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The Truth About Greenhouse Gases

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THE TRUTH ABOUT GREENHOUSE GASES
William Happer

 

The Global Warming Policy Foundation
Briefing Paper No 3
GWPF REPORTS

 

Views expressed in the publications of the Global Warming Policy Foundation
are those of the authors, not those of the GWPF, its Trustees, its Academic
Advisory Council members or its Directors.

 

THE GLOBAL WARMING POLICY FOUNDATION
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Dr Benny Peiser

 

BOARD OF TRUSTEES
Lord Lawson (Chairman)
Lord Barnett
Lord Donoughue
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Bishop of Chester

 

ACADEMIC ADVISORY COUNCIL
Professor David Henderson (Chairman)
Adrian Berry (Viscount Camrose)
Sir Samuel Brittan
Sir Ian Byatt
Professor Robert Carter
Professor Vincent Courtillot
Professor Freeman Dyson
Christian Gerondeau
Dr Indur Goklany
Professor William Happer
Professor Terence Kealey
Professor Anthony Kelly
Professor Deepak Lal
Sir Martin Jacomb
Henri Lepage
Baroness Nicholson
Lord Turnbull
Professor Richard Lindzen
Professor Ross McKitrick
Professor Robert Mendelsohn
Professor Sir Alan Peacock
Professor Ian Plimer
Professor Gwyn Prins
Professor B P Radhakrishna
Professor Paul Reiter
Dr Matt Ridley
Sir Alan Rudge
Professor Philip Stott
Professor Richard Tol
Dr David Whitehouse

 

The Truth About Greenhouse Gases

Professor William Happer


William Happer is the Cyrus Fogg Brackett Professor of Physics at
Princeton University. He is a member of the GWPF’s Academic
Advisory Council.

 


The Truth About Greenhouse Gases


“The object of the Author in the following pages has been to collect the
most remarkable instances of those moral epidemics which have been
excited, sometimes by one cause and sometimes by another, and to
show how easily the masses have been led astray, and how imitative and
gregarious men are, even in their infatuations and crimes,” wrote Charles
Mackay in the preface to the first edition of his Extraordinary Popular
Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. I want to discuss a contemporary
moral epidemic: the notion that increasing atmospheric concentrations
of greenhouse gases, notably carbon dioxide, will have disastrous
consequences for mankind and for the planet. This contemporary
“climate crusade” has much in common with the medieval crusades
Mackay describes, with true believers, opportunists, cynics, money-hungry
governments, manipulators of various types, and even children’s
crusades.

 

Carbon dioxide
I am a strong supporter of a clean environment. We need to be vigilant
to keep our land, air and waters free of real pollution, particulates,
heavy metals, pathogens, but carbon dioxide (CO2) is not one of these
pollutants. Carbon is the stuff of life. Our bodies are made of carbon.
Every day a normal human exhales around 1 kg of CO2 -- the simplest
chemically stable molecule of carbon in the earth’s atmosphere. Before
the industrial period, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere was
about 270 parts per million (ppm). At the present time, the concentration
is about 390 ppm, 0.039% of all atmospheric molecules and less than 1%
of that in our breath. About fifty million years ago, a brief moment in the
long history of life on earth, geological evidence indicates, CO2 levels
were several thousand ppm, much higher than now. And life flourished
abundantly.

 

“The Truth About Greenhouse Gases” appeared in the June/July issue of First Things
(www.firstthings.com) and a slightly revised version is published here with permission.

 


The Truth About Greenhouse Gases

 

Now the Environmental Protection Agency wants to regulate
atmospheric CO2 as a “pollutant.” According to my Webster’s New
Collegiate Dictionary, to pollute is “to make or render unclean, to
defile, to desecrate, to profane.” By breathing are we rendering the air
unclean, defiling or desecrating it? Efforts are underway to remedy the
old-fashioned, restrictive definition of pollution. The current Wikipedia
entry on air pollution, for example, now asserts that pollution includes:
“carbon dioxide (C02)—a colorless, odorless, non-toxic greenhouse
gas associated with ocean acidification, emitted from sources such as
combustion, cement production, and respiration.”

