For those new to this blog the IPCC – Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change is the world’s leader in promoting the theory that mankind is dangerously warming the globe aka AGW – Anthropogenic Global Warming. It wouldn’t be too much to say it even has a monopoly on it.
It is ultimately from them that international governments are being badgered to adopt emission control targets via means of the UNFCCC – United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change treaty.
It’s hard to say the IPCC is not biased. There is a suite of prima facie evidence that it is, and I will cover this point in some future post for readers to judge for themselves. However I am sure there must be people with good moral ethics in there. But I also think it’s highly likely there are people that should perhaps be scrutinized a bit more closely. I’ll just leave it at that for now.
The IPCC Mandate
Aside from the people who actually work inside the IPCC, I do believe that as an organisation it has no other choice than to be biased on the issue of AGW because of the mandate that was given to them at the time of their inception:
to focus only on man-made contributions to dangerous global warming – AGW.
quote: …to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation.
quote: …The WMO and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) established the IPCC in 1988 with the assigned role of assessing the scientific, technical and socioeconomic information relevant for understanding the risk of human-induced climate change.
IPCC Approach to Climate Change
This is where the whole approach of the IPCC has been flawed:
They focused only on mankind contributions instead of “in the round”, and also only since the beginnings of the industrial age – an insignificant amount of climate time. It seems illogical that any kind of solution to a problem can be solved by looking at just a part of it.
They were entirely wrong in accepting an unproven theory in the first place and then set about validating it to the world, instead of the other way around.
This back-to-front approach came about because a group of scientists agreed beforehand that AGW was the problem. It’s understood this took place at a UN sponsored conference in Austria in 1985. They believed that even a small change such as additional CO2 being added to the natural greenhouse gas processes could trigger runaway greenhouse global warming.
Consensus or Arrogance?
It’s a valid theory and certainly worthy of further investigation, but unfortunately they didn’t set about to prove it in a proper accepted scientific method, which includes getting their theory validated by their world peers. If they had, it would never have got off the ground because it still hasn’t been proved almost 30 years later.
They believed the evidence was so convincing even though not proven, that it could be accepted by consensus as an established fact. That was the single biggest mistake in this whole saga of climate change debates in assuming that consensus and science can co-exist. It was to send the world into an expensive and fruitless tail-spin for decades and which still continues.
In any event, in the eyes of those original scientists their own research was sufficient to accept the premise of AGW. It was decided right there to set up an organisation (now the IPCC) to validate and promote the theory to the world. They wanted to get everyone on board to rein in mankind’s greenhouse gas emissions and in particular CO2 as being the major one. And they did an exceedingly good job of it so that today the IPCC has the first and final say to all things related to climate science – as opposed to an opinion as seen by many other non-IPCC aligned scientific peers.
How AGW Was Sold
The marketing effort by the IPCC was exemplary. Their big ticket items in selling the idea of AGW to the masses were “scientific consensus” and versions of the infamous “hockey stick”. Both of these have since been proven wrong.
To get the idea to governments and other scientists, the IPCC releases progressive Assessment Reports (ARs), that progressively labelled mankind more and more as being responsible. They didn’t appear to make any real attempt at consideration of any other cause. Usually any counter-argument in the ARs if any, apparently gets drowned out in the Summaries of their reports. And some believe there is an over-emphasis on the negative items.
The heart of the real problem with the IPCC is that they are political by nature – not scientific. It was deliberately formed as such. Among other duties they were tasked to take submissions from scientists across their various fields, then rewrite them so that they could be more easily read by the masses. This is where other less-noble aspects of human behaviour can potentially come into play and because of that, should be studied carefully. It doesn’t appear that’s what has been happening.
For example the text of the 2nd AR was allegedly altered to give more support to AGW, the perpetrators probably being motivated by “noble cause”. Questions began to be raised about the effectiveness of the “peer review” processes used by the IPCC.
With all this in mind one wonders why so many international governments and scientific organizations have also come on board in the AGW blame game?
It’s probably not so hard to understand why Governments have come on board. There continues to be considerable interest in the well being of the planet since about the 1960s. The outpourings of the IPCC received tremendous publicity as would be expected from a headline hungry media.
And it doesn’t appear to be particularly hard to sway a politicians viewpoint if there is sufficient noise coming from their electorates in support of an issue. It’s disgusting when the strength of politicians is measured by how much he/she sways in the breeze. Yes … it is a cynical view but I’ve watched successive governments at least in Australia, change their approach to the issue depending on whether they’re either in power or in opposition.
As regarding actual scientific organisations that have come on board with the IPCC, if I were the head of a scientific organisation of a country that becomes a member of a certain institution, I would be thinking deeply about the ramifications of bucking my own government with counter or controversial viewpoints. This would be especially so if the available science coming out from that institution seemed logical and conclusive enough. It’s just human psychology at work.
Source: Climate: The Counter Consensus, 2010 Professor Robert M. Carter
As a generalisation it would be fairly safe to say we tend to trust those who have expertise in a given field or topic to guide us. So when some individual scientist pops up in the media somewhere to tell us something, then we’ll often tend to listen and take heed of any warning/s. It’s what mankind has always done – for example the tribal witch doctor, ancient Greeks and oracles.
The power to sway the beliefs of the masses can be especially stronger today when it comes via multimedia and even more so if the information comes from a notable scientist or scientific organisation(s), or else ostensibly connected in some way to scientific research.
Yet you will often see TV media presenters bringing climate “experts” onto their show in an apparent effort to give some credibility or background information to a particular subject i.e. melting of the polar ice caps, glaciers retreating and so on.
Have you ever wondered about these people when they are so definite about mankind causing climate change? Have you ever wondered how much of the information is from their own expertise and how much is what they’ve learned from someone else? Are they really passing on real proven scientific facts or just what they believe to be true from information provided by someone else?
