The clock had yet to strike midnight, but it was close. At 10:46pm on Tuesday last week, Senator John Faulkner urged his Canberra Carbon Cargo Cult Club colleagues to continue “fighting climate change”. He squeezed in some late-night sceptic-bashing before the witching hour too; while ironically claiming that only “calm reasoned argument” could combat the “sneering anti-intellectualism” and “postmodernist drivel” of “denialists” – and thus restore public confidence in its quixotic crusade.
Such was the crushing weight of Faulkner’s delusions and misconceptions that Quadrant Online contributor Michael Kile deemed it nothing less than his citizen’s duty to pen a gentle and caring note in hope of banishing the fog that now clouds the ministerial mind. A faint hope, true, but concern for the addled obliges one to try.
Dear Senator Faulkner,
Perhaps it was the lateness of the hour; or the frisson of mid-winter anticipation that rippled through the House before the second act of the 43rd Parliament’s restoration drama, The Rivals.
Whatever the rationale for your Senate speech (from 10.46pm) on Tuesday 25th June, 2013, it is my duty – as a humble servant of truth and reason – to query certain aspects of it, especially on behalf of those good souls who were slumbering at the time, both inside and outside the House.
On Monday last you generously praised one of the Orthodoxy’s sacred texts; a recent report by the government’s Climate Commission on extreme weather in Warmerland, wisely making no mention of its critics (Eg: here, here and here).
Late the following evening you graciously brought to our attention “some of the international experience” on climate change. The object of your exposition this time was another highly revered text: The World Bank’s November 2012 report – Turn Down The Heat: Why a 4 degree warmer world must be avoided.
Many of the report’s findings were indeed, as you said, “shocking”. You stressed the Bank has a reputation – like our Supreme Maker – for “conservative, sober analysis”. Like Him, it was not “renowned for melodrama.”
I agree it was not worth wasting time explaining that the Bank is hardly a disinterested observer of the climate space. It has a mission – to be a primary facilitator of multi-billion dollar “climate debt” transactions between the developed and developing worlds, just as He does between this and the heavenly realm.
Driven by an admirable “moral imperative”, it is no surprise the Bank wants ambitious action on climate change. And if by some alchemy it makes “good economic sense” to take from the rich and give to the poor, so much the better. (Imagine missing out on all that “climate financing”, “green growth” and “climate smart development”.)
Nor is it surprising the Bank’s President, Dr Jim Yong Kim, a compassionate physician and anthropologist – and many others – resorts to apocalyptic rhetoric about the Devil’s heat to try to shock the world into action.
“Even for those of us already committed to fighting climate change,” he wrote, “I hope it causes us to work with much more urgency.”
“All our work, all our thinking, is designed with the threat of a four-degree Centigrade world in mind. Such a world can, and must, be avoided.”
“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed — and hence clamorous to be led to safety — by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” — H L Mencken
As you so eloquently noted, Senator, ours is a credulous age. Too many are befouled in the mire of denialism. The “postmodernist drivel” you speak of is surely the crowning evil to emerge from today’s cesspool of misery and calamity.
Whether it arises from madness or mischief, it is always associated with, and inseparable from, mental illness and the malicious goal of harming reputations of the high and mighty; which the drivellers do by ridiculing our blessed climate-crusaders in the Academy and elsewhere – not to mention their other manifest inequities – that it is verily a complete marvel more have not recognised the duplicitous fire beneath their smoke and mirrors – and drivel.
But who, alas, can deny either that denialist numbers are increasing, or that this phenomenon reveals the negligence and laziness of some – such as your Climate Commission – whose duty it is to preach from public pulpits about how reducing carbon-footprints shall deliver all the blessings of climate-piety, including higher household energy bills and the sublime joy that will arise once we have settled our gargantuan climate-debts with the world’s more unfortunate.
It is, then, by grim necessity that governments (like yours) and international agencies (like the Bank) must act, must preach the gospel of – if not salvation, then – “climate resilience” and “compensation” with greater fervour; firstly by terrifying the credulous and then placating them with far-fetched stories about how your actions– admittedly without evidence to support their promised efficacy – supported by the power of prayer shall deliver (with His permission) weather that is, like Goldilocks’ porridge, just right for all everywhere.
