I’ve had a fairly astonishing 65 comments (and counting) on my recent blog on Green Energy.
Martin Lack lists all the learned organisations that accept the climate orthodoxy, as though that proves something, and seems quite upset at my suggestion that some scientists’ views may be affected by the availability of research funds. Meantime Ken Gallowglaich, in a wonderfully snivelling and sarcastic paragraph, suggests that sceptics should read what Shell has to say about the future of renewables.
Odd, isn’t it? It seems to be an article of faith amongst green campaigners that climate sceptics are money-grubbing, mendacious hypocrites who are only taking a counter-consensual position because of the brown envelopes stuffed with cash which they receive from “Big Oil”. Yet they are horrified at the suggestion that climate orthodoxy might also be something to do with money and career advancement. In fact there is a wealth of anecdotal evidence that scientists who take a sceptical view on climate are denied publication, denied tenure, denied research funds. And we saw in the ClimateGate leaks the way in which the “Hockey Team” deliberately sought to exclude sceptics from publication, and even to remove editors who showed any sympathy towards sceptics. Not so much scientific enquiry, more witch-hunt.
Mr. Lack points to a consensus amongst scientists. But there is no such consensus. There are many thousands of qualified scientists who take a different view, including dozens who have served with the IPCC as Reviewers, yet profoundly disagree with the IPCC’s conclusions. My good friend Professor Fred Singer served as an IPCC reviewer and has the IPCC/Nobel lapel pin to prove it. He says: “The IPCC accepted my corrections to its spelling — but not to its science”. I remember travelling in a taxi to Chicago’s O’Hare airport with Paul Reiter, another IPCC reviewer, who had to threaten legal action to get his name removed from an IPCC report with which he profoundly disagreed.
Gallowglaich fails to understand the processes by which government funding, regulation and lobbying work. Big companies, to get a hearing, have to genuflect to the current orthodoxy. If a major oil company went to talk to the European Commission and took a climate-sceptic view, they simply wouldn’t get a hearing. Of course Shell’s forecasts reflect the orthodoxy.
Equally, large corporations very reasonably seek to make the best of current regulation. Their job is to maximise returns in the context in which they find themselves. Far from giving brown envelopes of cash to sceptics, they are busy hoovering up the massive renewables subsidies which governments make available. They have a direct commercial interest in green policies.
The idea that climate scepticism could be driven by money is a travesty. It’s the green industries which are driven by literally billions of state spending and subsidy, and everyone from Al Gore to Ravendra Pachauri (of the IPCC), to the traders in carbon futures and the Chinese solar panel manufacturers, to the Environmental Awareness Officer on your local council and the environment correspondent on your local newspaper, have a direct stake in the great green folly. Indeed let me declare an interest of my own. I too have such a stake — I get around £1000 a year, tax-free, as a subsidy on my domestic solar panels.
We won’t stop the nonsense until we come to our senses, or until the governments run out of money, whichever comes sooner (though an incipient change of heart in Brussels was the subject of the blog I mentioned earlier).
Even if there were a scientific consensus, that would not prove a great deal. Science is not like politics. It doesn’t work by majority voting. It works by testing hypotheses, and the hypothesis that atmospheric CO2 is the primary driver of climate is looking increasingly threadbare. There has been no increase in global temperatures now for nearly two decades, despite the relentless rise in CO2 levels. And the most interesting climate event of the last few centuries, the Little Ice Age in the 17th & 18th Centuries, clearly had nothing to do with CO2, and was strongly correlated with solar activity and the sunspot cycle. Many astronomers and solar scientists are warning of global cooling in coming decades as a result of a quiet sun. And paleo-climatologists know very well that we are on borrowed time at the end of an interglacial. We can look forward not to the dawn of a new Ice Age, but to the resumption of the one that’s been with us, on and off, for the last two million years.
Then there is the question of which scientists we’re asking. Mr. Lack makes great play of the fact that I myself am not a scientist (I never claimed to be). But many of the “scientists” on the IPCC panel are not scientists either — they are green activists. And many real scientists engaged in the debate are not working in relevant disciplines. The head of the IPCC, Dr. Ravendra Pachauri, is qualified as a Railway Engineer. Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society, who frequently lays down the law on climate issues, turns out to be a geneticist and micro-biologist. It is not clear to me why a Railway Engineer and a geneticist should be any more trusted on climate issues than a mathematician. Like myself.
There’s a touching story about Albert Einstein that speaks to the question of scientific consensus. Shortly after he published his General Theory of Relativity, a journalist asked him “Mr. Einstein, a thousand physicists say your theory is wrong”. Einstein paused a moment, and replied: “If I were wrong, one would be enough”. And those who rely on consensus may like to recall that there was consensus support for Newton’s laws of gravity for centuries, until Einstein showed that they were merely a good approximation. That is not to denigrate the importance of Newton’s insight. But it does show that consensus can be wrong, that paradigms can change.
Before Copernicus, there was a consensus that the earth was flat. Before Darwin and Lyell, there was a consensus that the earth was only a few thousand years old. Scientific consensus is not evidence of scientific fact. It is more likely to be evidence of lazy thinking and a failure to ask challenging questions — problems that bedevil green orthodoxy.
Mr. Lack knows that science deals in facts, so he assumes that the IPCC position represents facts too (despite the many schoolboy howlers in their last report). But the IPCC (and the green movement generally) deals mainly in forecasts and models and projections. And there is clear internal evidence that their forecasts are frequently wrong, because they keep changing. Their projection of sea level rise by 2100 has reduced markedly in successive reports, while they have recently admitted that they may have underestimated the effect of solar activity on climate.
So, Mr. Lack, Mr Gallowglaich. Don’t put your trust blindly in the “consensus”. Keep asking questions. And maybe look at the thermometer from time to time.