Monday, April 9, 2012

Global Warming Is Bunk, Part 9: High Crimes

This post stands in place of the sixth chapter of a paper that I wrote three years ago as a critique of the science and politics behind the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) thesis. The paper was peer-reviewed but never published. The predictions that I made in this paper have been universally borne out.


6             Science: ‘High crimes against humanity and nature’

It is a canon of common sense, to say nothing of evidence, that the more improbable a supposed occurrence, the more cogent ought to be the evidence in its favour.

            - Thomas Huxley, Science and the Christian Tradition[1]

One of the principal reasons that a re-examination of the origins, state and potential consequences of the “global warming” debate is necessary is that the great climate panic – more so than any other event in recent history – is largely the result of a persistent failure to adhere to the strictures of robust scientific methodology.  This is all the more alarming in view of the fact that the panic was launched by scientific studies that led to non-scientific modelling exercises, which led to the creation of political deliberative mechanisms, which have – in the decades since the debate began – subsequently been co-opted to serve a political ideology.  When the great climate panic finally receives its long-overdue post-mortem examination, the systematic betrayal of science by the proponents of and advocates for the AGW thesis will stand as its most singular legacy.

Perhaps the most egregious of the many betrayals has been the contention – by only one side in the debate – that climate science is “settled.”  This is a nonsensical, deeply unscientific argument that runs counter to the whole history of scientific endeavour.  For thousands of years, new scientists have achieved results of world-changing importance not only by “standing on the shoulders of giants” (as Newton put it), but also by challenging the work of their forebears, expanding upon it, adding vital understandings and nuance, and often overturning it entirely. 

We are fortunate that Einstein’s work on general and special relativity was not “settled”, or we would not have quantum mechanics.  Had Newton’s work on the physics of motion been “settled”, we would not have relativity.  Had Darwin not challenged Lamarck’s concept of soft inheritance, a parent rendered paraplegic by an accident would still wonder why his child does not inherit his paralysis.  And had Aristotle’s weltanschauung been “settled science”, the Sun would still be deemed to orbit the Earth.  “The science is settled” is a politician’s argument; no true scientist would ever use it.  Science is only “settled” until someone unsettles it.

While this is the most obvious offence against science committed in the name of “global warming”, there are others just as grievous that merit review.  This chapter looks at some of the key problems that the great climate panic has laid bare to public scrutiny.  The first section examines the contention – upon which the proponents of the AGW thesis depend – that it is possible to predict, with any degree of useful certainty, future developments in technology and their implications, or the future behaviour of a complex, interdependent, chaotic system like terrestrial climate.  The second section examines the notion that unrestrained catastrophism is a useful approach to scientific research and prediction; and the third, that “consensus” is in any way relevant to a scientific debate.  The fourth section looks at how the tools of science, properly applied and respected, form what Carl Sagan called an indispensable “baloney detector” to defend us against bad or deliberately misrepresented science; and the fifth discusses what happens when scientists abandon objectivity and become advocates for a political cause, sacrificing the objectivity upon which the credibility of the scientific method depends.

6.1          ‘Discovering futurity’[2]

It is happy for man that he does not know what the morrow is to bring forth; but, unaware of this great blessing, he has, in all ages of the world, presumptuously endeavoured to trace the events of unborn centuries, and anticipate the march of time.  He has reduced this presumption into a study.  He has divided it into sciences and systems without number, employing his whole life in vain pursuit.  Upon no subject has it been so easy to deceive the world as upon this…[3]

Divining the possible shapes that the future may take and judging which outcomes are more likely than others is an undertaking fraught with uncertainty.  The methodological strategies open to the analyst all boil down, one way or another, to one of three approaches: trend projection, modeling and guessing. Trend projection is the only reliable method of engaging in predictive analysis, with the caveat that those wielding it to forecast possible future trends must be cognizant of the dangers involved in dealing with complex, dynamical, non-linear systems. Even systems that may seem at first glance to be relatively linear – e.g., demographic trends – are subject to the complex relationships of interdependent variables. Population curves may look smooth and predictable, but they can be dramatically altered by both natural phenomena (disease, catastrophes) and human agencies (war, religion, environmental contamination, policy decisions, personal choice), which interact in ways that may not be reducible to a comprehensive, periodic mathematical model.

Two things that all historical trends have in common, however, is that they are vector rather than scalar (i.e., they possess both directional and quantitative components), and vary over time.  Within these constraints, trends may seem to display certain patterns (e.g., periodicity), or they may not. Many natural phenomena are cyclical because they have cyclical causes; the turn of the seasons, for example, is the result of the Earth’s orbital period and axial tilt, both of which are relatively stable phenomena. Complex, dynamical, non-periodic interdependent systems, however, that are the product of the interaction of non-periodic (or for that matter, inherently chaotic) actors, are likely to be themselves non-periodic. They may display complex and inherently unpredictable behaviour, where the system output is not proportional to inputs. Alternatively, they may appear to mimic a linear or cyclical trend – until a new force is introduced and instability occurs, whereupon the system becomes chaotic and evolves unpredictably, or is drawn into a complex cyclical quasi-stability around a “strange attractor.”

Linear trend projection is one of the preferred literary techniques of science fiction authors, a point that Robert Heinlein addressed numerous times over the course of a prolific writing career. When attempting to divine the long-term implications of a single trend (for obvious reasons, science fiction authors tend to focus on technology trends), the author must first ask whether that trend levels off over time, continues in a straight line, or increases linearly, geometrically, exponentially or asymptotically. Writing in the 1950s, Heinlein projected contemporary trends in rocketry, power and electronics technology into the future, and predicted that by the year 2000, the human race would be living in bases on the Moon, drawing power from nuclear fusion reactors, using land line and radio telephones, and – quaintly – computing the orbits of interplanetary spaceships using slightly updated versions of the slide rules and rudimentary cam-driven mechanical calculators that he had encountered during his naval career in the 1930s.

(If it seems odd to reference science fiction writing in a paper of this nature, it should be remembered that the Department of National Defence is now actually paying science fiction authors to write novels about future conflicts as one means of imagining the “future security environment”.  In an interview, the author in question, and representatives of the military office commissioning the work, acknowledge that they are using linear trend projection to attempt to anticipate future military problems and solutions.)[4] 

The trend lines in rocketry and nuclear power that dominated Heinlein’s early career levelled off; arguably mankind is no more capable today in these areas than in the 1970s when humans walked on the Moon and launched the Voyager probes.[5] But the trend lines in communications and computing technology have progressed exponentially, fuelled not only by evolutionary developments, but also by technological revolutions in the form of transistors, diodes, integrated circuits, lasers, fibre-optics, and the silicon microchip. Half a century later, mankind is at best only marginally closer to living on the Moon or mastering fusion power than in Heinlein’s heyday; but most humans in technologically advanced societies have easy access to low cost communications and computing technologies of a power and flexibility that no one writing in the 1950s could possibly have envisioned.

The point here is not that “technology shocks” are inevitable; they are. What is important from an analytical perspective is that it is by definition impossible to predict either when a revolutionary technological development will occur, or how it will impact human civilization when it does. Anything that can be predicted is, after all, unlikely to “shock” us. More important, however, is the fact that the longer the predictive horizon, the more likely it is that a revolutionary technological, sociological, political or natural phenomenon will occur that completely overturns the status quo. If the predictive horizon is far enough away, the likelihood of a transformative event occurring becomes a statistical certainty – and revolutionary transformations are by definition unforeseeable, and therefore preclude prior predictive analysis.  Michael Crichton, a scientist-turned-science fiction author, attempted, during a 2003 speech at the California Institute of Technology, to explain the utter impossibility of predicting the future – and especially the future of technology.  He reminded his audience that, in 1900,

…people didn't know what an atom was. They didn't know its structure. They also didn't know what a radio was, or an airport, or a movie, or a television, or a computer, or a cell phone, or a jet, an antibiotic, a rocket, a satellite, an MRI, ICU, IUD, IBM, IRA, ERA, EEG, EPA, IRS, DOD, PCP, HTML, internet, interferon, instant replay, remote sensing, remote control, speed dialling, gene therapy, gene splicing, genes, spot welding, heat-seeking, bipolar, Prozac, leotards, lap dancing, email, tape recorder, CDs, airbags, plastic explosive, plastic, robots, cars, liposuction, transduction, superconduction, dish antennas, step aerobics, smoothies, twelve-step, ultrasound, nylon, rayon, Teflon, fiber optics, carpal tunnel, laser surgery, laparoscopy, corneal transplant, kidney transplant, AIDS… None of this would have meant anything to a person in the year 1900.  They wouldn't know what you are talking about.

