(Science?) cat on a hot tin roof. Heat of tin may not be due to global warming and climate change – so says Dr. William Reville in the Irish Times. August 20, 2008Posted by WorldbyStorm in climate change, Science.
This blog has been taken to task for concentrating on the ultra-liberalism of the Irish Times and that’s a fair criticism – although it’s sort of difficult to peg Breda O’Brien, or indeed John Waters as ultra (or indeed any sort of) liberals. [You see, it’s the little criticisms or questions with a grain of truth that hurt, not the big existential ones like ‘WorldbyStorm, you’re not a socialist/Republican/Green’]
So, that in mind let’s consider a source of constant fascination to the CLR, the author of the Irish Times Science column, Dr. William Reville. It’s a remarkable column, as has been noted, here and here and here. And if I check on the search function of the Irish Times I see that in this month alone we’ve been treated to pieces on “Oxford view on Shroud of Turin eagerly awaited” (Is the Turin Shroud real or a medieval forgery? The centuries-old question may soon be answered, writes William Reville – I await with bated breath the outcome of that ‘scientific investigation’) and “Growing challenge to prevailing view on climate change”(sub-head: A small but growing view is that global warming is a natural process – nothing to do with human activity, writes Dr William Reville).
Yes indeed, the ‘Science’ column of the “paper of record” is now given over to climate change – well, not quite denial, but certainly – doubt.
GLOBAL warming/climate change is a very serious and important issue. It has been under scientific investigation since 1986 by the UN-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC declares global warming is a fact and it is driven largely by emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities (IPCC Report 2007 – http://www.ipcc.ch/). I have reported the IPCC reports uncritically in this column, but a growing number of scientists are now presenting evidence that contradicts the IPCC position and I will give you a flavour of their position in this article.
Then comes a mea culpa…
Some scientists always disputed the findings of the IPCC but I dismissed this largely as expert opinion hired by the international oil industry.
Well, one wonders what investigations he made into the bona fides of those who disputed this.
However, it is now clear that many eminent scientists, who are not beholden to vested interests, disagree with the IPCC (eg physicist Freeman J Dyson who argues that the modelling methods used by IPCC are not nearly discriminating enough to reliably predict future climate conditions). The American Physical Society recently issued a statement to say: “There is a considerable presence within the scientific community of people who do not agree with the IPCC conclusion that anthropogenic CO2 emissions are very probably likely to be primarily responsible for global warming since the Industrial Revolution.”
And the heart of his new-found scepticism, sorry, doubts about the IPCC.
Well, critics charge the following: First, IPCC is an activist/ political enterprise whose agenda is to control emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, and concentrates exclusively on evidence that might point towards human induced climate change. Second, leading IPCC scientists reflect the positions of their governments, or seek to persuade their governments to adopt the IPCC position. Third, a small group of activists wrote the all-important Summary for Policymakers (SPM) for the four IPCC reports to-date. SPMs are revised and agreed by the member governments. The thousands of scientists who do the scientific work have no direct influence on these selective summaries. Fourth, large professional and financial rewards go to scientists who are willing to slant scientific facts to suit the IPCC agenda.
He makes a reasonable point. And then a not so resonable point.
Two things strike me about these charges. First, if they are true it is amazing that no whistle-blower has emerged from among the large ranks of IPCC. Second, why does IPCC not strenuously rebut these charges?
Well firstly, the lack of whistle-blower would indeed strike one as leading to a belief that, bizarre as it may seem, the bulk of scientific opinion backs the concept of anthropogenic climate change. Secondly, why should the IPCC whose function is to assess the data and arrive at a conclusion become an activist agency? Particularly in a context where increasingly event the most recalcitrant governments are finally accepting their central thesis. Indeed why should they waste time and energy dealing with marginal critiques?
Incidentally I love the charge that there are ‘large professional and financial rewards… [for] scientists who are willing to slant scientific facts to suit the IPCC agenda’. That it is made in the main by those whose funds directly or indirectly appear to be sourced in the ‘international oil industry’ perhaps is indicative of it being the finest passive aggressive attack ever.
Still, not one to be put off by such things as the ‘mainstream majority scientific position’ our man in Cork notes that:
THE US Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP) was set up “to base environmental policy on sound science rather than exaggerated fears”. However, it has been accused of being influenced by the oil industry.
