Science without Consensus

The climate change story in Britain over the past few weeks has been dominated by the arrival of a new warmist organisation, the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit, and by press articles (both in the Guardian) by Britain’s two most famous scientists, Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society,

http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/sep/04/sir-paul-nurse-criticises-figures-distort-scientific-evidence

and Brian Cox, the dishy mop-headed popstar who does science for the Beeb on the telly.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/sep/03/brian-cox-scientists-climate-change

For an intelligent analysis of Cox and Nurse see

http://www.climate-resistance.org/2014/09/how-not-to-crush-and-bury-climate-sceptics.html

and for an equally intelligent analysis of the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit, see

http://www.climate-resistance.org/2014/08/does-the-uk-need-another-climate-unit.html

Ben Pile’s articles are getting longer, which may unfortunately dissuade the busy and the fainthearted, but Ben remains by far the best guide to what’s happening on the climate politics front  in Britain. If you care about the future of the planet,  or about the future of intelligent discourse, which is the lifeblood of democracy, please proceed to Ben’s site. If not, stay with me.

The ECIU is run by ex-BBC environment correspondent Richard Black, with grants from three multi-million pound philanthropic foundations, and has three articles up on its blog in the three weeks of it existence, all by Richard Black.

The first article received five comments, all from climate sceptics. The comment thread is administered by Disqus, which allows readers to give a thumbs up or thumbs down to each comment. The five sceptic comments received a total of 85 thumbs up and zero thumbs down. Then comments were closed.

One of the commenters, Robin Guenier, complained to the ECIU, who promised that comments would be reopened, which apparently didn’t happen.

Robin tells me that the second article has comments, though for some mysterious reason I can’t see them. I can see comments for the third article, but there aren’t any.

If anyone in the sceptic camp was harbouring suspicions that warmists are a highly organised band of conspirators – forget it. Richard Black was a highly visible BBC journalist with – presumably – thousands of followers on Twitter, and all the other accoutrements of media exposure, if not fame.

No-one has gone there to lend him support. Not his close relatives. Not his ex-colleagues at the BBC. Not the thousands of fellow green activists all busy blogging on their own websites. Not one of the millions of supporters of climate action claimed to exist by those same websites.

Richard Black is alone.

Alone with the three million dollar philanthropic foundations which finance his site: the European Climate Foundation, the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, and the Tellus Mater Foundation. (for details, see Ben’s article cited above).

Following on from the creation of the ECIU came articles in the Guardian by Sir Paul Nurse, suggesting that climate sceptics should be “crushed and buried” and Brian Cox , who crushed and buried two thousand years of epistomology with gems such as:

“The scientific view at the time is the best, there’s nothing you can do that’s better than that. So there’s an absolutism. It’s absolutely the best advice,”

and:

“I always regret it when knowledge becomes controversial. It’s clearly a bad thing, for knowledge to be controversial. We can trace back through history the times when knowledge was considered to be controversial. And that’s what we are actually saying when we talk about climate change. We’re saying that there’s something inherently problematic with knowledge.”

The hard conclusion from this is that we live in a harsh world, where any senile idiot can revel in macho fantasies of crushing and burying his opponents just because he happens to be President of the Royal Society, and an infantile failed popstar thinks he can chuck Socrates in the dustbin because he happens to have a job sweeping up the bosons at the Large Hadron Collider.

There’s more.

There’s a climate change conference in New York at the end of the month, an extended foreplay for the Big One in Paris next year, with the promise of the world’s biggest anti-climate change march.

And there’s a book on climate change coming out by Naomi Klein, who is magnitudes more famous than Nurse or Cox. For an idea of its contents, see

http://www.newstatesman.com/2013/10/science-says-revolt

I have a soft spot for Ms Klein, since I find her criticisms of capitalism sympathetic, (though I haven’t read her books “No Logo” and “The Shock Doctrine”).

However, the above article in the NS reveals her to be bonkers. (Was she always so, or did  climate science render her thus? In ten years’ time, unless temperatures have risen significantly in the meantime, we will be asking the same question about  every single politician and intellectual on the planet.)

I do recommend the New Statesman as a place to comment. Comments are not too numerous, and they are arranged, courtesy of Disqus, in order of popularity , Since the supporters or the NS’s warmist line are all ignorant green zombies, there’s a strong chance of reason prevailing.

Some of us had great fun tearing Brian Cox apart  at

http://www.newstatesman.com/sci-tech/sci-tech/2012/12/brian-cox-and-robin-ince-politicians-must-not-elevate-mere-opinion-over-sc

Here Disqus ordered responses by “best”, instead of by “oldest’ or “newest”.

I somehow don’t think Brian Cox will be commenting at the Staggers again any time soon.

