All posts by Rhiannon Mulherin

Curse of the Climate Zombies

A Report on the ‘Climate Change Debate’ hosted by Trinity Hall, Cambridge, 24th January 2011

Written by Rhiannon Mulherin

Many bemoan the lack of a ‘real debate’ on the validity of anthropogenic climate change. Maintaining that the issue has become so polarised that there is no possibility of a reasoned discussion on the topic. On one side there are the ‘Deniers’, vitriolic about colluding scientists and conspiracies within the mainstream media. On the other there are the ‘Believers’ incensed by corporate political lobbyists and industry manipulation of the mainstream media. As revealing as this is of our universally low opinion of the Press, the more frustrating truth is that over the last decade the dialogue on climate change has stagnated.

On Monday night I was very excited by the opportunity to attend a highly publicised debate between two Cambridge Alumni: Professor Sir Brian Hoskins, one of the UK’s leading climate scientists, and Dr Walter Grant Scott, a trained nuclear physicist turned successful financier. Was I finally going to witness a ‘real debate’ (read: verbal slugging match) between two highly articulate and intellectual foes? Alas, no.

Sir Brian’s presentation was straightforward and refreshingly non-sensational. He presented evidence and carefully explained its implications. Dry and factual, I believe that the peer reviewed reference list for Sir Brian’s talk was very long indeed. The same could be said of Dr Grant Scott’s talk, but with a slight twist. Every argument he used has either been rebutted multiple times, or was an argument in support of climate science presented in such a way as to appear negative. With shock I realised I was encountering my first Climate Zombie.

These arguments that resurface again and again, no matter how many times they are rebutted, are the scourge of climate science. Zombie arguments are sinister misrepresentations that seek to become truth through repetition. They are old and the literature arraigned against them is strong, yet their ubiquity makes them incredibly powerful.

Whenever someone is billed as a ‘Climate Sceptic’ I prepare for the same old talking points. However, I thought to myself, surely in a city as educated as Cambridge no intelligent man would stand in front of an audience with a presentation that is so demonstrably false? Surely he would be laughed out of town? Amazingly, no one challenged him on it. The speakers could have been in different rooms for all the interaction they were allowed and out of the eight questions fielded, the three directed at Dr Grant Scott were on: his motivations for being a sceptic, the undeniable benefit of waste reduction and human resilience.

‘Debates’ of this type give climate sceptics an undeserved air of legitimacy and I dearly wish Sir Brian had been able to highlight the errors within his opponent’s presentation. A proper debate is not a series of statements that are allowed to pass unchallenged. I do not believe that the audience was wholly unaware of the nature of Dr Grant Scott’s talk, but rather that they did not feel sufficiently confident to accuse a guest of deliberately spreading lies. This list of Zombie talking points is very dangerous and we simply must arm ourselves with the facts and be prepared to argue them in any situation. If we are vigilant perhaps the dialogue can start to move forward again.

There are now many good websites that collate frequently used ‘sceptic arguments’ and supply rebuttals pitched at varying degrees of scientific training. Thankfully I am blessed with a tape recorder and access to the Internet. Hence it is my pleasure to present you with a list of Dr Grant Scott’s arguments against the validity of anthropogenic climate change and links to counter arguments prepared by people far better versed on this topic than myself.

Dr Walter Grant Scott:

“There is no doubt at all that the climate changes… there is equally little doubt that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, but there is considerable debate as to whether manmade carbon dioxide makes any relevant difference to the global warming situation.”
It’s not Us

“There is no practical support for the alarmist consequences attributed to global warming”
Why a few degrees of global warmings matter

“It is very difficult to assign cause and effect of the parameters of the climate system.”
Correlation, Causation, Carbon, and Common Sense

“Most obviously the sun is the cause of our climate, all the cause of our climate”
Solar activity & climate: is the sun causing global warming?

“[Carbon dioxide] is not the only green house gas and it’s a tiny tiny little bit of the atmosphere… It is very difficult to imagine that a fraction of one third of one percent could be causing so much unhappiness… The other green house gas, the biggest by far in water vapour… Water vapour contributes 80% of the total heating of the planet… Can’t clouds be considered as some sort of a thermostat?”
Water vapour is the most powerful greenhouse gas

“Carbon dioxide is described as a pollutant… In the absence of carbon dioxide there would be no life… In historical terms when the temperature has gone up and carbon dioxide has gone up it has coincided with times of great prosperity. A warm climate is somewhere where we want to live”
CO2 is not a pollutant

“Observation would suggest that sea levels go up and down quite a lot over the time span of history… There are quite a number of little towns in the north of France called ‘something sur Mer’, the trouble is they’re no where near ‘la Mer’… Sea levels change.”
Note: This is the one point I haven’t been able to find easily on a rebuttal website. However, of the now isolated villages that I encountered Montreuil-Sur-Mer  was cut off due to the silting up of its estuary. Other villages may have suffered from post-glacial rebound. Interestingly there are laws in place governing the ownership of ‘new land’ acquired in this way.

“The planet has existed for over 4 billion years. Homo sapiens has only been here for 10,000 years. Is it not the height of sixties’ child arrogance to think that we matter a damn to the planet?”
Are humans too insignificant to affect global climate?

“It has become dogma that the ‘science is settled’… the very definition of science is that it’s not settled. [Explanation of measurement, hypothesis and testing], thus Newton’s hypothesis about gravitation… turned out to be just a subset of a more general theory. Special relativity did not become ‘settled science’, neither did general relativity, neither did quantum gravity.”
Is the science settled?

Note: The explanation of how science works is correct and is one that is often used against the common sceptic argument of “There is no consensus.”
Is there a scientific consensus on global warming?