‘Influenced’ is a nice way to put it. For a rather deeper take on this consider this from Newsweek which discusses the ways in which S Fred Singer, leading light of SEPP was central to climate change denial in the 1980s in conjunction with Exxon and the American Petroleum Institute.
But undeterred by – or unaware of – such side issues Reville continues.
SEPP has published scientific evidence (Nature, Not Human Activity Rules the Climate, S Fred Singer ed. The Heartland Institute, 2008) – http://www.sepp.org/publications/ NIPCC_final.pdf – to illustrate that 20th-century global warming is not the once-off phenomenon of recent historical times claimed by the IPCC, and that most of the current warming is the result of natural and uncontrollable variations in solar activity and very little is being caused, or could be caused, by human emissions of greenhouse gases. The SEPP also claims that we have little to fear from global warming since human civilisation always fared better during warmer than during colder periods.
The last statement is risible. One need merely look at a map to see that firstly global populations have increased rapidly across the last two centuries and the density of these populations around coasts is significant entailing massive disruption should climate change lead to increasing sea levels (not to mention other effects such as pervasive flooding of plains etc). But a bit of digging about the report that Reville references leads to some disquieting conclusions.
Firstly let’s examine The Heartland Institute which is a libertarian/conservative think tank, based in the US. It has already run into trouble over global warming with a strong contrarian stance. Fine, as far as it goes. Let a thousand flowers bloom, but consider the following. In September 2007 the Heartlands Institute published a list of 500 scientists from:
A new analysis of peer-reviewed scientific literature [which] reveals that more than 500 climate scientists have appeared as authors or coauthors of peer-reviewed scientific articles confirming that climate change is a natural phenomenon.
The authors of this?
The names were compiled by Dennis Avery and climate physicist S. Fred Singer, the co-authors of Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1,500 Years (Rowman & Littlefield, 2007), mainly from the peer-reviewed studies cited in their book. The researchers found evidence of climate change long predating human industrial activity, captured in such “proxies” as tree rings, stalagmites, lichens, pollen, plankton, insects, public health, Chinese history and astrophysics.
Only problem is that the scientists referenced didn’t agree with the interpretation Singer and Avery, and indeed the Heartland Institute were making. Or as desmogblog.com noted:
…we have received notes now from 45 outraged scientists whose names appear on the list of 500. We’ve published more quotes here.
Dozens of scientists are demanding that their names be removed from a widely distributed Heartland Institute article entitled 500 Scientists with Documented Doubts of Man-Made Global Warming Scares.
The article, by Hudson Institute director and Heartland “Senior Fellow” Dennis T. Avery (inset), purports to list scientists whose work contradicts the overwhelming scientific agreement that human-induced climate change is endangering the world as we know it.
The response from the Heartland Institute?
DeSmogBlog, a Web site created to attack conservative and free-market nonprofit organizations, targeted The Heartland Institute in late April 2008, and in particular two lists posted on Heartland’s Web site [ http://www.heartland.org/Article.cfm?artId=21971 ] of scientists whose published work contradicts some of the main tenets of global warming alarmism. The blog persuaded some of the scientists appearing in the lists to ask that their names be removed from the lists.
In response to the complaints, The Heartland Institute has changed the headlines that its PR department had chosen for some of the documents related to the lists, from “500 Scientists with Documented Doubts of Man-Made Global Warming Scares” to “500 Scientists Whose Research Contradicts Man-Made Global Warming Scares.”
What motivates the scientists? They have no right — legally or ethically — to demand that their names be removed from a bibliography composed by researchers with whom they disagree. Their names probably appear in hundreds or thousands of bibliographies accompanying other articles or in books with which they disagree. Do they plan to sue hundreds or thousands of their colleagues? The proper response is to engage in scholarly debate, not demand imperiously that the other side redact its publications.
It’s pretty masterful, isn’t it? For consider again the phrasing in their initial communication: ‘authors or coauthors of peer-reviewed scientific articles confirming that climate change is a natural phenomenon’. Not a lot of room there for the subtle reworking they then go for. And they continue:
Many of the complaining scientists have crossed the line between scientific research and policy advocacy. They lend their credibility to politicians and advocacy groups who call for higher taxes and more government regulations to “save the world” from catastrophic warming … and not coincidentally, to fund more climate research. They are embarrassed — as they should be — to see their names in a list of scientists whose peer-reviewed published work suggests the modern warming might be due to a natural 1,500-year climate cycle……. the point should be obvious: There is no scientific consensus that global warming is a crisis.
