No such thing as climate change? Tell that to this guy
A US scientist, having studied a raft of articles, concluded that climate change denial ‘has virtually no influence’, writes FRANK MCDONALD
It’s often said by climate change deniers that there is “no scientific consensus” on anthropogenic, or human-induced, global warming. Indeed, the endless repetition of this myth by right-wing groups and politicians, particularly in the US, has contributed to the difficulties of coming to grips with the problem internationally.
As the geochemist James Lawrence Powell notes, opinion polls in the US show a large number of people believe that scientists “substantially disagree about human-caused global warming”. So Powell, who was appointed by Ronald Reagan to the US National Board for Science and Technology, set out to examine the evidence.
“If there is disagreement among scientists, based not on opinion but on hard evidence, it will be found in the peer-reviewed literature,” he writes, because this is the “gold standard” of scientific research. So he trawled through the Web of Science searching for scientific articles with the keywords “global warming” or “global climate change”.
Going way back to January 1st, 1991, and right up to date, Powell’s search turned up a total of 13,950 articles. Of these, just 24 – 0.17 per cent or one in 581 – clearly rejected global warming or endorsed a cause other than carbon dioxide emissions for the observed warming of 0.8 degrees since the beginning of the industrial era.
“To be classified as rejecting, an article had to clearly and explicitly state that the theory of global warming is false or, as happened in a few cases, that some other process better explains the observed warming,” Powell says, adding that he did not classify as “rejecting” articles that merely claimed to have found small discrepancies.
“Of one thing we can be certain: had any of these articles presented the magic bullet that falsifies human-caused global warming, that article would be on its way to becoming one of the most-cited in the history of science,” he wrote. Indeed it would be absolutely sensational, however unlikely it is to happen.
“Global warming deniers often claim that bias prevents them from publishing in peer-reviewed journals. But 24 articles in 18 different journals . . . expose that claim as false. Articles rejecting global warming can be published, but those that have been have earned little support or notice, even from other deniers,” according to Powell.
The 24 “denial” articles have been cited by others a total of 113 times over the nearly 21-year period, for an average of close to five citations each – compared to an average of about 19 citations for articles answering to “global warming”. Four of the “rejecting” articles have never been cited while another four have 10 or more.
He notes that the 13,950 articles he found had a total of 33,690 individual authors, with the top 10 (in descending order) coming from the US, Britain, China, Germany, Japan, Canada, Australia, France, Spain and the Netherlands. A similarly broad range would also be reflected in the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
“Only one conclusion is possible: within science, global warming denial has virtually no influence. Its influence is instead on a misguided media, politicians all-too-willing to deny science for their own gain, and a gullible public”, writes Powell, the author of The Inquisition of Climate Science, an illuminating book published in 2011.
“Scientists do not disagree about human-caused global warming. It is the ruling paradigm of climate science, in the same way that plate tectonics is the ruling paradigm of geology. We know that continents move. We know that the earth is warming and that human emissions of greenhouse gases are the primary cause.”
Writing about the results of Powell’s research, the popular US science and astronomy blogger Phil Plait marvelled at his persistence in unearthing the facts and figures. “His premise was simple: if global warming isn’t real and there’s an actual scientific debate about it, that should be reflected in the scientific journals,” Plait wrote.
“Science thrives on dissenting ideas, it grows and learns from them. If there is actual evidence to support an idea, it gets published.” And referring to Powell’s findings, he said: “Let this be clear: There is no scientific controversy over this. Climate change denial is purely, 100 per cent made-up political and corporate-sponsored crap.
“When the loudest voices are fossil-fuel funded think tanks, when they don’t publish in journals but instead write error-laden op-eds in partisan venues, when they have to manipulate the data to support their point, then what they’re doing isn’t science. It’s nonsense. And worse, it’s dangerous nonsense. Because they’re fiddling with the data while the world burns.”
>Last September Arctic sea ice hit its lowest recorded level
>At 3.41 million sq km, it was barely half the 1979-2000 average
>The area of sea ice lost is 41 times larger than the island of Ireland
>Not only is ice cover shrinking, the surviving ice is thinning precipitously
Out of step The deniers who make climate-change solutions more difficult
One of the most bizarre sights at the UN’s recent climate conference in Doha, Qatar, was of UK Independence Party activist and climate-change denier Christopher Monckton dressed in a traditional dishdash, like Lawrence of Arabia.
Monckton was there to promote his claim that there had been “no global warming for the past 16 years” and that it would be “36 times more expensive to act now , rather than to act later by a focused adaptation”.
Asked to account for his thesis being out of step with the World Bank, the International Energy Agency and even the global accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, the viscount said: “Tell them to get in touch with me and tell me where I’m wrong.”
Craig Rucker, the director of the right-wing Washington-based Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, which was hosting Monckton in Doha, claimed that reports on climate change produced by national science academies “don’t represent rank-and-file members”.
Rucker claimed that “the scientific case for man-made global warming disasters grows weaker by the day”. He also referred to a book by Christopher Horner, Red Hot Lies, about “how global warming alarmists use threats, fraud and deception to keep you misinformed”.
The fact that Arctic summer sea-ice fell to its lowest recorded level last September, opening up the Northwest Passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, doesn’t impress the likes of Monckton or Rucker. They’ll carry on as before, making solutions more difficult.