Global Warming Controversy. Part 2. Global Warming Scepticism: Some Basic Data & Chronological Notes
17 March 2010
(With acknowledgements to Ronnie R. for a constant supply of AAA-grade information on many topics.)
Hundreds of thousands of articles and many reports and books have been published about Anthropogenic [Human-induced] Global Warming (AGM) and proposed solutions. An increasing proportion of these, especially in the 2005-2010 period, have been critical of the work and role of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Media interest in sceptical publications suddenly began to spiral with the leaking of emails between IPCC climate scientists (from the University of East Anglia, UK) in November 2009 and, again, after the international political débâcle in Copenhagen one month later. This was followed by a distinct increase in interest and in acceptance of previously ignored sceptical evidence and points of view by the general public, the (largely indolent) media, and some politicians. What follows is a basic series of background notes on the development and effect of the various sceptical threads of the global warming controversy. Orthodox climate scientists – and other scientists – suddenly found themselves struggling to grapple with the sceptical evidence and to repair the serious damage to their professional collective credibility which the previously underestimated and despised, but tenacious, sceptical attention had inflicted.
Major reference sites for information on AGM and on AGM Sceptical Opinion:
(Added to this list on 26 March 2010)
By far the broadest range of coverage of all sides of the debate, with huge phalanxes of links, this website follows the renowned “Arts & Letters Daily” news pattern, and, indeed, is co-administered by the founder of that remarkable news source.
Wikipedia (with the usual caveats regarding the depth of coverage of controversial topics, fragmentation of subject matter, and legalistic obstructionism (or worse) by some Wikipedians – to be commented on in Part 3 of this series)
This Wiki, run by the Center for Media and Democracy, has lengthy articles on Global Warming and Global Warming Sceptics.
Joanne Nova, an Australian science journalist, writer and speaker and AGW sceptic.
NIPCC (Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change)
“An international panel of nongovernmental scientists and scholars who have come together to understand the causes and consequences of climate change. Because we are not predisposed to believe climate change is caused by human greenhouse gas emissions, we are able to look at evidence the […] IPCC ignores.”
New Zealand Climate Science Coalition(Or at: http://nzclimatescience.net)
Formed in April 2006, “the group is led by accredited New Zealand experts in climate and disciplines related to climate change, and includes others with a range of professional qualifications, as well as interested citizens who share the Coalition’s concern.”
The orthodox scientific point of view is offered by the following major sites:
1. The main unofficial site, with a very comprehensive Index of Topics and sub-topics.
Major current writers of sceptical blogs and articles:
(On 26 March 2010, Anthony Watts updated his ‘hit’ score, since late 2006, to 40 million.)
2 free booklets also available: The Skeptics Handbook 1 and The Skeptics Handbook 2
(Many translations into foreign languages are also becoming available as the news spreads outside the Anglosphere.)
Andrew Bolt: a prominent Australian columnist who has recently applied his considerable energies to the AGW question.
CCNet (until July 2006), founded by Dr Benny Peiser (UK)
“A network which aims to stimulate debate and disseminate information and research findings relating to risks to civilization from Near Earth Objects including comets, asteroids, and meteor streams, and what it considers as doomsday scaremongering about the possible effects of climate change.”
Apart from the “Real Climate” orthodox scientist bloggers, a major media critic of AGW sceptics has been George Monbiot, a British investigative journalist, writer, environmentalist, and academic, with alternative proposals on how to solve the world’s problem. (See under 2006, 3.)
Monbiot’s Motto is: “Tell people something they know already and they will thank you for it. Tell them something new and they will hate you for it.”
Chronological Notes on the AGW Sceptical Process & Progress
1970s and 1980s
Canadian genetics professor David Suzuki was the star of many popular TV and radio programmes on the environment. In a 1989 radio series he and co-author Anita Gordon (It’s a Matter of Survival) describe the 1990s as a “turning point for human civilization” and the potential consequences of not acting against environmental threats. In the first chapter of the book of the series, they quote many forecasts of life in 2040 based on computer projections. For example, they quote Ian Lowe, a Brisbane scientist: “By the late 1990s the first Green party government of Australia brought in a carbon tax, and almost overnight the use of fuel plummeted dramatically. […] The big crunch came when private cars were banned from central urban areas. That happened in 2005.” [At the time, this date was 15 years in the future.] […]
Professor Suzuki still campaigns energetically for concerted climate action.
1970s and 1980s
British botanist Professor David Bellamy became very popular for his TV series. He later became an AGW sceptic and in 2006 became a founder member of the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition (listed above).
Late 1980s and early 1990s
Professor James Hansen, a specialist in climatology and, since 1981, Director of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space, became so well known for his strong public advocacy of action to reduce the effects of climate change that he is sometimes referred to as the “godfather of climate science”.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) “to assess the state of existing knowledge about climate change: its science, the environmental, economic and social impacts and possible response strategies”.
Orthodox scientist Professor S. Fred Singer adopted and publicly expressed dissident views. (See also under 2008: NIPCC.)
