On December 14, 2007, a curious event took place in the climate space. Some folks at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research Christmas party wrote a song in adoration of themselves, Our First Nobel. The last line was a question: “Can an Oscar be far away?” After another decade of high-wire acts they deserve one, especially for the latest attempt to keep a dodgy global scare alive.
The song did not enter the public domain until November 2009. It was found in a large cache of emails (item 0462.txt) hacked from the UK University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit. There were accusations of data manipulation to make global warming appear more threatening. Several enquiries found no evidence of crimes or even misdemeanours, yet a bad smell still lingers around the Climategate saga.
But to begin at the beginning. Two months earlier, on 12 October, 2007, the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced the joint winners of its annual Peace Prize: the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Albert Arnold (Al) Gore Jr. It was awarded “for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change”.
Convinced that Gaia’s elusive thermostat could be manipulated by somehow turning down the atmospheric carbon dioxide knob, the Committee wanted
to contribute to a sharper focus on the processes and decisions that appear to be necessary to protect the world’s future climate, and thereby to reduce the threat to the security of mankind. Action is necessary now, before climate change moves beyond man’s control.
Alfred Bernhard Nobel, a Swedish chemist, the inventor of dynamite and an armaments manufacturer, would have reached for the nitroglycerin; surprised as others were – and still are – by the choice. For there is no link between “climate change” and his three qualifying criteria.
Had Al Gore done anything to reduce the US military’s—or his personal carbon (dioxide)—footprint, in or out of office? Has the IPCC encouraged fraternity between nations, or the spread of peace—not climate change—congresses? Would UN insistence on “climate reparations” from the developed world—and less coal-fired power for the developing world—contribute to international harmony? And what is “peace”? How did Nobel’s conception of it become mixed up with environmental evangelism?
Our First Nobel was written to be sung to the tune of The First Noel. On 14 December, 2007, Kevin Trenberth, a distinguished senior scientist in the NCAR Climate Analysis Section and lead author of the 1995, 2001 and 2007 Scientific Assessment of Climate Change reports, emailed it to his colleagues.
“Season’s greetings to all my fellow Nobel Laureates,” he wrote. “Even if we did not get to go to Oslo. I just want to wish you and your families all the best for the holiday season, and Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate that festival.
As part of the IPCC we have achieved something to be proud of. Thank you for being a part of it with me. At NCAR at the Christmas party a group made up a song that mentions by name all the NCAR LAs [Lead Authors] in AR4. The song is below. You may appreciate it (or not). All the best for 2008.”
Our First Nobel
Our First Nobel for the IPCC
Goes to Beth, Bette, Bill, Jerry, Kathy and Guy.
Kevin, Linda, Paty, Re-to and so many more,
And we’re sharing the honor with Mister Al Gore.
Nobel, Nobel, a story to tell,
We hope our co-workers’ egos don’t swell.
The First Working Group said to sound the alarm,
Rising CO2 levels are causing great harm.
Temperatures and greenhouse gases are racing up neck and neck,
Soon the whole Earth will be hotter than heck.
Nobel, Nobel, the planet’s unwell,
This is the future the models foretell.
The Second Working Group said that change is assured,
From the melting of glaciers to migration of birds.
From loss of land and crops to habitats,
How can they make it much clearer than that?
Nobel, Nobel, the oceans swell,
Polar bears search for new places to dwell.
We must work to mitigate, tells us Working Group Three,
Change from fossil consumption to clean energy.
If we all do our share in reversing the trend,
Our children might have a clean Earth in the end.
Nobel, Nobel, sound the warning bell,
Let’s make a future where all can live well.
Nobel, Nobel, we are stars for a day,
Can an Oscar be far away?
Spot the word peace anywhere? The NCAR folk were celebrating as if they had just a won a Nobel Prize for science. To have mentioned it in this context would have spoiled the party.