Or do you just accept what they are telling you?
The Scope of Scientific Research
To date despite the claims to the contrary, the efforts of the best scientists in the world have yet to find a definitive pointer that identifies mankind as the actual cause of dangerous global warming.
The subjects under scientific research are many but basically there are just a few categories from which most scientific fields branch. Each of these encompass a variety of disciplines and sub-disciplines, and can even branch further after that. The three main categories are:
1. Physical Sciences – studies of inanimate objects e.g. physics, chemistry, computers, engineering;
2. Earth & Space Sciences – studies of the natural processes of the Earth and space e.g. meteorology, geology, oceanography, atmosphere, solar system;
3. Life Sciences – studies of living organisms e.g. biology, anatomy.
The average person on the street might be forgiven for thinking that climate change scientists are primarily meteorologists or climatologists plus perhaps some others with supporting expertise. But that would be only partially right.
The subjects relating to climate change actually diverge into more than 100 scientific sub-disciplines, the elements of which can be exceptionally intricate, highly complicated and intertwined. Just changing one of the many data inputs e.g. the output chemistry of sub-sea volcanoes to a climate change puzzle can flow-on to incorrect or at least misleading changes in the final solution. And the answer will still be a “best probable” result – not fact.
No matter how acclaimed a meteorologist, climatologist, physicist, chemist or any other individual scientist may be, they will generally only have a partial knowledge or exposure if any, to other sciences that affect climate change.
At most there may be a handful of scientists that have mastery of two or three scientific disciplines such as Professor Robert M. Carter (decd) who was a qualified palaeontogist, stratigrapher and marine geologist. Yet even if a scientist does have expertise in two or more of the climate change elements, he/she still needs to find and use data from other sources to cover the gaps in his/her own knowledge. Such data may in turn only be a “best probable” solution as opposed to fact(s) as will be explained further below.
Alternatively a scientist may collaborate with others from different scientific fields but at some point they will likely need to use other scientific “best probable” results, or use a form of scientific calculation where the data to be input is not known for example Bayesian Reasoning theorem – read educated guesswork.
It must therefore be obvious that there can be no such thing as an “expert” simply because no one can fully comprehend the entirely of it all.
This doesn’t stop the media, in particular the TV media in regularly presenting interviewees as experts to lend credibility to their show. But anyone who claims or admits to being an expert in climate change is either kidding themselves, egocentric or is being deceitful.
The bottom line is that when a supposed expert fronts up in the media – watch it guardedly or else switch the channel. At the end of the day everyone, including the scientists themselves are basically amateurs when a topic is outside their own field of expertise – even if they are an educated amateur.
But having someone with at least some scientific background involved in climate change discussions has got to be far more preferable than pulling celebrities into the debate. These people despite their best intentions, are simply promoting their own views and muddying the waters for the public to make a realistic conclusion in their own minds.
So WHO Are The Climate Change Scientists?
Basically there are three different groups of scientists who look into the issue of climate change, and by extension mankind’s role in creating dangerous global warming:
Group 1 Scientists
are experts in various weather sciences such as meteorology, atmospheric physics, chemistry and computer modelling;
tend to study climate change over shorter periods of time i.e. the last 150 years of recorded temperatures;
have expertise in how weather generates and ultimately how climate is formed; and
are arguably the loudest in generating alarm about AGW and the warming of the planet.
Group 2 Scientists
are experts in geological earth sciences and in use of proxy data over long periods of time e.g. rock formations, fossils, ice core data, tree rings;
they look at climate history as it relates to climate today; and
generally see no real cause for alarm when comparing current climate with past climate.
Group 3 Scientists
are experts in enabling disciplines such as mathematics or statistics.
Bayesian reasoning is widely used in science where some but not all the information is known. It’s an important technique for statistics and especially in mathematics but it does not produce factual evidence.
At its simplest level it goes something like this:
1. a bag is filled with red and green apples,
2. three people are blindfolded and told to pull out an apple from the bag,
3. each pulls out a red apple.
The logical conclusion is that the bag must be full of red apples. This may be accompanied by an indication regarding confidence on the degree of probability e.g. 95% confidence that the bag is full of red apples.
In other words, “If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, then it must be a duck”!
Obviously the methodology is much more complicated but the logic remains pretty much the same. The theorem is widely used and is perhaps an acceptable scientific method in some circumstances, but what matters most is how the resulting answer was and is still being treated as scientific fact.
In the example of the apples, if one were to loudly and unreservedly claim that the bag is full of red apples then that would be at best simply wrong, or at worst underhanded.
Yet this sort of thing is exactly what is happening on both sides of the AGW – Anthropogenic Global Warming debate. This Propaganda v. Science image shows an alarmist claim at left with a sceptic response at right. Neither side yet understands that if you lie about something you will eventually be found out and lose credibility to your cause.
A classic example of misleading propaganda is the infamous Hockey Stick diagram produced in 1988 by pro-AGW scientists Mann, Bradley and Hughes. In that case they cobbled actual thermometer temperature records to the foot of estimations of temperatures calculated from proxy data over the past 1000 years and then extrapolated global warming out to the year 2000. Then it was promulgated with a 95% high probabilty in being correct. In this case one of the major flaws in statistical calculations was to add real temperature records to assessed or calculated historical records using proxy data.
The Real Argument About AGW
For a scientist to formulate a reasonable hypothesis about AGW he/she would need to have some level of familiarity in all three groups – something which is nigh impossible. It’s therefore not surprising that there are differences between the various scientists and scientific fields using different “best probable” data so it should never be said that the science is “settled”.
It isn’t. Not unequivocally – even though the IPCC offers what some might consider to be reasonable answers. Ultimately the theory of AGW is still based on circumstantial evidence including calculated probabilities.
