[enviro-vlc] OTHER OPINIONS: The climate change unbelievers
vern.weitzel at gmail.com
Sun Oct 19 10:49:55 EST 2008
I don't know if there is such a thing as 'consensus' among
scientists. I know that there is no such thing among economists.
Several of you have expressed doubts about issues from
basic science to climate change policy. One or two of you
think the whole deal is a hoax.
Given that climate change is not a lab experiment, the only
certainty, is that the consequence are likely to be uncertain.
Hence, the last thing we want to do is ignore our sceptical
training and accept a particular liturgy.
It would be good to hear on this list (and in the Working
Group) from more of you about what you see are the failings
of current practice and suggest alternatives.
I can't agree with some of the stuff below, but other points
make more sense. Your ideas are welcome.
Please, do consider sharing your ideas with the list - even
anonymously if you don't want the donors to know.
The climate change unbelievers
Global warming is happening and we're to blame, right? That's certainly the view
of almost every expert in the field. But a die-hard band of naysayers continues
to rail against the consensus. Are they completely mad? Judge for yourself...
By Tim Walker
Sunday, 12 October 2008
The caption calls him the "high priest of deceit and global destruction". The
picture has him belching fire like a dragon. And who is the subject of this
highly personal attack? None other than Al Gore, who last year won the Nobel
Peace Prize, along with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),
for their success in bringing the climate-change crisis to global public attention.
Not everybody likes Gore and his beliefs about the future of our planet – and
especially not Hans Schreuder, the 62-year-old former chemist who runs the
Gore-baiting website Ilovemycarbondioxide.com (see page 29). Schreuder is one of
the climate-change sceptics who continue to make their case despite the mounting
evidence of climate change that we, the public, are presented with every day;
despite the unanimous endorsement of climate-change theory by every national
academy of science in the industrialised world.
Even President Bush, who stalled developments for so long, has conceded that
climate change is real, and caused by man-made carbon emissions. And even Bush
has tried, however half-heartedly, to do something about it in the last days of
his administration. (Though the big challenge remains to persuade the new major
emitters – China and India – to sign any agreement on reductions.)
The sceptics declare that the central evidence for carbon-driven climate change
in the reports of the IPCC are nonsense. Specifically, the "hockey stick" graph,
which correlates the steep rise in world temperatures to the steep rise in
carbon emissions, and which Gore demonstrates, with the help of a hydraulic
crane, in his film An Inconvenient Truth. Gore's opponents say there's evidence
that world temperatures have, in fact, begun to fall since 2000.
In 2005, the House of Lords Economics Committee voiced "concerns" about the
objectivity of the IPCC, suggesting some of the agency's emissions projections
were "influenced by political considerations". The committee's claims were
subsequently rejected by the Government and the Stern Review on the economics of
climate change, but the vested-interests argument unites sceptics, and mirrors
the accusations often levelled at them in turn, that they are in the pockets of
big oil, big gas, or the US Republican Party.
The sceptics come from the worlds of politics, economics, television and,
crucially, science. David Bellamy (opposite), a professor of botany who was
formerly the televisual face of eco-evangelism, has been compared with a
Holocaust denier because he doesn't believe carbon emissions cause climate
change. Climatologist Piers Corbyn (page 25) is convinced climate change is
caused by solar activity, not CO2. Economist Ruth Lea (page 25) warns of the
IPCC's political and business interests. Martin Durkin (page 28), maker of the
documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle, says the green industry is in too
deep to afford to acknowledge scientific law. And the former Chancellor, Nigel
Lawson (page 27), maintains that though the science of climate change could be
broadly correct, its consequences have been exaggerated.
Should we give their opinions the time of day? Whether you agree or not (and
chances are you won't), the climate-change sceptics have no intention of
shutting up. n
The conservationist: David Bellamy
David Bellamy is an environmental campaigner and former television presenter. He
was senior lecturer in Botany at Durham University until 1982, where he is now
an honorary professor
"Global warming is the biggest scam since the church sold indulgences back in
the Middle Ages. If our Government actually believes that all those people are
going to die, why did it build Terminal Five?
