Wednesday 1 September 2010

Review: Climate: the Counter Consensus (2010)

From The Philosopher, Volume LXXXXVIII No. 2

By Martin Cohen

Climate: The Counter Consensus
by Robert Carter
Stacey International, 2010
pb ISBN978-1-906768-29-4, £9.99, 246 pages plusnotes

There are oodles of Global Warming books, for the most part of course warning of dire consequences, but also quite a few now ‘denying’ the oncoming threat from manmade CO2 emissions. Most of them, not to put too fine a point on it, are not worth the hot air that went into producing them. Never mind the official books, the endless IPCC documents and summaries,the research papers and so on. Maybe that's why this new book by Robert Carter, famous to many You-Tube aficionados for his lectures to the Australian Environment Federation on the subject, in which he briskly 'torpedoes' all the key arguments put forward to support the alarmist hypothesises, has in publishing terms itself been less of a torpedo, let alone a bombshell, as a damp squib.
So far! For here is a book that really does deserve the usual publisher phrases such as tour de force, ‘essential reading’ and so on. It should be essential reading not merely for beardy types who study ice-cores but for sociologists, international lawyers and certainly philosophers. For what this book does is provide the perfect case study of reason and argument in practice. Or rather ‘unreason and bad arguments’.

Never judge a book by its cover, they say, and this modest paperback has indeed a very poor cover - some kind of iceberg, I suppose. Perhaps someone thought it conveyed the notion of the planet not having overheated. The title is pointless. And then there's that rather off-putting preface by Tom Stacey (who appears to be the publisher too) which refers to ‘my younger friend David’, (the British Prime Minister, you know). But worst of all (whisper it) there are the graphs. Lots of graphs.
Someone should have told Stacey and Carter about maths. You can't put any maths in a book aimed at amass market. Not even graphs. People won't understand it, and they certainly don’t like it. The only graph that belongs in this book is the famous ‘hockey stick’ one, basis of much of the global warming hysteria, and that just to be laughed at and deconstructed as complete nonsense.

Which is exactly what this book does. And not just the hockey stick, but all the spurious arguments about manmade CO2. How it has turned the oceans acidic, how unless we keep to our Kyoto promises the global temperature will rise by a tiny fraction of one degree, how the forests will die, or how all the ice in the world will melt. All such scare stories are skewered precisely and patiently-, one by one. Everything is covered in this superb account. Even that vainglorious target of the U.K. government of a cut in CO2 emissions by 20% by 2020. On the government's own account this corresponds (if it were achieved, which of course it won’t be) to a reduction in the supposed 'global temperature' of just 0.0004 degrees centigrade. How much will it cost? That is more sure. One hundred billion UK pounds. It’s mad!

A fairy tale world of bad science, cynical and corrupt politicks - and gullible or plain stupid journalists. (No wonder as Stacey does say, in his introduction, that the British Prime Minister has as his ‘environmental advisor’ one Zac Goldsmith, son of the late Jimmy, a conservative tycoon.) Not that the academic ‘experts’ come out much better, although Carter tries valiantly to defend his colleagues, pointing out that for instance ‘only’ about 70 of them have input into the key IPCC documents, the Policy Maker Summaries, even as the documents are trumpeted as the views of tens of thousands of experts. But it is worse than that.

These summaries are supposed to well, summarise the chapters. Of course they don't. They are written by an unabashed and unashamed group of political appointees, such as junior Energy ministers. In 1995 the definitely non-expert authors of the Summary for the Second Assessment Report declared that:
“the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate.”
As Carter says, this statement being the opposite of the conclusion drawn in the original ‘science-based’ chapter - something had to go. Scientific report or political claim. And we all know which one it was. A single activist scientist, Ben Santer, was allowed to rewrite parts of the key chapter, Detection of Climate Change and Attribution of Causes, to make it agree with the message that had been crafted in the related ‘Summary for Policy Makers’.

The IPCC and Western governments have together already spent around $100 billion to come up with their error-strewn reports. Carter has had only his own wits, his considerable experience, and access to the internet. But it is his book that has the more authority. Not convinced? Well, let's now let’s trot through some of the many priceless gems in this book.

