned my studies to the history and philosophy of science. In 1995, I published a short paper in the academic journal Science. In that study, I reviewed how borehole temperature data recorded a warming of about one degree Celsius in North America over the last 100 to 150 years. The week the article appeared, I was contacted by a reporter for National Public Radio. He offered to interview me, but only if I would state that the warming was due to human activity. When I refused to do so, he hung up on me.

I had another interesting experience around the time my paper in Science was published. I received an astonishing email from a major researcher in the area of climate change. He said, “We have to get rid of the Medieval Warm Period.”

The Medieval Warm Period (MWP) was a time of unusually warm weather that began around 1000 AD and persisted until a cold period known as the “Little Ice Age” took hold in the 14th century. Warmer climate brought a remarkable flowering of prosperity, knowledge, and art to Europe during the High Middle Ages.

The existence of the MWP had been recognized in the scientific literature for decades. But now it was a major embarrassment to those maintaining that the 20th century warming was truly anomalous. It had to be “gotten rid of.”

I’m not saying that all those involved in trying to foist on us the notion that climate scepticism simply isn’t a permissible intellectual option are actually dishonest. But some of them certainly are. Ex-vice president Al Gore is a charlatan; and I have a list of other persons about whom something more disobliging than that could be and probably should be asserted. But I know how far I am allowed to go.

Meanwhile, there is at present no global warming. Maybe it will start again; maybe it won’t. But there is no proof at all that any of it ever had very much to do with man-made carbon dioxide.

Finally, the question of that so-called ”scientific consensus”. The history of science is the history of one collapsing consensus after another. It is quite possible – I would have thought likely (eg Professor Curry) – that this one, if it actually exists, will collapse too. Remember, when it happens; you read it here first. If you did, that is.

  • Anonymous

    Methinks the Draeegis doth protest too much.

    I have noted with interest, not unmixed with a certain admiration, how the warmist tendency (I do not mean to offend) struggles to “explain” embarrassing facts; facts that refuse to go away despite frantic efforts to expunge them. But there comes a time when one has to admit defeat, and to his great credit old Moonbat, the scourge of all deniers, flat-earthers, etc. etc., nailed the obfuscaters at CRU and demanded their resignations. I look forward (wearily) to the Draeegis’s next convoluted “explanation” for this on-message confirmation of dirty work at the UEA.

    The tree-rings embarrassment is well understood and further repetition is unnecessary. If you are satisfied with your “explanation”, I am content that you remain so.
    I note, incidentally, that you continue to use the word “consensus”. You really ought to know by now that this is a political concept, not a scientific one. Scepticism is the default position of all true scientists, although generous and cleverly directed grants have undermined that particular truth. I shall not weary you by giving examples; you can do that for yourself. Suffice to say that scientific advances have almost always been made by debunking the prevailing consensus. 

    As for the  exoneration of the fiddlers at CRU, Trenberth’s “clarification”, and Michael Mann’s amazing statistical modelling what more needs to be said? It is pretty straightforward and only ‘true believers’ still refuse to acknowledge the facts. 
    Fred Pearce wrote in The Guardian that the three inquiries GWPF looked into were all badly flawed, one of the criticisms of the three inquiries being that no climate sceptics were on the inquiry teams. Now there’s a surprise!

    David Whitehouse, by the way, was BBC Science Correspondent 1988–1998, Science Editor BBC News Online 1998–2006 and the 2004 European Internet Journalist of the Year. He also has a doctorate in astrophysics. I was under the impression that he had supported the warmist agenda but I may be wrong or, since leaving the Beeb, he may have changed his mind. Never mind.

    The editors of Nature, “one of the most prominent and well respected scientific journals in the world” have had egg on their faces more than once in the Great GW/AGW debate and if you remain unaware of this there’s nothing I can do about it.

    Well, Draeegis, Old Fruit. I shall leave you snugly encased in your impregnable certainties in the (probably vain) hope that you may, one day, reject the belief system in whose clammy embrace you are (for the time being at least) enfolded.

