In June of this year, Howard Dewhirst, a fellow of The Geological Society (London), wrote a letter to the President of the Society voicing the concern of 33 current and former fellows of the society, as well as other concerned geoscientists, that the Society’s position on climate change is outdated and one-sided. As of this writing, receipt of the letter has been acknowledged, but no reply has been received. Given the long period of time, Howard has sent a second letter to the Society, it is reproduced below.
We understand that the council is reviewing the The Geological Society’s 2010 and 2013 position papers on climate change which was the subject of the letter we wrote to the society in early June. We also understand that despite the clear interest amongst Fellows – and other scientists, that the society will not be publishing further letters until the new position paper has been agreed. If true, we (the contributors to the first letter) think this is unfortunate, as now would be the very time to solicit informed opinion from Fellows and others as there clearly is not a consensus. This is a new field of scientific endeavor as there were very few graduates in ‘climate science’ as little as 10-15 years ago, meteorologists, astrophysicists, geologists, yes and many others with some knowledge of what is a very wide field, to some of whom your current committee will doubtless listen.
That there are so many aspects of this exceedingly important debate which have yet to be raised let alone evaluated, it seems strange for the Society to close down that debate, as if everything that needs to be looked at is well known and agreed. This concern informed some of the thinking behind the open letter and which I will be reviewing at a Climate Change Conference in Portugal in early September. The conference is very difficult to find on Google for some reason, so I have attached a link, https://www.portoconference2018.org) and a copy of the revised abstract of my talk, where you will find a dozen questions, or areas of uncertainty that we believe warrant closer examination. Your committee may already have done this and if so, we look forward to reading their conclusions.
We were sure that the Society would update the 2013 addendum as much new data has been made available since then, but we are concerned that as presented, the two papers gave the impression that they were supported by the majority of Fellows. While there are only 41 Fellows names on our letter to date, most have many colleagues who think that some modification of the papers could make them more representative, and of course there are the attendees of the Porto Conference. Sadly, many of those who do support AGW theory have chosen not present or even to attend, missing a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate their arguments and win converts. The ideas of just a few, mainly academic committee members, however well meaning, is never going to reflect what the Society of Fellows thinks as a whole. This is not a plea for the Committee to swallow our version of the evidence, but to acknowledge that it exists, that it is not just an ill-informed fringe opinion and can’t be swept under the table.
The link to the conference enables you to download the very large pdf of abstracts and supporting material which you will see cover a much wider range of technical concerns than our letter, and are presented by more widely acknowledged and qualified, peer reviewed scientists, which I for one am not. I would however be more than happy to present the paper to the committee as it is very important to us that you are aware of our motivations and intentions. Unfortunately, many of the authors have been described as denialists by those who support the IPCC mantra and so their observations and data tend to be dismissed without examination – on the mistaken assumption that anything a ‘denialist’ says has to be wrong. This is difficult to grasp as the ethics of the geological industry in which I have worked are driven by examination of all the data, good and bad, for if we did not and got it wrong, we would not last long; as even Einstein didn’t get it all right. Data is the key, when one side says for example, Arctic ice is melting and the other says, yes but Antarctic ice is not melting,’ this should in theory be resolvable, sadly it is often not, and confirmation bias strikes as one side or the other, or both, resort to labelling each other, rather than examining the data dispassionately.
One simple illustration should make clear our concerns, we noticed that the two papers were both composed during the current ‘pause’ in global warming, but do not mention it; if it is real it should form part of the story, if it is not, then that needs to be demonstrated, and not swept under the carpet. We also find that the papers although focused on the geological record, are strongly biased by uncritical acceptance of the IPCC’s AGW theory, hence we are concerned to preserve the Society’s strong tradition of examining all sides of an issue.
You are doubtless aware of the publication of the two position papers on the Energy Matters blog site (http://euanmearns.com/the-geological-society-of-londons-statement-on-climate-change/) and of the huge interest this stirred in the greater geological community. This was never going to be a venue for decision making, but we believe it served a very useful purpose which we would like to see continued by the simple expedient of the Society inviting a wider range of correspondence and publishing it on the web site, as if it were a blog; obviously only a couple of letters can ever be published in the magazine. In the past it used to be that only peer reviewed papers were considered as valid statements of fact, many peer reviewed articles have of late shown that ‘peer reviewed’ has somehow lost its way – and not just in the field of climate change. And blog posting is increasingly accepted as the critical comments always accompany the posts, unlike peer reviewing, where the ‘who and what’ discussions are usually invisible – as was made clear in the Climategate saga.
Finally, we thank the Society for its openness and its tradition of scientific impartiality; we do not think that we alone have the answer as there is much uncertainty in the data, but neither should the Society when so much is at stake.
Howard Dewhirst FGS