Doomed Planet

Climategate and ‘Post-Normal Science’

It was an important moment in the Climategate saga. Yet few remember Jerome Ravetz’s damning critique of the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit (CRU) posted on WUWT in early 2010. Ravetz is an eminent American philosopher of science and an Associate Fellow at Oxford University’s James Martin Institute for Science and Civilisation. (Personal web page here; Oxford page here and here.) For much of his career he has been challenging claims of scientific objectivity and developing a concept of “post-normal science” (PNS).

We can understand the root cause of Climategate as a case of scientists constrained to attempt to do normal science in a post-normal situation. But climate change had never been a really ‘normal’ science, because the policy implications were always present and strong, even overwhelming.  Indeed, if we look at the definition of ‘post-normal science’, we see how well it fits:  facts uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high, and decisions urgent.  In needing to treat Planet Earth like a textbook exercise, the climate scientists were forced to break the rules of scientific etiquette and ethics, and to play scientific power-politics in a way that inevitably became corrupt.  The combination of non-critical ‘normal science’ with anti-critical ‘evangelical science’ was lethal
                                               
— J Ravetz, WUWT, February 9, 2010

Some environmentalists had been using Ravetz’s PNS concept to drive a looser — more subjective — approach to decision-making under uncertainty, urging greater use of the so-called “precautionary principle”, a “principle” of pseudoscience, not genuine science. The late Stephen Schneider (1945-2010), then Stanford University professor for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies and editor of the journal Climatic Change, was one of them. He was also an IPCC lead author. Schneider advised other lead authors how to deal with uncertainty in a climate context in the IPCC’s Third and Fourth Assessment Reports.

The management of uncertainties is not just an academic issue but an urgent task for climate change policy formulation and action …Various vested interests may inhibit, delay, or distort public debate with the result that procrastination is as real a policy option as any other, and indeed one that is traditionally favoured in bureaucracies; and inadequate information is the best excuse for delay

When The Royal Society published a commemorative volume of essays in 2010, Seeing Further – The Story of Science and The Royal Society, it included one by Schneider: “Confidence, Consensus and the Uncertainty Cops: Tackling Risk Management in Climate Change.” At the time, he was struggling (as the IPCC still is) to deal with what he described as the “significant uncertainties” that “bedevil components of the science”, “plague projections of climate change and its consequences”, and challenge the traditional scientific method of directly testing hypotheses (‘normal’ science). His solution was ambitious: to change ‘the culture of science’ by developing a language that would convey the gravity of the situation “properly” to policy makers.

Tony Thomas: Climategate, the scam that didn’t die of exposure

As climate uncertainty was (and is) so intractable — and incomprehensible to the general public — Schneider introduced the rhetoric of risk management – “framing a judgement about acceptable and unacceptable risks” – and pseudo-probability. While he claimed he was “uncomfortable” with this “value judgement” approach – he was even “more uncomfortable ignoring the problems altogether because they don’t fit neatly into our paradigm of ‘objective’ falsifiable research based on already known empirical data.”

Schneider proposed a new subjective paradigm of “surprises’ in global climate scenarios, one with “perhaps extreme outcomes or tipping points which lead to unusually rapid changes of state”; while admitting that, “by definition, very little in climate science is more uncertain than the possibility of ‘surprises’.”

This was a pivotal moment. Schneider had smuggled a contrived “language for risk” into the IPCC; one derived from his personal (and the IPCC’s) “value frame” and that was adopted in subsequent reports. They now had, he wrote triumphantly, “licence to pursue risk assessment of uncertain probability but high consequence possibilities in more depth; but how should we go about it?” How, indeed?

Schneider’s 2010 Royal Society essay emphatically concluded (emphasis added):

Despite the large uncertainties in many parts of the climate science and policy assessments to date, uncertainty is no longer a responsible justification for delay.

How can one seriously argue the more uncertain a phenomenon, the greater is the risk to humankind?

Needless to say, it took Schneider a long time to “negotiate” agreement with climate scientists on precise “numbers and words” in the Third Assessment Report cycle. “There were some people who still felt they could not apply a quantitative scale to issues that were too speculative or ‘too subjective’ for real scientists to indulge in ‘speculating on probabilities not directly measured’. One critic said: ‘Assigning confidence by group discussion, even if informed by the available evidence, was like doing seat-of-the-pants statistics over a good beer.’”

