Friday, 26 February 2010

My Perception of the Global Warming Debate - Guest Post

Edward Spalton is one of my loyal readers who sent me the following because of my interest in the subject. It's a fascinating personal view which I thought worthy of sharing with you.

An Individual's Perception of the Global Warming Debate

I worked in an industry which delivered animal feed to farms and mills. Throughout the Sixties and Seventies (and indeed from the Forties according to older colleagues), it was usual that there would be some weeks or months each winter when transport was difficult due to snow and ice. In the early eighties I started my own small mill. The winter bit hard on our new site and the diesel fuel froze, putting our fork lift and loading shovel out of action. I hurriedly bought heaters to keep them snug overnight and a big blower heater to thaw them out, if they caught a chill in the open yard. From that winter, we never had to use the heaters again in the next twenty years. So yes, things had got a little warmer.

When I later looked at the temperature record rather than relying on anecdote and memory, there had been a period of cooling from the mid Forties to the mid Seventies and there had been other periods when temperatures had risen or fallen quite naturally. Norwegian explorers, for instance, had found huge, unexpected, ice-free areas in the Arctic in the Twenties. The debate about warming and the claim that it was man-made (or anthropogenic, if you want a gender-neutral term) came to the fore. Around 1996 our son was reading chemistry at Oxford and I asked him what they thought about it there. “Well Dad”, he said in his cheerful way “It all depends on where your research grant comes from”. I have since read a learned paper by Professor Richard Lindzen of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which completely bears this out in copious, cross-referenced detail.

As there were great threats of doom arising from what I might term the alarmist or warmist campaigners, I started to dig around for information when business, family and other interests permitted. The following is what I found, not particularly well organised, nor in exact sequence, cross-referenced or footnoted. I have also included thoughts, surmises and conjectures about how the economic interests, motives and belief systems of protagonists may have affected their working methods, interpretation and approach to the facts of the controversy.

My own outlook is conditioned by an increasing distrust of the revealed behaviour of our political and official class, as they proceed with the slow motion coup d'etat, progressively handing our country's government to the alien institutions of the EU and other supra-national organisations which, by their nature, can never be democratically accountable to anyone. So I am sceptical of all their works.
Initially I was rather keen on European togetherness. Our family firm had a working association with a Dutch company and the continent looked bright and modern in comparison to a rather shabby and increasingly strike-prone Britain. My real education in the matter began in 1972 when I was co-opted as a trade representative to a Ministry of Agriculture committee, charged with bringing in the practicalities of the Common Agricultural Policy by 1 January 1973.

When the civil servants explained the ornate details of the policy, its complex arrangements for “intervention” buying (to create the grain and butter mountains and wine lakes), export subsidies to dump food onto the world market below the cost of production and “denaturing” subsidies to make wheat and milk powder unfit for human consumption, my older trade colleagues were outraged. They were ready to walk out.

A very suave civil servant calmed them down. “Well gentlemen, we were not a founder member of the community, so some of these arrangements don't suit us very well. But just give it a few years of British common sense and we will soon lick it into shape. In the meantime, the political decisions having been taken, we are here to make things as convenient as we can for your businesses”. Tea was brought in and peace restored. It was beautifully done. I think he must have been a near relation of Sir Humphrey Appleby of “Yes Minister” fame. We are still waiting for the British common sense to take effect.

Britain ended up spending far more to make food dear for the housewife than it had spent making it cheap under the much more suitable, national system of the 1947 Agriculture Act, which allowed the food of the world to come in free of customs duties but provided for food security by deficiency payments to British farmers. Years later, I met Dr. Tony Coughlan, Senior Lecturer in Social Policy at Trinity College Dublin. He was still incredulous that a British government could have entered a policy so thoroughly detrimental to its own people's interests. It did however effect a massive transfer of resources from the purses of British housewives to the accounts of Irish, French and other European farmers and food processors

Our firm had to learn to live and work within this economic madhouse. In some ways it made our business more profitable but I have yet to see any national benefit flow from it. So I learned how stupid (or possibly simply anti British) our political and official class really was. Britain's fishing fleet was sacrificed on the same altar although execution of sentence was delayed for a few years for reasons of presentation - what we would now call “spin”.
So I began to read official documents and reports concerning global warming with a certain degree of scepticism. I had asked my son about it all because I had just got to hear of something called the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), an organisation of the world's top experts, it was said. The panel had produced a document called “The Science of Climate Change 1995” which claimed to establish that human activity, in particular emissions of carbon dioxide from factory chimneys, were altering the climate and making it warm up.