1980s (see 2004: Melanie Phillips)
IPCC First Assessment Report: Climate Change
An eminent American scientist, Richard S. Lindzen, spoke out on “Global Warming: The Origin and Nature of the Alleged Scientific Consensus”
IPCC Second Assessment Report: Climate Change
Still only one of a small number of climate scientists, Professor Richard S. Lindzen passes judgement on the IPCC Report:
“Last fall, a panel of scientists convened by the United Nations to advise the world’s governments concluded for the first time that greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide are probably responsible, at least in part, for a changing global climate. The panel also predicted that if emissions of the gases are not reduced, the average global temperature will increase by 1.8 degrees to 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit — with a best estimate of 3.6 degrees — by the year 2100. The predicted warming, according to the United Nations panel, would be accompanied by widespread climatic disruption.
‘Bunk,’ says Dr. Lindzen. He says the conclusions are based on computerized models of the climate system so flawed as to be meaningless. Everyone recognizes that the models are imperfect, but Dr. Lindzen goes much farther. “I do not accept the model results as evidence,” he says, because trusting them “is like trusting a ouija board.”
The Kyoto Protocol
A preliminary UN-sponsored agreement by some countries to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
The first version of the scientific paper containing what came to be known as the “Hockey Stick” graph was published by climatologist Dr Michael Mann and colleagues: ‘Global-scale temperature patterns and climate forcing over the past six centuries’ (Nature, 392, 779-787).
IPCC Third Assessment Report: Climate Change
(Dr Michael Mann was a Lead Author for the Chapter on ‘Observed Climate Variability and Change’.)
Bjørn Lomborg, the Danish statistician and environmentalist, already famous for his sceptical ideas, published (after great difficulty in finding a publisher) The Skeptical Environmentalist. The book takes as a reference point the Club of Rome (1972) and its unrealised projections of future disasters as a warning not to be swayed by alarmism. After weathering a very heavy storm of criticism and denigration from Denmark and from abroad, Lomborg has pursued his research and writing about alternative ways to deal with global warming and greenhouse gases and, although not sceptical about the process of AGW, disagrees with the IPCC and governments on the way to deal with the problems facing the world. In 2004, he published Global Crises, Global Solutions, Copenhagen Consensus (Cambridge University Press) and in 2007, Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming. Lomborg therefore is the major spokesman for alternative (third way) solutions.
In an article in The Spectator magazine, Matt Ridley presents B. Lomborg as “the environmentalist brave enough to tell the truth – that the end is not nigh.” (See The Spectator, 23 February 2002, pp. 10-11: ‘The Profits of Doom’.)
The Hockey Stick Controversy Begins
A long-running controversy about the research by Dr Mann and colleagues was initiated by Dr Steve McIntyre (a retired Canadian mining engineer) and Dr Ross McKitrick (a Canadian environmental economist). Seven years later it has become the most talked about criticism of IPCC scientists’ methods and attitudes. Basics: Three scientists, Mann, Bradley and Hughes (MBH), produced a paper in 1998 and an extended version in 1999 about temperature ranges going back to 1000 CE. The now famous graph (in the shape of a hockey stick) was used prominently in the IPCC 3rd Report of 2001 as support for the IPCC view that temperatures had gone up significantly in the second half of the twentieth century. McIntyre and McKitrick’s October 2003 paper examined the statistics and disputed the accuracy of the graph. After arguments and minor corrections by MBH, M & M issued a further paper in 2005. (It also became known that Mann had resisted giving data to McIntyre until requested by the U.S. Government to do so (under the terms of federal grants). As a result, two reports were called for in 2006. The National Academy of Sciences expressed some doubts on the detail of the MBH paper. The Wegman Report (a U.S. Government Ad Hoc Committee) states clearly: “MBH98 and MBH99 were found to be “somewhat obscure and incomplete” and the criticisms by McIntyre and McKitrick were found to be “valid and compelling.” And Wegman makes other criticisms, especially on the use of statistics. Although the debate still smoulders, McIntyre and McKitrick (2005) claim that seven of their ten findings in 2003 have been largely confirmed by these reports. (McIntyre’s website, climateaudit.org, has received nearly 3 million hits between December 2008 and March 2010.)
See Joanne Nova’s Links or Garth Paltridge’s book for more detailed – and more scientifically accurate – accounts of the affair. (Paltridge, pp 100-102 of The Climate Caper: Facts and Fallacies of Global Warming, 2009. ISBN 978-1-921421-25-9. Paltridge describes the obstacles faced by McIntyre in getting his papers published in the appropriate journals and commends his tenacity, which has made possibly him “the world expert in the field”. More recent articles and books add further forensic detail, especially the January 2010 book by A.W Montford.
The following brief explanation from a talk by Ross McKitrick was posted on McIntyre’s website on 8 April 2005:
“The hockey stick debate is about two things. At a technical level it concerns a well-known study that characterized the state of the Earth’s climate over the past thousand years and seemed to prove a recent and unprecedented global warming. I will explain how the study got the results it did, examine some key flaws in the methodology and explain why the conclusions are unsupported by the data. At the political level the emerging debate is about whether the enormous international trust that has been placed in the IPCC was betrayed. The hockey stick story reveals that the IPCC allowed a deeply flawed study to dominate the Third Assessment Report, which suggests the possibility of bias in the Report-writing process. In view of the massive global influence of IPCC Reports, there is an urgent need to bias-proof future assessments in order to put climate policy onto a new foundation that will better serve the public interest.”
