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Western climate change alarmists won’t admit they are wrong

CLIVE JAMES  from The Australian extract from the essay Mass Death Dies Hard by Clive James

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/inquirer/western-climate-change-alarmists-wont-admit-they-are-wrong/news-story/892c0088ec01f9186e068f55f2ca6794?nk=6c804a615fb2d97f379441c523655893-1496445442

When you tell people once too often that the missing extra heat is hiding in the ocean, they will switch over to watch Game of Thrones, where the dialogue is less ridiculous and all the threats come true. The proponents of man-made climate catastrophe asked us for so many leaps of faith that they were bound to run out of credibility in the end.

Now that they finally seem to be doing so, it could be a good time for those of us who have never been convinced by all those urgent warnings to start warning each other that we might be making a comparably senseless tactical error if we expect the elastic cause of the catastrophists, and all of its exponents, to go away in a hurry.

I speak as one who knows nothing about the mathematics involved in modelling non-linear systems. But I do know quite a lot about the mass media, and far too much about the abuse of language. So I feel qualified to advise against any triumphalist urge to compare the apparently imminent disintegration of the alarmist cause to the collapse of a house of cards. Devotees of that fond idea haven’t thought hard enough about their metaphor. A house of cards collapses only with a sigh, and when it has finished collapsing all the cards are still there.

Although the alarmists might finally have to face that they will not get much more of what they want on a policy level, they will surely, on the level of their own employment, go on wanting their salaries and prestige.

To take a conspicuous if ludicrous case, Australian climate star Tim Flannery will probably not, of his own free will, shrink back to the position conferred by his original metier, as an expert on the extinction of the giant wombat. He is far more likely to go on being, and wishing to be, one of the mass media’s mobile oracles about climate. While that possibility continues, it will go on being danger­ous to stand between him and a television camera. If the giant wombat could have moved at that speed, it would still be with us.

The mere fact that few of Flannery’s predictions have ever come true need not be enough to discredit him, just as American professor Paul Ehrlich has been left untouched since he predicted that the world would soon run out of copper. In those days, when our current phase of the long discussion about man’s attack on nature was just beginning, he predicted mass death by extreme cold. Lately he predicts mass death by extreme heat. But he has always predicted mass death by extreme something.

Actually, a more illustrative starting point for the theme of the permanently imminent climatic apocalypse might be taken as August 3, 1971, when The Sydney Morning Herald announced that the Great Barrier Reef would be dead in six months.

After six months the reef had not died, but it has been going to die almost as soon as that ever since, making it a strangely durable emblem for all those who have wedded themselves to the notion of climate catastrophe.

The most exalted of all the world’s predictors of reef death, former US president Barack Obama, has still not seen the reef; but he promises to go there one day when it is well again.

In his acceptance speech at the 2008 Democratic convention, Obama said — and I truly wish that this were an inaccurate paraphrase — that people should vote for him if they wanted to stop the ocean rising. He got elected, and it didn’t rise.

The notion of a countdown or a tipping point is very dear to both wings of this deaf shouting match, and really is of small use to either. On the catastrophist wing, whose “narrative”, as they might put it, would so often seem to be a synthesised film script left over from the era of surround-sound disaster movies, there is always a countdown to the tipping point.

When the scientists are the main contributors to the script, the tipping point will be something like the forever forthcoming moment when the Gulf Stream turns upside down or the Antarctic ice sheet comes off its hinges, or any other extreme event which, although it persists in not happening, could happen sooner than we think. (Science correspondents who can write a phrase like “sooner than we think” seldom realise that they might have already lost you with the word “could”.)

When the politicians join in the writing, the dramatic language declines to the infantile. There are only 50 days (former British PM Gordon Brown) or 100 months (Prince Charles wearing his political hat) left for mankind to “do something” about “the greatest moral challenge … of our generation” (Kevin Rudd, before he arrived at the Copenhagen climate shindig in 2009).

When he left Copenhagen, Rudd scarcely mentioned the greatest moral challenge again. Perhaps he had deduced, from the confusion prevailing throughout the conference, that the chances of the world ever uniting its efforts to “do something” were very small. Whatever his motives for backing out of the climate chorus, his subsequent career was an early demonstration that to cease being a chorister would be no easy retreat because it would be a clear indication that everything you had said on the subject up to then had been said in either bad faith or ­ignorance. It would not be enough merely to fall silent. You would have to travel back in time, run for office in the Czech Republic ­instead of Australia, and call yourself Vaclav Klaus.

Australia, unlike Rudd, has a globally popular role in the ­climate movie because it looks the part.

Common reason might tell you that a country whose contribution to the world’s emissions is only 1.4 per cent can do very little about the biggest moral challenge even if it manages to reduce that contribution to zero; but your eyes tell you that Australia is burning up. On the classic alarmist principle of “just stick your head out of the window and look around you”, Australia always looks like Overwhelming Evidence that the alarmists must be right.

