Saturday, February 25, 2012

Cardinal O'Brien's mind captured by 'zealots'?

Cardinal O'Brien in George Square
In the interests of transparency I disclose that I agree with Cardinal Keith O'Brien on many things.

On Ash Wednesday he was identified as a prominent signatory of the Operation Noah declaration on climate change and the purposes of God.  It urges church people to ask four legitimate and worthy questions.  I should also note that I agree with much that is in the declaration.  The many Bible quotations are all accurate and to be admired.

The problem lies with the assumptions incorporated in the foundational statement.  Partisan pressure groups  - and Operation Noah is very partisan - often make a priori assumptions.   Take just the first few words:
"The liklihood of runaway global warming, which will diminish food security, accelerate the extinction of huge numbers of species and make life itself impossiblein some parts of the world. . . "
So there is an assumed 'likelihood of of runaway global warming' with all sorts of dire consequences! The evidence for the probability of this catastrophe (and the statement is replete with hyperbolic phrases), is just not there.

On the day after Cardinal O'Brien signed his intellectual soul over to a pressure group specialising in exaggerations, one of the world's most distinguished climate scientists, Professor Richard Lindzen of Massachusetts Institute of Technology was giving an opposing view in the House of Commons Committee Rooms:
"The evidence is that the increase in CO2 will lead to very little warming, and that the connection of this minimal warming (or even significant warming) to the purported catastrophes is also minimal.  The arguments on which the catastrophic claims are made are extremely weak – and commonly acknowledged as such. They are sometimes overtly dishonest."
Cardinal O'Brien would do well to pay a little more attention to his fellow cardinal from Australia, Cardinal Pell:
"The rewards for proper environmental behaviour are uncertain, unlike the grim scenarios for the future as a result of human irresponsibility which have a dash of the apocalyptic about them, even of the horsemen of the Apocalypse. The immense financial costs true-believers would impose on economies can be compared with the sacrifices offered traditionally in religion, and the sale of carbon credits with the pre-Reformation practice of selling indulgences. Some of those campaigning to save the planet are not merely zealous but zealots."

You can read Professor Lindzen's full talk here. And Cardinal Pell's here.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Sillars on global warming

Jim Sillars
Former deputy leader of the SNP Jim Sillars earlier this week added his trenchant criticism of the global warming lobby who have captured public policy.  In an opinion piece in The Scotsman he characterises 21st century climate science as an embarrassment to the history of science.

Beginning with the lack of increase in global temperatures for fifteen years - during a period when CO2 in the atmosphere has grown steadily - he then critiques the poor science, the IPCC and above all, the lobby which has captured today's political leadership. The article can be read in full here.  Sillars has expressed scepticism previously, for example in this 2010 Scotsman letter.

The response to the article in the Scotsrenewables blog is disappointing for its failure to debate or even address the points articulated by Sillars.  Read it here.   Allow me to fisk it (ignoring the ad hominems).
  1. 'He (Sillars) refers to the current scientific consensus on AGW as a ‘lobby’, which is like calling the SNP a ‘minority interest group in Scotland’  The AGW lobby is nothing like a 'minority interest'. The point Sillars is making is that their power is based on lobbying - not science.  It is very difficult these days to maintain that there is an AGW scientific consensus - if there ever was.  There have always been dissenters such as Prof Richard Lindzen of MIT.  It is just that they were marginalised by very powerful lobbying - of which there is increasing and damning documentary evidence.  
  2. 'Sillars claims that climatology is ‘in its infancy -  a particularly stupid statement when you consider the likes of  Edmund Halley, who published a map of the trade winds in 1686. . . '  This portrays the view that climate scientists know more than those who went before therefore are mature.  A more humble approach would be to acknowledge that, in the complex area of climate science, present knowledge is in its infancy.  Scottishrenewables cites models as an evidence of maturity.  That just fails to acknowledge the point behind Sillars' initial paragraph.  Models have been confounded (especially of late) by measurements.  The faith in models to the detriment of observational science is one of the scandals of  modern climate science.
  3. ' Sillars speaks of a ‘delusional world where they believe they  . . .  can stop the world’s climate warming beyond another 2.5 degrees’ – so apparently he DOES he believe in climate change, but believes action is futile.'  Dear Scottishrenewables, please note Sillars was referring to a 'delusional world' as you actually quote!  Nowhere does he say he accepts climate change of a 'disruptive' to 'threatening' nature - the scale you use. Your creation of a clumsy straw man diminishes your comment.
  4. 'So – all in all  remarkable double whammy own goal  from a man who is allegedly a lifelong supporter of independence . . . '   Ignoring the ad hominem attack, why do the views of Sillars on this issue need to be vindicated or otherwise by his views on other matters?  I think I disagree with him on a number of issues but I respect his views on this issue because they seem to me founded on a clarity of thought and evidence.
  5. ' . . . but who just can’t miss a chance to get back at old adversaries, no matter what the cost to his country and his planet.'  Much of your response is based on a priori assumptions which are not a good basis for debate and discussion.  There is now a wealth of evidence out there to challenge the basis of the belief system you exhibit.  I invite you to consider The Hockey Stick Illusion and then the Delinquent Teenager (about deficiencies in the IPCC).  You have to be able to deal with these critiques in order to credibly defend your assumptions.  
Of course you then might want to address the evidence referred to in Sillars' first paragraph: Why has the predicted warming not happened in the face of such an increase in CO2 over almost fifteen years?