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.