A very eminent American scientist, Frederick Seitz, former president of the US National Academy of Sciences, president emeritus of Rockefeller University and chairman of the George C. Marshall Institute, had grave reservations about it.
He wrote in the Wall Street Journal (June 12 1996)

“This IPCC report, like all the others, is held in such high regard largely because it has been peer-reviewed. That is, it has been read, discussed, modified and approved by an international body of experts. These scientists have laid their reputation on the line. But this report is not what it appears to be - it is not the version that was approved by the contributing scientists listed on the title page. In my more than 60 years as a member of the American scientific community, including service as president of both the National Academy of Sciences and the American Physical Society, I have never witnessed a more disturbing CORRUPTION (my emphasis) of the peer review process than the events which led to the IPCC report.

A comparison between the report approved by the contributing scientists and the published version reveals that key changes were made after the scientists had met and accepted what they thought was the final peer-reviewed version..... Nothing in the IPCC rules permits anyone to change a scientific report after it has been accepted by the panel of scientific contributors and the full IPCC.
….....But more than 15 sections in Chapter 8 of the report - the key chapter setting out the scientific evidence for and against human influence over the climate- were changed or deleted after the scientists charged with examining this question had accepted the supposedly final text.
Few of these changes were merely cosmetic; nearly all worked to remove hints of the skepticism with which many scientists regard claims that human activities are having a major impact on climate in general and on global warming in particular.
The following passages are examples of those included in the approved report but deleted from the supposedly peer-reviewed published version:
“None of the studies cited above has shown clear evidence that we can attribute the observed (climate) changes to the specific cause of increases in greenhouse gasses”
“No study to date has positively attributed all or part (of the climate change observed to date) to anthropogenic (man-made) causes”.
“Any claims of positive detection of significant climate change are likely to remain controversial until uncertainties in the total natural variability of the climate system are reduced”.....................................

.. IPCC reports are often called the “consensus” view. If they lead to carbon taxes and restraints on economic growth, they will have a major almost certainly destructive impact on the economies of the world. Whatever the intent was of those who made these significant changes, their effect is TO DECEIVE POLICY MAKERS AND THE PUBLIC INTO BELIEVING THAT THE SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE SHOWS HUMAN ACTIVITIES ARE CAUSING GLOBAL WARMING....” (my emphasis)
On July 11 the Wall Street Journal reported an editorial from the magazine “Nature” which impugned the motives of the group that first uncovered the alterations in the text but confirmed that
“A crucial chapter of the IPCC's report was altered between the time of its format acceptance and printing”
“Whether in accord with IPCC rules or not – still
a hotly debated matter- “there is some evidence that the revision process did result in a subtle shift....that ...tended to favour arguments that aligned with the report's broad conclusions” (Critics of the IPCC would have used much stronger words) The editorial further admits that “phrases that might have been (mis)interpreted as as undermining the conclusions have disappeared”.
“IPCC officials” quoted (but not named) by Nature claim the reason for the revision to the chapter was “to ensure that it conformed to a “policymakers' summary” of the full report...” Their claim begs the obvious question: Should not a summary conform to the underlying scientific report rather than vice versa?

The IPCC summary itself, a political document, is economical with the truth: it has problems with selective presentation of facts, not the least of which is that it totally ignores global temperature data gathered by satellites, which contradict the results of models used to predict a substantial future warming....”
The report continues …...”It is clear that politicians and activists striving for international controls on energy use (to be discussed in Geneva in July (1996)
(when parties to the Global Climate Treaty convene) are anxious to stipulate that the science is settled and trying to marginalise the growing number of scientific critics. It is disappointing, however, to find a respected science journal urging in an editorial that “charges ….that the IPCC report on global climate change has been “scientifically cleansed” should not be allowed to undermine efforts for abatement strategies”.