 

Wallis Simpson, the woman for whom King Edward VIII renounced the
British throne, supposedly said “A woman can’t be too rich or too thin.”
But in reality, you can get too much or too little of a good thing. Whether
we should be glad or worried about increasing levels of CO2 depends on
quantitative numbers, not just qualitative considerations.

 

As far as green plants are concerned, CO2 is not a pollutant, but part
of their daily bread—like water, sunlight, nitrogen, and other essential
elements. Most green plants evolved at CO2 levels of several thousand
ppm, many times higher than now. Plants grow better and have better
flowers and fruit at higher CO2 levels. Commercial greenhouse operators
recognize this when they artificially increase the CO2 concentrations
inside their greenhouses to over 1000 ppm.

 

How close is the current atmosphere to the upper or lower limit for
CO2—or to some optimum intermediate level? Did we have just the right
concentration of CO2 at the preindustrial level of 270 ppm? Reading
breathless media reports about CO2 “pollution” and about minimizing
our “carbon footprints,” one might think that the earth cannot have
too little CO2, a bit like Wallis Simpson’s view on thinness. This view was
overstated, as we have seen from the sad effects anorexia in so many
young women. Various geo-engineering schemes are being discussed
for scrubbing CO2 from the air. Why not scrub it all out? Humans would
be perfectly healthy in a world with no atmospheric CO2 -- except that
we would have nothing to eat and a few other minor inconveniences --
most plants stop growing if CO2 levels drop much below 150 ppm. If we
want to continue to be fed and clothed by the products of green plants
we can have too little CO2. The preindustrial value of 270 ppm CO2 may
well have been below the optimum level, we are probably better off with
our current 390 ppm, and we would be better off with still more CO2. For
example, there is evidence that California orange groves are about 30
percent more productive today than they were 150 years ago because
of the increase of atmospheric CO2.

 

Although humans and many other animals would do just fine with
no CO2 at all in the air, there is an upper limit that we can tolerate.
Inhaling air with a CO2 concentration of a few per cent, similar to the
concentration of the air we exhale, hinders the diffusional exchange of
CO2 between the blood and gas in the lung. Both the United States Navy
(for submariners) and NASA (for astronauts) have performed extensive
studies of human tolerance to CO2. As a result of these studies, the Navy
recommends an upper limit of about 8000 ppm for cruises of ninety
days, and NASA recommends an upper limit of 5000 ppm for missions of
one thousand days, both assuming a total pressure of one atmosphere.
Higher levels are acceptable for missions of only a few days.

 

We conclude that atmospheric CO2 levels should be above about 150
ppm to avoid harming green plants and below about 5000 ppm to avoid
harming people. That is a big range, and our atmosphere is much closer
to the lower end than the upper end. We were not that far from CO2
anorexia when massive burning of fossil fuels began. At the current rate
of burning fossil fuels, we are adding about 2 ppm of CO2 per year to the
atmosphere, so getting from our current level to 1000 ppm would take
about 300 years—and 1000 ppm is still less than what most plants would
prefer, and much less than either the NASA or the Navy limit.

 

Yet there are strident calls for immediately stopping further increases in
CO2 levels and reducing the current level (with 1990 levels the arbitrary
benchmark). As we have discussed, animals would not even notice
a doubling of CO2 and plants would love it. The supposed reason for
limiting CO2 is to stop global warming—or since the predicted warming
has failed to be nearly as large as computer models forecast—to
stop climate change. Climate change itself has been embarrassingly
uneventful, so another rationale for reducing CO2 is now promoted: to
stop the hypothetical increase of extreme climate events like hurricanes
or tornados. But dispassionate data show that the frequency of extreme
events has hardly changed and in some cases has decreased in the 150
years that it has taken CO2 levels to increase from 270 ppm to 390 ppm.

