The perfect example of a self-fulfilling prophesy is to be found in humanity’s continued extraction and burning of fossil fuels as though there is no tomorrow. It guarantees that there won’t be.
The bulk of climate change denial is emanating from the USA. This is where expenditure by the corporate interests vested in continued inaction against the burning of fossil fuels is concentrated. Furthermore, any student of international relations should be well aware of the American capacity, when faced with the facts, to choose the wrong course of action. The fact that Trump claimed to believe (but not during his recent visit to Houston) that climate change was a Chinese hoax, is the clearest indication to the layman that it most probably isn’t! That doesn’t mean that we lack sufficient skeptics closer to home.
My blog No 130, https://khakispecs.com/?p=3354 was entitled ‘Climate Change or Climate Catastrophe?’ It was originally published in the July 2017 issue of the NZ International Review – a publication specialising in NZ’s foreign affairs. The editor wrote to me recently saying that my article had excited a letter of protest from one of his readers. The letter is to be published in the Review’s November edition and the editor has invited me to write a response. Given that the letter, though about me, was not addressed to me and is yet to be published, I have hidden the author’s name under a nom de plume. Don Quixote was renowned for his ability to misinterpret reality. Our namesake Don Quixote categorises himself as a ‘geologist-sedimentologist’ and ‘paleoclimatologist.’ He is the author of a book (heavily plugged in his letter to the editor) advocating the sceptics’ view on the subject of climate change. As the letter is so typical a specimen of ‘denier’ argument, I publish it in full below.
My wife and I were very disappointed and also sad to read the article ‘Climate change or climate catastrophe?’ by Hugh Steadman (vol. 42, no 4). It is a very one-sided article, containing many untruths and half-truths.
To mention a few:
• Steadman wrote: ‘carbon dioxide (the most plentiful of the greenhouse gases)’. This is not true. The most plentiful greenhouse gas is water vapour, accounting for 95 per cent of greenhouse effect. Carbon dioxide belongs to trace gases in the atmosphere, which together consist of less than 1 per cent of atmospheric gases. Carbon dioxide makes up only 3.86 per cent of the trace gases, of which carbon dioxide emitted by humans makes up only 0.12 per cent (or only 0.0012 per cent of all atmospheric gases).
• It sounds of course very dramatic to write, as Steadman did, that ‘mankind has pumped some 150 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere’. But that is only 0.0012 per cent of all atmospheric gases.
• Steadman writes ‘that the current rapid acceleration of climate warming is man-made’. First of all, there is no convincing scientific evidence that carbon dioxide is causing, or will cause, dramatic global warming. The only evidence provided comes from unvalidated computer models. And it has been shown that all 102 climate models used by the IPCC strongly exaggerate warming, compared with real-world temperature data. Moreover, there has been no statistically significant warming for the last 20 years. The New Zealand Climate Science Coalition has offered $10,000 for anyone who can show, based on peer-reviewed scientific articles, and based on proper scientific fact-based data (not computer models), that carbon dioxide has a significant effect on global warming.
• Steadman writes ‘methane, which is being released at an increasing rate’. He blames this supposed increase on intensive livestock farming and fracking. Not true. Methane in the atmosphere has been declining in recent years. Methane emissions from fracking have been non-existent or extremely low.
• Steadman writes ‘The vast majority of scientists… are agreed on cause and effect: that an increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere results in an increase in planetary temperatures.’ This is another often-repeated myth. One often hears that 97 per cent of scientists agree on this. This was based on fraudulent research and has been debunked often. Moreover, scientific truth is not determined by a show of hands. There are thousands of well-qualified scientists who do not accept that greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, are causing, or will cause any warming to be concerned about. If CO2 will have any effect, it has been calculated that a doubling of CO2 (and we are still far of a doubling, if ever we will reach that) will result in a warming of at best 1oC.
There are many websites, blogs and printed books that debate and criticise the man-made global warming dogma. However, it is unfortunate that most mainstream media are what is called left-liberal, and refuse to give any attention to opinions by critics. They prefer to call them climate sceptics or, even worse, climate change deniers. Down under I know of only one newspaper, the Australian that publishes critical climate articles. That newspaper is from the Rupert Murdoch stable. Newspapers from the Fairfax stable all support the man-made global warming dogma, such as The Press, The Dompost, the New Zealand Herald, etc.
In 1998 and repeated in 2007, the so-called Oregon Petition in the United States was launched. The petition text is as follows:
We urge the United States government to reject the global warming agreement that was written in Kyoto, Japan in December, 1997, and any other similar proposals. The proposed limits on greenhouse gases would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind.
There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.
It was signed by 31,478 people with academic degrees, including 9029 PhDs. Of course this petition was highly criticised by the global warming crowd.