Over the next few years — and many beers later — “confidence” in the key IPCC  findings came to be expressed in a “calibrated language” all its own, one that can lull a credulous reader into believing a show-of-hands consensus- “quantified” with bogus precision – is superior to mere opinion.  From its latest SR:

Each finding [in this Special Report] is grounded in an evaluation of underlying evidence and agreement. A level of confidence is expressed using five qualifiers: very low, low, medium, high and very high, and typeset in italics, e.g., medium confidence. The following terms have been used to indicate the assessed likelihood of an outcome or a result: virtually certain 99–100% probability, very likely 90–100%, likely 66–100%, about as likely as not 33–66%, unlikely 0–33%, very unlikely 0–10%, exceptionally unlikely 0–1%. Assessed likelihood is typeset in italics, e.g., very likely. This is consistent with AR5 and the other AR6 Special Reports.

Additional terms (extremely likely 95–100%, more likely than not >50–100%, more unlikely than likely 0–<50%, extremely unlikely 0–5%) are used when appropriate. This Report also uses the term ‘likely range’ or ‘very likely range’ to indicate that the assessed likelihood of an outcome lies within the 17-83% or 5-95% probability range. (IPCC SR Ocean and Cryosphere, September 24, 2019, page 4)

Ravetz was quick to post an emphatic response to set the record straight.

I would like to defend myself against a charge that has been made by various critics. This is, that I personally and intentionally laid the foundations for the corrupted science of the CRU, by providing the justification for Steve Schneider’s perversion of scientific integrity. First, there is no record of the guilty scientists ever mentioning, or even being aware, of PNS during the crucial earlier years. Also, shoddy and corrupted science in other fields did not wait for me to come along to justify it. My influence is traced back to a single footnote by Steven Schneider, citing an essay by me in a large, expensive book, Sustainable Development of the Biosphere (ed. W.C. Clarke and R.E. Munn), (Cambridge, University Press, 1986). PNS first came into the climate picture with the quite recent essay by Mike Hulme in 2007. That was a stage in his own evolution from modeller to critic, and came long after the worst excesses at CRU had been committed. I should say that I do not dismiss conspiracy theories out of hand, since some of them are correct! But this one really does seem far-fetched. (J Ravetz, WUWT, 12 April 2010, Debate and post-normal science

According to Ravetz, the relationship between scientists and policy-makers has changed; the technocrat ideal of the nineteenth century is dead. We have entered what he calls a “post-normal” age, where science too has become “post-normal”: It no longer speaks “value-free” truth based on impartiality and objectivity. So-called “consensus” advice cannot be considered the objective truth. How do we prevent the self-interested exploitation of uncertainty in such an age?

For Schneider, and presumably the IPCC, it seems to have been by adding “quantitative modifiers”, or phrasing all conclusions in a way to “avoid nearly indifferent statements based on speculative knowledge.”

“We have to offer up scary scenarios,” he said, “make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have … Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.” For Ravetz, this was PNS in action.

In February, 2010, Ravetz (pictured at right) posted “Climategate: Plausibility and the blogosphere in the post-normal age” on WUWT. He later released other essays, most of which were ignored by alarmists and the MSM.

What I say may be shocking to some [readers]. I argue that the ‘global warming’ campaign can be best understood as yet another of the Wars that have characterised politics in recent years … Now the evil empire of choice is Carbon, intended to be vanquished by an infinitely corruptible system of bureaucratically defined payments for non-existent transactions. (J Ravetz, Oxford Magazine, 2010)

Ravetz kindly agreed to elaborate further on Climategate and its possible implications for science. Several extracts from his February 9, 2010,  WUWT critique are followed below by his answers to my questions.

How could the illusions persist for so long until their sudden collapse? The scientists were all reputable, they published in leading peer-reviewed journals, and their case was itself highly plausible and worthy in a general way.  Individual criticisms were, for the public and perhaps even for the broader scientific community, kept isolated and hence muffled and lacking in systematic significance.  And who could have imagined that at its core so much of the science was unsound?  The plausibility of the whole exercise was, as it were, bootstrapped.  I myself was alerted to weaknesses in the case by some caveats in Sir David King’s book The Hot Topic; and I had heard of the hockey-stick affair.  But even I was carried along by the bootstrapped plausibility, until the [Climategate] scandal broke. (J Ravetz, WUWT, 9 February, 2010)

Michael Kile:  Is it accurate to say you were sympathetic to the alarmist case on climate change until Climategate?

