21 Dec 2009

'Climate sceptics are like alcoholics' says Dr Wall

There is a moment in Malcolm Lowry's novel Under The Volcano that reminds me of climate change sceptics.

Doomed alcoholic Geoffrey Firmin is on a journey towards death but he insists to his estranged wife Yvonne and brother that he can drink a beer or two because beer isn't really alcohol.

For an alcoholic any excuse will do - even one as weak as the notion that alcohol isn't really alcoholic.

For climate sceptics any excuse is enough to keep on the oil they are addicted to.

The sceptics, like all addicts, resort to the lamest arguments to deny that there might be a problem.

For the right, climate denial is increasingly a matter of faith. Listening to scientists could be an indication of dangerous socialist inclinations.

Tory David Cameron likes to be seen cycling, albeit with the chauffeur carrying his bags, but climate denial is increasingly dominant in the Conservative Party.

Thatcher's former chancellor Lord Lawson is perhaps the best-known sceptic, but many of the most prominent Tory bloggers, such as Iain Dale, also reject the science of global warming.

I suspect that climate scepticism is virtually a membership requirement for UKIP. For the far-right, suspicion of scientists is nearly as popular as suspicion of Europeans and migrants.

Yet the facts of climate change are in essence very simple.

C02 in the atmosphere traps heat and leads to warming, temperatures are rising and this correlates with the highest CO2 for thousands of years. Thousands of peer-reviewed papers from scientists have established this link.

The arguments posed by the sceptics often lack logic.

David Bellamy, who seems to be an estranged BBC nature correspondent but at least has a scientific background, argues that CO2 is vital to life and is not a pollutant.

And? Water is vital to life and is not a pollutant but in large enough quantities it leads to drowning. CO2 in the atmosphere likewise alters the weather.

I once listened to Tory rightwinger Lord Monckton argue that the climate in the past had changed, suggesting that this refuted the role of "man-made" global warming. It is true that temperatures in the past have changed and a range of factors have been responsible, but saying that there are other causes of climate change does not refute the role of CO2.

The creation of huge stores of fossil fuel in the form of coal and oil has made our planet habitable for animal life.

Millions of years of geological activity have taken CO2 from the atmosphere, making the atmosphere breathable for mammals and temperate.

Yet in a matter of decades we are burning fossils that have taken millions of years to be laid down. This has potentially catastrophic results.

The sceptics have been funded by the multibillion-dollar coal and oil companies. Indeed scientists have been under huge pressure to deny the reality of climate change, particularly in the US during the Bush years.

It is important to follow the money trail, but listening to their arguments to see if they hold true is far more valuable when testing the relevance of climate sceptics.

A close examination of the sceptics' argument is extremely instructive. It reveals not a theory backed by evidence, let alone peer-reviewed papers, but a set of paradoxical claims.

Any argument will apparently do. And the sceptics seem to disagree with each other more than with the scientific mainstream.

Professor Stefan Rahmstorf, from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, notes that sceptics can be divided into at least three different and largely contradictory species.

Trend sceptics deny that temperatures are rising. They argue that climate data is collected in cities where human activity artificially raises temperatures, climate change is an artefact of flawed data collection. However weather balloons are just one control that prove this to be false.

The fast-disappearing trend sceptics argue when presented with data that the scientists concerned are part of a conspiracy and lie.

Then there are attribution sceptics, who argue that warming is occurring but isn't caused by emissions. Sunspots are a favourite theory, while Piers Corbyn, the meteorologist brother of left Labour MP Jeremy, has a magnetic theory of climate change.

But such theories are contradicted by scientific data which provides both a model of the greenhouse effect and solid data showing that CO2 is rising with temperatures.

Last are the impact sceptics, who don't deny rising temperatures or reject the link with C02 emissions but say that warmer temperatures are beneficial.

The published statements of the sceptics are full of spin and internal contradiction. It is instructive to reflect that sceptics stole 10 years of emails from climate researchers at the University of East Anglia and dug out one or two suspect statements about tree-ring data.

Scientists are imperfect and science, especially the science of climate change, is uncertain. Science is rarely immune from social influences, but scientific revolutions are propelled by data and the construction of testable alternatives. The sceptics are certainly not using the data to construct an alternative theory.

They are killing us with their words and slowing effective action on climate change. Now they are moving on to a new argument - that it is too late to act and humanity should do nothing.

Ending the oil addiction requires that we introduce a green new deal to create clean energy and to take sensible steps to create an economy that works with rather than against nature.