Steve McIntyre has worked tirelessly to produce a steady stream of scientific research on global warming topics on his website (www.climateaudit.org), set up in October 2004, after encountering difficulties in finding professional outlets for his unwelcome research). His achievement is reflected in the fact that the website quickly became one of the most visited of all the sceptical websites and blogs — almost 3 million hits in the past 14 months; Paltridge claims 6 million hits for the site in the years 2006-2008).
Professor S. Fred Singer set up what was to become in 2008 the NIPCC (Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change). It issued a detailed report in 2009. The lead scientists are Singer, a controversial scientist and a sceptical climate scientist since the 1990s, and Professor Craig Idso. Singer’s organisation consists of “an international coalition of scientists convened to provide an independent examination of the evidence available on the causes and consequences of climate change in the published, peer-reviewed literature – examined without bias and selectivity.”
While researching the theme of mass public “scares” based on scientific evidence and media hype, the prominent British investigative writing partnership of Sunday Telegraph journalist and writer Christopher Booker and Dr Richard North (also a member of the Eurosceptics Thinktank, Bruges Group), began to gather evidence on the AGW controversy. (See individual articles and books mentioned under 2007 and, especially (Booker only), 2009.)
Professor Robert M. Carter (‘Bob’ Carter), an Australian palaeo-geologist, began a long and very active campaign arguing (in writing, speeches and media interviews) against AGW and the usefulness of the Kyoto Protocol. His speaking and writing on the subject becomes most prolific and effective in the period 2006-2010.
Melanie Phillips, a British journalist published one of many sceptical articles, titled ‘The Global Warming Fraud’ (The Daily Mail, 12 January, 2004). Such articles in the mainstream media were rare in those days. In a later article (13 March 2007), Phillips dealt with ‘The climate change truth-deniers’ – complaining about the bad treatment meted out to scientists who dared to question the IPCC orthodoxy. After giving several examples, she states that her scepticism goes back a long way: “As I have been saying for the past 19 years, the climate change scam is a scandal of immense proportions involving the integrity of science and its betrayal by a small number of highly motivated individuals, whose viciousness when cornered knows no bounds. But like all totalitarian movements, this one has to be resisted — and if sufficient people of courage and integrity do so, truth will eventually win over lies.”
Nigel Lawson, the former British Cabinet Minister (and a former Editor of The Spectator), rewarded for his civic service with a peerage, enters the global warming fray as Lord Lawson of Braby and writes a letter to The Times criticising the Kyoto Protocol.
2004 (9 July):
Professor David Bellamy:
“Global warming – at least the modern nightmare version – is a myth. I am sure of it and so are a growing number of scientists. But what is really worrying is that the world’s politicians and policy makers are not. Instead, they have an unshakeable in what has, unfortunately, become one of the central credos of the environmental movement. Humans burn fossil fuels, which release increased levels of carbon dioxide – the principal so-called greenhouse gas – into the atmosphere, causing the atmosphere to heat up.”
“They say this is global warming: I say this is poppycock. Unfortunately, for the time being, it is their view that prevails.” (The Daily Mail, UK, 9 July 2004)
Andrew [A.W.] Montford was drawn to begin a very meticulous blog (‘Bishop Hill’) about AGW because of McIntyre’s revelations about the Hockey Stick graph and reactions to it from scientists. By January 2010, he had assembled enough information on the hotly disputed topic (which most vexes and embarrasses orthodox IPCC scientists – chief among them Professor Michael Mann himself), to publish a book on this complex subject: The Hockey Stick Illusion: Global Warming and the Corruption of Science (See under 2010.)
A group of “working” climate scientists (unsubtle sneer intended in the epithet), including Michael Mann (of very recent “Hockey stick” fame), set up an unofficial blog website to disseminate information and views on IPCC climate science. It has amassed a comprehensive Index of Climate Topics and sub-topics. The statistics are sometimes relieved by injections of humour or satire, especially to mock critics or sceptics, for whom the preferred term is “contrarians”. (For these contributors, as for many IPCC supporters, the term ‘climate change’ has now become preferred to ‘global warming’. Note also the preference for the derogatory term “climate change deniers”, used by some; since most AGW sceptics do not deny the existence of “climate change” per se, this gratuitous ad hominem flourish is regrettable.
“RealClimate is a commentary site on climate science by working climate scientists [URL bio links given here] for the interested public and journalists. We aim to provide a quick response to developing stories and provide the context sometimes missing in mainstream commentary. The discussion here is restricted to scientific topics and will not get involved in any political or economic implications of the science. All posts are signed by the author(s), except ‘group’ posts which are collective efforts from the whole team. This is a moderated forum.” (1 December 2004) (11 contributors are listed, plus William M. Connolley, who left in 2007.)
