September 18, 2013 - If any business were to submit a prospectus as patently false and deliberately dishonest as the ones used to advance the cause of the global warming industry, its directors would all be in prison by now. (C Jeff Randall) Does that mean Ed Davey should have followed Chris Huhne into the slammer for his claim to Andrew Neil on BBC Daily Politics the other day that in "a recent analysis of 12,000 climate papers...of the scientists who expressed a view 97 per cent said that climate change was happening and that it was human-made activity."?
Not quite, unfortunately, because nothing Davey has said there is technically untrue. A better candidate for prison, actually, would be whoever tweets under the name @BarackObama. When he Tweeted: "Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree: #climate change is real, man-made and dangerous" he was promulgating a demonstrable untruth.
No one has ever doubted that climate changes.
Pretty much everyone - probably more than 97 per cent, even - agrees that there is a degree of anthropogenic input, even it's just the barely measurable contribution of beef cattle farts or the heat produced by cities.
But the dangerous bit? No one has come even close to demonstrating it, there is no reliable evidence for it, and very few scientists - certainly far, far fewer than 97 per cent of them - would ever stake their reputations on such a tendentious claim.
The background to all this - and the "97 per cent of climate scientists say...." meme - is expertly covered in a new paper for the Global Warming Policy Foundation by Andrew Montford.
In a sane world it wouldn't have needed writing. An obscure green political activist called John Cook and a few of his eco-cronies produced a pseudo-scientific paper so riddled with flaws that it ought to have been tossed straight in the bin. Instead, it was bigged up by a compliant mainstream media, a desperate and propaganda-hungry green industry, and by the US President as a vitally significant meta-analysis offering indisputable proof of the scientific "consensus" on "climate change."
Montford concludes: The consensus as described by the survey is virtually meaningless and tells us nothing about the current state of scientific opinion beyond the trivial observation that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas and that human activities have warmed the planet to some unspecified extent. The survey methodology therefore fails to address the key points that are in dispute in the global warming debate." So how do the bastards go on getting away with it? Jamie Whyte provides a fascinating, erudite and original answer in his new paper for the Institute of Economic Affairs - Quack Policy.
In it, he exposes the "rhetorical bluster" used, inter alia, by the climate alarmist establishment to make their case sound stronger and more trustworthily "scientific" than it really is. He is especially sceptical of those who try to advance their cause with the weasel phrase "evidence-based" policy. "They are partial in their accounting for costs and benefits; they ignore substitution effects; they pretend that mathematical precision is evidence; they confound risk and uncertainty; and they exaggerate the certainty warranted by the available evidence. Having committed such errors, they obscure them with grandiose irrelevancies about peer-reviewed publication, consensus among scientists and the proclamations of official scientific committees." For Whyte - an economist as well as a philosopher - the fundamental flaw in the warmist argument is its failure to a use a realistic discount rate.
None of the projected disastrous effects of climate change exists in the present but only in an imaginary future (which may never come to pass: these are only unverifiable computer model "projections", remember). So we ought, when considering our expensive prevention/mitigation policies, factor in the key point that "future generations" are going to be richer than we are and therefore better able to pay for any problems that "climate change" may cause them.
But the alarmists cannot afford to admit this, for to do so would be fatally to weaken their case that the time for action is now and that any delay will be fatal. Their emphasis on their imminence of catastrophe is designed to preclude rational analysis, so as to railroad through policies before more temperate heads notice their flaws.
In order to give this catastrophism more credibility, alarmists are wont to appeal to the authority of the "consensus.' (Which is why, of course, the warmist establishment made such a meal of the Cook paper above).
Again, Whyte finds a fatal flaw in this line of argument: The climate models that predict AGW have not been tested and they are not mere entailments of well-known physics and chemistry. Why, then, do scientists have such high levels of confidence in them? In other words, if a scientific consensus really does exist, this is what needs to be explained. It cannot explain itself, nor justify itself. Good point. And I'd love to hear a convincing answer to this from the numerous well-known scientists who have used their prestige or their celebrity or their presumed expertise to help push the great climate change scare. I'm thinking here of everyone from Lord Winston and Sir Paul Nurse to science-background celebs such as Ben Goldacre, Simon Singh and Dara O'Briain, all of whom on various occasions have purported to know that "climate change" is a major problem because apparently there is some kind of "consensus" among scientists.
Whyte elucidates further: We do not have confidence in the predictions of physics because physicists say we should. Rather, our confidence is founded on the extraordinary success of physics. Physical theory does not merely allow us to anticipate the existence and location of previously unobserved planets or the speed at which little trolleys will travel across school science laboratories; it allows us to build televisions, space ships, microwave ovens and so on. Physicists inherit their credibility from physics, not vice versa. That is why their special credibility is restricted to physicists.
Those who build climate models are scientists. But their branch of science has no success with which to impress us, neither in its predictions nor in its applications. In the absence of such success, their assertions of confidence should carry little weight. Especially when such assertions are predictable even in the absence of proper grounds for confidence. Whyte is right. The idea that the catastrophic climate change industry can derive any authority from real science is an insult to real science.
By way of further confirmation, you might care to read this superb recent essay from Dr Richard Lindzen, which you can reach via Watts Up With That?. He argues that mainstream climate science is currently akin to Lysenkoism and that its adherents have more in common with religious zealots than scrupulous seekers-after-truth. "Global climate alarmism has been costly to society, and it has the potential to be vastly more costly. It has also been damaging to science, as scientists adjust both data and even theory to accommodate politically correct positions. How can one escape from the Iron Triangle when it produces flawed science that is immensely influential and is forcing catastrophic public policy?" Right, snivelling, mendacious, corrupt, shrivelled-and-syphilitic-membered, pseudo-scientific, rabid climate trolls. Let's be hearing your pitiful excuses....