One of the constant themes put forward by the orthodox, in the ‘climate change’ quarrel, is that an overwhelming majority of scientists are on their side, as well as all the leading scientific organisations. The first claim is wrong, or at least without serious foundation. This is the so-called ‘consensus’ statement, and its evidential basis is awfully flimsy, as I’ve argued before.
It is nevertheless true that many leading scientific organisations have come out with what are essentially political statements about global warming and the need for concerted action. They include the Royal Society, though its revised statement is not as bad as its earlier one, our own Australian Academy of Science, the American Geophysical Union, and a number of European scientific academies.
I label their statements as ‘political’ because the science that is embodied in them is never balanced or complete, and language is scary and dramatic. The academies have taken political positions on global warming for reasons that are never explicitly stated. A cynic might argue that they do so because their governments need that kind of support, and the academies need the financial support that governments can provide. So much public money now flows into research, and in particular into ‘climate science’, that the academies might simply be guarding the lolly, whatever their executives really think about ‘climate change’.
Not every scientific organisation has done this. The Geological Society of Australia has a draft issues paper on the subject that you can find here (at p.6). It is balanced and temperate, and quite free of rant and rave. And a large international organisation of scientists has come to a similar position.
This is the World Federation of Scientists, a label that might lead you to think, ‘Oh yes, another dodgy body’. Dodgy it isn’t. It was formed forty years ago, and has had a focus on international co-operation to deal with ‘planetary emergencies’. Two of its leading lights were the Russian Peter Kapitsa, who won a Nobel Prize in Physics for work on low-temperature physics, and Paul Dirac, who won his Nobel for work in quantum mechanics, a prize he shared with Erwin Schroedinger, he of the imagined cat.
All these scientists were fascinating people, and are worth a post at another time. The point is that the WFS was about something important long before the IPCC was created. Its ‘Erice Statement’, which you can read by going to the WFS website, is a clear and unemotional statement of the need for pure and uncontaminated science. I commend it. When global warming came to be the flavour of the year the WFS thought it ought to add ‘climate change’ as a ‘planetary emergency’, and created a working party on the issue.
The news is that the WFS has decided that ‘climate change’ no longer deserves the status of a planetary emergency. The chair of the panel, Professor Christopher Essex, stated to members at their annual meeting that the Earth’s climate is dynamic and in a state of constant change. ‘Human societies have lived and thriven under every conceivable climate, and modern technology makes adaptation to changing weather conditions entirely routine.
‘The increasing fraction of CO2 in the air could be expected to result in some warming’, but it had been accepted that ‘the benefits of food production and the relief of starvation overwhelm concerns about the potential climate changes induced by land-surface modification.’ He said the panel thought it essential to ask why similar reasoning did not apply to global fossil-energy production. Here is the proactionary principle in full flight.
Professor Essex also spoke up for scientists who have been bullied, threatened or even dismissed for having dared to question the Party Line on climate. ‘Our greatest concern at present is that the intellectual climate for scientific investigation of these matters has become so hostile and politicized that the necessary research and debate cannot freely take place.
‘Political constraints take the form of declaring the underlying science to be settled when it clearly is not; defunding or denigrating research that is perceived to threaten the case for renewable energy; or the use of odious pejoratives like ‘denialist’ to describe dissent from officially-sanctioned views on climate science.’
He called for ‘free and open debate on all aspects of climate science, even where hypotheses are put forward for examination that openly contradict the official positions of political entities’. He said the panel found persuasive indications that climate models systematically understated natural climate variability and significantly exaggerated the impact of CO2 emissions. Accordingly, past, present and proposed policy measures could be shown not to provide net benefits to society regardless of the rate at which the planet might warm. Limited resources would be better devoted to more pressing issues.
Well, that’s a turn-up for the books, isn’t it? I must have missed hearing about it on the ABC. You probably did, too.