UPDATE: Detailed response from Dr Andrew Glikson (PDF) can be downloaded here: gliksondetailedresponsewjcollins
Each week, seemingly without fail, a new Opinion piece appears in some Australian media outlet which is sceptical about aspects of mainstream climate science. Sometimes they are in the form of Editorials or Viewpoints, sometimes as Letters to the Editor. Some are written by staff journalists, some by academics or business people. But they all follow a fairly predictable pattern and share a remarkable number of commonalities.
For people without the time to study the science of climate change in detail, or to keep up with the latest peer reviewed literature, these arguments against the mainstream science position can seem credible. So what to make of them? I have the solution – teach yourself to spot the recycled denialism!
So, in what I imagine will be a long running series which may eventually stretch my ability to make use of Roman numerals, I’ll refute these pieces. But I won’t do it by constructing a new argument each time which, point-by-point, shows why their claims are not supported by the evidence. That would just become tiresome, given the habit most non-greenhouse theorists (‘sceptics’) have of ignoring any refuations and simply repeating themselves, again and again. No, I’ll do it by making full use of the power of what defines the Internet – hyperlinks… I’ll focus primarily on the science content of the articles, except where non-science arguments are clearly false and demand correction.
First up then, is a Letter to the Editor published in The Australian on 13 August 2008, by Prof W.J. Collins. It was lavished with praise by Andrew Bolt and his devoted posters, so you can read the alternative view over there.
[The global warming debate is] not about mainstream (read official) scientists versus sceptics, enthusiasts or bloggers. Many of these people are good scientists. The debate is about how and why climate change is happening…
Ice ages are the most obvious evidence for climate change, and we are coming out of the medieval Little Ice Age now. As global temperatures progressively warm, many consider that this relates to carbon emissions dating from the 1850s, but the increase began approximately 300 years ago…
Interestingly, while the total carbon emissions have increased steadily over the past 150 years, global temperatures have cycled between hotter and cooler on a 60-70 year scale, and even at shorter 4-5 year scales more related to El Nino events.
More interesting is that carbon dioxide uptake into the atmosphere is also cyclic, associated with El Nino events. This suggests that the quantity of atmospheric carbon is mainly controlled by circulation patterns in the ocean, which is not surprising because 60 per cent of recyclable carbon is stored there.
Some points made by David Evans … are most enlightening. He stated that $50 billion has been spent on global warming science since 1990 but no one has shown that it’s caused by carbon emissions. No one has been able to measure the predicted hot greenhouse zone in the atmosphere, 10km above us. This zone would have been the surest evidence that we are in a greenhouse condition caused by human activity…
The bottom line is that humans cannot prevent global warming. Therefore, we should not be forced into emissions trading schemes, or any other scheme that sacrifices Australia’s economic advantage and standard of living for the wrong reasons.
Read the hyperlinks and you’ve finished lesson I in “teach yourself to spot the recycled denialism”.