An apparently very recent addition to the encyclopedic documentation and information on the RealClimate site is this essential one: Data sources. (— group @ 27 November 2009): “This page is a catalogue that will be kept up to date pointing to selected sources of code and data related to climate science. Please keep us informed of any things we might have missed, or any updates to the links that are needed.” This addition closely follows the uproar over the leaking of the University of East Anglia scientific emails and their incriminating references to scientists reluctant to release research data for checking by independent researchers.
The RealClimate site has registered a total of close to 10 million hits between December 2004 and March 2010.)
2005 (January): William M. Connolley, a meteorologist and member of the unofficial orthodox RealClimate group, already in action on Wikipedia, publishes articles on ‘The Global Cooling Myth’. In 2007, Connolley will leave the group and devote himself to defending the IPCC orthodoxy against all-comers in the labyrinth of related Wikipedia articles. (See Solomon, 2008 and 2009.)
2005 (10 May)
The Guardian columnist and environmentalist George Monbiot, wrote an article against the new heretical views of the iconic TV botanist of the 1970s and 1980s, David Bellamy.
Australian journalist Andrew Bolt launched his Herald-Sun interactive blog. His contributions to the AGW debate will become most influential in 2009, in the lead-up to the Copenhagen Climate Conference.
2006 was a pivotal year, for both sides of the divide.
1. The catalyst for a massive new surge in worldwide public belief in the orthodox theory of AGW (human-induced global warming) was an energetic proselytising campaign by the American ex-Vice-President Al Gore, centred on his propaganda documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. This melodramatic warning of looming catastrophes was widely viewed in cinemas around the world and resulted in massive media coverage and publicity, strong DVD sales and a bestselling book (An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It), as well as a world promotional lecture tour by Gore. Such was the intense public popularity aroused by the film and Al Gore’s campaign (blitz?) that the film won an Oscar in 2007 for Best Documentary. Soon afterwards, Gore and the IPCC (represented by its Chairman, Dr Rajendra Pachauri) were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2007. This intense celebrity acclaim and series of awards took no notice of the many protests at errors of fact, over-dramatisation, and blatant alarmism which critics had been pointing out.
Although Gore seemed impervious to the loud complaints, the crude propaganda aspects of the film provoked new scrutiny by many writers, scientists and others, to the subject of AGW and the way governments were also promoting it as a major problem to be dealt with internationally. Gore became a catalyst for sceptical activity. Since his heyday in 2007, he has continued with the same messianic message, still lecturing widely and publishing books of exhortations to action (like Our choice: a plan to solve the climate crisis), but his credibility has been in sharp decline and aspects of his film and lectures are an embarrassment for currently embattled orthodox climate scientists.
2. (30 October)
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair released Sir Nicholas Stern’s government-commissioned Report of the Review on the Economics of Climate Change (HM Treasury, London). It is known as The Stern Report and it “showed how the scientific evidence of global warming was now ‘overwhelming’ and that the consequences of failing to take action would be ‘literally disastrous’” (Christopher Booker, 2009, p. 156). The Stern Report has attracted a lot of critical analysis and comment, chiefly from economists (for example from one of the sources quoted in its 700 pages, economist Dr Richard Tol, and also from Professor William Nordhaus).
3. The most prominent critic of the AGW sceptics, George Monbiot, published a book titled Heat: How to Stop the Planet Burning (London, Allen Lane, ISBN 0-7139-9923-3), in which he offers his own solution to the problems of greenhouse gas emissions: by means of government-imposed controls to achieve a 90% reduction in emissions by the year 2030 (specifically NOT including biofuels or mini-windmill turbines).
In a comment to the Daily Telegraph on 9 April 2006 (‘There IS a problem with global warming ….. it stopped in 1998’), (Australian) Professor Robert M. Carter (‘Bob’ Carter) made the point that governments and politicians rely on scientific bureaucracies and political advisers and consultants for their advice. Carter further argued that “scientists are under intense pressure to conform with the prevailing paradigm of climate alarmism if they wish to receive funding for their research”; consequently other opinions are not welcome in these scientific and political circles.
5. Another new face in the sceptic ranks in 2006 was British consultant and writer, Viscount (Christopher) Monckton of Brenchley, whose often controversial and flamboyant public appearances were welcomed by the “working climate scientists” of http://www.realclimate.org in a light piece titled ‘Cuckoo Science’.
In March 2007, according to Wikipedia’s page about him: “Monckton ran a series of advertisements in The New York Times and Washington Post challenging Al Gore to an internationally televised debate on climate change. The former U.S. Vice President responded in writing but refused to debate. The Science and Public Policy Institute provided funding for Monckton to produce a response to An Inconvenient Truth, titled Apocalypse?, No!, described as ‘showing Monckton presenting a slide show in a vitriolic attack on climate change science.’ The film includes footage of Monckton giving a Gore-style presentation on 8 October 2007 at the Cambridge Union, in which he asserted that Gore and the IPCC had systematically falsified and exaggerated the evidence for global warming”.
Monckton’s description of Gore’s documentary as the “Best Sci-Fi Comedy Horror” film of the year (The Cambridge Student Online, 13 October 2007) was an early example of the Viscount’s picturesque critical style which was to become much better known in 2009, when the tide finally turned for the sceptical minority, due in part to his public speaking ability.