Now that’s bad enough, because the actual statements from the scientists referenced:
I have NO doubts ..the recent changes in global climate ARE man-induced. I insist that you immediately remove my name from this list since I did not give you permission to put it there.”
I don’t believe any of my work can be used to support any of the statements listed in the article.”
On a side issue, entertaining, isn’t it, to see a supposedly libertarian organisation denying individual autonomy to those who it references? I guess the collective trumps all. Erm.. who again are the collective?
But this is all background. What of the report itself?
It makes for interesting reading. It attempts to demolish, in a fairly predictable fashion, the bona fides of the IPCC, then curiously attempts to have its cake and eat it. It agrees that climate change may be occurring but that the effects are ‘minimal’, indeed even congenial to human civilisation.
Our findings, if sustained, point to natural causes and a moderate warming trend with beneficial effects for humanity and wildlife.
Go wildlife. Hope the humans have waterproofs.
If, for whatever reason, a modest warming were to occur – even one that matches temperatures seen during the Medieval Warm Period of around 1100 AD or the much larger ones recorded during the Holocene Climate Optimum of some 6,000 years ago – the impact would not be damaging but would probably be, on the whole, beneficial.
But then consider the following. On various outlets the 24 contributors are described as ‘some of the brightest names in the climate field’, climate experts, university professors and ‘well reputed’ and even ‘reknowned’ scientists. Hmmm…. let’s see about that.
S. Fred Singer
It’s a good list, but if we go to realclimate.org change we see that the provenance of these fine fellows is as follows:
Contributors (info from Source Watch http://www.sourcewatch.org and other sources)
Warren Anderson, US
(co-author of Fire and Ice)
Dennis Avery, US
(director of the Center for Global Food Issues, Hudson Institute)
Franco Battaglia, Italy
(professor of environmental chemistry at the University of Modena)
Robert Carter, Australia
(”Professor Carter, whose background is in marine geology, appears to have little, if any, standing in the Australian climate science community;” well known climate change skeptic)
Richard Courtney, UK
(Technical Editor for CoalTrans International (journal of the international coal trading industry), was a Senior Material Scientist of the National Coal Board and a Science and Technology spokesman of the British Association of Colliery Management)
Joseph d’Aleo, US
(retired meteorologist & well known climate change skeptic)
Fred Goldberg, Sweden
(associate professor at the Royal School of Technology in Stockholm)
Vincent Gray, New Zealand
(founding member New Zealand Climate Science Coalition, which has the stated aim of “refuting what it believes are unfounded claims about anthropogenic (man-made) global warming.”)
Klaus Heiss, Austria
(economist, Science & Environmental Policy Project)
Craig Idso, US
(founder and chairman of the board of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, funded by Western Fuels and Exxon Mobil)
Zbigniew Jaworowski, Poland
(professor at the Central Laboratory for Radiological Protection in Warsaw & global warming skeptic)
Olavi Karner, Estonia
Madhav Khandekar, Canada
(retired Environment Canada meteorologist, on the scientific advisory board of Friends of Science, published in Energy & Environment)
William Kininmonth, Australia
(past head of head of Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology’s National Climate Centre, known Australian climate change skeptic; listed as “Director of the Australasian Climate Research Institute,” but the Institute is listed as simply a trading name for “Kininmonth, William Robert”, and is based at his private residence)
Hans Labohm, Netherlands
(economist, author of Man-Made Global Warming: Uravelling a Dogma)
Christopher Monckton, UK
(… connected with the Science and Public Policy Institute (SPPI), formerly the Frontiers of Freedom’s Center for Science and Public Policy, which promotes the views of global warming skeptics)
Lubos Motl, Czech Republic
(theoretical physicist who works on string theory and conceptual problems of quantum gravity)
Tom Segalstadt, Norway
(head of the Geological Museum within the Natural History Museum of the University of Oslo, IPCC reviewer)
S. Fred Singer, US
(Whom we also all know; former space scientist and government scientific administrator, runs the Science and Environmental Policy Project and has been connected with numerous conservative think tanks, including Cato, American Enterprise Institute, and of course, the tobacco industry)
Dick Thoenes, Netherlands
(emeritus professor of chemical engineering, Eindhoven University of Technology, co-author of Man-Made Global Warming: Uravelling a Dogma)
Anton Uriarte, Spain
(professor of Physical Geography at the University of the Basque Country)
Gerd Weber, Germany
(works for the ‘Gesamtverband des Deutschen Steinkohlenbergbaus’ (Association of German coal producers))
So, perhaps three of those exalted ‘experts’ could claim to have direct professional expertise in meteorology, let alone climate change. Impressive, I think you’ll agree. And while the oil industry is not in situ for this particular gig a cheer or two for King Coal.
