TCS Daily


TCS COP 10 Coverage: Buenos Aires: Kyoto's Waterloo

By Hans H.J. Labohm - December 17, 2004 12:00 AM

"...throughout the drafting sessions, [UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] 'coordinators' would go around insisting that criticism of models be toned down, and that 'motherhood' statements be inserted to the effect that models might still be correct despite the cited faults. Refusals were occasionally met with ad hominem attacks. I personally witnessed coauthors forced to assert their 'green' credentials in defense of their statements..."
-- Richard Lindzen, American atmospheric physicist.

Kyoto seems to have found its Waterloo in Buenos Aires, the site of this year's 10th annual UN conference on climate change. Its proponents have always argued that first stage of the treaty, Kyoto Mark I, was only the first step towards a far more comprehensive scheme which would ultimately comprise all countries in the world and would aim at greenhouse gas emission cuts of around 60% by 2050. Since the refusal by the G-77, China and India to accept any commitment to reduce emissions as from 2012, when Kyoto Mark I expires, and -- more surprisingly -- the announcement by Italy that it will withdraw from the Kyoto process in the same year, we have entered a totally different ball game.

Italy's exit might incite other European countries to follow suit, for example Spain, which harbours similar objections against Kyoto as Italy. Now that Italy has made clear that it will leave the European fold in 2012, Russia has an irrefutable alibi to do likewise. In the intermediate period it may handsomely cash in a few bucks by selling emission rights to Western Europe.

Did Russian President Putin have a premonition of this scenario? And is that the reason that, after many years of wavering, he ultimately decided that Russia would join Kyoto Mark I? We don't know. But Russians are reputed to be skilful chess players. And chess players are used to anticipate many moves in advance.

Will the rest of Europe put its money where its mouth is? Let's hope not. Because it will cost a fortune and impose severe burdens on its citizens and taxpayers, while it will have no detectable effect whatsoever on climate, even if one would accept the validity of the climate models of the proponents of Kyoto.

In the meantime climate scepticism is gaining ground in Western Europe. It is even becoming respectable. Many organisations, often cum websites, provide ample information about the views of the climate sceptics, thus breaking the de facto information monopoly of the pro-Kyoto scientists belonging to the 'established climate science community'.

In Germany Christian Krahmer has been running his website 'Klima Aktuell' for many years. Even France and Belgium are timidly following now with critical analyses published by the Molinari Institute. In Spain it is the Rafael del Pino Foundation which is planning to organize a full day seminar conference about global warming. It has invited the top notch of worldwide climate sceptics, including Fred Singer, Andrei Illarionov (the economic adviser to President Putin), Sallie Baliunas and Patrick Michaels. In Italy it is the Institute Bruno Leoni, with authors like Antonio Gaspari and Carlo Stagnaro, which carries the torch. In Denmark it was Bjorn Lomborg who injected a fair dose of common sense into the debate with his blockbuster: 'The Skeptical Environmentalist'. In Norway and Sweden sceptics like Hans Jelbring and Erik Tunsted are taking issue with the conventional wisdom of pro-Kyoto scientists, such as Pål Prestrud, the director of the Norwegian CICERO (Center for International Climate and Environmental Research -- Oslo). In Finland Timo Hämeranta stands out as the most prominent climate sceptic. He is the moderator of 'Climatesceptics', a global scientific discussion group for climate scientists and other participants interested in discussing pros and cons of sceptical views in climate science, media and politics. And in the UK, climate skepticism centres around the journal Energy & Environment (E&E). Well-known British climate sceptics include Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen (the editor of E&E), Richard Courtney, Benny Peiser and Philip Stott (with his perceptive and highly amusing 'EnviroSpin Watch').

The proponents of the man-made global warming hypothesis often argue that 'the science is settled' and 'all scientists agree'. This is simply not true. In personal debates between them and climate sceptics, they often challenge the latter to publish their views in peer-reviewed journals. Many sceptics, however, share the experience that they have been denied access to these journals, or that they had to meet scientific standards which by far exceeded those which were applied to papers of their less iconoclastic colleagues. Nevertheless, the body of climate sceptical literature has been growing dramatically over the years. But one can hardly escape the feeling that the pro-Kyoto scientists are ignoring contrary views, perhaps because they labour under a serious form of cognitive dissonance. Timo Hämeranta deserves credit for drawing up a list of hundreds of scientific peer-reviewed papers, other scientific papers, overviews, presentations and books. He also draws some very pertinent conclusions from the overview of the sceptical literature: 'The scientific basis to tackle the climate change allegedly caused by human-induced CO2 emissions has collapsed. The newest scientific findings prove that current or near-future (i.e. in the next 100 yrs) CO2 emissions cause no dangerous anthropogenic interference with or dangerous perturbation in the climate system.'

Newcomers to the global warming debate are often surprised to notice that passions are running high, which has an adverse impact on both form and substance of scientific intercourse. In this respect the accusations and the subsequent process against Bjorn Lomborg represented an absolute low. Fortunately, he was completely vindicated afterwards on appeal. The arguments which were advanced in the second ruling were the spitting image of those which had already been developed by an international group of scientists, who were all experts in the field of scientific integrity, with the Netherlands' Arthur Rörsch, as lead author. Recently Rörsch has embarked on a new project, exposing infractions of good scientific practice which he encountered when joining the global warming debate. They include a wide variety of scientific misconduct, including: intimidation and expulsion of sceptical scientists; deriding and ostracizing opponents; other sorts of ad hominem attacks; the invocation of consensus, while ignoring opposing views, even those which have been published in the peer-reviewed literature; dismissing the right and/or competence of scientists of neighbouring scientific disciplines to participate in the climate debate, especially if they hold opposing views and refusal to enter into scientific debate to sort out differences; accusing opposing scientists of representing commercial interests, such as those of the oil and coal industry; manipulation of data and spin-doctoring of 'scientific' reports; attribution of extreme weather events to man-made global warming; the use of models as evidence, etc. All these infractions will be well documented in the report.

Undoubtedly this new report will trigger a new wave of man-made global warming ... this time warming of the global debate.


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