Global warming is not a scientific issue.

Earthrise (NASA)

Earthrise (NASA)

Thanks to Stefanthedenier for prompting this.
Whilst many assume global warming is a scientific issue, my long held view is that it is not.
Global warming is a social issue.
It is really a question of the way we decide as a society what is true and what is not. It was not science, that led to “global warming”, instead it was because of a specific set of social conditions in the late 20th century which led to a group of academics being given an almost god-like kudos and a low threshold of evidence for asserting their theories to be “true”. These social conditions were:

  • Climatology was a new discipline, where results took decades to come in. It had had very few of its ideas tested and had not the experience of other subjects of finding cherished theories were eventually disproven. So this new subject not only did not have an established culture, but the culture that was developing did not have the caution that comes from having established theories overturned by the evidence.
  • The manned space flights and lunar landings, were one of the first truly global events and created an entirely new perspective for humanity: that of us looking down on our planet as a single entity
  • Global communication networks meant that the peoples of earth were no longer isolated from each other.
  • The internet strengthened that sense of global “unity”, but also very importantly, it bypassed traditional communication networks through the press and TV.
  • As a result of the global perspective and globalisation of industry, Global environmental groups grew up, particularly aimed at air pollution and nuclear fears.
  • But by the late 1990s, air pollution was already being effectively tackled, and the end of the Berlin wall brought an end to the immediate fear of nuclear disaster. As such environmental groups were bereft of any serious threat on which to focus.
  • In the 1990s the internet (largely developed for academia by academia) was developing, and increasingly it allowed international communication between academics. As such subject specific inter-university “communities” of academics developed to replace the older intra-university communication which predominated before easy national and international communications.
  • These new international academic communities, being very focussed on their own area of interest, became very insular and inward looking. They found new freedom from the constraints of their old colleagues from other subjects (who hampered them with “traditional” standards) and started defining their own internal community methodologies, working standards, ethical standards with little reference to other subjects. So, those areas without a long history and so without an established culture or established standards of work, were quick to adopt new ideas and those included ideas such as “post normal science” – which rejects many of the traditional foundations of science such as the requirement for the scientific method as the standard for the validity of scientific theories.
  • As environmentalists looked for new issues, some moved into campaigns for anti-globalisation, anti-industrial, and anti-oil (largely from the increase in oil use and the growing number of oil spills). The common thread here was that they were against an industrial economy powered by fossil fuel.
  • From the 1970s-2000 there was a period when recorded temperature appeared to rise sharply. This coincided with the fall of the Berlin wall, the need for environmental groups to find new issues to campaign on, the rise of the internet.
  • When it was recognised global temperatures were rising, the scene was set. The environmentalists rushed into this new issue, encouraged by the academics (with no culture of holding back).
  • The issue of global warming, quickly picked up momentum and unified the academics, environmentalists, and anti-fossil fuelers into one mass global campaign using the new power of the internet. Free from the old gatekeepers of the press, global warming was able to very quickly dominate public discussion.
  • This created a new culture in which environmentalist felt free to use their access to the establishment press and their new freedom on the internet to engage  repression and “witch hunts” of any who questioned the idea of CO2 induced warming.
  • However, something else had changed. In the past, whilst the press often created such “bandwagon” scares, it was ironically often the huge investigative resources of the wealthy press that finally uncovered the truth and brought the scare to a shuddering end. But this time the scare originated from outside the press and after 2000, the internet began seriously eating into the advertising revenue of newspapers as online advertising began to take over. In the past, if one wanted to sell a house, a car, find out what was on – then there was no choice but to buy a newspaper. Newspapers therefore had huge revenues and could afford to employ many journalists to investigate stories to fill the news sections. After 2000, as the internet took over the newspaper revenues crashed. Serious investigative journalism was now a luxury that could only be afforded on major scandals. As the internet took over, newspapers found themselves unable to do much more than copy and paste press releases without checking.
  • Not only did this stop newspapers investigating, it also meant that papers could only afford to print “copy and paste” news. This meant that they focussed on the large institutions whose size guaranteed credibility. This was important as the journalists did not have to waste their limited resources checking up on the source of these stories. Also these institutions were large enough to afford to employ the staff who began doing the journalists job and writing the stories in a  ready-to-print format.
  • Smaller, less credible groups, without the resources of PR staff, failed to get press coverage. This further exacerbated the divide because only the big established organisations could afford to get the press coverage that got establishment funding.
  • As a result, these new campaign groups had no real alternative. They could not get heard in the traditional print media, and so went online. This established a very sharp division in social communication: On the one side the old press, now reduced to “copy-and-pasting” establishment press releases and stories fed to them. On the other the new “peer-to-peer” internet completely bypassing all the establishment and talking to the public directly. This new internet was a “wild-west” atmosphere where anything went and there was no controls over what was said and whilst a lot was said, much of it lacked authority and credibility.
  • This is where those opposed to the now establishment orthodoxy of climate now got their message across.