And note that name Christopher Monckton (United Kingdom). Now that was familiar to me. But from where? Climate scientist? Researcher? Why no. For Christopher Monckton, 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley is a ‘journalist, politician and business consultant, policy advisor, writer, and inventor’ according to wiki. Inventor you say, then surely he has some engineering and/or scientific expertise. But no again, for his invention is the multi-million selling “Eternity” and “Eternity II” board games. This doesn’t invalidate his right to say whatever he likes about climate change, but to be a contributor in a project in direct contradiction with the IPCC might well necessitate something a little more grounded.
Now I could be petty and list off those on the IPCC, but to be honest lunch is only so long and I can’t be arsed.
And the response from scientists in the field? According to ABC News this was as follows:
ABC News showed Singer’s most recent report on global warming to climate scientists from NASA, from Stanford University and from Princeton. They dismissed it as “fabricated nonsense.”
Now, I’ll leave it to http://www.realclimate.org to dissect the report in detail, but you get the idea.
But these being all of a piece, as it were what of Reville’s point that:
The American Physical Society recently issued a statement to say: “There is a considerable presence within the scientific community of people who do not agree with the IPCC conclusion that anthropogenic CO2 emissions are very probably likely to be primarily responsible for global warming since the Industrial Revolution.”
This got the anti-climate change camp all of a fluster with ragged breathing and sweaty palms. But. Er. No. No it didn’t. The editorial in the newsletter of the APS ‘Physics and Society’ suggested did include the quoted phrase. However the APS as a body this July noted:
The Forum on Physics and Society is a place for discussion and disagreement on scientific and policy matters. Our newsletter publishes a combination of non- peer- reviewed technical articles, policy analyses, and opinion. All articles and editorials published in the newsletter solely represent the views of their authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Forum Executive Committee.
The FPS Executive Committee strongly endorses the position of the APS Council that “Emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are changing the atmosphere in ways that affect the Earth’s climate.” The statement in the July 2008 edition of our newsletter, Physics and Society that, “There is considerable presence within the scientific community of people who do not agree with the IPCC conclusion that anthropogenic CO2 emissions are very probably likely to be primarily responsible for the global warming that has occurred since the Industrial Revolution” does not represent the views of the Executive Committee of the Forum on Physics and Society.
All this was on foot of the APS newsletter publishing two pieces, one accepting climate change and one not, the latter written by the ubiquitous Mr. Monckton. Now I’m an ambitious kind of a person, but I know my limits and the idea that – for example – I might have an article on cosmology published in an associated newsletter of Scientific American or New Scientist or a professional science body is simply nonsense. So how come climate change is seen as an area where anyone can ‘have a go’, as it were?
Dismal dismal stuff. And what is so striking is just how thin the NIPCC and associated groups is. For a serious tilt at the IPCC something a lot more weighty would be necessary, with perhaps actual climate change experts as distinct from industry/excited non specialists. And isn’t it telling that they can’t get that level of expertise? Still, that’s perhaps not the point from their perspective. And perhaps not that important in the big picture in the context of – as noted before – some awareness by states of the seriousness of the issue.
Yet, here is the thing. It takes me about twenty or so minutes over lunchtime on a couple of successive days to find out all this information in the detail necessary to put together a post on the subject. William Reville – one presumes – has more time and the added incentive of being paid for his time. And yet he doesn’t do so. Odd that.
Remember, as the line says at the foot of each of his articles:
William Reville is associate professor of biochemistry and public awareness of science officer at UCC
While I’m at it can I direct you to the remarkable (for which read insane) site here. The US state conflicted on climate change? Who’d have thunk it?