Even now that the global warming scare has completed its transformation into the climate change scare so that any kind of event at either end of the scale of temperature can qualify as a crisis, Australia remains the top area of interest, still up there ahead of even the melting North Pole, ­despite the Arctic’s miraculous ­capacity to go on producing ice in defiance of all instructions from Al Gore. A C-student to his marrow, and thus never quick to pick up any reading matter at all, Gore has evidently never seen the Life magazine photographs of America’s nuclear submarine Skate surfacing through the North Pole in 1959. The ice up there is often thin, and sometimes vanishes.

But it comes back, especially when some­one sufficiently illustrious confidently predicts that it will go away for good.

After 4.5 billion years of changing, the climate that made outback Australia ready for Baz Luhrmann’s viewfinder looked all set to end the world tomorrow. History has already forgotten that the schedule for one of the big drought sequences in his movie Australia was wrecked by rain, and certainly history will never be reminded by the mass media, which loves a picture that fits the story.

In this way, the polar bear balancing on the Photoshopped shrinking ice floe will always have a future in show business, and the cooling towers spilling steam will always be up there in the background of the TV picture.

The full 97 per cent of all satirists who dealt themselves out of the climate subject back at the start look like staying out of it until the end, even if they get satirised in their turn. One could blame them for their pusillanimity, but it would be useless, and perhaps unfair. Nobody will be able plausibly to call actress Emma Thompson dumb for spreading gloom and doom about the climate: she’s too clever and too creative. And anyway, she might be right. Cases like Leonardo DiCaprio and Cate Blanchett are rare enough to be called brave. Otherwise, the consensus of silence from the wits and thespians continues to be impressive.

If they did wish to speak up for scepticism, however, they wouldn’t find it easy when the people who run the big TV outlets forbid the wrong kind of humour.

On Saturday Night Live back there in 2007, Will Ferrell, brilliantly pretending to be George W. Bush, was allowed to get every word of the global warming message wrong but he wasn’t allowed to disbelieve it. Just as all branches of the modern media love a picture of something that might be part of the Overwhelming Evidence for climate change even if it is really a picture of something else, they all love a clock ticking down to zero, and if the clock never quite gets there then the motif can be exploited forever.

But the editors and producers must face the drawback of such perpetual excitement: it gets perpetually less exciting. Numbness sets in, and there is time to think after all. Some of the customers might even start asking where this language of rubber numbers has been heard before.

It was heard from Swift. In Gulliver’s Travels he populated his flying island of Laputa with scientists busily using rubber numbers to predict dire events. He called these scientists “projectors”. At the basis of all the predictions of the projectors was the prediction that the Earth was in danger from a Great Comet whose tail was “ten hundred thousand and fourteen” miles long. I should concede at this point that a sardonic parody is not necessarily pertinent just because it is funny; and that although it might be unlikely that the Earth will soon be threatened by man-made climate change, it might be less unlikely that the Earth will be threatened eventually by an asteroid, or let it be a Great Comet; after all, the Earth has been hit before.

That being said, however, we can note that Swift has got the language of artificial crisis exactly right, to the point that we might have trouble deciding whether he invented it or merely copied it from scientific voices surrounding him. James Hansen is a Swiftian figure. Blithely equating trains full of coal to trains full of people on their way to Auschwitz, the Columbia University climatologist is utterly unaware that he has not only turned the stomachs of the informed audience he was out to impress, he has lost their attention.

Paleoclimatologist Chris Turney, from the University of NSW, who led a ship full of climate change enthusiasts into the Antarctic to see how the ice was doing under the influence of climate change and found it was doing well enough to trap the ship, could have been invented by Swift. (Turney’s subsequent Guardian article, in which he explained how this embarrassment was due only to a quirk of the weather and had nothing to do with a possible mistake about the climate, was a Swiftian lampoon in all respects.)

Compulsorily retired now from the climate scene, Rajendra Pachauri, formerly chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Clim­ate Change, was a zany straight from Swift, by way of a Bollywood remake of The Party starring the local imitator of Peter Sellers; if Dr Johnson could have thought of Pachauri, Rasselas would be much more entertaining than it is. Finally, and supremely, Flannery could have been invented by Swift after 10 cups of coffee too many with Stella. He wanted to keep her laughing. Swift projected the projectors who now surround us.

They came out of the grant-hungry fringe of semi-science to infect the heart of the mass media, where a whole generation of commentators taught each other to speak and write a hyperbolic doom-language (“unprecedent­ed”, “irreversible”, et cetera), which you might have thought was sure to doom them in their turn. After all, nobody with an intact pair of ears really listens for long to anyone who talks about “the planet” or “carbon” or “climate denial” or “the science”. But for now — and it could be a long now — the advocates of drastic action are still armed with a theory that no fact doesn’t fit.

The theory has always been manifestly unfalsifiable, but there are few science pundits in the mass media who could tell Karl Popper from Mary Poppins. More startling than their ignorance, however, is their defiance of logic. You can just about see how a bunch of grant-dependent climate scientists might go on saying that there was never a Medieval Warm Period even after it has been pointed out to them that any old corpse dug up from the permafrost could never have been buried in it. But how can a bunch of supposedly enlightened writers go on saying that? Their answer, if pressed, is usually to say that the question is too elementary to be considered.