Now.  You tell me you can predict the world of 2100.[6]

Crichton’s tone may be rhetorical and irreverent, but his point is clear.  People in 1900 had no experience of heavier-than-air flight; Kitty Hawk was three years away.  They had no notion of rocketry; Goddard had not yet begun his work.  Radio was called “wireless” and had a range of about 10 miles; Marconi’s trans-Atlantic transmission would only occur the following year.  Television was a figment of the imagination; relativity awaited Einstein’s watershed papers; nuclear power was inconceivable.  The slide rule was king, “penicillin” wasn’t a word, and plastic meant “mutable”; it did not mean an artificial material derived from hydrocarbons with virtually endless uses, that has fundamentally transformed the modern world.  No one in 1900 could have predicted where technology would be a hundred years after their time, nor how fundamentally it would alter every aspect of human life.  Positing “technology shocks” is easy; but predicting their nature, arrival and impact is not science.  It is the realm, as Mackay put it, of “astrologers, necromancers, sorcerers, geomancers and all those who pretend to discover futurity.”[7]

A century ago, humans relied heavily on horseflesh for transportation.  In 1900, the city of London had 11,000 horse-drawn cabs and several thousand buses, each of which required twelve horses per day.  Add to these the horses necessary to draw goods wagons, carts and private conveyances, and the number becomes quite significant.  New York City, in 1900, was in similar straits, with more than 100,000 horses, producing an impressive 2,500,000 pounds of manure per day, all of which had to be collected and removed.  This “fertilizer crisis” was so severe in large cities that one analyst, writing in 1894 for The Times of London, had predicted that “in 50 years every street in London would be buried under 9 feet of manure.”[8]

This did not happen, of course; the internal combustion engine, still a relative novelty in 1894, eventually replaced the horse – rapidly in the cities, more slowly in the countryside.  A half-century after 1894, the streets of London were indeed buried – but in rubble rather than manure, the result of five long and lethal years of mechanized warfare featuring, amongst many other recent and devastating military innovations, high-altitude piston-engined bombers, pulse-jet-driven flying bombs, and liquid-fuelled ballistic rockets – weapons that would have been deemed the height of fantasy by a writer sitting in fin-de-siècle Britain, busily lamenting the fecal future of his horse-drawn world.  If history teaches us anything about the evolution of technology and all of its myriad benefits and curses, it is that we cannot know where science will take us.  All we can know with any degree of surety is that our guesses about the future are virtually guaranteed to be wrong.[9]

In the face of the complexity and non-linearity of real-world systems like climate, and the demonstrable inadequacy of models for predicting their behaviour, the seductive allure of linear trend projection can seem irresistible, if for no other reason than that all other analytical approaches are less likely to produce useful and even marginally reliable results.  “The real world,” noted one pair of German physicists in a discussion of climate modelling, is simply “too complex to be represented properly by a feasable [sic] system of equations ready for processing.”[10]  One group of hydrodynamical engineers examined the general circulation models and concluded that their interpolated series “are irrelevant to reality” and that the future climate projections they offer are “not credible.”[11]  Even the scientific advisors to the IPCC agree with this warning, noting in the “Scientific Basis” chapter of the Third Assessment Report (2001) that

…in climate research and modelling, we should recognize that we are dealing with a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore that the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible.[12]

The many pitfalls of trend analysis necessitate extreme caution when attempting to project the current state of a non-linear system into the future. The extent to which this caution is observed or thrown to the metaphorical winds is what separates those who approach trend projection humbly, cognizant of its inherent and inescapable limitations, from those who embrace it whole-heartedly and as the panacea for all analytical ills.[13] 

6.2          Catastrophists, conservatives and consensus

Analysts charged with predicting “the shape of things to come” should, and usually do, approach their task with a generous measure of humility, offering conservative predictions based on the projection of broad, easily-identifiable trends, and qualifying their analysis with caveats about the whimsical mutability of history, and the ever-present possibility (even probability) of sweeping and unforeseeable change.

More recently, however, it has become fashionable to employ linear trend projection to craft vivid, even spectacular, predictions of massive, unprecedented change leading inevitably to catastrophe. Rather than projecting an observed trend over a short timeline and qualifying their analyses with conservative warnings about the dangers of long timelines and the inherent unpredictability of complex dynamical systems, the “catastrophists” rely on linear trend projection to distant analytical horizons, overlooking the fact that, in the real world, trends – especially natural ones – are rarely strictly linear. It is precisely this sort of trend projection that, sixty years ago, resulted in predictions about fusion-powered, slide-rule-wielding lunar citizens voting by long-wave radiotelephony in the 2000 Presidential Election.

This sort of analysis is often buttressed, incidentally, through recourse to computer modeling – itself a false prophet, as models are only accurate as a predictive tool to the extent that the systems under examination, and all of the variables impacting them, are thoroughly understood by those charged with developing the models and programming the computers.  It is impossible to model something that you do not understand.  This is not, incidentally, a new problem – Edward Lorenz, one of the pioneers of chaos theory, recognized it when working with computerized weather models in the early 1960s:

The average person, seeing that we can predict tides pretty well a few months ahead, would say, why can’t we do the same thing with the atmosphere, it’s just a different fluid system, the laws are about as complicated.  But I realized that any physical system that behaved nonperiodically would be unpredictable.[14]

Lorenz’s concerns have been borne out by history.  The computer models designed to account for these irreducible mathematical uncertainties have repeatedly failed to either replicate past, observed temperatures, or to make accurate projections even over the near term of climatic trends.  The failure of model projections to correlate with observed data is not restricted merely to projections of average global temperatures.  In Antarctica, for example, routinely the subject of much anguished hand-wringing by the environmental community about the alleged rapid melting of supposedly unstable ice shelves (despite the fact that, in 2007, the extent of Antarctic ice reached the highest point in the 30-year satellite record), computer models have proven spectacularly incapable of modelling past temperature trends, let alone explaining observed data.

Figure 15 compares the output of five separate IPCC computer model reconstructions of Antarctic temperature anomalies (the five lowest charts) and their average (GRA) with observed temperature anomaly data (OBS).  All of the models – not surprisingly, given that they are based on the assumption that carbon dioxide is the principle driver of temperature, and (as pointed out in Chapter 4) carbon dioxide has been increasing steadily since the mid-1800s – show a clear warming trend; but observed temperature anomalies over the period in question, representing recorded, real-world data, show no trend whatsoever.[15]  Moreover, in an omission reminiscent of the statistical efforts by some modellers to “abolish the Medieval Warm Period”, none of the models replicate the significant, measured Antarctic temperature peaks around 1900, in the 1930s, and around 1980; and all of them predict record high anomalies in the present era, when measurements show that recorded temperature anomalies instead reached an historic low.  This is as clear a demonstration as could be asked for of the fundamental inability of computer models to offer accurate projections of the likely behaviour of a chaotic system like climate.

Notwithstanding the inability of their preferred models to explain, replicate or predict real-world results, the catastrophists continue to reject appeals for the prudence and transparency that credible science demands. They argue that their projections, while perhaps imperfect, offer an adequate approximation of where present trends are likely to lead over the longer term – an argument that assumes simplicity, stability and linearity, rather than complexity and non-linearity, in the systems they are studying.  Invoking the “precautionary principle,” (which, as emphasized in a 2006 statement by the UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, is an entirely inappropriate basis for policy development),[16] they insist that taking radical action now is not only justified, but also morally obligatory, in order to prevent the devastating consequences they claim are otherwise inevitable – an argument which is not only logically unsustainable, but which, in the absence of any empirical evidence to support their claims of impending catastrophe, is impossible to justify.

Figure 15 - Non-correlation of observed temperature anomalies in Antarctica (OBS) with averaged computer model results (GRA) and individual computer model projections (others)[17]

What is often lost in the debate is the fact that the projections offered by the IPCC, and relied upon by catastrophists like James Hansen and Al Gore as “proof” of the need to take urgent, radical action to avoid climatic catastrophe, are in fact nothing of the sort.  They are not the output of validated forecasting models, but simply computer programmes designed to project possible future climate states on the basis of the programming biases built into the algorithms upon which they are based.  They are, in the words of professional forecasters Scott Armstrong and Kesten Green, not climate forecasts, but “stories”:

Currently, the only forecasts are those based on the opinions of some scientists. Computer modelling was used to create scenarios (i.e., stories) to represent the scientists’ opinions about what might happen. The models were not intended as forecasting models…and they have not been validated for that purpose….no one has provided evidence to refute our claim that there are no scientific forecasts to support global warming.[18]

Armstrong and Green go on to advise against the use of the “precautionary principle” as an argument for precipitate action, noting that “it is a political, not a scientific principle,” and recalling that “one of the primary scientific principles in forecasting is to be conservative in the darkness of uncertainty. “  The precautionary principle, they state, “is actually an anti-scientific principle in that it attempts to make decisions without using rational analyses.”[19]

On 12 February 2009, Patrick J. Michaels, a research professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia and an active participant in the IPCC, testified before the House Sub-Committee on Energy and Environment, and explained the problem with climate modeling succinctly.  He noted that

…a climate model is really nothing more than a scientific hypothesis. If a hypothesis is consistent with observations, then it is standard scientific practice to say that such a hypothesis can continue to be entertained. In this case, that hypothesis can then serve as a basis for other subsidiary models or, in reality, subsidiary hypotheses….[however,] If the hypothesis is not consistent with observations, it must be rejected.[20]

Dr. Michaels went on to provide a grim assessment of the ability of the present crop of climate models to provide projections of future climate states with the degree of reliability necessary to justify using them as the basis for costly and difficult policies:

I must report that our models are in the process of failing. When I say that, I mean the ensemble of 21 models used in the midrange projection for climate change by the IPCC…

If it is demonstrable that these models have failed, then there is no real scientific basis for any estimates of the costs of inaction.[21]

And if there is no real scientific basis for the projections offered by the models, then all of the effort and capital that has been or will be spent in a Quixotic attempt to reduce carbon emissions have been – and will be – utterly wasted.

