Paltridge. “Sensible”? NOT.
Background: James Lovelock can’t understand why his climatologist friends are appalled with him. Lovelock says its “amazing how tribal” they are. All he’s done is dare “to consort with skeptics”. Lovelock is saying that Garth Paltridge, author of The Climate Caper is a “sensible skeptic”. I actually wasted some money buying a copy of this clown Paltridge's book because Brand recommended it. The following is my letter to Brand:
I spent most of my time in this multi paper response to your Afterword working on understanding what Dr. Kevin Trenberth is up to. Some of that work was a real pleasure as studying Trenberth gave me new perspective on climate.
I don’t know how you or Lovelock can possibly imagine that Paltridge fits in to debate at this level. I can’t agree that he is a “sensible” skeptic.
I could only read the introduction and the first pages of Chapter 1 of The Climate Caper before I found reading Paltridge to be a waste of time. I opened the book at a few random places after that and read a bit, then went to read the conclusion.
My thoughts on the few specifics I saw in the few pages I read:
Paltridge chose Monckton to write his Foreword. Take a look at that guy. Monckton is a caricature of a “skeptic”, who makes up data, lies about his qualifications, and argues in ways that could only persuade the ignorant. I assembled a few links and discussed Monckton in a separate attachment. I find it astonishing that anyone who wanted to be taken seriously by anyone would have Monckton write a foreword to their book.
In his introduction, Paltridge writes that the most eminent and respected climate scientists in the world are involved in a “semi-religious crusade” which is “drawing heavily on the capital of scientific reputation that has been so painfully assembled over hundreds of years”, which has led to “the present dangerous state of affairs”, which he is going to try to correct by writing the book.
These are serious charges leveled directly at people who take pride in what they do. Paltridge isn’t just saying they are wrong, they are menaces to the entire edifice of science. Their lies and corruption are so awful and so rampant that as a group, they are the worst thing that has happened to science in several hundred years. It makes me laugh just to write this.
Einstein was a “sensible skeptic”. He had become skeptical of Newton’s theory because he knew of observations that Newton’s theory could not explain – so he wrote a paper that hit physicists like a bombshell. So many couldn’t accept his ideas that he had difficulty landing a university position for some years but there were those such as Planck who understood immediately that there was something big there. Einstein didn’t write that the entire discipline of physics worldwide had become a “semi-religious crusade” etc. He came up with and wrote about his theory that encompassed the existing theory by not only explaining what it explained, but that also opened up a new conception of reality.
I would put it to Lovelock, do you agree with this, i.e. that the most eminent climatologists in the world are not in fact trying to warn civilization of a threat they have come to sincerely believe is real because of their studies, but are actually "manipulating" the climate issue "into the ultimate example of the politically correct" acting as if "the science behind the issue" is "irrelevant"? This is right out of Paltridge’s Introduction.
In his email to you, Lovelock says: “my name is now mud in climate science circles for having dared to consort with skeptics. Amazing how tribal scientists are”.
What does he expect his climatologist friends to say when he announces this drivel is “sensible”?
Paltridge is impugning the motives and reputation of hundreds of distinguished people. You should ask Lovelock about this before you get too much further saying you agree with him about it.
The only reason Paltridge advanced in the few pages I read that would account for this astonishing behavior of so many scientists from all over the world that he says is ongoing, is this, from page 1: “The need to do something about the problem plays to the agendas of virtually all branches of modern social activism".
I am a climate activist since 1988. The need to do something about this plays to the agenda of no one anywhere except at the fringe until very recently.
Political forces on the right and the left have been very uncomfortable with any evidence that there is any problem with continued unfettered growth of the human impact on the planetary system in the decades I've observed since I started to debate climate in political circles from1988 to now. The "left" has been relatively accommodating with concerns that don't obviously conflict with endless expansion of the economic system, but everyone has been very reluctant to believe that fossil fuels can be replaced, or even that emissions could be eliminated. They are seen as just too primary to our living standard.
It was obvious in the1980s that civilization was in the process of expanding tenfold, as the then developed world of one billion people living at the standard then seen in North America, Europe and Japan was extended out to what the demographers were then saying was an almost certain ten billion people by 2050. What was going to power all this expansion if not fossil fuels? Even if, as you say, its now going to be 8 billion by 2050, that's an eight times expansion of the developed world since 1988. It was daunting for almost everyone to think about where that much energy was going to come from then, if fossil fuels had to be eliminated, and it is daunting now.
I was a voice for climate action in Canada from the late 1980s onwards, and from that vantage point it was obvious there was no political force other than the Green Party that had the slightest interest in even saying they were going to modify their behavior as a result of knowing about the climate problem. And the Greens were too busy shooting themselves in the head or too focused on local or regional issues to face what planetary climate change, or any planetary issue meant for them. I briefly was the nearest thing they had to a leader in the B.C. Green Party, but soon left as my thinking conflicted with people who were busy "saving" some new park "for all future generations", etc.
I found that it was about as hard for Greens as anyone else to face the fact that Western Civilization appeared to be “running out of planet”, to the point where it almost seems inevitable that the shit is going to hit the fan during their lifetimes. Civilization has been heading here since the ancient Greeks wondered what would come of it all as their topsoil disappeared into the sea as they cut their trees down.
Paltridge's case in his first paragraph, Chapter 1, is that climatologists, pre IPCC, would not have wanted and did not expect the issue to be as elevated as it is today and that somehow the IPCC manipulated the issue completely out of proportion as the “ultimate example of the politically correct”. This is complete horseshit.
I was around during these ancient times he is telling lies about.
I happen to have met and debated with some of the principal scientists and been deeply involved in the climate issue before the IPCC was created.
