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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

    I try to take a purely pragmatic point of view that if they have trouble forecasting the weather a week ahead their predictions on the climate which is a much more complicated problem are probably wide of the mark.  But having said that we do know that from past history climate is unstable and subject to rapid change, we don’t understand fully how the system works and messing it with it by adding lots of carbon dioxide probably isn’t a good idea. I think the standoff between climate experts and skeptics is not terribly productive.

  • Brian A. Cook
  • Anonymous

    I have crossed swords with you a number of times in these blogs Dr. Oddie, but as far as this thread goes, I am pleased to see that you are siding with the commonsense people. You have seen through the Global Warming propaganda.  You appear to have seen through the “Once size can be made to fit all” pantomime that has been crafted for Euroland by those who cherish One World government under a world leader as their dream.

    Perhaps there is hope for you after all?

    How long will it be before you see through the machinations of those who are promoting Vatican II and its rotting fruits?  They are aiming for a unified world religion based on a human concept of global acceptability and their main vehicle is global ecumenism.  The only way this can come about is by the spread of the idea of religious freedom, where anyone can think whatever they like, and yet still believe that it will gain them eternal life.  All it will lead to is religious indifference – anything goes.

    Come and join the Traditional people, Dr. Oddie.  Those people who believe that there is only one version of the Truth, and that it is that version revealed to the world by Jesus Christ and the Apostles.  Become a “Vatican II sceptic” and lend your influence to the cause. 

    The harvest is great but the labourers are few“.

  • Brian A. Cook
  • Anonymous

    The trouble is, by the time the climate change sceptics like you are proved wrong it’ll be too late, we’ll have well and truly trashed God’s creation. But you needn’t worry too much, Dr Oddie, you are (like me, in truth) in the privileged Western Middle Class who’ll be the last to suffer. As always, it’ll be the poorest with the least resources who’ll suffer first.   Meantime, by proudly declaring that you don’t believe the warnings of the *vast majority of scientists* you can continue with a wasteful and extravagant lifestyles with an easy conscience. Convenient, eh?

  • Paul

    Your repeated claim that there has been no global warming since 1998 is one that is often made by climate change deniers and it is simply wrong. In fact, the three warmest years on record have all occurred since 1998. The GWPF claim that the Berkeley data set shows warming has stopped is based on a graph of monthly average temperatures taken from the data set which they claim shows “a statistically perfect straight line of zero gradient” without actually giving a line and without providing any error bars. If you actually look at the data behind the graph you will see that for the last two points on it there is a massive error margin of 3C because the data for those points was taken from only weather stations in Antarctica, meaning there is nothing meaningful you can say about that time period, something Curry fails to mention. Removing these two points does show an upward trend, and if you start the graph at the previous year the gradient increases. Same again if you add another year.  Using such a short period of the time the uncertainties are too large to show anything reliably – you need to look at the long term trend. You could just as well take any 13 year period and come up with a graph equally as “flat”. Its a completely non scientific way to analyse the data.

    To address the points made in the quote from the Peter Hitchens article which you claim contains nothing that isn’t true and is all in fact the case:
    The first point made is that polar bear populations are rising. There are estimated to be 20000-25000 polar bears in 19 population groups around the Arctic. Two of these populations are increasing and another two are in decline. We don’t know how the others are faring so we can’t say for sure how the overall numbers are changing, but the World Conservation Union predicts that their numbers will drop by 30% by 2050 due to loss of Arctic sea ice.
    The second point was that it was warmer in the early middle ages than it is today. This may be true for much of the northern hemisphere, but it doesn’t reflect a global change and was mostly a regional phenomenon. Current evidence suggests that the world may not have been as warm as it is now for the past 6000 or even 125000 years. For the past 1000 years average global temperature changes have stayed within 1C even in reconstructions which show the greatest variation. Compare that to today where the worst case scenario predicted in the latest IPCC report sees an increase of 6.4C by 2100.
    Finally, CO2 isn’t the most important greenhouse gas, water vapour is. The difference of course, is that excess water vapour rains out in days whereas excess CO2 accumulates, warming the atmosphere, raises water vapour levels, and causes further warming. In other words, water vapour is a feedback but not a forcing. 

