Every now and then someone will say to me ‘OK! You are a sceptic about climate change. Well, what do you think really is the case?’ Or something like that, as in the title of this post. It’s not really an easy question to answer in a sentence or two. Not for me, at any rate. I came across an engaging post in Watts Up With That that exemplified just how difficult it is. One guy had a go at setting out what he believed in, and then others added their bit, while some added things they didn’t believe in. It was good fun, and well worth going to.
As some earlier posts will have made clear, I’m someone who doesn’t think ‘belief’ is what this issue ought to be about. For me the whole issue is about argument and evidence, and my position could change if some compelling new evidence came to the fore, or I encountered what I thought was a really powerful new argument. Given the sheer amount of stuff in that WUWT post, I felt challenged to develop my own list, which looks like this. Readers of the WUWT post will notice some similarities.
My current position on ‘climate change’
1. CO2 is a ‘greenhouse gas’ (not a term I much like, but it is so widely used that I’ll employ it here).
2. Greenhouse gases have the capacity, other things being equal, to have a warming effect on the atmosphere.
3. Human activity of various kinds has very probably added to the carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere.
4. It is possible, perhaps likely, that the Earth’s atmosphere has warmed somewhat over the past century.
5. It is possible that sea levels have risen a little over the past century, as they have done in centuries past.
6. Our consumption of fossil fuels is rising and there are constant warnings that we may be ‘running out’ of them.
7. Research into alternative energy is a good thing, as is energy efficiency.
8. The price mechanism is the best guide to the supply of and demand for energy of all kinds.
9. The environment I live in is important to me, and I act to conserve resources where I can, and to leave a light footmark. Moderating the environment is not inherently a bad thing, and humans have been doing it for ten thousand years. We are learning how best to do this.
10. On the whole, very cold weather is much more to be feared than hot weather: it seems to kill more people, it reduces food supply, and it is more expensive to deal with.
11. Given all the above, I can see no obvious evidence at the moment that the current level of warming (none of any significance in the last decade and a half), the current proportion of CO2 in the atmosphere, the current pH of the oceans, or the current amount of sea-ice, ought to be of concern to me or governments generally. Indeed, warming seems to have been a good thing.
Some things about which I have what I think is ‘reasonable doubt’
1. That the science is settled about climate.
2. That the debate is over; it’s time for action.
3. That global warming causes ‘climate change’, ‘extreme weather’, and their synonyms like ‘weird weather’.
4. That because of increased CO2, the oceans are ‘acidifying’ (another term I object to).
5. That carbon taxes will affect climate in any discernible way, let alone a good way.
6. That the world would be a much worse place if the average global temperature were 1 or 2 degrees warmer than it is now.
Some caveats about the whole issue
1. The temperature data, both present and past, are very rubbery. They have been affected by ordinary error, measurement error, adjustments of various kinds, and various kinds of statistical manipulation.
2. The global temperature anomaly is a mathematical abstraction that bears no relation to anything human beings actually experience.
3. The world is a very large place, and we have very little information about most of it.
4. I am not opposed to models, which are embedded into our daily life in a good way. But the general circulation models (GCMs) on which so much of ‘climate science’ relies have been neither validated nor verified. What is more, it seems highly likely that climate is inherently chaotic, not linear. If that is the case, we may never be able to model climate relationships properly at all, and the projections about future climate are nothing more than ill-educated guesses.
As you can see, this is a moving feast. Feel free to add to it, or subtract, or modify.