Anthony Watts, an American meteorology expert launched his blog (http://wattsupwiththat.com) (WUWT), which by 2008 became one of the major non-media contributors to the sceptic side of the AGW debate. His prolific output and valuable discoveries brought his website wide praise and a tangible total of 39 million hits by the end of the December 2009 U.N. Copenhagen Climate Conference. The tenacious research and amazing findings of Watts (and other main sceptical bloggers and non-journalist writers) show how uninterested and lazy the mainstream media have been until now – with the very commendable exceptions noted in this short chronicle.
Lawrence Solomon, a Canadian environmentalist, businessman and writer, began a series of articles, ‘The Deniers’, for the National Post. The ‘deniers’ were those dissenting scientists who spoke out on aspects of the subject of AGW. Major names named are: Robert M. Carter, Prof. Lindzen, David Bellamy, Paul Reiter, and the late Roger Revelle. By November 2007, 38 articles had been published and a book with the same title followed in 2008 (The Deniers: The World-Renowned Scientists Who Stood Up Against Global Warming, Hysteria, Political Persecution, and Fraud (Richard Vigilante Books, ISBN 9780980076318). Here, in detail, is what Solomon wrote about his ongoing series of articles in his National Post column on 2 June 2007:
“Only an insignificant fraction of scientists deny the global warming crisis. The time for debate is over. The science is settled.”
“So said Al Gore … in 1992. Amazingly, he made his claims despite much evidence of their falsity. A Gallup poll at the time reported that 53% of scientists actively involved in global climate research did not believe global warming had occurred; 30% weren’t sure; and only 17% believed global warming had begun. Even a Greenpeace poll showed 47% of climatologists didn’t think a runaway greenhouse effect was imminent; only 36% thought it possible and a mere 13% thought it probable.
“Today, Al Gore is making the same claims of a scientific consensus, as do the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and hundreds of government agencies and environmental groups around the world. But the claims of a scientific consensus remain unsubstantiated. They have only become louder and more frequent.
“More than six months ago, I began writing this series, The Deniers. When I began, I accepted the prevailing view that scientists overwhelmingly believe that climate change threatens the planet. I doubted only claims that the dissenters were either kooks on the margins of science or sell-outs in the pockets of the oil companies.
“My series set out to profile the dissenters — those who deny that the science is settled on climate change — and to have their views heard. To demonstrate that dissent is credible, I chose high-ranking scientists at the world’s premier scientific establishments. I considered stopping after writing six profiles, thinking I had made my point, but continued the series due to feedback from readers. I next planned to stop writing after 10 profiles, then 12, but the feedback increased. Now, after profiling more than 20 deniers, I do not know when I will stop — the list of distinguished scientists who question the IPCC grows daily, as does the number of emails I receive, many from scientists who express gratitude for my series.
“Somewhere along the way, I stopped believing that a scientific consensus exists on climate change. Certainly there is no consensus at the very top echelons of scientists — the ranks from which I have been drawing my subjects — and certainly there is no consensus among astrophysicists and other solar scientists, several of whom I have profiled. If anything, the majority view among these subsets of the scientific community may run in the opposite direction. Not only do most of my interviewees either discount or disparage the conventional wisdom as represented by the IPCC, many say their peers generally consider it to have little or no credibility. In one case, a top scientist told me that, to his knowledge, no respected scientist in his field accepts the IPCC position.” (See also under 2008 and 2009 for Solomon’s comments on Wikipedians’ treatment of an array of Global Warming topics.)
The IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR-4) was issued, in four volumes. It presented a clear call to governments for immediate and costly remedial action against the projected unavoidable dangers and threats to mankind in the next ninety years. The reliability of some of the data and of the computer projections would subsequently be challenged by sceptics. Preparation of AR-5 is due to begin soon after March 2010, when contributors have been selected. These updated Reports and recommendations are due for publication in 2013 and 2014.
Christopher Booker and Dr Richard North published Scared To Death: From BSE To Global Warming, How Scares Are Costing Us The Earth (London, Continuum, ISBN 0826486142)
Booker, a British writer, investigative journalist – and, initially, a prominent 1960s satirist for BBC TV’s iconic TWTWTW and for Private Eye – has a prolific publishing record. The results of his global warming research have also been published in his newspaper columns in the Sunday Telegraph and the Daily Telegraph. Like Booker, Dr Richard North (whose important blogsite, eureferendum, is listed above) has been highly involved with the AGW controversy since about 2004 and is currently one of the major sceptical writers on this topic. (See also under 2009.)
In this book, which deals with a series of scares (mostly based on scientific studies, media dissemination and political involvement of some kind), Booker and North devote their longest chapter (70 pages) to Global Warming, which they regard as the worst of the scares. (See also under 2009.)
2007 (8 March)
Martin Durkin’s documentary, The Great Global Warming Swindle, was shown on BBC Channel 4, and around the world. It contained a series of interviews with a handful of allegedly dissenting scientists and caused a furore. It contained flaws but it also stimulated the growing number of sceptic writers and bloggers.
Lawrence Solomon shows, with specific examples, how factual evidence of AGW dissenters can be kept out of Wikipedia articles indefinitely by resolute activists: ‘Wikipedia’s Zealots’.