So despite being “well aware of the uncertainty that surrounds these [4 degree plus] scenarios”, it was right and proper for the Bank not to discard them as alarmist fictions or the ravings of poor souls afflicted by lunacy, but – surprise, surprise, dear reader – cannily to conclude they were “sufficient to justify strengthening current climate change policies.”
Yet it must be said, as is well-known in learned cabals, that scenarios are not forecasts: no matter how many pretend they are; even if some dismiss such an insight as little more than your “postmodernist drivel that equates Madonna with Mozart or Danielle Steel with Shakespeare”; and perhaps Commission Chair Flannery of the Overflow with a real climate scientist, such as Judith Curry?
“The issue of how climate will change over the 21st century is highly uncertain.…Oversimplification and overconfidence on this topic have acted to the detriment of climate science. As scientists, we need to embrace the uncertainty, the complexity and the messy wickedness of the problem. We mislead policy makers with our oversimplifications and overconfidence.” — Judith Curry
Scenarios are not forecasts for this reason: the Divine Weatherman has yet to reveal to us His true laws of climate change. Those who argue otherwise are guilty of the worst kind of theft – attempting to appropriate His powers of infinite comprehension.
And surely our experts should speak of God’s (decarbonising) wrath, or the Devil’s mischief; rather than indulge in priestly speculation about “plausible world futures” (aka “probabilistic temperature projections”, “hypothetical scenarios” and “storylines”)?
But even I concur that hobgoblins like their “nonlinearly evolving cascade of risks” (page 60) and claims about “the increasing likelihood of threshold crossing and tipping points being reached or breached” in the next half-century are sure to scare the gullible masses; hence I too embrace them.
There is something else worthy of your attention. The Bank report was not prepared by the bank. While there were “contributions from a wide range of experts across the globe”, it was actually commissioned, prepared and written for the bank by one of the EU’s most activist research groups – the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics, as stated on the report’s title page.
The Bank, wisely, did “not guarantee the accuracy of the data”. The report’s “findings, interpretations and conclusions” do not “necessarily reflect the views of “the Bank, its Board or the governments they represent.”
Nevertheless, as you say, there are indeed “signs of something more serious” going on. You rightly urge us to reflect on the recent paper now being promoted by the Orthodoxy (and most media) with such reverence. It concluded: “more than 97 per cent of all peer reviewed scientific literature” endorses the position that – not God – but his creatures are causing [dangerous anthropogenic] global warming.
Despite the lateness of the hour, it was amusing to witness your divertissement for the House (Hansard, Tuesday 25 June 2013, page 99), for which my congratulations to you and your fellow Senator:
Senator Carr: What percentage?
Senator Faulkner: That was 97%, Senator Carr, and I know you have a genuine –
Senator Carr interjecting –
Senator Faulkner: “Yes, and I know you have a real interest in this.”
However, Nova of Perth and Monckton of Brenchley warn us not to be duped by such fallacious “consensus” arguments. For truth is not a democracy; a proposition is not true merely because many believe it to be true.
Nova lists 12 reasons the above paper fails : that the number of papers assessed is a proxy for research funding, not evidence about climate; that most of them merely assume anthropogenic warming is real; that some are two decades old, and so on.
Monckton concludes, inter alia, that Cook et al. (2013) “used three imprecise definitions of consensus interchangeably; analyzed abstracts only; excluded 67% expressing no opinion; omitted some key results; misstated others; while “the authors’ own data file categorized 64 abstracts, or only 0.5% of the sample, as endorsing the consensus hypothesis as thus defined. Inspection shows only 41 of the 64, or 0.3% of the entire sample, actually endorsed their hypothesis.”
From this evidence, Senator, surely they are not disciples – as you suggest – of an “anti-science” and “anti-enlightenment” cabal, but rather have set their course by the light of human reason? Yet there are whispers that they are in danger of being shipwrecked by the terrible surges and whirlpools of blasphemy; that they and other heresiarchs – including Collits of Queensland – are accused of drifting ever closer to the edge of faith through their persistent and over-curious temerity in inquiring into those things which must necessarily transcend the understanding of anyone who is not a paid-up member of the Carbon Club.
