In the film Inherit the Wind (1960) there is a scene that sticks in my mind: a phalanx of the Godly marches through the streets of the town singing, singing ‘I love that old-time religion … it is good enough for me!’ The camera sweeps in on one woman singing her heart out as she marches. Her eyes are wide, her voice is strong — she is a true believer, off to denounce those who believe in evolution. If you have never seen the film, it is one well worth finding, an adaptation of the Scopes ‘Monkey’ trial, whose subtext is an attack on McCarthyism: a defence of ‘freedom to think’.
That image came back to me this week as I read both the speech on climate change by Secretary of State John Kerry and then the new report from the Climate Council, whose mission is to provide authoritative, expert advice to the Australian public on climate change. It has produced a new report written by Professors Steffen and Hughes and a post-doc, Dr Sarah Perkins. More of that in a moment.
Secretary of State John Kerry hasn’t been much in our news, but his speech in Jakarta certainly made it here. I can’t find the whole text anywhere*, but Judith Curry has made long excerpts on her website, I guess the striking remarks for me are these:
The science is unequivocal, and those who refuse to believe it are simply burying their heads in the sand. We don’t have time for a meeting anywhere of the Flat Earth Society. And in a sense, climate change can now be considered another weapon of mass destruction, perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction… The science of climate change is leaping out at us like a scene from a 3D movie. It’s warning us; it’s compelling us to act. And let there be no doubt in anybody’s mind that the science is absolutely certain.
For whom did Secretary Kerry intend this message? It is as though he hasn’t read or heard anything for ten years. Even the IPCC is clear that the science isn’t nearly as ‘certain’ as it looked to be a decade ago. ‘Climate change’ has become the cause of everything — drought, floods, ice-storms, fire, wind and anything you don’t like about the weather. I could go on for some time, but here is more of the Secretary of State:
So when thousands of the world’s leading scientists and five reports over a long period of time with thousands of scientists contributing to those reports – when they tell us over and over again that our climate is changing, that it is happening faster than they ever predicted, ever in recorded history, and when they tell us that we humans are the significant cause, let me tell you something: We need to listen.
This is hyperbole, exaggeration, and largely false. Those who preach AGW doom are not in any sense thousands of the world’s leading scientists, and there is growing doubt that the models on which the doomsayers rely have any skill at all in projecting climate ten years ahead, let alone half a century. Again, I wonder, for whom was this speech intended? (At one point he said ‘Obama and I’, and I asked myself whether or not that was just a slip of the tongue…) I can’t see speeches like this having any effect now; they are hangovers form the period before the Copenhagen Conference of 2009.
The Climate Council has issued a report on heatwaves that arrived on my desk much as Kerry’s speech did, and it has the same old-time religious flavour to it. It didn’t seem at all ‘authoritative’ to me. Yes, Australia has had a hot summer. We can disregard the rehash of the ‘Angry Summer’ tone of a year ago, because it now seems that that summer and our present one are just the most recent hot ones. I certainly felt the force of the current heat: the air-conditioner was on over fourteen or so days over summer, whereas last year we didn’t turn it on at all. I’m aware that this is anecdotal stuff, but since the CC report is based almost entirely on models, a bit of real experience doesn’t hurt!
Incidentally, a recent high-level UK/US seminar on the use of global models for regional adaptation (and bear in mind that adaptation has to take place locally) came out with the following: With regards to using global climate models for regional climate variability: “In the long range, simulations which require significant statistical adjustment (or variance inflation) at global scales are NOT rational candidates for local use (e.g. dynamical downscaling.) You can find out more about that on another Judith Curry post, and I suggest that the Climate Council takes note.
There is a great deal in the report to irritate anyone other than a believer. We learn of ‘excess heat-related deaths’, a statistic which deserves much more treatment than it gets (it is a given, without any methodological underpinning). There is no mention of deaths related to cold, no mention of cold or winter extremes elsewhere at all, no mention of how more heat can make a high-pressure cell stationary, no mention of the ‘pause’, far too much about the Great Barrier Reef, introduced, I think, to make some familiar scary points, including the extraordinary assertion the reef has lost 50 per cent of its coral cover in the last 30 years. For a counter view dissecting this claim and showing that the statistic is the result of poor methodology, read on here.
And then, at the end, comes the familiar prayer, that we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions NOW! No mention of the arithmetic that shows that nothing Australia did in curbing greenhouse gas emissions would have any discernible effect at all on global temperatures or anything else. Truly, this is a shoddy piece of work intellectually, right up to the standard set by the late and unlamented Climate Commission . But then, it’s for the religious, and that must excuse its dreadful weaknesses as a piece of authoritative, expert advice.
[update: you can read it here: <http://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2014/02/221704.htm>]