2008 (April): Lord Lawson of Blaby (Nigel Lawson) published a book called An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming (London, Duckworth. ISBN 9780715637869). It ironically echoed a title by Al Gore.
From the publisher’s book description:
“Lawson carefully and succinctly examines all aspects of the global warming issue: the science, the economics, the politics, and the ethics. He concludes that, contrary to the deeply-flawed Stern Review, the conventional wisdom on the subject is suspect on a number of grounds; that global warming is not the devastating threat to the planet it is widely alleged to be; and that the remedy that is currently being proposed, which is in any event politically unattainable, would be worse that the threat it is supposed to avert.”
“Lord Lawson has written a long overdue and much needed corrective to the barrage of spin and hype to which the politicians and media have been subjecting the public on this important issue, which affects us all.”
During this year, leading up to the huge United Nations IPCC Climate Conference in Copenhagen in December, AGW was a major media and Internet topic for scientists, politicians, and global warming sceptics. Much was revealed and discussed in newspaper articles, blogs, and, especially, in books by AGW sceptics (notably, in April, Ian Plimer’s, followed by Professor Garth Paltridge’s thought-provoking booklet (The Climate Caper) and Christopher Booker’s comprehensive analysis). The sceptics were rapidly gaining a much wider audience. However, it was a totally unexpected sensational event in November which finally rewarded the AGW sceptics with recognition from wider sections of the mainstream media and public, at least in the Anglosphere, where explicit sceptical (and scientific) expression about AGW has always been more prolific and wide-ranging than in other countries.
Australian geologist Professor Ian Plimer published Heaven and Earth: Global Warming, the Missing Science.
This 500-page scientific compilation is crammed with evidence and points of view. The 2,311 Footnotes alone would provide a diligent bibliographer with a useful Bibliography of the debate so far. The comprehensive Index also offers a long list of AGW / Climate Change topics and sub-topics. Although both were extrensively criticised by orthodox climatologists (partly, presumably, because Plimer’s book is the most extensive published by a climate-related scientist), Plimer’s subsequent lecture tours and media interviews were a major contribution to the sceptical side of the debate. The book was subsequently reprinted several times in Australia and republished separately in USA and UK.
Barely two months before the IPCC Copenhagen Climate Conference, Christopher Booker published The Real Global Warming Disaster: Is the obsession with ‘climate change’ turning out to be the most costly scientific blunder in history? (London, Continuum, ISBN 9781441110527)
This is a much enlarged 370-page version of the 70-page chapter of Booker and North’s 2007 book. Apart from the book’s length and depth (and sole author), three new features are:
1. Booker’s concentration on the attempted manipulation of the allegedly “settled” orthodox climate science by politicians in many developed countries, i.e. the potential economic and political consequences. For Booker, these constitute the real GW Disaster (or threat), greater than the errors, exaggerations and disputes about the science (or the unprofessional attitude of some climate scientists as revealed in the leaked East Anglia University emails.
2. The careful charting of the the achievements of the heterogeneous loose coalition of AGW sceptics, scientists and others, in gradually whittling away some of the basic orthodox claims of a “scientific consensus” on the imminent dangers of AGW (which Professor Lindzen had challenged so many years previously).
3. The selection of 2007-2009 (Part 3, pp. 171-306) as the period when “the ‘consensus’ begins to crumble”.
A later re-edition of this book (which takes the reader up to August 2009) will surely chronicle the following four or five months of dramatic announcements and news and the abrupt change in public and media attitudes to AGW and the IPCC and some of its scientists.
The sceptics’ relatively new asset, Lord Monckton, had a very busy and fruitful year, with a pre-Copenhagen campaign tour of U.S.A. in the Autumn (Fall) producing many interviews and articles, and a starring sceptical role in the streets of Copenhagen and in the triumphant fallout from that surprising event. His public celebrity increased incalculably and he invariably rose to the occasion. The media made the most of him, and, in spite of a few gaffes and over-acting, his articulate, impassioned and stylish denunciations reduced some of the “warmists” to writing ad hominem remarks about his thyroid problem and its effect on his appearance. Shame on them!
2009 (3 October)
Chris de Freitas: ‘Prologue to Copenhagen’, The New Zealand Centre for Political Research
Professor de Freitas was an expert reviewer of the 1995 and the 2001 Scientific Assessment Reports of the United Nations IPCC. In this short article, two months before the Copenhagen Climate Conference, he denounces irregularities in the IPCC Reports and procedures and claims that there are many more dissenting scientists like himself. For example:
“The so called evidence emanates from a vociferous group in the scientific community who, for a variety of reasons, are set on promoting predetermined conclusions not supported by empirical data or real-world observations. The science they rely on is all about the number of scientists who agree with them and claims of consensus to suppress quality control in climate research. “Taking a vote is a risky way to discover scientific truth”, warned climatologist Reid Bryson.”
