I decided not to write about Maurice Newman’s most sceptical account of global warming, published in the Australian the other day, because I had mentioned him as a sceptic in earlier posts about the ABC, of which he as been the Chairman (see, for example, here). But I wondered who would be the supporter of the orthodox sent in to do battle. So far there have been two.
The first turned out to be Professor Brian Schmidt, the astronomer at the ANU who shared the Nobel Prize in 2011. He entered the lists with the proposal of a bet that he challenges Mr Newman to take up — I am prepared to put $10,000 on the line that the Earth’s average surface air temperature in a three-year average (2013-15 compared with 2033-35) will be warmer 20 years from now.
Mr Newman in fact put the bet up almost as a afterthought, following Richard Lindzen, who said that he was willing to take bets about whether or not the temperature twenty years from now would be lower than it is now. Professor Schmidt is reformulating the bet. I haven’t yet heard whether or not Mr Newman has taken it up.
I shake my head when celebrities step forward to tell us how worried they are about ‘climate change’ — film stars, sportspeople and Nobel Prize winners come to mind. What do they know about it, anyway? Professor Schmidt is candid enough to tell us that he is not a climate scientist, though I do have considerable knowledge of the science at hand, he adds.
Why then did he think he ought to take up arms? It’s a puzzle, because although he says he knows a lot about the science, that doesn’t come out from his short article. He is an astronomer, but he seems not to know that many solar physicists think we are in a prolonged period of cooling, as I pointed out in my last post.
He also says that ‘more than 90 per cent of the excess heat is stored in the world’s oceans’, which is a possibility put forward by the orthodox to explain why the ‘pause’ has occurred. It is not in any way a fact, and I am unaware of any strong observational evidence that would support the claim.
More, he doesn’t get into the heart of the issue, which is the proportion of any warming that has occurred due to natural variability (now conceded as a possibility by the IPCC), and the proportion due to human activity. Warming could occur entirely through natural causes, as could cooling. It is as though Professor Schmidt thinks that there is no such thing as natural variability, and that all warming is caused by human activity.
All in all, it was a completely superficial response to Mr. Newman. Professor Schmidt told us that he was ‘about 99 per cent sure that the Earth is warming due to anthropogenic causes’. What should we think of his conviction, given that he is not a climate scientist? Is his conviction any more important than that of the last Hollywood actor to say much the same thing?
It might be, were he to take on Mr Newman’s statements, and show how the latter was in error. But that was not what he did. Indeed, he seemed not to be aware that there hasn’t been any significant warming for much more than a decade. And he said also that he thought there was only a ‘small risk’ that ‘the broad scientific evidence is flawed’. What exactly is that broad scientific evidence? The evidence to do with the likely catastrophic effects of human activity in the production of carbon dioxide is really quite slight. The AGW scare is built on a small period when temperature and carbon dioxide went up at much the same trajectory, plus a whole lot of supposition built on climate models that have never been verified or validated. Every year the probability that the warmists are right declines a little more.
All that made me wonder, not for the first time, how this kind of defence of the the AGW status quo gets to happen. Did. Professor Schmidt get a phone call from someone in the Academy asking him to drop a bucket on Newman the denier? Or did he suddenly take into his head to do the op. ed. all by himself? In either case a little homework might have been in order, given that ‘climate change’ is not what he got his Nobel for.
It saddens me. I’ve met him, and heard him speak on a couple of occasions. He is an articulate and engaging man. But he is right out of his depth in this area, which is better left to the Flannerys and Karolys who do have a barrow to push. Though, it has to be said, they do it with less keenness and authority than was once the case.
Mr Newman attracted a second opponent, in the person of the Chief Scientist, Professor Chubb, but I’ll leave my analysis of his contribution to my next post.