Apart from that all three groups of scientists generally DO agree that the Earth’s climate has always changed, that human emissions affect local climates e.g. urban areas and have a summed potential to affect climate globally, and that carbon dioxide is a mild greenhouse house – note the word “mild”.
The real argument then is not about whether the Earth is heating up, but about how relevant is AGW when considered against natural climate change processes.
Source: Climate: The Counter Consensus 2010, Professor Robert M. Carter.
The Climate Change Hockey Stick
Was it AGW or not?
If ever there was a single “trigger” to galvanise the average citizens of the world to accept the theory on humans causing dangerous global warming, then it would have to be the Mann, Bradley and Hughes – MBH “hockey stick” schematic diagram.
The Hockey Stick Diagram
MBH constructed their first diagram from AD 1200 to 1900 by looking at 183 tree ring records from across the Northern Hemisphere on the assumption that the width of each ring was related to temperature as the tree grew. There was some scientific fact to this. They then added actual thermometer records to project temperatures from 1900 to 2100. Mann et al later reconstructed the hockey stick extending it back to AD 1000.
The diagram was originally published in Nature in 1998, revised and published again in 1999 in Geophysical Research Letters. Mann went on to become one of the Lead Authors of the IPCC Third Assessment Report in 2001 in which an updated hockey stick diagram featured prominently. It also appeared in subsequent IPCC Assessment Reports in some form.
The IPCC Third Assessment Report of 2001 also included a comment that the 1990s was the warmest period during the preceding 1000 years, even though there was abundant evidence to the contrary. Statements like these and the use of the hockey stick diagram, which by now was being severely questioned, became central to the promotion of AGW by the alarmist cause that humans were causing dangerous climate change.
This hockey stick diagram shown at Fig. 2 was constructed using tree rings, coral, ice cores and historical records. The red line is a “smoothed” 50-year average. The grey lines indicates the degree of uncertainties i.e. a fudge factor which is up to 5% – give or take. From 1860 to 2000 the line is averaged annually because of more certainty in the data and now including actual thermometer records. From 2000 to 2100 shows 6 computer model “baseline” scenarios which allegedly do not take into account current or future greenhouse emissions.
Understandably the hockey stick immediately attracted attention on both sides of the debate. At least 14 separate reconstructions were done by other scientists. They could use whatever collection of proxy measurement data sets they desired, but apparently were required to only use the proxy data sets provided by the IPCC. Similar results to Mann’s et al were produced leading to an assertion that burning of fossil fuels was causing immediate and drastic heating of the planet.
Climate sceptics proceeded to analyse it to death, from every conceivable angle. Some problems were immediately noticed:
1. That the temperatures on the “shaft” showed a fairly even temperature range from AD 1000 to 1900 (prior to industrialisation), unlike “normal” climate fluctuations e.g. compare Fig 1 & 2 over 1,000 years against Fig 3 over 2000 years, both of which represent primarily tree ring calculations.
2. That the “blade” showing temperatures rising at such an alarming fast rate just begged to be double checked, especially since other records such as quality spelotherms (mineral deposits in caves) and tree ring data from the Southern Hemisphere hadn’t shown any similar temperature rise at in the late 20th century. This appeared to negate any global warming allegations.
3. Statistician trained scientists noted a basic flaw in statistical compilation in that assumed measurements from proxy data e.g. tree rings had been combined with actual thermometer records in the same diagram and used to draw an alleged scientific conclusion. Additionally there was doubt about the conditions under which those thermometer records may have been taken and may not be standardised.
Despite the claims from non-aligned IPCC scientists, other computer modelled hockey stick versions started appearing, not a few of which were highly exaggerated such as used by Al Gore in his “An Inconvenient Truth”.
Thus the dogma of AGW – Anthropogenic Global Warming started becoming widely accepted by the lay public. Anyone who did not believe in AGW were dubbed as “denialist” or “sceptic” and world opinion turned against those seeking better answers.
Any scientist labelled as such began to be stonewalled when trying to gain access to raw data from which to do further research, including as I understand it data about the Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age. If it could be proved that the temperature during the MWP was the same or higher than today it would negate the statement that the 1990s where the warmest in the last 1000 years.
I will explore this further in a later post.
Climate: The Counter Consensus, Professor Robert M. Carter 2010.
We’re always hearing about greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide (CO2) and how they are causing warming of the Earth that will be dangerous to life on the planet.
But is it all rhetoric?
What this post is about, is to try and put some perspective on the issue of carbon dioxide, and whether or not it is the big bad demon or not that alarmists are saying it is.
A “Normal” Climate
Our atmosphere is made up of molecules of which about 99% is radiatively inactive. Greenhouse gases make up the remaining 1%. Under ideal “normal” circumstances suitable for life, the combined greenhouse gases increase the Earth’s temperature from a theoretical -19⁰C to an average of around +15⁰C i.e. 34⁰C of warming.
Typical estimates of the proportions of the greenhouse warming gases are around 78% water vapour, 20% carbon dioxide and around 2% from methane, nitrous oxide and other minor compounds. However estimates of the amount of water vapour can differ significantly from 60% less to 88% higher than 78%.
Source: “Climate: The Counter Consensus” by Prof. Robert M. Carter 2010
What exactly are Greenhouse Gases?
Greenhouse gases absorb infra-red thermal radiation and hold the heat for a period of time in the atmosphere before being eventually re-absorbed back into the Earth or escapes into space. It’s like a blanket that effectively keeps heat trapped near to the Earth.
The more important ones are water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and ozone, in decreasing order of effectiveness mainly because of their concentrations.
The Kyoto Protocol recognizes six greenhouse gases. The numbers in brackets are the IPCC’s estimate of the warming potential of each compound compared to carbon dioxide e.g. methane has 21 times warming effect than 1 part of carbon dioxide:
CO2 – carbon dioxide(1)
nitrous oxide (310),
hydroflurocarbons (140 to 1,700),
perflurocarbons (6,500 to 9,200) and sulphur hexafluoride (23,00).