Jerome Ravetz: Yes, I saw climate change as another sort of evidence of humanity’s disruption of the ecosphere; my reaction was, “why not this too?”  I was aware that the more lurid predictions of the alarmists of the 1960s (population bomb, resource depletion, etc.) had not been realised; but there is quite enough of alarming developments otherwise.

 MK: Could you describe in more detail why you now consider so much of climate science “unsound”?

JR: In my latest essay, Climategate: the unravelling and its consequences, I distinguish between Climate Science, which is fully aware of complexity and uncertainty, and the ‘CAGW’ (Carbon-based anthropogenic global warming) science of the small group that fed directly into the IPCC.  That is becoming increasingly exposed as unsound, thanks to the critics on the blogosphere.  The ‘Nature trick‘ is the most egregious case, but there are others.

Some now assert that the temperature records have been systematically distorted in order to produce an apparent rise — the simple method was to progressively delete the stations from cooler places.  And now Arctic ice is growing in extent; and it seems that its decrease was more due to patterns of winds than to warming air.

The deeper problem for CAGW science is to show that there has been a sudden significant unprecedented rise in temperatures, over a long enough period to count as ‘climate change’ and not just cyclical variability.  Removing the Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age was essential for that programme.  The very varied, uncertain and scattered field data did not really add up.  And the models were exposed in 2000 as giving any prediction you liked, depending on the assumptions and conventions.   The propaganda has always displayed anything warmer as evidence for climate change, and anything cooler as a temporary shift in the weather.  After a while that loses plausibility. 

To have a political effect, the extended peers of science have traditionally needed to operate largely by means of activist pressure-groups using the media to create public alarm. In this case, since the global warmers had captured the moral high ground, criticism has remained scattered and ineffective, except on the blogosphere.  The position of Green activists is especially difficult, even tragic; they have been extended peers who were co-opted into the ruling paradigm, which in retrospect can be seen as a decoy or diversion from the real, complex issues of sustainability, as shown by Mike Hulme.  Now they must do some very serious re-thinking about their position and their role.” (J Ravetz, WUWT, February, 2010)

 MK: Has there been any reaction from Green activists to your assessment of their position on climate change post-Climategate as “especially difficult, even tragic”? 

JR: None!  But I have not been in touch with Green activists for some time.  You may have seen that there was a posting on the Greenpeace website (since taken down) that called for direct action against the enemies of climate change.  I have personal memories of people who had committed themselves to a cause, political or religious, and then found it extremely difficult or quite impossible to admit that they had been badly mistaken.  So, one might say, just as the very varied and complex cause of militant socialism was appropriated by Stalin, so has the official Green movement been appropriated by Al Gore.  And those who identified with the good cause are then trapped. 

MK: Were you surprised by the conclusions of the UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee Report on Climategate released on 31 March 2010?

JR: Not in the slightest!  What were they supposed to do?  The ruling orthodoxy (as expressed by Lord Robert May) is still CAGW; so how could an official body cast doubt on it?  But many will remember how the talking heads of science and medicine were assuring the public that British beef is safe, even for years after the cat ‘Mad Max’ had come down with Mad Cow disease.  Their problem is that the longer they hold onto the party line, the more they lose credibility with the public.  

The examples of shoddy science exposed by the Climategate convey a troubling impression.  From the record, it appears that in this case, criticism and a sense of probity needed to be injected into the system by the extended peer community from the (mainly) external blogosphere. 

The total assurance of the mainstream scientists in their own correctness and in the intellectual and moral defects of their critics, is now in retrospect perceived as arrogance.  For their spokespersons to continue to make light of the damage to the scientific case, and to ignore the ethical dimension of Climategate, is to risk public outrage at a perceived unreformed arrogance. (J Ravetz, WUWT, 9 February, 2010)

MK: Do you expect the University of East Anglia’s new Scientific Assessment Panel to conclude, as you have done, that Climategate has exposed troubling examples of “shoddy science”?

JR: I would be astonished.  You may know the dictum of the historian Lord Acton:  power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  My version of that is ‘responsibility corrupts, and responsibility without power corrupts absolutely’.  Those who are required to reassure the public that quite obvious bad things never happen, are trapped most tragically.

To the extent that the improved management of uncertainty and ignorance can remedy the situation, some useful tools are at hand.  In the Netherlands, scholars and scientists have developed Knowledge Quality Assessment methodologies for characterising uncertainty in ways that convey the richness of the phenomenon while still performing well as robust tools of analysis and communication.  Elsewhere, scholars are exploring methods for managing disagreement among scientists, so that such post-normal issues do not need to become so disastrously polarised.

