By Christopher Monckton of Brenchley
The campaign by certain rent-seeking scientific societies to push a single, narrow view of the climate question continued in Scotland today with a meeting coyly entitled Climate Change: Science and Society at the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scotland’s once-famous, once-scientific society.
Your correspondent, following a tip-off from “rms”, a WUWT commenter, tootled round from Queen Street and sat through this gag-reflex-tweaking propaganda event.
This was the first meeting at any scientific society at which not only did I hear a member of the audience demand less science but the rest of the audience actually applauded.
We’ll come to that. But I’m not surprised. An eminent Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh suggested to its then president almost ten years ago that I should be asked to address the Society on the climate question so that the Fellows could hear both sides. He was told, in no uncertain terms, that any opinion but that one would be welcome.
Professor David Sugden, FRSE, who chaired today’s event, opened with the usual pietism about climate change being “one of the biggest problems facing humankind”. He was disappointed that climate change had not been mentioned in the recent UK election (actually it had, in UKIP’s manifesto, which promised near-complete desubsidization of the climate nonsense, and UKIP gained more votes than any other party).
Professor Sugden, a smooth, murmuring perpetrator of effortless pietisms akin to the waffling bureaucrat Wither in C.S. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength, also said the forthcoming world-government conference in Paris was the world’s “last-chance saloon”. Pass the sick-bucket, Alice! (as my Australian brother is prone to put it).
Professor Gabriele Hegerl, FRSE, an IPCC activist from the [University of Edinburgh], presented a summary of the two-year-old Fifth ASSessment Report. The report was “science based on publications,” she burbled, as her PowerPoint presentation showed a picture of an IPCC scientist very obviously asleep during one of the “working” sessions.
We were not told, of course, that of 11,944 climate-science “publications” in the 21 years 1991-2011 only 41, or 0.3%, had even gone so far as to say most of the global warming since 1950 was manmade. In the IPCC’s ASSessment Report, this 0.3% “science based on publications” became “95% confidence”. Bozhe moi.
Professor Hegerl hoped that this year’s el Nino would be a big one, “beating the world record by how much?” We were not told this would be just in time for Paris, before the countervailing la Nina kicks in.
Next, some cherry-picking. Springtime snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere was declining (we were not told that annual northern-hemisphere snow cover shows no change throughout the satellite era).
Professor Hegerl mentioned Antarctic as well as Arctic sea-ice extent, but said the former had increased only “slightly”. We were not told that the increase in Antarctic sea ice now largely compensates for the loss of Arctic sea ice, and for several months it has been showing its greatest seasonal extent in the satellite era.
We were told that upper ocean temperature had “increased linearly”. We were not told its warming rate is equivalent to 0.23 degrees per [century]. What with the sky not falling and the sea not really rising, whatever shall we do?
We were told that it was “66% likely” that 20th-century warming had made current temperatures the warmest in at least 1400 years. We were not told that that modelling estimate is at variance with just about every peer-reviewed proxy record. Our good friends at CO2science.org have a collection of around 500 papers based on measurements showing that the medieval warm period was real, was global and was at least as warm as the present almost everywhere, and in some places warmer by up to 3 degrees.
We were told the ocean was “acidifying”. We were not told by how much. Not surprising, really, because no global measurement has ever been taken. All we have are a few transects and one or two local records. We were not told that the ocean was actually acid 55 million years ago, and yet the calcite corals that evolved 550 million years ago and the aragonites that first achieved algal symbiosis 175 million years ago somehow survived, and here we all are.
Professor Hegerl said observed temperatures had exceeded predictions in the 1990s. She heard me growling at this and reiterated it. However, the warming from January 1990 to December 1999, even on the average of the three much-adjusted and exaggerated surface temperature datasets, was 0.22 degrees, compared with the IPCC’s prediction of 0.28 degrees per decade over the medium term in its 1990 First ASSessment Report.
However, Professor Hegerl admitted that the Pause had not been predicted.
We were told that more water in the atmosphere because of global warming would lead to more rainfall. We were not told that not all records show this; nor were we told that the linear trend on the Met Office rainfall record, the longest in the world, shows an increase in rainfall of just 2 inches a year compared with almost a quarter of a millennium ago.