On the surface it makes CO2 look positively benign and might be the sort of thing a sceptic could say, except that the non-CO2 gases are only in very small percentages as to be almost negligible by comparison.
But you might notice the most prominent agent of water vapour is missing from the IPCC list. They say it is a “feedback” not a “forcing” agent and that it only lasts in the atmosphere for a few days as opposed to CO2, which they say lasts for more than 100 years. Therefore they don’t use it for the purpose of arguing the AGW – human caused warming case.
Feedback and Forcing Agents
It’s a given scientific fact that the Earth’s global temperatures throughout its history has ranged widely from hot to cold. At any given time when the temperature was fairly steady, the atmosphere has been “balanced” i.e. the incoming energy from the sun was equalled by outgoing energy in some form from the Earth.
Then along came forcing or feedback agents to tip the balance and warm or cool the Earth respectively. The various cycles of warming and cooling has continued from the beginning, mostly due to how far the Earth orbits around the Sun.
Forcing Agents: These can be external e.g. the Sun, or internal e.g. material which absorbs heat such as aerosol dust from natural sources such as volcanoes or human sources such as aerosol spray cans, CO2 – carbon dioxide emissions and so on. According to the IPCC, CO2 is believed to account for the majority of the radiative forcing that keeps the greenhouse effect going.
Feedback Agents: These can change the effects of Forcing either positively and/or negatively. For example an increase in temperature causes more evaporation which causes higher temperatures, but at the same time creates more low clouds which reflect solar radiation back into space and rains to cause cooling.
An agreed scientific fact is that water vapour is not a forcing agent in its own right. It requires a rise in temperature to first create evaporation and more clouds. This causes an initial and temporary increase in temperature, but as the warm air rises, cooler air is sucked in from surrounding regions.
It then it becomes a feedback agent. The tops of clouds reflect incoming energy from the sun. The warm vaporous air is cooled in the upper altitudes and condenses. Rainfall then cools the earth. Cooler air under these clouds are drawn away to other warmer areas.
Even though water vapour is the most dominant in its ability to absorb heat, the IPCC does not include it as a greenhouse gas as previously mentioned. So let’s look at why they should include it in their calculations.
There is considerable overlap in absorption qualities between water vapour and other greenhouse gases.
The CO2 absorption rate increases 1.5% in the absence of other greenhouse gases which causes temperature to rise. But when put together with other greenhouse gases its absorption rate drops down to 0.5%. In other words it’s much less effective in taking up heat.
Water vapour has about 5 times the ability to absorb heat as CO2, however the cooling effect mainly happens in the first 100m of the atmosphere, and gets less and less effective in comparison to CO2 as altitude increases.
Yet even if water vapour only lasts in the atmosphere for a few days, there is always rain happening somewhere on the planet every day. Cumulatively it must have at least some contributing cooling effect on a regional, if not global scale?
Further, with the water vapour in the higher altitudes being almost ineffective in absorbing heat, it would be expected that more CO2 would have a greater effect on atmospheric warming. But this does not seem to be occurring in spite of the predictions of most GCMs.
So the real question is whether water vapour is a more powerful forcing or cooling agent? And if so, by how much?
The question of climate feedback systems is a highly complex subject. Scientists don’t yet know all the feedback systems that affect climate and maybe never will. It’s one of the reasons why computer modelling might be considered unreliable by some.
With all the uncertainty about feedback effects, not to mention outright scientific disagreements, it has to be wondered for example if this overlap of absorption rates has been built into the computer modelling on which the IPCC relies and which must give cause for some scepticism.
The level of CO2 in our atmosphere is at 0.04% (?) which today is about 400 ppm (parts per million). The level considered safe is 600 ppm for indoors.
In low concentrations e.g. less than 1% there is little noticeable effect. Inside a building without a fresh air supply then 1% (10,000 ppm) of CO2, some occupants might feel drowsy.
It usually needs to be over 2% or so before most people become aware of it without something to alert them e.g. some form of smell. An acid condition of the blood “acidosis” may form after several hours at that level. At 5% the breathing rate doubles and above that level it becomes toxic. Prolonged exposure creates various noticeable symptoms, which if left untreated can cause unconsciousness and even death.
However it should be understood that adding a given amount of CO2 to a contained space correspondingly reduces the amount of oxygen available. Any health issues as a result of exposure to CO2 could likely be as much due to a lack of oxygen as to the CO2.
Estimations about how much CO2 is present in the atmosphere are up to 780 Gt of total carbon. About 7 Gt is estimated to be added each year from all sources, of which the IPCC argues about 3.5 Gt (half) is man-made. Since pre-industrial times the total amount has risen from about 280 ppm – parts per million to 400 ppm.
You may remember the IPCC believes CO2 stays up there for about 100 years, but there are other scientific calculations based on carbon isotope evidence and a much shorter time that the CO2 stays up there i.e. five to 10 years. They suggest that only four to five percent – about 0.05 Gt of the total 780 Gt is derived from fossil fuel burning.
Source: http://www.co2web.info/ESEF3VO2.pdf Note: The whole paper is an interesting read but page 13 lists the scientists who have published shorter “residence” time of CO2 in the atmosphere.
But even if that is not true or even near it, if we use the IPCC figure of 3.5 Gt per year being added each year because of humans, it’s still only 0.45% of the total carbon count. (780 Gt divided by 3.5 Gt). In other words, 99.55% of greenhouse gases has nothing to do with human CO2 emissions, and the remaining 0.45% just happens to be equivalent to the 0.1⁰C warming which other non-IPCC aligned scientists have come up with.
Despite how much water vapour dominates the greenhouse gases as a primary factor, and the IPCCs own estimations about how much CO2 is actually being added each year to the total atmospheric content, carbon dioxide still remains the centre of attention.