"I've been doing research on the stability of ecosystems, which is all tied up
with human activity, for 22 years. That's why I became a leading greenie in the
early days. I have probably stood on more picket lines than anyone to stop
forest-clearing, wind farms and the overfishing of the sea. But when the
scientific arguments don't add up, one starts to question them: CO2 levels have
risen in the atmosphere, but why don't all the other bits of science fall in
"The speed of retreat of glaciers worldwide has not changed. The latest data
shows that both the northern and southern ice caps are actually growing. The
recent studies of the ice core show that rises in temperature are followed by a
release of carbon dioxide, not the other way around. I'll be in New Zealand
soon, and two of the major glaciers there are growing like the clappers. And
from 1998 there has been no rise at all in the temperature of the earth. Indeed,
all the sunspot data tells us we're headed for 15 very cold years.
"Many peer-reviewed papers show that as CO2 goes up, many plants and forests
grow up to 40 per cent faster. The New Scientist has reported that 300,000
square kilometres of former desert are now covered with trees. Why don't we have
all those good points publicised?
"Global temperature has risen at a natural rate that began 300 years ago. That
slope of change has not changed since then, so how can we say that carbon is the
driver? The sun has more correlations with temperature change than carbon.
"The whole world is hooked on a fear of carbon, and there really is nothing to fear.
"The scientific consensus is not strong, but every time I turn on the television
or read a newspaper, I hear that it is. The BBC constantly tells us the lakes in
Africa are drying up because of global warming. The lakes are drying up because
of the dams around them, and the fact that we are using that local water to
produce cut flowers for the European market. Why aren't we told these things?
"If you go through the peer-reviewed literature on our side of the argument,
it's near-unanimous in not predicting climate catastrophe. But it has got to a
state of McCarthyism within science. As a university don, I used to try to get
every tenth paper of mine into [the weekly science journal] Nature. But Nature
will not touch any papers which are anti the global-warming ethic. I have been
called a Holocaust denier. If they weren't really frightened they were losing
the argument, they wouldn't write those things." '
The economist: Ruth Lea
Ruth Lea is economic adviser to the Arbuthnot Banking Group, and formerly held
positions including director of the Centre for Policy Studies, head of the
Policy Unit at the Institute of Directors, and economics editor of ITN
"The foundation of our climate-change policy is the projections made by the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). We've signed up to the IPCC,
as an agency of the UN, and it's portrayed as an impartial, independent
scientific organisation. In fact, it's highly political, most of its members are
governmental appointees, and it contains a strong element of evangelical
environmentalism. But whatever you think about it politically, you have to look
at its projections, as they are core to the whole debate.
"The IPCC makes assumptions on economic growth, assumptions on fuel prices and
demographics, then it puts all these assumptions into a model, which produces a
forecast for carbon-dioxide emissions. Then it puts those results into a climate
model, which predicts temperature change for the next century.
"I wouldn't claim to be qualified to speak about the climate models, but as an
economist and statistician, I look at its predictions for economic growth, fuel
consumption, demographics and so on, and I ask myself how it can possibly know
what these will be by the end of the century.
"I made some economic forecasts about six weeks ago, and then we were hit by a
financial crisis, so who knows where fuel costs are going? Yet the IPCC says it
knows what'll be happening in 100 years' time.
"Climate-change policy is predicated on the IPCC stuff being taken as gospel.
When I started to study the economics, I was shocked. Like many people, I
assumed the IPCC findings were rock- solid and unquestionable. But when I looked
at how it made its projections, I was horrified. I don't think people realise
the vast uncertainties. When you hear people saying the temperature is going to
rise by four degrees this century, do you hear anyone explaining that there's
only a 0.001 probability that will happen? No.
"I wrote a sceptical letter to the FT in 2006, and there was a very dismissive,
patronising, curt response from the Royal Society as if to say, 'How dare you
question any of this?' I was amazed at its tone. And the writer and
environmentalist George Monbiot has accused me of being financed by the oil
companies. If only!
