GIVEN the low-grade attacks on me following my piece "Crowds go cold on climate cost" (The Australian, Dec 31) readers of Fairfax publications and The Guardian may be shocked to hear I believe in climate change. I also accept carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. The trouble is, I cannot reconcile the claims of dangerous human CO2 emissions with the observed record.
I admit it. I am not a climate scientist. That said, I have closely followed this debate for more than two decades, having been seasoned originally by the global cooling certainty of the 1970s.
The climate consensus of the 70s, like the period since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was established in 1988, was dominated by politics, not science. I was reminded of how deeply political awareness has infected today's academies when I received an apology from a respected climate scientist who corrected his own public cheap shot at me. He said, "I attempt to be politically even-handed ... I try to steer a middle course as a scientist."
Really? Surely science is not about neutrality? It is about evidence and conclusions which fall where they will. So when an internationally acclaimed climatologist like Roy Spencer from the University of Alabama at Huntsville dispassionately analyses climate models covering 33 years and concludes that both the surface and satellite observations produce linear temperature trends that are below 87 of the 90 models used in the comparison, he does not politically neutralise his findings. They are empirical fact.
They eventually become political because the models he demonstrates to be seriously flawed are the bedrock on which the IPCC's global warming case is built. As Spencer said recently, "The modellers and the IPCC have willingly ignored the evidence of low climate sensitivity for many years ... The discrepancy between models and observations is not a new thing ... just one that is becoming more glaring over time."
Spencer is joined by celebrated Massachusetts Institute of Technology climatologist Richard Lindzen, who says: "I think that the latest (AR5) IPCC report has truly sunk to a level of hilarious incoherence. They are proclaiming increased confidence in their models as the discrepancies between their models and observations increase." He is "willing to take bets that global average temperatures in 20 years will in fact be lower than they are now". Any takers?
The lengthening pause in global warming is influencing the political climate. The language has changed from the specific "global warming" to the more general "climate change" and now to the astrological "extreme weather events" where "I told you so" can be almost universally applied. For example, we are to believe the recent cold spell in the US and the heat wave in Australia are both examples of global warming. Yet 2013 was one of the "least extreme" weather years in US history.
Political will is also flagging. The Copenhagen summit was almost five years ago, yet there is still no global, legally binding international agreement on emission reduction targets. Only talk.
Canada's Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq last year discarded a proposal from her department to publicly state that the Harper government recognised scientific evidence that humans were "mostly responsible" for climate change and that it took this advice "seriously".
And now, no doubt in response to the political backlash from the economic cost of green schemes, the European Commission is to order Britain to end wind farm subsidies. According to Britain's The Telegraph: "The commission ... is about to argue that the onshore wind and solar power industries are 'mature' and should be allowed to operate without support from taxpayers." Germany's renewable energy industry virtually shut down for almost a week in December when nearly 23,000 wind turbines and one million solar panels ceased to generate. Faced with uncompetitive electricity prices and the fantasy of cheap, reliable renewable energy, Germany is building 10 coal-fired power stations over the next two years with 15 more planned. The green delusion is finally confronting economic reality.
What we now see is the unravelling of years of shoddy science and sloppy journalism. If it wasn't for independent Murdoch newspapers around the world, the mainstream media would be almost completely captured by the IPCC establishment. That is certainly true in Australia. For six or seven years we were bullied into accepting that the IPCC's assessment reports were the climate science bible. Its chairman, Rajendra Pachauri, told us the IPCC relied solely on peer-reviewed literature. Then Murdoch papers alerted us to scientific scandals and Donna Laframboise, in her book The Delinquent Teenager, astonished us with her extraordinary revelation that of 18,000 references in the IPCC's AR4 report, one-third were not peer reviewed. Some were Greenpeace press releases, others student papers and working papers from a conference. In some chapters, the majority of references were not peer reviewed. Many lead authors were inexperienced, or linked to advocate groups like WWF and Greenpeace. Why are we not surprised?
The IPCC was bound to be captured by the green movement. After all, it is a political body. It is not a panel of scientists but a panel of governments driven by the UN. Its sole purpose is to assess the risks of human-induced climate change. It has spawned industries. One is scientists determined to find an anthropogenic cause. Another is climate remediation. And, naturally, an industry to redistribute taxes to sustain it all. With hundreds of billions of dollars at stake, this cartel will deny all contrary evidence. Its very survival depends on it. But the tide is turning and Mother Nature has signalled her intention not to co-operate.
In the meantime, childish personal attacks on those who point out flaws in IPCC reasoning and advice only increase scepticism. They are no substitute for empirical evidence and are well into diminishing returns. The party's over.
Maurice Newman is chairman of the Prime Minister's Business Advisory Council.