One of the reasons would have to be the continued focus of the IPCC on promoting AGW – Anthropogenic Global Warming instead of looking at the whole of the climatic systems. Until they are removed as the leading authority on climate change and the matter placed back into the hands of actual scientists, the matter will continue to be political.
Updated 22 Feb 2017.
A fake image by climate sceptics of a Time magazine cover purporting global cooling from the 1940s has been identified and removed.
Curiosity about AGW – Anthropogenic Global Warming has been around for millennia. Even ancient Greeks debated whether cutting down forests would bring more or less rainfall. It was in 1859 that an English scientist first supposed that water vapour and CO2 – carbon dioxide trapped heat in the atmosphere. The idea was expanded in 1896 by a Swedish scientist who said that burning of fossil fuels such as coal added CO2 to the atmosphere and would raise the temperature of the Earth.
In the 1930s it was assessed that the US and North Atlantic regions had warmed significantly. In the 1950s some scientists started looking further into the possibility of AGW. In 1960 a young scientist established that the temperature was rising year by year.
An idealistic “new-age”, greenish mood began in the 1960s with young people protesting environment damage and smashing things to “save the planet”. Environmentalism picked up steam in the 1970s. Apparently some scientists started raising the stakes saying that dust and smog were clogging the atmosphere, blocking sunlight and cooling the world. Their analysis of Northern Hemisphere statistics alleged a cooling trend had begun in the 1940s. It seems that most of these types of claims were media based.
The age of computer modelling had begun. International programs began to assemble data. Expeditions across polar ice caps to retrieve ice cores started. Swamps were tested. Tree rings were analysed. By 1979 instead of cooling, computer models consistently showed a trend towards severe global warming. It was thought the planet was probably going to warm by about 3 degrees Celsius.
A study of the Greenland ice cores showed that large and sudden temperature changes had happened in the past, though these are now thought to be more regional than global. A new theory emerged that it only takes a small “trigger” to induce a catastrophic change to the global climate e.g. a change in the composition of the atmosphere.
Things suddenly started to look more serious regarding human survival. In 1985 the UN sponsored a meeting of scientists in Austria who concluded that increased greenhouse gases could cause nasty global temperature rises. Some scientists such as Swedish activist and meteorologist Bert Bolin began agitating for something to be done to save the planet from greenhouse gases. Influential and rich businessmen such as Maurice Strong were involved.
By 1988 public concern at the time was rising including for example the hole in the ozone layer in Antarctica and how it might ultimately affect the worlds climate systems.
A number of people were eventually appointed to map out a framework for some kind of organisation to look into the matter and by 1988 the IPCC – Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was created by the United Nations with the support of the United States.
Structure: It was deliberately framed as a political and bureaucratic organisation rather than scientists to control the research. Purpose: Its stated purpose was to prepare reports based on available scientific information or assessments on all aspects of climate change and its impacts, with a view of formulating realistic response strategies.
Mandate: On the surface it all sounds very noble, but the IPCCs mandate went on. It was not to study climate change in the round, or to look at natural as well as man-made influences on climate. It was to specifically find and report on any human impact on climate, and thereby make a scientific case for the adoption of national and international policies that would supposedly reduce that impact.”
This is where I believe the whole system was flawed from the beginning. They zeroed in on only one potential cause of an observed change of global temperatures measured only over the last 150 years or so, some recordings of which might be considered dubious. By doing so and by continuing to do so they are unrealistically funnelling everyone’s focus into an area which may – or may not – be the real cause of the problem, if one actually exists.
Today the IPCC is a massive organisation but the leadership only has a small bureau of 34 people. These people are bureaucratic public servants not scientists themselves as such. The Panel itself has 195 members which meet every year and consists of representatives from various countries, usually government representatives but again, not necessarily scientists. The whole organisation by its structure and nature is bureaucratic and political, not scientific.
Given that the focus was now drawn to AGW, governments around the world started seeking advice to which the IPCC responded with various reports. Thousands of non-paid scientists from various scientific disciplines around the world were also drawn into it and contributed voluntarily as authors, contributors and reviewers, which they still do.
From these, the IPCC prepares: Summary for Policy Makers: A guide for governments which converts the sometimes highly technical scientific writings into more easily understood language. Assessment Reports: Published every five to seven years, the last one was the Fifth Assessment Report published in 2014. Earth Summits: Such as those held at Rio de Janeiro, Kyoto, Bali, Bonn and Copenhagen between 1992 and 2009. These are also political by nature so of course any agreements between nations can be difficult to reach. In fact the Copenhagen Earth Summit is considered by many to have been a complete flop.
Growth of the IPCC
The IPCC stated making a name for itself with its first Assessment Report (AR) in 1990 which clearly stated that human activity was likely to be the cause of unprecedented global warming. Subsequent ARs have all highlighted mankind’s culpability and each new report has successively been more alarmist that the previous one.
In 1995 the IPCC allowed the convening lead author, activist Ben Santer to rewrite a section of Chapter 8 – Detection of Climate Change and Attribution of Causes in the Second Assessment Report. It was done in alarmist terms which said that “the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate”.
This is allegedly a complete opposite to what was actually stated in the conclusion to Chapter 8 by the scientific authors. Santer declared he was only responding to comments on the draft from various governments, scientists and NGOs.
The world’s press, ever keen for alarmist sensation picked up on the theory of AGW. Politicians responding to media and public pressure picked up on it. It was picked up by the NGOs of environmentalist movements and by idealists. Over time, the world began to just accept anything the IPCC said as totally true – without question. The focal point for all things climate change related was now well and truly on AGW.
