Once upon a time a lot of people were worried about something called global warming. The idea was fairly simple. The modern industrial world was producing much more carbon dioxide than we did in days gone by. Carbon dioxide acts as a greenhouse gas; it traps heat, so the theory was that if we put too much of it in the atmosphere, the world would start warming up, hence the phrase global warming. And sure enough, global temperatures did increase during the period 1975 to 2000. Since then, however, even though we are producing more and more carbon dioxide, temperatures have stayed obstinately flat.
Shortly after temperatures stopped rising, the phrase ‘global warming’ went out of fashion, and we started talking about climate change. Almost at the stroke of a pen this enabled us to forget the embarrassing fact that carbon dioxide doesn’t seem to be causing global warming any more. Climate change can mean anything you want. Hot summer this year? Climate change! Coldest February since records began? Climate change! Too wet, too dry, too anything else? Climate change! Let us link arms, brothers and sisters, and boldly go forth to fight climate change!
The phrase ‘climate change’ used in this way is intellectually dishonest. It implies that without modern civilization the climate on our world would always be idyllic. The sun would always shine, winters would be mild, summers warm, and everything we need would grow on trees.
Climate is always changing, regardless of the human race. 20,000 years ago, for example, we were in the middle of an ice age, and much of North America was buried under a mile of ice. Since then, the ice has melted. Now that’s climate change. It’s hard to see climate change happening because it changes very slowly, in terms of decades and centuries, but change it does. Fighting climate change is about as sensible as fighting gravity. People who unthinkingly demand that we fight climate change remind me of George Orwell’s sheep in Animal Farm, who ran around bleating four legs good, two legs baaad.
Besides this underlying intellectual dishonesty about climate, there is a more frightening dishonesty among the scientists who, for one reason or another, adhere to the climate change school of thought. An example of this comes from the 2006 testimony to the US Senate of Dr David Deming, a respected geophysicist at the University of Oklahoma:
I had another interesting experience around the time my paper [on borehole temperatures] in Science was published. I received an astonishing email from a major researcher in the area of climate change. He said, “We have to get rid of the Medieval Warm Period.”
The Medieval Warm Period (MWP) was a time of unusually warm weather that began around 1000 AD and persisted until a cold period known as the “Little Ice Age” took hold in the 14th century. Warmer climate brought a remarkable flowering of prosperity, knowledge, and art to Europe during the High Middle Ages.
The existence of the MWP had been recognized in the scientific literature for decades. But now it was a major embarrassment to those maintaining that the 20th century warming was truly anomalous. It had to be “gotten rid of.”
‘Get rid of’ is a political phrase, not a scientific one. A scientist might conceivably say “I have discovered new evidence which casts doubt on the existence of the Medieval Warm Period”, but saying “We have to get rid of the Medieval Warm Period” expresses a political desire, not a scientific truth.
There seems to be a double standard among many scientists. You can advance any theory you like, no matter how tenuous the evidence or preposterous the reasoning, and provided your theory supports the idea of man-made climate change, you will be taken seriously and your theory will be published in a scientific journal. However, if your data and conclusions do not support man-made climate change, no matter how meticulous your work, you can pretty well forget about being published. To quote Dr Deming again:
The week the article appeared, I was contacted by a reporter for National Public Radio. He offered to interview me, but only if I would state that the warming was due to human activity. When I refused to do so, he hung up on me.
As with most phenomena of this nature, the reason for it isn’t hard to find. It can be summed up in one word: money. In the twenty-first century to date, a total of about $3 trillion has been spent worldwide on so-called green energy, mainly wind and solar. Now ask yourselves how much of this would have been spent if the terms ‘global warming’ and ‘climate change’ had never entered our consciousness. For three trillion dollars you can buy yourself a whole lot of tame scientists who will gladly say whatever you want them to say.
Many of us think of scientists as superhuman beings who know everything. Put the word Professor in front of someone’s name and he or she automatically becomes an awesome fount of knowledge beyond the comprehension of mere mortals like us. Unfortunately scientists, particularly academic scientists in universities, are as human as the rest of us, and are just as anxious to advance their careers. Academic scientists are usually dependent on outside sources to fund their research, which is the main route to advancing their careers, and if the owner of those funds says climate change is the thing nowadays, well, you’ve probably heard the phrase ‘go along to get along’. In the present global political environment it takes a brave academic indeed to stand up and say that human-caused climate change is nonsense.
I started off as an academic scientist, then switched over to industry, where I spent many years designing radar systems. Just for the record, the work we were doing with radar was equally as complex as anything being done in a university laboratory, but we were subject to a constraint that academics are not – the customer. If you are an academic scientist you can develop a theory that increased carbon dioxide emissions are going to cause people’s toenails to explode, and you may very well be taken seriously and have your work published in a scientific journal. The equivalent for such as myself in industry would be to claim that we had designed a lightweight radar which would detect a mouse at a thousand miles range. The problem in our case is that eventually the customer would come along with those dreaded words – “OK, show me”. Intellectual dishonesty is not a survival trait in industry.
I don’t mean to say that all academic scientists are cynical liars. However, most scientists live in little silos and are afraid to venture outside. You may have heard the story of a group of scientists at a conference where one of them said “the sky is blue”. The others said to themselves “does he have the academic credentials to say that? How many papers has he published on atmospheric physics?”. Most university scientists spend their lives learning more and more about less and less, and are frightened of venturing outside their narrow little specialities in case they get put down by another scientist into whose speciality they have strayed. As a result, very few of them see, or are willing to stake their professional reputations on, anything but a tiny slice of the problem. In this respect, scientists are more easily fooled than non-scientists.
All of us, scientists included, are being cynically manipulated by those who stand to make a great deal of money by scaring people with the bogeyman of climate change. Whether or not there is such a thing as man-made climate change, the aura of intellectual dishonesty surrounding the whole subject makes me very suspicious of it.