Monday, 4 April 2011
Ex-politician Gerard Baudains wrote a letter to the Jersey Evening Post which was published on 1st April - it was not a joke but it was so far from the truth that it could quite easily have been one! It was basically an attempted hatchet job on Jersey Climate Action Network (J.C.A.N.) and global warming/climate change science generally. In a response I wrote to the JEP, I promised a detailed answer to his most misleading arguments because in order to show the falsity of his conclusions adequately, I needed more space than the paper would allow in a letter.
Firstly, here is the text of his letter
Those who urge action on climate change should get their facts right
1st April 2011
From Gerard Baudains.
I NOTICE (JEP, 24 March) a letter from a group calling themselves Jersey Climate Action Network.
While it is right that people are allowed to hold and express their own views (and the opportunity to express them), I do believe that when it comes to pressurising government to take a particular course of action (as this group does), those people have a duty to ensure that their message is both accurate and genuine.
Sadly the message proffered by this group is anything but accurate.
They appear, as far as I understand, to be asking the States to take action on climate change/global warming (one is never sure which, as groups such as these appear to think the two are interchangeable). If that is so, I am left wondering how our States – who can’t even sort out a workable machinery of government - can possibly reduce the effect of the sun on the earth.
Because that is what this group are effectively asking them to do.
I’m aware they will say that it is man’s actions - chiefly the burning of fossil fuels - that is the culprit, but that is not true and therefore falls foul of the accuracy requirement above.
There is no scientific evidence linking global warming to anthropogenic action.
In fact, quite the contrary - it has been scientifically proven that rises in carbon dioxide follow global warming by thousands of years. Rises in carbon dioxide cannot therefore be the cause.
Also, mans' contribution is two per cent or less - so what about the other 98 per cent? Are this group saying mans' two per cent causes warming while the other 98 per cent is inactive?
These are just a couple of many facts that disprove the theory.
Whichever way you look at it, the theory of anthropogenic global warming has long been proven to be a hoax. That the inter-governmental panel on climate change pushed the idea (although it has since retreated considerably) should come as no surprise - the title says it all. That some 'scientists' supported them is no surprise either - many relied on government grants and consequently told governments what they wanted to hear.
Conversely, there are thousands of genuine scientists who have signed their opposition to the theory.
So why does this modern-day equivalent of the Flat Earth Society continue to push a theory scientifically proven to be untrue? This is what worries me the most. If the people involved are ignorant of the fact that science has at last caught up with the mischief of the global warming theory, surely they must fall into the category I call 'useful idiots' - ie, used by others to promote an agenda without realising they are being used.
If, however, they are fully aware of the sinister agenda behind the whole global warming/climate change nonsense, they should come clean and tell us what their aims really are.
Climate change and global warming have occurred on earth for millions of years. What we are experiencing now is quite normal in that cycle, and it is caused by the sun.
That does not mean we should continue to squander the earth's resources. The rate we are using fossil fuel is almost beyond imagination, and we must find alternatives. Unfortunately, by amalgamating this message into a long-disproved theory, these groups only succeed in undermining an important argument.
Here is the response I wrote to the JEP
Your correspondent Mr Gerard Baudains makes many wild assertions in his letter (JEP 1st April) which was headlined “Those who urge action on climate change should get their facts right”. He implies he has superior knowledge and that Jersey Climate Action Network’s “message is anything but accurate”. J.C.A.N. totally refutes this. We stand by what we say because we work with, and disseminate, up to date, accurate and widely accepted scientific wisdom.