Alarmists have always profited from their insistence that climate change is such a complex issue that no “science denier” can have an opinion about it worth hearing. For most areas of science such an insistence would be true. But this particular area has a knack of raising questions that get more and more complicated in the absence of an answer to the elementary ones. One of those elementary questions is about how man-made carbon dioxide can be a driver of climate change if the global temperature has not gone up by much over the past 20 years but the amount of man-made carbon dioxide has. If we go on to ask a supplementary question — say, how could carbon dioxide raise temperature when the evidence of the ice cores indicates that temperature has always raised carbon dioxide — we will be given complicated answers, but we still haven’t had an answer to the first question, except for the suggestion that the temperature, despite the observations, really has gone up, but that the extra heat is hiding in the ocean.

It is not necessarily science denial to propose that this long professional habit of postponing an answer to the first and most elementary question is bizarre. American physicist Richard Feynman said that if a fact doesn’t fit the theory, the theory has to go. Feynman was a scientist. Einstein realised that the Michelson-Morley experiment hinted at a possible fact that might not fit Newton’s theory of celestial mechanics. Einstein was a scientist, too. Those of us who are not scientists, but who are sceptical about the validity of this whole issue — who suspect that the alleged problem might be less of a problem than is made out — have plenty of great scientific names to point to for exemplars, and it could even be said that we could point to the whole of science itself. Being resistant to the force of its own inertia is one of the things that science does.

When the climatologists upgraded their frame of certainty from global warming to climate change, the bet-hedging man­oeuvre was so blatant that some of the sceptics started predicting in their turn: the alarmist cause must surely now collapse, like a house of cards. A tipping point had been reached.

Unfortunately for the cause of rational critical inquiry, the campaign for immediate action against climate doom reaches a tipping point every few minutes, because the observations, if not the calculations, never cease exposing it as a fantasy.

I myself, after I observed journalist Andrew Neil on BBC TV wiping the floor with the then secretary for energy and climate change Ed Davey, thought that the British government’s energy policy could not survive, and that the mad work that had begun with the 2008 Climate Change Act of Labour’s Ed Miliband must now surely begin to come undone. Neil’s well-inform­ed list of questions had been a tipping point. But it changed nothing in the short term. It didn’t even change the BBC, which continued uninterrupted with its determination that the alarmist view should not be questioned.

How did the upmarket mass media get themselves into such a condition of servility? One is reminded of that fine old historian George Grote when he said that he had taken his A History of Greece only to the point where the Greeks failed to realise they were slaves. The BBC’s monotonous plugging of the climate theme in its science documentaries is too obvious to need remarking, but it’s what the science programs never say that really does the damage.

Even the news programs get “smoothed” to ensure that nothing interferes with the constant business of protecting the climate change theme’s dogmatic status.

To take a simple but telling example: when Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s Vice-Chancellor and man in charge of the Energiewende (energy transition), talked rings around Greenpeace hecklers with nothing on their minds but renouncing coal, or told executives of the renewable energy companies that they could no longer take unlimited subsidies for granted, these instructive moments could be seen on German TV but were not excerpted and subtitled for British TV even briefly, despite Gabriel’s accomplishments as a natural TV star, and despite the fact he himself was no sceptic.

Wrong message: easier to leave him out. And if American climate scientist Judith Curry appears before a US Senate com­mittee and manages to defend her anti-alarmist position against concentrated harassment from a senator whose only qualification for the discussion is that he can impugn her integrity with a rhetorical contempt of which she is too polite to be capable? Leave it to YouTube. In this way, the BBC has spent 10 years unplugged from a vital part of the global intellectual discussion, with an increasing air of provincialism as the inevitable result. As the UK now begins the long process of exiting the EU, we can reflect that the departing nation’s most important broadcasting institution has been behaving, for several years, as if its true aim were to reproduce the thought control that prevailed in the Soviet Union.

As for the print media, it’s no mystery why the upmarket newspapers do an even more thorough job than the downmarket newspapers of suppressing any dissenting opinion on the climate.

In Britain, The Telegraph sensibly gives a column to the diligently sceptical Christopher Booker, and Matt Rid­ley has recently been able to get a few rational articles into The Times, but a more usual arrangement is exemplified by my own newspaper, The Guardian, which entrusts all aspects of the subject to George Monbiot, who once informed his green readership that there was only one reason I could presume to disagree with him, and them: I was an old man, soon to be dead, and thus with no concern for the future of “the planet”.

I would have damned his impertinence, but it would have been like getting annoyed with a wheelbarrow full of freshly cut grass.

These byline names are stars committed to their opinion, but what’s missing from the posh press is the non-star name committed to the job of building a fact file and extracting a reasoned article from it. Further down the market, when The Daily Mail put its no-frills newshound David Rose on the case after Climategate, his admirable competence immediately got him labelled as a “climate change denier”: one of the first people to be awarded that badge of honour.

The other tactic used to discredit him was the standard one of calling his paper a disreputable publication. It might be — having been a victim of its prurience myself, I have no inclination to revere it — but it hasn’t forgotten what objective reporting is supposed to be. Most of the British papers have, and the reason is no mystery.