6.3          ‘Eppur si muovethe irrelevant myth of consensus

Few challenges facing America – and the world – are more urgent than combating climate change.

- President Elect Barack Obama, 18 November 2008[22]

With all due respect Mr. President, that is not true.

- 100 scientists to President Barack Obama, March 2009[23]

The problem, of course, is that the debate over the causes and potential consequences of climate change is no longer about – to use Michaels’ words – any “real scientific basis.” The readiness with which the AGW advocates resort to non-scientific methods to defend their terrain should be cause for concern among those who value the integrity of the scientific method.[24]

One of the key indications that the climate change debate has become irretrievably politicized is the oft-repeated claim, by the proponents of the AGW thesis, that their arguments enjoy some sort of “scientific consensus.”   This is a patently non-scientific argument.  As one scientist noted in testimony to a Select Committee of the British House of Lords,

Consensus is the stuff of politics, not science.  Science proceeds by observation, hypothesis and experiment.  Professional scientists rarely draw firm conclusions from a single article, but consider its contribution in the context of other publications and their own experience, knowledge and speculations.  The complexity of this process, and the uncertainties involved, are a major obstacle to meaningful understanding of scientific issues by non-scientists.[25]

Those who invoke the weight of numbers to bolster their claims forget how often the “scientific consensus” has been wrong in the past, and that many, if not most, of the scientific achievements of past centuries were registered not by groups of complacent researchers agreeing with each other, but by single dissenters swimming against the stream.  Science, to borrow an historical analogy, is not a democracy, where power rests in the hands of the majority; but a republic, where power resides in the law. And the law that scientists must obey is the inviolable code of the scientific method: to observe, hypothesize, experiment, and – pace Huxley – to “follow humbly to wherever and whatever abyss nature leads.”  “Scientific issues,” another scientist warns, “are not decided by ballot.  They are resolved by observations that support a theory or hypothesis.”[26]  Everything else is politics.

The claims of “scientific consensus” by proponents of the AGW thesis are irrelevant not only because they are non-scientific, but also because they are demonstrably false.  Recent effusions of dissent from within the scientific community have garnered some notice in the press, but they are nothing new.  Hundreds of scientific experts from the fields of atmospheric science, geology, meteorology, oceanography, paleo-climatology and solar physics, for example, famously broke with the AGW thesis in 2007 and 2008.[27]  But they represent only a fraction of the scientists who have openly rejected the idea that human activity plays an important role in altering climate.[28]  The “Global Warming Petition” – launched some years ago by the late Professor Frederick Seitz of Rockefeller University – states that “There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing, or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate.”  It has garnered, at time of writing, the signatures of more than 31,000 scientists in the United States alone, including more than 9,000 who hold doctoral degrees.  This is roughly 15 times as many Ph.D.s alone as there are scientists involved in the IPCC process.[29]

For the benefit of those who would argue credentials, the Seitz Petition website provides a breakdown of the qualifications of the Petition’s signers, noting that the aggregate total includes 3,697 experts in atmospheric, environmental and earth sciences; 903 experts in computer and mathematical modelling; 5,691 physicists and aerospace scientists; 4,796 chemists; 2,924 experts in biology and agriculture; 3,069 medical experts; and nearly 10,000 engineers and general scientists.[30]

Insofar as any “consensus” on global warming exists, the true consensus – if one looks at the number of qualified scientists who have spoken out against it – is that the science is most definitely not settled.  The fact that this widespread and growing scientific dissent from the climate panic is not more widely known is less suggestive of a widespread consensus on the AGW thesis than it is of a widespread consensus on the part of politicians and the mainstream media to preserve, through artful silence, one of their favourite causes-célèbres.

But at the end of the day, “consensus” is irrelevant anyway.  Consensus is the antithesis of science.  Argumentum ad verecundiam – an “argument from respect”, or in modern vernacular, arguments from authority – carry no weight in a scientific debate.  When Galileo faced his accusers to defend Copernican heliocentrism, he stood alone, against the prevailing scientific consensus of the day, and was adjudged a heretic.  His persecutors forced him to recant – but he was right on the facts.  Today, he is remembered as a lone and courageous voice of reason, reportedly muttering “Eppur si muove” – “And yet, it does move” – as he was led away to house arrest.  His tormentors, by contrast, are remembered – and rightly vilified – as blinkered ignoramuses, clinging blindly, against the weight of observed evidence, to a demonstrably erroneous model; and guilty of attempting – not through reasoned argument, but rather through calumny, threats, and force – to stifle the voice of a lone dissenter who had made the fatal error of challenging the orthodoxy, and being right.

Today’s sceptics have been suffering Galileo’s fate, and largely in silence.  The self-appointed environmental elite equate climate change “denial” with denial of the Holocaust – even with mental illness.[31]  They have called for all those who oppose their agenda to be jailed “for high crimes against humanity and nature.”[32] The treatment of the ever-swelling ranks of dissenters, denigrated as “flat-Earthers” by their opponents, has been nothing short of disgraceful.[33] Even once-serious scientific organizations have abandoned all pretence at objectivity; in 2006, the Royal Society chastised Exxon for supporting scientific research challenging the “consensus”, ignoring the fact that funding for research supporting the AGW thesis outweighs that available to sceptics by at least three orders of magnitude.[34]   Such tales are more reminiscent of the denunciations, show trials and purges of the Soviet era than of the dialectical and empirical imperatives of robust scientific inquiry. 

Will the reprehensible conduct of the catastrophists earn them the condemnation of history?  Or will they, like those who inspired, supported and maintained the DDT ban, be allowed to escape responsibility for their betrayal of science?  Time alone will tell.  Four centuries ago, theologians motivated by fear and calculated self-interest threatened Galileo with torture unless he abandoned his denial of Aristotelian geocentrism.  The explanatory power of scientific inquiry has undergone a miraculous revolution since then.  It is regrettable that human nature has not kept pace.

6.4          Science as a ‘baloney detector

If the catastrophists are right, then climate change is likely, according to the most alarming of the alarmists’ predictions, to result in mass disease, refugee movements, conflict, widespread starvation, and civilizational collapse. However, if the catastrophists are wrong and their recommendations are acted upon nonetheless, the result could be irrevocable damage to industrialized economies, and the volatilization of trillions of dollars that might have been put to better use. While either of these outcomes would obviously be important to strategic analysts, the environment in which the debate is taking place provokes a deeper concern: that the discussion has moved, at the instigation of the proponents of the AGW hypothesis, out of the realm of science and into that of politics – where the accuracy and rigour of the supporting science are all but irrelevant.

An hypothesis, Popper argued, must be falsifiable – which is to say, testable – or it is useless.[35] Data must be open and available to all; and all data must be incorporated, even (especially!) if they tend to disprove one’s hypothesis.  Error bars must be shown.  Results must be replicable. When faced with two theories that explain observed phenomena equally, we should choose, in obedience to the principles of scientific inquiry espoused by William of Ockham, the simpler (of course, as argued in Chapter 5, when one theory explains observed data and another does not, the choice is made for us). And consensus, that ineluctable touchstone of politics, is irrelevant. All of these principles, and many more, together form the basic components of the “baloney detection kit” (to use a phrase coined by Carl Sagan) that the average citizen needs in order to distinguish good ideas, arguments, and policies from bad ones.  The rules for scientific inquiry, according to Sagan, include a wide array of methodological requirements designed to minimize the possibility of error and deception:

… there must be confirmation of the ‘facts’…Encourage substantive debate by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view…Arguments from authority carry little weight…Spin more than one hypothesis…Quantify…If there’s a chain of argument, every link in the chain must work…when faced with two hypotheses that explain the data equally well…choose the simpler…[and] always ask whether the hypothesis can be, at least in principle, falsified.  Propositions that are untestable, unfalsifiable are not worth much.[36]

Which of these scientific principles has the AGW thesis, and the manner in which it has been defended and advanced, not violated?