"Anybody who disputes the IPCC's projections is branded a Holocaust denier. I
find that offensive. If I had relatives who'd been murdered in the Holocaust,
I'd be beside myself with anger.
"When I started to utter my views, I discovered there were quite a few vested
interests in green industry, not least in carbon-trading. And boy, they didn't
like it. Questioning this stuff rips away the foundations of their business.
"There are probably more economists in a position to speak freely than there are
scientists – we can afford to. The problem for scientists is that they have to
go along with government policy, which currently states that we're all going to
be fried alive in the next 50 years."
The climatologist: Piers Corbyn
Piers Corbyn is the maverick weather forecaster and owner of Weather Action,
which makes forecasts up to a year in advance based on Corbyn's theory of the
'Solar Weather Technique'
"There's no evidence that carbon dioxide drives world temperatures or climate
change. The 'hockey stick' is fraud, Al Gore's film is fraud, and schemes to
remove CO2 from the atmosphere by machines are a scam.
"Temperatures rose since about 1915, but if you look in more detail, estimates
show that they've declined since 2002. As it grew, the global-warming empire set
about trying to find data to prove its case, but the data it found actually
disproves its case. That's why the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment Project
doesn't highlight the results that negate the theory.
"The idea that climate change causes extreme weather is preposterous. The
average number of landfall storms per decade in the US was higher between 1900
and 1960 than in the past 30 or so years. I've met scientists who've said I'm
probably right, but if you're in a university funded to research global warming,
you're not going to speak up.
"People say that I oppose climate-change theory because I want my way of
forecasting to be proved right. But the reason I think the CO2 theory is wrong
is that the CO2 theory is wrong." '
The politician: Nigel Lawson
Now Lord Lawson of Blaby, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer this year
published 'An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming', in which he was
critical of climate-change policy, including the Kyoto Protocol and the Stern Review
"There has been no global warming this century, and that is apparent from
figures produced by the Hadley Centre, the branch of the UK Met Office that
monitors world temperatures.
"There's also uncertainty over the impact of climate change, even if it does
happen. If you take the trouble to read the IPCC reports, there's a mixed bag of
potential consequences, some of them beneficial.
"After the hot summer of 2003, the Department of Health looked into what might
happen in the UK if the temperature by 2050 matched predictions. It found there
would be an increase in deaths from dehydration of 2,000 per year, but a
reduction in deaths from hypothermia of 20,000 per year.
"We're told that there has to be a global agreement to deal with global warming,
to cut back drastically on carbon-dioxide emissions, but it's simply not going
to happen. The Chinese and Indians have made it clear that they're not going to
cut back, and with good reason. Their number-one priority is to get their people
out of poverty. That means the most rapid possible rate of growth, which means
using the cheapest available form of energy, which, now and for the foreseeable
future, is carbon-based energy.
"If warming occurs, we should adapt, as mankind has always done. People live in
a whole range of climates already. Technology will develop in ways that we can't
predict. We can help poor countries to adapt with aid programmes, which will be
infinitely cheaper than wrecking our own economies.
"There is a great clash going on between the developing world and the developed
world over this, which is politically dangerous. People as diverse as the EU
industry commissioner, President Sarkozy of France, and the Democrats in the US
Congress, are saying that if China and India won't cut back emissions, then we
must impose tariffs on their goods. That kind of retreat into protectionism
would be very damaging economically.
"Still, I think you'll find now that both major parties are giving this issue a
lot less prominence than they were a year ago, and that is all to the good. The
last thing we want is foolish and damaging commitments being made."'
The polemicist: Martin Durkin
Martin Durkin is the documentary-maker behind The Great Global Warming Swindle,
which was shown on Channel 4 in 2007 and became the subject of an Ofcom enquiry.
He was already known as the 'scourge of the greens' for some of his previous
work, including the 1997 series Against Nature, which was critical of the
"The premise of The Great Global Warming Swindle was that climate-change science
doesn't stack up. We had to ask, if it's true that the science is weak, then why
the scare? It had to be about the phenomenon of a scare as much as the science.