    As for the question of the scientific consensus: Firstly you seem a little confused as to whether it actually exists so let me assure you it most certainly does. Secondly the consensus on this issue is, far from showing any signs of collapsing, actually increasing. You misrepresent the history of science by portraying it as “one collapsing consensus after another” Science is forever piling on new evidence which increases our understanding of the world and each new idea is built upon the legacy of the past. Ideas aren’t simply thrown out of the window as you seem to suggest. Particularly not when the evidence is as compelling as it is on this issue.

    As both a scientist and a Catholic I was disappointed by this article for two reasons. First, it’s always annoying to read something which so completely misrepresents a scientific topic that the author clearly has no understanding of. (To anyone reading this, if you want to understand the topic of climate science, don’t go to journalists from a non scientific publication for your information). Second, we are all stewards of God’s creation and called by Him to share responsibility for the future of our planet and to protect it, not to deny the harm that we are causing.

  • Vince

    As Napoleon supposedly said once : “do not credit malevolence to what can very well be explained by mere incompetence.”

  • Anonymous

    The poorest are much more likely to suffer from unnecessary restrictions in manufacturing activity.

  • Anonymous

    Even if we admit global warming is real, there are two further objections to drastic regulation that never seem to get discussed: (1) Whether or not it’s man-made, thus able to be slowed by reduced carbon emissions, and (2) Whether or not it’s actually a problem at all. People who complain about greenhouses gases don’t seem to realize that greenhouses themselves are constructed to provide BETTER growing environments for planets.

  • Oconnordamien

    Surely this is a case where Pascal’s Wager applies? Do nothing and there could be dire consequences. Do a little and it will be a big benefit and cost you little. 

    I’m pretty “green”, but for financial, health and reason of convenience. For example, twice I was offered company cars in the past, both of which I declined as for many reasons I preferred footpower, buses or carpools. Not to presume that such an option would apply to other people, but little things can help and give you other benefits not so obvious. One of the easy ways to meet co-workers in different departments in a new workplace is through the carpool. 

    As has been pointed above by other posters, we could argue the validity of climate change forever and never agree. I fall on the side of believing the evidence presented, but I don’t care as I won’t be effected. Sometimes it is good to do a good thing even if not for the “right” reason. 

  • Anonymous

    I hope this will be the case. The climate changes constantly. Where I am sitting now was once under hundreds of feet of ice. It melted. Ergo the temperature rose. We were not around in sufficient numbers in those days to have that effect.
    I have to say your first sentence is a classic,and rings true for me.

  • The Moz

    And what about the research by CERN? Where’s that in the media?

  • Scyptical Chymist

    I do not think that any intelligent  person denies climate change (didn’t it used to be “global warming” – wonder what happened? ) but many scientists (contrary to what you imply) are sceptical about blaming human activity as its major cause. The green lobby and the generally left leaning political class have used the man-made climate change argument to oppose the interim efficient usage of carbon based fuels until nuclear power (which they have done everything to delay over the last 50+ years) comes on stream. These same people at the moment oppose the means to help feed the world’s increasing population – viz: the proper exploitation of GM crops, fertilisers and insecticides. The latter two items, the fruits of chemistry, helped the postwar green revolution which transformed, for example, India in my lifetime. Then there was the scandal of the total ban on DDT and the consequent rise in malaria leading to the death of millions. Now chemists, biochemists and geneticists can help to feed the poor as well as the still relatively comfortable west in the coming years but many obstacles are put in their path. It is the ignorance of science and technology among our rulers that is the problem. I believe that the green lobby, including human climate change proponents,  are the biggest obstacle to the development of poorer countries and the welfare of millions.

