Ben has a brief comment on the credibility of the IPCC and the climate change agenda in The Guardian, today, with a slightly longer version on the Guardian’s site. There are also comments there from some familiar names.
However, Ben’s comment was written in about 5 minutes last night, and had a word limit. The points raised there might do with some clarification.
Sceptics, understandably, have been enjoying the last few months which started with Climategate, which was followed by the failure of Copenhagen and the discovery of questionable sources being included in IPCC reports, and lastly the increasingly bizarre behaviour of IPCC Chair, Rajendra Pachauri. This has led to questions about the members of the climate change establishment that full time warmers have had trouble batting away. There is a curious consensus is emerging between some alarmists and some sceptics, that figures such as Phil Jones and Rajendra Pachauri ought to step down.
On the one hand, this should be welcomed as an acknowledgement that there’s something wrong with the process. But it isn’t.
Instead, it merely suggests that the problem with climate change alarmism has just been the failure of just a few individuals, bending a statistic here and there, or massaging data slightly when it’s inconvenient.
This is not the case. If we start from the argument that the IPCC, and many other climate research institutes have been established (or have moved this way) to fulfil political needs, then the problem is the politics that existed well before that scientific process produced any data, corrupted or not. The problem that turned a science reporter’s failure in 1998 into a dramatic call for action over a decade later was not mere oversight.
We have been arguing here that ‘politics is prior to science’. This will be explained a bit more in the next post, but the point is that it takes a presupposition about society to turn relatively small changes in climate into catastrophes. For instance, it is very hard to argue that a change of a few degrees here or a statistically significant change in the amount of rain we receive here in the UK would be a ‘catastrophe’. We know that we have the means to cope with such change, even if it’s beyond our current generation of planners to cope with snow, rain, and snow. So climate activists of all flavours argue that “climate change will be worse for the poor”. The logic of this is that because life in poorer regions is that much closer to ‘nature’, its changes produce a greater human cost than they do here in the more industrialised world. But in that argument is the presupposition that those poorer regions cannot develop.
Accepting this presupposition is equivalent to making it true, because it precludes the alternative. It is on this basis that the “science” proceeds, and goes in search for the parameters of the ‘tipping point’, to establish just how close we are to Armageddon. This is in contrast to the popular misconception of the climate debate that environmental ethical imperatives have emerged from climate science.
Calling for the resignations of senior staff at climate change institutions is to forget that they were merely “doing their job”. Moreover, they likely took seriously the political premises of the alarmist narrative. It’s that that they ought to be held accountable for, but no more so than any other figure with a public profile. Politicians, for instance, such as Ed Miliband, have capitalised on the scare story, and sought to define themselves, their political agenda, and their legitimacy by it. Miliband might argue in reply “I’m just doing what the scientists say needs to be done”. He forgets to examine that they might have been told what to do, although not explicitly. Even if Miliband was also to resign, the premises of environmentalism and climate alarmism would not be challenged. All that it would mean is that the institutions that have been created by environmentalism were staffed by slightly different people, most likely with the same ideas.
Climate alarmism is a hydra. Cut off its head, and another will rear itself into view. And it will be just as ugly.