He states "there is no scientific evidence linking global warming to anthropogenic action” yet every major scientific organisation in the world actually accepts that humans are altering the climate. Even those few legitimate “sceptical” scientists, such as Lindzen, Christy, Spencer, and Singer, who are regularly quoted by those who would deny the science, accept it - they only differ from the consensus inasmuch as they believe the warming will be a lot less than the mainstream position. And yet Mr Baudains claims to know better. He insinuates scientific corruption –“many scientists relied on government grants and consequently told governments what they wanted to hear” - and claims that “science has at last caught up with the mischief of the global warming theory” and then states that the IPCC who “pushed the idea” have “since retreated considerably”. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact the science is getting ever stronger and, worryingly, since the last IPCC reports, the predicted dangers (as reported from the scientific front lines) are now worse than before. Mr Baudains should realise it is vital to check the credibility of one’s sources,
Perhaps the timing of his letter (Friday 1st April) is explicable because of the high hopes of the “sceptics” for the preliminary findings, announced the previous day, of a large new study (B.E.S.T) from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory on the integrity of global temperature measurements which was led by a scientist who has been critical of aspects of the mainstream position in the past. They were anticipating it confirming their belief of systematic bias and unreliability in the temperature records. In fact, it did exactly the opposite and confirmed the accuracy of mainstream science. Perhaps Mr Baudains was expecting to ride the coat tails of a “smoking gun” hole having being blown in the science.
Mr Baudains presents several highly selected "facts" – rises in CO2 follow warming in the historical record - man's CO2 contribution is a fraction of natural emissions - thousands of genuine scientists have signed their opposition to the theory. He asserts that these "disprove the theory". Like a magician creating a convincing illusion by only allowing the audience to see what he wants them to, these cherry-picked isolated ideas will lead the unwary to jump to false conclusions. An adequate refutation of these points in this letter would be too long for publication so I invite people to look at our website www.j-can.org.je where they will find a full reply to these misleading ideas. Simply, his conclusions are diametrically opposed to the truth.
There are at least 150 disinformation arguments such as those he used. No doubt he is sincere in his beliefs but they have all been fully debunked many times. An easy source for people to check the truth about all these misleading ideas is to look at www.skepticalscience.com which covers all of the major errors and misdirections used by those who attempt to deny the science. There are basic, intermediate and advanced levels that debunk each falsity.
Readers need to be aware that there are very powerful political and economic forces abroad that seek to deny the science of anthropogenic climate change, the basic physics of which has been established for around 150 years. Like King Canute on the beach, these propagandists seek to persuade us, if we just believe in their politically driven fictions enough, that the seas will not rise and the globe will not warm up if we just believe strongly enough. Who should people trust? Those who promote politically biased pseudo-science or the overwhelming majority of global scientific organisations?
Media spokesman for Jersey Climate Action Network
Below are our responses to the false arguments, used in Mr Baudains’ letter, which we put on the JCAN website on Tuesday 5th April.
The arguments used in Mr Baudains’ letter sound very plausible to a non specialist and that is why they are repeatedly used by those who wish to spread doubt and confusion about the science and the necessary actions we need to take to protect ourselves.
Here are the main fallacious arguments used by Mr Baudains followed by our responses:
1) Rises in carbon dioxide follow global warming by thousands of years so rises in carbon dioxide cannot therefore be the cause
This is highly illogical. The pre-historic records of CO2 and temperatures show they are closely correlated, which means they rise and fall together. However, changes in CO2 mostly follow changes in temperatures by about 600 to 1000 years. This does not mean that Mr Baudains’ conclusion is correct. If levels of CO2 rise, such as we are making them do now (we are thereby creating a force acting on the climate), then the planet will warm.
In prehistory, when the planet was made to warm for another reason, such as the changes in Earth’s orbit that are associated with ice ages (the Milankovitch cycles), the oceans warmed up and CO2 was emitted from them (as a feedback) over the next 600-1000 years - which is the delay seen in the paleo-climatological record . It is this delay that Mr Baudains purports to be evidence that CO2 cannot cause warming. What he appears not to know is that once the CO2 is emitted from the oceans, it then goes on to accelerate the warming from the orbital changes. If increased CO2 did not cause global warming, the planet would never escape from the ice ages. Apart from in the very distant past when massive volcanic activity over 10's of thousands of years increased CO2 levels, there would be no record of CO2 initiating warming, only records of the increased CO2 emitted from the oceans after natural events initiated warming. This particular "argument" of Mr Baudains is one of the all time classic pieces of deceit used to fool the public by the global warming science denialists.