Sagan’s last point is especially relevant, and is the same as Popper’s.  According to one atmospheric scientist, “climate models cannot be verified or falsified (if at all, because they are so complex) until after the fact.”  As a result, “they cannot be considered to be legitimate scientific products.”[37]  This question of non-falsifiability is key, because proponents of the AGW thesis now routinely defend their position by arguing that “the science is settled” and that the anthropogenic cause of climate change has now been “proven.”  But this, too, is an oxymoron.  No hypothesis can ever be “proven”; it can only be corroborated by experimental results, and any thesis remains corroborated only so long as no new results emerge to contradict it.  As Popper put it, “a positive decision can only temporarily support [a] theory, for subsequent negative decisions may always overthrow it.”[38]  Any theory survives only until it meets data it cannot explain.  And in the case of the AGW thesis, there has never been empirical corroboration – there was no “positive decision” in the first place, to use Popper’s words.  This is why the AGW thesis, notwithstanding persistent attempts by its advocates at resuscitation, lies in ruins.

If the principles of sceptical scientific inquiry are vital to the citizen, is it not more important that they be upheld, protected, and most importantly practiced, by scientists themselves?  And is not maintaining the integrity and credibility of the scientific method vital to those who profess to be the decipherers of the grand currents in global events? And still more so, for the crafters of public policy?

And therein lies the difficulty against which any scientist, especially those employed by government, must remain vigilant. Policy is about making choices between competing priorities, and defending those decisions.  It is a form of advocacy, which is the antithesis of scientific analysis, and which must strive always to remain wholly objective and politically neutral.  Policy may (indeed, must) be informed by analysis – but it cannot be permitted to colour analysis.  There must be a complete and impermeable separation between the two worlds. When that barrier is crossed – when advocacy is allowed to influence science, or when scientists themselves become advocates – then the method upon which the credibility of the scientific enterprise depends has become irrevocably corrupted.

Falsifying or misrepresenting data are grave sins against science, as is the suppression of dissenting voices. The catastrophists are guilty of all three, and more.[39]  When advocates for one side of a question argue that “the debate is over”, every scientist’s – indeed, every citizen’s – internal baloney detector should begin beeping frantically. No scientific debate is ever “over”.  The refusal to entertain doubts about a matter of science has vouchsafed mankind innumerable fallacious, ridiculous, and even lethal doctrines, ranging from geocentrism and alchemy to more recent fascinations with eugenics and Lysenkoism. As noted above, the corruption of science by policy can have tragic results, as evidenced by the thirty-year ban on DDT – a policy decision based on misrepresentation of scientific results by advocates for one side of a debate, and one that, according to some estimates, may have led directly to more deaths than the Second World War.

Maintaining the integrity of the scientific method is less about asserting the validity or error of the AGW thesis than it is about mankind’s long history of grievous errors of reasoning – and its lamentable collective tendency, as Mackay put it, to fall prey to “extraordinary popular delusions.” The scientific method, in essence, is a self-correcting error detection mechanism that is an evolutionary product of eons of mistakes.  It is how we protect ourselves against failures of reason.  All of our past mistakes should have taught us humility about the value of crude predictive mechanisms in the face of complex systems; and they should have made us wary about mankind’s predilection to be stampeded by calculated demagoguery (which MacKay, in the other half of the title of his chef-d’oeuvre, dubbed “the madness of crowds”).  Our failures should have taught us how to weigh arguments better; to distinguish between what we know, what we think we know, and what we want to believe; and to insulate the scientific process against non-scientific influences, regardless of their source.  Science is, or is supposed to be, the honest and unfettered search for fact, wherever it may be found.  This should be the guiding ethic for all who undertake research.  And the results of that research should (indeed, must) be presented without cavil or concern about how uncomfortable, inconvenient, or ugly the facts may be.

6.5          Science and sophistry

So is it with wisdom; he who sells it for money to the first bidder we name a sophist, as though one should say a man who prostitutes his wisdom.[40]

Their primary talent was rhetoric.  They were not concerned by ethics or the search for truth.  Long-term consequences, indeed reality in most forms, did not interest them.  What mattered was their ability to create illusions of reality which would permit people to get what they wanted.[41]

The complaint against the sophists…was less that they needed money to live than that they were too often willing to tailor their teaching to the prejudices of those who would pay.[42]

When the great climate panic eventually comes to an end, the saga of the “Hockey Stick” will be remembered as one of its scientific nadirs.  The “Hockey Stick” controversy refers to the publication in the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report (TAR, 2001) of the now-infamous “hockey stick graph”, derived from a 1998 paper by Mann, Bradley and Hughes, and purporting to show that, after a thousand years of nearly-flat temperatures, there was a sudden, rapid spike in average global temperatures coinciding roughly with the surge in human industrial activity and consumption of fossil fuels from the mid-1800’s and onwards, that vastly exceeded any temperatures of the previous millennium (see figure 16).[43]  On the basis of this graph, the Summary for Policymakers issued by the IPCC for the “Scientific Basis” chapter of the TAR opined that it was “likely” that the 1990s were the warmest decade, and 1998 the warmest year, of the past millennium.[44] 

The first thing that anyone remotely familiar with history, let alone climate history, notices about the “hockey stick graph” is that the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) and the Little Ice Age (LIA) – both of them well-documented, world-wide phenomena[45] – were conspicuous by their absence.  There is no serious scientific disagreement about these events; both had even been acknowledged by the IPCC in previous reports (see figure 1).  The MWP and LIA figured heavily in contemporary literature, and are as well-known to historians as the wars and socio-political upheavals that took place during those periods. 

The mysterious disappearance of the MWP and LIA in the Mann et al. paper led a number of researchers, historians and statisticians to pose questions about the data and methodology employed by the authors.  These questions became increasingly persistent as lead author Michael Mann attempted to deflect requests for the data and methods used to produce the graph.  Despite the baffling absence of the MWP, the “Hockey Stick” was hailed by the proponents of the AGW thesis as a “smoking gun” supporting the IPCC’s key political contention, that human activity was warming the planet.  Accordingly, the graph received top billing in the 2001 TAR (appearing five times in the Third Assessment Report, “each time in an unusually large and colorful format compared to other data series”,[46] and featuring as a full-page graphic in the 2001 Summary for Policymakers).  It was subsequently reproduced worldwide (including being disseminated to all Canadian households in a pamphlet published by Environment Canada).

Figure 16 - The “Hockey Stick” graph from Mann et al. (1998) as reproduced in the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report (2001)[47]

The problem is that it was nonsense.  As detailed by McIntyre and McKitrick in a peer-reviewed study published in Energy and Environment in 2003, the Mann et al. paper contained “collation errors, unjustifiable truncation or extrapolation of source data, obsolete data, geographical location errors, incorrect calculation of principal components and other quality control defects.”[48]  It was subsequently discovered that Mann’s data had been “transformed in such a way as to inflate the weight assigned to proxies with upward slopes in the 20th century,” and that Mann had discovered that removal of a small proxy sample (bristlecone pines, representing only 16 out of 400 proxies) caused the “hockey stick” to disappear – but that he had not reported this result.[49]   McIntyre and McKitrick further determined that if the methodology employed by Mann et al. were applied to accurate proxy data, the Medieval Warm Period reappeared, showing – as has always been known – that temperatures were several degrees warmer hundreds of years ago than they are today.  McIntyre and McKitrick concluded – charitably – that the errors in Mann et al. were “primarily an artefact of poor data handling, obsolete data and incorrect calculation of principal components.”[50]  McCullogh and McKitrick, in a later article on academic due diligence, characterized the work by Mann, et al., as a “misrepresentation.”[51]

But the story didn’t end there.  Upon further investigation, McIntyre and McKitrick determined that Mann’s algorithm was actually designed to “mine for hockey sticks”, and that it would produce a graph that trended upward at the right-hand end even if totally random data were inserted.  They also determined that the disappearance of the Medieval Warm Period had been due to the removal of a proxy data set (which Mann had saved under the revealing file name “CENSORED_DATA”), and that, if the “censored data” were re-inserted into the algorithm, the Medieval Warm Period suddenly reappeared.[52]  The US National Research Council later evaluated Mann’s work and upheld the criticisms levied by McIntyre and McKitrick, noting, inter alia, that the Hockey Stick “failed key statistical significance tests”; “relied on invalid bristlecone [pine] data for its shape”; “used a PC [principal component] technique that biased the shape”; “and, like other proxy reconstructions that followed it, systematically underestimated the associated uncertainties.”[53]

The Hockey Stick was subsequently investigated by an independent group of scientists chaired by statistician Edward Wegman of George Mason University.  This group’s report, published in 2008, found the arguments by Mann et al. to be “obscure and incomplete”, and the criticisms levied by McIntyre and McKitrick to be “valid and compelling”.[54]  In their conclusions, the committee noted that “The politicization of academic scholarly work leads to confusing public debates”, and stated that they

were especially struck by Dr. Mann’s insistence that the code he developed was his intellectual property and that he could legally hold it personally without disclosing it to peers. When code and data are not shared and methodology is not fully disclosed, peers do not have the ability to replicate the work and thus independent verification is impossible.

The committee further added that the failure by the paleo-climate community to maintain close cooperation with statistical experts despite their deep reliance on statistical methodology was a concern; and noted that paleo-climate reconstruction via proxy data is not particularly illuminating, and that what is really needed is a “deeper understanding of the physical mechanisms of climate change.”[55]   In other words, as noted above, you can’t model a system that you don’t understand.