The IPCC today holds the esteemed position of being the world’s leading authority on climate change, yet technically it should only be on issues related to the potential of AGW activities. Its summaries and reports of scientific papers are being read by governments, environmental and scientific organizations all around the world. Many regard these papers as the ultimate truth and use it to justify expenditure on reducing “dangerous greenhouse emissions”. Whether we actually need to do so for global warming is still debatable but it would be nice to reduce smog.
That by itself probably wouldn’t be too much of a worry if there were equally notable organisations to provide transparent, steadying, counter views by those who are looking at world’s climate systems as a whole. But any scientist or organization brave enough to put a hand up risks the incurring the wrath of the whole of the alarmist system, including public media and commentary which simply swamps any voice of dissent.
IPCC – Bias?
The material coming out from the IPCC is undeniably slanted towards AGW. They don’t try to deny it. There is little effort made to try and find other solutions. So is the IPCC biased? Technically yes though remember they still operate within their mandate. But let’s explore just a few examples that might point to it.
In 2010 the Dutch Government stated that the IPCC had a “tendency to single out the most important negative impacts of climate change” in its summaries to policymakers. Apparently they do highlight the positive aspects but they get drowned out by the negatives and mentioned less in the summary.
In 2014 a Dutch professor Richard Tol resigned from the Climate Panel because he believed the consequences of climate change were being systematically over-estimated and alleged it was more concerned with the environment lobby than the science.
Also in 2014 Dr Robert Stavins was a Co-Coordinating Author for AR5 – the IPCCs Fifth Assessment Report. He said that under IPCC rules, the dissent of one country is sufficient to grind the entire approval process to a halt unless and until that country can be appeased. As an example he said that during group deliberations, the assembled government representatives would only approve the text if certain “controversial” items were removed i.e. read uncomfortable for any single government. About 75% of the text was removed.
Bottom line is that the IPCC is a by its nature a political body that must be considered biased towards AGW. As such it is not only flawed in its approach to the problem of global warming, but unsuitable for use in its role as the leading authority for climate change advice to world governments on how to shape their environmental policies.
How Could It Happen?
Why is it that an organization tasked to focus on only one potential aspect of a potential global warming threat can become the ultimate accepted authority on all things relating to it?
Here are some theories based on known facts …
Environmental alarms about global climate change began to surface at a time when environmental sentiment was fashionable. Bucket loads of money started to become available in all sorts of ways to those who promoted the cause. There was superb marketing by the IPCC and a host of influential people willing to further the cause of AGW in some form or other. The idealistic took up the call. There was and continues to be strong coverage by an ever willing media for anything alarming or sensational.
Politicians and the bureaucrats who advised them simply didn’t have the scientific education or even enough scientific smarts to tell the difference between the actual scientific reports and the manufactured ones. They relied on what they were told. The same can be said of the general public who can be highly susceptible to political or media spin.
I believe that ordinary citizens by and large, habitually accept whatever information is presented by the media, at least in Australia. I know that’s a very general statement but unfortunately we still tend to trust the media to be factual.
And that can be at any level of our society. There was a prime example last year when an Australian Prime Minister reacted to a TV media news story by almost immediately calling for a Royal Commission. It was a gross knee-jerk reaction without checking further into the matter.
As the IPCC became the leading authority of climate change, then alarmist predictions multiplied. Few challenged them because they were coming from such august bodies, institutions and scientists regardless of their field.
The situation was made worse because the IPCC then and now still rely on computer modelling on just the last 150 years or so, an insignificant amount of time in climate time scales.
Let’s not forget that the use of computers to find solutions ultimately depends on the data that’s fed into it. There has undoubtedly been a temperature rise since industrialization but I wonder what the result would be compared to the last (say) 100,000 years if we take the Milankovich cycles into consideration?
By 2000 governments started to create policies to stop AGW, probably one of the most common ones to date is some kind of carbon emissions trading scheme which penalises those who emit dangerous gases.
By 2005 the number of climate sceptics prepared to start speaking out increased. By 2009 several pillars of support for AGW had started to fall, which will be examined in later posts. Two of the most striking perhaps was a finding by a High Court Judge in the UK who found 9 major errors in Al Gore’s, “An Inconvenient Truth”.
And in December 2009 an incident now known as Climate Gate surfaced with the news that the Climate Research Unit – CRU had been doctoring emails. This may have been blown way out of proportion by selective fact picking, but we’ll look at this again in due course. But when mud is thrown some of it sticks.
Scientists are human beings like the rest of us. There can be no doubt there are people on both sides of the debate that have been corrupted to some degree. The issue can provide funding for programmes, institutions and university departments, and also bring fame and influence. Today it has become evident that there has and continues to be a lack of scientific discipline and moral scruples by individual scientists as to what the true focus of science should be – to discover facts.
Regarding the IPCC – it is not my intention to cast felonious aspersions on the IPCC or to those that work within it or connected to it. And at the end of the day, some of the material they receive from scientist sources must surely be either inaccurate or misleading. I am sure most of those people act in good faith and believe what they are doing is for the good of mankind.
But for reasons discussed above it’s why I have included them as being an untrustworthy source to cite in any debate about the actual cause(s) of global warming.
Before we start to get into the nitty gritties to various aspects of the climate change, it will be helpful to have some understanding of human belief systems e.g. how people think about things and how they behave when their core beliefs are disputed.
Sometimes it’s just not possible for two people or groups on opposite sides of an argument to get together and come up with a solution. Every individual to a more or less degree may not or will not compromise because of their inherent beliefs, often even when the opponent’s view is true or provable. They just don’t want to listen.
All humans have beliefs which are basically concepts that we hold to be true. They might be based on science or faith or both. We start to develop them from birth and use them to “see” the world and make sense of where we belong.
It’s against these that we judge everything happening around us. They also shape our thoughts and help us mentally cope with issues that are too big for us to comprehend in full e.g. religion, an afterlife, the universe and so on.