The Vostok core data was available in the late 1980s. Graphical presentation here. Paltridge clearly wants his readers to believe that scientists then didn't think climate change was that serious of an issue before the IPCC got to work. This is preposterous.
The Toronto Changing Atmosphere conference of 1988, sponsored by Canada, with 400 high level delegates from 40 countries had little difficulty reaching consensus on the wording of the first paragraph in this conference statement (I participated in hammering this out). Take a look at it. Delegates described climate change as a problem "whose ultimate consequences could be second only to a global nuclear war" in their first paragraph. It was not controversial get that sentence in there.
The premise of that conference was to hammer out a consensus statement that was intended for heads of state, and everyone else on the planet. It was four days of, at times, the most intense debate I have ever been involved in.
One outcome of the conference was said to be the impetus to create the IPCC. I argued with Bob Watson, said since to have been a prime mover in the creation of the IPCC, at that Toronto conference over how scientists should conduct themselves as they tried to make Earth's population aware of this issue. The scientists felt they weren't having some big argument among themselves about how serious this issue was. The problem that was seen then was how to get civilization to take what their discipline had discovered seriously.
Hence the IPCC. The thought was that by involving scientists from as many countries as possible it would help out in the inevitable international political negotiations, as any head of state or chief negotiator would know that the most respected climatologists from his own country had been intimately involved in the assessments. People thought it would be more credible to have a broadly international organization come up with an assessment for global negotiators rather than expect everyone to accept what the various science academies such as the US National Academy or the Royal Society in the UK, etc. had to say.
Maybe Lovelock wasn't paying attention to climate in the late 1980s. Paltridge certainly has no idea.
After reading his introduction where he accuses some of the best scientists working today as putting science itself into jeopardy because of their lies and corruption, and seeing my own first hand experience denied by Paltridge in his first argument in his first chapter, i.e. what I’ve been discussing above, I decided the man wasn’t worth reading and skipped along to the conclusion to see what the gibberish would be. I continue on with this critique.
Consider: quoting from Paltridge, The Climate Caper, page 105: “It has not been solidly established, and it is certainly not accepted by the majority of scientists as proven fact”, that “global warming” will be “large enough to be seriously noticeable – let alone large enough to be disastrous”.
For evidence that all the leading scientific organizations in the world, which purport to represent and speak for all scientists, not just climatologists, have accepted the basic case that climate change is proceeding and that the consequences appear to be so serious civilization should do something as drastic as to attempt to decarbonize itself over it, see the two page G8+5 Academies Joint statement This was signed by the President or leading figure in the top level science organization, i.e. the US National Academy of Sciences and its equivalents, in each member country of the G8, as well as those of China, India, Mexico, Brazil, and South Africa. It was handed to each head of state attending the G8 meeting held in Japan in 2008.
Perhaps this isn’t enough countries to convince: take a look at the report produced by The InterAcademy Council, a creation of “all of the world’s science academies” i.e. "Lighting the Way". Quoting from the Preface: "The defining feature of this report by the InterAcademy Council (IAC) is that it was developed by a study panel that brought together experts nominated by over ninety national academies of science around the world". (Dr. Stephen Chu of the United States chaired this committee.)
Paltridge would have us believe that the science of climate change rests on a very shaky foundation.
Consider what the US NAS has to say: quoting from the 2010 US National Academy of Sciences NRC America’s Climate Choices Panel on Advancing the Science of Climate Change report, Summary, page 1:
“…there are still some uncertainties, and there always will be in understanding a complex system like Earth’s climate. Nevertheless, there is a strong, credible body of evidence, based on multiple lines of research, documenting that climate is changing, and that these changes are in large part caused by human activities. While much remains to be learned, the core phenomenon, scientific questions, and hypotheses have been examined thoroughly and have stood firm in the face of serious scientific debate and careful evaluation of alternative explanations. As a result of the growing recognition that climate change is underway and poses serious risks for both human and natural systems…”
Let’s consider who the people are who make up the membership of the National Academy of Sciences. Quoting from the NAS website: “election to the Academy is considered one of the highest honors that can be accorded a scientist or engineer”. You are elected to be a member of the NAS because of your “distinguished and continuing achievements in original research”. Almost 10% of NAS members hold the Nobel.
Paltridge would have us believe that the NAS, arguably the most eminent group of scientists in the world, can’t produce a panel capable of assessing its way out of a wet paper bag.
Regarding Paltridge’s use of the words “proven fact”:
From the same report, Chapter 1 page 17: “From a philosophical perspective, science never proves anything – in the manner that mathematics or other formal logical systems prove things – because science is fundamentally based on observations. Any scientific theory is thus, in principle, subject to being refined or overturned by new observations. In practical terms, however, scientific uncertainties are not all the same. Some scientific conclusions or theories have been so thoroughly examined and tested, and supported by so many independent observations and results, that their likelihood of subsequently being found to be wrong is vanishingly small. Such conclusions and theories are then regarded as settled facts. This is the case for the conclusions that the Earth system is warming and that much of this warming is very likely due to human activities”
Perhaps all the above is obvious to you, as you know there is a serious effort being mounted by scientists to get the attention of policymakers worldwide to do something. But how can all of the above be obvious to you, if you tout Paltridge as a “sensible skeptic”? My mind boggles. You write as if you have done a serious study of the science, then you come up with the idea of touting this clown’s work.
I think Lovelock should stop touting this Paltridge and his book and if there is new data, or reinterpreted old data and an argument in it that caused him to change his mind from his very negative pronouncements of recent years, he should point to that data and argument, preferably by finding another source. I have difficulty believing Paltridge came up with original research or an original argument that would invalidate anything of fundamental importance to climatology, but if he has, you and Lovelock would be better off pointing directly to that original research or argument rather than to the insulting and preposterous book this man has produced.