We Need Publicly Funded Sceptics to Challenge CO2 Witch-Hunt

In 1589, Princess Anne of Denmark left to marry King James VI of Scotland. En route, her boat was struck by storms. Someone had to be blamed and, as was standard for the time, witches were the usual suspects.

More than 100 suspected witches were duly arrested and at least four people were burned at the stake. The fact James and Anne went on to be happily married, apparently unmolested by tempests, must have reassured them that justice had been done.

The supposed connection between human activity and the weather is an instinctive one and perhaps helps explain the remarkable persistence of incorrect views on climate change.

Every time there is a big cyclone a finger is soon pointed to the modern witch of carbon dioxide emissions. This continues despite there being no evidence that extreme weather events have increased because of global warming. The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change admits that “evidence suggests slight decreases in the frequency of tropical cyclones making landfall in the North Atlantic and the South Pacific”.

A significant issue with climate change science is that often only one side of the debate is heard, so clear exaggerations and untruths can remain unchallenged.

The US military pioneered the use of so-called red teams whose job was to argue against prevailing wisdom, making its strategies more robust. Climate change science would benefit from more red team analysis.

For example, if you listen to the mainstream media, you would not realise that since the last major attempt to forge a climate change agreement in Copenhagen six years ago, the science has become less certain and gives us less reason to worry. This is primarily because the globe’s climate seems less sensitive to increases in carbon dioxide than previously thought.

In just the past 18 years we have experienced one-third of the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide since the Industrial Revolution, but temperatures have not increased as expected.

Satellite data shows no or only minimal warming, and surface-based measures show a warming rate far below projected climate models. At a US Senate hearing this week, John Christy, a lead author on previous IPCC reports, presented evidence that, on average, climate models over-estimated the rate of warming by three times compared with what actually has occurred.

If these models cannot replicate the past, how can we rely on them to predict the future?

The IPCC has recognised this uncertainty by winding down its estimates of how sensitive the climate is to carbon dioxide levels.

In 2007 it reported a possible range of 2C to 4.5C, whereas last year it reported a range of between 1.5C and 4.5C. More recent evidence indicates that the figures could be even lower.

The greatest uncertainty revolves around debates about the climate impact of aerosols in the atmosphere. A paper published this year in the Journal of Climate by Bjorn Stevens from the Hamburg-based Max Planck Institute for Meteorology argues that the impact of aerosols on climate is significantly smaller than the latest IPCC report assumes.

Using these estimates shows that the upper bound of climate sensitivity should not be 4.5C but just 2.2C.

That is pretty close to what we were told the world needed to avoid dangerous climate change. Readers who are paying attention will note that some green activists are now saying we need to keep warming below 1.5C rather than 2C.

When the facts change, so can your arguments.

Whatever the facts, too much weight is placed on conformity in climate change science — most widely demonstrated by the inane argument that “97 per cent of scientists agree”.

Presumably 97 per cent of pundits agreed in the power of witchcraft in the 16th century.

Science is not a democracy. Scientific knowledge progresses from the ruthless exposure of competing hypotheses to criticism. But who is doing that critique of climate change theories today?

Public funding of climate change science almost exclusively flows to one side of the debate. Even just a small sliver of the reported $US100 billion ($139bn) fund that Paris is creating for developing countries could make a difference.

We need red team funding of scientists who take a different view on climate change. Even if such teams ultimately take positions that are incorrect, by challenging the climate zeitgeist they would make our scientific knowledge stronger. That means the policies we implement would be based less on dogma and more on a true appreciation of how carbon dioxide emissions affect our world.

This article was originally published in The Australian on 18 December 2015.

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  • S Kris
    commented 2016-06-27 22:01:04 +1000
    Dear Sen Matt,

    I support your other views, but on Climate Change you need to consider a few other things than close your mind to the possibility it might be happening.

    Don’t get me wrong. I supported John Howard’s stand to not do anything drastic and fall in line with the naysayers, and especially that Australian contribution was a piss in the ocean than that of the biggest populations of the world.

    Now that the USA and China have come to the party, the LNP collation need to stop looking so stupid.

    For one thing the science on weather and the science on climate are different things. It’s silly to look at weather events and claim the climate is or isn’t changing.

    What IS obvious is this. Fossil fuels are limited. Peak Oil was supposedly passed decades ago!

    But does it really matter if we run out in 10 or 100 years? Why can’t Australia become a world leader is solar and wind energy, and battery storage anyway instead?

    Australia will go backwards in a “progressive” ALP led government. The “conservative” LNP collation can prevent that from happening. But by embracing some Change: it’s okay to change our minds re Climate Change, now that the USA and China have agreed it IS an issue.

    Dont let the Greens and the ALP pull the rug out from under our futures with LNP short-sighted thinking!
  • Louise Brislane
    commented 2015-12-26 13:49:13 +1000
    I found this quote by John Swinton 1880 There is no such thing…as an independent press…there is not one of you who dares to write your honest opinions, and if you did, you know beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid weekly for keeping my honest opinion out of the paper I am connected with…and any of you who would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another job.
    If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in one issue of my paper, before twenty-four hours my occupation would be gone. The business of the journalists is to destroy the truth, to lie outright, to pervert, to vilify, to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread… We are the tools and the vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes.
    Last week I came across this recent information and jotted it down. Rupert Murdoch owns more than 175 other newspapers as well as Fox TV network, 21st Fox studios, several satellite networks, my space.com, Harper Collins & much more.
    So I just don’t understand why 90% of people believe what they hear and read in the news media via TV, radio or magazines? It is no wonder our world is in such a mess. This is why I don’t have a television for starters. If a catastrophe happens, someone will pass on the news, and then I can go onto nine news.com and watch the details and pictures if I deem it important to verify, mostly though, I get my information from alternative news sources that I can trust or I do my own research. That is what is so good with search engines.
  • Alfred Hatfield
    commented 2015-12-25 23:30:46 +1000
    In answer to your post:
    I see more extreme weather events than ever before just as I see more trrrorist acts and mass shootings than ever before. I have been here 73 years and I am seeing more and more of these events than I haver seen before – but where are they all happening? They all happen on the TV screen and in other media. Every day the media scour the world for disasters and terrorist acts like it has never done before and hypes them to make the world look a very un safe place. These things have always been going on but we haven’t been aware of them before.
    Just as the media is complicit in terrorism – terrorism doesn’t work without a media with the same aim as the terrorists – to spread the fear story far and wide: – the media is also complicit in the spread of climate alarmism. What we need is and honest media which can give in-depth analysis without the hype. Disbanding the ABC’s political wing would be a start – or perhaps sell it to the laboor-greens – so that the taxpayer is freed from paying for blatent political advertising.
    Thank you for your posts, I find them very topical.

    Paul Hatfield

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