But there’s a downside. Strong beliefs can cause bias and a strong desire to defend or even promote what we believe in. Some will even tell a little (or big) lie, exaggerate or engage in selective arguments to convince others.
Beliefs can and often are linked to emotions. Control of emotions is deep seated and not controlled intellectually so if someone threatens one of our beliefs we can often react negatively. It’s how heated arguments can develop even over the most simplest of things. Intellect does not control the emotions but emotions can sometimes overrule intellect.
In some cases the belief in something is so strong that it’s felt to be necessary to change the “wrong” beliefs of others, even if that means using force – for their own good.
These sorts of behaviours can come into play at any level of a given society from individuals to groups e.g. political parties or neighbourly disputes and can be a real stumbling block when it comes to sitting down and having a rational debate about an issue.
I’ll deal with a few further below and how they relate to climate change.
Whether we are consciously aware of it or not we are all affected to some degree by tribalism. It’s imprinted in our DNA from about 2 million years ago when the beginnings of mankind first started walking around on two legs. Your best chance of survival then was to “belong” to a group. Even today we still feel the pull of tribalism, the most common being that of family.
Basically tribalism can be anything where everyone in the group has some kind of shared relationship, values or beliefs. We mostly don’t have tribes as such anymore. Today it’s more subtle expressing itself as belonging to a country, a city, suburb or neighbourhood, a religion, a political party or a sports club for example.
Most of us have an inherent compulsion to defend our “tribe” in some form and to some degree. This can lead to a sinister side of tribalism – gang members, cults and causes. Too often there is a biased “us” and “them” attitude and a tendency to reject “outside” views. In prehistoric times it meant treating strangers with suspicion or hostility.
To varying degrees people who “belong” to a group will defend their views, sometimes quite heatedly or even violently. Classic examples are the football riots we sometimes see on TV when the rioters side loses a match.
With climate change there are two “sides” of belief (believers and non-believers) which can attract the more ardent about the issue. A quick glance on an internet discussion forum or panel on TV can show how advocates on each side reacting negatively when an opponent questions what they hold to be true. And unfortunately each side will often treat opposing views with suspicion instead of considering if it has merit.
The Herd Instinct
Most of us usually don’t want to stick our necks out. Nor do we normally want to shoulder the responsibility for other people. Have you ever joined any kind of club? How many people do you see sticking their hands up when it comes time to change Committee Members? There are some who do it as a kind of duty but it’s unusual to find someone who willingly becomes the leader year after year after year.
When I was a soldier I was taught in a Leadership Course that born natural leaders are extremely rare. Few people actually aspire to be leaders. Many end up being a leader by circumstance. Nearly all are shaped by their own life history and character or maybe in pursuit of status or money rather than any innate characteristic. They become good or bad leaders. Bottom line is that people generally want to be led – to let someone else carry the responsibility.
So how does this relate to climate change?
I would hazard that at some primal level we are happy enough to just listen to our leaders and for them to run things. Consider how many people actually regularly attend Local Council meetings?
Apart from politics, today we are being led by numerous doyens of our respective allegedly scientific societies that AGW – Anthropogenic Global Warming is a fact and that we must do something about it to save the planet and thus our way of life. There are highly educated people – scientists, meteorologists – all sorts of people. And not just a few either. There’s hundreds if not thousands of them. And there’s been some pretty convincing computer modelling. Even governments around the world are accepting it. TV programs constantly tell us it’s a problem …
So it must be true – right? …
I mean who in their right mind would go against that!
So we start to ignore those people bleating from the sidelines that some or all of it is untrue. There’s got to be something wrong with them right?
Except that our leaders each have their own beliefs and all too often, depending on the strength of those beliefs that if you go looking for something, you’ll inevitably find it. Consider too that historically the doyens of the day have been wrong before. And they could be wrong again at least on some of the issue of climate change.
And we should not summarily disregard an opposing viewpoint.
Resistance to Change
Another human trait I learned about during my military career was that humans dislike change. Once someone has made their mind up it’s often very hard to shift them. This can apply not only to individuals but also to groups e.g. a political party. If an individual or group have been actively supporting (say) the alarmist side of climate change, then to change their view can result in loss of face.
In political parties, their opponents will castigate them for “back flipping” and the fallout could be loss of confidence in a “wobbly” government.
First impressions are powerful. Whenever we meet, see or learn something new your first impression is going to be the one most likely to stick. It can sometimes be hard to shift even if it can be proved wrong later.
In my case I watched Senator Al Gores video, “An Inconvenient Truth”. I was instantly a convert to the alarmist cause and was delighted to be able to find and watch his supplemental video.
It wasn’t until many years later that I found out by chance surfing on the internet that the video was found to be full of untruths by a High Court Judge in London. That’s when I started to question things. I wondered that if this fellow of such renown could be so wrong, could there be others?
I know of other people who simply laid the fault at Senator Gore’s door but not the alarmist cause itself. Sometimes we should think a little deeper than just at surface level. Too often we are seeing both parties of the Australian Government sticking to obviously failed policies, because the loss of face would be too much to bear.
Mankind has forever been fascinated by the prospect of Armageddon – apocalypse – catastrophilia – the end of the world as we know it. The Four Horsemen and the Apocalypse is carried in the New Testament of the Bible.
The human psyche is understandably drawn to any subject that threatens our continued existence attracts continued existence.
It must be said that the issue of Climate Change certainly catches more than its share of space in the public domain. Books and movies attract blockbuster crowds even today. At some level it is essentially about causing changes to the Earth that threatens the way we live.
Doomsday pronouncements are nothing new. As recently as 1972 a 170-page book titled, “Blueprint for Survival” was published by respected environmentalists of the day propounding a comparable imminent catastrophe. It sold highly and in the opening pages listed 38 of Britain’s most honoured scientists, economists and environmentalists who endorsed it plus 18 Professors, two Nobel Laureats and seven Fellows of the Royal Society. Pretty impressive stuff. Doomsday was going to be sometime after the year 2000. By that time hydrocarbon fuel sources and a whole host of metals would be exhausted. There would also be extensive deserts.
Kind of sound familiar?
The cause? It was not global warming. It was all about over-population.
It’s not hard to see how people and even governments (after all they are made up of individual people) can be emotionally attached when it comes to the issue of AGW. Unfortunately it can get in the way of intellectual debate.
Politicians are the LAST people who should be making decisions on climate change and making policies such as Carbon Trading because of the potentially False God of AGW. They are not only prone to their own individual beliefs but also those of the shrillest advocates in their electorates.
It’s my belief that the only way that the issue can be solved at least in Australia, is for a Royal Commission to be held where evidence has to be presented under oath, and only the actual facts are considered under proper Rules of Evidence.
Welcome to this blog, –
“Issues on Climate Change”.
This is the first post and sections of it will also be placed onto the “About This Blog” page for future reference by visitors.
This blog is not going to be about whether the planet is warming up or not. Historically it’s always been warming and cooling. But over the last 2 decades a certain United Nations organisation and other scientific institutions have been issuing alarms that the planet has been warming at an unprecedented level and that it’s because of human activities that it’s happening.
But is it really?
There is a plethora of information supporting the alarmist side of the issue. But there doesn’t appear to be as much information quite so readily available to the general public on the denial side. Maybe I’m just not looking in the right place.
So successful have been the alarmist cries for action been that my fear – and one of the reasons for starting this blog, is that people aren’t listening to an alternate view anymore. They are blindly following and swallowing anything they read or see on TV that reinforces their belief that it’s actually happening. Another is that the cries for action by climate alarmist seems to be growing ever more strident with information that is flat out wrong. For instance a recent article was published saying that 97% of scientists supported global warming – was complete nonsense.
For those seeking a bit more information that counter many, if not most of the claims made by alarmists might refer to the book, “Climate: The Counter Consensus” by Professor Robert M. Carter. This book will be one of the sources I will use for any arguments against global warming caused by humans. Here is one extract that resonated with me:
… the greatest damage that has been inflicted by those whipping up the hypothetical threat of human-caused global warming is that the subsequent hysteria has overwhelmed mature consideration of the much greater and proven threat of natural climate change – (Professor Carter).
Who knows if he’s right or wrong, but I personally know people who simply refuse to read anything that contradicts the alarmist claims that humans are creating a problem for the planet.
Actually the history of this debate can be traced even further back to the beginning of the Industrial Age, and particularly with the beginnings of using fossil fuels. Over time, the terms “Global Warming” and “Climate Change” have come to be understood to mean dangerous warming of the planet caused by human activities such as land clearing and emissions of CO2 “greenhouse” gases from vehicles and factories.
There is so much misinformation, deception, cherry picking of facts, exaggerations and outright lies propagated by both sides of the debate that it’s hard to know where the actual truth lies.
Here is what we DO know to be scientifically and factually true, and apparently has been accepted by scientists across the board:
1. Global climate has always changed and always will.
2. Human activities definitely affect local climates and have a summed potential to affect global climate.
3. Carbon Dioxide is a mild greenhouse gas.
The term “climate change” as its taken to mean dangerous global warming is something of misnomer. But for the sake of simplicity in this blog I’ll continue to use the term to mean “dangerous global warming caused by humans”.
Comments are welcome but please read the rules shown on the “About This Blog” page.
Scientific Consensus and Scientific Proof?
The words “scientific” and “consensus” are two words that just don’t go together. A scientific fact is a hypothesis that is published and rigorously tested by a variety of other scientists to produce the same result. There is no allowance for a “logical conclusion” or a “balance of probabilities” or “circumstantial evidence suggest …” And it only needs one scientist to find the proof.
Consensus is about agreements and whenever consensus is involved there is inevitably politics – or to look at it another way, politics is all about consensus. You can have real science or consensus but you can’t have both. Claims of consensus has historically been used to avoid debate and declare that the matter is settled. It’s still not proof on an issue.
The Search for Proof
“Before human-caused global warming can become an economic, social or environmental problem, it first has to be identified by scientific study as a dangerous hazard for the planet, distinct from normal climate change” – Prof. Robert Carter
Literally trillions of dollars have been spent in the search for such proof. No unambiguous or substantive proof has yet been found despite alarmist claims that it has. Much of the “evidence” is based on computer modelling of just the last 150 years and which is vulnerable to the information that is fed into it. Scientific papers are sprinkled with words like “may”, “could” “potential” and so on. Since no unequivocal proof linking mankind to global warming has actually been found, the term “scientific consensus” was born. The term lends itself to the lesser scientifically educated masses that it must therefore be true.
For over the last 2 decades the average people of the world have been told that the “science is settled” on the hypothesis that humans are causing dangerous global warming. Many scientific institutions and governments have become fully convinced on the truth of it. Some Western democracies are even striving to force carbon trading tax systems onto the world in an effort to reduce CO2 into the atmosphere.
So how is it possible that something that has not been proven can be accepted as a truth?
There is no simple answer. It lies in a myriad of reasons which will take time to explore which will be presented to you over time. And I will be exposing the inaccuracies and deceptions used by both sides of the issue wherever I find them.
“The greatest challenge facing mankind is the challenge of distinguishing reality from fantasy, truth from propaganda. Perceiving the truth has always been a challenge to mankind, but in the information age (or as I think of it, the disinformation age) it takes on a special urgency and importance. We must daily decide whether the threats we face are real, whether the solutions we are offered will do any good, whether the problems we’re told exist are in fact real problems, or non-problems”. Michael Crichton 2003: http://www.pe.tamu.edu/DL_Program/graduate_seminar_series/Documents/MichaelCrichton_evironmentalism.pdf