Sadly the current framework of global climate policy does not provide an alternative. Its model based on carbon trading has so far failed to cut emissions.

The most destructive effect of the climate sceptics has been to throw a huge cloud of dust over the science of climate change. This has distracted us from the real debate that is required - how to replace the current global framework with policies that actually work to reduce emissions.

In Lowry's cult masterpiece, the alcoholic Firmin ends up quite literally in the abyss. The oil-addicted sceptics are taking humanity in the same direction.

Derek Wall is a former principal speaker of the Green Party.

More here


neil craig said...

Mr D. Wall, a former Marxist who now finds, as one of the Green Party leaders, eco-Fascism more congenial. His article is mercifully unaffected by the ravages of fact & consists of saying that sceptics are like addicts so there that proves it together with this gem of natural understanding:

"Millions of years of geological activity have taken CO2 from the atmosphere, making the atmosphere breathable for mammals and temperate".

Not geological but biological & millions is somewhat understating it.

Derek Wall said...

So the sceptic case is coherent and I am wrong?

Do tell me more?

Phil Walker said...

Thanks for posting this on my blog, Derek. There's a fourth kind of scepticism, which is what I was writing about.

Suppose someone accepts all the science, but says that your proposed policy is the wrong kind of policy. (This is my own view.) I'm not sceptical about the science, but rather about the left-wing economic policy you propose to deal with the very real problem we face. Isn't that where the debate needs to take place, rather than trying to tar policy sceptics with the brush of science scepticism?

Derek Wall said...

fair point, to some extent I am a policy sceptic because I don't think carbon trading works!

Although I do think it is fair to say that the various scepticism is are generally not coherent.

Policy debate while we may disagree is important.

Nice to have some measured disagreement, Phil, usually pay just shout when it comes to comment.

Feel free to comment policy wise.

Paul said...

Ah this has the foundations of a brilliant debate! Let’s bring it on. Personally I believe climate change is happening but am not at all convinced it is man made. By that I mean I don't know rather than being sceptical. I would love to see arguments for and against. Also Phil makes a good point what to do about it if it is?

neil craig said...

You want more try

Let me know if you think you find anything which comes even close to your demonstrated scientific illiteracy as quoted.

Bryan said...

Crossposted from Coyoteblog where Derek left a link.
Dude, differences in views between different people when talking about an issue isn’t inconsistency, it’s life. You talk about climate sceptics like we should be a single focused group (yes I went and read your article) but nothing could be further from the truth. We disagree with a scientific hypothesis and the consequences thereof for a multitude of reasons, and not everybody shares the same ones. It’s among the people banging the drum about global warming that you find the pressure to toe the party line and march in lockstep.

Bryan said...

Correction, my earlier post was crossposted from Climate-Sceptic. Coyoteblog is a seperate blog run by the same author.

Bryan said...

If anyone does want a fairly coherent view of some of the problems that sceptics believe exist with the science of global warming they should take a chunk of their time and visit. http://www.climate-skeptic.com/phoenix
This is a 90 min video that lays out the views of the owner of Climate-Sceptic, Warren Meyer. Warren is a graduate of Princton (Degree in Aero Space Engineering) and Harvard (Buisness). He owns his own buisness where he manages campgrounds and outdoor recreation centers arround the US. (Any errors in this resume are mine, I'm doing this from memory.)
Just a small note, I don't agree with everything that he says in the video, but what Derek calls a lack of coherency, I would call being critical minded and thinking for myself.

Roly said...

Mr N Craig, carbon capture and release is all part of the natural biological carbon cycle but it takes quite unique conditions (primarily the conditions created by specific continental configurations) to ensure that the carbon does not decompose and is buried. That is a geological process.

And the conditions that are favourable, especially for coal, have not occurred that often in the past few hundred million years so Derek's 'millions' is not as understated as you may think.

neil craig said...

Continental drift, which appears to be what you are thinking of, has absolutely nothing to do with the creation of coalfields, or peat bogs as they were once known, nor, except with abiogenic oil which all peak oil believers know doesn't exist, with oil fields.

The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has been going down since oxygen started replacing it several billion years ago.


jon Barrett said...

Derek, thanks for this interesting post. I think your metaphor is apt. But I would say that we are everyone one of us who lives a Western lifestyle the alcoholics - though each of us is at different stages of accepting our addiction.

