A while back I published a consensus document called “the sceptic view“. With so many new journalists now coming to the issue of climate as a result of the encyclical, I started thinking: “what would I want them to know about our views”.
So I started thinking how I might explain the real nature of the climate “debate” and this is what I produced:
Experience versus Theory/Naivety
Sceptics are mostly real word scientists. Our survey shows most sceptics are equal in qualification to our academic opponents, but in contrast, we are engineers and scientists with experience of applying theory in real world situations. And we are sceptical of theory not because of any political views, but because in the real world with all its real complexity, simple theories often fail to work as expected. Experience makes us sceptical because our experience has taught us that you can’t just naively take theory and apply it to the real world.
In contrast “alarmists” (those who are alarmed or fake alarm due to a minute change in temperature) tend to fall into two camps. In one camp are public-sector academics who know a lot about their particular field, but who have very little real world experience or wider knowledge of climate (certainly not the broad knowledge of many sceptics) AND they have no experience of the importance of the private sector and so very little understanding of the damage their ideas could do. In the other camp are “greens” … who are mostly clueless about the science … hate industry … but are very good at raising money and copy and pasting “research”. Many are not really green at all but “anarchists” or “anti-capitalists” who are “green” only in the sense of naive.
Treading on the academic’s toes
One thing that cannot be denied, is that academics are not happy with us sceptics. We have seen some really vitriolic comments about us sceptics. Originally I naively thought this was because they didn’t understand our views. But then I found they knew very well that we were just as capable on the science as they (even if sceptics tend to look at the science overall whereas academics tend to focus).
And eventually I realised that the real reason for this animosity is that we are “treading on their toes”. We are discussing topics which the academics like to consider as “their areas”. Of course, sceptics didn’t set out to tread on anyone’s toes – we are just interested in the subject of science and world climate is ideally suited to a world wide discussion by those interested in science. Nor do we accept the inference from academia that we “are not allowed” to have an interest in climate – or at least if we do, we “must” accept the academic views as “the science” and not do as we were all taught (in my day) when we learnt science: look at the evidence, evaluate it and come to our own views based on that evidence avoiding political, religious or other viewpoints.
And that really is what irritates the academics. It is that people – largely from outwith academia, usually retired from private sector jobs in science and engineering are doing “science”. We have dared to encroach into what they considered “their territory” and not just meekly accepted what the academics tell us “is happening” and “will happen”.
And to be quite blunt – that is their problem not ours. Sceptics will always have an interest in science and no academic is going to tell us what we can or cannot discuss nor what conclusions we can reach after looking at the evidence.
Natural Climate Change vs. Climate change denial
One of the most ironic phrases we hear is that sceptics are “climate change deniers”, because it isn’t sceptics who deny the climate changes. In contrast, sceptics are well aware that the climate has always changed naturally and that there isn’t any time period where the climate wasn’t changing naturally. In contrast, the alarmists deny previous known episodes of climate change like the medieval warm period or the little ice-age. Because only if you deny natural climate change can you then claim: “the climate has changed recently – and it must be mankind that done it”.
After the global cooling scare of the 1970s, academics first tried to explain the lack of predicted cooling from “camp century cycles” (a long forgotten idea of long term cycles). This led them to look at possible excuses and they found rising CO2. Then as the temperature continued to rise, they forgot about global cooling & camp century cycles and then started claiming all the changes since the global cooling scare were due to CO2. Indeed, they went further than merely projecting the then trend in global temperature forward a few decades of warming and started predicting that warming would accelerate.
As a result, by 2000 the academics had convinced themselves we were were heading to doomsday and rather too conveniently, the public-sector academics blamed private sector industry (of which they had no personal experience). This resulted in a millennium frenzy of doom-mongering with predictions of massive warming of as much as 0.6C/decade and at least 0.14C/decade. the fact there never was much science behind these projections didn’t stop the academics claiming that as scientists, their views amounted to the “science”. Instead they were simply cherry picking a few decades of (natural) warming, adding on a good extra dollop of “human induced warming” and then talking it all up to get massive warming.
