Swindle 2

Another interesting comment on “The Great Global Warming Swindle”. This one from John Houghton, former co-chair IPCC Scientific Assessment Committee and leading UK climate scientist. The extraordinary thing is that the makers of the programme thought they could get away with all this nonsense in the age of the internet when the science is readily available online.

Here I briefly point out the main lines of evidence for human-induced climate change and then address some of the main arguments presented in the programme.

1. First, it is important to note that the main lines of evidence for human-induced climate change not addressed in the programme were:

  • growth of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere mainly due to fossil fuel burning to a level greater than for at least 600,000 years;
  • observations of global warming at the earth’s surface (in magnitude and pattern) consistent with the increase in greenhouse gases, the basic science of which has been known and understood for over 200 years.

2. Climate is always changing – TRUE. However, the programme also argued that changes in global average temperature over the last 50 years and as projected for the 21st century are within the range of natural climate variability as observed over the last few millennia – NOT TRUE.

Many of the prominent climate changes over past centuries have been regional in scale. Global Warming is concerned with global scale changes. The IPCC 4th Assessment Report Summary for Policymakers has a particular section summarising the conclusions of detailed studies using a wide range of paleoclimate data. It concludes that ‘Paleoclimate information supports the interpretation that the warmth of the last half century is unusual in at least the previous 1300 years.’

3. That carbon dioxide content and temperature correlate so closely during the last ice age is not evidence of carbon dioxide driving the temperature but rather the other way round – TRUE. The programme went on to state that this correlation has been presented as the main evidence for global warming by the IPCC – NOT TRUE.
For instance, I often show that diagram in my lectures on climate change but always make the point that it gives no proof of global warming due to increased carbon dioxide.

4. The troposphere is warming less than the surface – NOT TRUE.
This raises a debate that took place in the 1990s but which has now been resolved. There is now agreement among the scientists involved in measurements that trends in satellite observed tropospheric temperatures when properly analysed agree well with trends in surface temperature observations. The programme also stated that warming should continue to higher levels. That is not the case. In fact, higher levels are observed to be cooling, consistent with the science of global warming that indicates that there is warming below and cooling above the ‘blanket’ of additional carbon dioxide.

5. Volcanic eruptions emit more carbon dioxide than fossil fuel burning – NOT TRUE. In fact, none of the large volcanic eruptions over the last 50 years feature in the detailed record of increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide.

6. Changes in the sun influence climate – TRUE. They cited the Maunder Minimum in the 17th century when no sunspots were observed, as a probable example. Solar influences are the main driver of global average temperature in the 20th century – NOT TRUE.

Changes in solar output together with the absence of large volcanoes (that tend to cool the climate) are likely to have been causes for the rise in temperature between 1900 and 1940. However, the much more complete observations of the sun from space instruments over the past 40 years demonstrate that such influences cannot have contributed significantly to the temperature increase over this period. Other possibilities such as cosmic rays affecting cloud formation have been very carefully considered by the IPCC (see the 3rd Assessment Report on www.ipcc.ch) and there is no evidence that they are significant compared with the much larger and well understood effects of increased greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.

7. Climate models are too complex and uncertain to provide useful projections of climate change – NOT TRUE.
In the programme, this was illustrated by a statement made by a youthful Professor Smagorinsky, a pioneer in climate modelling, speaking in the 1980s explaining some of the inadequacies of early models. Climate modelling has developed enormously since then. Modern models include detailed coupling of the circulations of atmosphere and ocean and detailed descriptions of the interactions between all components of the climate system including ice and the biosphere. They have been tested thoroughly in their ability to reconstruct current and past climates. The 30 or more major modelling groups in the world regularly compare their methods and their findings. Contributors to the programme with their parodies of climate models just demonstrated their complete ignorance of the significance and capabilities of modern models.

8. The IPCC process stifles debate and is used by scientists to further their own self interest – NOT TRUE.
I chaired the main meetings of Working Group I during the production of the first three IPCC scientific assessments. I can say categorically that the process was very open and honest. The aim was to distinguish between what was reasonably well known and the areas where there is large uncertainty. The chapter groups had complete freedom to investigate and assess the scientific literature and draw their conclusions.

Contrary to the impression given in the programme, no one ever resigned from being a lead author in Working Group I because of their disagreement with the process or the final content of their chapter. In fact, no one ever communicated to me a complaint about the integrity of the process.

I should mention, however, a case of disagreement that occurred in Working Group 2 of the IPCC that dealt with the impacts of climate change – a more complex area to address that the basic science of Working Group I. Professor Reiter who appeared in the programme described how, unfortunately, his expert work on malaria failed to get recognition in the relevant IPCC chapter.

