Science is not, repeat not, done by consensus. Head-counting scientists forms no part of the scientific method. The fallacy of argument from consensus (or, as the medieval schoolmen sneeringly called it, the argumentum ad populum) has no place in any rational argument. Nor is it any help to appeal to the supposed authority of scientists (who, for one thing, are as prone to rent-seeking and profiteering as anyone else: white lab-coats are no indication of exceptional purity). For the fallacy of argument from authority (the argumentum ad verecundiam) is another bogus form of argument. Both of these fallacies, and a dozen others like them, were categorized and excoriated by Aristotle 2350 years ago. They really should not appear in any educated discussion of a scientific topic today.
In fact, the claimed “consensus” does not exist. The largest peer-reviewed survey of opinion as expressed in the peer-reviewed learned journals on climate and related scientific topics found just 41 of 11,944 papers, or 0.3%, endorsing the official UN IPCC “consensus” to the effect that most of the global warming since 1950 was manmade. However, the authors of the “study” that analyzed the 11,944 papers reported the “consensus” as 97.1%. Police in Queensland and in the UK have been poring over the paper concerned, and prosecutions may yet follow. The patience of those of us who have diligently been contributing papers to the learned journals (my latest, on the IPCC’s aprioristic failure to take uncertainties properly or honestly into account, is attached) is running short, and outright falsehoods such as the “97%” lie are no longer going to be tolerated.
It is in fact barely possible that most of the warming since 1950 was manmade, but only if one assumes not only that CO2 exerts a larger forcing on the climate object than is at all plausible but also that the “temperature feedbacks” in response to the direct warming arising from that forcing are strongly net-positive when observation indicates they are somewhat net-negative. A paper by me in Physics and Society in 2008 was among the first to suggest, by the application of elementary climate physics, that there would be less than 1 K global warming in response to a doubling of CO2 concentration – and that only half of that would be likely to make itself manifest within 100 years of the doubling. Now such papers are appearing just about once a week, as others pick up the threads I exposed in that early paper. Indeed, I am very close to publishing a further paper providing for the first time a climate model that anyone with a pocket calculator can use to obtain estimates of climate sensitivity less unreliable than those of the billion-dollar brains on whose feverishly over-excited and anti-scientific predictions the climate scare was founded.
The fact that there has been no global warming for 18 years 1 month, according to the RSS satellite dataset, comes as no surprise at all to me. For I see things not only in a mathematical perspective informed by both physical theory and observation but also by the climate over geological time. One example: in the Neoproterozoic era, 750 million years ago, CO2 concentration was three orders of magnitude greater than it is today. It was at least 30% of the atmosphere, compared with today’s paltry 0.04%. Yet during that era of very high CO2 concentration glaciers a mile high came and went twice, at the Equator. And how many equatorial glaciers are there today?
True, the Sun was somewhat fainter then than now. And the continents were in different places. But I have seen the tillite deposits of one of the major equatorial glacial moraines at Arkaroola Station, South Australia, rubbing shoulders with deposits of dolomitic limestone (which can only be precipitated out of the ocean if the atmosphere contains at least 30% CO2). I have poured hydrochloric acid on to the rock to see the CO2 foaming back out of it. I have seen the curly mallee trees above it, which only grow on dolomitic limestone (though the 600 other mallee species are not so picky). And I have done some calculations that suggest the forcing effect of CO2 was – and, therefore, is – a very great deal less than the models find it to be. I was so perplexed by the IPCC’s forcing value (which has already had to be cut by a hefty 15%) that I investigated how it had been arrived at. I discovered – not greatly to my surprise – that it had been reached by intercomparison between three models. There appears to be no direct, observational estimate of the CO2 forcing, because that forcing cannot easily be distinguished from the far more significant water vapor forcing. It is really the latter that keeps the planet warm: at the crucial lower-to-mid-troposphere altitudes where it would be necessary for warming to take place if there were to be much effect on near-surface temperatures, the characteristic absorption bands of CO2 are almost entirely overlain by those of water vapour.
It is only in the upper troposphere, where water vapor is rarer, that CO2 might in theory have some warming effect. However, the atmosphere in the upper troposphere is so attenuated that little warming is to be expected at that altitude. No surprise, then, that in the mid-troposphere, where the models predict that in a warming world the rate of warming would be thrice that at the surface, no such “hot-spot” is to be observed. It was I who gave the “hot-spot” its name: but it is non-existent in very nearly all of the datasets.
And all of this is before we even begin to consider the economic case. A paper by me for the World Federation of Scientists’ Annual Proceedings three years ago demonstrated that it is 10-100 times costlier to mitigate global warming today than to adapt to its imagined net-adverse consequences the day after tomorrow. I remain the only researcher to have applied the IPCC’s own climate methodology and results to the standard techniques of intergenerational investment appraisal in order to provide a proper economic analysis. So far, the most heroically stupid of all the heroically stupid methods of trying to make non-existent global warming go away is to introduce electric vehicles, as you will see from my Energy & Environment article, which contains an admittedly breathless summary of the calculation.
So far, despite careful enquiry, I have seen no compelling case for doing anything about the climate. It has changed for 4.5 billion years. It will continue to change. And there is not a lot we can do about it. There are plenty of real and solvable problems: why waste an instant longer on non-problems that could not – even to the extent that they were rela problems – be solved except at entirely disproportionate and extravagant cost?