 

The effects of CO2

 

Let me turn to some of the problems the non-pollutant CO2 is supposed
to cause. CO2 does indeed cause some warming of our planet, and
we should thank Providence for that, because without the greenhouse
warming of CO2 and its more potent partners, water vapor and clouds,
the earth would be too cold to sustain its current abundance of life. Other
things being equal, more CO2 will cause more warming. The question is
how much warming, and whether the increased CO2 and the warming
it causes will be good or bad for the planet. More CO2 is supposed to
cause cities to flood, parched agriculture, tropical diseases in Alaska,
etc., and even an epidemic of kidney stones.

 

The argument starts something like this. CO2 levels have increased from
about 270 ppm to 390 ppm over the past 150 years or so, and the earth
has warmed by about 0.8 C during that time. Therefore the warming is
due to CO2. But correlation is not causation. The local rooster crows every
morning at sunrise, but that does not mean the rooster caused the sun to
rise. The sun will still rise on Monday if you decide to have the rooster for
Sunday dinner.

 

There have been many warmings and coolings in the past when the CO2
levels did not change. A well known example is the medieval warming,
about the year 1000, when the Vikings settled Greenland (when it was
greener) and wine was exported from England. This warm period was
followed by the “Little Ice Age” when the Thames would frequently freeze
over during the winter. There is no evidence for significant increase of
CO2 at the Medieval Warm Period, nor for a significant decrease at the
time of the subsequent Little Ice Age. Documented famines with millions
of deaths occurred during the Little Ice Age because of crop failures due
to cold weather. The earth has been warming in fits and starts since the
end of the Little Ice Age, a few centuries ago, and humanity’s quality of
life has improved accordingly.

 

A rare case of good correlation between CO2 levels and temperature
is provided by ice-core records of the cycles of glacial and interglacial
periods of the last million years of so. But these records show that changes
in temperature preceded changes in CO2 levels, so that CO2 levels were
an effect of temperature changes. Much of this was probably due to
outgassing of CO2 from the warming oceans or the reverse on cooling.
The most recent continental ice sheets began to melt some twenty
thousand years ago. During the “Younger Dryas” some 12,000 years ago,
the earth very dramatically cooled and warmed -- as much 10 C in fifty
years -- with no apparent change in CO2 levels, and with life -- including
our human ancestors -- surviving the rapid change in temperature just
fine.

 

The earth’s climate has always been changing. Our present global
warming is not at all unusual by the standards of geological history,
and the mild warming is probably benefiting the biosphere. Indeed,
there is very little correlation between the estimates of CO2 levels in the
atmosphere and the estimates of the earth’s temperature over the past
550 million years (the “phanerozoic” period). The message is clear that
several factors must influence the earth’s temperature, and that while
CO2 is one of these factors, it is seldom the dominant one. Other factors
that influence the earth’s temperature are spontaneous variations of
the complicated fluid flow patterns in the oceans and atmosphere of
the earth (perhaps influenced by continental drift), volcanoes, variations
of the earth’s orbital parameters (ellipticity, spin-axis orientation, etc.),
asteroid and comet impacts, variations in the sun’s output (not only the
visible radiation but the amount of ultraviolet light, and the solar wind with
its magnetic field), variations in cosmic rays leading to variations in cloud
cover, and other causes.

 

The Hockey Stick

 

The existence of the Little Ice Age and the Medieval Warm Period was
an embarrassment to the global-warming establishment because it
showed that the current warming is almost indistinguishable from previous
warmings and coolings that had nothing to do with burning of fossil
fuels. The organization charged with producing scientific support for
the climate crusade, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
(IPCC), finally found a solution. They rewrote the climate history of the
past 1000 years with the celebrated “hockey stick” temperature record.
The first IPCC report, issued in 1990, showed both the Medieval Warm
Period and the Little Ice Age very clearly. In the IPCC’s 2001 report was
a graph that purported to show the earth’s mean temperature since the
year 1000. A yet more extreme version of the hockey stick graph made
the cover of the 50th Anniversary Report of the United Nation’s World
Meteorological Organization. To the surprise of everyone who knew
about the strong evidence for the Little Ice Age and the Medieval Warm
Period, the graph showed a nearly constant temperature from the year
1000 until about 150 years ago, when the temperature began to rise
abruptly like the blade of a hockey stick. The inference was that this was
due to the anthropogenic “pollutant” CO2.