     I too am a Catholic and scientist and have been frustrated for years by the by the ignorance of those in power and opinion formers who complain about the deleterious effects of “chemicals” and want only green (whatever they mean by that) production and products. They remind me (pace Fr Lucie-Smith) of the nobility of pre-revolutionary France before the storm struck. How do we cope with warming and feeding the coming increase in population?- “let them use condoms” perhaps or even let them die, or kill each other. The latter views, of course are never openly expressed by such people but do appear in comments on the internet.

    The political elite have no interest in good science – they merely use the arguments of some sceintists to further their own agenda which they believe popular with their fellow liberals, and which, knowingly or unknowingly to themselves, is hampering the welfare of fellow humans especially in poorer countries.

  • Oconnordamien

    Don’t get your point at all. CERN could possibly allow us to understand the origins of the universe or it could possibly create a singularity that destroys our solar system. Just as earlier this evening, I put out my recycling bin. The action could result in two of many possible things, most likely I conserve a little energy. But it was possible but so unlikely as to be discounted, I could have been hit by a bus.

  • Anonymous

    If only you were right, but the cost of ‘green’ policies is enormous. The idea that there will be a big benefit which will cost us little isn’t supported by the reality. For example the policies of Chris Huhne will result in many more people in energy poverty with the rise in bills and the destruction of the English countryside by windfarms and the governments attempts to reduce carbon emissions will likely result in the bankruptcy of the country. Even George Monbiot is calling for drastic measures and says that it will be necessary to limit peoples’s freedom because of global warming. Maybe these measures are necessary (personally I’m not convinced), but don’t say that the cost will be small.

  • Oconnordamien

    Surely it’s a simple concept, our energy is provided by the Sun. At the moment we are mining energy from the sun from the past, oil, gas and coal are just stored solar energy. It took a hundred years to get the combustion engine to work as well as it does, we can do it far quicker on solar.

    I so hate sounding like a hippie, but money and resources need to be balanced by human ingenuity here. 

  • GFFM

    Global Warming, aka Climate Change has become a kind of pseudo religion for the far left. There is still much to be discovered about whether or not climate change is driven by human activity primarily. I would remind everyone that scientific consensus, or the way that many scientists have framed the issue doesn’t mean said interpretation is a fact. Skepticism is definitely needed, especially amongst scientists who have become quite dogmatic and certain about the severity and the causes of climate change. There are ideological agendas afoot here–that is clear. So a healthy reasoned skepticism about the alleged “compelling” evidence for man-made climate change is exactly the right attitude to maintain until the political and ideological fog clears.

  • Al

    Of course there is climate change.  Examination of the ice cores taken from Antarctica and Greenland, shows there have been at least ten ice ages in the past, and each ice age has been followed by a warming period.  We are in such a warming period now.  It is uncontested that the world is getting warmer.  What IS contested, is that mankind is causing this rise.  The exact amount of temperature rise contributed by man cannot so far, be easily determined.  It is a well known fact, that as the oceans warm, they release CO2, so of course there is at present, also rising CO2 levels, and most of this is due to our present warming interglacial period.
    What is very troubling, is that many of the APGW (anthropogenic global Warming) Scientists refuse to open their data to public scrutiny, claiming some sort of immunity.  This in itself is an indication that they fear the data is not convincing. 
    Also troubling is the hyping of very uncertain climactic data.  Take the “melting of the Arctic Ice”, which is continuing at present, and is being used as a basis for alarming reports on “Global Warming”. The phenomena of “Melting Ice” is based on only 20 years of satellite surveillance, from 1979 to 2000, and so 20 years is the supposed baseline of the ice area.   This seems very uncertain. Why is this time period, so short by geologic time periods, accepted as a standard?  How can this be known?  Perhaps the ice is varying over a several hundred year period, or longer, so the use of a 20 year baseline may not be at all realistic for Arctic Ice modeling.   So many of the “Global Warming” theories seem to be based on such very tentative data. 
    As such, it certainly seems that skepticism is warranted, especially since the advocates rely on the public funding generated by their alarming reports. 