There are groups of climate sceptic scientists all over the world (we prefer to call ourselves climate realists). They have active websites and blogs. To mention a few:
• In the Netherlands: Climategate.nl and De Groene Rekenkamer.
• In Germany: EIKE (Europäisches Institut für Lima und Energie —European Institute for Climate and Energy) and Notrickszone.com.
• In the United States: Science and Environmental Policy Project (produces regular news bulletins — The Week That Was) and www.climatedepot.com.
• In the United Kingdom: The Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF).
• In New Zealand: The New Zealand Climate Science Coalition.
I have the impression that Steadman is not a scientist. The defining characteristic of a good scientist is that he or she is a sceptic. Thomas H. Huxley once wrote: ‘The improver of natural knowledge absolutely refuses to acknowledge authority, as such. For him, scepticism is the highest of duties: blind faith the one unpardonable sin.’
If some scientists express criticism of the man-made global warming dogma, many activists, instead of debating the critical comments, as a good scientist would do, express doubt about the scientific qualifications of the critics. For instance, that they may not be real climate scientists. That always amazes me. They would never say this about climate activists and propagandists. For instance, Al Gore is not a climate scientist; Pachauri, the former chairman of the IPCC, is a railway engineer, not a climate scientist; Dr Kennedy Graham, the climate spokesman of the Green Party, is not a climate scientist (I once debated him about climate in Christchurch). And so on.
Steadman refers to the fact that President Donald Trump has called the link between carbon dioxide and climate change a ‘hoax’. I agree with Steadman that it is not a hoax. However, I would agree with other critics that it is the biggest scientific scam in human history.
Steadman reproduces some graphs. Like Graph 1, which shows projected atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. But again, this is based on non-validated computer models. The same is true for his Graphs 3 and 5. No wonder some critics have labelled such models as Rubbish in, Gospel out.
When Steadman writes about rising sea levels, he quotes Professor Peter Barrett of Victoria University, who is expecting a rise of around 2 to 2.5 metres by the end of this century. This expectation has no base in science. I know Peter well. We are both geologists-sedimentologists. However, he has become a climate activist. To give one example: In 1999, the Christchurch Press published an article under the heading ‘Ice sheet “on point of melting”’, in which it reported that Peter Barrett told leading visiting politicians that he and other polar scientists had serious fears that the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet was on the point of going. Scientists widely accepted that this could cause a sea-level rise of 6 metres.
There are many more points in Steadman’s article I could critically analyse. But the above should suffice.
I am a geologist and paleoclimatologist. I have been involved in the climate debate for more than fifteen years. Last year I published The Fable of a Stable Climate. In this 418-page book, I have collated many of my activities, like articles, essays, debates, etc. It contains essays on, among others, sea-level rise, global cooling, life without fossil fuels, etc. It has received good reviews. For more information about my book go to: www.book2look.com/book/9780473353490 .
The final epilogue of my book, titled ‘Black Swans’, is a philosophical-analytical essay of the climate change dogma. In it I discuss, among others, one of the fundamental principles of good science, as developed by the well-known science philosopher Karl Popper. In 1934 he published his book The logic of scientific discovery, in which he put forth his well-known theory of falsifiability. He developed this theory to distinguish science from pseudo-science. In short, this theory states that ‘A proposition or theory cannot be considered scientific if it does not admit the possibility of being shown false’. To put this in another way, ‘A scientific statement must be able to be tested and proven wrong.’ One of the corollaries is also that scientific observations and experiments must be reproducible. In my essay I mention a few examples of man-made global warming theories having been falsified. The well-known scientist Viscount Dr Matt Ridley last year presented the 2016 Annual GWPF Lecture at the Royal Society, London. In it he gave many examples of dire predictions of man-made global warming outcomes that did not come true, thus providing further falsifications of the dogma. To mention just a few of a long list:
• Malaria was going to get worse because of rising temperatures. It did not.
• Snow would become a thing of the past. Yet northern hemisphere snow cover shows no trend.
• Hurricanes/cyclones would get worse. They have not.
• Droughts would get worse. They have not.
• The Arctic sea ice would be gone by 2013. It has not.
• Sea-level rise would accelerate. It has not.
History doesn’t lack for examples of the human mind’s capacity for self-deception. Kingdoms and empires have fallen because of it, but never before has this trait caused our species to play tag with extinction. When, as in the above instance, the weasel words are linked to the modern world’s authority of ‘science,’ it is particularly pernicious.
Evidently, my arguments on the real and present danger posed by rapid climate change are suspect because Don Quixote has “the impression that Steadman is not a scientist.” Judging from the time he spends denigrating the views of other scientists, my ability to draw valid conclusions from the data available is not dependent on my having a background in the physical sciences. Don Quixote would have it that, even with such a background, the vast majority of climate scientists have drawn the wrong conclusion.
