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CCNet 23/04/13

Consensus And Controversy

New Report On The Global Warming “Battlefield”

 
This report positively concludes that an alleged near unanimous scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming (AGW), that “the science is settled”, is overstated. The report finds a robust, critical scientific discourse in climate related research, yet it highlights that a “consensus-building” approach to science might represent a politicised and unscientific belief in science – a belief in tension with the ethos of “normal science”. The report calls for a continuing questioning, critical, and undogmatic public debate over man-made global warming, and a clearer separation between science and policy. --Consensus and Controversy, SINTEF April 2013
 
 
 

 
By insisting on scientific consensus and the “elimination of doubt”, seeking to declare the science of AGW settled once and for all, and imbuing this putative settlement with highly normative and pejorative allegations (to question is “irresponsible, reckless and immoral”), the consensus approach clings to being (solely) “science-based”, but its position is at the same time implicitly in direct opposition to the ethos of “normal science”. It is not supported, justified or endorsed by science in its canonical expression, where science, based on thinkers such as Kant,  Popper, Merton and Polanyi is seen to be constituted on continued discussion, open criticism, antidogmatism, (self)critical mindset, methodological doubt, and the organization of scepticism. --Consensus and Controversy, SINTEF April 2013
 
 
 
 
 
The authors of this paper recently presented their views on climate science at the Royal Academy of Belgium. No French or Belgian newspaper was willing to publish their assessment. Questioning the impact of mankind on climate change is evidently still a taboo in the French-speaking world. --István E. Markó, Alain Préat, Henri Masson and Samuel Furfari, The Global Warming Policy Foundation, 14 April 2013
 
 
 
 
Since 1997, global temperatures have failed to rise. As a result, climate predictions and climate science are facing a crisis of credibility. We don’t know whether or not global warming will become a global problem this century. It is certain, however, that Britain’s unilateral climate policy is undermining the UK’s economy and is threatening its competitiveness. Benny Peiser, Cambridge Enterprise & Technology Club, 25 April 2013
 
 
 
 
Many blame the public’s confusion over global warming on a widespread ignorance of science. A scientific grounding wouldn’t hurt but it also wouldn’t help much — few laymen, no matter how well informed, could be expected to follow the arcane climate change calculations that specialized scientists wield. The much better explanation for the public’s confusion lies in a widespread ignorance of history, not least by scientists.  We learn that history trumps science when the science is speculative, politicized, and at odds with reality. -- Lawrence Solomon, National Post, 19 April 2013
 
 
 
 
There is compelling evidence that, across the disciplines, peer review often fails to root out science fraud. Yet even basic errors in the literature can now be extremely difficult to correct on any reasonable timescale. --Philip Moriarty, Times Higher Education, 18 April 2013
 
 



 
 
1) Consensus And Controversy: New Report On The Global Warming “Battlefield” - SINTEF April 2013

2) Benny Peiser: Global Warming – Fact Or Fiction? - Cambridge Enterprise & Technology Club

3) Belgian Scientists: Double Standards In Climate Science - The Global Warming Policy Foundation, 14 April 2013

4) Lawrence Solomon: History Trumps Climate Science - National Post, 19 April 2013

5) Scientific Misconduct And The Myth Of Self-Correction In Science - Times Higher Education, 18 April 2013
 
 
 
1) Consensus And Controversy: New Report On The Global Warming “Battlefield”
SINTEF April 2013

This report outlines the main positions and debates surrounding the literally hot topic of man-made global warming. Inspired by social studies of science and technology, the goal of the report is to document, describe and take stock of this potent scientific and public “battlefield” that plays out arguably some of the more pressing issues of our time.

Presenting two broad “ideal type” of positions involved in the science of anthropogenic global warming (AGW), the “consensus” and the “contrarian” perspectives, the report analyses both their cultural premises and places them in relation to the philosophy of science.
The report positively concludes that an alleged near unanimous scientific consensus on AGW, that “the science is settled”, is overstated. The report finds a robust, critical scientific discourse in climate related research, yet it highlights that a “consensus-building” approach to science might represent a politicised and unscientific belief in science – a belief in tension with the ethos of “normal science”.