Some of us are fighting it by attempting low carbon lifestyles. Others of us want to fight it but sometimes the weight of what is 'normal' in everyday life going on around us is just too hard to resist and we relapse. And most of us are still denying that we even have a problem.

Like all alcoholics we stand little chance of recovery until we are forced to confront our problem - which for most of us means hitting rock bottom. By which I mean the shocking first-hand experience of severe climate impacts.

It would maybe be more apt to say that the vocal sceptics who command so much media attention are the lobbyists who persuade us to part with our money at the bar by promoting the corporate interests of the alcohol industry. They are attractive to us because they permit us to carry on the drinking that we enjoy so much.

And all the drinking holes that we habitually frequent to indulge our addiction are the momentum of consumer society in which it is easy to be persuaded by like-minded drinking buddies that our damaging habit is perfectly normal and acceptable.

I've also used the same metaphor (from personal experience) here:

Anonymous said...

I think the welcome afforded Mugabe and Chavez put to a lie that Copenhagen had anything whatsoever to do with the environment. The pathetic neo-communists and their media and political enablers simply trying to seize our freedoms under the guise of climate change.

From an article by the brillant Dr. Thomas Sowell today;

Like anything valuable, science has been seized upon by politicians and ideologues, and used to forward their own agendas. This started long ago, as far back as the 18th century, when the Marquis de Condorcet coined the term "social science" to describe various theories he favored. In the 19th century, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels distinguished their own brand of socialism as "scientific socialism." By the 20th century, all sorts of notions wrapped themselves in the mantle of "science."

"Global warming" hysteria is only the latest in this long line of notions, whose main argument is that there is no argument, because it is "science." The recently revealed destruction of raw data at the bottom of the global warming hysteria, as well as revelations of attempts to prevent critics of this hysteria from being published in leading journals, suggests that the disinterested search for truth-- the hallmark of real science-- has taken a back seat to a political crusade.

ザイツェヴ said...

All of this would've been much more effective if we didn't read those East Anglia e-mails for ourselves. But now we know what actually is going on and so it's not about skepticism anymore. It's about knowing for certain that a massive fraud was perpetrated.

Sheppard said...

The revelation of the "climate-gate" emails shows clearly that being a AGW believer is more about religion than science. The scientific method is not based on choosing only the data that fits your hypothesis, but involves looking at all of the data objectively. I do not believe anyone can say that global warming is happening with any certainty because of the corruption and distruction of data and the lack of honest and open peer review.

As for the "true believers" that support the media consensus on AGW, you would do well to remember the life of Galileo Galilei. During his time, the science was settled proving that the Earth was the center of the universe...

Derek Wall said...

Not reading my article are you, I wonder who was paid to steal emails from all the research stations, pretty pathetic to come up with such thin evidence.

Still people like you in the 1960s said that there was no firm link between smoking and cancer,

Think of all the deaths caused by tobacco scepticism!

smacklin said...

I really do hope that someone got a nice big fat check from OPEC for hacking into the East Anglia CRU. If not. I'd be wiling to make a donation. I don't have the resources of a Saudi Prince or Hugo Chavez but I'd be wiling to kick in a little.

No matter how hard you try, hurling unfounded accusations at the unknown source of the CRU emails, does not change their content.

Derek Wall said...

ten years of data including private emails and I wonder how many others were hacked into, used like a good holocaust revisionist to ignore a mountain of data on the other side.

This is a bit thin.

So do you think temperatures are not rising? Or do you think they are rising but this is caused by magnets? Or do you think they are rising it is caused by emissions but you would rather take your opec cheque?

Or do you like me disagree with the policies of carbon trading being used? Which is perhaps a strong point.

neil craig said...

Derek since you use that line of argument you must, if not a total hypocrit, consider yourself to be "like" the people in the 1500s who burned old ladies for being witches & Jews for killing Christian children & decried sceptics who said there was no proof.

Scepticism is not a vice nor is credulity a virtue.

You ask "So do you think temperatures are not rising?"

It is a simple statement of fact, denied by no honest person, that temperatures have declined over the last 11 years & declined sharply over the last 2. Do you deny that?

Derek Wall said...

so Neil you are one of the deniers who thinks temperatures have gone down not up.

Great comfort to people in Bangladesh with the seas lapping up....perhaps Bangladesh doesn't exist and maps like temperature charts are part of the conspiracy.

Good luck arguing with the deniers like Piers Corbyn who have looked at the temperature readings but think it is not due to CO2.

smacklin said...