For sceptics, it was no surprise. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change had put the ideological cart before the scientific horse from the beginning. Its collective mind was made up two and a half decades ago, when “dangerous” climate change, “climate debt” and “precautionary” action were codified at the 1992 Rio Summit. And the rest is history.
How many scientists, with or without Oscars, does it take to change a planet’s climate? Judging from a paper published online on June 19 this year – “Causes of differences in model and satellite tropospheric warming rates” – by Benjamin Santer, Matthew England, Michael Mann and others – at least sixteen, being the number of authors; not counting the 25,000+ delegates who attended UNFCCC’s twenty-third annual Conference of the Parties. And party they did. The climate circus held last month in Bonn cost over $120 million.
The Santer et al. paper is revealing, both in content and timing. It tries to explain (in six pages) the divergence between actual global temperatures and those projected by climate models during the past two decades. A stunning admission, one confirming what sceptics had been suggesting for years: the models were not infallible.
The divergence arose, the paper concluded, because one could not predict correctly the magnitude of certain so-called natural forcings, including solar intensity, volcanic activity and internal variability. As for model “sensitivity” to atmospheric carbon dioxide, it apparently was correct.
“We conclude that model overestimation of tropospheric warming in the early twenty-first century is partly due to systematic deficiencies in some of the post-2000 external forcings used in the model simulations.”
It was a cheeky, fallacious argument. For if model projections (aka “predictions”) could be explained away on this occasion by evoking “systematic deficiencies”, nebulous phenomena such as “internal variability”, or the poor quality of real-world data, presumably they could be explained away in future by the gatekeepers of climate-truth and their masters. In other words, the hypotheses hard-wired into the models were unfalsifiable. Heads we win, tails you lose.
“What started as simply a relationship between carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere and the temperature of our planet has morphed into pseudoscience, primarily because it is no longer falsifiable.” (M Bharadwaj 12 October 2017) Reference
To anyone still in doubt, the Santer et al. paper showed yet again the tenacity with which disciples of dangerous climate change will go – like bees protecting the queen of a hive – to put a cordon sanitaire around the orthodoxy’s most cherished belief, namely global warming and its alleged primary cause, anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions. However compromised climate models might be in other ways, this relationship was and had to remain sacrosanct. For without it there was no warming ideology, no rationale to persuade the developed world to “decarbonise” economies, and certainly no rush for them to deposit billions of dollars of “climate reparations” in the UN’s Green Climate Fund.
To reassure alarmists the “carbon” scare was still alive and well, the paper declared:
“None of our findings call into question the reality of long-term warming of Earth’s troposphere and surface, or cast doubt on prevailing estimates of the amount of warming we can expect from future increases in (greenhouse gas) concentrations.”
“I’m going to call this the Santer Clause, because the last half of it is about as real,” John McLean commented in a post here. “Talk about climate denial.”(See also here.)
It was a surprising conclusion, especially given the uncertainties mentioned in the paper’s supplementary information here. For example:
The credibility of these overall significance estimates rests on another key assumption – that the model control runs analysed here provide reliable estimates of the true (but uncertain) statistical properties of “real world” natural internal variability on 30- to 40-year timescales. (page 6)
Observed temperature records are simultaneously influenced by both internal variability (operating on a wide range of different space and timescales) and multiple external forcings. Unambiguous partitioning of observational temperature records into internally generated and externally forced components is an aspirational goal, but not attainable in practice. All model-versus-observed internal variability comparisons are affected by the large inherent uncertainty in isolating multi-decadal internal variability from observational climate records. (page 6)
So how did the authors conjure up the following paragraph, given the shadow cast by “large inherent uncertainty” over the whole ugly business? Surely not by a show of hands or “seat-of-the-pants statistics over a good beer”?
“The probability that multi-decadal internal variability fully explains the asymmetry between the late twentieth and early twenty-first century results is low (between zero and about 9%). It is also unlikely that this asymmetry is due to the combined effects of internal variability and a model error in climate sensitivity.”