What Mann and his co-authors did went beyond simple error.  By designing a statistical algorithm that produces the desired result no matter what data are fed through it, and by “censoring” a troublesome dataset in order to dispose of the MWP and the “ugly fact” that it was significantly warmer long before human industrial activity got under way (which, as noted in a citation heading chapter 1 of this paper, the proponents of the AGW thesis had long been trying to “abolish”), Mann and his colleagues appeared to be crafting a scientific argument to serve a specific political agenda.  This of course did not stop the alarmists from referring to Mann’s work; the Hockey Stick played a central role in Al Gore’s film, and continues to reappear from time to time in documents issued by government agencies struggling to keep the great climate panic alive.  The spreading controversy over the graph was evidently too much even for the politically astute IPCC to stomach; when the Fourth Assessment Report appeared in 2007, readers found that the Hockey Stick graph had – like Lewis Carrol’s mysterious Snark – “softly and suddenly vanished away.”[56]

Mann continues to try to salvage the Hockey Stick, engaging his critics over and over again, and playing increasingly implausible statistical games in an attempt to corroborate the central contention of the AGW thesis.[57]  What is interesting in the tale of the hockey stick is the lack of scrutiny that Mann’s arguments received from the part of the political spectrum that benefited from his “results.”  This is a cautionary tale not only for the proponents of the AGW thesis, but also for those who oppose it: the only valid and useful means of advancing our understanding of a scientific problem is through strict adherence to the principles of scientific inquiry, including publication of all data and methodology so that other scientists can attempt to replicate one’s results.

Some proponents of the AGW thesis use their academic and/or bureaucratic credentials as a soap-box to advance their views.  James Hansen, the chief climate scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS), has been one of the most vocal proponents of the AGW thesis, and may be credited with launching the great climate panic during congressional testimony in 1988.  A close ally of Gore, Hansen is a persistent and extreme advocate for the catastrophist cause, making increasingly spectacular claims and statements, including that he has been “muzzled” by his government superiors (a claim somewhat at odds with the fact that, by 2007, he had given more than 1400 on-the-job interviews);[58] testifying in British court on behalf of individuals accused of environmentally-motivated vandalism; and calling for “the oil men to be locked up”, and tried for “high crimes against humanity”, both for their commercial activities, and for spreading doubt about the science underlying the AGW thesis.[59]  More recently Hansen has written op-ed pieces calling coal “the single greatest threat to civilisation and all life on our planet”, and stating that “[t]he trains carrying coal to power plants are death trains”, and that “[c]oal-fired power plants are factories of death.”[60]  He has even gone so far as to record video advertisements on behalf of environmental extremist organizations, calling on Americans to join protests in Washington, D.C., against coal-fired power generating stations.[61]  This is odd behaviour for a public servant.  It is even odder for a scientist.

His position as an employee of the US government, his appointment as the manager of a major scientific research institute, his claims of having been muzzled, and the apocalyptic nature of his rhetoric guarantee Hansen media attention.  His protestations have received wide coverage in the mainstream media, and he has testified on climate change all over the world.  Notoriety, however, is not the same as scientific credibility.  On 27 January 2009, Hansen’s former supervisor, Dr. John S. Theon, stated that Hansen had never been muzzled, and that he had embarrassed NASA through his alarmist claims, which were not supported by the agency’s understanding of the mechanisms of climate. According to Theon – who for more than a decade had been responsible for all weather and climate research in NASA – “Climate models are useless.”

My own belief concerning anthropogenic climate change is that the models do not realistically simulate the climate system because there are many very important sub-grid scale processes that the models either replicate poorly or completely omit….Furthermore, some scientists have manipulated the observed data to justify their model results. In doing so, they neither explain what they have modified in the observations, nor explain how they did it. They have resisted making their work transparent so that it can be replicated independently by other scientists. This is clearly contrary to how science should be done.[62]

Theon concludes bluntly that “there is no rational justification for using climate model forecasts to determine public policy.”[63]

Why do people listen to James Hansen instead of John Theon?  Hansen’s credentials as a scientist are no more convincing than Theon’s; and Hansen’s behaviour clearly violates the professional requirement for scientific objectivity.  There is no possible explanation for Hansen’s popularity beyond the fact that he is one of the purveyors of the great climate panic, instead of being a quiet, and therefore lacklustre, proponent of moderation, calm and reason.  But there must be more to it.  Why, for example, do people listen to Al Gore at all?  Is it his notoriety as a former Vice-President who has won both an Oscar and a Nobel Prize?  Is it the narrowness of his electoral defeat in 2000?  His willingness to speak publicly (for a significant fee)?[64]  Gore, by his own admission, is not even a scientist, let alone one specializing in any one of the complex branches of climate science that he regularly opines on; he is not even an expert, as his repeated and increasingly ludicrous errors and exaggerations demonstrate (e.g., his mystifying evocation, during recent congressional testimony, of the hostile climates of Venus and Mercury as examples of Earth’s fate if CO2 is not controlled – as though proximity to the Sun, the existing components of planetary atmospheres, and the inverse-square law governing the intensity of solar irradiation were irrelevant).[65] 

Part of the reason, of course, lies in the fact that people like Hansen and Gore make good headlines; they provide the mainstream media with a valuable product.  Human beings seem to enjoy the delightful frisson of terror, a phenomenon not only well-documented by psychologists, but readily visible in the otherwise inexplicable success of innumerable (and generally execrable) “horror” films.  Professional political advocates like Gore and Hansen rely for their credibility both on repeated media exposure and on the tone of their arguments.  A reasoned, balanced, thoughtful scientific appreciation of an interesting but poorly-understood phenomenon does not attract interest from news editors.  However, when Gore argues that sea levels are likely to rise 20 feet (which he still does, notwithstanding that this was one of the errors in Gore’s film that was specifically identified by Justice Burton as having no basis in science), or Hansen asserts that President Obama must take immediate action to save the planet – this is prime-time gold. 

“Between human beings,” Galbraith opines, “there is a type of intercourse which proceeds not from knowledge, or even from lack of knowledge, but from failure to know what isn’t known….Wisdom, itself, is often an abstraction associated not with fact or reality but with the man who asserts it and the manner of its assertion.”[66]  In other words, people who talk loud, long and confidently are often assumed to be experts.  But they might just be actors – or worse, demagogues.  High-profile, highly vocal catastrophists like Gore and Hansen enjoy credibility on climate issues not because they are more knowledgeable or credible than others, but rather because they have value as news-makers.  Cautious, temperate scientists who speak in conservative, nuanced terms about complex areas of inquiry often make poor interview subjects compared to energetic prophets bearing warnings of impending doom.  So Hansen and Gore are called to appear more often, which in turn increases their perceived credibility in the eyes of the public.  That their credibility is a product of their visibility and their vehemence, rather than any special knowledge or expertise is rarely understood; all that matters is “the man who asserts it and the manner of its assertion.”  It is ironic, incidentally, that Galbraith made this observation in reference to individuals whose uninformed ramblings precipitated the stock market crash that ushered in the Great Depression.

The highly lucrative notoriety of a climate prophet may be acceptable to Al Gore, who when all is said and done is not a scientist, but rather a lobbyist for an increasingly extreme political agenda.  But how does one explain James Hansen, whose credibility derives in part from his scientific laurels, and in part from his government sinecure? If he believes everything that he says, then he has betrayed his metier by cleaving adamantly to theory over data, and wilfully blinding himself to observed evidence that strongly suggests that his preferred interpretation of the sources of climatic variability is deeply flawed.  Compounding this, he has adopted extremist rhetoric, calling publicly for the silencing, even the prosecution, of all who disagree with his perspective.  This is the behaviour of a political demagogue or a hellfire-and-brimstone televangelist.  It is not the behaviour of a scientist. 

Regrettably, Hansen has company – although not as much company as most people think.  And the numbers are shrinking as increasing numbers of serious scientists abandon the orthodoxy.  One of the startling facts that will come to light when the climate panic finally receives its long overdue post-mortem examination is how few scientists were actually involved in creating and sustaining it – how feeble the much-vaunted “consensus” really was.  The alarmists tend to count silence as assent, and this is not always the case.  As noted above, more than 31,000 American scientists have signed the late Frederick Seitz’s “Global Warming Petition.”  How do these numbers compare to the IPCC effort?  The preparation of the 2007 Summary for Policymakers – the document agreed by the political representatives of governments to summarize the scientific reports prepared by the IPCC, which routinely makes claims that are not substantiated by the scientific documents upon which it is supposedly founded; and yet, which is doubtless the only one of the IPCC’s many publications that most policymakers ever read – involved only a few dozen actual scientists.  

According to the Associated Press, “Diplomats from 115 countries and 52 scientists” were involved in writing the Summary.”[67]  Fifty-two? Against 31,000?  Moreover, of the hundreds of scientists involved in the IPCC process (according to the presentation made by the organization’s president, Rajendra Pachauri, himself an economist, the production of the 4th Assessment Report involved some 800 contributing authors),[68] only about one in five – fewer than two hundred – has had some academic involvement with climate studies.[69] One wonders what sort of scientific authority so narrow a ‘consensus’ is supposed to represent.

