Total Pageviews

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Climate change - science as a belief system

Until the 1970s hardly anyone saw global warming as a danger. On average, scientists warned for a cooling of the Earth and a new Ice Age. In the 1980s the scientific opinion changed from a warning for a global cooling into a warning for a global warming. This sudden change in scientific opinion is probably still fundamental to climate change skepticism.

This skepticism is well illustrated by the changing views of Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013), England's Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990. Originally a research chemist before becoming a barrister, Thatcher was elected Member of Parliament (MP) in 1959.

Mrs Thatcher was the first world leader to voice alarm over global warming, back in 1988. With her scientific background, she had fallen under the spell of Sir Crispin Tickell, then the UK's man at the UN. In the 1970s, he had written a book warning that the world was cooling, but he had since become an ardent convert to the belief that it was warming. However, in 2003, towards the end of her last book, Statecraft, in a passage headed "Hot Air and Global Warming", she issued what amounts to an almost complete recantation of her earlier views. (The Telegraph)

Lady Thatcher's 2003 change in views may well relate to her true concerns by claiming that "the new dogma about climate change has swept through the left-of-centre governing classes", and warning that the international effort to tackle climate change "provides a marvellous excuse for worldwide, supra-national socialism." (The Guardian)

This is the heart of the matter regarding climate change skepticism: scientific views on climate change have become very politicised. Unfortunately, this politicised climate change debate has seriously hurt its long-term goals. Both the global cooling of the 70's and the global warming of the 80s were scientific hypotheses. Debating the global warming hypothesis is mostly seen as having retarded views. Climate change is no longer a scientific view but a political view.

State of Fear is a 2004 techno-thriller novel by Michael Crichton in which eco-terrorists plot mass murder to publicise the danger of global warming. Despite being a work of fiction, the book contains many graphs and footnotes, two appendices, and a twenty-page bibliography in support of Crichton's beliefs about global warming. Most climate scientists dispute Crichton's science as being error-filled and distorted, and it was described as "pure porn for global warming deniers" by one skeptical science journalist. (Wikipedia)

Nevertheless, this book balanced my views on climate change. Climate change is indeed an evolutionary and a historical fact. Global urbanisation has increased temperatures in the big cities. Yet, average temps decreased outside the big cities. Average temps on the North Pole have increased while average temps on the South Pole have decreased. (link 1, link 2)

I am convinced that the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the ultimate watchdog whose massive, six-yearly ‘assessments’ are accepted by environmentalists, politicians and experts as the gospel of climate science, has been most responsible for creating climate change skepticism. The IPCC is an example of science as a belief system.