Bernie Fraser, speaking as the Chairman of the Climate Change Authority, said a little while ago that the ‘good guys’ had lost the battle to win the hearts and minds of the community over global warming. I don’t accept that I am one of the ‘bad guys’, nor do I feel that somehow my agnostic views about AGW and my sceptical views about carbon taxes have somehow triumphed. Nothing like that has happened at all. Nor are any of my sceptical friends organising a ‘victory’ banquet.
What has happened, I think, is that the public has lost interest in the issue, and governments are doing nothing about it, other than saying what they think still has to be mouthed, while dismantling bits of the AGW machine and back-pedalling on possible global agreements. Maybe AGW is going to happen, the majority out there may well be thinking, but it’s a long way off. Anyway, last summer was just another hot one, and over in the US they are having a frigid winter. What’s new? They don’t like carbon taxes, and they’re probably tired of being lectured to. So, as I pointed out in my last essay, the electorate has switched off on this one, and it is relatively immune to preaching about it. Indeed, the more preaching and the more marching by the activists, the more the citizen majority rolls its eyes, and suggests that the ‘concerned’ get a life.
Nonetheless, the scientific establishments have only retreated a little from their official view that global warming is a menace to humanity, and the civil services of Western countries are well supplied with believers, as are the mainstream media and the non-government organisations. They are not accepting that the battle is over, and we are still being bombarded with scary stories and appeals to change our ways, at least every week, if not every day. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) came out yesterday with yet another direful warning, which was short on facts, by-passed the long absence of significant warming globally, and trumpeted that about 97% of climate scientists have concluded that human-caused climate change is happening. After a statement so void of meaning, and so easily refuted (see here, for example), why would you want read any further?
Yet faced with faced with this kind of official repetition and ritual, it is easy for the handful of articulate and knowledgeable sceptics to feel that the battle is just too hard. One well-known and resourceful sceptic wrote to me the other day saying, in part, ‘it gets a bit overwhelming competing against so many multi-million dollar organizations, there are just too many targets. Hard to find the balance…’
One reason is that the orthodox scientists, like Professors Karoly, Steffen, Flannery and Hughes, to name just four in our country, rarely come forward to debate anything with anybody. They preach from their official or semi-official pulpits, gather their robes, and leave. To be fair, I once did engage in a public-private debate with Professor Karoly, who said that he agreed with much of what I had put forward in my paper. He did not, however, say what the areas of agreement and disagreement were, and having had my say before his, I had to leave the floor to others.
How then should sceptics and the puzzled participate in the public non-debate we are having in the media and in the community? Websites like this one put forward questions and doubts about the orthodoxy, but apart from one or two they’re not widely read, and while it is becoming just a tad easier to get dissenting views published in the mainstream media, sceptics are not organised. They have widely different backgrounds, expertise, interests and perspectives, and have no ‘spokesperson’. In contrast, the orthodoxy is organised, has many spokespersons and a supportive culture in the media, government and the community.
A group of sceptics with whom I have lunch occasionally has wrestled with this one, but without generating a strategy. Should they concentrate on posters, or comedy (sending up the orthodox), or short, sharp rebuttals of the hand-waving, or try to get someone to behave so offensively (but carefully) that the matter gets to court (defamation). There’s a version of that going on in North America at the moment, in connection with Michael Mann, he of the hockey-stick. Should sceptics concentrate on the Internet, or the MSM?
My own view is that it will be Nature who decides this one. If we are in for cooling, and there are plenty of signs that a lengthy cooling period may await us, then the heat will go out of global warming pretty effectively (sorry for the pun). Likewise, if there’s no cooling — but no warming of any consequence either. The scare really rests on the notion that as CO2 accumulations rise temperature must rise too. If that doesn’t happen, and it hasn’t for more than a decade at least in all the major temperature datasets, then the control knob image for CO2 doesn’t work.
But it will all take time. I think the orthodoxy is unravelling slowly every day, but there’s an awful lot of wool to unravel from the woolly assertions and half-truths that the orthodox put out. And like everyone else, I like results quickly.
In this domain, unfortunately, we are going to have to accept that it will hasten slowly, until at least the Paris climate meeting in 2015, from which I expect nothing of any consequence to happen. Governments are so embedded in it all, and so much pride and standing is involved, that getting out of AGW will take longer than it ought.
And sceptics need to accept that at least some of the warmists will convert, and become tomorrow’s coolists! It’s the scare that enraptures those people, not the science. Life is sometimes like that.