From time to time I come across accounts of how individuals came to form a sceptical view about AGW and ‘climate change’. My own tale is a simple one: I needed to write a chapter on the environment from 2000 to 2050, and was pointed to the 3rd Assessment Report of the IPCC by two sceptical friends (that was preparation for me) and then to alternative points of view. It didn’t take me long to work out that truth was by no means on the side of the IPCC. Seven years later, the chapter remains unfinished, but I read and write a lot on AGW and ‘climate change’.

What follows is someone else’s story, an engineer in Britain apparently, and I think you’ll find it interesting. I’ve extracted the bits that most appealed to me, but you can read all of it here. I’ve done a tiny bit of editing, too.

‘I grew up into a graduate engineer with an interest in most branches of science but especially physics. I read the usual books by Sagan, Feynman and later Dawkins (whose The Ancestor’s Tale I simply can’t recommend highly enough). I also dipped into philosophy via Bertrand Russell. I like to think this reading helped build upon the basic capabilities for critical thinking my education had provided.

I suppose it was in the early 90s that I first noticed predictions of global warming and the associated dire warnings of calamities to come. Some of these emanated from the Met Office and so I knew [they] should be treated with a pinch of salt, but other sources included NASA, which I then personally still very much respected; despite the space shuttle evidently being the wrong concept poorly executed, their basic scientific expertise seemed unquestionable. In general I was looking forward to the warmer climate predicted for the UK, and assumed that the overall effects for the globe wouldn’t necessarily all be bad…

‘I had always been somewhat sympathetic towards Friends of the Earth but much less so towards Greenpeace, by that time obviously a front for luddite socialism and basically shamanistic in outlook. I had deep personal concerns about the environment, having seen reports of terrible industrial pollution in developing countries and the former Eastern Bloc. I had also sailed across the Atlantic twice in a small yacht, and seen for myself floating plastic debris hundreds of miles from land. (I also saw an ‘eco warrior’ yacht in Antigua, lived on by a crusading hippy and daubed with environmental slogans. It was poorly maintained and leaked far more oil into the water than any other boat present.)

So I was quite passionate about the environment, but my focus was on keeping it clean and safe for all life to live in. I wanted people to stop overfishing and manage fish stocks sensibly, I wanted agricultural land to produce the best long-term yields possible, to provide enough food without encroaching on wilderness and wild spaces. I wanted people everywhere to have clean air to breathe and water to drink. I had hoped that the C[atastrophic]AGW crusade would somehow also lead to more urgent progress in fighting pollution, and the other environmental issues I cared about. If anything it did the reverse. Why the absolute fixation on reducing CO2 emissions, why was it taken for granted that this was the only way to proceed? Where was the public debate about the balance between prevention and mitigation? The CAGW protagonists always came up with solutions that were anti-industrial, anti-development and always, always required more public money. Where was the encouragement for inventors and entrepreneurs to discover and develop new technologies? And most of all, why, oh why, not spend some of the huge sums of money thrown at CO2 on getting effective pollution controls enacted in developing countries instead?

It had become quite clear to me that the BBC and similar media organisations would never even discuss whether the science underpinning CAGW was really robust. It had simply become a truism. An occasional doubting voice would be offered a sliver of airtime in the interests of supposed impartiality, but a proponent of CAGW would always be allowed the (much longer) last word. But, if NASA kept having to adjust their course calculations as the Voyager probes entered the outer reaches of the solar system (an utterly trivial problem compared to the complexities of the global climate), how could the science possibly be settled as claimed? Surely the great joy of science is in admitting ignorance, in taking a finely honed theory and sharpening it still further, or even better in realising a fundamental mistake and stepping aside onto a new path? The claimed certainty itself seemed unscientific…’

And he finishes with this paragraph:

‘So I now find myself wondering where we go from here. The global climate will continue to change, as it has always done, and although I tend to expect some cooling I am pretty agnostic about it. Nature will assuredly do its own thing. The CAGW scare is in the process of burning out, but I do not expect an outright or imminent collapse. I hope to see the deliberate manipulators of data punished, but doubt very much it will ever come to that. Whatever happens next, it will undoubtedly be interesting, and stimulate much discussion and widely varying viewpoints. This is good news, because it means that we are back to doing science.’

Amen, though I think we still have some time to wait.


Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Peter Kemmis says:

    What I found most interesting about this post on the source Don has cited, is the very long list of comments through which many tell of their own journey. I find them heartening, as there will be many others out there with similar stories. It’s also reassuring, perhaps in retrospect, because I remember well that when I started to wonder whether we really were undergoing any global warming at all, some of my graduate friends and my graduate children, thought I was tilting at windmills (no, no, not the new shiny white ones!). So I started locating actual data, and reading commentary of all kinds.

    I soon realised that global warming was real, currently quite steady with no acceleration, while human-caused carbon dioxide emissions continued upwards, but that there was no solid evidence for a serious threat from the latter, AGW itself. I realise now how limited had been my perspective on the timescale of climate, and the factors influencing it.

    On the political front, I think the Coalition is wise not to draw special attention to its own policy; if it is elected later this year, as the electorate comes to understand how fragile are the grounds and fruits of abatement schemes, it can in due course shift the effort from Direct Action on abatement, to action on protection of people and infrastructure.

  • dlb says:

    “Some of these emanated from the Met Office and so I knew [they] should be treated with a pinch of salt,”
    Love it 🙂

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