"Take BSE; we were told that half the population would die because we'd all
eaten dodgy hamburgers. It was backed by the Government's chief scientist, yet
it is now acknowledged as nonsense. Anyone with a long memory will remember the
'next ice age' scare in the early-1970s. There is a culture that produces scares.
"My first brush with the environmental movement came about 12 years ago, when
Channel 4 asked me to make a series about it. There was a long line of
environmental scares – about population, resource depletion, GM food – and I
wanted to find out whether they were rational.
"I discovered quickly that a section of society – broadly speaking, the
bureaucratic middle-classes – are instinctively anti-industry,
anti-supermarkets, anti-cars. Scientists, teachers and university lecturers are
part of this section. They fall into a tradition of romantic anti-capitalism,
which finds modernity aesthetically distasteful. They used to have a disparate
set of prejudices, but global warming linked them all up and gave them the
uber-apocalypse they were after.
"If they cause a rumpus, then politicians will say, 'We're putting £20m into
research' because they want to be seen to be doing something. Then anyone who's
doing a PhD in stoats is advised by their supervisor to do it on stoats in
relation to global warming, which releases those funds.
"Objectively, it is staggeringly obvious that climate-change science is complete
twaddle. There is no correlation, on any meaningful timescale whatsoever,
between CO2 and temperature. Take the politics and the grants out of it, and no
one would take it seriously.
"Nearly all the letters we get are positive: if this was a working-class
movement, or some rough types believed in it, then I might have been threatened.
But they're just a bunch of quiche-eating hippies. What are they going to do –
wave their panini at me?
"I think they're trying to inhibit progress, to stifle people's creativity and
freedom, and hold back development, particularly in poor countries. It's like
Laurens van der Post, the anthropologist who studied African tribes and jolly
well didn't want them to change because their culture was so interesting. Well,
Van der Post lived in a nice flat in Chelsea while the poor bastards out in
Africa were eating mud. I'm in favour of us all leading better lives.
"How conscious were the Nazis of what they were doing? Look at DDT, the
insecticide that the greens had banned internationally, thereby causing the
deaths of about 50 million people [due to malaria]. We should be made conscious
of the consequences of our actions."
The activist: Hans Schreuder
Hans Schreuder is a former analytical chemist from the Netherlands, now living
in Suffolk. After retiring, he set up the website www.ilovemycarbondioxide.com
to back his hypothesis that carbon dioxide bears no relation to global warming
"I qualified as an analytical chemist in Holland in 1968 and spent about 15
years in analytical chemistry.
"I set up my site last year to prove that carbon dioxide is irrelevant to
climate and climate change. I get about 5,000 or 6,000 hits every month. I wrote
my final page in June, but I still publish papers by other people.
"What I want to get across is the fallacy that man can influence the climate by
means of a fictitious greenhouse effect. It is just such a laughable idea, yet
the western world has bought into it. The problem is, there's way too much money
in it to dump it. But in the cold reality of Nature, there is no problem
whatsoever with carbon dioxide.
"I'm off to Holland for a publicity stunt. I have a big 'I love my carbon
dioxide' banner and a friend of mine wants to jump in the water around the
parliament building in The Hague with it.
"I haven't been targeted by activists, which is a shame, as that would have
created publicity. I called Al Gore a liar and lots of other things on the site,
because I was hoping someone would sue me for defamation. But nobody has bothered."
The other side of the story: Global warming in numbers
2-3ºC is the potential rise in the Earth's temperature by 2100. Such an
increase would be the most dramatic for 10,000 years (source: the IPPC)
11 out of the past 13 years rank among the warmest since records began
(source: World Meteorological Organization, December 2007)
2035 is the year by which the Himalayan glaciers
are likely to disappear (source: www.dfid.gov.uk)
Two-thirds of the world's population could be suffering from
global-warming-induced water shortages by 2025 (source: www.dfid.gov.uk)
94 million people in Asia will be at risk of flooding by 2100, based on current
sea-level rises (source: www.dfid.gov.uk)
35 per cent is the proportion by which CO2 levels are greater now than they have
been at any other time over the past 65,000 years (source: The Royal Society)
More information about the enviro-vlc