They can’t afford to remember. The print media, with notable exceptions, is on its way down the drain. With almost no personnel left to do the writing, the urge at editorial level is to give all the science stuff to one bloke. The print edition of The Independent bored its way out of business when its resident climate nag was allowed to write half the paper.

In its last year, when the doomwatch journalists were threatened by the climate industry with a newly revised consensus opinion that a mere 2C increase in world temperature might be not only acceptable but likely, The Independent’s chap retaliated by writing stories about how the real likelihood was an increase of 5C, and in a kind of frenzied crescendo he wrote a whole front page saying that the global temperature was “on track” for an increase of 6C. Not long after, the Indy’s print edition closed down.

At The New York Times, Andrew Revkin, star colour-piece writer on the climate beat, makes the whole subject no less predictable than his prose style: a cruel restriction.

In Australia, the Fairfax papers, which by now have almost as few writers as readers, reprint Revkin’s summaries as if they were the voice of authority, and will probably go on doing so until the waters close overhead. On the ABC, house science pundit Robyn Williams famously predicted that the rising of the waters “could” amount to 100m in the next century. But not even he predicted that it could happen next week. At The Sydney Morning Herald, it could happen next week. The only remaining journalists could look out of the window and see fish.

Bending its efforts to sensationalise the news on a scale previously unknown even in its scrappy history, the mass media has helped to consolidate a pernicious myth. But it could not have done this so thoroughly without the accident that it is the main source of information and opinion for people in the academic world and in the scientific institutions. Few of those people have been reading the sceptical blogs: they have no time. If I myself had not been so ill during the relevant time span, I might not have been reading it either, and might have remained confined within the misinformation system where any assertion of forthcoming disaster counts as evidence.

The effect of this mountainous accumulation of sanctified alarmism on the academic world is another subject. Some of the universities deserve to be closed down, but I expect they will muddle through, if only because the liberal spirit, when it regains its strength, is likely to be less vengeful than the dogmatists were when they ruled. Finding that the power of inertia blesses their security as once it blessed their influence, the enthusiasts might have the sense to throttle back on their certitude, huddle under the blanket cover provided by the concept of “post-normal science”, and wait in comfort to be forgotten.

As for the learned societies and professional institutions, it was never a puzzle that so many of them became instruments of obfuscation instead of enlightenment. Totalitarianism takes over a state at the moment when the ruling party is taken over by its secretariat; the tipping point is when Stalin, with his lists of names, offers to stay late after the meeting and take care of business.

The same vulnerability applies to any learned institution. Rule by bureaucracy favours mediocrity, and in no time at all you are in a world where the British Met Office’s (former) chief scientist Julia Slingo is a figure of authority and Curry is fighting to breathe.

On a smaller scale of influential prestige, Nicholas Stern lends the Royal Society the honour of his presence. For those of us who regard him as a vocalised stuffed shirt, it is no use saying that his confident pronouncements about the future are only those of an economist. Klaus was only an economist when he tried to remind us that Malthusian clairvoyance is invariably a harbinger of totalitarianism. But Klaus was a true figure of authority. Alas, true figures of authority are in short supply, and tend not to have much influence when they get to speak.

All too often, this is because they care more about science than about the media. As recently as 2015, after a full 10 years of nightly proof that this particular scientific dispute was a media event before it was anything, Freeman Dyson was persuaded to go on television. He was up there just long enough to say that the small proportion of carbon dioxide that was man-made could only add to the world’s supply of plant food. The world’s mass media outlets ignored the footage, mainly because they didn’t know who he was.

I might not have known either if I hadn’t spent, in these past few years, enough time in hospitals to have it proved to me on a personal basis that real science is as indispensable for modern medicine as cheap power. Among his many achievements, to none of which he has ever cared about drawing attention, Dyson designed the TRIGA reactor. The TRIGA ­ensures that the world’s hospitals get a reliable supply of isotopes.

Dyson served science. Except for the few holdouts who go on fighting to defend the objective ­nature of truth, most of the climate scientists who get famous are serving themselves.

There was a time when the journalists could have pointed out the difference, but now they have no idea. Instead, they are so celebrity-conscious that they would supply Flannery with a new clown suit if he wore out the one he is wearing now.

A bad era for science has been a worse one for the mass media, the field in which, despite the usual blunders and misjudgments, I was once proud to earn my living. But I have spent too much time, in these past few years, being ashamed of my profession: hence the note of anger which, I can now see, has crept into this essay even though I was determined to keep it out. As my retirement changed to illness and then to dotage, I would have preferred to sit back and write poems than to be known for taking a position in what is, despite the colossal scale of its foolish waste, a very petty quarrel.

But it was time to stand up and fight, if only because so many of the advocates, though they must know by now that they are professing a belief they no longer hold, will continue to profess it anyway.

Back in the day, when I was starting off in journalism — on The Sydney Morning Herald, as it happens — the one thing we all learned early from our veteran colleagues was never to improve the truth for the sake of the story. If they caught us doing so, it was the end of the world.