Professor Hegerl expressed considerable interest in what she said was a new finding of the IPCC: that there was a linear relationship between cumulative CO2 emissions and global temperature change. We were not told that in the last 18 years 5 months that “linear relationship” had broken down, with CO2 emissions and concentration continuing to rise at rates not seen in more than 800,000 years, and yet global temperatures showing no change at all over the period.
Besides, the CO2 forcing function is not linear but logarithmic. A possible mistake somewhere, one felt.
I asked Professor Hegerl about the now embarrassingly large discrepancy between the IPCC’s medium-term interval of temperature predictions made in 1990 and the observed outturn in the subsequent quarter of a century, which was only half the IPCC’s central estimate. The IPCC had accordingly halved its predicted interval of medium-term warming from [0.2, 0.4] degrees per decade in 1990 to [0.1, 0.2] degrees per decade in 2013. Outturn since 1979, on all measures, had been closer to 0.1 than 0.2 degrees per decade.
The satellite datasets had shown no warming for 18 years 4 months (UAH) or 18 years 5 months (RSS), and the ocean, perhaps the best indicator of the underlying warming rate, had been warming at a rate equivalent to less than a quarter of a degree per [century] across the entire 11-year run of bathythermograph data.
The Professor winced. There is no doubt about it: the pause is getting to them. She began her answer by saying that the IPCC had made no medium-term predictions in 1990: only predictions to 2100. I quickly interjected that it had predicted 1 degree of warming to 2025 and 1.8 degrees to 2030, against an outturn to date of not much more than a third of a degree in a quarter of a century.
Professor Sugden interrupted to tell me to let Professor Hegerl answer the question, but by then I’d made my point. Professor Hegerl, flustered at having been caught out on the content of the IPCC reports, speculated on some of the possible causes of what she called the “anomalously low warming” over the past decade or two. We were not told that anomalously high warming predictions might be a large part of the problem.
She mentioned relatively active volcanism. We were not told that since Pinatubo there has been no eruption of global significance. Less implausibly, she referred to the slowdown in solar activity: yet the IPCC has attributed so little forcing to solar changes that that pretext, too, fell short.
Next, she said that Professor Richard Lindzen’s negative feedback had not been observed and that, therefore, the very least we could expect from a doubling of CO2 concentration was 1.5 degrees’ warming. “The present slowdown in warming does not affect the prediction at all.” No, it doesn’t, and that, precisely is the problem: full steam ahead and damn the factedoes. We weren’t told, for instance, that Professor Lindzen’s negative feedback was actually derived from observation.
She concluded that the present el Nino would put warming back on track. We were not told that (alas, after the Paris pifflefest) the subsequent la Nina may well put the pause back on track.
A member of the audience, in that hectoring, bossy whine that is the hallmark of the climate campaigner everywhere, interjected that we shouldn’t be discussing “trivial quibbles about science” at all. All this talk of tenths of a degree was irrelevant.
The audience of “scientists” applauded rapturously. Actually, Miss, those tenths of a degree are relevant, because the warming to date is indeed only in tenths of a degree, and considerably fewer tenths than had been predicted.
While the next speaker was getting his act together, I had a look at the attendance register to find out why the audience had so ecstatically applauded the climate campaigner who had suggested that a scientific society should not concern itself with science.
As I had suspected, about three-quarters of the 70 people present were there either because they were on the taxpayer’s dime as academics, bureaucrats or students or because they were climate campaigners.
Even the members of what was once a distinguished scientific society no longer seemed to care about science. They seemed to care about money. As long as panicky governments were handing the stuff out by the barrow-load, they would pay not the slightest attention to the abyss now set between prediction and outturn.
Next, Professor Stuart Haszeldine, OBE, FRSE, said we were emitting “carbon” into the atmosphere “and there isn’t enough space”. Actually, we’re emitting carbon dioxide and there’s plenty of space, but people who live in towns seldom see the stars, so they don’t know how big space is.
However, he made an excellent and well balanced case for CO2 capture and storage: it was geologically safe, he said, but there was an energy penalty of 25%, though he hoped that might one day fall to 10% or even to 2-3% (dream on). He also hoped that the gas-fired plant at Peterhead on the north-east neuk of Buchan would shortly become the first gas-powered generation set in the world to be converted to CO2 capture and storage. We were not told that fracking is scarcely less safe than CO2 capture and storage.
