Delusions of climate modellers and the madness of crowds

“Climate, Chaos and Irrationality: How the Green Agenda Was Hijacked by Global Warming Theorists” is the provisional title of a book in progress by Martin Cohen. He’s an “environmental activist” who has a long, but very readable, essay in the Dec. 10 issue of the U.K.’s Times Higher Education. Some excerpts:

Beyond Debate?

Is belief in global-warming science another example of the “madness of crowds”? That strange but powerful social phenomenon, first described by Charles Mackay in 1841, turns a widely shared prejudice into an irresistible “authority”. Could it indeed represent the final triumph of irrationality? After all, how rational is it to pass laws banning one kind of light bulb (and insisting on their replacement by ones filled with poisonous mercury vapour) in order to “save electricity”, while ploughing money into schemes to run cars on … electricity? How rational is it to pay the Russians once for fossil fuels, and a second time for permission (via carbon credits) to burn them (see box page 36)? And how rational is it to suppose that the effects of increased CO2 in the atmosphere take between 200 and 1,000 years to be felt, but that solutions can take effect almost instantaneously?

Whether rational or not, global warming theory has become a political orthodoxy. So entrenched is it that those showing any resistance to it are described as “heretics” or even likened to “Holocaust deniers”.

[...]

At the Kyoto summit in 1997, Fenton Communications, a New York PR firm, was working with “green NGOs and leaders”, including Gore and the IPCC, to advise on how to “mainstream the climate threat” and to “harness the public ‘tipping point'” on the issue and inspire action, as its website today boasts. And indeed, the public have been well and truly tipped.

The IPCC reports, which are dull but widely used by governments as the basis for their policy discussions, have become steadily more dramatic. (Not for nothing does the head of the IPCC, R.K. Pachauri, have his own dedicated marketing adviser.) Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis says that “numerous long-term changes in climate have been observed (including) changes in Arctic temperatures and ice, widespread changes in precipitation amounts, ocean salinity, wind patterns and aspects of extreme weather including droughts, heavy precipitation, heat waves and the intensity of tropical cyclones”.

Yet none of this is science. It certainly offends against the principle that Karl Popper calls “falsification” – in the case of climate change, there is no possibility of falsification. If you listen to proponents of climate-change theory, there is apparently nothing that counts as evidence against it. Increased rainfall in the northern hemisphere is evidence of climate change, but so is decreased rainfall in the southern hemisphere. Melting of ice in the Arctic is evidence of global warming, but cooling of the Antarctic is not evidence against, but attributed to “other effects”.

The fact is, the IPCC report’s statement quoted above is speculation and fear-mongering. So how did such language get in the report? Alas, it seems that the social and scientific reality is as Feyerabend describes, and that the language of fear has now “penetrated the most common idiom and infected all modes of thinking”.

[...]

Today, global-warming “deniers” have all been told they must fall into line with “the science”. But this is not science, this is propaganda. [...]

My sentiments, exactly! There are a good number of (good!) comments following Cohen’s essay; however, while the level of discourse was more elevated than one is likely to find on a typical media blog, the alarmists contributed little except dismissive, demeaning demonization of anyone who does not fall into line. I wonder if they realized how clearly they were making Cohen’s case for him!

Peter Taylor, one of the (good) responders, wrote:

Martin – thank you for this. It restores my faith in journalism and in the UK media. You are spot on with the science – well done because it is not easy. I know because I have just published a book on the subject ‘Chill: a reassessment of global warming theory’ and it was referred to this last weekend in the Sunday Times as the work of a ‘genuine scientific’ critic – except they used the word ‘sceptic’ implying, of course, heretic!

[...]

How can the average person know whether to trust me or the IPCC? That’s not easy either – especially when there are penalties for standing out from the crowd. It should help that my book is endorsed by the author of the first draft of the Kyoto Protocol – a marine biology professor. And my own credentials….thirty years as a policy analyst looking at science, including advising the UN.

[...]

At first i could not believe the delusions of the modellers had taken such a hold – it ranks as the worst scientific error in the history of science - that is why it is so hard to get the orthodox to admit to a problem! [emphasis added -hro]

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