By Sanjeev Sabhlok
There are two key pillars of science. First, it doesn’t matter how many “scientists” believe something. All of them could be proven wrong by a single new scientific theory or experiment. Science is always tentatively proven, and it is incumbent on everyone who calls himself a scientist to ask questions even about things that are “settled”. The great physicist Richard Feynman rightly said, “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts”. Scientists must continually question everything and everybody.
Second, science must necessarily make accurate predictions. The global positioning system (GPS) in our mobile phones works only because Einstein’s theories of relativity are accurate to the last possible decimal. Science must not just predict the future: it must predict backwards. Our scientific understanding of cosmic microwave background radiation allows us to literally see the universe as it existed a few thousand years after the Big Bang.
With climate change, things are dramatically unclear and unsettled. Even converting the basic logic of the greenhouse effect into actual estimates for planet Earth is not settled. The IPCC’s Third Assessment Report notes that "If the amount of carbon dioxide were doubled instantaneously … the temperature of the surface-troposphere system would have to increase by 1.2 degrees, in the absence of other changes”. However, some scientists calculate that its impact would be much lower.
Even if we accept this figure of 1.2 degrees, the key question is about these “other changes”, or the feedbacks. IPCCs tells us that positive feedback loops (e.g. from water vapour) from doubling of CO2 will overwhelm negative feedback loops (e.g. from clouds) to lead to a much higher overall temperature in a hundred years. But the IPCC’s approved models have too much variance and the actual, measured temperatures over the past forty years have been much lower than the predicted average of the IPCC-approved climate models. In fact, the list of failed predictions by climate “scientists” over the past 100 years could form a large book in itself.
Climate science is more like “diet science”, in which every second doctor has his own ideas about a good diet. It is a very immature science at best, and most of its current conclusions will be totally rejected with time.
What is global temperature anyway? How is it measured? Why are we looking at the last fifty years and not the last fifty million years? Even simple things like the measurements of temperature are subject to huge disagreements because of complexities like the urban heat island effect. And the fact is that the world has seen much higher levels of CO2 in the past even during ice ages. Until climate science can make accurate predictions of past ice ages and temperatures, will not be ready to be called a science.
Among the books that supported me in answering some of my questions on this topic were Ian Plimer’s Heaven and Earth and Donna Laframboise’s The Delinquent Teenager who was Mistaken for the World’s Top Climate Expert. Ian Plimer is professor emeritus of earth sciences at the University of Melbourne. Scientists like Judith Curry (the former chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology) have raised major concerns about climate science including concerns about fraudulent temperature data manipulation. Ivar Giaever, the Nobel prize winner in physics has studied the methods of climate science and considers it to be pseudo-science. Vernon Smith, an electrical engineer who later moved to economics and won a Nobel prize, has very strong concerns about the methodology of climate science.
The fact that there is an attempt by some people to bulldoze others into “believing” their views itself confirms that this is not a science. Moreover, there are strong reasons to believe that this field has been fully captured by commercial interests. The great economist George Stigler raised the issue of regulatory capture in the 1970s to describe the situation when a regulator is no longer independent and unbiased because of commercial conflicts of interest. As Mark Lynas has pointed out, “The renewables industry stands to be the main beneficiary of any change in government policies based on the IPCC report’s conclusions”. I believe that an even greater conflict of interest comes from politically inspired group think in government which means that those “scientists” who can successfully create more panic receive more money to help them expand their empire. Real scientists, who want to explore questions that might disprove the “findings” of climate science, are being refused research funding and even being ousted from universities.
Alleged scientists like Tim Flannery who have repeatedly made false predictions enjoy cult status in the media which loves their bold (and panicky) predictions. Good, cautious scientists are not loved since they are boring. And this “science” is extremely corrupt. The Climategate emails were just the tip of the iceberg. Fraudulent studies have formed part of IPCC reports (such as the one about the melting by 2035 of all Himalayan glaciers). And unproven reports by wildlife advocacy groups have been extensively used as “evidence” by IPCC. Calling this commercially and politically driven project
a science hugely stretches the meaning of the word.
We know that plants evolved to flourish when the earth had much higher levels of CO2. Advanced farmers even today pump CO2 for plants under controlled conditions to achieve higher yields. CO2 is immensely beneficial for life and a slight increase in its levels over the past fifty years has made our planet more green.
If CO2 were a pollutant, then carbon emissions trading would be a useful solution. But my personal conclusion is that climate science is too primitive to be of any use in making policy. Let it first get its predictions right and become a genuine science. In the meanwhile we know for sure that the modest increase in CO2 over the past fifty years has been enormously beneficial. India should not spend even a minute thinking about this issue and focus instead on abolishing socialism.