MK: To what extent do you believe your suggested tools for improving management of uncertainty and ignorance could remedy the situation now confronting climate science?

JR: The tools are there, for such a time when the political will is there.  We are now seeing a stirring of critical thinking about the ‘science’ of finance (and more generally economics), and important people are reminding their colleagues that uncertainty and ignorance must be respected.  It is possible (I can say no more) that if the present crisis over Climategate matures to the point of confrontation, then in the aftermath there could be a more sophisticate, respectful and might I say humble approach by leading scientists to the complex problems of our age.

And what about the issue itself?  Are we really experiencing Anthropogenic Carbon-based Global Warming?  If the public loses faith in that claim, then the situation of science in our society will be altered for the worse. There is very unlikely to be a crucial experience that either confirms or refutes the claim; the post-normal situation is just too complex. The consensus is likely to depend on how much trust can still be put in science.  The whole vast edifice of policy commitments for Carbon reduction, with their many policy prescriptions and quite totalitarian moral exhortations, will be at risk of public rejection.  What sort of chaos would then result?  The consequences for science in our civilisation would be extraordinary. (J Ravetz, WUWT, 9 February, 2010)

REFERENCES 

Funtowicz, S O, & Ravetz, J R, 1990, Uncertainty and Quality in Science for Policy. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic.

Moss, R.H. and Schneider, S.H., 2000: Uncertainties in the IPCC TAR: Recommendations to lead authors for more consistent assessment and reporting. In: Guidance Papers on the Cross Cutting Issues of the Third Assessment Report of the IPCC [eds. R. Pachauri, T. Taniguchi and K.Tanaka], World Meteorological Organization, Geneva, pp 33-51

Ravetz, J R, 2010a, Climategate: The unravelling and its consequences. Oxford Magazine, Eighth Week, Hilary Term.

Ravetz, J R, 2010b, Climategate: Plausibility and the blogosphere in the post-normal age. WUWT, 9 February 2010, Climategate plausibility and the blogosphere in the post-normal age

Ravetz, J R, 2010c, Willis, epidemics, rough-tumble debate and post-normal science. WUWT, 12 April 2010, Debate and post-normal science

Ravetz, J R, 1986,” Usable Knowledge, Usable Ignorance: Incomplete Science with Policy Implications. In Clark and Munn, (eds.), Sustainable Development of the Biosphere, New York, Cambridge University Press, pp 415-432.

United Nations, 2007, Climate Change 2007. Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPCC_Fourth_Assessment_Report

 

20 comments
  • pgang

    “How can one seriously argue the more uncertain a phenomenon, the greater is the risk to humankind?”
    Because we have reverted back to a Greek-style society in our epistemology. Nature is a divine, living beast in and of itself, and chaos is the creator of diversity and renewer of life. This is fundamental to evolutionary theory, for example.
    All of this is the antithesis of the core Christian epistemology that established the basis for science (through the likes of Christian creationists such as Keppler, Galileo, Descartes, Boyle, Newton…), which came about in and of itself as a rebellion against pagan Greek philosophy during the Medieval period.
    So none of this is very surprising. The climate is seen as a great, chaotic, divine nature-beast. Therefore the greater the uncertainty of our knowledge, the greater the threat to us.

  • ianl

    Ravetz: >”The whole vast edifice of policy commitments for Carbon reduction, with their many policy prescriptions and quite totalitarian moral exhortations, will be at risk of public rejection. What sort of chaos would then result? The consequences for science in our civilisation would be extraordinary.”

    Ravetz is seen arguing here that because this post-normal science is now so corruptedly entwined in the daily zitgeist, we have to accept it to avoid further chaotic consequences.

    This is so intellectually dishonest that it is not even wrong. It is lunatic.

    [Ravetz admits to this corruption during the recorded interview over half-a-dozen times, then does a full 180 on its’ integrity. He is a dangerous madman – a sociopath. As was Schneider.]