But here we are, and the world hasn’t ended after all. Though some governments might not yet have fully returned to the principle of evidence-based policy, most of them have learned to be wary of policy-based evidence. They have learned to spot it coming, not because the real virtues of critical inquiry have been well argued by scientists but because the false claims of abracadabra have been asserted too often by people who, though they might have started out as scientists of a kind, have found their true purpose in life as ideologists.

Modern history since World War II has shown us that it is unwise to predict what will happen to ideologists after their citadel of power has been brought low. It was feared that the remaining Nazis would fight on, as werewolves. Actually, only a few days had to pass before there were no Nazis to be found anywhere except in Argentina, boring one another to death at the world’s worst dinner parties.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, on the other hand, when it was thought that no apologists for Marxist collectivism could possibly keep their credibility in the universities of the West, they not only failed to lose heart, they gained strength.

Some critics would say that the climate change fad itself is an offshoot of this ­lingering revolutionary animus against liberal democracy, and that the true purpose of the climatologists is to bring about a world government that will ensure what no less a philanthropist than Robert Mugabe calls “climate justice”, in which capitalism is replaced by something more altruistic.

I prefer to blame mankind’s inherent capacity for raising opportunism to a principle: the enabling condition for fascism in all its varieties, and often an imperative mindset among high-end frauds.

On behalf of the UN, Maurice Strong, the first man to raise big money for climate justice, found slightly under a million dollars of it sticking to his fingers, and hid out in China for the rest of his life — a clear sign of his guilty knowledge that he had pinched it.

Later operators lack even the guilt. They just collect the money, like the Prime Minister of Tuvalu, who has probably guessed by now that the sea isn’t going to rise by so much as an inch; but he still wants, for his supposedly threatened atoll, a share of the free cash, and especially because the question has changed. It used to be: how will we cope when the disaster comes? The question now is: how will we cope if it does not?

There is no need to entertain ­visions of a vast, old-style army of disoccupied experts retreating through the snow, eating first their horses and finally each other. But there could be quite a lot of previously well-subsidised people left standing around while they vaguely wonder why nobody is listening to them any more. Way back in 2011, one of the Climategate scientists, Britain’s Tommy Wils, with an engagingly honest caution rare among prophets, speculated in an email about what people outside their network might do to them if climate change turned out to be a bunch of natural variations: “Kill us, probably.” But there has been too much talk of mass death already, and anyway most of the alarmists are the kind of people for whom it is a sufficiently fatal punishment simply to be ignored.

Nowadays I write with aching slowness, and by the time I had finished assembling the previous paragraph, the US had changed presidents. What difference this transition will make to the speed with which the climate change meme collapses is yet to be seen, but my own guess is that it was already almost gone anyway: a comforting view to take if you don’t like the idea of a posturing zany like Donald Trump changing the world.

Personally, I don’t even like the idea of Trump changing a light bulb, but we ought to remember that this dimwitted period in the history of the West began with exactly that: a change of light bulbs. Suddenly, 100 watts were too much. For as long as the climate change fad lasted, it always depended on poppycock; and it would surely be unwise to believe that mankind’s capacity to believe in fashionable nonsense could be cured by the disproportionately high cost of a temporary embarrassment. I’m almost sorry that I won’t be here for the ceremonial unveiling of the next threat.

Almost certainly the opening feast will take place in Paris, with a happy sample of all the world’s young scientists facing the fragrant remains of their first ever plate of foie gras, while vowing that it will not be the last.

 

Climate of Complete Certainty

 in the New York Times

When someone is honestly 55 percent right, that’s very good and there’s no use wrangling. And if someone is 60 percent right, it’s wonderful, it’s great luck, and let him thank God.

But what’s to be said about 75 percent right? Wise people say this is suspicious. Well, and what about 100 percent right? Whoever says he’s 100 percent right is a fanatic, a thug, and the worst kind of rascal.

— An old Jew of Galicia

In the final stretch of last year’s presidential race, Hillary Clinton and her team thought they were, if not 100 percent right, then very close.

Right on the merits. Confident in their methods. Sure of their chances. When Bill Clinton suggested to his wife’s advisers that, considering Brexit, they might be underestimating the strength of the populist tide, the campaign manager, Robby Mook, had a bulletproof answer: The data run counter to your anecdotes.

That detail comes from “Shattered,” Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes’s compulsively readable account of Clinton’s 2016 train wreck. Mook belonged to a new breed of political technologists with little time for retail campaigning and limitless faith in the power of models and algorithms to minimize uncertainty and all but predict the future.

“Mook and his ‘Moneyball’ approach to politics rankled the old order of political operatives and consultants because it made some of their work obsolete,” Allen and Parnes write about the campaign’s final days. “The memo that one Hillary adviser had sent months earlier warning that they should add three or four points to Trump’s poll position was a distant memory.”

There’s a lesson here. We live in a world in which data convey authority. But authority has a way of descending to certitude, and certitude begets hubris. From Robert McNamara to Lehman Brothers to Stronger Together, cautionary tales abound.

We ought to know this by now, but we don’t. Instead, we respond to the inherent uncertainties of data by adding more data without revisiting our assumptions, creating an impression of certainty that can be lulling, misleading and often dangerous. Ask Clinton.

