Miserable musings: climate scepticism in the time of COP

As many of you will have noted (and some have commented upon) I have recently experienced fits of depression over the state of affairs regarding comments and proposals about climate change. In recent months these have become more frequent and strident in the run up to COP26. It might well have been expected because climate change hysteria has previously increased in the run up to earlier international meetings. Those meetings have been designed with the express purpose of getting international agreements to do something about preventing further climate change – usually by commitments to reduce CO2 emissions. In previous incarnations of this phenomenon, the increased “noise” has quickly died down to its previous levels after the international meeting has come and gone. But the way climate change has recently ramped up is to my mind extraordinary and I fear that this time the noise level may not return to its previous lower intensity. As I read it, COP26, although unlikely to achieve any significant or meaningful change as an international agreement or treaty, may well be forced to move the goalposts by outside pressures.

These pressures have been deliberately caused by the use of increased hysterical language. We don’t speak much about “climate change” now, it’s all “climate crisis” or “climate catastrophe, chaos, emergency or breakdown”. We are led to fear the future, not from any real evidence but from the relentless drumbeat of scaremongering that pervades our sources of news. The Guardian’s deliberate hyping of its style guide was instrumental. The absence of any BBC scepticism is critical.

I fear that if, or rather when, COP 26 fails to meet its self-professed goals (or more importantly it fails to meet the goals of the very large number of people relying upon the meeting to solve their climate fears), the public won’t be prepared to accept failure. The fears engendered in large proportions of our populations are now so strong that failure will not be acceptable. Can anyone predict what these groups will do? I suspect a lack of analysis comes about because it requires acknowledgment that COP26 may fail in its objectives and this cannot be countenanced by the climate-fearful.

Why the difference this year? Why the greater expectations? My explanation is the rise of attribution “science”. Whatever the negative impact of extreme weather events has been, it is now, without fail, linked with climate change with the implication that the effects have been made stronger (and worse). So more and more of us experience extreme weather events (or see them across the world on our televisions) and hear them attributed to climate chaos. Time and time again I see victims of weather attribute their genuine woes to climate change without a shred of evidence. So over time we have increasing numbers of witnesses willing to testify to the reality and future threat of climate change. Climate scepticism has lost ground big time.

Implausible links have also been forged in the minds of some between non climate hazards, like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, and climate change. Climate chaos is identified everywhere. It’s as if wildfires, strong hurricanes, heavy rainfall events and flooding and the like never occurred before or (at best) were never as extreme. Simply, every single event is now linked to climate change. This is illogical. Whenever such claims are made I seek enlightenment and solace from Paul Homewood’s blog (sometimes WUWT) where due diligence to the historical record is given. Almost invariably the claims of unprecedented extreme weather events fail at the first hurdle. I am relieved, but most recipients of the media’s climate bilge have no redress and so progressively become ever more climate fearful. Many of the young, with no climate history of their own, become militant in the belief that us oldies have trashed the planet. The like of St. Greta are ever increasing.

We sceptics face additional problems that make any appeal to the general public so difficult. I cannot argue that climate change isn’t happening because I believe it is occurring. Forget temperature records because they can be fudged. Forget my memories of much colder winters and cool summers, because that’s what they are, memories and not measurements. No, for me it is the appearance of European species, previously unknown in southern England, and the increased northern spread of other species that are most telling.

I cannot argue that carbon dioxide is not a potential greenhouse gas because I know my physical chemistry. Nor can I argue that the increase in atmospheric CO2 is not produced by human industry. So I cannot refute with absolute certainty the scenario that human CO2 in the atmosphere is increasing global temperatures. As a former scientist, with appropriate training, I cannot dismiss this possibility.

On the other hand, I can point to periods of time when CO2 increases were minimal yet the temperature record reveals an increase of similar magnitude and rate to that being attributed to our CO2 emissions. I can point to other time periods when CO2 emissions increased at an unchanged rate, yet the global temperature did not increase. As a geologist I see evidence that periods of the past, even the last interglacial, were substantially warmer than the present without high CO2 levels. Past glaciations occurred when CO2 levels were much, much higher than today’s and Antarctic ice cores give little support for CO2 being a climate driver. For me these are obvious and substantial spanners in the works of the claim that human CO2 emissions have substantially changed temperatures. For me, this has yet to be proven. But convincing others of this is becoming increasingly hard. Why, if it’s so obvious to me, isn’t it evident to others with scientific training? Why are people like Attenborough so adamant that humans are causing dangerous climate change? Instead of healthy scepticism, people are already convinced; they believe they personally have been negatively affected by climate change and are perfectly willing to believe scepticism is motivated by personal gain (=all that oil money). Who are they likely to believe, an oil-contaminated ex-geologist or a world famous and much admired knight of the realm?

I have two main worries, not really for myself because I shan’t be around to see their full impact. The first is that a future climate commissariat will, to great acclaim, ban climate scepticism, making it a thought crime, subject to extreme penalties. The second is that one country alone, fed up with extreme weather events, will attempt to change its climate by geoengineering, to the detriment of other countries that were not consulted or given a veto. This could lead to warfare. I can easily imagine, for example, North Korea, that already has a terrible winter and summer climate, and which has had recent devastating harvests, trying to improve matters unilaterally. 

I leave you mes braves sceptiques in my own personal climate gloom. Tell me I’m wrong if you can. Convince me that my concerns have no merit. Please!

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October 2, 2021 at 10:33AM

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