 

This damnatia memoriae of inconvenient truths was simply expunged
from the 2001 IPCC report, much as Trotsky and Yezhov were removed
from Stalin’s photographs by accommodating dark-room specialists in
the later years of the dictator’s reign. There was no explanation for why
both the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age, very clearly shown
in the 1990 report, had simply disappeared eleven years later.
The IPCC and its worshipful supporters did their best to promote the
hockey-stick temperature curve. But as John Adams remarked,
“Facts are stubborn things, and whatever may be our wishes, our
inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state
of facts and evidence.” The hockey stick curve caught the attention
of two Canadians, Steve McIntyre, a retired mining consultant, and
an academic statistician, Ross McKitrick. As they began to look more
carefully at the original data—much of it from tree rings—and at the
analysis that led to the hockey stick, they became more and more
puzzled. By hard, remarkably detailed, and persistent work over many
years, consistently frustrated in their efforts to obtain original data and
data-analysis methods, they showed that the hockey stick was not
supported by observational data. An excellent, recent history of this
episode is Andrew Montford’s The Hockey Stick Illusion.

 

About the time of the Copenhagen Climate Conference in the
fall of 2009, another nasty thing happened to the global-warming
establishment. A Russian server released large numbers of e-mails and
other files from computers of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) of the
University of East Anglia. Among the files released were e-mails between
members of the power structure of the climate crusade, “the team.”
These files were, or should have been, very embarrassing to their senders
and recipients. A senior scientist from CRU wrote, for example: “PS,
I’m getting hassled by a couple of people to release the CRU station
temperature data. Don’t any of you three tell anybody that the UK has
a Freedom Of Information Act.” One of the most consistent themes of
the e-mails is the need to hide raw data from anyone outside the team.
Why the obsession on withholding data? Because the hockey stick lost
credibility when it was possible to see the raw, unmanipulated data on
which it was based.

 

Peer review
A traditional way to maintain integrity in science is through peer
review, the anonymous examination of a scientific paper by qualified,
competing scientists before publication. In a responsible peer review,
the authors may be required to make substantial revisions to correct any
flaws in the science or methodology before their paper is published. But
peer review has completely failed in climate science. Global warming
alarmists have something like Gadaffi’s initial air superiority over rag-tag
opponents in Libya. Consider this comment from one of the most
respected IPCC leaders, as revealed in the CRU e-mails: “I can’t see
either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin [Trenberth]
and I will keep them out somehow—even if we have to redefine what
the peer-review literature is.” And consider the CRU e-mail comment on
a journal that committed the mortal sin of publishing one of the heretical
papers: “I think we have to stop considering Climate Research as a
legitimate peer-reviewed journal. Perhaps we should encourage our
colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or
cite papers in, this journal.”

 

Peer review in climate science means that the ”team” recommends
publication of each other’s work, and tries to keep any off-message
paper from being accepted for publication. Why this obsession with
cleansing the “scientific” literature of any opposing views? Because
it allows climate extremists to claim that they represent all of science
and anyone who questions their message is at war with all of science,
except for a few “flat-earthers”, “deniers,” or others scorned with carefully
researched epithets, designed to discredit dissenting scientific opinion. All
of this reminds me of the opposition in medieval Western Europe to the
translation of the Bible into the vernacular. The Scriptures were useless for
the large numbers of people who could read their own language, but
who had not been privileged to learn to read Latin, Greek or Hebrew.
The Climategate e-mails show the same fierce determination of “the
team” to deny the general scientific public the chance to form their own
conclusions about raw data --the old and the new testaments of science.
In the last half of the 18th century, “the Age of Enlightenment,” the
founding fathers of the United States studied all political systems known
to them, from the classical Greek city states to the Dutch republic. They
hoped to select the best form of government for their new nation. One
of them, James Madison, reminds his fellow citizens in The Federalist
Papers: (The Federalist 10) “No man is allowed to be a judge in his own
cause, because his interest would certainly bias his judgment, and, not
improbably, corrupt his integrity. With equal, nay with greater reason,
a body of men are unfit to be both judges and parties at the same
time.” Madison goes on to observe that the smaller the community, the
more likely that parties and judges will be one and the same. Climate
scientists are trying to convince the world that they are so righteous that
they can judge their own cause. The notion that climate science should
be immune to criticism from anyone outside of the “team” is warmly
supported by the large numbers of people who stand to benefit from
global warming hysteria, as well as by a few who have a sincere and
touching faith in the incorruptibility of science.

