Before I turn the microphone over to Viscount Monckton, here is my reaction to this entire series.
First, Viscount Monckton of Brenchley is clearly not a ‘denier’ of science. He uses data the same way his opponents do, to reinforce his points. He’s just on the other side of a political struggle.
He is willing to use the same tactics as his opponents, criticizing climate scientists for not being perfect and yet using the same work product for his own purposes. He steadfastly refuses to listen to what scientists say about possible futures, dismissing legitimate surveys as just ‘opinion’.
Viscount Monckton brings considerable intelligence and clarity to his side of the debate and constitutes a worthy opponent for the Alarmists. But he cannot do more than dispute individual points–often justifiably, but too often ignoring the forest for the trees, in my opinion.
I personally am left with the impression that Viscount Monckton is more interested in a political victory than the triumph of science over ignorance. Given that he is undoubtedly intelligent and obviously a clear communicator, I find this sad. When Alarmists are alarmist, I just discount their hyperbole. I find it more disconcerting when it happens on the other side.
Those who have been following this series know the drill. Viscount Monckton is replying to my Recognition statements. I respond in bold. If he has further contributions they will be in italics. The previous posts in this series are here, here,here, here and here.
5. Emissions of greenhouse gases have grown dramatically over the past two centuries, as have concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere.
(VM): “Yet again, there is insufficient quantitative information in this statement. Yes, emissions of greenhouse gases have grown, but in what sense is the growth “dramatic”? Grown compared with when? Dramatic compared with what?
TF: It is dramatic when compared to emissions prior to 1750. As you noted yourself in a previous contribution, one-third of all human emissions have occurred since 1998.
Take methane. At one stage the IPCC thought CO2 would contribute a far smaller fraction to the total anthropogenic greenhouse effect than now. It thought the impact of rising methane concentrations would be far larger than it now thinks:”
TF: Again, you observe science in progress, improving and correcting prior mistakes and try to use this as a stick to beat them with. Yep, before the spread of the internet and the introduction of modern mobile phones they thought there would be a lot more methane in the atmosphere. Now they don’t. And they don’t hide the change–they report it and incorporate it into their next assessment.
(VM): “In geological terms, there is nothing unprecedented about today’s CO2 concentration, except how low it is. It was once 7 millimoles per mole, compared with just 0.4 millimoles per mole today:”
TF: As we both know (as do most readers here), many things impact the climate, not just human activities. Large meteor impacts, continental shifts, super volcanoes–some of which occurred at the times where there have been real regime changes in the climate, but none of which have occurred since 1750. And yet CO2 has climbed dramatically and temperature change, while not as dramatic, has climbed notably. But you agree that the change from 0.28 millimoles to 0.4 millimoles can have an impact on climate, if what you’ve written here is correct–or am I misinterpreting you?
(VM): “Seen in geological terms, then, there is nothing in the least “dramatic” about today’s CO2 concentration. It may well be higher than at any time in the past 800,000 years. But the correct response to that is that today’s concentration is very good news for trees and plants. They would function still better if we were able at least to triple today’s concentration.
TF: I agree that more CO2 is good for trees and plants and I welcome the boost to agriculture provided by this extra CO2. But they share the planet with other species, including us, and increased vegetation is not the only effect of climate change. Similarly, while I am very happy that we can expect fewer deaths due to cold weather, it is not the only impact climate change will have on us.
Some of the worst of the alarmists have been trying to tie every instance of extreme weather to climate change. We both know that’s nonsense. But the recent heatwave in India may well be a preview of coming attractions. If we are unable to influence the climate to prevent it from being a common occurrence, we had damn well better make sure the Indians can afford air conditioning.
Besides, global temperature is remarkably resistant to systemic change under anything like modern conditions. For the past 810,000 years, global temperature has varies by less than 3.5 K either side of the long-run mean – about the same variance as that which the average house thermostat permits. Yet huge orbital, asteroidal, supervolcanic and other forcings occurred throughout the period. This formidable thermostasis suggests that the climate may well be rather insensitive to any forcings:”
TF: If, as we all hope, sensitivity proves to be low, than we may need to shove the climate to change it, rather than just providing a gentle nudge. But Viscount Monckton, we quite possibly will double our emissions over the next few decades. That may well serve as a shove, not a nudge.
“Any survey of mere opinion on a scientific question is intrinsically of little scientific value, in that consensus has no place in the scientific mattered. It mattered not that once everyone thought the Earth was flat: like it or not, it is an oblate spheroid. It mattered not that for 300 years everyone thought Newton’s celestial mechanics the last word, until a patent-clerk third class, in a non-peer-reviewed paper, demonstrated otherwise. Likewise, it matters not what the established scientific community, and still less the governing class, thinks is true. What matters is what is objectively speaking true.
TF: The scientists may be wrong about climate change in some respects. But if you look back at the statements where you remark they are trivially true, it doesn’t seem as though you think they are wrong. It doesn’t seem that you think a patent clerk will emerge from his office clutching a paper that disproves the greenhouse effect or that we will discover the Arctic has been cooling in recent decades. So why bring in these examples?
Notice that the quantitative information supplied here is typical of the sceptical scientific researcher: it is information taken from observations and measurements and experiments.
TF: Yes, most of them provided to us by the climate scientists that you really don’t want to listen to. As you inadvertently note, they have continuously re-evaluated their hypotheses when new data showed it was appropriate. And yet the very large majority of experienced climate scientists are worried about what the impacts will be of human-caused climate change.
Those who say there is a problem with our influence on the climate can only assert that there is a problem by making predictions. Insofar as some of those predictions were made long enough ago to be compared with outturn, it will be seen that they have fallen relentlessly on the side of exaggeration. Empirically speaking, then, the skeptics have been proven right – so far.”
TF: They have been often wrong. They may be wrong now. But the Arctic has warmed by 2C over the past decades and sea ice in the region has diminished dramatically. There have been other successes in predicting the impacts of climate change but if that were the only one it would be worth our time and effort to investigate.