Even Professor Lindzen, who appeared at length on the programme, stayed the course as lead author within Working Group I, expressing his satisfaction with the report’s chapters as good scientific documents. He has often, however, gone on to express his view that the conclusions of the Policymakers Summary did not faithfully represent the chapters. But he has never provided any supporting evidence for that statement – nor, to my knowledge, has anyone else who has quoted that statement originating from Lindzen.

It is important to note that IPCC Policymakers’ Summaries are agreed unanimously at intergovernmental meetings involving over 200 government delegates from around 100 countries. This agreement is only achieved after several days of scientific debate (only scientific arguments not political ones are allowed) the main purpose of which is to challenge the scientific chapter authors regarding the accuracy, clarity and relevance of the summary and most especially its consistency with the underlying chapters. Agreement at such a meeting has ensured that the resulting document, so far as is possible, is scientifically accurate, balanced and free from personal or political bias.

Reference was made in the programme to an article in the Wall Street Journal in 1995 about the 1995 IPCC report accusing the IPCC of improperly altering one of the agreed chapters before publication. This was a completely false accusation as was pointed out in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, September 1996, 77, pp1961-1966.

9. Action on climate change by developed countries may have a negative influence on development of the world’s poorer countries – POSSIBLY TRUE.
A strong non scientific point made towards the end of the programme concerned the possible effect of pressure from the developed world on developing countries to develop without use of fossil fuel sources of energy. There is something inherently unfair in such pressure that could hamper growth of developing country economies especially when rather little is being done by developed countries to reduce their own fossil fuel emissions. Further, the greater proportion of the damage from climate change will tend to fall on developing countries. The responsibilities of developed countries therefore are clear, first to reduce their own emissions as rapidly as possible and secondly to assist developing countries with resources and skills to develop their energy and other requirements in sustainable ways.

[Webmaster’s note: Sir John Houghton was co-chair of IPCC Scientific Assessment working group 1988-2002, and Director General of the UK Meteorological Office 1983-1991. Brief biographical information is available here and here and here.]

31 Comments Posted

  1. For the climate skeptics and deniers reading this blog, you might want to discover why Dr Richard Betts of the UK’s Met Office Hadley Centre says the sun is not to blame for current climate change.

    Or then again, if you’re a climate skeptic/denier, you’re probably not interested in science but prefer to rely on rhetoric and wishful thinking. Your choice really – but here’s what the good doctor has to say …

    Although the sun can play a part in climate change, there is overwhelming scientific evidence that it is not the cause of the climate warming that we have seen over recent decades.

    There have been proposed 2 mechanisms for how the sun might might be influencing climate. The first is that changes in the amount of solar radiation given off by the sun might be to blame. Solar irradiance has been monitored continuously for the last 28 years, and although an 11-year cycle has been well-established, no significant long-term trend has been detected over that period. The warming trend in global temperatures over recent decades therefore cannot be explained by changes in solar irradiance, simply because there has been no overall change in solar irradiance over that time.

    Earlier records show an increase in solar irradiance in the early part of the Twentieth Century, followed by a brief decrease before the current period of no significant trend. Global temperatures also underwent a warming until around 1940 and a subsequent cooling until around 1950, but then warming set in again and became more rapid. Computer models of climate suggest that solar irradiance changes may well have been a significant cause of climate change until the mid-Twentieth Century. However, the correlation between solar irradiance and global temperature breaks down after the 1960s as temperatures rose while solar irradiance did not.

    Over tens and hundreds of thousands of years, the amount of energy received by the Earth from the sun has changed because of changes in the Earth’s orbit and the tilt of its axis. These changes led to the coming and going of ice ages in the past and are part of a natural cycle of climate change. However, these changes take many thousands of years and are therefore much too slow to account for climate changes seen over a few decades.

    The other hypothesis is that changes in cosmic rays associated with solar cycles might affect cloud cover and hence influence climate. However, while cloud cover was reported to be correlated with cosmic ray fluxes some time ago, this correlation has broken down as more years of data have become available. The available data therefore do not support the cosmic ray hypothesis.


  2. Thanks for taking the time to hunt down that link Michaelangelo. I must have misunderstood you before cos I was looking for a link to watch the clip you mentioned live on line (streaming media?). So this explains why I couldn’t find one then. Duhhh!

    Kiwinuke that quote is priceless! LOL! (filing that away to recite wittily in the next available conversation I find myself engaged in where it is relevant)

    Ermmm, and judging from comments by some people on this blog at times, I would venture to say there are definitely humans among us who are less smart than yeast – in the very un-green idea that we can keep aspiring to limitless expansion as some do.