2) Man’s contribution is two per cent or less - are J-CAN saying man’s two per cent causes warming while the other 98 per cent is inactive?
No. This is a strawman argument. All the CO2 is an active greenhouse gas but our emissions are increasing the total amount of CO2 faster than the natural processes can absorb them, so the greenhouse effect is increasing. Whilst true that mankind's emissions of fossil carbon derived CO2 (think of them like a deposit account) are dwarfed by natural emissions (think of them like a current account), the vital information that the denialist propaganda "accidentally" does not mention is that natural CO2 sinks (processes which absorb CO2) are slightly larger than the natural emissions.
Analogously, if you had a bath tub without a plug and the tap was putting in 20 litres a minute (natural emissions) and the plug hole was draining 20.1 litres a minute (natural sinks), the bath would never fill up. If you stuck a hose in with only 0.15 litres a minute flow (mankind's fossil fuel emissions) the bath would fill up. Although the hose flow is a small fraction of the tap's flow it is additional input to a virtually balanced system, so it accumulates. In the same way, CO2 is accumulating in the atmosphere because of our actions. We know that the extra CO2 accumulating in the atmosphere is down to us because of the measured ratio of C12 to C13 which shows that our fossil fuel derived CO2 is building up.
3) The IPCC pushed the theory of anthropogenic global warming - it has since retreated considerably
This is simply wrong. The IPCC has not “retreated” at all. No scientific body of national or international standing is currently disputing that mankind is affecting, and will continue to affect, the climate because of our fossil fuel emissions; the last was (surprise!) the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, which, however, in 2007 updated its 1999 statement rejecting the likelihood of human influence on recent climate with its current non-committal position. Here is a link to the Wikipedia article which shows how badly Mr Baudains is in error.
4) Climate change and global warming have occurred on Earth for millions of years. What we are experiencing now is quite normal and is caused by the Sun
More illogic. A common sceptic argument is that climate has changed naturally in the past, long before 4x4s and coal-fired power plants, so how therefore can humans be causing global warming now? First you have to know that climate doesn’t just change at random. Climate changes when it’s forced to change. When our planet suffers an energy imbalance and gains or loses heat, global temperature changes.
There are a number of different forces which can influence the Earth’s climate. When the sun gets brighter, the planet receives more energy and warms. When volcanoes erupt, they emit particles into the atmosphere which reflect sunlight, and the planet cools. When there are more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the planet warms. These effects are referred to as external “forcings” because by changing the planet's energy balance, they force climate to change.
It is obvious that past climate change was caused by natural forcings. However, arguing that it shows we can’t be causing the current warming is like arguing that because people can get struck by lightning that there can’t be any danger from working on your house wiring without turning the power off! Unfortunately the “forcing” that we are applying to the climate with our emissions is stronger than past natural forcings – analogously, the voltage of the house wiring in our example would be many times that of the lightning!
Mr Baudains claims that global warming (that no credible source disputes is happening) is all down to the Sun. Until about 1960, measurements by scientists showed that the brightness and warmth of the sun, as seen from the Earth, was increasing. Over the same period temperature measurements of the air and sea showed that the Earth was gradually warming. However, between the 1960s and the present day the same solar measurements have shown that the energy from the sun is now decreasing. At the same time temperature measurements of the air and sea have shown that the Earth has continued to become warmer and warmer. This proves that it cannot be the sun; something else must be causing the Earth's temperature to rise. So, while there is no credible science indicating that the sun is causing the observed increase in global temperature, it's the known physical properties of greenhouse gases that provide us with the only real and measurable explanation of global warming.