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Readers, I signed that letter

By Dr Alister McFarquhar in: Environment

I was privileged to be invited to sign an open letter to Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper, suggesting a rethink on climate policy. Of course, it might be hard to find scientists in the UK to sign, given the peer pressure they come under to conform to the man-made warming hypothesis, with the attention and funding which it brings.

The new Conservative government now says Canada cannot meet its Kyoto targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Environment Minister Rona Ambrose favours the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate (which includes the United States, Australia, Japan, China, India and South Korea). The pact plans to develop technology to reduce emissions rather than having specific reduction targets.

Had I been among the climate consensus scientists, I would have claimed this changed attitude was due to our letter, in the same way that hurricane Katrina was said to have been due to global warming. Mistaking coincidence for causation seems currently in fashion among our climate scientists. In logic it is called the fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc. A similar letter signed by 41 (but only 5 from the UK) of the Big Sixty appeared in the Sunday Telegraph on 22 April.

The president of the Royal Society, Lord Rees of Ludlow, asserts that the evidence for human-caused global warming "is now compelling" and concerning (Letters, April 19). In a public letter, we have recently advised the Canadian Prime Minister of exactly the opposite - which is that "global climate changes all the time due to natural causes and the human impact still remains impossible to distinguish from this natural 'noise'." We also noted that "observational evidence does not support today's computer climate models, so there is little reason to trust model predictions of the future".

We await with interest a response from the President of the Royal Society – or even from Lord May or Sir David King, pied pipers of the climate alarm following. But preferably without the word 'consensus,' the essence of politics but the enemy of progress in science – it is a word overdue for ditching in spite of its warm communitaire connotations.

Comment by Dr Alister McFarquhar on Apr 30 at 10:28 AM


Your correspondent who dislikes the discussion about climate change (Letters, April 23) asks whether scientists “really believe that puny man can control the unimaginable forces of nature by sticking a windmill on his roof, throwing away his fridge and planting a few trees?” The answer is that they do not since his list is a parody of what they recommend.

To control “unimaginable forces” does not necessarily mean using comparable forces. Of course climates change, but it is the rate of change that is worrying. It is difficult to forecast the future precisely but this does not mean that we should sit around and wait for bad things to happen.

William Garrett, Harrow, Middlesex


With respect to Lord Rees’ second letter to the Sunday Telegraph on global warming (see last post).

1. Technically, the Letter-of-40 to the Telegraph did not criticize Lord Rees. Rather, it pointed out briefly that a large group of qualified scientists had given exactly the opposite advice to his on climate change to the Prime Minister of Canada.

2. To badge these scientists as “denialists” adds nothing to the debate.

3. That humans are adding to the atmospheric load of carbon dioxide has never been in dispute. The key question was therefore not addressed by Lord Rees. It is whether increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide are dangerous (as hysterically propagated by the daily press) or neutral or beneficial (as many qualified scientists assert).

4. Lord Rees is President of the Royal Society. He apparently believes - and states in public - that matters of science are to be settled by which side of an argument has the greater number of scientists attached to it.

“Incredible” is scarcely a strong enough word to describe such misunderstanding of the nature of science.

As senior US geologist Lee Gerhard has remarked more than once: “Elections are settled by votes, science is settled by data. It is unwise to confuse the two.”

Comment by Robert M. Carter


For Lord Rees to say that “Since 2001 the scientific evidence has continued to mount” of global warming is difficult to understand. Since then the Hockeystick Theory (so called because of the shape of the alleged graph of warming showing a sharp upward change at the present) which was used very extensively by the IPCC to sell global warming has been proven mathematically unsustainable. Indeed it has been shown that almost any random figures put into that computer model would generate a “hockeystick”. Futher since 2001 global temperatures have not increased. Technically there has been a very small decline though so small as to be statistically insignificant.

despite a plethora of computer models, most of which fail when asked to predict previous weather patterns, in 2001 there was interesting, but not conclusive, evidence of a small & non-catastrophic warming well within historical limits (for example in the late Roman period grapes grew in York). The evidence is not stronger now.

Comment by Neil Craig on May 01 at 12:15 PM


Yesterday, I came across Climate Change Prediction: a challenging scientific problem on the Institute of Physics website.

It claims “... scepticism about the prediction models is rife and this is why this paper is devoted to de-mystifying the prediction methodology. Consequently this paper focuses on the scientific basis of climate change prediction.” The paper then attempts to support the case for raised atmospheric carbon dioxide levels being a major and worrying contributor to global warming.

Sadly, I felt even less convinced of the validity of the computer models, having read these 13 pages, than I did before starting. Given its publication in 2005, one would expect more convincing information than say in the 2001 IPCC report.

The main problem I have is a lack of verification of the computer models. It is, of course, extremely difficult to validate such things for extrapolation outside the current time range. However, I would have thought that more could be done to cover say a 50-year extrapolation, on the basis of vailidation against climate over the last 50 years, with any necessary parameterisation on the basis of data ending 50+ years ago (which does cover around 100 years of anthropogenic carbon burning).

Furthermore, as with the IPCC 2001 report, there was too much use of faulty reasoning. Invoking the view of the majority of scientists, alone, does not convince in this household; we just ask why they all believe (so that we can believe too). Neither does it help to identify mismatches between model and actuality (say on non-mean termperatures) and then say, rather barely, this mismatch does not matter. Such a lack of substance immediately raises the natural scepticism of any discriminating person, scientist or no.

Any serious-minded help would be appreciated. For example, on the Fig 1 plots over 400,000 years showing strong correlation between air temperature and carbon dioxide level, do we know the causation chain. Does the CO2 rise and cause the temperature to rise, vice versa (say from ocean-stored CO2), neither or both? What starts it, if causation is not dependent on temperature changes from solar forcing? These plots must have some averaging effect in them; do we know more about the range of peakiness from high-frequency effects seen in the present?

What about anthropogenic injections of water vapour? How significant is this greenhouse effect compared to that of CO2 and methane? Are there implications for replacement of carbon burning with more hydrogen burning? Concerning the rather coarse spatial sampling of the computational models, what is the difference between the “spatial energy” rate of change of spatial frequencies (known from current climate measurements) that can be modelled, compared to those that cannot be modelled. How good is the match between modelled and actual measurements (by satellite) of earth IR radiation (and spectrum) on the “night side”?

What other computer models do we rely on (with firm and well understood justification) that have model verification of similar strength or weakness?

I’d like to believe; just give me reason.

Best regards

Comment by Nigel Sedgwick on May 01 at 05:30 PM

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