He said that once the CO2 had been extracted chemically from the flue-gases and then sent through a compressor, it could be pumped out to sea using an existing pipeline and could be sequestered in the now-disused Goldeneye gas field under the North Sea. A similar retrofit at the Grangemouth refinery could send CO2 through another existing pipeline and out to the North Sea.
Next, Professor Mark Rounsevell, a specialist in modeling atmospheric chemistry at Edinburgh University, asked “So what? Should we adapt or mitigate?” He was willing to concede that the case for CO2 harming agricultural yields had not been made. Though crop yields were no longer increasing as much as they had done in previous decades, they had not dropped despite a very large reduction in the use of nitrogen fertilizers.
Dr Andy Kerr, an adviser to the Scottish executive, said that modeling of regional impacts for the UK had produced contradictory results. Earlier results had said it would be a bit wetter, later results had said the opposite. New scenarios were working on the basis of a warming of 4-5 degrees this century. We were not told that this would represent up to 20 times the underlying ocean warming rate of the past 11 years.
His sensible take-home message was that one should not start by worrying about climate change. Instead, one should be resilient to whatever might happen.
That was a cue for my question: the Cockenzie coal-fired plant (above) had been needlessly closed; the same was now to happen at Longannet; Scotland’s two nuclear plants were also due to be taken out of service; no replacement base-load power would be built; d*mnfool windmills were intermittent, costly and environmentally destructive, and were failing far sooner than their design lifetimes; and how was the Scottish executive going to keep the lights on?
That turned out to be the right question. Dr Kerr said the lights could well go out this winter because EU regulation was closing coal-fired plants all over England too, so that the entire UK grid would become acutely vulnerable. He was a fan of windmills but recognized that they were expensive and did not work when the wind was not blowing (we were not told that that is most of the time).
After the mandatory break for bad coffee and good shortbread with the Scottish saltire carefully baked into the crust in a politically correct fashion, Professor Ottmar Edenhofer of the Potsdam Institute (them again) said that CO2 emissions growth was accelerating, and admitted that the 2-degree global-warming limit had nothing to support it either in physics or in economics: it was political.
Professor Edenhofer said energy intensity per unit of GDP was improving, but was more than offset by population and GDP growth. Coal was undergoing a renaissance, notwithstanding attempts in Europe and North America to shut it down, and the renaissance was not attributable solely to China and India. We were not told it’s nearly all attributable to China alone, nor that Mr Obama has unilaterally exempted China from any obligations to the world government he hopes to establish in Paris this December.
The “precautionary principle” required us to decarbonize quickly. We were not told that the “precautionary principle” is neither precautionary nor a principle: it is an expedient deployed to divert attention from the economic reality – which even the IPCC admits in its 2013 report – that mitigation today is costlier than adaptation even to absurdly over-predicted warming the day after tomorrow.
In Professor Edenhofer’s view, the fastest road to decarbonisation was the introduction of a CO2 tax or of emissions trading. We were not told that both are in force in Europe and have been a failure.
He said, “Climate policy has a current cost, but may benefit future generations: the question of intergenerational justice is important.” He estimated that, on business as usual, there would be a warming of 4 degrees this century. I asked him whether it was realistic for him to expect a 17-fold increase in the underlying ocean warming rate compared with what had been measured over the past 11 years.
I added that [in the city that gave the world the first member of his profession – Adam Smith (below), the first economist, a free-marketeer and, along with Benjamin Franklin, a founding member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh] it was depressing to be told that the answer to what increasingly appeared to be a non-problem was a gargantuan regime of totalitarian interference in the working of the free market in energy supply.
Taxing or pricing CO2, I said, was a poll tax on the poor.
Dr Edenhofer angrily replied that he accepted “the science” [but not the science that shows very nearly all the models to have exaggerated the warming trend].
He considered there was nothing totalitarian about government setting market prices (I kid you not). Prices, he said, must reflect society’s most important scarcities. But that is what the free market does, all by itself.
His objective, he said in an unctuous tone, was “caring for the atmosphere and rescuing the free-market economy”.
The audience of totalitarians, their wobbly bottoms planted on the Consolidated Fund just as firmly as steatopygy allowed, loved this confirmation of their opinion that global warming is what Lord Stern described in his now-discredited report on climate economics as “a market failure”. Dr Edenhofer’s comment got the biggest applause of the day.