The report calls for a continuing questioning, critical, and undogmatic public debate over man-made global warming, and a clearer separation between science and policy.

SINTEF is the largest independent research organisation in Scandinavia

Introduction

The debate about man-made global warming is literally a hot topic. In fact it’s a discourse, and an empirical prospect, as some would argue, with quite a deadly intensity. This is a report about that debate. The title of the latest book by one of the central scientists in this field is telling: ”The hockey stick and the climate wars” (Mann 2012). This alleged ”climate war” is a scientific, political, economic, social and moral public field that is co-constructed and intersects in numerous ways, and which, to some extent at least, is characterized by the rhetoric of apocalypse, war and the communicative logic of the military trenches. Several other popular titles illustrate this: “The Suicidal Planet: How to prevent global climate catastrophe (Hillman 2007); “Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity” (Hansen 2009); ”Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming” (Hoggan and Littlemore 2009); “The Climate Crisis” (Archer and Rahmstorf 2010); “Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence” (Parenti 2011).

The language of fear and constructions of “catastrophe” regarding global warming has been firmly established during the last two decades, and professor of climate change Mike Hulme argues that this language has been embellished in the post 9/11 era (2009: 66). A report by the Institute of Public Policy Research in London commented on a comprehensive study of climate change discourses in the British media from 2006/2007 the following way: “The alarmist repertoire uses an inflated language, with terms such as “catastrophe”, “chaos” and “havoc”, and its tone is often urgent. It employs a quasi-religious register of doom, death, judgement, heaven and hell” (2007: 55). Likewise, the widely popular “tipping point” metaphor signifies the possible coming of sudden apocalypse.

The goal of this report is to enter this more or less inhospitable battlefield and take stock of the debate about anthropogenic (man-made) global warming. This will be done by both describing and counting the particular actors, activities and technologies (of both enchantment and production) performing on the scenes of this “theatre of war”, and also by bringing to the table a more distanced and analytical perspective of the field as such, using as a guiding metaphor the (hopefully) neutral UN-observers’ approach to zones of conflict and tension. The zone we are entering here and its particular mix of morality, science, politics, and polemics can certainly be explosive, confusing, and condescending.

There are several reasons for writing such a report. Needless to say, the debate on anthropogenic global warming is of high significance and consequence to people and society. More specifically, because of all that is publicly written and said about the dangers of global warming, one could easily get the impression that the major scientific issues on the subject is settled, and that the debate is, or is being, closed and “black boxed” (Latour 1987). On the other hand, there seems to be vocal and persistent scientists and advocates that on various grounds resist the alleged consensus. These voices sometimes claim that their legitimate dissent is silenced and marginalised in both scientific and public discourse. Thus, an explicit goal of this report has been to give the dissenting or “contrarian” perspectives a serious treatment. Has the science of anthropogenic global warming reached such a level of consensus saturation and cohesion that the debate is, legitimately or not, closed and “black boxed”? To be able to answer this question the contrarian perspectives receives relatively more space in this report. This choice is also justified by the wide attention and institutional support and promotion the consensus perspective(s) have received, not least through the IPCC.

In a 2007 speech before the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, Gro Harlem Brundtland, the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy on Climate Change (and also former Prime Minister of Norway, and former Director-General of the World Health Organization) conveyed the mixture of politics, polemics, science and morality when she, in relation to global warming, famously stated that: “So what is it that is new today? What is new is that doubt has been eliminated. The report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is clear. And so is the Stern report. It is irresponsible, reckless and deeply immoral to question the seriousness of the situation. The time for diagnosis is over. Now it is time to act.”

This statement has several significant and problematic aspects that will be discussed in this report. Has doubt been eliminated in the case of anthropogenic (man-made) global warming? Is it possible to eliminate doubt, and are efforts to do so pursuits pertinent to science and democracy in open societies? Is it immoral and reckless to question and doubt? The Brundtland statement displays both explicitly and implicitly key premises upon which the debate on global warming is being played out, and this report seeks to unfold some of the most important of these premises.