  • Anonymous

    I do not know enough about climate change to be able to decide either way. What does concern me is the way that a number of Catholic charities, CAFOD in particular, justify their work almost entirely on the basis of anthropogenic climate change rather than the simple fact that it is pretty obvious that we are not stewarding God’s creation in a very responsible way and need to do better. Whilst much of the work that CAFOD seeks to do (let’s not touch the condoms debate in this thread) is praiseworthy it concerns me that they justify it by reference to something which may be disproved rather than by our indisputable responsibility to God as stewards of his creation. Similarly outside the Catholic world, if climate change is proved false, do we simply think that that would justify using the world’s resources in any way that we wished?

  • Anonymous

    When a claim of science is falsified it’s put into the trash can. When a claim of religion is falsified it becomes a metaphor

  • Anonymous

    When a claim of science is falsified it’s put into the trash can. When a claim of religion is falsified it becomes a metaphor

  • W Oddie

    Exactly so. This isn’t a subject I touched on: but our energy bills are rising and will rise massively because of the anti carbon policies of the present government, ie the policies of the wretched Huhne. Warmist policies are hugely expensive; all the windmills in the country don’t replace a single gasfired power station: hardly “sustainable”. or am I missing something?. 

  • W Oddie

    “.Do a little and it will be a big benefit and cost you little: no: it will cost so much it could have a very serious effect on our economy.

  • W Oddie

     “the three warmest years on record have all occurred since 1998′ Just untrue: a classic unsubstantiated warmist assertion. Actually, there were warmer years in the thirties.

  • W Oddie

    Only 4 of the top 10 warmest years
    occurred in the past 10 years. Out of the top 10 warmest years half
    occurred before 1940. The years 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2004 were cooler than the
    year 1900. Mean temperatures show a general standstill in overall  “global warming”  since 1998. You people have yet to confront these facts: all you do, as the Climategate scandal showed is try to avoid the facts, or claim they are in some way statistically non-existent. Sorry, it’s not good enough to say you’re a “scientist” and we must therefore defer to you: we just don’t trust the integrity of the “scientific  community” any more.

  • Paul

    This is simply untrue, unsubstantiated rubbish. I don’t know where you are getting those figures from but in fact 19 of the warmest 20 years on record have occurred since 1980. Mean temperatures do not show a standstill in warming since 1998. This is demonstrably false. As for the so called “climategate scandal” – if you spent a little time doing what any half decent self respecting journalist would, and actually do a bit of research, you would see that there was no scandal at all. Im sorry, its not good enough to say you don’t trust science based on some rubbish you read in the tabloids. Look at the evidence – it speaks for itself. I would never suggest you defer to the opinion of an anonymous poster on the internet because he says he is a scientist. Im saying look at the evidence yourself. There have now been four major studies of global climate going back thousands of years. Each has come to the same conclusion. All the evidence is out there. You are either being deliberately misleading or you are ignorant of the facts. You can’t fake spring coming earlier, or trees growing higher up on mountains, or glaciers retreating for kilometres up valleys, or shrinking ice cover in the Arctic, or birds changing their migration times, or permafrost melting in Alaska, or the tropics expanding, or ice shelves on the Antarctic peninsula breaking up, or peak river flow occurring earlier in summer because of earlier snowmelt, or sea level rising faster and faster, or any of the thousands of similar examples. If you think there is some massive conspiracy by scientists the world over (and it would have to be massive as man made global warming is accepted as a fact by the national science academies of practically every country in the world) you must be barmy. Do you also think the royal family are reptilian aliens?