 

Let me summarize how the key issues appear to me, a working scientist
with a better background than most in the physics of climate. CO2 really
is a greenhouse gas and, other things being equal, adding CO2 to the
atmosphere by burning coal, oil, and natural gas will modestly increase
the surface temperature of the earth. Other things being equal, doubling
the CO2 concentration, from our current 390 ppm to 780 ppm will directly
cause about one degree Celsius warming. At the current rate of CO2
increase in the atmosphere —about 2 ppm per year— it would take
about 195 years to achieve this doubling. The combination of a slightly
warmer earth and more CO2 will greatly increase the production of
food, wood, fiber, and other products by green plants, so the increased
CO2 will be good for the planet, and will easily outweigh any negative
effects. Supposed calamities like the accelerated rise of sea level, ocean
acidification, more extreme climate, tropical diseases near the poles, etc.
are greatly exaggerated.

 

“Mitigation” and control efforts that have been proposed will enrich
a favoured few with good political ties—at the expense of the great
majority of mankind, including, especially, the poor and the citizens of
developing nations. These efforts will make almost no change in earth’s
temperature. Spain’s recent experiment with green energy destroyed
several pre-existing jobs for every green job it created, and it was one of
the reasons for the near bankruptcy of the country.

 

Climate models

 

The frightening warnings that alarmists raise about the effects of doubling
CO2 are based on computer models. These models assume that the
direct warming effect of CO2 is multiplied by a large and positive
“feedback factor” from CO2-induced changes in water vapor and
clouds, which supposedly contribute much more to the greenhouse
warming of the earth than CO2. But there is observational evidence
that the feedback factor is small and may even be negative. Climate
models appear to fit the temperature rise over the last 150 years very well.
But the values of various parameters like clouds and the concentrations
of anthropogenic aerosols are adjusted to get the best fit to past
observations. The real values of most parameters, and the physics of how
they affect the earth’s climate, are in most cases only roughly known,
too roughly to supply data accurate enough for computer predictions.
The great mathematician John von Neumann once said, “With four
parameters I can fit an elephant, and with five I can make him wiggle
his trunk.” Climate models have dozens of parameters, not unlike the
epicycles of Ptolemaic astronomy. And they have done poorly at
predicting the future. No model predicted the lack of net warming of the
earth’s temperature that we have experienced over the past ten years.
In my judgment, and in that of many other scientists familiar with the
issues, the main problem with models could well be their treatment
of clouds and water vapor, changes of which can effect the earth’s
temperature as much or more than changing levels of CO2.

 

What is wrong with climate science?

 

What, besides the bias toward a particular, desired result, is wrong with
the science? Scientific progress proceeds by the interplay of theory
and observation. Theory explains observations and makes predictions
about what will be observed in the future. Observations anchor our
understanding and weed out the theories that do not work. This has been
the scientific method for more than three hundred years. Recently, the
advent of the computer has made possible another branch of inquiry:
computer simulation models. Properly used, computer models can
enhance and speed up scientific progress. But they are not meant to
replace theory and observation and to serve as an authority of their own.
We know they fail in economics. All of the proposed controls that would
have such a significant impact on the world’s economic future are based
on computer models that are so complex and chaotic that many runs
are needed before we can get an “average” answer. Yet the models
have failed the simple scientific test of prediction. We don’t even have a
theory for how accurate the models should be.

 

There are many honest, hardworking climate scientists who are trying
to understand the effects of CO2 on climate, but their work has fallen
under suspicion because of the hockey-stick scandal and many
other exaggerations about the dangers of increasing CO2. What has
transformed climate science from a normal intellectual discipline to a
matter of so much controversy?