It is clear from such numbers on which side of the balance – the alarmist, or the rational – the greater weight of scientific credibility lies.  And the revolt against even that narrow alarmist consensus is accelerating.  In 2007, 103 researchers and professors, many of them winners of awards and medals in meteorology, climate or related disciplines (two dozen of them Emeritus Professors), dispatched a letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations, stating inter alia that none of the observed climatic changes of recent years had been shown to lie outside of the bounds of natural variability; that the observed rate of warming over the 20th century is consistent with warming and cooling rates over the past 10,000 years; that there has been no net warming since 1998; and that “the current temperature plateau follows a late 20th century period of warming is consistent with the continuation today of natural multi-decadal or millennial climate cycling.”[70]

In March 2008, the Manhattan Declaration (which by late 2008 had garnered more than a thousand signatures, including nearly 200 from persons highly qualified in climate or related science) offered the following conclusions:

·         “That current plans to restrict anthropogenic CO2 emissions are a dangerous misallocation of intellectual capital and resources that should be dedicated to solving humanity’s real and serious problems;

·         “That there is no convincing evidence that CO2 emissions from modern industrial activity has in the past, is now, or will in the future cause catastrophic climate change; and

·         “That attempts by governments to inflict taxes and costly regulations on industry and individual citizens with the aim of reducing emissions of CO2 will pointlessly curtail the prosperity of the West and progress of developing nations without affecting climate.”[71]

Also in March of 2008, a poll conducted by the Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists and Geophysicists of Alberta found that, of more than 51,000 licensed specialists, 68% disagreed with the statement that "the debate on the scientific causes of recent climate change is settled."  Only 26% thought that human activities, such as the consumption of fossil fuels, were warming the earth, while 27% blamed other causes, including “volcanoes, sunspots, earth crust movements and natural evolution of the planet.”[72]  In January 2009, more than 650 scientists lent their names to a US Senate minority report challenging the “consensus” on anthropogenic global warming.[73] And more recently, as noted in the citation heading section 8.3 of this chapter, more than 100 scientists, nearly all of them holders of Ph.D.s, recently sent an open letter to President Obama, challenging his characterization of climate change as an “urgent challenge facing America and the world”.[74]  The snowballing declarations by highly-credentialed professionals demolish the claim that there is, or ever has been, agreement – let alone “consensus” – on the causes or potential consequences of climate change.

There is not even consensus among the scientists who contributed to the IPCC process.  In October 2007, an organization devoted to challenging the notion of “consensus”,, circulated a questionnaire to each of the 345 American scientists listed as having contributed to the IPCC’s “Climate Change 2007: The Physical Basis”.  54 of the participants responded.  Of these, only 14% said that a cooler climate was desirable, while 61% said that there was no such thing as an “ideal climate”.  44% did not believe that the present climate was unprecedentedly warm.[75]  Most significantly, only 20% of the respondents – 1 in 5 – agreed that human activity was the principal driver of climate change.[76]  Clearly, the majority of the respondents did not concur with the IPCC’s declaration, in the 2007 Summary For Policymakers, that “[m]ost of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic GHG concentrations.”[77]

For those scientists who do participate in the IPCC process, and who do understand the limitations of modelling and the important gaps in scientific understanding of how climate works – how much cognitive dissonance must they endure?  Do they simply constrain themselves to their own tiny corners of their profession, crafting their language carefully to ensure that they do not betray their principles too overtly, and yet still produce results sufficiently supportive of the AGW thesis to guarantee further funding?  One of the slanders routinely levied by the alarmists against those who dissent from the alleged “consensus” is that they must be in the pay of the “oil companies.”[78] Newsweek magazine, an unabashed cheerleader for the catastrophists, recently made much of the fact that Exxon was offering $10,000 for articles sceptical of the AGW thesis – but made no mention of the fact that, in 2001, James Hansen received a $250,000 Heinz Environment Award under a programme established by the father-in-law of Senator John Kerry,[79] whose Presidential campaign Hansen later publicly endorsed.[80]  Hansen has also been subsidized by George Soros’ artfully-named Open Society Institute to the tune of more than $700,000.[81]  Why is it permissible only for supporters of the AGW thesis to receive funding from special interest groups?

Leaving aside the question of why organizations with radical environmental agendas should be allowed to fund research that supports their biases but other industries should not (an attitude consistent with the fundamentally totalitarian instincts of the environmental lobby[82]), it is worth investigating where funding for “global warming” research comes from.  The answer, of course, is that the bulk of it comes from government.  A recent report by the Marshall Institute in the US concluded that, in 2004 alone, the US government provided more than $2B to support climate change science programs.  Total US funding for “global warming research” has been estimated at around $40B.  In 28 of the top 30 academic institutions performing climate research and development, more than 50% of all funding comes from government sources (these numbers are in addition to the tens of millions of dollars provided annually by “private foundations”).

“The study of climate change,” this report concludes, has become “a multi-billion dollar enterprise in the United States.”[83]  US Senator James Inhofe has estimated that the funding for research supporting the AGW thesis outweighs that received by “deniers” by a stunning ratio of 2500 to 1.[84]  It would be surprising if the availability of this deluge of ready cash did not entice scientists – who are, after all, only human – to choose the side with the bigger wallet, and to produce results likely to attract further funding.[85]  The dual impact of available research funding and political pressure may be irresistible; as Lindzen has noted, “When an issue becomes a vital part of a political agenda, as is the case with climate, then the politically desired position becomes a goal rather than a consequence of scientific research.”[86]

At time of writing, the Democrat-led US House of Representatives had just passed an historically unprecedented “economic stimulus” package approaching $800B in spending.  This package included, amongst many other things, $400M for “global warming research”, and $2.4B for carbon capture demonstration projects.[87]  What proportion of this enormous influx of “global warming research” money is likely to be designated for studies that dispute the AGW thesis? How much more pecuniary incentive will there now be for scientists to devise research likely to enable them to benefit from this incredible largesse?  And for that matter, what value is there in spending so much money on “carbon capture” technology when empirical data show that there is no correlation between carbon dioxide (let alone, human-produced carbon dioxide) and temperature?

(This last question alone demonstrates how costly the climate panic is becoming.  If, as I have argued above, human-produced carbon dioxide can not significantly influence temperature, then “carbon capture and sequestration” is nothing more than a hole into which governments will fruitlessly pour taxpayer money.  Might not that money, as Bjorn Lomborg has suggested, be put to better use?[88]  As noted in chapter 7 of this paper, “global warming”, according to Kalkstein and Greene, is projected by 2050 to be causing fewer than 800 additional deaths per annum in the United States.  But a thousand New Yorkers are dying in infancy per annum, right now.  How far might the $400M destined for “global warming research” go if it were instead dedicated to reducing infant mortality in New York City?  One of the key causes of infant mortality, after all, is poverty, and one-eighth of that total figure would be sufficient to provide $50,000 in welfare to 1,000 at-risk families.  Some perspective is required.)

At the end of the day, how many of the scientists who comprise the “consensus” so often cited by Al Gore and his supporters actually believe what they say?  And how many, like the sophists of ancient Athens, are merely choosing “to tailor their teaching to the prejudices of those who would pay”?  There are, after all, many benefits attending conformity with the vocal majority, not least of which is exemption from the persecution accorded non-conformists by the faithful.[89]  As Tenneke, himself a climate sceptic, notes,

The advantages of accepting a dogma or paradigm are only too clear. One no longer has to query the foundations of one's convictions, one enjoys the many advantages of belonging to a group that enjoys political power, one can participate in the benefits that the group provides, and one can delegate questions of responsibility and accountability to the leadership.[90]

The price, of course, is that “the moment one accepts a dogma, one stops being an independent scientist.”[91] 

Thomas Paine addressed the question of sophistry in The Age of Reason.  “Infidelity,” he said, “does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what one does not believe.

It is impossible to calculate the moral mischief, if I may so express it, that mental lying has produced in society.  When man has so far corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind, as to subscribe his professional belief to things he does not believe, he has prepared himself for the commission of every other crime.[92]

The only remedy, according to T.H. Huxley, is to “give up pretending to believe that for which there is no evidence.”[93]  Why should the vast, largely scientifically illiterate mass of humanity heed this appeal to reason, if scientists themselves do not?

Sooner or later, the vast, teetering, ideologically-driven edifice of the great climate panic will come crashing down.  One wonders whether the scientific community will then turn its collective microscope onto its own conduct, and not only call to account those who – whether through bad science or deliberate demagoguery – did their utmost to create and sustain the great climate panic.  Will posterity see their actions as a simple mistake motivated by an honest desire to rouse the world to what they mistakenly believed was an impending catastrophe?  Or will their actions be seen as a deliberate, politically and/or financially motivated betrayal of the most basic principles of scientific inquiry?