With me so far? Good. Let’s turn to climate change.

Last October, the Pew Research Center published a survey on the politics of climate change. Among its findings: Just 36 percent of Americans care “a great deal” about the subject. Despite 30 years of efforts by scientists, politicians and activists to raise the alarm, nearly two-thirds of Americans are either indifferent to or only somewhat bothered by the prospect of planetary calamity.

Why? The science is settled. The threat is clear. Isn’t this one instance, at least, where 100 percent of the truth resides on one side of the argument?

Well, not entirely. As Andrew Revkin wrote last year about his storied career as an environmental reporter at The Times, “I saw a widening gap between what scientists had been learning about global warming and what advocates were claiming as they pushed ever harder to pass climate legislation.” The science was generally scrupulous. The boosters who claimed its authority weren’t.

Anyone who has read the 2014 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change knows that, while the modest (0.85 degrees Celsius, or about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit) warming of the earth since 1880 is indisputable, as is the human influence on that warming, much else that passes as accepted fact is really a matter of probabilities. That’s especially true of the sophisticated but fallible models and simulations by which scientists attempt to peer into the climate future. To say this isn’t to deny science. It’s to acknowledge it honestly.

By now I can almost hear the heads exploding. They shouldn’t, because there’s another lesson here — this one for anyone who wants to advance the cause of good climate policy. As Revkin wisely noted, hyperbole about climate “not only didn’t fit the science at the time but could even be counterproductive if the hope was to engage a distracted public.”

Let me put it another way. Claiming total certainty about the science traduces the spirit of science and creates openings for doubt whenever a climate claim proves wrong. Demanding abrupt and expensive changes in public policy raises fair questions about ideological intentions. Censoriously asserting one’s moral superiority and treating skeptics as imbeciles and deplorables wins few converts.

None of this is to deny climate change or the possible severity of its consequences. But ordinary citizens also have a right to be skeptical of an overweening scientism. They know — as all environmentalists should — that history is littered with the human wreckage of scientific errors married to political power.

I’ve taken the epigraph for this column from the Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz, who knew something about the evils of certitude. Perhaps if there had been less certitude and more second-guessing in Clinton’s campaign, she’d be president. Perhaps if there were less certitude about our climate future, more Americans would be interested in having a reasoned conversation about it.

 

Settled Climate Science

Climate Science 2000

Climate Science 2000

Climate Science 2014

Climate Science 2014

Bureau of Meteorology ‘altering climate figures’

The Australian has a report about the Bureau of Meteorology modifying climate records from stations so that past temperatures look lower, making modern records look hotter. This is based on work by Jo Nova. This came up in Adelaide with the heatwaves in 2014, where the Bureau of Meteorology stated that Adelaide had surpassed its all-time record.  BOM said the highest daytime record for Adelaide was 46.1C. However the Adelaide Advertiser has a record on the same day of 47.6C. The BOM has decreased the record set in 1939, thus making current records look more extreme.  You can read the details here.

74+ years of  increased carbon dioxide, and the supposed warmest decade ever, yet the temperature does not exceed a record set 74 years ago in Adelaide . The only way the BOM can make it work is by changing the records in the past and making them lower!

 

Adelaide Advertiser Jan 13th 1939

Adelaide Advertiser Jan 13th 1939

Climate Change Alarmists are losing the PR battle

In the same week as the heavily political IPCC report is released, the Climate Change alarmists are steadily losing the public relations battle. The latest Essential polling shows that support for Carbon Pricing has dropped with only 39% of the population supporting it while 47% oppose. As well a majority of people (35%) support the Federal Coalition governments “Direct Action” plan rather than the now Labor oppositions Carbon Tax (31%), even with a very biased question being asked.

At the same time as the IPCC releases it latest scare-a-thon report the percentage of the population that believe in human caused climate change is down from what it was 4 years ago.

Is it any wonder that if you exaggerate climate change, and ignore the science that the warming has paused for the past 15 years, that a large proportion of the population might get very sceptical about what is happening.

Do the climate change alarmists ever think why they are losing this battle? They have the support of most of the media (Fairfax, ABC and half the time News Corp), and the UN sponsored IPCC, as well as until recently government funded organisations pushing the warmist alarmist line (Climate Commission, CSIRO, Bureau of Meteorology).  Until a few years ago climate change deniers were unheard from. Most of the climate change sceptics are individual bloggers fighting against the mainstream. Yet the climate change deniers are gradually winning. Why is that?

 

Despite 12 months of the population being "educated" about the Carbon Tax, 47% still oppose it.

Despite 12 months of the population being “educated” about the Carbon Tax, 47% still oppose it.

Climate Commision closed down, Tim Flannery out of a job

The Climate Commission -  global warming alarmist propaganda organisation – has been closed down by the incoming Abbot Federal Government.  As well the part time chairman Tim Flannery has lost his part-time job which paid $180,000 per year. Now we need to get rid of the hundreds of public servants who work for the Federal Government wasting their time on Climate Change.