So by 2001 when the IPCC met, the academics had convinced themselves we were certainly going to see warming of at least 0.14C/decade. And then it didn’t happen. According to satellite temperature records there has been no warming for 18 years. Other records do show warming – but other records are beset with manual adjustments and there are serious concerns this process has falsely introduced warming to these records. But even though these other records suffer from dubious adjustments, none of these records shows even the lowest predicted warming of 0.14C/decade. That’s what the pause is. It’s the difference between the hyped up group-think views of academia and what is actually happening in the real world. it’s the difference between academic theory and real-world experience.
The real science
Contrary to what so many academics have said, there isn’t a lot of actual science in this area. What we do know about the affect of CO2 can be summarised as follows:
- CO2 is essential to life on earth and whilst plant thrive if CO2 levels increase, they would die if CO2 levels in the atmosphere were lower. In other words, we can’t afford to see CO2 levels drop, but in contrast, there are huge benefits to world food production from rising CO2.
- CO2 levels have varied massively in the past and apparently with very little impact on climate.
- CO2 levels change significantly over the ice-age cycle. A naive observer might conclude that changing CO2 levels caused the cyclic temperature change, however the evidence is that CO2 levels change after something else causes the temperature to rise or fall.
- CO2 is what is falsely called a “greenhouse” gas (false because greenhouses work in a different way). CO2 changes the properties of the atmosphere so that (in theory) we should see an increase in surface temperature when CO2 levels rise. But the effect is very small with a theoretical contribution amounting a fraction of a degree so far – in other words, much smaller than the natural changes we know are happening. And whilst CO2 levels are tending upward, it is generally accepted that on its own even doubling CO2 levels would only causes somewhere between 0.6-1.2C of warming.
That is the only actual “science” in this subject. And contrary to the repeated and intentional lies told to the public about us sceptics, this science is accepted by both sceptics and alarmists.
- CO2 levels have been rising. As Prof Salby has demonstrated, much of this change is likely natural. However some of it is likely due to humans. But even if all the change were human, it would at worst, double the levels of CO2 which has no harmful impact on any plants, animals and the worst anyone can say is that it would slightly lower the alkalinity of sea water (something that happens daily in the sea when CO2 levels build up over night).
So what’s all the fuss about?
Looked at scientifically there isn’t a lot to worry about. Rationally we would obviously monitor what is happening. We would obviously try to avoid producing additional CO2 – but with almost no evidence of significant trends there isn’t at this time any reason for serious concern … well there is … but what should concern us is what can only be described as the “delusion” of academia. In the real world with real problems you learn to take problems in your stride. Unfortunately academia seems to be filled with people who can’t accept what mother nature throws at us.
Climate always changes and even though we expect some human contribution to that change over the next century due to rising CO2, it is quite likely we will be very hard pressed to see the small human contribution to climate change in the overall natural climate change.
However, there are ways to take good science and suggest things are “far worse”. One of these is to invoke the concept of “positive feedbacks”. In short, this is an idea that rising temperatures will cause changes that lead to further rising temperatures. A small change leads to another change which causes a bigger change, and this in turn causes an even bigger change. This is known as “positive feedback”.
This isn’t completely crazy. Whilst we still do not understand why we have an ice-age cycle, there is good reason to believe the cycle may be caused by some kind of positive feedback that causes more temperature rise than expected when we come out of the ice-age and more cooling than expected when we enter the ice-age.
However, whilst positive feedbacks appear likely going into or out of an ice-age, there is absolutely no evidence in the ice-age climate records that would suggest that there is any form of positive feedback that would warm the climate further when it is already in a warmer period (as at present), nor any evidence for additional cooling in a cooler period. So the ice-age record is strong evidence against there being positive feedbacks. In contrast, there are good reasons to believe that negative feedbacks tend to reduce any changes. So that whereas the theory might expect 1C of warming for a doubling of the level of CO2, with negative feedbacks we might only see 0.5C of warming. So the scientific evidence from the ice-age cycles shows us that 0.5C warming is far more likely than 2C.