 

A major problem has been the co-option of climate science by politics,
ambition, greed, and what seems to be a hereditary human need for a
righteous cause. What better cause than saving the planet, especially
if one can get ample, secure funding at the same time? Huge amounts
of money are available from governments and wealthy foundations for
climate institutes and for climate-related research. Funding for climate
studies is second only to funding for biological sciences. Large academic
empires, prizes, elections to honorary societies, fellowships, consulting
fees and other perquisites go to those researchers whose results may
help “save the planet.” Every day we read about some real or contrived
environmental or ecological effect “proved” to arise from global
warming. The total of such claimed effects now runs in the hundreds,
all the alleged result of an unexceptional century-long warming of less
than one degree Celsius. Government subsidies, loan guarantees, and
captive customers go to green companies. Carbon-tax revenues flow
to governments. As the great Russian poet Pushkin said in his novella
Dubrovsky, “If there happens to be a trough, there will be pigs.” Any
doubt about apocalyptic climate scenarios could remove many troughs.
Many Americans still remember the wise words of President Eisenhower
in his farewell address of 1960, where he warned us against the “militaryindustrial
complex.” Few remember the following paragraphs in the same
speech:

 

“Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our
industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during
recent decades. In this revolution, research has become central; it also
becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing
share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.
Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed
by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same
fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas
and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct
of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government
contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every
old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.
The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal
employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever
present and is gravely to be regarded. Yet, in holding scientific research
and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the
equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the
captive of a scientific-technological elite. It is the task of statesmanship to
mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old,
within the principles of our democratic system -- ever aiming toward the
supreme goals of our free society.”

 

Does this sound familiar? What would Eisenhower say about the frenzy
over supposed human-induced climate change and the amazing
scientific, industrial and governmental crusade that has coalesced
around it?

 

What about those who doubt the scientific basis of these claims, or who
simply don’t like what is being done to the scientific method they were
taught to apply and uphold? Publications of contrary research results in
mainstream journals are rare. The occasional heretical article is the result
of an inevitable, protracted battle with those who support the dogma
and who control the levers of peer review. As mentioned above, we
know from the Climategate emails that the team conspired to prevent
contrary publications from seeing the light of day and even discussed
getting rid of an editor who seemed to be inclined to admit such
contentious material.

 

Skeptics’ motives are publicly impugned; denigrating names are used
routinely in media reports and in the blogosphere; and we now see
attempts to use the same tactics that Big Brother applied to Winston
Smith in Orwell’s 1984. In 2009, a conference of “ecopsychologists”
was held at the University of West England to discuss the obvious
psychological problems resident in those who do not adhere to the
global warming dogma. These ecopsychologists, who knew almost
nothing themselves about climate science, told us that scientists and
members of the general population who express objective doubt about
alarmist views of global warming are suffering from a kind of mental
illness. We know from the Soviet experience that a totalitarian society can
find it convenient to consider dissidents to be mentally deranged and act
accordingly.

 

The role of scientific societies


The management of most scientific societies has enthusiastically signed
on to the global warming bandwagon. This is not surprising, since
government, as well as many states and foundations, generously fund
those who reinforce their desired outcomes under the cover of saving
the planet. Certain private industries are also involved: those positioned
to profit from enacted controls as well as financial institutions heavily
invested in “green technologies” – technologies whose rationale
disappears the moment global warming is widely understood to be a
non-problem. There are known connections and movements of people
involved in government policy, scientific societies, private industry and
foundations -- all with the common thread of influencing the outcome of
a set of programs and investments underpinned by the supposed threat
of global warming.

 

My own trade union, the American Physical Society (APS), is a good
example, but hardly the worst. An APS Council statement issued on
November 18, 2007 states: “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.” This is pretty strong language for
physicists, for whom skepticism about evidence was once considered a
virtue, and nothing was incontrovertible.