UPDATE: Tim  Flannery said at his press conference ” I believe Australians have a right to know, a right to authoritative, independent and accurate information on climate change”. This is the Tim Flannery that has made loopy predictions for years about the future of climate in Australia – some of them are detailed here:

 

the ex chairman of the defunct Climate Commission - Tim Flannery

the ex chairman of the defunct Climate Commission – Tim Flannery

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IPCC - We got it wrong on warming

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Its only based on leaks coming out of the IPCC, but it looks like the exaggerations of the last 20 years by climate alarmists are going to finally be wound back. The warming since 1997 which has been close to zero has forced the IPCC to rethink the computer modelling and finally admit that it has been exaggerated.

The interesting thing is that the lower range of predictions in the new revised report may be only 1.5C, which would have little effect on the planet.

Its looking more and more that climate change has been a gigantic exaggeration by climate alarmists.

Climate alarmists get more frustrated, and dismiss carbon taxes

Two interesting articles today show the irritation of Climate alarmists, and how frustrated they are with the progress of their political agenda aimed at forcing the general population to accept radical climate change policies.

Guy Pearce has written a new book that advocates that Australia not export any more coal (something even the Greens have given up pushing). The interesting thing is that he says that the carbon tax is a waste of time as it is a “a giant placebo” and “elaborate money-go-round” that just results in Australia “relying on importing carbon credits to meet our emission targets”. I have said the same thing, it is a $1.35 trillion dollar cost that does little to reduce Australia’s CO2 output.

Naomi Klein is frustrated by the ‘deep denialism” of Green groups. She doesn’t believe in carbon taxes either – “the European Union’s emissions trading scheme – we now have close to a decade that we can measure these schemes against, and it’s disastrous.”

The problem both of these climate alarmists have is that Carbon Tax/ETS/Cap and trade is just an intellectual cop-out. You setup a carbon tax and the climate alarmists feel warm and fuzzy inside, and don’t do anything else.  If you really are a climate alarmist then you have to do much much more.

Expect even more radicalism on the climate change front.

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Arctic Sea Ice coverage higher than last year

Arctic Sea ice coverage is higher than 2012, as well as 2011 and 2007.  Yet another example of climate alarmists making predictions about the future that do not come true.

In 2007 the BBC published an article quoting Professor Wieslaw Maslowski that the Arctic would be ice-free by 2013. Yet here we are in 2013, and the ice coverage is higher than the previous year.  One of the joys of the Interwebz is that all these alarmist predictions are still there to be read and laughed at.

ice-free-by-2013

 

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The end of the Carbon Tax gets closer

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A robopoll showing 51.1 percent support the abolishing the Carbon Tax while 35.4 percent oppose 03 09 2013 three days before the election

Finally the Carbon tax is an election issue.

Finally in the last week of the election campaign carbon tax and its effect on Australia has been raised as an election issue. Kevin “great moral challenge” Rudd has tried to avoid raising the Carbon Tax by saying that he will bring the ETS (emissions trading scheme)  period forward, ending the Carbon Tax period early. This is just semantics, as the ETS is just the Carbon Tax by another name. As Tony Abbott has pointed out most of the cost of the ETS is the buying of overseas carbon permits. Australia will emit more CO2 in 35 years time than now, it will just be offset by buying carbon permits from overseas. This is a transfer of Australian wealth mostly to the European Union who issue free permits to their industries, who then sell them on the carbon market who then get money from Australian industries purchasing the permits.

As I wrote two years ago, this enormous paper-shuffle will cost the Australian economy $1.35 trillion dollars. All to reduce our CO2 output by 5%.

The Canberra press gallery beltway insiders have been pushing the Carbon Tax for 3 years. In less than a week they will find that they do not understand ordinary Australians.

Tony Abbott at the National Press Club

Tony Abbott at the National Press Club

 

Do CFCs cause climate change?

Another example of the science  not being “settled”.   Qing-Bin Lu, a professor of physics and astronomy, biology and chemistry at the University of Waterloo has found a strong correlation between the levels of CFC’s  (chlorofluorocarbon) and the levels of warming in earths atmosphere. The problem to be explained is why the climate has been cooling or at least steady temperature-wise since 2002. The atmospheric models produced by the IPCC show a strong feedback effect between the levels of CO2 and atmospheric temperatures, the problem is the real world observations show that is not what is happening.

Qing-Bin Lu says “Conventional thinking says that the emission of human-made non-CFC gases such as carbon dioxide has mainly contributed to global warming. But we have observed data going back to the Industrial Revolution that convincingly shows that conventional understanding is wrong,”

His graph certainly looks interesting:

CFCs-and-climate-change-r

 

Australian Federal Government misinformation about other countries carbon taxes

The Australia Labor/Greens Federal Government continues to spread misinformation about what other countries are doing about carbon pricing. Here is a page from www.climatechange.gov.au which has the misinformation corrected. (click on the image for a large view)

What other countries have a carbon tax?

 

The supporters of the Labor/Green Carbon Tax introduced on the 1st July 2012 love to tell us that there are lots of other countries with carbon taxes, and that there are other countries are rushing to legislate a carbon tax. Well how to these carbon taxes compare?