  • Paul

    I completely agree with your points about GM crops, fertilisers and insecticides etc. You are right in saying the green lobby are doing a lot of harm in this regard, and I would never vote for the green party for example, because I see a lot of their policies as actually rather anti-science. I also think they’re wrong in opposing nuclear power. The only part of your post I would disagree with is where you say many scientists are sceptical that human activity is to blame for climate change. There is overwhelming consensus in the scientific community about the causes of global warming. Consider the dozens of statements on climate change from various scientific organisations around the world representing tens of thousands of scientists, and the consensus position represented by the IPCC reports for example. There are some exceptions, but the number of sceptics is getting smaller rather than growing. In January 2009, a poll of 3146 earth scientists found that 82% answered yes to the question: “Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?”. Of the 77 climatologists actively engaged in research, 75 answered yes (97.4%). The scientists most likely to answer no were petroleum geologists.

  • Paul

    The cost of doing nothing will be much worse. Regardless, God’s creation is more important than money.

  • Al

    It is noticeable that Proponents of Anthropogenic Global warming, assault skeptics with verbal attacks:  “unsubstantiated rubbish”, “..based on some rubbish you read in the tabloids”  “deliberately misleading, or you are ignorant of the facts”  “you must be barmy”   “…reptilian aliens”.  This approach culminated in the infamous video of last year, in which those who oppose AGW were blown up, blood spattering everywhere.
    This approach is not only suspect, but it definitely damages the case for AGW.

      Would you please stop the Ad Hominem?  Would you please stop blowing up skeptics?  Would you please realize that skeptics have some reasonable questions about AGW?  And would you please address yourself to an objective examination of these questions?  And most of all, would you please end the Ad Hominem, and engage in an even tempered, polite debate about AGW?  It is most important that there must be an open, fair, and objective debate about APG. 

  • Paul

    I have no idea what the “infamous” video you refer to is so please don’t tell me to “stop blowing up skeptics”. “unsubstantiated rubbish” and “..based on some rubbish you read in the tabloids” are not ad hom attacks – they’re attacking the ideas not the author. If something is true, and someone claims it to be false, then yes, they are either being misleading or they are ignorant of said truth. What’s the third option? Sorry if you don’t like my tone but I do consider most conspiracy theories to be “barmy” – and its hardly the most offensive thing that could be said. My original comment was a fairly long reply addressing the points made in the article. If you have some “reasonable questions” about my response then feel free to ask them, rather than implying that any point I make is invalid if I don’t phrase it in the most inoffensive way possible.

  • Al

    To put it as simple as possible:  The AGW advocates like yourself, avoid discussion of the facts, and instead, take as your goal, the demeaning and smearing of your opponents. 
    So, I’ll ask you a direct question, which would you please answer:  What Scientific basis or proof is there, for selecting the 20 year period, 1979 to 2000, as the standard baseline, or norm, for Arctic icepack area? 

    My answer:  There is none.  It just happened to be the start of satellite surveillance, and so this 20 year period has no real Scientific Basis, for estimating the increase or decrease of icepack area, from a norm.  The norm is not known.  Therefore, any suggestion that the icepack area is decreasing, has to be very tentative, and not a proven Scientific fact.   

    Your answer?:

  • Anonymous

    In the longer term climate change is catastrophic and much the bigger problem for everyone, but you are right that *unnecessary* restrictions on industrial development would be a disaster for the poorest.  That is why the onus is on the richest to take the lead. Developed countries can’t tell the developing world to stop, when it is us that’s causing the worst problems.  

  • Paul

    I have addressed every factual point in the article relating to climate change, and in every reply to my comments thus far, so please don’t tell me im avoiding discussion of the facts. If you’re speaking in general terms about people who accept climate change, then tell the authors of the thousands of scientific papers, the position statements of science academies and organisations, and the IPCC reports that they are not discussing the facts. Or don’t do that because it might make you look a bit silly.