“In a letter to The New York Times, Dr. Martin Hertzberg, an atmospheric scientist who featured in the 2009 ‘U.S. Senate Report of More Than 700 Dissenting Scientists on Global Warming’, accuses the newspaper of “continuously regurgitating fear-mongering, anecdotal claptrap of global warming propagandists”. He said “your coverage of the climate issues is a reflection of either extreme negligence or simply scientific illiteracy”. But the real reason may be simpler: talk of impending climate catastrophe is interesting, whereas sober analysis of climate data is boring.
The IPCC has been complicit in the scaremongering and exaggeration.”
2009 (23 November)
Lord Lawson of Blaby, a climate change sceptic since 2004 (with his criticism of the Kyoto Protocol) announces on The Times Online: “It is against all this background that I am announcing today the launch of a new high-powered all-party (and non-party) think-tank, the Global Warming Policy Foundation , which I hope may mark a turning-point in the political and public debate on the important issue of global warming policy.” The Director is Dr Benny Peiser.
2009 (17 November)
A sensational piece of news finally stirred the predominantly lethargic mainstream media into ‘scoop’ mode. This scandal, whose reverberations are still being felt four months later, was the (strategical) leaking of over 1000 emails and other documents from one of the major AGW data repositories for the IPCC, at the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia in UK – just over a month before the much-heralded and eagerly awaited Copenhagen Climate Conference at which prominent Western governments hoped to bring about agreement on a carbon emissions reduction. Copies of the indiscreet emails became public property and the media quickly found themselves contemplating a treasure-trove of potentially embarrassing private material which appeared to corroborate various sceptic accusations. At last, some details of the tactics and attitudes of some of the scientists loyal to the IPCC were revealed. Internet sceptical blogging activities also increased exponentially, and for a few months the public has had to pick and choose between a vast quantity of articles by sceptics, denials or ‘spin’ activities by orthodox climate scientists, and interventions by other scientists, belatedly concerned for the good name of science, which has undoubtedly been affected by the recent adverse publicity and accusations. All of this has produced fresh batches of further probing of the leaked email material as well as some of the contents of the 2007 IPCC Report by bloggers and a tsunami of op-ed comment in the mainstream media in print and online.
In January 2010, Steven Mosher and Thomas W. Fuller published a book on the leaked emails: Climategate; The CRUtape Letters (CreateSpace, January 2010. ISBN 978-1450512435)
2009 (early December):
Just before Copenhagen, as the ripples from the East Anglia leaked emails widened and spread further into the mainstream media and while alarm (and perhaps indignation) spread through the wider scientific community, The Spectator magazine (an AGW sceptic promoter from way back) published a special 11-page Supplement on Global Warming: The Truth. Introduced by Fraser Nelson, the Supplement hosted contributions from Bjørn Lomborg (whose popularity continued to grow in 2009), economists, a journalist who had been victimised for speaking her mind, the sceptical Professor Nils-Axel Mörner and Professor Paul Reiter, who has been complaining – unheeded – since 2000 about the Scientific American’s (and later Al Gore’s) misrepresentations about the potential geographical spread of malaria.
2009 (7-18 December)
The much-hyped IPCC Climate Conference took place in Copenhagen, with 40,000 delegates from over most countries in the world and posses of media people. A small group of prominent sceptics held their alternative Conference nearby in Copenhagen. Some “Western” governments had staked a lot on achieving a positive result but the controversial meeting ended anticlimactically, without the expected legally binding emissions reduction treaty. Some politicians returned home empty-handed and embarrassed. While they took a rest, the sceptics briskly continued their researching and published fresh ‘scoops’.
Opportunely, Professor James Hansen, still going strong after over 30 years of advocacy, published his latest plea for immediate action: Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity (New York, Bloomsbury. ISBN 978-1-60819-200-7)
2009 (19 December):
Lawrence Solomon expanded on his April 2008 Financial Post article about the bias shown on Wikipedia by exposing ‘How Wikipedia’s Green Doctor Rewrote 5,428 Climate Articles’. Solomon named William M. Connolley as the orthodox activist who had achieved this considerable feat, between 2003 and 2009. Enlightening, and a further caveat to those who need it about accepting controversial Wikipedia articles at face value.
Following Copenhagen, weary and bitterly disappointed politicians fell silent, glad of the Christmas break. Following the leaked emails and further accusations of errors in the IPCC’s AR4, some scientists were openly advocating more stringent checks on research, work methods, and peer-reviewed publishing behaviour, while others are vainly attempting to shelter behind a smokescreen of denialist comments. The major casualty (still walking, but for how long?) is one of the denialists, none other than the Chairman of the IPCC, Dr Rajendra Pachauri (the 2007 Nobel Peace laureate), who very clumsily dismissed the (inconvenient) work of a distinguished Indian colleague as “voodoo science”, only to have to apologise days later for his gaffe and to acknowledge the major error in the IPCC Report regarding the projected disappearance of Himalayan glaciers by 2035, which, as the “voodoo science” colleague and his team had confirmed, was absolute nonsense. The error had been detected by the indefatigable, Copenhagen, adrenaline-fuelled sceptical bloggers and with their full attention, and that of the press, on him for a week or two, more embarrassing allegations emerged and Pachauri’s already low credibility as Chairman and as the public face of the IPCC decreased by another few notches. Worse still for the Nobel laureate (whose worthiness of the laurels was being questioned), the tenacious bloggers unearthed further potentially inconvenient facts about his business interests. Another matter pending.