  • Alice Thermopolis

    pgang: “Because we have reverted back to a Greek-style society in our epistemology. Nature is a divine, living beast in and of itself, and chaos is the creator of diversity and renewer of life.”
    Agreed. Most insightful. Presumably why Greek tragedy – Euripides’ The Bacchae and so on – and other aspects of life were so preoccupied with the tension between Apollo (form) and Dionysus (chaos, irrationality), and why there are so many temples to Apollo and Athena (wisdom) at Delphi and of course elsewhere in Greece.
    As you say, Climate, daughter of Gaia, arouses such collective anxiety precisely because we cannot control or predict her whims. All we can do make burnt offerings to the Precautionary Principle, prostrate ourselves before the modeller-priests and charge believers – and non-believers – a “carbon” tithe.

  • Alice Thermopolis

    ianl: “Ravetz is seen arguing here that because this post-normal science is now so corruptedly entwined in the daily zitgeist, we have to accept it to avoid further chaotic consequences. This is so intellectually dishonest that it is not even wrong. It is lunatic.”
    “Ravetz admits to this corruption during the recorded interview over half-a-dozen times, then does a full 180 on its’ integrity. He is a dangerous madman – a sociopath.”
    Not so IMO.
    Surely, for the above reason, Ravetz was merely pointing out here that the stakes were now so high – and reputations so exposed in the Climate Industrial Complex – no amount of evidence could turn the juggernaut around. Ravetz: “There is very unlikely to be a crucial experience that either confirms or refutes the claim; the post-normal situation is just too complex.”
    Many thought that Climategate would end the scam. Not so. That was a decade ago. The post-truth situation is even more complex today.

  • Stephen Due

    The following multiple-stage argument (or something like it) is necessary to establish that there is a climate catastrophe occurring and that you or I or Qantas or the Australian government have a moral obligation to take action and bear the costs.

    The argument (in my view) breaks down progressively as it proceeds and ends in tatters. Certainly it is a very precarious chain of reasoning on which to base any kind of costly ‘solution’ or ’emergency action’.

    Climate change is occurring
    The earth is warming
    The warming is known to be the result of increased CO2 in the atmosphere
    The increased CO2 is known to be a result of human activity, not natural variation
    The warming can be prevented if human activity stops adding CO2 to the atmosphere
    The overall consequences of increased atmospheric CO2 including warming are harmful to life in earth
    There is a moral obligation to prevent harm
    National governments and individual people have a moral obligation to act to prevent this harm
    This harm is so great that the cost of the harm prevention is immaterial
    The process of harm prevention will be unsuccessful without global cooperation
    Therefore every human being has a moral obligation to act and bear the cost
    In the absence of cooperation costly action is still morally obligatory even if it is futile
    Therefore the Australian government and every Australian citizen is obliged o commit to costly action to reduce our CO2 emissions

  • Ian MacDougall

    Stephen:
    Well that’s a start. If Australia is responsible for ~1.5% of the global problem (trivial?) then surely it is responsible for the same ~1.5% of the global solution. (Not so trivial at all.)
    But with “….In the absence of cooperation costly action is still morally obligatory even if it is futile….” you show your hand a bit. My suggestion: try keeping your cards closer to your chest.
    Remember ScoMo and his lump of parliamentary coal. Just possible he might now be regretting that stunt.

  • rod.stuart

    Stephen Due
    I realise that the point you make is that the UN argument is illogical. The following is meant to augment that approach:
    Climate change is occurring. REALLY???
    To which region do you refer? What metric do you use to determine “change”? Disregarding regions whose climate has changed due to land use (the Aral Sea for instance) what region has experienced a permanent and significant reclassification in the last hundred years.

    The earth is warming REALLY???
    Since warm is a relative term, does this mean warmer than yesterday? Warmer than last week? Warmer than last year? After examining the declining temperatures since the Holocene Optimum, how is it possible to conclude that Earth is warming? It has become progressively cooler relative to the Egyptian Old Kingdom, the Minoan warming, the Roman warming, and the Medieval warming. The twentieth century warming, if it exists, is puny in comparison to those before.

    The warming is known to be the result of increased CO2 in the atmosphere. REALLY?
    If that is the case why does all of the empirical evidence available disprove this argument? Anyone with a firm grounding in thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, heat transfer and radiative physics, this idiotic notion is simply absurd. In addition, what this statement refers to what warming?

    The increased CO2 is known to be a result of human activity, not natural variation. REALLY?
    If that were indeed the case, why would was the CO2 concentration in the pre-Cambrian thirteen times the present concentration? Why do changes in CO2 LAG changes in temperature in geologic time? Why were temperatures unusually high in the 30’s?