    To answer your question: The reason for comparing the current extent of the Arctic icepack to data going back only as far as 1979 (well, October 1978 actually) is out of scientific honesty. From that period onwards we have an almost continuous series of data, collected in almost the same way (polar orbiting microwave satellite with only small differences in detail of instrument used). Using data collected from different sources in a single time sequence can easily introduce false trends in the data. Since the changes in the icepack are small, these errors could overwhelm the small but real changes we’re trying to detect. We do have data that goes back further including from a different satellite (EMSR) in the early 70s, AARI maps going back to 1953, US-Russian atlas going back to 1950, Arctic ocean ship tracks going back irregularly to 1872, and information on the Nordic seas as far back as 1750, amongst other sources. So we do know that the current minima we are observing are far from what has been previously observed, going back much further than the last 32 years.

    Even if you were correct in the belief that the evidence for declining sea ice in the Arctic is on shaky ground, that would not be much of a refutation of AGW, as the scientific evidence for this comprises much more than just observations of the Arctic ice pack, as im sure you know. None of these observations by themselves prove the world is warming, but put all the data together and you have an overwhelming and growing body of evidence of a warming trend.

  • Scyptical Chymist

    Climate change has happened for aeons and I and others remain to be convinced that we humans can do much about it. It is the height of arrogance to assume that we can control forces which we only understand dimly. However we can and should help fellow human beings by using our God-given intelligence in applying science and technology already available, to  this end. Of course we must not use the eatrh’s resources in a a profligate manner – a sensible Christian does not need to be lectured with “green” scare stories to realise this. Nevertheless the welfare of humanity here and NOW should take precedence over  scare stories which may or may not  have any future relevance.

  • Anonymous

    ” It is the height of arrogance to assume that we can control forces which we only understand dimly”
    Actually I agree that we only dimly understand the complexity of the planet, and also that the arrogance of some science is indeed frightening.But are you suggesting that the domination of humans on the earth is not having a global impact?  That burning fossil fuels, releasing the carbon that has been locked up over millions of years into the atmosphere as CO2 doesn’t change the planet? That sounds like head-in-the-sands and a recipe for a global equivalent of the story of Easter Island http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easter_Island

  • Anonymous

    Let’s assume that climate change is real, and let’s also assume we could change it if we wanted to. My question is: is a warming climate actually harmful? What will happen? I am not a scientist, but a Princeton physics professor wrote an article here ( http://www.firstthings.com/article/2011/05/the-truth-about-greenhouse-gases ) aruging that increased CO2 would actually be beneficial for life. 

  • Al

    OK.  This is an improvement in tone, and a good discussion.  Of course, we are going to disagree about this, especially your conclusion that “put all the data together, and you have an overwhelming and growing body of evidence of a warming trend”.  I agree absolutely.  But this is due to the fact that we are in an interglacial period, like occurred after the ten prior ice ages, when the weather warmed, and the ice melted.  That is NOT in dispute.  What is in dispute, is that mankind is causing the ice melt.  Climate is not in the control of man.  If a large volcano erupts and debris clouds blanket the earth, or if the Solar output decreases, or if earth gets hit by a comet or asteroid, and finally, due to the Milankovitch cycle, that is what controls the climate.  We men are mere onlookers for these great events.   We know that glaciers have covered the earth in the past, and the sea level decreased below present levels, by hundreds of feet, and then the glaciers have melted, and the sea levels have risen to well above present levels.  This all has happened many times, before the advent of mankind.  So, why should this present cycle be any different as to cause?
    But thank you very much, for an erudite, polished, educated, and polite discussion.  That is very much needed.

  • Paul

    Professor Happer is not a climate scientist, his field is optics and spectroscopy, so he is not an expert in this field. He also used to work for the US department of energy, so make of that what you will. Your question, is a warming climate actually harmful, is not entirely addressed by his article because he claims that increased CO2 will not actually cause much warming. So there’s two points to address here – would warming be harmful? Yes. More species will face extinction, coastal areas will be at risk of flooding, food production in many areas will fall and heatwaves draughts and floods will kill more people. Would increased CO2 be beneficial for life? hard to generalise, but in isolation without warming, for some life yes, others no, and in combination with the warming that would occur, overall no.

