When is a consensus not a consensus?

Myself with Prof. Fred Singer at the June 23rd climate seminar

Photo courtesy of the European Parliament

At the end of the drafting process for the failed European Constitution, after eighteen months of deliberation in Brussels at a “European Convention” of MEPs, national MPs, government and Commission representatives, the Chairman Valery Giscard d’Estaing proudly declared: “We have a consensus”. My good friend David Heathcoat-Amory MP leapt up on behalf of his beleaguered handful of sceptics (who had somehow slipped in under the wire), and declared that there was no consensus, since his group took a different view, and indeed published a minority report.

“Well”, replied Giscard magisterially, “We have a substantial majority, and that’s a consensus in Europe”.

We see rather a similar position in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. We are constantly told that the IPCC represents the overwhelming consensus of the 2500 scientists on its various panels. Indeed we are often told that the IPCC represents an overwhelming consensus of all scientists — despite the 32,000 scientists who have signed the Oregon Declaration, challenging the conventional alarmist view.

But not even the 2,500 IPCC reviewers have a consensus. There are constant stories of members of the IPCC panel disagreeing with its findings, but being ignored by the small and zealous group of bureaucrats and civil servants who write the “Summary for Policymakers” (which is always much more hard-line than the supporting scientific documents — but then politicians and journalists rarely read beyond the summary). One scientist actually threatened legal action to get his name removed from the reviewers’ list because he disagreed with the findings.

Two of these dissenting IPCC panellists spoke at a seminar which I hosted yesterday in the European parliament in Brussels. Fred Singer is Emeritus Professor of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia, and used to run the US meteorological satellite service. He remarks that the IPCC accepts his corrections of their spelling, but never accepts his corrections of their conclusions. Fred was wearing the lapel-pin given to all 2,500 reviewers when the IPCC was awarded its Nobel Prize in 2007. Hans Labohm is a Dutch economist, writer and former diplomat, who was once deputy head of policy at the Dutch Foreign Ministry.

They and others have formed an alternative scientific forum, which they call the “Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change”, or NIPCC, and they presented their report “Nature, not Human Activity, Controls the Climate”. They do not dispute the data. Indeed they quote extensively from data published by the IPCC, and base their findings on that data. Their key conclusions are first, that the pattern, or “fingerprint”, of warming predicted by CO2-based greenhouse gas computer models is hugely different from the observed pattern. The models predict maximum warming in the high atmosphere (10 to 20 kms), and mainly in the tropics. Observations from both balloons and satellites show almost the opposite — most of what little warming there is, is in the northern hemisphere, away from the tropics, and at the surface. This is simply not the pattern of greenhouse warming. The CO2 hypothesis has been falsified by the data.

Second, they note that global temperatures over the short term correlate rather poorly with CO2 levels, but correlate very accurately with solar variations.

Thirdly, while long term climate records (from ice cores) show a striking correlation between temperature and CO2 levels, the CO2 levels lag the temperature by around 800 to 1000 years. Clearly, therefore, the warmists have the cart before the horse. It is not CO2 that causes warming. It is warming (driven by the sun) that causes CO2. And the mechanism by which it could do so is well understood, depending on large-scale exchanges of CO2 between the oceans and the atmosphere. These exchanges are temperature-dependant.

Hans looked at the economic and geo-political implications of climate policy, and concluded that the EU is boxing itself into a corner. It may well posture and pontificate about moral leadership, but no one much will follow. EU policies on climate will further impoverish a continent which is already slipping down global league tables for economic performance. But those policies will do nothing — literally nothing whatever — to change the earth’s climate.

The NIPCC report is available on Professor Singer’s web-site at www.sepp.org

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