    The warming can be prevented if human activity stops adding CO2 to the atmosphere. REALLY?
    If atmospheric CO2 is not related to temperature, and the “warming” is imaginary, how does this state3ment make sense?

    The overall consequences of increased atmospheric CO2 including warming are harmful to life in earth. REALLY?
    Is that why humans tend to seek regions of warmer temperature? Is that why humans are sufficiently adaptable to shift from the Yukon to the Pilbara with no difficulty?
    The entire issue from beginning to end is completely fiction. The other name for this is FRAUD.
    The perpetrators of this fraud have admitted as much for fifty years, and continue to do so.
    If you are interested in understanding this fraud, the 12 minute video in this link is particularly interesting.
    https://moneymaven.io/mishtalk/economics/global-warming-fraud-exposed-in-pictures-bA-1mNrK0kiarserpfa9iA/2019-09-30T19:31:10.8966170Z/XV-zMad-HU2dvpOXbkmC6A/M5remTVt-U6bH-vfj-NDPQ/

  • Davidovich

    rod.stuart
    Your arguments make sense and we accept the PNS situation at our peril. We waste trillions of dollars, countless hours of angst and introduce policies to combat a problem which mankind has clearly not caused, whilst failing to concentrate on dealing with the issues brought about adverse weather conditions and bad management brought about by adherence to environmentalism.

  • Ian MacDougall

    “We must adapt. Bushfires are burning and many Australians are suffering directly.
    “It is a tough time to talk about bushfire causes and solutions.
    “But without respectful, informed discussion — including the linkage between climate change — we cannot effectively adapt to the inherent risk of bushfires.
    “I want this debate to be beyond sensationalism, blaming and the promotion of simplistic solutions.

    “David Bowman is professor of pyrogeography and fire science at the University of Tasmania, exploring the relationship between fire, landscapes and humans.”
    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-11-12/cause-of-bushfires-is-complex-but-climate-change-is-part-of-it/11692176

  • Ian MacDougall

    CREED OF THE APOSTLES OF THE OSTRICH SCHOOL OF CLIMATOLOGY
    (TO BE LEARNED BY HEART AND RECITED IN UNISON BY ALL INITIATES AND MEMBERS.)

    I believe in Fossil Carbon, maker of all that is good and proper,
    And in Tony Abbott, its Chief High Priest and Prophet,
    Who was conceived in the usual way,
    Born into the Jesuits,
    Ascended to The Lodge,
    Suffered under Malcolm Turnbull,
    Was chucked out, dumped and crucified.
    He descended into Hell.
    The third day, he rose again from the dead
    He ascended back into favour
    And sitteth on the right hand of Morrison on high,
    From whence he shall come to judge both the quick and the not-so-quick.
    I believe in Menzies’ Ghost,
    The Holy COALition Church,
    The forgiveness of those who can pay,
    The resurrection of the Mediaeval,
    And glory everlasting, to the end of the Earth,
    Whichever comes sooner.
    Amen.

  • Stephen Due

    Ian McD. As you know, the Australian population could be wiped off the map tomorrow, and there would be no measurable effect on global climate – that is according to the alleged ‘science’. Surely it is absolute folly for Australia to crucify its economy in pursuit of ‘zero emissions’ under these circumstances? One has repeatedly heard politicians saying they support Australian government policies to “fix the climate”. Yet nothing done by an Australian parliament can possibly do anything to the global climate, let alone “fix” it. Australia has no control of global climate. This is real Alice Wonderland material. It is completely disconnected from reality.

  • Ian MacDougall

    “…there would be no measurable effect on global climate …” I think you are whistling in the dark there.
    As I said above, if Australia is responsible for ~1.5% of the global problem (trivial?) then surely it is responsible for the same ~1.5% of the global solution. (Not so trivial at all.)
    If you can prove that 1.5% = 0.0%, I am sure you will get a Nobel Prize for mathematics.
    Every country in the world can claim such minority status and do such special pleading. From memory, even China (the biggest emitter) is still only 15% or so of the world total.

  • deric davidson

    1. China’s CO2 emissions are 30% of the total world emissions and increasing.
    2. The point is if Australia reduced its CO2 emissions to zero the change in the current world’s average temperature would be immeasurably tiny (0.00? C). Otherwise Australia has next to no affect on the world’s temperature or climate.
    3. CO2 relative to increase in retained heat (infra red radiation) is a negative log (non-linear) function with the maximum heat retention being in the initial 250 ppm. After that the heat retention capacity of CO2 diminishes very rapidly. We are now at a stage when the doubling CO2 has little affect directly on increase in global temperature so ‘positive feed back’ factors are required to push the temperature ever upwards. These factors are poorly understood or comprehended making modeling of the effects of CO2 beyond 400+ ppm highly problematic.

