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Cause for Optimism?

I was reflecting on the leak of the next IPCC report, and the revelations that are included in the report. For example, the mismatch between climate models and reality is a very strong point in favour of those who question the alarmist positions of some researchers. Added to, and connected to this, is the lack of any significant warming over the last 16 years. In conjunction with other lines of evidence that are emerging, and the shocking behaviour revealed in the climategate emails, I started musing that perhaps the debate on climate science was turning a corner. In fact, I started to feel more optimistic than for a long time that the skeptical position would really gain significant traction.

However, even as I was starting to feel more optimistic that the skeptical point of view was breaking through the clutter of alarmism, I found the latest discussions from Donna Laframboise’s excellent blog. In one post, Donna notes that the IPCC is flagging a forthcoming issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal, which offers an opportunity for alarmists to ‘to look for material that fills inconvenient gaps in their narrative.’ She notes that the PNAS issue is being edited by Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, who can reasonably be characterised as political, activist and an extreme alarmist. As just one illustration, Donna cites an article he wrote for the Guardian:

In 2003, he authored an article for the UK Guardian that characterized the use of fossil fuels as “a lifestyle of mass destruction.” He suggested that wealthy Westerners should feel guilty “for eco-crimes that sink distant island states” via an “SUV culture out of control.” In his view, the least we should do is establish “a UN supervised adaptation fund worth several trillion dollars.”

In other words, the narrative will be completed, and even though the papers for the PNAS are probably not written, the gaps in the narrative will be filled as if by magic in time for the final IPCC report.

I then started to consider the other invested interests in climate alarmism; for reputation investment, there are the media outlets, the politicians, the science academies, scientists, universities and so forth. As a result of their strident advocacy of alarm, they have placed their collective reputations on the line, and have done so with a result that massive expenditure and costs have been appropriated to support climate alarmism. Regardless of the multiplying reasons for doubt about catastrophic global warming, it will be extremely hard for those who have so strongly and expensively supported alarm to back down.

Then there are the more direct interests of money. The banks who can benefit from carbon dioxide trading, and the vast new industries of so called ‘renewable energy’. Both of these interests have very large amounts of money at stake, and every reason to continue to lobby in favour of alarmism. There are also the NGOs, such as WWF, who have reputation and influence invested in the idea of catastropic global warming, as well as funding from government and quasi-governmental agencies. Finally, in addition to reputation, the universities and scientists are also invested in catastrophic global warming for the large amount of funding that flows to those who support alarmist positions.

As such, my moment of optimism is no more than that; a moment. The theory of catastrophic global warming is a juggernaut. Far too many often powerful interests have good reason to resist any doubts that might be cast upon the thesis. As such, although there have been some very positive developments, the alarmism has a way to run still and this matters. All the while that alarmism continues to have its day, resources will continue to pour into ever more questionable directions. This resource matters; if resource is being directed into activity based upon questionable theory, then it is an opportunity cost. The costs are not notional, but very real. One wonders whether those who promote and support the alarmist position ever really think of the consequence of what they are doing. By depriving more constructive use of resources, they are doing harm and that is the real tragedy of alarmism. Nevertheless, the juggernaut will press ahead……

Note: As this is really musing, I have not referenced the article as I would normally do. Indeed, much of what is discussed is currently widely discussed on other skeptical blogs, or is from well worn themes discussed over long periods in skeptical outlets.

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The following post on Wattsupwiththat is more than a little striking. I am redistributing as it should be of interest to anyone who is concernded about academic freedom to air contrary views.

Watts Up With That?

Gordon Fulks sends this summary of the situation and asks that it be distributed. I’m happy to oblige. For some background on Dr. Drapela’s skeptical views, this slideshow “Global Warming Cracked Open” might give some insight into OSU’s booting him out.  – Anthony

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From Gordon Fulks:

Hello Everyone,

In theory at least Oregon State University (OSU) seems to be a bastion of academic freedom, diversity, and tolerance. A wide range of ideas are openly discussed. The most viable rise to the top and the least viable fade away. But it is all a fairy tale, because OSU operates under a politically correct regimen that dictates what is acceptable to say and what is not. Transgressors who dare to be different are eventually weeded out so that the campus maintains its ideological purity.

View original post 1,246 more words

A Response From Professor Hunter

I recently sent a second email to Professor Hunter, asking if he would care to revise or review negative comments he made about the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition’s (NZCSC) court action against NIWA. The point at issue was that the so-called New Zealand temperature record was not based upon good science, and the NZCSC highlighted this as a result of the court action. Professor Hunter was critical of the court action, and I requested his views on his original comments in light of events. I have now had a reply as follows:

“I never respond to emails from anonymous people. As far as I can see your name is [my first name] which is about as anonymous as one can get. Enough said.”

