This is the first part of a two-part series about contemporary politics on climate change. The second part can be found here.
By Fredrik Thool
This article is about the issue of climate change. It is partly a response to the previously published article “The Cabal – The Men Behind the Misinformation Campaign of Global Warming and Smoking Pt. 1 & 2”, where the author somewhat cherry-picks similarities between misinformation campaigns with regards to the dangers of smoking in order to discredit scepticism on CO2-induced climate change. Smoking, however, is not climate change. There may well be a few common lobbyists pushing their agenda, such as Fred Singer, but that should not be mistaken to disprove everyone that questions the theory and effects of (manmade) global warming, as the article suggests. The use of sweeping terms such as “scientists” provides a false impression of a unanimous scientific society. I also want to underline the misconception that one has to be a climatologist in order to understand or debate climate; climate is an interdisciplinary field, where genuine understanding of physics is most crucial. Narrowing the interpretative prerogative down to a few “climatologists” simply deprives many capable scientists of their professional opinion. My aim is to present a more wholesome picture of what the criticism of climate-alarmism consists in.
Initially I would like to point out where there is a consensus on climate change. First, no one denies that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and thereby has a warming effect on the climate. Secondly, no one denies that the climate is changing and that it has become a bit warmer during the past 100-200 years. The core question is thus not whether CO2 affects the climate to some extent; the core questions are to what extent and whether it is dangerous.
With regards to the first question it is commonly claimed that 97% of scientists agree that it is likely that 50% or more of the recent warming is due to CO2-emissions. This is a very bold statement. There are five studies that are most referred to when supporting this claim. These studies are all afflicted with similar flaws in the sense that they either base their conclusions on 100 or less reviewed papers and/or they base their conclusion on papers that only implicitly endorses the core question. In other words, a huge part of the reviewed papers do not actually address the core question (to what extent does CO2 contribute to global warming?), but rather base their research on the assumption that CO2 is the major contributor to global warming. For example, in the Cook et al. study 11.944 papers were reviewed, based on them containing the phrases “global climate change” or “global warming”. Out of these, 7.983 had “no position” on the key questions, 923 explicitly endorsed that CO2 has caused some warming and 64 explicitly endorsed that CO2 has caused more than 50% of the recent warming. The rest only implicitly endorsed the key question. Doran and Zimmerman base their conclusion on a total number of 79 respondents and Anderegg bases his conclusion on a total number of 100 respondents. These studies constitute no basis for concluding any consensus, yet they are constantly referred to with regards to this claim.
There have been a few reports lately that claim an even higher consensus. One of the most cited ones in public media was the article in Bioscience, stating that 11.000 scientists warn of an impending climate emergency. This “petition”, however, was open for anyone to sign. Among the signatures one finds people of all sorts that basically are in no position to support such a claim. There are many papers and articles that focus on what causes global warming and what role CO2 plays in relation to other factors of natural forcing, that disagrees on CO2 as the major contributor. The idea that there is consensus on the role of CO2, however, is simply not true.
With regards to the effects of climate change there are basically two phenomena that are mostly referred to; sea level rise and extreme weather events. As for sea level rise, the current rate is about 2-4 mm/year, with a slight increase during the last 100 years. During the end of the last ice-age, the ice cap above Scandinavia and North America retreated several hundred meters a year, resulting in sea level rise of about 10 mm/year. Current data suggests nothing even remotely close to that. All scenarios of dramatically increased sea-level rise presupposes a complete collapse of the Antarctic and Greenland ice caps, which is extremely unlikely. Note that Greenland and the Arctic experienced similar losses of ice as it has done during the past decades, at the beginning of the 20th century due to natural ocean oscillations.
As for extreme weather events, the idea that there has been an increase due to climate change is widely spread throughout society, mostly propelled by media showing pictures of natural disasters as soon as they talk about climate. Blindfolded conclusions are made before there is any supportive scientific data. If one looks at the statistical evidence with regards to tropical cyclones, however, not even the IPCC-reports support such claims. Nor is there any proven long-term trend in the annual number of other extreme weather events. Furthermore, long-term historical data with regards to these kinds of events is very poor, simply due to lack of data.
What about the IPCC-reports, one might ask? It is important to keep in mind the discrepancy between what public media and politicians portray, and what the IPCC reports support. It is also important to know that the IPCC does not have the support of a unanimous scientific society. The IPCC is a political organisation under the UN umbrella that has been implemented to look for evidence of CO2-induced global warming, which also means other factors are not their priority. The IPCC has been subjected to serious internal criticism throughout the years. The investigative Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise has conducted a thorough scrutiny of the IPCC organisation and published her findings in a book; The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World’s Top Climate Expert, where she carefully presents her findings and the troubling prerequisites under which the IPCC-reports are created. Among other things, she found that more than 30% the underlying research in the 2008 assessment report was not peer-reviewed. Furthermore, the report that most people read – Summary for policymakers – is reviewed and altered by political representatives before it is released to the public. The IPCC is, and has always been, suffering from a notorious political bias.
It is crucial to know that the idea of impending catastrophic warming is solely based on climate models, not observed data. For the output of climate models to be correct the input must be correct. That means that one must know the influence of CO2 and other factors in order for the models to be of any value. The models have not proven to align with the development of actual temperature and 111 out of 114 models (IPCC AR5) overestimated the increase in temperature since 1998, thus making them unsuitable on which to base political policy making. The increase in global temperature has stagnated during the past 22 years with only minimal increase since the hot year of 1998. The most recognizable historical temperature-graph is the one by Michael Mann (the “hockey-stick”). This gave the impression of an unprecedented warming during the 20th-century, but has later been accused of distorting actual data. Real data suggests much larger variations in temperature during the past millennia, without the influx of CO2. Note that Mann subsequently has been part of a lawsuit (Mann v. Ball), accused of fraud due to publishing of false data. Mann refused to disclose the numbers on which he calculated his graph for independent examination and has thus not been proven guilty. This should, however, render some healthy scepticism with regards to the credibility of his work and the credibility of the institution that chose to present it as truth; the IPCC.
Cover photo: Annie Spratt
Fredrik Thool is a law-student at Uppsala University with a BA in nautical sciences (i.e. ships´ officers degree). He has previously lived abroad, four years in Denmark and one and a half year in Spain. Future plans involve a few semesters of specialization within maritime law at the University of Oslo, after which he plans to take on the real world. Interests include skiing, cycling, excessive amounts of coffee and politics.