Thursday, 22 July 2010
It was an event so remarkable that it was almost lost on some people. Dr Phil Jones - the professor at the centre of the East Anglia CRU "Climategate" scandal - was allowed to approve which papers were used in evidence during some of the "independent" investigations into the scandal. It's a bizarre decision that seems equivalent to a robber approving which stolen items can be used as evidence in court. Then again, perhaps it's not all that surprising since one of the "independent" investigative bodies had the logo and email address of East Anglia University on their own logo.
But really, who cares? Who will notice? For most people, Climategate is old news. The casual current affairs observer read that some scientists got in trouble, they may have been lying about global warming but then a whole bunch of people checked and said they were fine. As for those already involved in such a fiercely polarised debate, well, they were never going to budge anyway. Sure enough, order was quickly restored as the whitewashing investigations did their job, the media went crawling back to every scientist who assured us climate change is real and the sceptics became the pantomime villains once again. Certainty was restored.
The only problem is, nobody seems to know: what we are supposed to be certain of? Next time you hear someone preaching about climate change, how serious it is and how we need to take action yesterday, ask them a few questions. Start with something easy such as: "What exactly are we certain is happening?". Most of them will mention Earth is getting warmer, the halfway smart ones will remember to mention something about co2 or anthropogenic activity.
Now ask a very slightly more informed questioned that cannot be answered with bluster, something like: "When was the last year that temperatures actually peaked?"(Answer: 1995) , follow that with a few more moderate queries like: "How much of the temperature rise is due to carbon dioxide?" (Nobody knows) "What is the hottest time period on record?" (Answer: The Medieval Warm Period) and so on. Before long they'll admit they don't know. You might even get called a 'denier' or some other insult for good measure. The reality is that most of us don't really know a great deal behind the science of climate change, but some of us like to pretend we do. In truth, we do as all generations have done and look to our finest minds to guide us in the esoteric ways of science. Therein lies the problem.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are the multimillion dollar taxpayer-funded unit of scientific specialists who are responsible for researching, predicting and advising the rest of the world about global warming. With a huge amount of lobbying influence and a whole wealth of corporate interests flying around, we can surely be forgiven for expecting the unit to provide us with accurate, understandable and specific data about what's happening and what's going to happen. The reality is the exact opposite.
Predictions, warnings and forecasts from the IPCC ever since its inception in 1990 have been vague, wrong and contradictory to the point of resembling a tabloid astrologer's column. We've been warned over and over again of temperature increases that have not happened. We've been told the warming would first appear at the poles. Hot weather spells are due to global warming but snowfall is also a sign of the same thing. There will be more floods or hurricanes. Certain animals will become extinct, others will multiply by the horde. The extra co2 - required for respiration in plant life - will encroach the rainforest. It will create droughts, but extra rainfall is also a symptom. The surreal list goes on and on. Can we really blame the laymen for being unclear when this is what they are fed on?
The list of doomsday events such as extra natural disasters, melting poles and "unprecedented" (one of the IPCC's favourite and most overused words) heat are not random. They are designed to create fear, for fear is what keeps the taxpayers happy to part with their money for the nice scientists who will protect them.
But if you've lost any sleep about any of these nightmare-like events we've been warned about, go and get some shuteye right now. There is absolutely zero evidence that hurricanes, volcanoes or any other disaster has increased in frequency. In fact, they seem to have declined very slightly. The decline of the Arctic ice has received (ahem) extended interest from the media and the IPCC, both of whom neglect to mention that decline has been in trend since the end of the last Little Ice Age and is not accelerating. Meanwhile, the Antarctic ice is doing great. Funny, we don't hear about that.
As for "unprecedented" temperatures and the warnings from the likes of Al Gore that several of the last fifteen years have been the hottest on record, well it's just plain false. That's the reason alarmists hate to hear about the Medieval Warm Period.
Of course, none of this proves that AGW is false or a flawed theory, but it must surely prove to any sane person that even our supposed finest minds really don't know what is happening, to what extent it's happening or what will happen in the future. So why is there so much talk of a "consensus"? Could the multi-million dollar business interests of the IPCC have anything to do with it? Don't mistake this as a conspiracy theory. The only "conspiracy" you need to accept here is that powerful people will lie to get themselves rich. WMDs anyone? How about some MPs expenses on the side?
There's more reason to be sceptical. Huge parts of the AGW theory fall flat on their face. The theory clearly states that warming will appear in the troposphere, it isn't. It says that co2 will drive climate, in history the opposite has happened on a large scale. It states the sea levels should rise exponentially, they aren't. There's any number of examples where things simply aren't happening as they should be if the basic theory of increased radiative forcing generated by increased co2 emissions was straightforward and steadfast.
Perhaps the biggest slice of misinformation in this whole debate is the term used to describe scientists who oppose the mainstream opinion, the so-called 'deniers' - a term deliberately chosen for its disgusting undertones - is used to smear knowledgeable, qualified and good-natured people who dare to dissent. Very few scientists I have read from have denied the climate is changing, climate is always changing. What they dispute is the extent to which co2 plays a role in that change.
The theory of heat transference in the atmosphere is well established, but as we've seen, climate is a new and uncertain science with an incredible number of factors to consider; solar output, natural feedbacks, cloud feedback, continental shifts, astrophysics and more. A number of well-qualified scientists question if the increased co2 emissions will have any effect whatsoever. Many more believe that there will be an effect, but it will be far gentler than the IPCC suggest, and the trillions of dollars we will spend trying to cut temperatures by a minuscule percentage may be far better spent on reducing real pollution, researching cleaner energy, building hospitals or any other number of good causes. A layman 'denier' like me is inclined to agree.