Of itself, this is an interesting response, and prompts me to explain why I have remained anonymous. The reason for my anonymity is best expressed by Professor Vincent Cortillot, in the video of a presentation that can be found here. As part of his discourse, he explains that he has no research students working with him, and explains this by suggesting that he is concerned that their careers would be limited by working with him. I no longer have the references, but some time ago there was discussion about the fact that most academic skeptics were older, or were retired. One argument was that they were ‘past it’ and the other was that only older academics could risk the harm to their career that is associated with being a climate change skeptic. I felt the latter view best expressed the problem.

I have seen something of the problem myself. About a year ago I met an academic who was conducting research which was producing results that questioned the so-called consensus. I spoke with him for about half an hour and it sounded like his research was proving very costly in terms of his career. As a mid-career academic, I think that his work might see him very poorly placed for the future.

The reason why I recount these points is that I am at a very early stage in my own academic career. I considered the question of anonymity carefully. In light of the fact that this is just a blog, and my contribution to the debate about climate change is just one view (and as I am not engaged in research), I decided to remain anonymous. Quite simply, the impact of a blog versus the potential harm to my career made anonymity a better option. The cost of the anonymity is that I might receive responses such as the one from Professor Hunter.

There is a larger question here, which is how it is that I should have such a concern for my career in the first place. There is something terribly wrong that I am concerned for my career when simply writing a blog on an issue of scientific controversy. Perhaps there would be no negative outcome, but I certainly perceive that there is a real risk. This is not how academia is supposed to work, but there is something alarmingly oppressive about the whole issue of climate change in academia. I do not hide my views from my colleagues, but I am also concerned that putting my views into writing is a different proposition.

I have forwarded a link to this article to Professor Hunter, in the hope that he will nevertheless respond to the original questions. In the meantime, you might wish to contemplate why I should be so concerned that I must remain anonymous. After all, it is not as if I am discussing something like holocaust denial…

The Temperature Record – Contradictions

I have recently come across this fascinating video over at Bishop Hill. The video shows Professor Vincent Cortillot asking some very basic questions about the temperature record that is promulgated by the IPCC, and shows examples of regional temperatures that appear to contradict the IPCC records. With regards to any correlations between CO2 and the temperature records, he notes that there appears to be none. Instead, he examines a range of other possible influences on climate, for example that big ball in the sky that seems to make us feel warm when we can see it. Yes, that will be the sun.

I have not seen any examinations or comments yet on the science that he is proposing, but he appears to make a strong case. In all cases, I think it is worth watching in full, so have embedded it here.

A New Zealand Skeptic Blog?

This will be a very brief post, as I am guessing that you may like to know something about why I would want to create this blog. A few years ago, whilst living in China, I had some time on my hands, and engaged in several online debates about what was then referred to as anthropogenic global warming (AGW). I was, putting it bluntly, shouted down.

However, I persisted, and found that, lacking any other arguments than ‘scientific consensus’ and models of climate as a foundation, the attacks became personal. I don’t recall the exact wording of all the attacks, but ‘flat earther’ was one example. It was all a bit depressing. Since then, I have followed the debates, the arguments, the vindictive attacks, the sheer unpleasantness of the whole ‘warmist’ versus ‘denier’ with some sense of horror. This is not how debate should be addressed.

As such, I approach this blog with a skeptical stance, in that I do not believe there is any convincing evidence for anthropogenic global warming, but do so (I hope) in a polite way. I may become somewhat less polite where there are strong cases of scientific dishonesty, or attempts to manipulate the debate by hiding scientific data (and some other methods which are not about science but are about advocacy). However, I will not be impolite with those who disagree with me in the comments section, and will try to remain polite, even where people respond impolitely.

As for my expertise –  I have undertaken scientific research, and have been interested in the subject for a number of years. In fact, long, long ago – before (I would guess) 99% of people had heard of climate change – I was actually on the AGW side of the debate. I changed my mind several years ago, as I reviewed the evidence in more detail.

Am I claiming scientific expertise in subjects x, y or z? No. But most scientists, both for and against the AGW thesis, also only have one area of expertise, and are therefore inexpert in many of the sciences that together constitute climate science. However, my aim here is not to review the details of the scientific evidence, and I will rely on better informed fellow skeptics to do that for me. I am more interested in the process of the science, the politics, and the economics of the subject of climate change. I am interested in how we got to where we are today, with the furious debate that is taking place.

Most of all – I am concerned with the economic impact of climate change legislation – both here in New Zealand, and around the world.

With some good intentions, I commence the blog. I hope that those who agree and disagree with me will take a constructive view.