It has been said that ‘experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want.’  Scientists should view data that contradicts their theses as experience – not as a threat to their work, but as an important and helpful, even vital, complement to it.  To do otherwise – to cling adamantly to a favourite theory in the face of overwhelming contradictory evidence – is not scientific.  And to advocate, or worse, impose, legislative or regulatory measures on the basis of obviously flawed science is the height of unreason. 

Science – which might best be described as a rigorous method for learning from our mistakes – was supposed to shield humanity from the consequences of avoidable error.  It is the best tool available to us, and we forget, misuse, or subvert it at our peril.  If we insist on repeating past blunders; if we persist in subverting our own reason; if we are unable to learn from episodes of politically-generated panics based on bad or misrepresented science; if we are truly incapable of making proper use of the investigative machinery that we evolved to ease our species’ painful ascent from the African savannah to the stars – then we deserve not only to drink from the cup of folly, but to drain it to its last, bitter dregs.


[1] T.H. Huxley, Science and the Christian Tradition (New York: D. Appleton, 1896), 135.
[2] Some portions of this chapter appeared in the draft Annual Strategic Assessment 2007-08 (not published).
[3] Mackay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions, 293-94.
[4] Chris Lambie, “Sci-Fi Writer Helps Military Plot Future Strategies”, The Chronicle Herald, 13 February 2009 [].
[5] Possibly even less capable; America at present has no space launch vehicle with a throw-weight to match the Saturn V rocket that put men on the moon.
[6] Michael Crichton, “Aliens Cause Global Warming”, speech to the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, 17 January 2003 [].
[7] Mackay, “Extraordinary popular delusions”, 103.
[8] Stephen Davies, “The Great Horse Manure Crisis of 1894”, The Freeman, September 2004, 33 [].
[9] See the point in the previous chapter about HIV/AIDS and the attempt by Kalkstein and Greene to predict excess mortality due to “global warming” a half-century in advance.
[10] G. Gerlich and R.D. Tscheuschner, “Falsification of the Atmospheric CO2 Effects Within the Frame of Physics”, Institut fur Mathematische Physik Technische Universitat Carolo-Wilhelmina, 9 September 2007 [].
[11] D. Koutsoyiannis, et al., “On the credibility of climate predictions”, Hydrological Sciences Journal 53 (4), August 2008, 682.
[12] United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University press, 2001), 774.  Emphasis added.
[13] That said, projecting past trends into the future can sometimes offer surprising results.  In a paper published in the summer of 2007, Theodore Modis, a forecaster with Growth Dynamics in Switzerland, studied the 80-year correlation between sunspots, the US GDP, and the Dow-Jones Industrial Average.  Based on the known curves of sunspot numbers, Modis predicted that both the US GDP and the Dow-Jones average were “both above their long-term trend” and forecasted that they would “go over a peak around Jun-2008”.  Many portfolio managers are no doubt wishing they had paid more attention to Modis’ paper.  Theodore Modis, “Sunspots, GDP and the stock market”, Technological Forecasting and Social Change 74 (2007), 1508-1514 [available online at].
[14] Edward Lorenz, cited in James Gleick, Chaos: Making a New Science (New York: Viking Penguin, Inc., 1987), 18.
[15] A more cynical observer would add that the universal increase in temperature depicted by the models is not surprising in view of the political agenda they were designed to advance.
[16] Robert M. Carter, “Knock, knock: Where is the evidence for dangerous human-caused global warming?”, Economic Analysis & Policy, Vol. 38, No. 2 (September 2008), 189.
[17] From a presentation by David H. Bromwich, Andrew J. Monaghan, and David P. Schneider, “20th Century Antarctic air temperature and snowfall simulations by IPCC climate models”, slide 11 [].  This study was subsequently published as A.J. Monaghan, D. H. Bromwich, and D. P. Schneider, “Twentieth century Antarctic air temperature and snowfall simulations by IPCC climate models”, Geophysical Research Letters 35 (2008).
[18] Dr. J. Scott Armstrong and Dr. Kesten C. Green, Letter to Senator James Inhofe, “Your Request for an Analysis of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Greenhouse Gases”, 26 January 2009, [].  Dr. Armstrong is a founder of the International Journal of Forecasting, Journal of Forecasting, International Institute of Forecasters, and International Symposium on Forecasting, and the author of Long-range Forecasting (1978, 1985), the Principles of Forecasting Handbook, and over 70 papers on forecasting.
[19] Armstrong and Green (2009), ibid.
[20] “Testimony of Patrick J. Michaels to the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment of the Committee on Energy and Commerce of the U.S. House of Representatives, 12 February 2009”, []
[21] ibid.
[22] “President-Elect Obama Promises ‘New Chapter’ on Climate Change”,, 18 November 2008 [].
[23] Letter to President Barack Obama signed by 115 scientists, 94 of them Ph.D.s, published by the Cato Institute.  The text of the letter reads as follows: “We, the undersigned scientists, maintain that the case for alarm regarding climate change is grossly overstated. Surface temperature changes over the past century have been episodic and modest and there has been no net global warming for over a decade now. After controlling for population growth and property values, there has been no increase in damages from severe weather-related events. The computer models forecasting rapid temperature change abjectly fail to explain recent climate behavior. Mr. President, your characterization of the scientific facts regarding climate change and the degree of certainty informing the scientific debate is simply incorrect.” [ climatechange/alternate_version.html].
[24] See Annex A for a more detailed discussion of one scientist’s recent experiences in this regard.
[25] Professor Paul Reiter, Institut Pasteur, in testimony to the House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs, Second Report, Chapter 7 (“The IPCC Process”), 21 June 2005, paragraph 116 [].
[26] C.R. de Freitas, “Are observed changes in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere really dangerous?”, Bulletin of Canadian Petroleum Geology, Vol. 50, No. 2 (June 2002), 320.
[27] Marc Morano, “UN Blowback: More Than 650 International Scientists Dissent Over Man-Made Global Warming Claims”, US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, 10 December 2008 [].
[28] A non-exhaustive bibliographical listing of hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific papers critical of the AGW thesis has been compiled by [ documents/Madhav%20bibliography%20SHORT%20VERSION%20Feb%206-07.pdf].
[29] See
[30] See
[31] On 7 March 2009, the Centre for Psycho-Social Studies at the University of West England held a conference called “Facing Climate Change”, the goal of which – according to the organizer, Professor Paul Hogget (who himself gave a presentation entitled “The Politics and Emotions of Climate Change Denial”) – was to “examine denial from a variety of different perspectives – as the product of addiction to consumption, as the outcome of diffusion of responsibility and the idea that someone else will sort it out and as the consequence of living in a perverse culture which encourages collusion, complacency, irresponsibility.”  The programme, incidentally, included a recitation by the ‘Strange Sisters’, a ‘trio of Glastonbury poets’, entitled “Strange Sisters Say It For The Planet.”  What they said for the planet is not recorded [].
[32] Ed Pilkington, “Put oil firm chiefs on trial, says leading climate change scientist”, The Guardian, 23 June 2008 [].
[33] Senator James Inhofe of the US Senate Committee on Environment and Pubic Works maintains a record of unethical treatment of global warming sceptics by their supervisors and supposed colleagues.  See [].
[34] David Adam, “Royal Society tells Exxon: stop funding climate change denial”,, 20 September 2006 [].
[35] Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery, 9-10.
[36] Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (New York: Ballantine Books, 1996), 210-11.
[37] Dr. Henk Tennekes, “Three Essays on Climate Models”, January 2009 [ /commentaries_essays/tennekes_climate_models.html].  Dr. Tennekes, who is not affiliated with the Science and Public Policy Institute, is an atmospheric scientist expert in boundary layer processes, and is the former Director of Research for the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute.
[38] Popper, ibid.
[39] For a comprehensive overview of the attempts by the catastrophists to politicize climate science and exclude dissenting voices, see Richard S. Lindzen, “Climate Science: Is it currently designed to answer questions?”, a paper prepared for a meeting sponsored by Euresis (Associazone per la promozione e la diffusione della cultura e del lavoro scientifico) and the Templeton Foundation on Creativity and Creative Inspiration in Mathematics, Science, and Engineering: Developing a Vision for the Future, held in San Marino from 29-31 August 2008. [].
[40] A statement attributed to Socrates.  Xenophon, The Memorabilia, Book I, Chapter VI [].
[41] A description of the Sophists of 5th Century Greece.  John Ralston Saul, The Doubter’s Companion: A Dictionary of Aggressive Common Sense (Toronto: Penguin Books, 1995), 269.
[42] John Deely, Four Ages of Understanding (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001), 43-44.