So, for a variety of reasons almost entirely social and economic and not scientific, we found ourselves in a two-tier society.

  • On one side the establishment – largely talking to itself and regurgitating without question the views of a small group of academics in the new and untested area of climate.
  • On the other, a group of highly qualified and experienced individuals, who in former times would have been listened to without question when the press investigated, but who in the new internet age were forced to communicate without any credibility or authority on the internet.

In effect, the old “gatekeepers” of our knowledge were led to endorse as “true” an untried theory with almost no critical examination of that theory either from academia or the media.
And by labelling their speculative theory as “true”, this in turn labelled as “false” all other speculative ideas – such as those like Stefan.
This was wrong. This shut down scientific debate for over two decades creating an impasse as “science” became a series of statements of dogma from the authority of the establishment. The press were no better. They stopped having any serious critical facility and this further entrenched the view of the establishment that “there was no serious alternative view”.
This is all social.
The whole issue developed from an idea in science, but overwhelmingly the reason it developed was the social conditions of the late 20th century as new space and communication technology fundamentally changed the way society communicates with itself.
One finding I haven’t focussed on from the survey of skeptics is that one of our key distinguishing features is that we demand high standards of evidence. As such, we focussed not on what society was telling us was right, but on the evidence. That is what unified us. That is why we were the first to see the theory was speculative at best. That is how we correctly predicted that when the evidence came in, it would not support these speculative theories.
The problem for “science”
The science establishment is now in a very precarious position. Having asserted as “unequivocal” the speculative theories of climate academics, it now finds that those theories are increasingly being challenged by the evidence such as the lack of recent warming (predicted by all the models).
However, if the science establishment now backs down on its “unequivocal” assertions, not only will it lose face over this issue, but the whole credibility of all science will be called into question.
The “Science” establishment is against the wall on this.
It does not want to lose face by admitting how wrong it was. But it cannot just keep waiting. It is certain, that eventually, whether by sudden revolution or slow evolution, the “establishment” view on climate predictions will change to that of us skeptics: that the climate is largely unpredictable, and that whilst CO2 is likely to cause modest warming, we cannot say much if anything more about the future.
That change will be a change in “social consensus” – not something where skeptics excel!
If it is a change in social consensus led by the “science” establishment, it will be science, the media and politicians who work together on this.
If, however, they wait till the evidence becomes so clear that a large number of important people outside academia decide that “science” is corrupt and that their theories of catastrophic global warming are at odds with the evidence  – it will be led by the media and politicians against the science establishment.
Unfortunately, because the media and politicians will need support from other credible establishments, I think if the media leads the charge, it will end up inevitably with the courts being asked to pass a final judgement. Is so, many “scientists” will be subject to humiliating trials and even imprisonment. (They do not seem to understand how serious this situation is!)
But, whatever the mechanism, sooner or later, the gatekeepers of knowledge will backtrack to the sustainable position of “we are not certain, we must be willing to examine all good contributions”.
At that point, I’m sure ideas like those of Stefan, will start to be discussed along with many other ideas that are presently repressed by the authoritarian dogma that demands consensus for the one, and only one theory, of catastrophic CO2 warming.
And, then, when the conditions are right for the development of new ideas, one of the “little ideas” or even an entirely new idea, will be added to the melting pop of discussion, and slowly but surely one of those ideas will evolve to become the dominant theory, where upon it too will be given the social status of “truth” by the gatekeepers of knowledge in society.

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