  • Paul

    At the most basic level there are two reasons why the earth warms or cools. If it is warming then it is either absorbing more solar radiation, or reflecting less of it. If its cooling then its either absorbing less solar radiation or reflecting more of it. The coming and going of ice ages over the past millions of years were triggered by small changes in solar heating caused by Milankovitch cycles, and the effects amplified by ice sheets reflecting radiation and transfer of CO2 between the oceans and atmosphere. On a shorter time scale the eleven year sunspot cycle also effects climate. As you have pointed out, there are MANY natural factors which effect the climate. However, just because the planet has been warmer at various times in the past, does not mean that we can dismiss the current rapid warming as just natural variation. So how much of the current warming can be attributed to natural effects?

    One of the most important pieces of evidence comes from an ice core drilled from a feature in central Antarctica called Dome C. It is 3km long and records Antarctic temperatures going back 740000 years, spanning eight ice ages. Importantly, it was the first core to record an interglacial period known as Termination V around 430000 years ago. All interglacials are slightly different but Termination V is the most similar to our current one. It mirrors the pattern of solar warming between seasons and at different lattitudes caused by the Milankovitch cycles. Based on this record, the Earth should not currently be warming as rapidly as it is.

    On a much shorter scale, studies have shown that over the past sixty years, natural effects including changes in solar radiation and natural volcanic aerosols have actually had a cooling effect, leading to a slight underestimate of human induced warming. Taken together with the cooling effect of man-made sulphate aerosols, they offset about a third of the warming we would have otherwise experienced due to man made greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Jonathan West

    As for the idea that the history of science is solely of collapsing consensuses, I beg to differ. I think that Archimedes will forever be thought to have the right idea about why things float, Newton’s explanations for the behaviour of billiard balls will never be bettered, Benjamin Franklin is unlikely ever to be shown to be wrong about why lightning conductors work and Watson and Crick aren’t ever going to be found to have got the structure of DNA wrong.

  • tb88

    The mistake made here by Curry, deliberately or otherwise, in claiming warming has stopped since 1998 is a simple one. She has taken a large data set showing a gradual increase in temperature, picked out a small part of it and said it shows no increase. This is like being very high up in a plane, seeing that the surface of the Earth is curved, then standing on the ground and saying “nope, looks flat from here!”. Just as you could stand anywhere on the ground and the Earth would appear flat, you could pick out any short enough period of time from the data and there would appear to be no increase in temperature. There is nothing special about the period since 1998 in this regard. Cherry-picking the data like this, instead of looking at all of it, is what you have to do when you have already made your conclusion before you’ve seen the evidence. It is nothing more than intellectual dishonesty.

  • tb88

    Im growing a whole solar system in my greenhouse.

  • Al

    Thanks for the discussion, Paul, it’s been serious fun. This will be my last comment, because maybe we will never agree, and it’s time to end.
    But I’d like to address your remarks about ice core analyses.  First, if one examines the results for CO2 analysis from say, Vostok ice cores, CO2 exhibits quite a bit of variation.  There are around a dozen lesser maxima and minima between each ice age maxima.  It’s quite difficult to extrapolate trends from this degree of variation, and each ice age also shows variation from the others.   There are also in between random swings of temperature up and down, also difficult for prediction, and bear in mind, these swings last hundreds and thousands of years.  This is quite a bit longer than we would like, and because we are human, and our lives are short, we tend to draw conclusions based on short term data. We may never be able to resolve this problem, because we cannot collect data from future variations which will occur over geologic time spans.
    And worse, we will never know if there will be one of these lesser, but still considerable downturns, in say, a hundred or two hundred years, resulting in another Maunder minimum.   Also, there are problems with ice core analysis.  The annual snowfalls tend to melt and refreeze, and also, get compressed over time.  This blends the snow layers quite a bit, so that the analyses are really averaged over a many year time period.  The result is that maxima tend to be reduced towards the average, helped along by this considerable blending of the snow crystals over time.   
    My opinion, based on these problems, is that it is not very realistic to make any long term predictions about climate, and that mankind is really reduced to the role of being observers of climactic factors which are far beyond our control.  It”s been fun, thanks, Paul.   