[43] Michael Mann, R.S. Bradley and M.K. Hughes, “Global-Scale Temperature Patterns and
Climate Forcing Over the Past Six Centuries”, Nature, No. 392 (1998) pp. 779-787.
[44] “Summary for Policymakers”, Report of Working Group I of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2001), 2 [].
[45] maintains a database of scientists whose peer-reviewed work confirms the existence of the MWP.  At time of writing, this database numbered 663 scientists from (according to the Science and Public Policy Institute) more than 380 institutions, in 40 different countries.  See [http://www.co2science. org/data/mwp/scientists.php].   The MWP can neither be wished away, nor banished through statistical fiddling.
[46] B.D. McCullogh and Ross McKitrick, “Check the Numbers: The Case for Due Diligence in Policy Formulation”, The Fraser Institute, February 2009, 15 [ product_files/CaseforDueDiligence_Cda.pdf].
[47] “Summary for Policymakers”, ibid., 3.
[48] Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick, “CORRECTIONS TO THE MANN et. al. (1998) PROXY DATA BASE AND NORTHERN HEMISPHERIC AVERAGE TEMPERATURE SERIES”, Energy & Environment, Vol. 14, No. 6 (2003), 751.
[49] McCullogh and McKitrick, “Check the Numbers”, 17-18.
[50] McIntyre and McKitrick, “Corrections” (2003), ibid.
[51] McCullogh and McKitrick, “Check the Numbers”, 18.
[52] The whole sordid tale of the Hockey Stick graph – is recounted by McIntyre at his blog, Climate Audit [].
[53] McCullogh and McKitrich, “Check the Numbers”, 18.
[54] Edward J. Wegman, David W. Scott, and Yasmin H. Said, “AD HOC COMMITTEE REPORT ON THE ‘HOCKEY STICK’ GLOBAL CLIMATE RECONSTRUCTION” [ ~rmckitri/research/WegmanReport.pdf].
[55] Wegman et al., ibid., 51-52.
[56] The complete report, published in 2007, can be obtained at [].  But it did not go too far.  While the “hockey stick” was purged, Mann et al.’s dubious results continue to be incorporated into the IPCC’s findings, as part of the proxy record contribution to Figure 1 in Box 6.4 of Chapter 6 (“Palaeoclimate”) of the report of Working Group I.  Indeed, it says something about the scientific credibility of the IPCC that it responded to McIntyre and McKitrick’s thorough debunking of the Hockey Stick simply by taking the offending chart off the front page, but retaining its flawed outputs as part of the “Scientific Basis” for the AGW thesis.  The WG I report can be found here [ ipccreports/ar4-wg1.htm].
[57] Most recently, Mann has been involved as a contributing author in a paper that used statistical interpolation of sparse data to create an artificial temperature record suggesting that the Antarctic has warmed in recent years, when all actual temperature records – and the observed data of increasing ice thickness – show that it has been cooling (the paper, the lead author of which was Eric Steig, appeared in Nature, Vol. 457, No. 2278, 22 January 2009).  The methodology in this paper is critiqued by Christopher Monckton in “Warming Freezes the Southern Ocean: Another Mann-Made Climate Change”, Science and Public Policy Institute, January 2009 [ monckton_man_ made.html].  In reviewing the Steig/Mann paper, Dr. Kevin Trenberth, a lead IPCC author (and generally a stern critic of AGW skeptics), remarked, “It is hard to make data where none exist.”
[58] Eric Pfeiffer, “Climate scientist sees cover-up; Admits 1,400 interviews on warming issue”, The Washington Times, 20 March 2007, 1.
[59] Ed Pilkington, “Put oil firm chiefs on trial, says leading climate change scientist”, The Guardian, 23 June 2008 [].  It has been some time since anyone advocated holding heresy trials in either Britain or the US.
[60] James Hansen, “Coal-Fired Power Stations Are Death Factories.  Close Them”, The Guardian, 15 February 2009 [].
[61] See [].
[62] Marc Morano, “James Hansen’s Former NASA Supervisor Declares Himself a Skeptic”, US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, 27 January 2009 [].
[63] Marc Morano, “James Hansen’s Former NASA Supervisor Declares Himself a Skeptic”, ibid.
[64] When Gore spoke in Regina in April 2007, his fee was reportedly $125,000 CAD.  CBC News, “Al Gore Coming to Saskatchewan”, 5 April 2007 [ 04/05/gore-sask.html].
[65] Steve Milloy, “Al Gore and Venus Envy”, Fox News, 29 January 2009.  What is truly alarming is that not a single Senator present was sufficiently courageous to challenge this patently ludicrous comparison.  Or perhaps none of them knew better. [,2933,485064,00.html].  For the record, Mercury has only a trace atmosphere and is half as far away from the Sun as the Earth, with a surface temperature that ranges from cold enough to freeze nitrogen, to hot enough to melt lead.  Venus is two-thirds Earth’s distance from the Sun, with a surface temperature higher than Mercury’s, and an atmosphere that consists almost entirely of carbon dioxide, at a pressure 92 times greater than Earth’s – about the same as would be found under a kilometre of water.  Short of the Sun’s eventual death as a red giant (which is expected to happen in about five billion years, destroying any remaining life on Earth), no known physical process could make Earth’s atmosphere resemble those of either of these planets.
[66] Galbraith, The Great Crash, 75.
[67] Associated Press, “Scientists: China, Saudi Arabia Watered Down Global Warming Report”,, 9 April 2007 [,2933,264891,00.html].
[68] R.K. Pachauri, “IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Synthesis Report, Press Presentation”, 17 November 2007 [].
[69] After citing the IPCC as the authority for his position in a debate on climate change, climate alarmist William Schlesinger was asked about the climate credentials of the IPCC scientific body, and stated that “something on the order of twenty percent have had some dealing with climate.” [].
[70] Carter, “Knock, knock”, 189.
[71] Carter, “Knock, knock”, ibid.
[72] Gordon Jaromenko, “Causes of climate change varied: poll”,, 6 March 2008 [].
[73] Marc Morano, “U. S. Senate Minority Report: More Than 650 International Scientists Dissent Over Man-Made Global Warming Claims”.
[74] Letter to President Barack Obama signed by 115 scientists, 94 of them Ph.D.s, published by the Cato Institute.  [ climatechange/alternate_version.html].
[75] What is astonishing in this figure is that 56% percent of these scientists evidently knew nothing about the Medieval Warm Period, prior warmings, or prehistoric climate states.
[76]First-Ever Survey of IPCC Scientists Undermines Alleged 'Consensus' on Global Warming; Poll Exposes Disagreement and Confusion Among United Nations Scientists”, 8 November 2007, [].
[77] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Climate Change 2007 Synthesis Report: Summary for Policymakers (Valencia, Spain: 12-17 November 2007), 5.
[78] Svensmark and Calder, 226.
[79] See [].  Previous recipients of the Heinz award include Paul Ehrlich, author of the 1972 book, The Population Bomb, with its spectacularly wrong predictions.
[80] A mere correlation, as I have noted above, may not necessarily imply causation.  But it can sometimes raise eyebrows.
[81] Investor’s Business Daily, “The Soros Threat to Democracy”,  24 September 2007 [].  The Newsweek piece, entitled “The Truth About Denial”, was the magazine’s 13 August 2007 cover story.
[82] It is ironic that the part of the political spectrum that complained incessantly about George W. Bush “throwing the Constitution out the window” seems perfectly prepared to do the same in order to constrain carbon dioxide emissions.  In a March 2009 interview, the unquenchable Dr. Hansen complained that “The democratic process doesn’t quite seem to be working” in the battle to stem carbon emissions.  One wonders what ‘alternative political process’ he would prefer.  David Adam, “Leading climate scientist: ‘Democratic process isn’t working’”,, 18 March 2009 [].
[83] Jeff Kueter, “Funding flows for climate change research and related activities”, The Marshall Institute, February 2005, 2 [].
[84] Marc Morano, “Newsweek’s Climate Editorial Screed Violates Basic Standards of Journalism”, US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, 5 August 2007 [].
[85] According to The Great Global Warming Swindle, a film produced in the UK as a counter-argument to Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, the first wave of government funding for global warming research came from the Thatcher Government in the 1970s, in order to produce scientific evidence to break the political power of the coal industry (and undermine the coal miners’ union, whose strikes had crippled Britain’s economy).  If true, there is a certain irony in the notion that research originally intended to promote the widespread adoption of nuclear power as an alternative to coal has since been co-opted by political activists whose goal seems to be subverting the industrial capacity of the Western world.  For more information, see [].
[86] Lindzen, “Climate Science: Is it currently designed to answer questions?”, 1.
[87] “A 40-Year Wish List: You won’t believe what’s in that stimulus bill”, Wall Street Journal, 28 January 2009 [].
[88] See inter alia Bjorn Lomborg, The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World (2001); and Solutions for the World’s Biggest Problems: Costs and Benefits (2007).
[89] Examples of this are legion, but a representative sample of the kind of vilification that awaits the “heretics” at the hands of the AGW ideologues can be found here: [ daily-kos-whips-up-an-email-campaign-agains-meteorologist-who-spoke-candidly-about-climate-change/].
[90] Tenneke, “Three Essays”, 7.
[91] Tenneke, ibid., 7.
[92] Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, 1796, Chapter 1 [ twtp410.txt].
[93] Cited in Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World, 207.