As noted above, in the American vernacular the particular geo-political arenas of war is often labelled a “theatre of war”. Even though the subject matter of this report is both deserving of, and demands to be taken highly seriously, the theatre metaphor is in itself also quite appropriate. The debate on global warming has a theatrical ambience to it on several levels. It abounds with stories of tragedy, untergang and apocalypse, of crisis, saviours and salvation, and in several of these also (unintended) genres of melodrama and comedy is not difficult to detect. It borrows several of its communicative scripts from classical narratives, often including plots of good and evil, of culprits and heroes, and of nature’s ultimate revenge upon the unlimited folly of a humanity of myopic fools and malfeasants.

The theatrical tropes of the debate is also squarely pinpointed by the fact that the play’s definitive number one villain and enfant terrible is the agent and actor (or rather “actant” in the vocabulary of actor-network-theory) that goes by the name of CO2. Carbon dioxide. This gas is quite literally the “smoking gun” (Archer and Rahmstorf 2010: 11) of the play, metaphorically represented as something like the (Lord of The Rings’) Sauron in the saga of global warming, and believed to play the major role in causing anthropogenic global warming – with all its possible detrimental consequences. Yet CO2 is also a major actant in photosynthesis and the life-giving production of oxygen. With CO2 at the centrepiece of the play, inhabiting this radically doubleedged position of being both the gas of life and death, global warming as eschatological tales of humanity’s end-times, and its embedded counter narrative of secular (or rather quasi-religious) earthly resurrection and salvation through heroic deeds and technological measures, the drama of global warming attains the level of meaning that myths are made of.

1.1 The’four’myths’of’climate’change

To further explicate the cultural premises for understanding the debate about global warming, this section outlines the four core narratives, or myths, that arguably frame the discourse on climate change. [...]

Full report
 


2) Benny Peiser: Global Warming – Fact Or Fiction?
Cambridge Enterprise & Technology Club

Talk at the Cambridge Enterprise & Technology Club, 25 April 2013

Since 1997, global temperatures have failed to rise. As a result, climate predictions and climate science are facing a crisis of credibility. We don’t know whether or not global warming will become a global problem this century. It is certain, however, that Britain’s unilateral climate policy is undermining the UK’s economy and is threatening its competitiveness.

Speaker
Dr Benny Peiser, Director GWPF

Date & Time
25 April 2013
6.00pm  -  Buffet and Networking
6.30pm  -  Speaker presentation and Discussion
8.15pm  -  Finish

Venue: Ramsey Moon Conference Centre, Cambridge
 


3) Belgian Scientists: Double Standards In Climate Science
The Global Warming Policy Foundation, 14 April 2013

István E. Markó, Alain Préat, Henri Masson and Samuel Furfari

The authors of this paper recently presented their views on climate science at the Royal Academy of Belgium. No French or Belgian newspaper was willing to publish their assessment. Questioning the impact of mankind on climate change is evidently still a taboo in the French-speaking world.

Double Standards in Climate Change
István E. Markó a), Alain Préat b), Henri Masson c) and Samuel Furfari d)

a) Professor at the Université catholique de Louvain (UCL)
b) Professor at the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB)
c) Professor at Maastricht University
d) Lecturer at the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB)

The conference on climate change held in Doha (Qatar) last December ended in failure once again. However, the news reported in the media about this 18th conference on climate change were fully in line with the well-rehearsed mantra: the Earth is warming up, human emissions of greenhouse gases are mainly to blame for this warming up, and we are approaching disaster. We have only one climate, but communication about it seems to be plagued by double standards.

For a few years now British, American, Italian or German media have given sceptical scientists the opportunity to express their opinions on the validity of the statements released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the organisation responsible for the official line of thought on climate matters. Nothing like that has been seen in the French or Belgian media which persist in portraying scientific sceptics, at best as sold out to the oil lobbies, at worst as troubled individuals, greedy for public recognition and fame and as such not worthy to be proponents in a serious debate.

