What Consensus?

David Miliband was greeted by cries of “Rubbish!” when he told a conference on climate change at the Holy See that the science of climate change was simple and settled. Yet Miliband was merely reciting a mantra that has been widely peddled by politicians such as Al Gore and political news media such as the BBC.

There is a consensus that we have put large quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere; that some warming may have resulted and further may be expected. However, there is no consensus that most of the past half-century’s warming is anthropogenic.

Nor is there any agreement on how much the world has warmed or will warm; how much of the warming is natural; how much impact greenhouse gases have on temperature; how sea level, storms, droughts, floods, flora, and fauna will respond to warmer temperature; what mitigative steps we should take; whether such steps would be sufficient; or even whether we should take any steps at all.

Al Gore, for instance, devoted a long segment of his film ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ to predicting the imminent meltdown of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice-sheets, with a consequent global increase of 20 feet in sea level that would flood Manhattan, Shanghai, Bangladesh, and other coastal settlements. He falsely claimed that all credible climate scientists were agreed on his alarmist notions.

Even the UN’s much derided latest report on climate change, which also claimed to be representing and summarizing the state of the scientific “consensus”, says that the total contribution of ice-melt from Greenland and Antarctica to the rise in sea level over the whole of the coming century will not be the 20 feet luridly illustrated by Al Gore in his movie, but just 2 inches. The BBC, of course, has not headlined, or even reported, the UN’s “counter-consensual” findings. Every time the BBC mentions “climate change”, it shows the same tired footage of a glacier calving into the sea – which is what glaciers do every summer.

What countless research papers actually show is that global temperatures were higher than today’s during the Holocene Climate Optimum and the Medieval Warm Period, when atmospheric CO2 levels were much lower than at present. There are also many papers showing that solar variability is a key driver of recent climate change and that in the past 70 years the Sun has been more active, for longer, than at almost any comparable period in the past 11,400 years. Others echo Lorenz (1963), who, in the paper that founded chaos theory, demonstrated his famous theorem that the climate is a mathematically-chaotic object that is by its nature unpredictable unless one fully understands not only all the relevant evolutionary processes but also the initial state of the global climate to a precision that is in practice altogether unattainable.

The stifling of dissent and the curtailing of scientific skepticism has brought climate research into disrepute and provoked the whistle blower into outing the e-mails of the Climategate scandal. Science is supposed to work by critical evaluation, open-mindedness and self-correction. Clearly there is a fear among climate alarmists that the very existence of scientific skepticism and doubts about their gloomy predictions will make politicians hesitate before spending the countless billions demanded by the Stern Report. But if political considerations dictate what gets published, the future for science is bleak.

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