Thursday, 19 December 2013

ET on Climate Wars

Imagine if you will a rational-minded, scientifically literate being from another planet suddenly finding themselves on planet Earth right in the middle of Climate Wars, the on-going, exhaustive and increasingly unproductive and bitter battle being waged between those convinced that man-made climate change is real, very significant and dangerous and those sceptics/contrarians/'deniers' who remain unconvinced, contending that climate change is a predominantly natural process. Such a being knows nothing of politics on planet Earth, nothing about environmentalism, Greenpeace, Big Oil, Big Green and all the rest of the paraphernalia that encircles the core scientific debate on man-made global warming. He is therefore unmoved by arguments of millions of people drowning or starving, or dying from heat stroke, matched by counter-arguments of equal numbers freezing to death because of fuel poverty and such like. He knows only common sense and a fair bit of science which, it has to be said, is a lot more than your average Earth boffin.

Do we think that our off-world visitor will look at the scientific ‘evidence’ for CO2 emissions producing runaway greenhouse gas warming and conclude that it is scientific fact, rather than unproven theory? Do we think that they will look favourably upon the attempts of climate scientists - increasingly bereft of hard data to back up their theory - to look at ways that they can better 'communicate' their science to an increasingly unconvinced and sceptical public? Do we think that they will wholeheartedly approve of scientists becoming political advocates rather than concentrating solely on scientific research to bolster their case? Will they approve of 'consensus science', of Al Gore, Michael Mann, James Hansen, John Cook, Dana Nuccitelli, Skeptical Science, the IPCC and the Greenpeace 'Save the Arctic' campaign? On balance, I think not.

Perhaps they will look favourably upon the efforts of some climate scientists to try and communicate their science in a balanced fashion, free of alarmism and Green advocacy but, nevertheless, conclude that their scientific reasoning is faulty. Then again, maybe, on the weight of the scientific evidence alone, ET will throw his hands up in horror and conclude that we are indeed destroying the planet with CO2 and that the hordes of deniers are a roadblock to urgent reform.

Our extraterrestrial visitor might naturally be interested in the world's premier space agency, which put men on the Moon and sent probes to all the planets and beyond. What have they got to say about man-made global warming, based on the evidence of data collected by their many satellites and monitoring stations? He might be rightly satisfied that they are using this wealth of data to honestly and scientifically illuminate the real risks which the planet is facing. Then again, he might be utterly dismayed.

For it is a matter of supreme irony is it not that NASA and NOAA hype the global warming dogma by claiming that November 2013 is the warmest ever in the instrumental surface temperature record, ignoring their own satellite instrumentation data, in a bid to convince us all that the world is getting hotter, year on year? UAH and RSS satellite data for November 2013 report only the 9th and 16th consecutive warmest. And so what, you may well ask, if November 2013 is the warmest in the 134 year record for two particular surface temperature data series? Is it meaningful? Other surface temperature data don't concur and the satellite data certainly doesn't. Furthermore, we are talking about just one month, not a yearly mean. Mean global temperatures have not risen significantly in 17 years.

The irony here is that the likes of Nuccitelli, Cook and Lewandowsky have long labelled man-made global warming sceptics as Moon-landing conspiracy nuts, when it cannot fail to escape anyone’s notice that the very organisation responsible for putting Man on the surface of the Moon 44 years ago was NASA. Not to suggest in any way that sceptics are of the same breed as Moon-landing conspiracists, just illustrative I think of the corrupt politicisation of a once noble and prestigious scientific organisation whose original purpose was the exploration of worlds beyond our own, which now seems to gaze increasingly sclerotically earthward, obsessed with finding ‘scientific proof’ that we are wreckers of the planet, a species actively engaged, unwittingly at first, now knowingly and culpably, in unleashing climate catastrophe aka global warming, aka thermageddon upon the globe. NASA's mission now is to save the planet from ourselves. Ergo, space agency has become environmental activist group with an agenda to promote at the expense of hard science.

Perhaps ET may have, in addition to his rationalist side, more artistic leanings and therefore he may look with interest at what the Royal Society of Arts has to say about those sceptics who question the science of man-made global warming and, by definition therefore, sometimes implicitly, often explicitly, the mitigation measures being put in place to counter this threat. This is what they have to say; basically that the 20% of the population who deny that man-made climate change is a reality should be ignored because they are 'unhelpful'.