A. W. Montford (aka Bishop Hill) published The Hockey Stick Illusion: Climategate and the Corruption of Science (London, Stacey International, ISBN 978-1-906768-35-5). This is the latest version of Montford’s careful blog analyses of the long debate over climatologist Mann’s papers on global temperatures.
In The Spectator issue of 6 February, Matt Ridley paid tribute to ‘The Global Warning Guerrillas’, observing that:
“The Climate Consensus may hold the establishment – the universities, the media, big business, government – but it is losing the jungles of the web. After all, getting research grants, doing pieces to cameras and advising boards takes time. The very ostracism the sceptics suffered has left them free to do their digging untroubled by grant applications and invitations to Stockholm. The main blog used by the Consensus, realclimate.org, exemplifies this problem, because it was set up by a PR company and is run by an employee of Nasa, who ties himself in knots trying to show that he does the blog in his spare time. It is also characterised by a tone of weary condescension and censoring of dissent that you do not find on most sceptic sites.”
Professor Clive Hamilton published an urgent post-Copenhagen contribution to the debate, Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth about Climate Change (Sydney, Allen and Unwin).
The content is clearly indicated by the title and Hamilton gives his strongly argued 100% backing to climate science (also claiming that it is understated by scientists). Some who are easily persuaded may be relieved to read the verdict of Dr Monk (see next entry): “His is, by a fair margin, the least illuminating or disciplined of the  books under discussion.”
2010 (3 March)
As the orthodox climate science community and the wider scientific community were reacting in different ways to recent revelations, and as the sceptics congratulated themselves, this sober independent essay was very timely.
Paul Monk, ‘More Heat than Light’, The Australian Literary Review, 3 March 2010, pp. 3-4.
Dr Monk is Co-founder and Chief Consultant at Austhink Consulting. In this essay he makes a strong historical and philosophical case for more scientific rigour on both sides of the controversy and chooses as examples of the weakness of current argumentation a selection of 6 books, written by Christopher Booker, Al Gore, Clive Hamilton, James Hansen, Robert Kunzig and Wallace Broecker, and Ian Plimer.
Although Monk does not take sides and is particularly dismissive of Plimer (and Hamilton), the following points made by Monk will encourage sceptics:
“At this point, several questions arise. First, what precisely was the nature of the Solvay conference in question? Second, what is the primary evidence that global warming is occurring, that it is anthropogenic, that it is dangerous and that the fundamental problem is CO2 emissions? Third, what was the nature of the effort to refute this compound hypothesis and why did it fail? Fourth, how dangerous, exactly, is this problem? And, fifth, what does it make most sense to do about it, in all the circumstances?”
“Perhaps the biggest difficulty has arisen, however, because the Solvay conference in this case has been mediated by the UN’s Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change and the impression has been growing slowly for years that the IPCC has not run like Solvay at all. The IPCC, it seems, has not been a clearing house for attempts to refute the AGW hypothesis, but rather a political body committed to finding evidence that AGW is a reality.”
“Georges Monbiot has lamented recently, in the wake of the Copenhagen conference, that “climate scepticism” is “spreading like an infectious disease”. He may or may not be right, but his attitude is dead wrong. The AGW hypothesis is, in the nature of the case contestable, a claim based on highly complex data. Where inferences from the data or the reliability of the data itself seem unclear or tendentious, scepticism is completely natural.”
Finally, although Monk is critical of Booker’s aim to debunk I think this opinion should also be shared with readers: He acknowledges that there are points in Booker’s latest study which deserve attention, especially by those who “believe that truth and virtue are all on the side of the AGW people”.
2010 (12 March)
The announcement by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon of the launch of an independent review of the IPCC is a good note on which to interrupt this chronicle of the activities and impact of AGW sceptics.
The Spectator, The Australian, The Sunday Telegraph, the Daily Telegraph, The Daily Mail (UK), and the Melbourne Herald-Sun are prominent mainstream media sources which, over the past three years or more, have given AGW sceptics generous amounts of space and comment, thus making their ideas, theories and evidence available to a wider (and predominantly middle class) audience. Since the leaked emails incident of November 2009, many more mainstream media outlets have at last shown an interest in the sceptical sides to the controversy. Some pro-IPCC media, notably the BBC (TV and Radio), the Guardian, the Australian ABC (TV and Radio), remain adamantly opposed to AGW scepticism. The issue of which media took which side (and why) will inevitably attract further discussion and comment. (Two of the above belong to the Murdoch NewsCorp Group, as do the Wall Street Journal, The Times and the Sunday Times, which have also given space to sceptical comment.)
Addendum, 18 April 2010:
Belatedly but inevitably, the partisan policy of the Australian ABC TV’s current affairs programme, Lateline , and of its prominent presenter, Tony Jones, has been denounced in the mainstream media, by John Styles.
(Part 3 of this series will deal with ‘Global Warming, Climate Change, and Wikipedia’.
There is a much briefer Part 1.
(You really deserve some light relief now! Try Patrick Cook.)Explore posts in the same categories: Climate Change Debate
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