I don't deny for a moment that the climate is changing. Over the course of the hundreds of billions of years the planet has been around, the climate has changed constantly. There have been warm periods - warmer than today and warmer than most AGW catastrophic predictions - and there have been ice ages.

Climate changes for all those billions of years was a naturally occurring phenomenon. I have seen nothing to credibly suggest that the current climate change is any different.

DocRichard said...

Smacklin, do you deny that CO2 absorbs infra-red radiation, or do you just deny that it has increased its concentration by 36% since the Industrial Revolution?

smacklin said...

As Lee Gerhard, geologist and reviewer for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change notes:

The most effective greenhouse gas is water vapor, comprising approximately 95 percent of the total greenhouse effect.

Carbon dioxide concentration has been continually rising for nearly 100 years. It continues to rise, but carbon dioxide concentrations at present are near the lowest in geologic history.

Temperature change correlation with carbon dioxide levels is not statistically significant.

There are no data that definitively relate carbon dioxide levels to temperature changes.

The greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide logarithmically declines with increasing concentration. At present levels, any additional carbon dioxide can have very little effect.


Derek Wall said...

Back in the 1950s people like you argued that smoking didn't cause cancer....you muddied the water enough to kill a lot of people.

Not that you care, any lie will do to prevent action, when you have oil companies to look after.

By time it is too late, you will be minted some new lies for your corporate masters.

smacklin said...

The biggest problem I have is that the damned oil companies are so slow in paying. I mean I have been publicly questioning the Church of Global Warming orthodoxy for years and I haven't gotten my first check yet.

It's getting to the point where my only options are to get on the AGW bandwagon to spite them or sue them for lack of payment.

I don't know where they get off expecting me to help them lie to the world for nothing.

Sometimes I wonder though if the real problem isn't the willingness of the Global Warmers to manipulate data in order to further a global socialist/anti-capitalist/anti-freedom political agenda.

The climate is changing. The climate has changed in the past. The climate will change again in the future. There is nothing we can do to stop it.

Perhaps it would be wiser to focus our energies and resources on dealing with that reality.

Derek Wall said...

Smacklin, I think if you did a better job they might give you some cash.

Lee Gerhard is a petroleum geologist and has provided no citations for the opinions on the ice blog.

You are all oil addicts as far as I can see.

The problem is that people will die because of your opinions, scepticism is pretty much a cover for hostility to the environment and humanity.

smacklin said...

And yet somehow your insults are ineffective. They have no effect on either me or reality. That must be so frustrating.

neil craig said...

"addict" is a medical term which Mr Wall would certainly not use if he had no evidence that we were medically addicted to oil, & if he were in any way whatsoever honest. I await seeing that evidence.

The allegeation that sceptics are murderers is, of coutrse, a disgusting lie. Made more disgusting by the fact that Mr Wallm i8s a senior member of the British part of the Grenn mobvement - a wholly corrupt racist & Nazi organisatio9n which has benn responsible for more killings than Hitler, much more.

I note that every single other leader of the Green party who is in any way whatsoever a decent human being has come on here to dissociate themselves from this fascist filth.

Anonymous said...

I believe that the changes we are experiencing are due in large part to the natural scheme of things. In other words, the earth is always changing and will continue to do so. As for "our" part in the changes we see, I'm sure that we've had a minor impact on the atmosphere. However, we're not destroying it. It is also my firm belief that we are responsible for caring for the world we live in, but I do not in any way feel that all this global warming/climate change is solely due to the mistreatment of the earth. These things go in cycles. Louisiana hadn't seen any real snow accumulation in about 30 years. Just last December (2008) we had a significant snow fall. And again the first week in December 2009. Just this morning I watched snow flurries outside my office! This is a real oddity for us! But back in the 1940's and 50's snow was NOT so rare. My parents vividly remember many, many winters when it snowed enought to build snowmen and play in the snow. I plan to continue to live "green". Not because Al Gore says so but because it just makes good sense. Very little that Al Gore has ever said or done made any real since except for the fact that he has made millions off the ignorance of the public who are willing to buy into his BS. Gore lives in a home that is anything but GREEN. He doesn't practice what he preaches. If he did, his home would not only be more efficient, but a lot smaller than it is.

John Hooper said...

The science is settled. If you question it you're no better than an atheist.

Golders Greens said...

I note Neil Craig's blogs seem to revolve around such sober and realistic technologies as Space Elevators. Try smoking less of the "space elevators" Neil before coming up with your nonsense.