  • Richard

    “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:”

    Really?  Surely a position of scepticism implies a position of not taking as true that which you are simply told to be true, without strong reproducible evidence to back those “facts” up.  Ie, the opposite of a purely faith based position.  The strength of Catholicism, as all religions, comes from faith – unquestioning belief.  If anything, a sceptical position would have lead Mr Oddie away from Catholicism.

    Given that Mr Oddie’s opening statement is clearly ludicrous, I have very little faith myself in anything else he has to say.

  • Paul

    We could go into a lot of detail about ice cores but I’ll be brief since neither of us wants this discussion to go on forever. The most important point in relation to AGW is that detailed studies of ice cores have shown there is a remarkable correlation between CO2 levels and temperature over the past million years. A good place to start for detailed information on how ice core analysis is carried out, which answers some of the points you raise is this paper: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/20859 (superseded somewhat by more recent studies but i happened to have the reference for this one at hand). A quick point in relation to the Maunder minimum – this is usually associated with the so called “little ice age” that coincided with it. This cooling was not however a global one, but a regional phenomenon. Your general conclusion seems to be that there are too many factors to make climate predictable. Well, you cannot predict the exact path a ball will take as it bounces through a pinball machine. But you can predict that the average score will change if the entire machine is tilted. Similarly, while we cannot predict the weather in a particular place and on a particular day in 100 years time, we can be sure that on average it will be far warmer if greenhouse gases continue to rise. To account for the influence of all the different variables, climate scientists run the models repeatedly, with slightly different starting conditions. The difference in outcomes gives us an indication of the uncertainty in any given prediction, of the range of possible outcomes. The IPCC reports make these uncertainties very clear. There is however, no generally acceted model where human influence has no impact on the climate. Even if you still disagree with me, I hope you have found some of this interesting enough to go and do some more investigating yourself.

  • Anonymous

    Thank God for Crdinal Pell at least one clergyman has the courage to dismmiss this new Religion of the 21 century, has anyone read the Gospels, we cannot “save” the planet as our childredn are being taught day in day out by these secularuists

  • James H

    Just to stick my oar in here: it has to be pointed out that the startling retreat of glaciers just happened to have taken place during the end of the Little Ice Age, for which there is at least anecdotal evidence in the southern hemisphere as well.

    Secondly, my own study on African palaeoclimates showed a general increase of 4°-5°c increase all over Africa, during the Holocene Altithermal. In that time, the Sahara was covered in grass and the montane forests of South Africa were widespread enough to leave pockets of forest species in regions which today are only grassy hills. That indicates that the models’ predictions of reduced rainfall in Africa with an increase in average temperature are  not accurate. And, if the polar bears could survive the temperature increase of 7000 yrs BP, they’re going to be OK.

    Quite apart from that, the ‘Climategate’ scandal has massively damaged the credibility of scientists in general and climate scientists in particular. The phrase ‘hide the decline’ was particularly damning (as is ‘got rid of’). I know the herd mentality of scientists very well, and if there is consensus, the motives for that consensus are not above question.

  • James H
  • James H

    He was talking about this video, or set of videos:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zH71XCmsbCc

  • James H

    For someone who’s decided not to believe something, no evidence can ever be good enough. Belief is not forced by logic, any more than personal relationships are. Genuine faith, arrived at independently, is a relationship, not a fuzzy theory.

    Until you understand that, you will never understand faith.