Perhaps those who accuse them have been destroyed by mental sloth and slow understanding; while others – if they were still awake and in the chamber – have had their judgement perverted by, as you say, “a kind of feckless relativism that equates all opinion in this area and sees it as all equally valid”?
Whatever the case, sceptic-bashing is a rite from a more barbaric time, when lives – and fates – where ruled by superstition and speculation. In our enlightened age, therefore, it clearly also has a place, both in the House and the learned journals of the Academy.
Forgive me, Senator, but another trifle. Doubtless due to the sweetness of the wine or lateness of the hour, you said that greenhouse gas (not solar) emissions are the “principal reason for the [Earth’s] warming climate” and the “most significant of these is carbon dioxide,” which is “now more abundant [400ppm; 0.04 percent, May, 2013] than at any time in the last 800,000 years”.
Yet our esteemed weather-persons agree, on the contrary, that water vapour is the most abundant greenhouse gas, varying from a trace over deserts to about four percent – one hundred times more abundant than carbon dioxide – over oceans. Rains cometh, it is true, yet the vapour is replenished constantly from seas, lakes, rivers and moist earth, sufficient to cover the planet’s surface in a liquid to the depth of half-a-thumb.
One can but marvel at the power of the Orthodoxy. So full of gravitas the voice of its authority, so pervasive its influence, that it could neglect – some say suppress – this forbidden knowledge: that there has been no measurable increase in global temperatures since 1997, despite an eight percent rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide. Q.E.D
And what of the witch’s brew of extreme weather events? On this point we are almost on the same page, especially when you suggest they “can no longer be written off as outliers, anomalies or accidents born of extraordinary circumstances.” But are they now occurring so frequently they point to a precise “longer-term trend in global climate”?
The truth must remain hidden no longer, or wrapped around with the thick darkness of silence. Weird women have had the power of raising storms – and lulling waves to rest again – by their potent charms, at least from the time of the nine maiden priestesses on Isle of Sein off the coast of Brittany.
Brother Francesco Maria Guazzo’s Compendium Maleficarum faithfully documents many similar instances. In chapter VII, for example, he describes how it has been proved by experience that witches can control not only the wind, rain and hail, but even lightning. Indeed, certain Inquisitors confirmed – with 97.99 percent certainty – that such a one in their custody had the power of stirring up tempests.
From this evidence, and using Lewandowsky Logic, we are forced to conclude that so-called “EWE attribution” is nothing more than a black art of divination.
When our experts make fanciful conclusions incapable of falsification – such as “some cold events are consistent with the inter-play of on-going global warming and internal variability” – it is clear witches are making mischief once again and messing with their minds.
Yet the Orthodoxy ignores the supernatural, seldom confessing how “little is currently known about the predictability of the frequency of daily extremes at long lead times”.
So the House remains unaware why “much work is needed to take careful account of uncertainty when delivering forecasts of EWEs”? (Karoly, WGSP, 2012, white paper, I3).
Senator, the sceptical, confused and curious (aka “denialists”) do not want more deception and half-truths. They want frank disclosure of "the considerable uncertainties that remain" the role of witches, the “possible confounding factors” and “many scientific challenges to be faced in developing a robust assessment process for EWEs”, and so on.
For how much longer will the Carbon Club – and members of the House – get away with so confidently dishing up pseudo-predictions and dodgy attribution statements in a carefully choreographed semantic smokescreen designed to discourage scrutiny?
Finally, if you have read this far, Senator, I thank you for your patience. Should you object that I have used more artifice than method in my letter, I shall take no great offence, since I have an ample excuse.
For who, as the old proverb says, can make bricks without straw, a saint without a villain, weather without a witch, a dog bark without a herring, a model without data, a prediction without a soothsayer, an emperor without clothes, a scare without a scarecrow, drivel without a driveller, or claim to know all the secrets of the Earth’s thermostat without a lot of chutzpah?
Michael Kile, July 2013
Michael Kile does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article. He has no relevant affiliations, except as author of The Devil’s Dictionary of Climate Change.