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November 11th 2015 print

Peter Smith

Warmism’s Six Degrees of Separation

How, in the midst of alarmists' tireless headline-grabbing, can common folk form a considered view? The truth is that we can’t. We are  all in the hands and at the mercy of the political elite. That should make us all feel safe in our beds

baffledI find it taxing to discuss the climate with those who are unabashed global warmists (GWs). I don’t mind disagreements per se but, I am sorry, most GWs are muddled-headed wombats when the matter proceeds beyond the notion that the planet is warming to what should be done about it, the practicalities and the cost. I want to help.

Categorisation is a helpful tool to make sense of complicated situations. In this case it might help to set down a broad classification of beliefs. Now any broad classification involves a fair degree of fudging. Bear that in mind.

I will go in just six steps; from the extreme GWs to the sceptics. Attributions are indicated in brackets.

  1. “It ain’t ‘alf  ‘ot, mum. We’re doomed I tell you. Doomed!” Fossil fuels must remain where they lie, only sun and wind will save the day. ( Deep Greens)
  2. The temperature’s rising and it isn’t surprising – that coal and gas is a pain in the posterior. They must be phased out as soon as possible, anything else is irresponsible. (Light Greens)
  3. It’s happening, that is true, but don’t get in a stew. We have time to think up something new. (Lomborg and others)
  4. Maybe it’s happening, maybe it’s not. Let’s keep our heads and proceed with caution; lest we throw our money away, commit self-harm and lose the farm. ( Light Sceptics)
  5. From left field, or is it right field? “It’s getting greener. The plants love warming and CO2. Let it rip, man, it’s a boon for me and you. (Matt Ridley and others)
  6. It’s a scam from go to woe. (Deep Sceptics)

I realise that this erudite classification is not absolutely perfect, but it may allow some people of different views to stay friends when they understand that they are not far apart, but just one step. My emotional inclination puts me in classification 6 — and, unfortunately, people can spot this because of my conservative political demeanour. Those in classification 6 also annoy greenies most, and this is an incentive to be there. But that is a childish reason for pinning one’s colours to the mast and beneath me (mostly).

Intellectually, if you will overlook the pompous connotation of the word, I am in classification 4, with a leaning also towards 5, but have no implacable objection to 3 and could be dragged there by events. I could not be dragged to 1 or 2 because they are wholly impractical.

I am pretty sure GW has happened to some degree, going by surface land and ocean measures. I simply don’t know whether and/or by how much fossil fuel is responsible, or whether warming will resume, having stalled since circa 1997/1998.  The advantage of the greening of the planet (classification 5) sounds logical and persuasive, but I simply don’t know enough to weigh that against the potentially adverse effects of warming.

The scientific opinion differs, albeit that the weight of view – so far as I can tell – still appears to favour the man-made hypothesis. However, I have been troubled that some scientists seem out to seek affirmation of this hypothesis, instead of trying in Popperian fashion to reject it. All too often they rush to retro-fit explanations when their predictions go awry – as they often have. Mind you, of itself, this does not prove the hypothesis wrong.

But, the most telling point I would like to make about the science is that I don’t know. More than that, as a non-climate scientist, I have no insight into the science worth speaking of at all. I say, in all modesty, that my view of the science is worthless.

As my level of ignorance is mirrored in nearly all of the population, can people please stop saying that they believe, or don’t believe, in the science? Vanity, all is vanity. Sometimes, when I hear someone saying this – usually that they “believe in the science” – I think I will go completely around the bend. The science itself is a black hole to most of us. Nothing comes out of it that is intelligible. If you doubt that, grab hold of a professional scientific climate journal and see how far you get.

Unfortunately, what we do get is pap for the masses. Tim Flannery and company saying things like ‘the dams are going to dry up’ and then popping up again with more doomsday predictions when they don’t. Never mind, if you don’t like those alarmist predictions there are others.

How, in the midst of alarmists’ headline-grabbing, can common folk form a considered view? Well the truth is that they can’t. We are in the hands of the political elite. That should make us all feel safe in our beds.

Peter Smith, a frequent Quadrant Online contributor, is the author of Bad Economics

Comments [6]

  1. Stuart says:

    One of the largest totalitarian con jobs I will probably ever witness in my lifetime, put me down as a six please.

  2. Bill Martin says:

    You are spot on, Peter, about the overwhelming majority being completely in the dark when it comes to science and most particularly in the shadowy world of climate science. Fortunately, most of us have a reasonable supply of gut-feeling and common sense. Applying those faculties to issues we can understand reasonably well – such as “unhomogenised” historical records of climate over the millinea and more recent as well as current wheater phenomena – we can fairly come to the conclusion that the GA alarmism story, with all its scientific gobbledygook is nothing but unadulterated bullshit, if you’d excuse the vernacular.

    The categorisation is very interesting and insightful, making for a good read, as usual.

  3. I am a 6. That catastrophic AGW is a hoax has actually been [almost] admitted by two of the UN climate people – Christine Figueras and Otto Endenhoffer [I'm not certain of the spelling of their last names] who conceded that the whole IPCC effort was as much if not more about ‘re-configuring’ the world’s economic system than it was about ‘controlling’ the climate.

  4. My take on all this is basically taken from Geology 101. That taught me, backed by evidence seen in rock formations, that the planet has cycled through Ice Ages and Warm Periods. I think that Plimer and Carter, both eminent geologists, refer to these periods a Snowball and Greenhouse periods. These guys (and many others) can even tell you how long these episodes lasted and how long the transitions from one episode to the other took. I don’t need that detail. I also know that matter can’t be created or destroyed. That tells me that these Snowball and Greenhouse cycles must have taken place at times when atmospheric concentration of CO2 was much, much higher than what it is now. Where else could all that CO2 have been before it was sequestered by the formation of carbonate rocks and later by the evolution of our forests? Put me down as a 6 please.

  5. Jack Richards says:

    There have been a number of warm periods since the invention of writing and the recording of history. Every warm period has been a time of technical and social advance and a period of plenty for all. Every cool period has been a time of regression, famine and war.

    No science is ever settled. There was a time when everyone thought that Newton’s explanation of the universe was the final word – until Einstein and Planck showed that it wasn’t at either the macro or the micro end. It works fine for every day events but Newton’s Laws stop working at very high speeds and the atomic level. There was a time when it was clear that disease was caused by bad smells and possession by demons – until the microscope was invented. In 1901 the head of the Us Patents Office proclaimed that the office should be shut down because “Everything that could be invented had been invented”.

    The science is not in; the science is never in.

    I’m in the 6th echelon. It’s a scam from go to woe.

  6. Bran Dee says:

    Is there not a lawyer amongst us who disturb the GW believers by charging Tim Flannery with causing public mischief?