Matt Ridley achtergrond climate warskopie

De onvolprezen ‘Global Warming Policy Foundation’ (GWPF) heeft onlangs een nieuw rapport uitgebracht van de hand van Matt Ridley, getiteld: ‘The Climate Wars and the Damage to Science.’ Het is een bundeling van artikelen die reeds eerder zijn verschenen, voorzien van een nieuw voorwoord.

Ridley, die vroeger wetenschapsjournalist was voor ‘The Economist’, is thans lid van het Britse Hogerhuis voor de conservatieven. Maar naast deze besognes schrijft hij nog steeds de sterren van de hemel, waarbij hij vooral stelling neemt tegen wat Bjørn Lomborg de ‘litanie van milieuangsten’ heeft genoemd en in het bijzonder AGW (‘Anthropogenic Global Warming’: door de mens veroorzaakte opwarming van de atmosfeer).

Ik pik er een aantal krenten uit.

At the heart of the debate about climate change is a simple scientific question: can a doubling of the concentration of a normally harmless, indeed moderately beneficial, gas, from 0.03% of the atmosphere to 0.06% of the atmosphere over the course of a century change the global climate sufficiently to require drastic and painful political action today? In the end, that’s what this is all about. Most scientists close enough to the topic say: possibly. Some say: definitely. Some say: highly unlikely. The ‘consensus’ answer is that the warming could be anything from mildly beneficial to dangerously harmful: that’s what the IPCC means when it quotes a range of plausible outcomes from 1.5 to 4 degrees of warming.

On the basis of this unsettled scientific question, politicians and most of the pressure groups that surround them are furiously insistent that any answer to the question other than ‘definitely’ is vile heresy motivated by self-interest, and is so disgraceful as to require stamping out, prosecution as a crime against humanity, investigation under laws designed to catch racketeering by organized crime syndicates, or possibly the suspension of democracy. For yes, that is what has been repeatedly proposed by respected and senior figures in the climate debate.

James Hansen, former head of Nasa’s Goddard Institute and the man whose congressional testimony in 1988 kick-started the whole debate, said a few years back, of fossil fuel company executives: ‘In my opinion, these CEOs should be tried for high crimes against humanity and nature’. …

To me, given that most environmental scares never turn out as bad as first feared, given that climate change has proceeded much more slowly and mildly than expected since 1990, and given that there is now a vast vested industry in alarm, thanks to munificent public funding, this feels like an over-reaction.

That is to say, although I am in the ‘possibly’ camp, above, I cannot understand why so many people who should know better – in science academies, in parliaments and in international agencies – tolerate this vicious intolerance of a different position, let alone join in with it. Nor can I understand how so many politicians and scientists have grown more confident, not less, that future global warming will be catastrophically dangerous, even as estimates of climate sensitivity have come down and as real-world warming has consistently underperformed models, with the discrepancy growing larger every year. …

Most disappointing of all is the way that science – especially the leaders of the world’s science academies – have joined in with gusto, not just demonizing those who say they are not convinced we face catastrophe, but turning a blind eye to the distortion and corruption of the scientific process itself. That’s what this essay is about.

I am a ‘lukewarmer’: somebody who has come to think that climate change is likely to continue to be slow and mild, and that much greater humanitarian and environmental problems deserve more attention. I meet a lot of people who are skeptical and a lot of people who are alarmed. The latter have all the plum jobs, hefty grants and fat salaries. Yet respect for the scientific method is far more prevalent among the former.
I genuinely worry that science itself is being damaged by this episode.

Ridley vervolgt dat hij vroeger altijd vertrouwen had in het zelfreinigend vermogen van de wetenschap. Maar thans gelooft hij daar niet meer in. Slechte ideeën kunnen decennialang voortleven door politieke steun en monopolisering van de wetenschap. Verschillende wetenschappers hebben zich als ‘cheerleaders for alarm’ ontpopt.

Vervolgens gaat hij in op de beruchte consensus. Wat houdt die eigenlijk in?

The IPCC actually admits the possibility of lukewarming within its consensus, because it gives a range of possible future temperatures: it thinks the world will be between about 1.5 and 4◦C warmer on average by the end of the century. That’s a huge range, from marginally beneficial to terrifyingly harmful, so it is hardly a consensus of danger, and if you look at the ‘probability density functions’ of climate sensitivity, they always cluster towards the lower end.

Voorts behandelt hij de oorsprong van het sprookje dat 97% van de wetenschappers pro–AGW zijn. De betrokken onderzoeken bleken alle te kunnen worden weerlegd, onder meer op grond van methodologische tekortkomingen.

Vervolgens passeren een aantal schandalen de revue: Peter Gleick die onder valse voorwendselen documenten van het Heartland Instituut had bemachtigd en deze openbaar heeft gemaakt; Stephan Lewandowsky, die insinueerde dat klimaatsceptici de neiging zouden hebben om in samenzweringstheorieën te geloven, zoals de gedachte dat de maanlanding in scene zou zijn gezet; Rajendra Pachauri, voorzitter van het IPCC, die ooit een officieel rapport van de prominente Indiase glacioloog, Vijay Raina, als ‘voodoo science’ kwalificeerde omdat deze de bizarre claim dat de Himalaya gletsjers in 2035 zouden zijn verdwenen, bestreed; de ‘hockey stick … enz enz.

En wat was de reactie van het klimaatestablishment?

Any one of these scandals in, say, medicine might result in suspensions, inquiries or retractions. Yet the climate scientific establishment repeatedly reacts as if nothing is wrong. It calls out any errors on the lukewarming end, but ignores those on the exaggeration end. That complacency has shocked me, and done more than anything else to weaken my long-standing support for science as an institution.

 I repeat that I am not a full sceptic of climate change, let alone a ‘denier’. I think carbon-dioxide induced warming during this century is likely, though I think it is unlikely to prove rapid and dangerous. So I don’t agree with those who say the warming is all natural, or all driven by the sun, or only an artefact of bad measurement, but nor do I think anything excuses bad scientific practice in support of the carbon dioxide theory, and every time one of these scandals erupts and the scientific establishment asks us to ignore it, I wonder if the extreme sceptics are not on to something. I feel genuinely betrayed by the profession that I have spent so much of my career championing.

Ook de ‘Royal Society’ (de Britse KNAW) krijgt ervan langs.

… consider this example, from the Royal Society’s recent booklet on climate change:

Does the recent slowdown of warming mean that climate change is no longer happening? No. Since the very warm surface temperatures of 1998 which followed the strong 1997-98 El Niño, the increase in average surface temperature has slowed relative to the previous decade of rapid temperature increases, with more of the excess heat being stored in the oceans.

You would never know from this that the ‘it’s hiding in the oceans’ excuse is just one unproven hypothesis – and one that implies that natural variation exaggerated the warming in the 1990s, so reinforcing the lukewarm argument.


 … these scientists who insist that we take their word for it, and who get cross if we don’t, are also asking us to make huge, expensive and risky changes to the world economy and to people’s livelihoods. They want us to spend a fortune getting emissions down as soon as possible. And they want us to do that even if it hurts poor people today, because, they say, their grandchildren (who, as Nigel Lawson points out, in The Facts, and their models assume, are going to be very wealthy) matter more. Yet they are not prepared to debate the science behind their concern. That seems wrong to me.

Aldus Matt Ridley.

Lees verder hier.

Voor degenen die een compacte, makkelijk toegankelijke samenvatting van enkele hoofdlijnen van de huidige klimaatdiscussie zoeken, is dit verplichte lectuur.

Voor mijn eerdere bijdragen over klimaat en aanverwante zaken zie hierhier, hier, hier en hier.