“Climate science has not generated any useful or accurate predictions.”
The Models are Unproven
NASA paper using the paleoclimate record to advise upper limit for CO2 at 350ppm

“CO2 concentrations have risen this decade and the temperatures have not, which is in direct contrast to the IPCC forecast.”
IPCC overestimate temperature rise

“It appears from satellite measurements that temperatures have actually fallen from the peak in 1998”
Warming stopped in 1998
Did global warming stop in 1998, 1995, 2002, 2007, 2010?

“[The] marvellous Hockey Stick graph… the flat bit eliminated the medieval warming period and the little ice age… Michael Man’s chart suggested that we had an equilibrium atmosphere, which was being seriously disrupted by us… well that work was debunked completely… Ross McKitrick and Steve McIntyre proved it was wrong, and wrong in every dimension. Beyond that there is so much eye witness evidence that the medieval warming period did happen and the little ice age did happen.”
The hockey stick is broken: Rebuttal A
The hockey stick is broken: Rebuttal B

“University of East Anglia email debacle should be included in the ‘out of the window’ observations for not thinking that this is real”
What do the ‘Climategate’ hacked CRU emails tell us?

“A very significant part of the IPCC prognostication comes from computer modelling… given a large enough computer and enough parameterisations it is possible to fit just about anything”
How reliable are climate models?

“Incidentally it is just worth observing that models like the General Circulation Models have been used quite liberally in finance and that’s why the world is in the mess that its in.”
Note: I could not find anything on the use of GCMs in finance. Most financial models struggle with the chaotic nature of the markets. During the Question and Answer Dr Grant Scott implied that the climate was a chaotic system and again drew correlations to finance, so I am linking to the rebuttal of that here.
Chaotic Systems are not Predictable

“An assumption has to be made about the sensitivity of the climate… a small perturbation results in a positive feedback and an out of control spiral… such a climate… would have imploded many many centuries ago. In an insensitive climate a small perturbation would trigger a negative feedback… There is evidence from satellite measurements in the last decade that… the climate may just as plausibly be a neutral or negative feedback system as the reverse.”
How sensitive is our climate?

“What is clear is that the effect of clouds and the differential effects of high and low clouds is not put into these models.”
What is the net feedback from clouds?

“In the same was there is an inadequate understanding of the effects of aerosols in the atmosphere… manmade and natural.”
It’s aerosols
Aerosols Should Mean More Warming in the South

“IPCC CO2 rising goes with rising temperature, goes with equally plausible suggestion that CO2 concentration follows temperature but evaporation from the seas. Evidence suggests 600 year time lag.”
CO2 Lags Not Leads

“The model assumes anthropogenic CO2 is the driver… Some other driver? Recent satellite data shows negative. Science not settled”
Satellites Show Cooling

“The model fits the observed facts that has the Sun at the centre of our climate. The Sun’s output is not consistent… Sun spots have been know and observed for a very long time. Comparison of recorded solar cycles with the historical temperature shows a remarkable fit… Minimum in solar activity coincided with the little ice age and… 1975 chill spot.”
Do solar cycles cause global warming?

By studying the solar cycle… it is possible to make accurate predictions about temperature and weather developments. Solar scientists have been warning for a decade that the solar cycle would lead to cooling cycles for some time… ie cooler temperatures this decade ie bad winters. They have accurately predicted the massive deviation from IPCC forecasts”
What does Solar Cycle Length tell us about the sun’s role in global warming?

“They have been largely disregarded. One astrophysicist Piers Corbyn accurate forecast last winter and this winter… his ideas remain heretical. This seems to be the fate of anyone who believes it’s not the exhaust pipes of 4x4s that is causing the problem.”
2009-2010 winter saw record cold spells
The wikipedia article on Piers Corbyn

“Present levels of [sea ice] melt are consistent with past solar cycles and recorded memory… It appears now that the sea ice is recovering.”
Arctic icemelt is a natural cycle
Has Arctic sea ice returned to normal?

“The medieval warming period saw farming in Greenland”
Greenland used to be Green

“Polar bear population is not declining”
How will global warming affect polar bears?

“The Antarctic is not melting, although there has been a significant change in the shape.”
Is Antarctica losing or gaining ice?

“Glaciers are not vanishing… They come and go… but it’s nothing to do with manmade CO2.”
Glaciers have always grown and receded

“Global warming will expand the spread of disease? Not so. Carbon dioxide enhances food produce, bang goes malnutrition…Respiratory diseases are ameliorated by warm climates…There is no evidence that warming increases, or even influences, the habit of tick born disease”
What’s Wrong With Warm Weather
Positives and negatives of global warming

“Acid oceans and wide spread extinctions? Well the sea remains firmly alkaline and extinctions have been part of life since life itself began.”
Ocean acidification: global warming’s evil twin
Can animals and plants adapt to global warming?

“The marvel of this fear mongering… is that it is not going to show up in anybody in this room’s lifetime”
The United Kingdom Climate Projections
The UK Climate Impacts Programme (UKCIP)

“It’s wonderful for politicians seeking to have power over the people. It’s perfect for the seekers of Nobel Prize notoriety, cause they’re not going to be proved wrong in their life time and it’s perfect for people looking for government funding.”
Global Warming is Just a Hoax

“…despite the fact that at present there is not warming taking place”
Evidence for global warming

“… despite the fact that there are no persuasive natural descriptions for the 20th century warming that do not rely on anthropogenic CO2…”
Empirical evidence that humans are causing global warming

“Wind turbines. They don’t work…Why is the IPCC and the government so quiet of nuclear? It’s the only real alternative IF we have a problem”
Can renewables provide baseload power?

Ending with final quote by C.S. Lewis:

“Of all the tyrannies, tyrannies sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. Those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

Note: I’m just going to supply the full quote and let people make up their own minds about how applicable it is.

Full Quote:
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.”