 


In the fall of 2009 a petition, organized by a Fellow of the American
Physical Society, Roger Cohen, and containing the signatures of
hundreds of distinguished APS members, was presented to the APS
management with a request that at least the truly embarrassing word
“incontrovertible” be taken out of the statement. The APS management’s
response was to threaten the petitioners, while grudgingly appointing a
committee to consider the request. It was exactly what James Madison
warned against. The committee included members whose careers
depended on global warming alarmism, and the predictable result
was that not one word was changed. Bad as the actions of the APS
leadership were, they were far better than those of most other scientific
societies -- that rejected any reconsideration of extreme statements by
the society leadership on climate.

 

The situation is even more lamentable for the general public, which is fed
a constant stream of propaganda by specialists in environmental issues
from the mainstream media and well-funded alarmist blogs. Not unlike
functionaries of Orwell’s Ministry of Truth in 1984, with its motto “Ignorance
is Strength,” many of the environmental news media dutifully and
uncritically promote the party line of the climate crusade.

 

But Abraham Lincoln got it right when he (supposedly) said, “You can
fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all
of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.” The
situation is slowly getting better. Skeptics are more numerous and better
organized than before. In a few cases, leading former adherents have
publicly and courageously spoken out against the dogma and its core
of establishment promoters. The IPCC itself has come under severe
criticism by the international scientific establishment for its series of
bizarre errors and organizational failings. Under pressure from a dissident
group of Fellows, the Royal Society moved to meaningfully moderate its
former radically alarmist position on global warming. And perhaps most
important of all, public skepticism has increased significantly, and with it
has come a major drop in support of the climate crusade’s attempt to
seize control of the “pollutant,” CO2.

 

Conclusion
I began with a quote from the preface of the first edition of Mackay’s
Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, and I
will end with a quote from the preface of the second edition: “Men,
it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in
herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.” In our
efforts to conserve the beautiful planet that is our home, we should
not fixate on CO2. We should instead focus on issues like damage to
local landscapes and waterways by strip mining, inadequate cleanup,
hazards to underground miners, the excessive release of real pollutants
such as mercury, other heavy metals, organic carcinogens, etc. Much
of the potential harm from strip mining can be eliminated, for example,
by requirements that the land be restored to a condition that is as least
as good as, and preferably better than, when the mining began. And it
is high time that we assess great expanses of windmills and solar-panels
in the previously unspoiled open spaces of the world with the same
objectiveness that we apply to other human perturbations of nature.
Looking at once beautiful hilltops, now cluttered with windmills, I am
reminded of an exchange between Winston Churchill and a woman
who indignantly said, “Sir, you are drunk.” Churchill responded, “Madam,
you are ugly. In the morning I shall be sober.” The hilltops will be ugly for a
long, long time.

 

Life is about making decisions and decisions are about trade-offs. We
can choose to promote investment in technology that addresses real
problems and scientific research that will let us cope with real problems
more efficiently. Or we can be caught up in a crusade that seeks to
suppress energy use, economic growth, and the benefits that come from
the creation of wealth for all of mankind.

 


For further information about the GWPF or a print copy of this report contact:

 

The Global Warming Policy Foundation
1 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5DB
T 020 7930 6856
M 07553 361717

 

www.thegwpf.org

 

Registered in England, no 6962749

 

Registered with the Charity Commission, no 1131448

 

The Global Warming Policy Foundation is an all-party and
non-party think tank and a registered educational charity
which, while open-minded on the contested science of
global warming, is deeply concerned about the costs and
other implications of many of the policies currently being
advocated.

 

Our main focus is to analyse global warming policies and
their economic and other implications. Our aim is to provide
the most robust and reliable economic analysis and advice.
Above all we seek to inform the media, politicians and the
public, in a newsworthy way, on the subject in general and
on the misinformation to which they are all too frequently
being subjected at the present time.

 

The key to the success of the GWPF is the trust and credibility
that we have earned in the eyes of a growing number of
policy makers, journalists and the interested public.

 

The GWPF is funded entirely by voluntary donations from a
number of private individuals and charitable trusts. In order
to make clear its complete independence, it does not
accept gifts from either energy companies or anyone with
a significant interest in an energy company.

 

Views expressed in the publications of the Global Warming
Policy Foundation are those of the authors, not those of the
GWPF, its Trustees, its Academic Advisory Council members
or its Directors.

 

Published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation

 

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