These two reports contain just about all the features of the climate controversy which has gone on ever since. The claim by the IPCC to represent the “consensus” of all the leading authorities in the field. Total insistence that all its work is “peer-reviewed” (often mirrored by slurs on any work which does not support its conclusions).

Manipulation of data, revealing that a small body of not very clearly identified people, not the “2,000 to 4,000 scientists” (estimates vary at different times) who contribute to reports, actually write what gets published as the conclusion.

The report is “adjusted to fit the “policymakers' summary” not the other way round. The policymakers' summary is the only part which the politicians and officials will read, secure in the not entirely justified belief that it is supported by the bulk of the report. With this misplaced confidence they will proceed to legislate for the world.

The impugning of motives of anybody who disagrees with whatever version of the report actually gets printed and acted upon.

The overriding call to political activism regardless of the soundness of the claims made in the report.

The marginalisation of any scientist, however eminent, who does not conform to the claimed “consensus” , achieved by distinctly doubtful means.

In the events which followed and continue, one of the most alarming features has been the general willingness of most reporters and “environmental correspondents” to toe the IPCC line. Subsequent revelations, such as the emails leaked in 2009 from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia show that those scientists within the “charmed circle” of true believers were willing and able to make life difficult for anyone in the media who strayed from the officially approved narrative or “consensus” ( a word which has a long and disreputable history in this saga.

To be continued


The Filthy Engineer said...

Exactly what most of us have seen. It's time the politicians were brought to account over it.

preferably with lamposts and piano wire.

Jess The Dog said...

A very interesting post.

I would term myself a 'concerned sceptic.' It is right to move towards renewables and to reduce consumption, particularly if we are approaching 'peak oil'. The hypothesis that warming may be man-made is plausible. However, much of the debate is confusing, misleading and dominated by government.

Facts and assertions fly backwards and forwards...from both directions. Take the 'Medieval Warm Period.' This may counter the 'established' view, but there is no evidence that the warming was not localised and overall the Earth's temperature may not have changed.

Look at the hockey stick graph. I always found this compelling, until one fact struck me: it only goes back 1,000 years. This is nothing in terms of the Earth's history, and could well be part of a cycle.

It is extremely difficult to model whole-climate data. There is no global data other than the last century or so, proxies only are of limited use, and modelling is error-prone and vulnerable to small sensitivities.

This is why the debate must be free and unfettered. Any hypothesis must be developed and tested through peer review and experiment, with full data available. The East Anglia university debacle was an affront to science.

My own personal view is that warming may be anthropogenic, but the Earth is a single ecosystem and no new energy can be added into that system. It will right itself eventually....but this may well be at enormous human cost. The other certainty is that humans and other life forms will adapt.

More debate needed.

subrosa said...

Gentleman, I shall forward your comments to Edward.

Apogee said...

Hi SR .
Will await the next episode with interest.
It does raise the question,if 99% of politicians are dishonest most of the time, why are we bothering to consider voting for any of them in about 100 days time?

But a good article that lists many crimes of the past of both main parties.

subrosa said...

I understand it's well underway Apogee. Such a shame that politicians won't take notice of his views.

wisnaeme said...

What a brilliant article far better than reading a who dun it thriller.

...and much more enlightening.

Just goes to show you how folk can manouver and twist revelations to suit an agenda.

An agenda pursued with the utmost vigour and deceit to fit their purpose.

That purpose being self interest gain in one form or another for the perpetrators of magical mystery tours in speculation. Governments and their administrations do that quite well or so I've been informed.

Just shows you to what lengths folk will go to manipulate their versions of 'probabilities' to suit a fit for purpose whatever in order to control and gain whatever to their advantage.

The made to order bible does that quite sucessfully, it does a good turn or twist or two in the revalations department too.
...or so ah'm told; allegedly.

I would suggest that this particular human trait is the oldest profession in the world; that of selling your ain soul or other people's souls for gain.
The second oldest being that of selling yer ain body or other people's bodies for self interest gain, naturally.

So it's pimp my ride on a magical mystery, make believe tour conducted by the 'experts' then?

I prefer Dougal, Florence and a magic roundabout ride myself, at least I can make sense of yon.

subrosa said...

I'm sure Edward will appreciate your comments wisnaeme. I'll send them on anyway.

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