The authors of this contribution were recently been granted the honour of presenting their point of view as climate sceptics at the Royal Academy of Belgium. During a series of six well-attended lectures we showed, among other things, that:

1. The climate has always changed. This was true during ancient times and it has also been true since the beginning of the modern era. These climate changes have always been, and still are, independent of the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere;

2. During Roman times and the Middle Ages temperatures were observed well in excess of those currently experienced. From the 16th till the 19th century a cold period referred to as the “Little Ice Age” predominated. All these changes took place without mankind being held responsible. We believe that the increase in temperatures that occurred during a certain part of the 20th century is the result of a recovery from this cold period. These various events can be explained by a combination of warm and cold cycles of different magnitudes and duration. Why and how this happens is not yet fully understood, but some plausible explanations can be put forward;

3. The so-called “abnormally rapid” increase in global temperatures between 1980 and 2000 is not unusual at all. There have in fact been several such periods in the past, during which temperatures rose in a similar manner and at comparable rates, even though fossil fuels were not yet in use;

Full paper
 
 
4) Lawrence Solomon: History Trumps Climate Science
National Post, 19 April 2013

History trumps science when the science is speculative, politicized, and at odds with reality.

Many blame the public’s confusion over global warming on a widespread ignorance of science. A scientific grounding wouldn’t hurt but it also wouldn’t help much — few laymen, no matter how well informed, could be expected to follow the arcane climate change calculations that specialized scientists wield.

The much better explanation for the public’s confusion lies in a widespread ignorance of history, not least by scientists. Any child can understand that the Romans conquered the world when temperatures were warmer than today, that the Dutch invented the ice skates during the Little Ice Age five hundred years ago, and that melting glaciers off Newfoundland a century ago produced the iceberg that sunk the Titanic. Each of these well documented periods shreds speculations from climate alarmists, such as their assertion that the Arctic is only now warming, or that temperatures had been relative stable over the past one or two thousand years, and only in the last century climbed dramatically.

This week’s scary climate change news, courtesy of an article in Nature Geoscience, claims that temperatures in the Antarctic peninsula are the hottest they’ve been in the last 1000 years. This claim follows a “reconstruction” of the climate using a boatload of assumptions.
Another article on the Antarctic in the same issue of Nature Geoscience is less scary, in part because it employs history to buttress scientific conclusions. “If we could look back at this region of Antarctica in the 1940s and 1830s, we would find that the regional climate would look a lot like it does today, and I think we also would find the glaciers retreating much as they are today,” said lead author Eric Steig of the University of Washington. Steig’s study made use of actual temperature records taken by sailors, explorers and scientists over the past two centuries in the tropics and beyond.

The vast Antarctic, of course, has been mostly inaccessible, but numerous expeditions to the region, beginning with James Cook’s voyage in the 1770s, provide actual, rather than scientifically surmised or reconstructed, data. The explorers from Australia, Britain, Belgium, France, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden and Switzerland tell us, for example, that the contours of the continent continually changed. Antarctica’s Bay of Whales, used by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen in 1911 and Richard Byrd expeditions in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, changed so often and became so unstable that in the 1950s it became unusable as a port and in the 1980s, after a 99-mile-long iceberg broke off it, the bay disappeared entirely.

Those unaware of this history would be easily taken in by dramatic media footage over the last decade of icebergs breaking off Antarctic glaciers, accompanied by breathless prose warning that global warming had unleashed unprecedented changes. Those unaware of more recent history would not know that since the mid 1950s the U.S. has maintained a continual base at the south pole. The temperatures it recorded – actual, not reconstructed readings – show the south pole to be colder today than when it was established more than 50 years ago.

