The planet will survive.

by Steve Janke

Time for my predictions for the future.  Don’t worry, they won’t be weather related.

The global warming religion is splitting into two as a result of the recent scandals engulfing by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and I see that split accelerating, and ultimately causing a fundamental change to the global warming religion.

Update: I’m right already!

On the one hand, you have the high priests of the global warming faith, like Elizabeth May and David Suzuki and Al Gore, who squawk about “climate catastrophe” and insist that unless action is taken right now, we’re all doomed!

We’ll call these people the Option A crowd.

On the other hand, you have a growing chorus of scientists who see the IPCC as having become hopelessly compromised by recent (and ongoing) scandals.  This group wants to re-establish the scientific credibility of the IPCC, and of the discipline of climatology itself.  But they admit that this will take years, and that it will mean re-introducing scientific uncertainty into a topic that has been dominated by ironclad pronouncements of “truth” from the pseudo-religious leadership of the Option A team.

These scientists make up what I will call Option B.

So which is it?  We have Option A, which means we take action now on science that is seen by many, both inside and outside of the scientific community, as questionable at best, and broken at worst?  Or do we take Option B, and invest the time to redo the science, with a new team in place, then see where the science goes, delaying any action until that happens?

On the imminent doom side of the fence are people like Al Gore (Option A):

A few days ago, scientists announced alarming new evidence of the rapid melting of the perennial ice of the north polar cap, continuing a trend of the past several years that now confronts us with the prospect that human activities, if unchecked in the next decade, could destroy one of the earth’s principle mechanisms for cooling itself. Another group of scientists presented evidence that human activities are responsible for the dramatic warming of sea surface temperatures in the areas of the ocean where hurricanes form. A few weeks earlier, new information from yet another team showed dramatic increases in the burning of forests throughout the American West, a trend that has increased decade by decade, as warmer temperatures have dried out soils and vegetation. All these findings come at the end of a summer with record breaking temperatures and the hottest twelve month period ever measured in the U.S., with persistent drought in vast areas of our country. Scientific American introduces the lead article in its special issue this month with the following sentence: “The debate on global warming is over.”

Many scientists are now warning that we are moving closer to several “tipping points” that could — within as little as 10 years — make it impossible for us to avoid irretrievable damage to the planet’s habitability for human civilization.

Al Gore gave that speech to the NYU Law School in 2006, so four of his ten years has gone by.

Now it’s 2010, six years to the tipping point, and some supporters of the theory of man-made global warming are saying it’s time for a do-over (Option B).  Roger Pielke, a specialist in the link between climate and disasters from the University of Colorado, has been critical of the IPCC, and thinks there has to be a serious reconstruction of the organization:

We have seen a crisis of confidence gathering momentum around climate science in recent weeks. Following the unauthorized release of e-mails from the University of East Anglia, showing climate scientists not at their best, now comes a flurry of attention to errors in official reports and accusations of conflicts of interest.

The crisis centers on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), set up by the United Nations Environment Programme and World Meteorological Organization, and its chair, Dr. Rajendra Pachauri. Without significant institutional reform, the IPCC, and climate science as a whole, risks more than just bad press. It risks losing its credibility and trust.

The IPCC has started the preparations for the next major report, to be released in 2014. It may be advisable to pause for wholesale institutional reform. The IPCC needs guidelines for the behavior of its officials, and those guidelines must be enforced. With a policy on conflict of interest similar to those in place in leading scientific advisory institutions, it seems obvious that the IPCC would need a new chairperson. The IPCC needs to adhere to its own standards for appointing experts and reviewing material that it reports. It needs to make its procedures for appointments more transparent. The IPCC peer-review should be made more robust, with quality assurance overriding deadlines. A formal mechanism should be put in place to correct errors after publication. Such reform will be a large and difficult task. But the credibility of climate science depends upon it.

Climate policy matters, and so too does the IPCC. Its importance means that reform is needed before the reputation of all of climate science is irreparably damaged.

Indeed, climatologist John Christy of the University of Alabama thinks the IPCC needs to open up future IPCC reports to conflicting points of view, putting to rest the ridiculous notion that this is “settled science”:

At the Hawaii meeting, he gave a presentation proposing that future reports contain a section providing the views of credentialed scientists publishing in the peer-reviewed literature whose views on particular points differ from the consensus.