    I would certainly love to see new systems of economics and development explored that are NOT based on the “Yeast Principle”. Oooooh, and should we refer to those as the “Acidophilus Principle”? hehehe


  3. Hi emmess,

    Is anti-human a worse thing to accuse people of than BB’s favourite “anti-American”?

    I read an illustrative piece around environmenbtal degradation, oil depletion, resource scarcity and population growth a wee while back….can’t remember the attribution.

    The key point the commentator was making is the same as that made in the quote from the Matrix above (but perhaps a little broader) – that most animal species develop an equilibrium with their ecosystem resources.

    He made a different comparison though by stating that one living organism that keeps growing exponentially as long as the food source is available (until that is exhausted) is yeast.

    The question he posed, reflectively, for all humanity, was:

    Are we humans smarter than yeast?

  4. emmess
    Take a look at that world population video/dvd and let us know how to resolve what you see – I my view it would be anti human if we cannot find a solution – after all as has been said many times by others – It is humanity that has created the dilemma in the first place.

    Next time you take a lungful of fresh air or reach for the water bottle reflect on how it got there and how many other living systems created it.


  5. emmess says: “You people really are anti-human”

    I reply: As a wild guess, I suspect that you have not spent any time in the company of Greens? … To call us “anti-human” is really amusing.

    What is NOT AMUSING is the way in which multi-millions of “have-not” people ar already living in degraded environments in abject poverty, while others spend “their money” on armaments (including radiaition producing atomic weapons and DU coated projectiles), and others live in (relative) luxury and have unsustainable lifestyles.

    What is NOT amusing is the assumption that the Planet and all its lifeforms are here for the exploitation of those humans who already have, or want to make, “a buck”.

    etc etc …

    I see we humans as ONE of the many lifeforms on the Planet; in some ways, as temporary custodians; but NOT as the masters of “all we can lay our hands on”.

    Within that framework we can live cooperative, enjoyable and productive lives. However we must have concern for the other species with which we share this Planet, and concern for the Planet itself (… and that includes its life supporting systems!)

    “Anti-human”? I don’t think so … “Pro Planet”? definitely!

  6. trying to avoid a catastrophic die off due to resource depletion by limiting population growth is not anti-human.

    rather, those who put no brakes on population control, in a finite world, are the ones who are “anti-human” because it means resource wars and genocides are more likely.

    it is profoundly humanistic to seek limitations in population growth, after all, all we are really arguing for is no barriers to abortion and contraception, how can you possibly say it is anti-human to argue in favour of contraception?

  7. Kiwinuke

    Beautiful – “wisdom” – thanks.

    and Zana
    will get the reference for you tomorrow – regards

  8. Awareness is the only cure.

    We have to break through the veil of illusion and materialism and understand the nature of reality.

    Only then we will be truly free ….

    .. and finally responsible.

  9. Hiya Michaelangelo, I’ve added this site to my bookmarks list cos it looks very interesting indeed, but I can’t seem to find the video you refer to, so any chance of a direct link to that particular page please?

    I have long held the belief that this planet is overly-populated with homo-sapiens and that we need to learn to control our populations in balance with the other living organisms in this eco-sphere and learn to compassionately share this earth – rather than continuing to annihilate entire species in the arrogant belief that “God gave us dominion over the planet and all it’s creatures” (great and small) to use at our whim.

    On a more cynical note, these kinds of conversations remind me of my favourite quote from the Matrix movie:

    AGENT SMITH: I’d like to share a revelation that I’ve had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species. I’ve realized that you are not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment. But you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You are a plague. And we are… the cure.

    Some days I think we are a virus… and I ponder sadly… what will be our cure?

  10. Eredwen,

    Numbers fluctuate enormously amongs the secies, especially those who are in contact with homo sapiens. Animals such as horses numbered probably in the hundreds of millions before the advent of the internal combustion engine. Similarly the bovine species numbers have increased since homo sapiens decided that the milk, meat and hide was useful to them.

    Yep, you are probalby right that the planet will shrug as off just like the dinosours. But till then homo sapiens rule the roost and I dont think that is going to change. What can change is our interaction with the other species. Something you and I dont disagree on.

    Pratical ways to limit homo sapien growth will be an interesting dicussion!

  11. Hi eredwen
    I think that it is on dvd as well – its worth finding – some schools may have it – Check with the link up the page. The library may also have it.

    Nature will do the culling so we dont have to worry who going to do it. probably plague of some sorts – a bit like the didymo spread.

    Have a good heart I believe we get recycled so we can come back again to do it better next time.

  12. michaeangelo:

    SORRY, but I haven’t “seen the video”!

    In my place at the bottom of the family “feeding chain”, my computer (kindly made for me out of the “leftovers”) is without video capability… However, I will be getting a “bump down” superior upgrade soon.