First of all, Carter clarifies the term Climate Change,which has become increasingly meaningless. As sceptics tire of repeating,they do not deny that the climate changes, it always has and always will. It is, rather, the ‘alarmists’ who imagine that climate is stable, and controllable. But when we read about climate change in UN reports today, we read about something which has been ‘redefined’ to mean what the UN authors want, despite the confusion involved in abusing a phrase with a previously established publicly agreed sense. (Philosophers use that trick all the time... )

Climate Change then means a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods. So says the United Nations agreement made back in 1994 known as the Framework Convention on Climate Change. Note how the definition weaves and swerves to make apolitical point - this is why, as Carter acknowledges, Climate Change is as much a philosophical issue as it is, say, a physical sciences issue. ‘In FCC diplo-speak, then’, writes Carter, ‘“climate change” doesn't mean climate change, but rather “human-caused by atmospheric alteration climate change”. Humpty Dumpty comes to mind.’

Although the major economies had all signed up to the Framework Convention on Climate Change back in 1994, 2005 was the year, according to Carter, in which the term Climate Change suddenly took off in media reports. This redefinition, he says, which allowed ‘weather and climate change of all kinds to be beaten up as matters of concern’, did not happen by accident but was the outcome of a now infamous “Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change” meeting in Exeter, at one of the research centres of the UK's Meteorological Office. Also invited were several large Green NGOs. The outcome of the meeting was a fanciful target of restricting ‘global warming’ to two degrees centigrade, the mechanism for this magnificent piece of climate control being primarily the reduction in the use of fossil fuels.

Or take another pillar of Global Warming policy - that current temperatures are somehow exceptionally high. Yet evidence from ice cores and other techniques shows temperatures in Antarctica for the three interglacial periods that precede the Holocene (the present climatic period, stretching since the last Ice Age) were up to 5 degrees centigrade warmer! Temperatures two to three degrees warmer were characteristic of much of the planet during the Pliocene period too. But these are geological timescales, covering millions of years. The newspapers and the IPCC seem only interested in the last few decades - and the famous spike in the ‘Hockey Stick’ following the 1990s.
‘... enthusiastic, pencil wielding journalists often ask me: “Well Dr Carter, is global warming happening then?” Despite its apparent innocence, there is no simple or unambiguous answer to this question, for it is equivalent to asking “How long is a piece of climate string?” In a little cited paper that is now almost ten years old, but the message of which is timeless, American geologists Davis and Bohling, who showed that the only possible answer to the reporter's question, of a stye that is never welcome to the press, is “it depends”. Let me explain. 
Inspection [of ice cores from Greenland] shows that warming has taken place since 17000 years ago and also since 100 years ago. Over intermediate time periods, however, cooling has occurred since 10 000 and 2000 years ago, temperature stasis [stability] characterises the last 700 years and (globally form meteorological records) a slight cooling the last ten years. Considering these facts, is the temperature in Greenland warming or cooling?’
Carter points out that not only are the ten year long periods far too short to cover any statistical significance, but so too are hundred year ones. Yet, he sighs, Australia's former Climate minster, Penny Wong, was happy to follow ‘ well-trodden path’ when she wrote recently that ‘Globally, 14 of the 15 warmest years on record occurred between 1995 and 2009’. Add to which, as Ms Wong did, that a Bureau of Meteorology report had determined that ‘2009 was the second hottest year in Australia on record and ended up our hottest decade’. It’s no wonder with announcements like that the people are well, alarmed. Or at least baffled. But Carter helps us through the mist of figures.
‘Variations on these statements have been endlessly repeated by climate alarmists around the world. As mantras for sloganeering they are deadly effective - and they draw their power from the deliberate misuse of the phrase ‘on record’, which in context means the trivially short instrumental instrumental record of meteorological records.When a climate record of adequate length is examined - i.e. one at least tens of thousands of years in length - and multi-decadal cycling are taken into account too, it becomes obvious that it is predictable rather than surprising that warm years are clustered around the end of the 20th century.’
Why so? But this warming represents the continued recovery of the planet for the Little Ice Age, that finished in the mid-19th century. But ‘like its Medieval Warm Period predecessor, this peak will be followed by cooling, which may indeed have already started’.

Still not convinced to throw out your low energy light bulbs? But let’s look at some of the figures for the days most evil pollutant: carbon dioxide. Now the atmosphere is known to contain about 780 gigatonnes of carbon (whatever a gigatonnes is, but it does not matter, it is proportions that we are interested in here) and it is thought that about 90 Gt is exchanged each year with the oceans along with another 120 Gt with plants. It's a cycle, you see, a dynamic system - the carbon cycle that life on the planet depends on. A side-effect of nuclear bomb bests has shown that the half-life of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is less than ten years. But that's not all, the oceans today have about 40 000 Gt of carbon dissolved in them,and the Earth itself contains an estimated 70 000 000 Gt in the carbonate rocks (chalk, for example) laid down over the aeons). ‘Carbon is constantly exchanged between these and other reservoirs, among which the small modern atmospheric reservoir is carbon starved compared with earlier geological history.’