History has similar tales to tell at the north pole and environs. “It will without doubt have come to your Lordship’s knowledge that a considerable change of climate, inexplicable at present to us, must have taken place in the Circumpolar Regions, by which the severity of the cold that has for centuries past enclosed the seas in the high northern latitudes in an impenetrable barrier of ice has been during the last two years, greatly abated,” wrote the president of London’s Royal Society to the British Admiralty in 1817. In urging an expedition, he stated “new sources of warmth have been opened and give us leave to hope that the Arctic Seas may at this time be more accessible than they have been for centuries past, and that discoveries may now be made in them not only interesting to the advancement of science but also to the future intercourse of mankind and the commerce of distant nations.”

Many expeditions were in fact made, by the British and others, and the Northwest Passage would be several times traversed, first by the same Amundsen who had earlier explored the Antarctic. History shows us that the Arctic has oftentimes warmed, making a mockery of claims that the modest recent warming is in any way extraordinary.

A newspaper report this week from the Alaska Dispatch recalls that Alaska’s all-time high temperature – 100 degrees Fahrenheit – occurred in 1915. A newspaper headline from Australia during World War II asks: “The North Pole, Is It Warming?” The answer: “From soundings and meteorological tests taken by the Soviet explorers who returned this week to Murmansk, Russia’s-sole Ice-free Arctic port, it was concluded that near Polar temperatures are on an average six degrees higher than those registered by Nansen [a Norwegian explorer] 40 years ago.”

The rich historical evidence from the Arctic is as nothing compared to those from heavily populated Europe and Asia, where written accounts describe how changes in temperature affected what crops could be grown and where people could live. We learn that in the warmer-than-today period a thousand years ago – the Medieval Warm Period — grapes grew in Britain and Scandinavians farmed Greenland. We learn that during the warmer-still period two thousand years ago – the Roman Warm Period – olives grew in Germany and citrus trees in Britain.

We learn that history trumps science when the science is speculative, politicized, and at odds with reality.
 

5) Scientific Misconduct And The Myth Of Self-Correction In Science
Times Higher Education, 18 April 2013

Philip Moriarty

There is compelling evidence that, across the disciplines, peer review often fails to root out science fraud. Yet even basic errors in the literature can now be extremely difficult to correct on any reasonable timescale.

The website Science-fraud.org was established in July 2012 by the pseudonymous Frances de Triusce (an anagram of “science fraudster”) with the aim of highlighting suspicious papers in the scientific literature. Barely six months later, having brought to light around 500 examples of what might best be called questionable data, and with a daily readership in the thousands, the website was shut down.

Its founder’s true identity had been uncovered – he was Paul Brookes, an associate professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center in the US – and an email had been sent to around 85 scientists whose data had been questioned on the site, encouraging them to sue him for defamation. The email, which described Science-fraud.org as a “hate site” and, rather ironically, as a menace to “scientific society”, was also copied to Brookes’ superiors at Rochester (including its president), the editors of journals in which he had published and prominent people in his field who might be expected to be involved in peer reviewing his grants and papers.

Brookes’ immense frustration with both this deplorable act and the current state of scientific peer review was clear in his final post on the Science Fraud site: “As I have learned the hard way, anyone who dares to stick their neck on the line and question the data of their peers is ostracised, stone walled and subjected to lawsuits.” He went on to argue that the way forward would be to assemble what he called a “coalition of the willing” – to be known as the Association for Anonymous Post-Publication Peer Review – to effectively police the literature, flagging up questionable data and papers. A Science Fraud 2.0, in other words, albeit with a less incendiary name.

I have an immense amount of respect for Brookes, and for all those who will join his coalition. His integrity and commitment to science is laudable and inspiring. But why should he have to stick his neck on the line again? Do we really have to rely on what amounts to academic vigilantism to preserve the integrity of the scientific record? And who decides what constitutes a breach of scientific integrity in any case?

This latter question is, perhaps surprisingly, rather vexed. Even in cases of straightforward fraud – the manipulation, modification, and/or direct fabrication of data – establishing beyond doubt the guilt of the authors is rarely straightforward. But at least journal editors’ responsibility in these circumstances is clear: the paper must be retracted.

Full story
 


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