As for the practice of running climate models with and without greenhouse gases, that too was a furphy. It tells us nothing about what is happening in the real world.
“It’s a completely specious argument unless it can be proven that climate models are one hundred per cent accurate when it comes to including algorithmically every climate forcing, which of course they are not. The comparison study in fact shows nothing more than the sensitivity of the models to the inclusion of greenhouse gases.” McLean, 2017
Nevertheless, the Santer Clause brought great relief to many, presumably including cognitive psychologist Professor Stephan Lewandowsky. He was lead author of this paper quoted in Santer et al.: “The “Pause” in Global Warming: Turning a Routine Fluctuation into a Problem for Science”.
Co-authored with Naomi Oreskes and James Risbey, a CSIRO scientist, it concluded: “…scientists have long recognized that the climate fluctuates, that linear increases in CO2 do not produce linear trends in global warming, and that 15-yr (or shorter) periods are not diagnostic of long-term trends.” How convenient.
But maybe not. For Lewandowsky et al. the “pause” is a mischievous “contrarian meme” created by sceptics to mess with the minds of climate scientists; a “linguistic frame” introduced solely to “keep the [global warming] controversy alive”, and help “maintain the fiction that the science is still too uncertain to form a reliable basis for public policy.”
Unless something was done, there was a risk of contagious confirmation bias. Imagine how devastating that would be for the alarmist orthodoxy.
Simply by being exposed to the pause meme for over a decade, and by explaining short-term fluctuations from a longer-term trend in the terms posed to them, scientists have accepted a contrarian frame, and this acceptance may in turn have subtly changed scientists’ way of thinking (Lewandowsky et al. 2015).
Climate scientists allegedly had fallen for a Machiavellian semantic ruse. For “by accepting the framing of a recent fluctuation as a pause or hiatus, research has, ironically and unwittingly, entrenched the notion of a pause (with all the connotations of that term) in the literature as well as in the public’s mind.”
And what are we to make of Lewandowsky’s other claim that the “pause” controversy “ultimately reaffirmed the overall reliability of climate models for projecting temperature trends”? Ironically, even the Santer et al. paper discussed above admits there was an “asymmetry”, a “model overestimation in the early twenty-first century”.
Meanwhile, University of Alabama-Huntsville climate scientists, John Christy and Richard McNider, have found the satellite temperature record since the early 1990s show virtually no change in the warming rate. Unlike Santer et al., however, their recent paper suggests the atmosphere’s sensitivity to carbon dioxide assumed in climate models was much too high.
“They need to be retooled to better reflect conditions in the actual climate; while policies based on previous climate model output and predictions might need to be reconsidered.”
We live in strange times. How fortunate we are to have Lew’s Law – “the future is certainly uncertain” – to guide us through the mess. But, dear reader, do not jump to conclusions. Remarkably, greater uncertainty about climate change apparently does not support “arguments that mitigation is unnecessary or too costly.” That would be heresy of the worst kind.
“Such arguments are flawed because, if anything, greater uncertainty about the future evolution of the climate should compel us to act with even greater urgency than if there were no (or less) uncertainty” (8 May, 2017).
How would we choose sensibly between alternative courses of action in such a world? The guiding principle, presumably, would not be truth or knowledge, but that the squeakiest wheel must get the oil; and they sure know how to squeak – and shriek – about “climate change”.
Christmas is coming. So The First Noel has the last word on this multi-billion dollar boondoggle. If you see three camel-riding persons bearing gifts of gold (or bitcoin), frank nonsense and mire, shield your eyes. Gaze instead upon the star beyond them far, the one giving great light day and night free of charge; shining on all, regardless of age, gender, race, religion, class, colour or orientation; be they harassed or haughty, nice or naughty, mad or melancholic, young and foolish, clever and clueless, fruitless or fulsome. We should be singing praises to Old Sol, not kowtowing before the haruspices of a new religion, climate-craft.
Hallelujah. Joy to the world, be it hot, cold or lukewarm.