I knew I was in for an ad hominem assault on my powers of deduction when, in the first paragraph the writer took me to task for not having cited water vapour as the major greenhouse gas. Yawn! One of the elementary pre-conditions for scientific inquiry is the ability to distinguish between cause and effect. Increased concentrations of water vapour in the atmosphere are part of the feedback loop that accelerates, but does not initiate the global warming that results from humanity’s increasing emissions of the other ‘trigger’ gases.
Further wool is deliberately pulled over our eyes by the claim that the gases cited by the climate change ‘alarmists’ are present in such small percentages that they are hardly likely to affect the balance of the planet’s climate. We already have over 400ppm of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere. Were that percentage to be of Carbon monoxide, human life would cease in less than eight hours. https://www.detectcarbonmonoxide.com/co-health-risks/ The point is that it is not ‘what is the ppm?’ but is ‘the ppm of what’ that counts.
In his next paragraph, Don Quixote argues that none of the forecasts about impending climate catastrophe need be given too much credibility as “the only evidence provided comes from unvalidated computer models.” I would be grateful for an explanation as to how, without a time-travel machine, one should validate a future forecast generated by a computer model?
The Don goes on to debunk my claim that ‘The vast majority of scientists… are agreed on cause and effect: that an increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere results in an increase in planetary temperatures.’ He then quotes the figure of 97% of climate scientists being in agreement with this supposedly delusional claim. I don’t know where this oft quoted figure of 97% comes from – but it wasn’t quoted in my article. My observations lead me to believe that it is unlikely that Don Quixote’s opinions are shared by just so few as 3% of his profession. Indeed, when faced with any particular set of evidence, a much larger percentage than three percent of any group of humans seem inclined towards drawing the wrong conclusion. I would agree with the Don that the 97% figure of virtual unanimity is almost certainly too high. It probably includes those, who believe that climate change is happening, but that it is not caused by human activity, and by other such statistical distortions.
His paragraph ends on the note that “If CO2 will have any effect, it has been calculated that a doubling of CO2 (and we are still far of a doubling, if ever we will reach that) will result in a warming of at best 1C.” That simply begs the question “Who has made that calculation?” Was it the American Petroleum Institute?” (The IPCC has the level fluctuating between a low point of 180 and a high point of 280ppm in previous inter-glacial warm periods. It is currently at 407 ppm. Last year it increased by a record 4 ppm. The IPCC also records that the average temperature has already increased by 1C since the start of the industrial age.)
In fact the reader of Don Quixote’s letter cannot help but note that the writer is strong on assertions and eager to cite the authority of like-minded ‘skeptics,’ but very short on credible supporting evidence.
I don’t want to get into a quasi-scientific debate. If anyone wishes to agree with Don Quixote that climate change is not a matter of extraordinary concern, they could do worse than visit this site which takes a skeptical view of the arguments advanced by the climate skeptics https://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php
At the end of his letter Don Quixote cites a list of claims made by the climate change activists that he alleges are false – I spent two minutes of Google research on each of his allegations:
• The Arctic sea ice would be gone by 2013. It has not. Who made that claim? The claim I read was that the Arctic sea ice would have have disappeared by 2070 – but now, according to the Economist, the Arctic Council claims the Arctic is likely to be clear of ice by 2040. https://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2017/05/daily-chart
“My wife and I were very disappointed and also sad to read the article ‘Climate change or climate catastrophe?’ by Hugh Steadman.”
I am sad and disappointed to read this letter by a professed scientist. Early in my article I quoted the precautionary principle:-
“ The precautionary principle (or precautionary approach) to risk management states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public, or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus (that the action or policy is not harmful), the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking that action.”
It is disappointing to find within the scientific community that there are still those who, out of what can be no more than professional hubris, throw precaution to the winds and attempt to persuade their society that the effort and expense of adaptation to, and mitigation against the onset of rapid climate change is unnecessary. One would expect a geologist and a paleontologist to be particularly sensitive to the meaning of extinction. I am reminded of a cartoon I once saw in the British Army’s ‘Soldier’ Magazine. The colours are being trooped around the parade ground and a proud mother among the spectators turns to her husband and says with pride “Oh look George, our Ernest is the only one in step.”
There are two parameters against which risk should be judged and managed. The likelihood of the risk and the severity of the consequences should it be realised. Risks with low likelihood and small consequences may well be ignored. However, what responsible person, can argue that the continued burning of fossil fuels has been convincingly proven not to be harmful to humans or their environment? In the light of the evidence accepted by an overwhelming majority of scientists, one has to accept that the possibility of the risk being realised is at the higher end of the scale. Furthermore, should it be realised in full, among its multiple consequences is likely to be the extinction of humanity. Most people would place potential extinction at the top end of the scale of risk consequences. Don Quixote’s complacency should not even be offered as an option.
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