But unfortunately, a lot of time and effort has been spent trying to find “positive feedbacks” so much so that academics seem to be scared witless by the whole idea of positive feedbacks. Even many sceptics have gone along with this idea of “positive feedbacks” only suggesting lower values. But almost no research has really looked for negative feedbacks and they are clearly there because if the climate had positive feedbacks, then not only would we get warming from the ice-age, but that warming would continue and the climate record would be filled with such enormous swings that they would be obvious in the climate record. They are not! Worse, if the huge positive feedbacks suggested by academics existed , the climate would be so unstable that it would be unlikely the planet could support much life at all.
So, the very fact we are here to discuss “positive feedbacks” is itself proof that the academics are wrong and that the climate is not dominated by positive feedbacks.
False attribution, climate scares & general scaremongering
The actual science doesn’t support a scare. Nor does the speculative idea of “positive feedbacks” (which are shown to be false because the climate forecasts based on positive feedbacks failed to work. They didn’t predict the pause. That is why there has been so much fuss about the “pause” with nearly 100 different excuse. The pause is a massive problem for alarmists, because it is good evidence that the massive positive feedbacks they need for their doomsday predictions are not present in the climate.
However, what has really created this scare is not science but PR. It is the way certain academics are all too ready to go to the media and attribute the latest disaster to “global warming”. From too little snow, to too much snow, from too much rain, to too little – some climate academics are notorious for going to the press and proclaiming these events as “yet more evidence of global warming”.
But of course, even if there were any scientific basis for their claims (which there isn’t), they can’t both claim an increase in rain and a decrease in rain is “caused” by the same thing. So, they have invented a variety of ways to get around this. One is to say these effects are regional. So, then the story goes that “drought in this place is ‘expected’ by global warming” and “floods in this other place are ‘expected’ by …”.
We sceptics had to live with this for some time, until as we expected, we started seeing the places where droughts were ‘expected’ having floods, and visa versa (e.g. Australia). Obviously it was like that “wackomole” game because as soon as we highlighted one falsehood, they would jump to another climate scare. But slowly their tactic of claiming any weather event as “yet more proof” lost credibility.
Then we started seeing odd terms like “climate weirding” or “climate change”. The implication now was that both floods and drought were ‘expected’. Now we sceptics could not disprove their assertions at all, because nothing could disprove this claim.
Of course these claims are all bogus. Real science has rules that assertions must be disprovable. And morally this was really contemptible as it amount to people cynically using the misfortune of others suffering these natural events to promote their own political views.
The reality is that of all the measurements of “extreme weather”, there is only a few that have shown any significant change.
- The most intense rainfall, in the most intense downfalls has increased. However, this is a very minor issue and probably explained by better monitoring equipment.
- Hurricane levels have decreased. Yes! There has been a significant change in hurricane levels but not the increase that is suggested. Possibly this could be a result of rising CO2 – however it speaks volumes how this is never suggested by those pushing the scare.
- Global sea ice levels decreased – but then recently have come back to “normal” (at least the same levels as when we started monitoring).
- Sea level has been steadily rising for centuries. In continues to steadily rise with no obvious sign that the rate has changed.
- World harvests have increased. There is evidence of greening of deserts like the Sahara. These are the benefits we expect from rising CO2. We don’t see any harm.
If anything, what surprises me most, is that we don’t have more apparent trends. Statistically if you measure a lot of different aspects of the climate, sooner or later you will find one that has a trend. So, I’m surprised that there are so few significant trends and none favouring the meme of “catastrophic global warming”.
Mother Earth is a Sceptic
And that is why I often say “mother earth is a sceptic”. Because there is actually less evidence than I feel there ought to be based on pure chance. Maybe it’s just that having worked in the real world I’m convinced there must be at least one thing that doesn’t go my way. But personally I’m surprised that the alarmists don’t have at least one major trend that they can point to.
So it really does look like mother earth is a sceptic.
2C warming “limit”
If you read about climate you will sooner or later hear something about a “2C limit”. Contrary to what is implied, this limit isn’t inherent in the climate. Instead it is the point at which academic theory says we stop getting benefits from a warming climate. In other words, most the academics accept that any warming up to 2C is beneficial.
Again this is hardly science. But as the science doesn’t suggest anything like 2C warming (and the pause shows this 2C is very unlikely) – we sceptics don’t waste a lot of time on this 2C. It’s just a made up number to add to the many other dubious numbers and there’s just not enough time to “wackomole” them all.