Mankind’s contribution thus remains disappearingly small compared to the vast mechanisms of the planet. One estimate, accepted by the IPCC themselves, is that the human production of carbon dioxide is about 7.2 Gt a year. This amount is so modest that it is lost in the natural cycle - which recall is about 200 Gt a year. That of course doesn't stop alarmist claims, for example, that human CO2 has changed the acidity of the earths oceans, as put forward in many colourful magazine articles about the plight of the disappearing coral reefs and so on.

Given this context - how can CO2 be imagined to be a threat to the planet? The explanation is that the IPCC predicts a tiny change will have an effect multiplied many times over, via linked changes in such things as water vapour and cloud formation. It is factors like this that the computer programmers, who are ultimately the ‘authorities’ behind its dire warnings, have written into their programs.

If CO2 levels increase slightly, the programs say, clouds will form at certain specific heights and times to trap more of the solar heat. It’s never done it in the past, but it will this time. This in turn will cause more clouds, melt the ice caps, kill the forests, and hey presto- runaway greenhouse warming. Yet these are not facts, but human guesses, only made more impressive by being conveyed via large computers. It is all a fiction, a badly constructed myth. (Joseph Weizenbaum warned us about what would happen if we allowed ourselves to fall for the aura of computer technology.)

Carter points out that even though the 20th century did witness an overall increase in both temperature and carbon dioxide (sorry, Carter's graphs again! Although we might add that even this increase depends entirely on the choice of start and end points for the temperature rise...) the two curves are very different and ‘include the conspicuous mismatch that carbon dioxide records its highest rate of increase between 1940 and 1975, at precisely the time that global temperatures decreased for three decades.
‘We will all be rooned, they say, as will the polar bears and armadillos, by melting ice rising sea-level, more or more intense storms, more or more intense droughts, more or more intense floods,more or less precipitation, more or less atmospheric aerosols, more mosquito bites, more deaths from heat stroke or even - as I read in an apparentlystraight-faced newspaper report a little while back - the collapse of our sewage systems from additional and excessive rainfall runoff. British engineer John Brignell has assembled a mighty list of guffaws of 690 of these rhetorical sillinesses. The list - which starts with acne, progresses through circumcision in decline, haggis threatened, polar bears deaf, seals mating more, short-nosed dogs endangered, and finishes with yellow fever - is beyond parody.’
The Counter Consensus consists of about half physical science, and about half social science. And if that aspect seems ‘less important’, in many ways this is the more entertaining and equally the more shocking part. It is astonishing to see how governments have used censorship (epitomised by the semi-secret meeting of the BBC governors with climate alarmists which ensured that thereon only their side of the matter would be discussed) to Orwellian packs for schoolchildren asking them to do things like note ‘Climate Crimes’ committed by their parents.

Of course, researchers and academics challenging the ‘climate consensus’ are punished, through loss of funding, or loss of posts. The Climategate emails scandal reveals how a small group of climate activist puppeteers, calling themselves ‘the team’ emailed around the world to pull strings and promote or consign to oblivion views and individuals they either approved or disapproved of. That many national science academies started producing ‘unanimous’ statements of support for an implausible scientific theory has more to do with this covert network than any shared point of view. For rational judgement is not indeed the rock upon which scientific consensus is built. Thomas Kuhn with his paradigm shifts, please take note.

Carter reminds us of this sinister statement from sociologists at the Institute for Public Policy Research in London, for example:
‘The task of climate change agencies is not to persuade by rational argument - Instead, we need to work in a more shrewd and contemporary way, using subtle techniques of engagement - The 'facts' need to be treated as being so taken-for-granted that they need not bespoken. ÷ Ultimately, positive climate behaviours need to be approached in the same way as marketeers approach acts of buying and consuming - it amounts to treating climate-friendly activity as a brand that can be sold.’
Carter’s book is a much needed antidote to their foolish and dangerous scheme. As he puts it, the climate change scare is the:
‘... greatest self-organised scientific and political conspiracy that the world has ever seen, made worse by the fact that many of the people taken in by it had only the best of intentions, but lacked the science education to see through the scam.’
Carter concludes by pointing at the true costs of the conspiracy- to the 1,500,000,000 underprivileged people of the world, without clean water, adequate sanitation, basic education and basic health. ‘For lifting the poor out of their poverty, and helping them to generate wealth for themselves, is the only sure way to protect Earth's future environment.’

No comments:

Post a Comment

Our authors very much value feedback from readers. Unfortunately, there is so much spam on the internet now that we now have to moderate posts on the older articles. Please accept our apologies for any extra time this may require of you.