  • Ian MacDougall

    deric davidson: Please correct me if I am wrong. So Venus (atm ~ 100% CO2, and what got Michael Mann’s initial interest going) should be cooler than Mercury, closest planet to the Sun. But it ain’t.
    CO2 molecules do not just absorb radiant heat and hold it in a forever ‘saturated’ condition. They pass their internal energy to other species they are in physical contact with, thus heating the surrounding air.
    If that is not the case, then I would say that those 198 scientific organisations worldwide which endorse AGW are wrong, and you are in line for a Nobel Prize: which of course, you might have to share with others of like mind.

  • T B LYNCH

    Zombie MacDougall has just given us six new chapters from the casebook of Sigmund Freud.
    Earth is the only living planet. Proteins are the machinery of life.
    Earths commonest and most indispensable protein is RUBISCO.
    Rubisco made all the oxygen and sugar on Earth from one absolutely essential feedstock.
    That feedstock is carbon dioxide. Without carbon dioxide there is only death.
    But there is more. Rubisco is designed for an optimum concentration of carbon dioxide.
    That concentration is 5000 parts per million, twelve times the resent level.
    [Enzyme chemists call this the Michaelis constant of the enzyme].
    Just as we run a jet engine at a specified temperature and pressure, the same principles apply to Earth.
    Earth is still in an Ice Age and needs warming up so that Antarctic Forests and a Green Sahara may return.

  • Ian MacDougall

    “Earth is still in an Ice Age and needs warming up so that Antarctic Forests and a Green Sahara may return.”
    Let us all sing ‘Hallelujah..!’ and thank our brother TB LYNCH for sharing his learning and wisdom and for making this contribution to our enlightenment..!. May every coal baron rejoice with us and contribute generously to the offertory plate when it comes around…!
    Though CO2 concentration has been known for at least the last 60 years to be the limiting factor on plant growth when all other variables are held constant (in glasshouse conditions) it is somewhat different in the real world. Loss of coral reefs, increase in frequency of extreme weather events; even down to wreckage of political careers. Etc.
    Let us all now pray for divine guidance for Brother Lynch in all other situations in which he is hampered by his tunnel-vision.
    Amen.

  • Stephen Due

    Ian McD. Re the alleged 1.5%. We need to talk about effects that are measurable, not effects that are just imaginable. Measurability depends on margins of error. I think you will find the assessment of the amount of decreased atmospheric CO2 needed to produce any global temperature fall is subject to margins of error greater than 1.5%. The margin of error is part of the deal and applies even if you accept the ‘science’. When you consider that in reality Australia, with the greatest possible economic sacrifices, has no prospect of eliminating more than a few percent of its 1.5% the argument for those sacrifices based on any measurable effect on global climate fails completely. I’ve discussed this with warmist scientists. They agree. They say the argument for action in Australia is ethical, not scientific. In my chain of reasoning above I made a point of including an ethical step. I don’t know how many scientists you know who are experts in ethics? My view is that Australia is under no obligation to act alone under these circumstances. Quite the reverse. In my view it would be unethical for Australia to crucify its economy for this cause.

  • Ian MacDougall

    Yes, Stephen, all that. Nobody wants to be the one to lead the charge or to bell the cat.
    Unfortunately, Nature does not play by anyone’s rules or interests: just by her own laws. What you argue here is the special pleading of the Captain of the Titanic. “Icebergs be damned..! I have a schedule to meet..!”

  • en passant

    To All Commentators:
    In future let’s keep the comments and shared information between the rational among us. If nobody comments or answers MacDougall it will drive him mad as we are the only ‘friends’ he has. How sad is that?
    On another thread I said I would not comment anymore, but forgot to add that I meant about anything he wrote. When I answered Alice it set him off again with insults and ad homs. It is all he (or it) has.
    What surprises me is that with his vast, almost infinite knowledge the MacDougall has never enlightened us by penning an article. As he has also never answered the questions any of us have posed, it is and always will be just a troublesome pustule willing to criticise and troll, but never able to put has case in an article we can peer review.
    Ignore his endless trolling (that often repeats the same mantra for longer than the original article}.

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