But not all science is climate science. The following article in the New Statesman sheds an interesting light on the way Big Science is treated in the media, and hence how it is viewed in educated circles and by politicians.

http://www.newstatesman.com/sci-tech/2014/09/pleiades-row-fault-our-star-measurements

It’s all about the distance of the Pleiades star cluster from us, a subject about as irrelevant to our everyday life as its possible to be, yet the article’s sub-heading neatly encapsulates the way problems of our understanding of the cosmos and our political decisions on budgetary questions interact:

“Either our understanding of how stars form needs a big overhaul, or one of the current missions of the European Space Agency could turn out to be something of a white elephant.”

The problem is that American and European scientists have come to differing estimates of the distance of the Pleiades. The article (which is no better and no worse than most articles about science in the “serious” press) sums up the problem thus:

“There is more at stake than international relations. The correct distance to the Pleiades matters for two reasons. First, if Hipparcos [the European probe launched in the eighties] was wrong because of something in its instruments, the European Space Agency craft Gaia, which has just embarked on a new survey, may be subject to the same kind of error. For a mission that costs €740m and is going to take five years to complete, it would be nice to know that there isn’t a fundamental design flaw.

Second, if Hipparcos is right, something is wrong with our understanding of how young stars form. The US measurements relied on received wisdom about how bright the Pleiades’ stars should be, given their age. Astronomers were confident that we have a good handle on this but if we don’t, the new result could be incorrect – as could many other “facts” about the history of the cosmos.

It is hard to know how things will play out. When it became a nationalistic issue all hope of reasonable dialogue disappeared. Now it’s down to Gaia.”

First there’s the question of whether European taxpayers are wasting €750 million, then there’s the question of whether our cosmological model is correct.

Note two things about this article:

1) It is considered perfectly normal that two scientific teams working for two international agencies on different continents should come to different conclusions, and should defend their respective positions in the scientific literature with the same fervour as supporters of rival football teams

2) It is considered perfectly normal to discuss in the same sentence the cost of research and the likely results – the politics and the physics.

Now compare this with the way climate science is discussed at the NS or any other mainstream media outlet.

When did you last read an article discussing whether American or European estimates of global warming were the most accurate?

Or whether it was worth spending x million euros to establish this or that supposed “fact” about the climate?

I like the New Statesman. Despite their total obedience to the cult of global warming, despite their obsession with the current craze for trans-sexualism, pan-sexualism and generalised middleclass bourgeois wankerophilism, they remain an oasis of alternative radical thought..

(As long as they let me comment there, the green fascist bastards).

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4 Responses to Science without Consensus

  1. Mooloo says:

    I suspect sceptic comments would out-number full-on supporters at every climate website, if the alarmist sites were to allow the sort of open commentary that most sceptic sites offer.

    A site like Pielke Jnr’s, for example, shows far more scepticism than concern about AGW. Yet Pielke is a fully paid up member to the alarm club, so it isn’t a natural home for sceptics.

  2. alexjc38 says:

    Agreeing with Mooloo – even Guardian CiF, I think, would be transformed utterly if the heavy hand of the censor was removed. That would be a sight to see.

    Now trying to imagine what would happen if the distance to the Pleiades star cluster became somehow crucial to the question of “whether or not climate change is happening” (in the quaint and simplistic way that our politicians and scientists love to put it.)

    All that defeatist talk of budgets and division among the researchers would get short shrift, when it’s clear that unity and a common purpose is the order of the day – don’t they know there’s a war on?

  3. Have a look at Adam Corner’s latest desperate plea for climate action in the Grauniad,
    http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2014/sep/18/build-support-climate-change-campaign
    only 50 comments, most of them either sceptical or even contemptuous, getting high ratings. Sign of the times?

    Yes, Ben P is on blistering form at the moment, laying into Cox, Nurse, Moonbat & Stern. He doesn’t get the attention he deserves. I try to promote his posts on twitter, and have tried to suggest that some of his posts are a bit long for the attention span of the twitter-generation.

    I can see 4 comments on the second ECIU article (“affordable energy”) – 2 from Robin, one from Alex and one more expressing concern for the fuel poor. As you say, Black is alone, nobody cares, and Ben was entirely right about the need for yet another climate propaganda outfit.

  4. There is a new article on Klein at New Statesman

    http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/2014/09/steven-poole-naomi-klein-could-climate-change-action-rejuvenate-worldwide-democracy

    but it does not seem to allow comments.
    The author Steven Poole seems to be aware that the book will provide fodder for sceptics by linking climate action with anti-capitalism action, and by exaggeration, and he says
    “Unfortunately, Klein periodically veers into hippie-ish mumbo-jumbo”.

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