Finally, Angus Gillespie of Shell said the oil corporation was investing billions in CO2 capture and storage. Shell, he said, accepted that climate change was underway and that fossil fuels were playing a role [can I have another grant now I’ve said that?].
Shell wanted a price on CO2, because it was changing from being an oil and gas corporation to being a gas and oil corporation. Gas had half of coal’s emissions per TWh of energy generated, so a CO2 price would make coal uncompetitive and increase Shell’s market share.
Shell was investing in CO2 capture and storage because it had concluded that 7 billion tons of CO2 would have to be sequestered every year to keep within the 2-degree global-warming limit. The cost of the technology was currently $125 per tonne captured, of which $100 was the cost of the capture itself. Costly though the technology was, Shell reckoned that any other method would be 40% costlier still. They estimated that the deadweight cost or energy penalty in driving the capture, compression, transport, injection and storage was 10-20% (the industry reckons more like 25-40% at present).
I asked Mr Gillespie whether, in view of the now embarrassingly large and ever-growing disconnect between the exaggerated predictions of the “settled-science” models and the inconvenient, real-world measurements, Shell had any strategy for disentangling itself from the CO2-as-demon matrix.
The question caught him by surprise. He said that although Shell maintained its portfolio of energy-producing reserves and other assets as flexibly as possible, the corporation had no strategy for handling the situation if real-world temperatures continued to demonstrate that the models were wrong.
A climate campaigner at the back of the room – another whining, bossy voice, male this time – asked for Mr Gillespie’s reaction to the campaign to persuade people to sell their investments in fossil-fuel corporations.
Mr Gillespie responded, bluntly, that divestment made no difference to the share price. Shareholders took a relatively short-term view of the value of Shell’s assets – typically ten or eleven years – so the divestment campaign would have no impact at all.
Then, in a final dig at the skeptics, he said, “Some of the debate has become a distraction.”
So let me make a prediction (that’s what They do). As global temperatures resume their rise, but do so at a rate very far below prediction, the debate will continue, whether the Royal Society of Edinburgh or Royal Dutch Shell like it or not.
As the hall emptied, Dr Edenhofer passed by. I said I hoped he’d find his way back to the free market in time. He said the Potsdam institute was committed to the free market. “Communists, the lot of you,” I said, with a warm smile to reassure him that I was not intending an insult.
Professor Haszledine came past at that moment and said, “And what’s wrong with Communism?” Sadly, he meant it. The only thing we learn from history …
On the way out, I asked Professor Sugden whether there had ever been a climate-skeptical speaker at a Royal Society event. He said there had been several interjections by skeptics over the years. I pressed him, asking whether the Society had ever invited a skeptic to speak from the podium. “No,” he said.
That says it all. Can’t have scientific quibbles about tenths of a degree, can we? Not when our fat subsidies might be cut off once governments work out they’ve been had.
Though some of the speakers made sensible points, neither speakers nor audience seemed aware of most of the central scientific facts in the climate debate. They knew the Party Line, but that was all. One or two had heard of the pause, but none had realized how wide the discrepancy between models’ predictions and real-world outturn had become.
And where they knew the facts, they presented only one side of the picture. This was a propaganda event, pure and simple. It had nothing to do with science except the name of the once-illustrious society in whose premises the meeting was held.
After the meeting Professor Hegerl told me it was simply not true that the rate of warming since 1990 was half of what the IPCC had then predicted. The current temperature outturn, she said, was consistent with the models’ predictions.
She knew, of course, that there was no penalty in making such an entirely incorrect and insupportable assertion: for the mainstream media can now be relied upon not to ask any of the right questions. The good news, though, is that they did not bother to attend. It is slowly dawning on them that this particular horse is dead.
I came away saddened. It is not just the terrible destruction of the Scottish landscape wrought by the 600-ft windmills that can be seen from two-thirds of it. It is not just the extinction of the ospreys and golden eagles and pipistrelles and countless other species of birds and bats smashed out of the sky by the grim, new triffids of totalitarianism.
As one of Scotland’s most successful civil engineers and I agreed over ersatz coffee and politically-correct biscuits, it is the loss of the use of reason herself by the only known species that possesses it that is the heaviest loss.
How will science recover, if the very bastions of science, however elegant their premises, are infested with intellectual pygmies who no longer care to hunt for the objective truth that is – or, rather, was – the end and object as much of science as it is of religion?