    As my old granny used to say, “there’s nowt so queer as folk”.

  • tb88

    So no refutation of any of his points then? Shocker!

  • Anonymous

    You may still be hopelessly adrift, tb88, but at least you’re succinct.

  • Draeegis

    That was a long reply considering you didn’t really say anything! As I have bought up facts and evidence to support my position, and you have nothing to offer in way of refute, I would contend that it is you who is enfolded in the clammy embrace of a belief system and encased in impregnable certainties. In contrast I am open to all possibilities, all that I ask before I believe a factual claim is that it is backed up by good scientific evidence, as the scientific method is the best way we have to assess the validity of claims like these. I hope one day you will decide to pull your fingers out of your ears and listen to the evidence yourself. 

  • Anonymous

    So you see yourself as “open to all possibilities”? 

    Dream on, dear Draeegis. 

    It was SunTzu, I believe, who wisely said “Know yourself and you will be safe in a thousand battles”.  On that basis I would seriously advise you against cancelling your insurance for the time being.

    But I honestly wish you well – although you probably don’t believe me. 

    Good-bye for now. Perhaps some other time . . .

  • GabrielAustin

    Simply to round out the discussion about global warming, I note a report about sunspot activity:
    “The big consequences of a major solar calm spell, however, would be
    climatic. The next few generations of humanity might not find themselves
    trying to cope with global warming but rather with a significant
    cooling. This could overturn decades of received wisdom on such things
    as CO2 emissions”.

  • Anonymous

    There are over a billion Catholics in the world. If they heed the church and address climate change as a matter of faith………

    climate change is not dogma except to those AGW fanatics who will not even consider skeptical viewpoint

  • Anonymous

    There are over a billion Catholics in the world. If they heed the church and address climate change as a matter of faith………climate change is not dogma except to those AGW fanatics who will not even consider skeptical viewpoint

  • Helen Z

    Im suggesting they address it as a matter of faith, not ‘believe’ it dogmatically as a matter of faith. You only have to look at the evidence to see that it’s happening – its not a question of belief. Caring for God’s good gift of Creation is something our faith should call us to do. Denying the truth, and thereby harming not only the natural world but also some of its most vulnerable peoples, is morally wrong.

    Science by its very nature is sceptical. The science shows that AGW is real. A fanatic is someone who will not change their mind despite the evidence. This description is much more fitting of people like you, who deny AGW in the face of the mountain of evidence.

  • Paul

    A “major solar calm spell” that you refer to in relation to sunspot activity is more properly called a “grand minimum” There is plenty of evidence that such grand minima cool the Earth. It’s one of the more dramatic effects the sun’s changing activity can have on our climate. There is also a lot of evidence to suggest we are now entering one of these grand minima. So the first sentence of your quote is fine. The last two sentences are where it lurches away from reality though.  Let’s assume that grand minima really do cool Earth’s climate: not every climate scientist is convinced of that, but for the sake of argument let’s go with it. Now the question becomes: how much do they cool it, and for how long?
    The straightforward answer is: not enough. Last year researchers modelled what would happen to global temperatures if a grand minimum started now and continued until 2100. They found that it would lower temperatures by 0.3 °C at most. That’s not enough to compensate for our greenhouse gas emissions, which are set to raise temperatures by 2-4.5 °C by 2100. So in the most optimistic scenario, in which the grand minimum has the biggest effect possible and emissions their smallest, a rise of 2 °C would be reduced to 1.7 °C. That’s not “significant cooling”, it’s a slightly less severe warming.

  • Anonymous

    What in God’s name did you mean by over a billion Catholics addressing climate change as a matter of faith, except the way I interpreted it – directly as stated? Denying the truth and falsifying evidence is exactly what the AGW fanatics (and you are correct, who will not change their mind despite the evidence) have done – witness Climategate via East Anglia and Michael Mann’s hockey stick illusion. If as you seem to believe that AGW have the truth then why won’t they release computer data and raw measurements for peer review? Truth never has anything to hide.