  13. Gerrit speculates: “We could organise a cull if you like. Who volunteers to be culled or to be the culler? Hitler tried but failed!” … etc

    An interesting “slant” in (your assumptions about) my thoughts, which I expressed in un-melodramatic terms in my preceding post: 14March 0950am.

    Sorry to limit your “poetic licence”, but Homo sapiens is ONE of the species on this Planet, and NOT the only one! Our knowledge suggests that the Planet will “shrug us off” eventually, but if we use our brains we can possibly make that later rather than sooner … and in the process, not doom too many more of the other species than we have already.

    (Finally I should point out that Homo sapiens already has a long and brutal history of culling its own kind … and Hitler has, by no means, been the only one, as current events in various parts of the World illustrate.

  14. # eredwen Says:
    March 14th, 2007 at 9:50 am

    “Population curves tend to level out when/where: …”

    The stuff Eredwen referred to has been largely successful in most of Latin America and the Eastern half of Asia. I like to use Bangladesh as an example, becaune people used to say that Bangladesh would never get its population growth under control.

    Bangladesh has now got its birth rate down to just over 2 children per couple. This means that the number of kids being born is around the same as the number of adults of childbearing age. However, that’s still more than the number of older people, so the number of old people will continue to rise until the last people born before the birthrate dropped get to the age that is their average life expoectancy – in other words, in about 60-70 years. The world population will level out about 70 years after the birthrates in Ethiopia and Pakistan (which still have hugely high birthrates) get down to replacement rate. If Bangladesh can do it then so can Ethiopia and Pakistan, but it looks like it’s going to be a long time off.

  15. Eredwen said,

    “We already have produced too many humans, and we are using far more than “our share?

    I guess you need to quantify what “our” share is. I would say not enough yet but you say to much. How do you quantify?

    We could orgnise a cull if you like. Who volunteers to be culled or to be the culler? Hitler tried but failed!

    Or compulsory birth control (such as the one child family in China which is a roaring success)

    Permanent space station was also a science fiction fantasy and now?
    Personal transport devices such as that two wheeled electric mopad thingy (the name of which escapes me) was also a 50’s science fiction fantasy and now?

    And Mars exploration?

    I have infinite faith in development of the human population to meet their needs. The garden of eden may not be the same as you think it should look like but it will be inhabitable.

  16. Thanks guys – but has anyone seen the video? Some of the more educated options/suggestions may not be possible in the timescale.

  17. (finding myself agreeing with eredwen), “to rely on starvation, plague, pestilence and war!” – yep.

    Add to that resource shortages. Thats the one that’ll really make the difference in years to come…

    (and I know you mentioned starvation, which is just one form of resource shortage)

  18. Gerrit suggests: “What we do is start thinking about utilising the 3/4 of the planet unpopulated and uninhabited. The great oceans. Both on and under.”

    Gerrit, your post reminds me of the Science Fiction we read in the 1960’s70’s where humans lived all over the planet in tiered cities and food was grown on platforms.

    We are only ONE of the species on this finite Planet.
    We already have produced too many humans, and we are using far more than “our share”!

  19. Population curves tend to level out when/where:

    1. Death control (in the form of medical facilities, enough food etc) means that parents can expect that their children will live to grow up.

    2. A woman’s worth is based on more than her ability to gestate.

    3. Women gain something approaching equal status with men and therefore daughters “will do”.

    3. Reliable contraception is readily available, (and in the control of women).

    All this takes time and effort (physical, financial and educational.)
    So in the meantime we’ll just have to continue to rely on starvation, plague, pestilence and war!!

    Cynical (and sad) …

  20. Ta Gerrit – have you seen the video?

    What is absolutely staggering is the power of 10 or what ever. What you (forsea) xcuse the pun….. is possible – my question is where does the accelerating population curve begin to level out?

  21. Michaelongelo,

    What we do is start thinking about utilising the 3/4 of the planet unpopulated and uninhabited. The great oceans. Both on and under. When we do that we will see another great war (with attending population decrease) to decide who has “rights” to their bit of ocean.

    A conspiratist may say it is the exact reason the USA is building at a continuing rate massive aircraft carriers, their naval fleets, etc. well beyond their current operational requirements.

    Personally see great opportunities for feeding the human population using aquaculture in the climate change heated warm oceans.

  22. This is all very interesting but whilst we debate the issues – the real culprit is expanding rapidly. The results of climate change, extinction of species, pollution, environmental modification (apart from the earth itself and the influence of other solar bodies) are only caused by one thing – Human population.

    If you havent seen the very graphic 7 minute video about population explosion then the answers to most of our debate and blogging will be found in this dvd. What is startling is the dramatic increase since 1900!


    It speaks for itself. Now everyone – what do we do?

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