As the snow began falling on Saturday, I said to my wife “what do you want to bet that someone will cook up an explanation that all this is caused by global warming”? It was a joke: but when I looked at that morning’s Independent newspaper, there it was already, under the headline “Science behind the big freeze: is climate change bringing the Arctic to Europe?”
The bitterly cold weather sweeping Britain and the rest of Europe has been linked by scientists with the ice-free seas of the Arctic, where global warming is exerting its greatest influence.
A dramatic loss of sea ice covering the Barents and Kara Seas above northern Russia could explain why a chill Arctic wind has engulfed much of Europe and killed 221 people over the past week…
A growing number of experts believe complex wind patterns are being changed because melting Arctic sea ice has exposed huge swaths of normally frozen ocean to the atmosphere above.
The piece mentions the names of one or two of this growing number of experts. I’m glad that at least the piece didn’t say that this was a generally accepted consensus: for, the idea of an incontrovertible scientific consensus behind current ideas of anthropogenic global warming is itself coming under increasingly sceptical scrutiny from another “growing number of experts”, as you will see from a very interesting article which appeared a week or so ago in the Wall Street Journal.
The article is signed by a large number of scientists, whose names I now flourish before you to prove that they exist:
Claude Allegre, former director of the Institute for the Study of the Earth, University of Paris; J. Scott Armstrong, cofounder of the Journal of Forecasting and the International Journal of Forecasting; Jan Breslow, head of the Laboratory of Biochemical Genetics and Metabolism, Rockefeller University; Roger Cohen, fellow, American Physical Society; Edward David, member, National Academy of Engineering and National Academy of Sciences; William Happer, professor of physics, Princeton; Michael Kelly, professor of technology, University of Cambridge, U.K.; William Kininmonth, former head of climate research at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology; Richard Lindzen, professor of atmospheric sciences, MIT; James McGrath, professor of chemistry, Virginia Technical University; Rodney Nichols, former president and CEO of the New York Academy of Sciences; Burt Rutan, aerospace engineer, designer of Voyager and SpaceShipOne; Harrison H. Schmitt, Apollo 17 astronaut and former U.S. senator; Nir Shaviv, professor of astrophysics, Hebrew University, Jerusalem; Henk Tennekes, former director, Royal Dutch Meteorological Service; Antonio Zichichi, president of the World Federation of Scientists, Geneva.
The starting point of the article, headlined “No Need to Panic About Global Warming” (subheading, “There’s no compelling scientific argument for drastic action to ‘decarbonise’ the world’s economy”) is the resignation from the American Physical Society of the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Ivar Giaever, in a letter which begins: “I did not renew [my membership] because I cannot live with the [APS policy] statement: ‘The evidence is incontrovertible: global warming is occurring. If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth’s physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now.” Dr Giaever had asked simply for the word “incontrovertible” to be removed: the APS refused. He rejoined: “In the APS it is OK to discuss whether the mass of the proton changes over time and how a multi-universe behaves, but the evidence of global warming is incontrovertible?”
The fact is, as the WSJ article says (and as I have said in this column before) that large numbers of scientists don’t accept this supposed consensus, and more and more of them are putting their heads above the parapet to say so. The reason is simple: that more and more “incontrovertible” facts are suggesting that the “consensus” has more to do with ideology than science: the most inconvenient truth, perhaps, is the fact that for more than a decade there has been no global warming to speak of, despite the fact that man-made CO2 continues to grow apace. The scientific establishment has no explanation of this, as emerged with wonderful irony in the so-called “Climategate” scandal in 2009, and particularly in an email from a climate scientist called Kevin Trenberth, who wrote baldly (and he thought secretly) that “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.”
The fact is that the whole anthropogenic warming theory is based not on observation but on computer models: in this case, it seems, computer models in which so-called “feedbacks” involving water vapour and clouds greatly amplify the small effect of CO2. It is, incidentally, interesting that none of the computer models which feed the theory, not one, predicted the present global warming pause: so why, one might ask, should one have any faith at all in their predictive powers about anything else?
Why, on a Catholic website, bother about this at all? Well, because we have been here before. Attacks on the Church over the Galileo affair have been going on for centuries, especially from the scientific community. Now, however, it is the scientific community which is recoiling from free scientific inquiry in the name of a supposedly “incontrovertible” belief based not on observation but on something else, which some have even called a “substitute religion”. And truly, for many, an environmentalism which warns of a man-made doom approaching us all has indeed begun to take on distinctly quasi-religious overtones: and certainly, an environmentalism of this kind is not going to allow its basic assumptions to be challenged. Man needs religion: and if he won’t have a true religion, he will tend willy-nilly to adopt a false one. As Cardinal Pell puts it “some of the more hysterical and extreme claims about global warming appear symptomatic of a pagan emptiness, of a Western fear when confronted by the immense and basically uncontrollable forces of nature… Perhaps they’re looking for a cause that is almost a substitute for religion… In the past pagans sacrificed animals and even humans in vain attempts to placate capricious and cruel gods. Today they demand a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.”
The effects of these “extreme claims about global warming” have had a direct effect on our national life even to the extent of threatening our economy. Coincidentally, this could in fact be a moment when the government might do something about that. On Saturday, Chris Huhne, Energy and Climate Change Secretary, had to resign from the government. I can’t, I have to say, see exactly why what he is charged with is such a heinous crime that it may well put an end to his political career, but I’m bound to say that I hope either that it has, or at least that he never gets anywhere near “climate change” policy ever again.
He has already, for instance, spent hundreds of millions on disfiguring the landscape with wind turbines, of which there are currently 3,000 onshore and several hundred offshore. They produce just one to two per cent of the nation’s power. But there’s potentially a lot more where they came from. In December, Huhne announced that in 20 years’ time there were going to be altogether nearly another 30,000 of these useless things (which most of the time produce nothing at all), at a cost of heaven knows how many billions. Overall, he has steered the Government into making overall “climate change” commitments we almost certainly cannot afford. We may all, for other reasons, be returning to sanity: so now is the perfect time for the Government quietly to reverse all that.