The rest consist largely of people who are convinced of the reality of global warming but remain mostly unmoved by it. These are the 'stealth deniers' who, unlike the real deniers, who are presumably beyond the help of medical and psychiatric science and can therefore be conveniently and safely ignored, can be worked on. The key to combating climate change and propelling the world into a bright New Age of carbon-free renewable energy is to mobilise this army of stealth deniers, of climate zombies who need help to think and act for themselves, into positive action.

All very arty-farty, social engineering-type stuff posed in response to a problem revealed by hard science which, apparently, climate scientists (even advocating ones) and politicians are failing to 'communicate' effectively to the public. Will ET nod his head in approval of such a proposal or will he conclude that, whilst alarmist propaganda has brain-washed most people into believing that anthropogenic climate change is real, it has singularly failed to convince a complacent and unresponsive public to act upon that reality?

In his dispassionate survey of the evidence for and against dangerous AGW, for and against the increasingly prevalent view that the Sun drives our climate (that huge star he steered around to get to our tiny rocky planet), perhaps he will come across this graph:

I look at this and see an oscillatory climatic variability superimposed upon a general gradual warming trend. My own knowledge and understanding of climate change leads me to conclude fairly positively that this represents a general warming trend mediated by increasing solar activity, overlaid by a natural oscillatory climatic influence due chiefly to the PDO (Pacific Decadal Oscillation). I conclude futhermore that since 2005, Earth has been cooling. AGW theorists lay claim to the underlying warming trend, but they also claim that the upward part of the sine curve going from 1978/79 to about 2005 is the 'unmistakable fingerprint' of anthropogenic global warming. They also contend that planet Earth is still getting hotter. I wonder what conclusion our off-world visitor would come to?

Finally, what must ET make of Future Earth? This is a new and exciting climate change narrative based on risk and on the opportunities presented by switching to sustainability. Three crucial buzz-words though there are more. Here's the low-down:

Future Earth will empower the scientific community to provide knowledge through open and collaborative processes for society to define pathways towards sustainability and respond effectively to the risks and opportunities of global environmental change.

Future Earth will provide a global knowledge and collaboration platform and deliver a step-change in the way science for sustainability is produced and used. The need for knowledge to achieve global sustainability is twofold:

Firstly, we need to pursue longstanding efforts to understand how the Earth system works and how its many natural and social components interact. This calls for increased collaboration between disciplines and knowledge domains to integrate disciplinary strengths, and to develop research themes and processes that are better suited to addressing interconnected and multi-faceted problems.

Secondly, the scale and magnitude of global environmental change and the risk posed to ecosystems and societies requires a bridging of the gap between science, policy and practice, to deliver knowledge that will effectively support decisions and actions towards sustainability. This will be achieved through effective cooperation with funders and research users, including decision makers and the private sector, to identify research priorities and deliver knowledge for solutions.

Do you see where we're going with this? The emphasis is on more effective cooperation/collaboration between science and politics in order to construct a new narrative, one that doesn't focus exclusively on boring old climate science - which has failed to get the 'message' across - but that incorporates many more disciplines and spheres of knowledge. In that way, the key impetus for sustainability solutions, namely AGW, can be minimised and hopefully lost in the confusion because, quite frankly, the 'science' (i.e. the computer models) has failed to live up to reality and it's now getting quite embarrassing.

The international scientific community must rapidly reorganize to focus on global sustainability solutions. We must develop a new strategy for creating and rapidly translating knowledge into action, which will form part of a new contract between science and society, with commitments from both sides.
14. Society is taking substantial risks by delaying urgent and large-scale action. We must show leadership at all levels.

Will ET embrace this visionary goal minus my cynical interpretation or will he roll his bug eyes upward and think 'Jeez, what a con. These humans really are something when it comes to disguising the truth'? Then, when he gets back aboard his spaceship and sits down to dinner and drinks with his ET pals and shows them the evidence which human science has amassed for global warming, will they all break out into hysterical fits of laughter, as in For Mash Get Smash? Or will they all wear looks of pressing concern and agree that next time they visit they might need to don their heat-proof suits?