Country Rate per tonne Start Date How much CO2 emitted Notes
Australia $23 1st July 2012 399,219 Economy wide tax
Europe $7.91 2008 4,177,817 price has been dropping over the years
New Zealand $NZ12.50 2010 33,095 not economy wide tax = $A10
Finland 20 euros 1990 56,512 many exemptions. CO2 output has grown
India $1 2010 1,742,698 only on coal
USA none none proposed
China $1.55 2015? 7,031,916 proposed
Ireland 15 euros 2010 43,604 does not apply to electricity
UK none 522,856 small climate change levy on electicity
Japan none 1,208,163 none proposed
Taiwan none 258,599 none proposed
Canada none 544,091 none proposed. State tax in BC
Norway $21 1992 49,920 many exemptions, CO2 output has grown

Its easy to see that the biggest CO2 emitters in the world have either no Carbon Tax or a very small one covering limited areas of the economy. Only Australia which has one of the highest rate of Carbon Tax effecting most of the economy because it applies to electricity consumption.

 

It's not drought, it's climate change, say scientists

Is it any wonder that people are sceptical about Climate Change predictions made by scientists. From the Age Melbourne August 2009.

“A three-year collaboration between the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO has confirmed what many scientists long suspected: that the 13-year drought is not just a natural dry stretch but a shift related to climate change.”

Flood waters around Wagga March 2012

 

Bertrand Timbal from the Bureau of Meterology:

”In the minds of a lot of people, the rainfall we had in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s was a benchmark. A lot of our [water and agriculture] planning was done during that time. But we are just not going to have that sort of good rain again as long as the system is warming up.”

The biggest flood in Wagga Wagga since 1974

 

 

The Tim Flannery prediction years

As it rains all over South-Eastern Australia causing rivers to flood and dams to overflow, many people have commented how silly Climate Commissioner Professor Tim Flannery’s predictions of permanent drought in Australia are now. It looks even sillier when you look at a long term rainfall map for Melbourne showing the very short dry period when Professor Flannery made his predictions. Everything back to normal now:

Australia goes it alone with a Carbon Tax

The Copenhagen Climate Change talks in 2010 failed to produce a binding Climate Change agreement.  Durban in 2011 fails as well. The result in Durban was not a binding agreement to reduce carbon dioxide output, it was an agreement to negotiate an agreement sometime before 2015, and that hypothetical agreement will cut emissions starting in 2020 – maybe.

The Kyoto agreement emission requirements end on December 31st 2012.

So while Australia goes forward punishing its people and businesses with a Carbon Tax the Canadian Government has announced it is withdrawing from the Kyoto agreement.

The US Congress shows no sign of passing any carbon tax, the Canadians are antagonistic to any carbon tax, the EUs carbon trading scheme is barely working with the Carbon price at a new low.

However that’s all OK, because Australia is going to lead the world!

 

European Carbon Price collapses

 

 

 

 

Greenland has been warmer in the past

Greenland has been warmer that currently several times in the last 8000 years. That is Greenland has been warmer than today, with lower levels of Carbon Dioxide levels that today. Two studies have been released over the past few weeks that show that there was less Artic Sea Ice than today, and higher temperatures.

The University of Copenhagen has a study which examined driftwood deposits over the last ten thousand years, and it showed that “For several thousand years, there was much less sea ice in the Arctic Ocean – probably less than half of current amounts.” .  During a period between 8000 and 5000 years ago called the Holocene Climate Optimum there was half the level of sea ice than there is today. Yet the world did not tip into “runaway climate change” as the doom-sayers predict we will today, with a higher level of ice cover.

Another peer reviewed paper published by Takuro Kobashi and others shows that Greenland surface temperatures where higher than today several times over the last 4000 years. Of course you can be sure that none of these studies will be mentioned on the ABC or published in the Fairfax media.

Greenland temperatures over the last 4000 years

 

"we haven’t had snowfall like this in more than 140 years"

New York City has its earliest snowfall in 140 years. 2 million people are without power in the North Eastern United States.

If this had been a long heat-wave the advocates of the AGW religion would be telling us all how this was all caused by global warming. However when its the first significant snowfall in October since 1879, they all stay pretty quiet.

The earliest snow in 140 years in Central Park New York City

Do Australians really understand what this carbon tax is about?

I was struck by a comment in this Australian story about the carbon tax passing today through the House of Representatives. Its not the first time I have seen comments that completely show no understanding of the carbon tax.

 

 

 

 

“People with respiratory complaints will most certainly benefit with what will be cleaner air for them.” . Does Charles of NSW have any idea what the carbon tax is about? Carbon Dioxide is not know for causing respiratory complaints. If the Australia Federal Government removed 100% of the carbon dioxide from the air, there would be exactly the same number of people with respiratory complaints, but unfortunately with no carbon dioxide in the atmosphere there would be no plant growth worldwide, so people who had respiratory complaints would, along with everyone else, starve to death.

Eventually the real effects of the Carbon Tax will dawn on the minority of Australians that support the tax, and they may well join the majority that opposes it.

However on this very day that the Carbon Tax was passed through the Australian Federal Parliament here were the top ten read stories on news.com.au,  as well as that pro climate change paper, The Age. Obviously Australians care little: