How Climate Alarms Started
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.
He went on to say, “I fully understand that the government representatives were seeking to meet their own responsibilities toward their respective governments by upholding their countries’ interests, but in some cases this turned out to be problematic for the scientific integrity of the IPCC Summary for Policymakers.”
You can read the full text here: http://www.robertstavinsblog.org/2014/04/25/is-the-ipcc-government-approval-process-broken-2/
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.
1. Book “Climate: The Counter Consensus” by sceptic Professor Robert M. Carter
2. The Discovery of Global Warming: http://history.aip.org/climate/summary.htm
3. An Economic View of the Environment: http://www.robertstavinsblog.org/2014/04/25/is-the-ipcc-government-approval-process-broken-2/