Needless to say, his call for openness and scientific humility went over like a lead balloon:

The reception to my comments was especially cold . not one supporter, though a couple of scientists did say I had a “lot of guts” to stand up and say what I said before 140 L.A.s [ed. LA = Lead Author of the IPCC Report].  I was (and still am) calling for the AR5 to be a more open scientific assessment in which those of us who are well-credentialed and have evidence for low climate sensitivity (observational and theoretical) be given room to explain this. We should have the same standards of review authority too. When a subject is excruciatingly complicated, like climate, we see that opinion, overstatement, and appeal-to-authority tend to reign as those of a like-mind essentially take control in their self-constructed echo-chamber. The world needs to see all sides of the evidence. We in the climate business need to understand humility, not pride, when looking at a million degrees-of-freedom problem. It’s just fine to say, “We don’t know,” when that is the truth of the matter.

Remember that Pielke and Christy are contributors to IPCC reports, not skeptics.

To rebuild the IPCC, with conflict of interest rules and with new leadership, will take year or more.  Then a new report would have to be created to replace the current discredited one.  That would take years too.

And that’s assuming the process started right this minute.  Clearly the IPCC climatologist clique is in no mood to take the advice of scientists like Pielke and Christy, especially when it comes to incorporated scientific doubt into the work.

So I ask again, which is it?

Is it Option A?  Insist that time is quickly running out, freeze carbon usage in the industrial world, move billions of dollars to third world kleptocracies, and generally grind modern civilization into the dust on the wild-eyed theory that the alternative is extinction?

Or is it Option B?  Admit that there are serious problems with the IPCC report, that science indeed is not settled, thanks in part to the IPCC’s incompetence (or perhaps its self-serving duplicity), and start from scratch with a new IPCC, a new clutch of scientists, and with new fresh data (which itself will take years to collect)?  Making the wrong decision now on the basis of bad science could spell disaster.

Of course, these are options for the environmentalist who believes in man-made global warming in the first place.  For me, Option J is to chuck the whole lot of them into jail for fraud (“J” is for “jail”, by the way).

The choice between Option A and Option B is going to put tremendous stress on the environmental movement.

Option A will be pushed by those who have the most to gain financially and politically from public panic and massive government intervention.  For people like May, Suzuki, and Gore, there is no doubt, nor any time to wait.  Governments must do as they say, immediately!

Option B will be pushed by scientists, though not climatologists in particular.  These scientists bought into the IPCC reports, thinking that the reports represented good science.  Now that it is clear that the Option A crowd has had too much control over the IPCC.  These Option B scientists want the IPCC to go back to being run by scientists, even if it means that future reports from the IPCC leave room for scientific doubt.

I see the two sides splitting apart.  The Option A side will retain its high visibility, but the movement will be hollowed out as the Option B side pulls more and more scientists away from blindly supporting the IPCC in its current configuration.  Though Option B might not have a natural spokesperson like an Al Gore, the media is likely to report more frequently on statements that run counter to those of the Option A side.  Option B people might not denounce global warming as a fraud, but they’ll make it clear that the data and the interpretation is hardly conclusive, and that there is significant legitimate disagreement.

For the high priests of Option A, this is a serious problem.  Scientists formed one of three groupings of useful idiots, along  with scientifically illiterate politicians and self-styled “activists” in search of a cause to justify their prejudices.  Of this trio, the scientists were the most beneficial.  They brought credibility to the global warming faith, masking its religious elements, making it more palatable to the public at large, and to politicians in particular.

Now there is a growing apostasy spreading through that scientific community.  The fog of idiocy is lifting, and their usefulness is ending.  As a result, the high priests face a battle for control of the religion they’ve created, or risk losing access to the money and acclaim they’ve been accumulating for years.

Without the scientists supporting their pronouncements, they have only the unreliable activists as their allies. That suggests that, as legitimate science revives, global warming as a religion will descend into the same category of annoying irrelevance as anti-sealing groups that ram fishing boats or tree-huggers who burst into tears and chain themselves to trees.  They’ll be a nuisance, every once in a while rising to the level of notice, probably for some act of criminal vandalism.

The science itself will continue, and revert back to the study of climate, without the policy-making aspect brought into it by the Option A crowd.

And life will go on.  As it always has.

That’s my prediction for the future.  It might or might not work out that way.  I don’t have a complex computer model to try this out on, but then I think it’s fair to say that computer models aren’t all that useful.

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